South Sudan rebels deny killings of Darfuris in Unity state

Sudan Tribune

South Sudanese rebels deny killing of Darfurian traders in Unity state


April 20, 2014 (NAIROBI) – South Sudanese rebels have dismissed accusations that their fighters carried out targeted killings of Sudanese traders found in Bentiu during their recapture of the oil-rich state capital last Tuesday from government troops.

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A member of South Sudanese rebel SPLM-In-Opposition patrols the streets of Malakal, on March 4, 2014 (Photo AFP /Andrei Pungovschi)

Sudanese media this week published stories alleging that the rebels allied to the former vice president, Riek Machar, massacred hundreds of Sudanese nationals, particularly from Darfur region.

Darfur rebel groups on Sunday have also presented an open letter to the United Nations Security Council in which they said up to 300 civilians from Darfur were killed on 15 April.

The open letter, which was cosigned by Abdel Wahid Al-Nur, Gibril Ibrahim and Minni Minnawi, however did not accuses a particular party in the conflict but expressed deep concern that Darfur civilians were being targeted in various towns in the troubled South Sudan.

Reports released by the Sudanese social media and activists however directly blamed the rebels claiming that over 200 Darfur civilians were shot dead inside the Mosque in Bentiu town.

However, the rebel commander in charge of Unity state’s military division 4, Maj. Gen. James Koang Chol, dismissed the accusation as “lies.”

“By the time we came in Bentiu for this second time there were no Sudanese civilians or traders still in Bentiu who we were aware of as they all fled in the early weeks of January 2014 when violence erupted in Bentiu,” Gen Koang told Sudan Tribune on Sunday by phone from Bentiu.

He however admitted to killing of armed Sudanese nationals who were fighting alongside president Salva Kiir’s forces.

“What we know is that, yes, we killed in action armed members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who were fighting alongside the government’s troops. They were in military uniform and participated in active combat against our forces,” he further explained.

The rebels commander could not however rule out having few Sudanese traders who remained behind in Bentiu in which some of them could have been killed in crossfire by either side in the conflict, dismissing allegation of a targeted killing by the rebels.

“We would not have killed innocent Darfur civilians. We don’t see them as our enemies. Our target are those JEM members who have decided to abandon their cause in Sudan and allowed themselves to be used as mercenaries to fight for Salva Kiir,” Koang further added.

The rebels have been accusing JEM and its armed militias called Torabora for interfering in the internal conflict and fighting against the South Sudanese rebels.

JEM has always denied the accusation.

Equally, the rebels also accuse the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) of military interference, which Uganda has admitted.

The SPLM-In-Opposition demands their withdrawal as a precondition for a political settlement with Salva Kiir’s government.

On 8 April, during a meeting in the State House in Kampala, president Yoweri Museveni of Uganda reportedly told president Kiir to urge the IGAD regional leaders to deploy the proposed troops to South Sudan as soon as possible in order to leave no vacuum as Uganda army planed to withdraw from the region before the rainy season.


Sudan – PCP figure says Bashir has agreed to 2 year transitional government

Sudan Tribune

Sudan’s Bashir agrees to form a transitional government, says opposition official


 (KHARTOUM) – An opposition party revealed that president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir agreed to form a transitional government to implement a national political program saying it must not last for more than two years.

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Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir has called on political parties to participate in national dialogue aimed at stimulating a reform plan announced earlier this year (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

Sudan’s opposition Popular Congress Party’s (PCP) secretary of foreign relations, Bashir Adam Rahma said, in an interview with the Qatari Al-Watan newspaper on Sunday, that Bashir accepted this transitional government which will administrate the country during the national dialogue process.

Rahma said the recent political roundtable meeting Bashir organised with political forces was meant to discuss formation of the Higher Commission for the National Dialogue (HCND) which will manage the process.

However several political forces brought up the issue of the transitional government although it was not part of the meeting’s agenda, he underscored.

“The transitional government will be discussed when presenting the paper regarding the interim period. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) agreed to form a transitional government after it is being approved by the dialogue’s general conference”.

The PCP official added the transitional government would last for a maximum of two years, noting it would adopt a program to stop the war, address the issue of refugee return, and reform the civil service and foreign relations.

The interim government will hold the general elections and form a constituent assembly to draft the constitution and prepare the country for a new democratic era, the said in order to explain what was outlined in the meeting.

Earlier this month, the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, held a political roundtable in Khartoum with the participation of 83 political parties. The move came within the framework of a call he made last January for a comprehensive national dialogue.

The opposition official was keen to explain that besides the HCND, there will be different commissions to prepare draft papers but only the General Conference will approve it.

The HCND, which is headed by president Omer Al-Bashir, is composed of 14 members 7 from the opposition and 7 representing the government parties. Its membership would be increased to 21 if the other opposition parties and rebel groups join the process.

Rahma further said the political parties which took part in the meeting agreed to Bashir’s chairing of the higher commission, indicating that the general conference can be rotated between the political forces participation in the process.

“It is preferable that Bashir chairs the higher commission (HCND) in order to be legally bound to implement the outcome of the dialogue because he is the person who controls power and the state,” he added.

The PCP official said differences which may arise among political parties will be referred to an expert committee comprised of neutral and independent persons.

He said they received information that Bashir and several senior government officials believe that dialogue is the only option for solving Sudan’s problems, pointing that “angry” factions within the NCP stand against dialogue and democratic transformation.

Rahma didn’t rule out that rebel groups could agree to take part in the dialogue inside Sudan if the government takes several measures including creating an environment conducive for dialogue, declaring ceasefire, issuing general amnesty for convicts, and allowing humanitarian aid to affected population in the war areas.

He added such measures must be guaranteed by the African Union (AU) and the international community, saying they received positive signals that the European Union (EU), AU, and the United States will support the comprehensive national dialogue.

“We don’t want foreign intervention during the deliberations but we will invite them to monitor and facilitate the dialogue process,” he added.

Rahma predicted that dialogue will form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) similar to that of South Africa and Morocco, saying we need to agree on those sensitive issues.

The opposition alliance of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) refused to engage in the national dialogue, saying the government didn’t respond to its conditions.

The NCF wants the NCP-dominated government to declare a comprehensive ceasefire in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In addition it has called for the issuing of a general amnesty, allowing public freedoms and the release of all political detainees.

The two major opposition forces, National Umma Party (NUP) led by Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi and Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan Al-Turabi, however have so far accepted to take part in the national dialogue process.

The rebel alliance of the Susan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), also rejected Bashir’s call for dialogue and demanded the government to hold direct talks with them to negotiate a cessation of hostilities and open humanitarian access to civilians in the rebel areas.
The SRF also says that a conference attended by all political forces should be held outside Sudan and brokered by the United Nations (UN) and the AU in order to agree on the national dialogue mechanisms.


Uganda – competition with the NRM and discontent with Museveni

The Observer (Kampala)

Even with rigging, Museveni would not defeat Mbabazi

Guest Writers

NRM youth leaders have been at the centre of a power struggle that became public at Kyankwanzi in February, pitting party Chairman Yoweri Museveni and Secretary General Amama Mbabazi.

Luzindana Adam Buyinza is one of the youths who were recently arrested for his pro-Mbabazi political activities. In the article below he shows it will take something more drastic to deter him:

H.E Y.K. Museveni once said that he is a war general, not a classroom general. Now let us go into presidential elections come 2016 and we shall see who is a real general. With or without free and fair elections, President Museveni cannot defeat Rt Hon Amama Mbabazi. Even with massive rigging, Museveni will never score 20% with Mbabazi in the race. I bet.

Ugandans know this fact and they are quiet due to fear of the police.Very few people can now express themselves on the political situation in the country, but they know what to do. For as long as President Museveni falls out with Mbabazi, the prime minister will have nothing to lose politically but a lot to gain both locally and internationally.

But the President will miserably lose as the majority of Ugandans will doubt him for falling out with all his bush war heroes and comrades – the list is known and the question will be, why? What has Mbabazi done?

Because Ugandans need a change of leadership at the top, they will unite with no fear to vote for Mbabazi. That is why today, if you address people as Mbabazi’s mobilisers, they will pay a lot of attention and they will welcome you with applause. But just say you work in State House or you are mobilising for Museveniand you will see the negative reaction from the people; why?

It is because the president has overstayed in power. It is important to note that the president has done a lot for Uganda but even good dancers leave the dancing floor. The young people of Uganda need a peaceful change from Museveni to Mbabazi come 2016 so that in 2021 we get a new president who was not part of the 1980s NRM bush war.

This is the way to go. We must ensure that President Museveni retires peacefully in 2016 and we shall continue to engage and consult him on national, regionaland global affairs.

The president believed so much in a peaceful approach to issues but Gen Kale Kayihura has resorted to use of force, bribery and divisionism amongst the NRM Youth League leaders; we shall never accept this as the elected youth leaders of NRM. Whatever the IGP has been doing since we had our press conference at Makerere University in February has instead worsened the situation.

President Yoweri Museveni casting his presidential vote in 2011


Different groups have emerged and more are likely to come up; how much will he spend to bribe them? How many will he arrest and imprison? On which grounds?

The actions of Gen Kayihura have indeed tainted the image of the president with red blood. This has never happened in NRM recent history for the Youth League to come out against the president/our chairman. If it was not because of my president and chairman Y.K. Museveni, the youth were ready to stage peaceful resistance and demonstrations against the NRM regime but we do not want to antagonise the president now.

I therefore want to inform Gen Kayihura that this country belongs to all Ugandans and they know what they want for themselves today and tomorrow. They may keep quiet but that doesn’t mean they are stupid or they support whatever he is doing. The IGP may succeed in intimidating them against expressing themselves, but he will never change their will and commitment to a fundamental change for the sustainable development of Uganda.

Gen Kayihura must resign as soon as possible if he really wishes good for the president. How can a whole IGP be recorded, or if it’s true thetapes were stolen; how is this possible – to steal from the police!

There is need for an investigation into the conduct of the IGP. He made political statements while meeting some NRM youth leaders, talking a lot about NRM, Museveni and Mbabazi; did he speak as IGP or as a member of NRM or a political mobiliser?

The youth have been used by the government. Many youth programmes have been launched but with no benefits. The Youth Fund worth Shs 45bn was launched by the president in 2012 but we do not know any youths who benefited from it.

The actions of the IGP are worsening the situation. So, the youths will continue to covertly mobilise against the president for as long as Gen Kayihura continues to undermine our Secretary General Mbabazi and the elected NRM Youth League leaders.

The youth are more determined to cause change than before. The use of money to divert them will never work; they will ‘eat’ the money but they will not give up on their cause.

The author is NRM Youth League leader for Kampala region. 0774992426.


South Africa – speculation overpossible opposition coalitions in Gauteng and Northern Cape

Mail and Guardian

The coalition conundrum: Who will govern?

Speculation of the opposition forming coalitions in Gauteng and the Northern Cape continues but the ANC is confident it will secure every province.

The ANC claims it is not even talking about the possibility of losing power, but opposition parties believe they stand a chance at co-governing Gauteng and the Northern Cape. (Gallo)

With every election comes talk of opposition coalitions, formed to oust the ANC, and May 7 is no exception. While the ANC claims it is not even talking about the possibility of losing power in the eight provinces it currently governs, the opposition has been in talks for some time, particularly because parties believe they stand a chance at co-governing Gauteng and the Northern Cape.

On Sunday, the City Press reported that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) had had informal discussions about the possibility of a post-election coalition government in Gauteng should neither party win an outright majority.

Both parties reportedly said talks were not at a serious stage yet, but surveys indicated that both parties had the potential to leverage high numbers after the polls – although not enough to win outright – and the possibility exists that they may consider entering into a coalition to boot the ANC from power.

In January, Ipsos released a poll putting the ANC’s prospects in Gauteng at 45%.

In the Northern Cape, the poll indicated the ANC could achieve as low a result as 42.7%. If the poll is to be believed, this means the ANC could very well lose these provinces.

The DA was posited at 45.9% in the Northern Cape, with the EFF at only 1%. The Congress of the People (Cope) took 5%, as was expected.

In Gauteng, the DA was expected to achieve 22.6% and the EFF 7.3%. If other, smaller parties were to come on board, a joint opposition coalition could unseat the ANC.

Strategic coalitions
But the EFF and DA’s policy positions could not be more different. If the DA were to get more than the EFF – as expected – this would mean the EFF would have to bend towards the DA, with the latter holding the upper hand in terms of legislature seats.

The ANC is not discussing coalitions at this stage, said spokesperson Keith Khoza. This would be discussed after the elections, although the party expects “to win all provinces with an outright majority”.

The ANC co-governed in Ladysmith after 2011 when it went into a coalition with the National Freedom Party (NFP). In Cederburg, the party formed a partnership with the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

“At some point we were hoping to do the same with Cope in the Western Cape but they chose to go with the DA instead,” Khoza said.

As the ANC had the most votes, the party never had to consider shifting its policy positions on a local governmental level, he added.

“Policy shifts are not an option. It’s just a question of reaching consensus on issues. We haven’t experienced being hamstrung [when co-governing] before. Once we go into a coalition there’s an understanding that compromises have to be made in certain instances that are not fundamental,” he said.

DA spokesperson Mmusi Maimane could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but City Press quoted him as saying, “Dali [Mpofu, the EFF's Gauteng premier candidate] and I go to enough events together, so it comes up in conversation.”

Neither Mpofu nor the EFF’s national spokespeople could be reached for official comment.

Realignment of opposition politics
DA leader Helen Zille told the paper the party would only consider such a coalition under “very clear conditions”.

The DA has frequently said it is not opposed to forming coalitions.

Zille often refers to these coalitions as being a part of a broader realignment of opposition politics, which she hopes will gradually eat into the ANC’s majority.

“The future of South African politics lies in opposition parties coming together on the basis of shared values to stop the ANC’s near monopoly on power, which has inevitably resulted in gross power abuse. More than that, the opposition has a duty to provide an alternative model of governance that works. The only way to do this is for us to build a new majority, step-by-step, starting from the foundation of local government,” Zille wrote in 2009.

The party entered into a seven-party coalition to win the City of Cape Town in 2006. It then went on to win the Western Cape in 2009 with 51% of the vote.

But coalitions are difficult to govern, even when parties agree on issues ideologically. In the Northern Cape, the DA and Cope entered into four coalition councils in 2011.

Political management
Pakes Dikgetsi, Cope’s premier candidate for the Northern Cape and the party’s national chairperson, said co-governance was difficult and needed careful political management.

One of these councils, Nama Khoi municipality, is a case-in-point. Infighting plagued the council and the ANC won the municipality back in a by-election in late-2013.

The DA initially appointed Aubrey Baartman, a former Labour Party and ANC member, as municipal manager. But amid allegations of maladministration, the party laid criminal charges against Baartman in January this year. Baartman is now the EFF’s premier candidate for the province.

Dikgetsi said a DA/Cope coalition at a provincial level may be easier to manage. It was “on the table”, should the ANC slip below 50% after May 7.

“Realistically, none of the parties can take power from the ANC alone,” Dikgetsi said, while predicting that the impact of poverty should not be underestimated in the Northern Cape and will show in the election results.

‘Not up for discussion’
He said Cope, currently the official opposition in the province, would not consider a coalition with the EFF because “you basically have to agree to undermine the Constitution to go into that kind of arrangement” based on the EFF’s policies.

“An alliance with the ANC is not even up for discussion,” he explained.

He said the DA and Cope agreed on “the fundamental issues like constitutionalism and rule of law” as they were both “more moderate than the EFF, and to some extent the ANC”.

But there were disagreements on how to tackle social challenges that needed to be carefully balanced if a coalition government were to be formed.

“Governing on a day-to-day basis is a challenge. It involves getting grassroots people to understand the broader strategy decisions of the parties. Nitpicking and number-crunching, as well as divvying up of positions can create tension.

Dikgetsi said parties needed to carefully manage this to “avoid making the same mistakes as the ANC”.

South Africa – poll suggests ANC could get two thirds majority


South Africa’s ANC set for two-thirds majority – poll


South Africa's president and leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party Jacob Zuma raises his glass next to ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe (L) during the party's 102nd anniversary celebration, where they also launched their election manifesto, at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit January 11, 2014. REUTERS/Ihsaan Haffejee

South Africa’s president and leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party Jacob Zuma raises his glass next to ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe (L) during the party’s 102nd anniversary celebration, where they also launched their election manifesto, at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit January 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ihsaan Haffejee

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The African National Congress (ANC) is on course to win nearly a two-thirds majority in May 7 elections, a poll showed on Sunday, confounding analysts who had predicted a fall in support for South Africa’s ruling party 20 years after the end of apartheid.

The poll, published by South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, said the ANC was likely to win 65.5 percent of the vote, only a shade lower than the 65.9 percent it won at the last national elections in 2009.

The survey was conducted on April 4, after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela – South Africa’s top anti-corruption watchdog – published a damning report into a $21 million state-funded security upgrade to President Jacob Zuma’s private home.

Madonsela judged that Zuma had benefited unduly from the upgrades, which included a swimming pool, chicken run and amphitheatre at his residence at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal, and should pay back some of the money.

While overall support for the ANC remained largely unaffected by the Nkandla scandal, the poll said Zuma’s personal approval ratings had slipped to 62 percent from 65 percent before Madonsela delivered her findings.

The poll also showed that the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party that already governs the Western Cape province, was on track to build its national support from 16.6 percent in 2009 to 23.1 percent this year.

It put support for the Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical leftist party founded last year by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, at 4 percent.

The ANC has presided over strong economic growth since the end of apartheid in 1994, but Zuma’s first term in office has been rocky.

The economy slipped into its first post-apartheid recession in 2009 and has struggled to regain the growth rates it logged before the global financial crisis.

The government is expecting economic growth this year of 2.7 percent, way below the levels needed to make any in-roads into 25 percent unemployment.

The police killing of 34 striking miners at Lonmin Marikana platinum mine in 2012 also drew widespread criticism, with many South Africans accusing the ANC-controlled police force of apartheid-style brutality.

Analysts had also expected the so-called ‘Born Frees’ – young South Africans with no first-hand experience of white-minority rule – to withhold their support for the ANC, which still uses its defeat of apartheid as its main draw card.

However, Election Commission figures show that only one in three voters aged 18-19 has registered to vote.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos, surveyed 2,219 voters nationwide.


South Africa – social security agency spends millions on bodyguards for Oliphant


The South African Social Security Agency blew more than R10-million meant for the poor on bodyguards from a little-known security company to protect social development spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant and senior officials.

A Sunday Times investigation has established that Vuco Security Solutions, based in KwaMashu township outside Durban, was awarded the multimillion-rand deal.

Sassa pays grants to more than 15million recipients and has a budget of R113-billion.

Documents seen by the Sunday Times confirm that among the Vuco payments approved were:

R1.1-million “for close protection services” for Oliphant and her family;
R2.9-million “for close protection services” for Sassa CEO Virginia Petersen and Renay Ogle, general manager for fraud management and compliance. An arrest was made after Petersen received a death threat;
R95460 per month since October last year to protect a whistle-blower from KwaZulu-Natal and his family;
R45000 for erecting a fence, R17000 for a toilet, R54000 for a wall, R30500 for a stoep and front gate pillar, R15000 for an electric gate; and
R206000 for a luxury Range Rover for Andile Khanyile, who is the head of operations for Vuco and often accompanies Petersen as her “security adviser”.
Khanyile confirmed to the Sunday Times this week that he has a criminal record for drunk driving, which means he is not allowed to carry a gun.

He claimed to have resigned from Vuco last month.

Documents seen by Sunday Times reporters show Petersen instructed that most of the contracts bypass normal procurement rules and be funded from her own office.

Apart from the security contracts, catering bills for ministerial meetings, flights and luxury travel for advisers are all approved and paid for from Petersen’s office, often signed by her personally.

No expense was spared for Khanyile, who often went on trips with Petersen. These trips included:

Travelling to Cape Town on January 2 during the festive season for “security matters”;
Travelling to Durban on September 5 for a ministerial imbizo;
Hiring a luxury Range Rover during a trip to Durban in December 2013 that was extended to include the Christmas holidays.
On official forms, the reason given for the trip was to accompany Petersen “to fulfil her duties in KZN and surrounding areas”, and included Khanyile’s stays at the Protea Waterfront in Richards Bay, Tiger Lodge in Jozini with romantic views of Jozini Lake, and the Sun Coast and Elangeni Maharani hotels in Durban.

The bill for the Range Rover alone for 29 days came to R206000 – deemed by the official who approved it to be “in accordance with Sassa policy”; and a return flight to Kimberley to accompany Petersen on a ministerial outreach programme in Kuruman on December 4 2012.

Further documentation suggests this is the tip of the iceberg.

A raft of invoices for hundreds of thousands of rands each show Sassa pays for anything from vehicles to rifles, pistols and cellphones.

It is unclear why a security company would bill its clients for these items.

The bills included:

R20500 for VIP protection officers during the day;
R21500 for VIP protection officers during the night;
R20500 for a vehicle to be on stand-by;
R14000 for armed reaction;
A R16500 monthly management fee;
R2200 for rifles;
R1300 for pistols;
R3400 for binoculars; and
Thousands of rands’ petrol.
When Vuco Security boss Wayne Ndlovu was approached for comment, he claimed he did not know what the Sunday Times was talking about but later said: “Speak to Sassa” before slamming the phone down.

Oliphant said: “Close protection is only utilised if an official is reportedly threatened. After an initial assessment done by the security division, the matter is usually referred to SAPS crime intelligence for a threat analysis and assessment.”

She said Petersen needed bodyguards because she was tackling corruption. “Until the CEO arrived, very little or no work had been done to deal with fraud at Sassa.”

Oliphant said if an official urgently needed bodyguards it was treated as an emergency and no tender would be issued.

A bidding process was used if the guards were needed for a longer period.

This service was put out to tender annually.

Oliphant failed to explain to the Sunday Times this week how her life was threatened – making a bodyguard necessary – or how Vuco came to be awarded the Sassa deal.

In May 2013, a whistle-blower from Eshowe approached Sassa claiming to have information of a scam operating in the area.

He and members of his family were immediately assigned bodyguards.

Sassa paid an exorbitant amount to Vuco Security to build a wall and guard house at his home.

Vuco Security invoices seen by the Sunday Times claimed an extra R65825 on May 23 2013, for:

R10250 for a guard during the day;
R10750 for a guard at night;
R10250 for a 2-litre vehicle;
R26000 for travelling 4000km;
R4000 for CCTV, alarm and fence maintenance;
R3400 for night-vision binoculars;
R10250 for a car on stand-by;
R7000 for armed reaction; and
A R8250 monthly management fee.
In another invoice, also dated May 23 2013, Vuco billed Sassa for R369100, which included:

R45000 for an electric fence;
R54000 for building a wall;
R30500 for stoep and front gate pillars to control gate;
R26000 for a half-metre foundation;
R27000 for converting a garage into control centre;
R17000 for building a toilet outside;
R25900 for building and plastering;
R42000 for labour; and
R15000 for electrical gate with motor.
Another invoice from Vuco to Sassa dated June 25 2013 for R416400 includes:

A R16500 monthly management fee;
R14000 for armed reaction;
R20500 for a guard during the day;
R21500 for a guard at night;
R20500 for a vehicle;
R20500 for a vehicle on stand-by;
R39000 for travelling6000km;
R8000 for CCTV, alarm and fence maintenance; and
R3400 for night-vision binoculars.
Police spokesman Solomon Makgale said the South African Police Service was working “very closely with Sassa to deal with criminality, both within and outside Sassa”.

Makgale said: “The department and Sassa make provision for the security of their officials.”


Fears over peace in Burundi as polls approach and Nkurunziza tries to stay n

Looming polls raise Burundi’s risk profile

BUJUMBURA (IRIN) – If high-level engagement by outside parties is a measure of political risk, Burundi is a country to keep a close eye on as it approaches elections next year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has had talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza. The US sent a senior envoy to speak to him in person. The UN Security Council has publicly voiced its concern. And these are just the lead players in a chorus of growing disquiet.

As the country gears up for elections at some yet-to-be-determined date next year, several issues are setting the crisis needle twitching: politically-instigated violence; restrictions on opposition activities and the press; the erosion of a power-sharing peace deal; and the president’s allegedly unconstitutional bid to run for a third term.

Meanwhile, relations between the government, led by the Hutu-dominated National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party, and the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB), which are supposed to be partners in a process of post-war stabilization, have very publicly soured over a leaked BNUB cable alleging weapons had earlier this year been distributed to members of the CNDD-FDD’s notorious youth wing, the Imbonerakure. The government has dismissed the report as absurd and dangerous.

Burundi turned the page on a civil war less than 10 years ago. Ignited in 1993 just after the country’s first presidential election, it was a conflict that pitted the country’s Hutu majority against a then-dominant Tutsi minority – mainly over access to political power.

After a visit to Burundi earlier this month, US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, the first American cabinet member ever to travel to the central African country, said she was prompted to make the trip because of a variety of “alarming signs”.

These included, she said, “the decision to end [at the end of 2014] the UN mission at a time when there’s significant political volatility, to the very swift trials of 21 members, young people who were members of one of the leading opposition parties, to restrictive media laws, to moves to change the constitution.”

On 21 March 21 members of the opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) were sentenced to life in jail and 26 given other prison terms after a demonstration in Bujumbura turned into a confrontation with security forces. MSD leader Alexis Sinduhije has also been charged in relation to the incident, but is in hiding.

“If you take a political crisis on the one hand and combine it with armaments on the other, those are precisely the ingredients for the kind of violence Burundi has managed to avoid now for a good few years, and it would be terribly tragic after all the progress that Burundi has made if it slipped into a large-scale political crisis, and certainly of course if it descended into violence,” Power said.

Tussle over Arusha Accords

On 10 April, members of the Security Council issued a statement in which they “recalled the urgent need for the Government of Burundi to address impunity, while respecting the right of due process, and for all the political parties to publicly condemn all political violence and acts of incitement to hatred or violence, in line with the Constitution of Burundi and the Arusha Agreement.”

Signed in 2000 after years of negotiation, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement – often referred to as the Arusha accords – was designed to end the civil war and set out power-sharing arrangements between different ethnic groups as the basis for durable peace and stability. The ruling CNDD-FDD was not a signatory.

Jean-Marie Ntahimpera, professor of political science at Bujumbura’s Lumiere University, blamed the current crisis on the government’s desire to demolish the Arusha deal, which he described as “the source of stability in the country”.

He said this desire was reflected in the major constitutional amendments the government has been trying to push through without any discussion with the opposition or civil society.

“Clearly there is pressure from supporters of the CNDD-FDD, who are trying to increase the number of their [government] posts. They reckon that the Arusha accords give enough posts and weight to the Tutsi, when they are a minority, and they want to bury these accords so that their supporters without jobs can get some.”

In a country where the private sector is tiny, the government remains the most significant source of formal employment.

“The country has been stable in recent years and it must remain stable. To achieve that these accords must be respected, other political parties must be allowed to work normally, democratic procedure must be accepted and the constitution respected,” said Ntahimpera.

“It would be terribly tragic after all the progress that Burundi has made if it slipped into a large-scale political crisis” For Yolande Bouke of the Institute of Security Studies, upsetting Burundi’s balance of power could create a danger, even if remote, “that the military might try to get involved.”

Noting that the political violence of recent years was not carried out across party rather than Hutu-Tutsi lines, Bouka warned that if those in power “chip away at Arusha there is a risk of re-ethnicizing the power struggle… if the government goes too far and fractures the military, with [Tutsi] officers feeling they stand to lose a lot…

“There is more of a threat to the Arusha accord now than there was a few years ago. The government is bolder than it was,” she added.

“Put all this together, and it seems as if they are trying to hold on to power by all means necessary,” Bouka told IRIN.

One key political development came in February when the country’s vice president, Bernard Busokoza, of the Tutsi-dominated Union for National Progress, the only opposition party represented in parliament, was dismissed from his post. This prompted the resignation of three Uprona government ministers, who were replaced by members of a pro-government Uprona faction not recognized by the main wing of the party.

Opposition incensed

Léonce Ngendakumana, chairman of the opposition Alliance of Democrats for Change-Ikibiri, has been particularly vociferous in his criticisms of the “authoritarian” government, warning in a 6 February letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the country was heading towards a “politico-ethnic genocide”.

Echoing longstanding findings of human rights activists, he said the government had carried out “extrajudicial executions, moral and physical torture, the detention and harassment of opposition supporters and leaders and of civil society and the media.”

Speaking to IRIN in mid-April, Ngendakumana said: “No other party is allowed to hold meetings when members of the presidential party regularly hold meetings…

“Weapons are being distributed like beans in the countryside to youths affiliated to the CNDD-FDD,” he added.


On 15 April, the government stepped up its vigorous denial of this allegation in a 1,700-word statement which accused BNUB, because of its confidential communication of the claim to UN headquarters in New York, of undermining relations with the government and the country’s very stability.

The statement called on the UN to investigate the claims, and to ensure they were not part of a campaign to “cover up the entry of weapons into the country to undermine security, and create chaos that could sabotage the elections”.

(The government maintains Ngendakumana is “allergic” to elections because the opposition has no chance of winning them. The opposition says its chances are seriously undermined by a skewed playing field.)

The statement also said “appropriate measures” should be taken against those responsible “so as to restore a climate of confidence” between BNUB and the government of Burundi.

For its part, BNUB has denied it was “conducting a campaign to tarnish the image of the country”, insisting “dialogue has always been at the centre of relations with the authorities of Burundi.”

“The United Nations have no other interest than to see the aspiration of Burundi for a prosperous, stable and peaceful nation, where democratic values flourish fully achieved,” it said in a statement.

Politically driven media?

The opposition’s Ngendakumana also said the government had monopolized state media, using it to broadcast political messages well ahead of the official election campaign period.

“The president himself initiated the amendment of the constitution [narrowly defeated in March] to illegally run for a third mandate. What he has done is illegal. The constitution limits the head of state’s number of mandates to two. Even the Arusha accords are clear on that.”

But senior government officials have argued that Nkurunziza’s first term does not count towards this limit as it was won not by popular vote but by a ballot limited to members of the national assembly.

Drawing a clear parallel with the murderous messages broadcast by Radio Television Milles Collines during the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago, opposition politicians have alleged Rema FM, a private pro-government station, has urged its listeners to “remain vigilant”.

According to IRIN’s own monitoring of the station, some Rema broadcasters call on listeners to be “vigilant” of those dissatisfied with the government’s activities, people it described as “saboteurs” who should not be allowed to get ahead.

A prominent civil society leader has sued Rema FM for equating his criticisms of the government with rebellion; the station, for its part, is suing over the Rwandan genocide comparison.

Political scientist Ntahimpera dismissed talk of genocide as overblown. “Opposition politicians use the word to show that things are serious. But there are no signs of genocide. Rather there are cases of human rights abuses linked to the restriction of the opposition’s political space. It is better to define things as they are rather than exaggerate.”

Now, he added, the international community “regrets what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and is trying to stop Burundi exploding”.


Armed and dangerous? The government denies weapons have been distributed to the ruling party’s youth wing