Category - Africa

South Sudan foes agree to end conflict

BBC, February 1

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar have signed a deal, committing to end the conflict that has devastated the country.

The ceasefire agreement was signed at talks in Ethiopia.

But consultations will continue on the contentious issue of a future government and power-sharing.

The conflict – which erupted in December 2013 – has displaced about 1.5 million people and earlier ceasefire deals have not been lasted.

“Complete cessation of hostilities in South Sudan is expected as of this morning (Monday),” said Seyoum Mesfin, a negotiator from the regional Igad bloc.

Chadian aircraft ‘bomb Nigerian town in anti-Boko Haram raid’

AFP, January 31

N’Djamena, Chad – Chadian aircraft on Saturday bombed the Nigerian town of Gamboru in a raid targeting Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, security sources said.

A raid was carried out around midday by two fighter jets on the town in Nigeria’s far northeast along the Cameroon border, sources from Chad and Cameroon said on condition of anonymity.

Boko Haram overran the town several months ago as part of its campaign to seize territory in the region and create an Islamic state.

The Boko Haram uprising has become a regional crisis, with the four directly affected countries — Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria — agreeing to boost cooperation to contain the threat.

AP: Africa agrees to send 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

Simultaneous Attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Kill 26

AP, By Ashraf Sweilam, January 29

El-Arish, Egypt – Militants struck more than a dozen army and police targets in the restive Sinai Peninsula with simultaneous attacks involving a car bomb and mortar rounds on Thursday, killing at least 26 security officers.

An Army spokesman immediately blamed former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, which killed 25 Army soldiers and one policeman.

The wide-ranging attacks late Thursday required a previously unseen level of coordination. At least one car bomb was set off outside a military base, while mortars were simultaneously fired at the base, toppling some buildings and leaving soldiers buried under the debris, official said.

Other attacks included mortar rounds fired at a hotel, a police club and more than a dozen checkpoints, officials said.

BBC: Egypt’s Sisi cuts short visit over Sinai attacks
Al Arabiya: Sisi cuts short overseas trip after Sinai attacks

45 churches torched in Niger capital in cartoon demos: police

AFP, January 19

Niamey – Forty-five churches were torched over the weekend in Niger’s capital during deadly protests over the publication of a Prophet Mohammad cartoon by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police said on Monday.

The protests, which left five people dead and 128 people injured in Niamey, also saw a Christian school and orphanage set alight, Adily Toro, a spokesman for the national police, told a press conference.

Similar unrest sparked by the French satirical weekly, which was targeted by a bloody Islamist raid on January 7, saw five people killed in the southern city of Zinder, where 45 were wounded.

UN Ebola czar says epidemic has ‘passed the tipping point’

AFP, By Carole Landry & Andre Viollaz, January 15

The Ebola crisis has “passed the tipping point” and there is now a reasonable chance the deadly outbreak could end quickly, the UN special envoy said Thursday.

UN Ebola coordinator David Nabarro welcomed fresh data from the World Health Organization showing that all three hardest-hit countries in West Africa had registered the lowest weekly tally of new cases in months.

“I’m absolutely delighted to see that the incidence of confirmed Ebola cases week-on-week is reducing,” Nabarro told AFP in an interview.

“This suggests that we have passed the tipping point and we are beginning to be on the downward slope of the outbreak,” he said.

Burundi: Violence Sparks Alarm Ahead of Burundi Polls

Mounting violence in Burundi is adding to concern over an already volatile political climate. The government and the opposition are trading accusations, while rights groups warn that basic freedoms are being restricted.

Deutsche Welle, By Dirke Köpp and Eric Topona, January 15

A wave of violence has been sweeping the Central African country of Burundi for weeks. Heavy clashes between the military and rebels have left scores of people dead. Unidentified assailants dressed in military fatigues killed several members of the ruling party in early January.

Meanwhile the political climate is becoming harsher ahead of legislative elections in May, which are to be followed by presidential polls in June.

The incumbent president, Pierre Nkurunziza, is exacerbating an already difficult situation in the country by pursuing a third term in office. Burundi’s constitution only allows for two terms, as was agreed in 2000, in a peace deal that ended a civil war. But President Nkurunziza’s camp argues that when he was elected for the first time in 2005, it was not by popular vote but by the legislature.

Observers see a clear connection between the upcoming elections and the escalating violence. “The attacks come just as the ruling party and the government are having problems with the opposition,” said Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), a rights organization in Burundi.

Egypt acquits 26 men accused of debauchery in Cairo bathhouse

Associated Press, By Maggie Michael, January 12

Cairo — An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse, a ruling that set off deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.

The trial, which had caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bathhouse by police.

Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo in the conservative, Muslim-majority country. Same-sex marriage is unheard of. Only in recent years have movies and fiction included gay characters.

[…]

The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”

“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told The Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”

Floods Leave Hundreds Homeless

The Herald, By Walter Nyamukondiwa & Nyemudzai Kakore, January 5

Low-lying areas of the country have been hit by flooding with more than 200 families being displaced while 52 houses and a secondary school were destroyed in Mashonaland Central. One person was reported killed while another was missing after being swept away by flooded rivers as rains continue to pound the country.

This brings the number of people who have died so far due to the floods to 10.

Eight family members died on Saturday when the car they were travelling in was swept away while crossing a flooded Ngwazani River near Kadoma.

Their bodies were found yesterday trapped inside a Honda CRV in the river. In Mashonaland Central province two people were marooned with 52 houses and a secondary school destroyed by the floods.

“In Mbire district, 37 houses collapsed including Makuwatsine Secondary School buildings. At least 15 houses were flooded in Mukumbira, Mt Darwin while 200 families were displaced and had to be housed at Kanongo Primary School,” Mashonaland Central provincial administrator Mr Josphat Jaji said.

US air strike ‘targets al-Shabab leader’

Pentagon says Washington has carried out an air strike against a senior leader of armed group in Saacow in Somalia.

Al Jazeera, December 30

The United States has launched an air strike targeting a senior leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab group, the Pentagon has said.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the raid on Monday hit a target in Saacow, in sourthern Somalia, shortly after the armed group’s intelligence chief surrendered to government and African Union forces.

“At this time, we do not assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties,” Kirby said.

A senior Pentagon official confirmed that the US was targeting Abdishakur Tahlil. US officials identified Tahlil as the chief of intelligence for the al-Shabaab.

BBC: US strike in Somalia ‘killed al-Shabab intelligence chief’
BBC: Who are Somalia’s al-Shabab?

In protest of inaction, ICC prosecutor stops investigating Darfur genocide

Fatou Bensouda said she is pausing a probe into war crimes due to little help and lack of cooperation

Al Jazeera, December 12

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that she is ceasing her investigations in Sudan’s chaotic Darfur region because no one has been brought to justice in a decade and the council has done little or nothing to help.

Darfur’s situation is deteriorating and the brutality of crimes is increasing, but there have been no discussions with the council for “concrete solutions,” Fatou Bensouda said. She demanded a new approach.

Darfur was the council’s first referral to the ICC, which is seen as a court of last resort for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been indicted on charges of all three and is accused of orchestrating atrocities in Darfur, but he remains at large and refuses to recognize the court’s authority. He has traveled freely to some African countries that are parties to the statute that created the ICC but have refused to arrest him as required.


Bashir claims victory after ICC shelves probe

Reuters, December 13

Khartoum – Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir claimed victory over the International Criminal Court on Saturday after it shelved further investigation of war crimes in Darfur, and reaffirmed his hard line on the rebel region.

The Hague-based court indicted Bashir in 2009 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in suppressing the Darfur revolt.

But the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Friday she was shelving the Darfur investigation for lack of support from the Security Council, the U.N. body able to take coercive measures that could compel Bashir and co-defendants to face the court.

“They wanted us to kneel before the International Criminal Court but the ICC raised its hands and admitted that it had failed,” Bashir said in a defiant speech.

“The Sudanese people have defeated the ICC and have refused to hand over any Sudanese to the colonialist courts.”

New Benghazi report says security flaws were known, but not why Stevens was there

McClatchy, By Nancy A. Youssef, November 21

Washington — A House Intelligence Committee investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi concludes that while the Central intelligence Agency had properly secured its compound in the Libyan city, the State Department knew its security precautions were inadequate at the U.S. Special Mission where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens died.

But the report, while offering rich and previously unknown details about the hours-long attack on the two facilities, still leaves unanswered a key question: If, as the report states, the CIA station chief in Tripoli, State Department diplomatic security agents and CIA contractors in Benghazi knew the mission wasn’t properly secured, why was Stevens allowed to stay there for what was supposed to be a four-day visit?

Indeed, security appeared lax even after 80 attackers had stormed the sprawling four-building complex when CIA contractors arrived to offer assistance, the report said. “The CIA security team observed that some, perhaps all, of the [diplomatic security] agents were unarmed and one of them was not wearing shoes,” the report said.
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DR Congo declares itself Ebola-free

AFP, November 15

Kinshasa – The Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday declared itself Ebola-free, after a three-month outbreak of the killer disease claimed at least 49 lives.

The DRC outbreak, which began in August, involved a different strain of Ebola from the one that has claimed more than 5,100 lives in west Africa.

“The end of the epidemic… does not mean we are completely out of danger,” said DRC Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi. “Like every other nation, the DRC remains threatened by the possible import of the Ebola virus disease raging in west Africa.”

The secularists have it

The Economist, November 1

Nidaa Tounes resoundingly beats the Islamist Nahda party

In a region gripped by jihadist violence, civil war and the return of authoritarian rule, Tunisia’s parliamentary election on October 26th was an exception on many counts. Alone among the countries that saw popular revolts in the “Arab Spring” of 2011, it has remained on a path to democracy. Seemingly against the trend of Arab politics, voters inflicted a firm rebuke on Islamists and instead gave victory to the secularist coalition known as Nidaa Tounes. And the defeated Islamists of the Nahda party bowed peacefully before the verdict. A stint out of power, said its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, could be salutary.

Nidaa Tounes (“Tunisian Call”) won 85 of the 217 seats in parliament, against 69 for Nahda (“Awakening”). Nahda can still count on loyalists nationwide and has an organisational reach that is envied by other parties. Nevertheless, voters have been unimpressed by the Islamists’ two years at the helm of government, in 2012–13, particularly its inability to pull the economy out of stagnation and its failure to quash the emergence of violent jihadism. Senior Nahda figures concede that the job of running the country proved to be harder than they had expected.

Though often fractious and tainted by the presence of members of the ancien régime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the ex-president overthrown by a revolt in January 2011, Nidaa Tounes was helped to victory by the popularity of its leader, Beji Caid Sebsi. Three times a minister, he emerged from retirement in 2011 as a reassuring figure and headed the interim government that handed over to the Nahda-led coalition at the end of that year. Rattled by the army coup that deposed Egypt’s Islamist president, Nahda handed power to a technocratic government in January, after two political assassinations raised tensions. It also softened the Islamist flavour of the proposed new constitution.

Nahda would like to join a coalition under Nidaa Tounes, which has not yet made its intentions clear. The secularists could put together a government with smaller factions, albeit a rather fragile one. Moreover, opposition to Islamists is part of the raison d’être of Nidaa Tounes. The party accuses the former Nahda-led government of having undermined the separation of religion and state that was laid down by Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first post-independence president. Some admire the Egyptian army’s suppression of Islamists.

Boko Haram calls ceasefire, talks claims ‘lies’

AFP, By Aminu Abubakar, October 31

Kano, Nigeria – Boko Haram denied that they had agreed to a ceasefire in a new video obtained on Friday by AFP, describing the Nigerian government claims as a lie and apparently ruling out future talks.

The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, also claimed the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from the remote northeast town of Chibok, in Borno state, in April had converted to Islam and been married off.