African states, UN and EU urge dialogue in Burundi


World | Mon May 25, 2015

U.N., EU, Africa urge dialogue in Burundi after politician’s killing

The United Nations, the European Union and African nations urged Burundi’s government and the opposition on Sunday not to let violence derail dialogue, after an opposition politician was shot dead and some groups said they were boycotting talks.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others condemned the killing by unidentified gunmen on Saturday of Zedi Feruzi, the head of the UPD party, who opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term.
Nkurunziza’s decision to run again has triggered the worst crisis in the small African country since the end of an ethnically charged civil war in 2005. The longer unrest lasts, the more chance of a return to ethnic violence, diplomats say.
U.N. special envoy to the region, Said Djinnit, the African Union and other regional African states have been sponsoring dialogue between rival sides since May 5 to end the crisis.
“They strongly urge all participants to remain fully engaged in the dialogue,” the sponsors said in a joint statement after the latest round of talks in Bujumbura on Sunday that were boycotted by some parties and civil society groups.
Separately, the EU, the biggest donor to aid-reliant Burundi, urged “all parties to engage in good faith” in talks.
Opponents say Nkurunziza’s re-election bid violates a two-term limit in the constitution and a peace deal that ended civil conflict. Protesters have regularly clashed with police in the past month and unrest provoked a failed military coup on May 13.
The president, who has called protests an “insurrection”, points to a constitutional court ruling that said his first term, when he was picked by parliament not a popular vote, did not count. He has shown no signs of backing down from his bid.
The U.N. secretary-general called on parties involved in talks “not to be deterred by those who, through violence, seek to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi,” his office said.
A presidential vote is scheduled for June 26, while parliamentary and local council polls are due on June 5, after a delay of just over a week in the wake of the unrest.
Following Feruzi’s killing, Anshere Nikoyagize, the head of the civil society group Ligue ITEKA, told Reuters that civil society groups and opposition parties would not attend the dialogue, which began this month. But he did not name them.
“We can’t negotiate with the president of the republic with regards to the violation of the constitution or the violation of the Arusha accord. It is impossible,” said Frederick Bamvuginyumvira, vice president of opposition party Frodebu.
Willy Nyamitwe, presidential media adviser, told Reuters that Sunday’s talks had gone ahead with some civil society groups and two parties, but also did not provide a list. Burundi has dozens of registered parties.
“The main objective is to find ways of coming out of this situation,” Nyamitwe said. “This situation is going out of control.”
Burundi’s crisis has set the region that has a history of ethnic conflict on edge. More than 110,000 Burundians – about 1 percent of the country’s population – have already fled across the border for fear violence will spread outside the capital.
Till now, there has been little sign of progress in bridging differences between the two camps. The president has insisted he will follow his party’s call to stand again, while opponents say protests will continue until he ends his bid.
The Red Cross has said the death toll based on people its workers have seen killed stands at about 20. Emergency workers say that the total number could be double that.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York and Barbara Lewis in Brussels; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

South Africa – Zuma says schoolchildren to learn African anthem; xenophobia

Mail and Guardian

All South African schoolgoers will have to learn the African Union anthem, President Jacob Zuma announced at Africa Day celebrations in Pretoria on Sunday. 

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
“Starting today every school, church or community, choirs and individuals must practise the African Union anthem, so that we can sing [it] at all our important gatherings and celebrations,” Zuma told the crowd at the Africa Day celebrations, which took place at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus.
“If we start with our generation now that they sing it and understand it in schools, we have begun to plant a patriotism that will never go away to our citizens.”
Zuma urged South African institutions and companies to begin flying the African Union flag together with the South African flag. Africa Day falls on May 25 each year and marks the day the Organisation of African Unity, known today as the African Union, was founded in 1963. 
Part of the day’s festivities included music performed by a South Africa Police Service band, to which President Zuma and other prominent guest speakers on the stage (such as African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) danced enthusiastically. South Africa has also a month-long celebration of what it means to be African, launched on April 1, with a number of cultural activities on offer.
South Africans not xenophobic

The issue of xenophobia, which has been blamed for a number of violent incidents in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently, was unavoidable on the day. Zuma insisted xenophobia was not entrenched in South Africa. 
“South Africans are not xenophobic, there are elements of criminality that conduct criminal activities to rob people of their goods, that pretend they are xenophobic. I think it is important for us to be aware of these very simple facts,” he told the crowd.
He said the media had reported on the violence and the xenophobic element in an “exaggerated fashion”. 
Dlamini-Zuma also addressed the crowd on the issue of xenophobia. She said when she was growing up in South Africa she had thought it was the most diverse African country. “So we must deal with this aberration of people who beat up someone and say it’s because they are not from here. It’s not South African. South Africans really are very diverse.”
The AU Commission chair said it was painful to watch recent incidents unfold from Ethiopia, where she now resides. “What warmed our hearts is when we saw the South Africans led by the president and the government in their formations … coming out and saying ‘no we are South Africans, we are Africans’,” she said.
“Our fortunes in Africa are intertwined, there is not a country that can develop to its full potential without the rest of Africa developing. So we are one continent, one people, one destiny and that is how we should look at it.”
Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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Twitter: @Lisa4president




Burundi opposition party leader shot as protests continue

Mail and Guardian

Burundi opposition leader Feruzi murdered, gunmen wore uniforms like Nkurunziza’s guards but presidency denies role

24 MAY 2015

The attack came a day after a grenade assault on a busy market killed three people and injured around 40 others.

 A protestor opposed to the Burundian president’s third term throws material onto a burning barricade in the Kinanira neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 21, 2015. (Photo/AFP). A protestor opposed to the Burundian president’s third term throws material onto a burning barricade in the Kinanira neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 21, 2015. (Photo/AFP).

THE leader of a small Burundian opposition party was shot dead on Saturday, residents said, the latest violence in a country gripped by weeks of protests over the president’s controversial bid to seek a third term.
Zedi Feruzi, the head of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD) was walking home under police protection in Bujumbura’s Ngagara district when he came under fire, locals told AFP, adding that one of the three officers accompanying him was also killed in the incident.
The unknown gunmen were able to flee the scene in a car.
An AFP reporter saw the bloodied bodies of both Feruzi and a police bodyguard lying outside the house soon after the shooting.
The attack—which comes a day after a grenade attack on a busy market killed three people and injured around 40 others—risks further fuelling tensions in the capital where a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-government demos has left more than 20 people dead since late April.
The crisis also sparked a failed coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza last week.
Saturday’s shooting brought a dramatic end to what had been a rare day of calm in the city after protest leaders called for a pause in the demos to allow people to stock up on supplies and bury their dead.
“We heard around 20 gunshots, everyone fell to the ground, people saw a Toyota car speeding away,” said a resident in the Ngagara district, who did not himself witness Feruzi’s shooting.
A police officer who was among those tasked with protecting Feruzi was seriously injured in the hail of bullets.
“We were returning on foot when a Toyota IT pulled up alongside us and the men inside opened fire on us,” the officer, who did not give his name, told AFP from his hospital bed. “I fell, I don’t know what happened after.”
Radio journalist Jean-Baptiste Bireha said he was talking with Feruzi at the precise moment when the attackers appeared and started firing. He said the gunmen were clad in uniforms similar to those worn by the presidential guard.
“When they left, they were shouting and singing, they threw some grenades to scare us,” said Bireha, who was unharmed.
But the presidency denied any involvement, saying it was “shocked” by the killings which it said should be urgently investigated “so the guilty are brought to justice”.
In the wake of the shooting local youths sealed off streets and alleyways to outsiders, while two barricades of tyres were set alight in the district.
Grenade attack 
The attack signals another escalation in violence in Bujumbura after the attack on the market Friday.
Police have said they are questioning a suspect in the grenade attack, which they blamed on the anti-government demonstrators.
But civil society leader Vital Nshimirimana, a key organiser of the protests, dismissed the accusation, and called for the international community to investigate.
“We have obviously nothing to do with these grenade attacks,” Nshimirimana said. “Police are trying to demonise us to justify the fact that they shot and killed unarmed demonstrators.”
Meanwhile another civil society leader, Pacifique Nininahazwe, on Friday announced a weekend truce “to allow the people to bury with dignity those who died for democracy.” 
But he warned that “protests will resume on Monday with even more force.”
In a small sign of progress, he added that discreet talks had begun this week between the protesters, opposition parties and the government.
The negotiations have been supported by the United Nations, African Union and regional nations.
Burundi’s crisis, which began in late April after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June 26 presidential election, deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.
Parliamentary polls, initially set for May 26, have been postponed to June 5.
Cholera outbreak 
Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution and conditions of a peace deal that ended a 13-year civil war in 2006.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead the country, argues that his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
Refugees continue to flee the violence, most of them to neighbouring Tanzania, where over 50,000 people are struggling to survive in dire conditions on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Cholera has broken out in squalid camps there, with at least 31 people having died among a total of over 3,000 cases of the disease, with numbers growing by up to 400 cases a day, according to the UN refugee agency.


African Union renews call for South Sudan arms embargo

Sudan Tribune


May 23, 2015 (KAMPALA) – The African Union has supported calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan as fighting resumed between its warring parties, in violation of the cessations of hostilities agreement.

Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) on guard in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity state on 12 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The AU commission, at the meeting held in Namibia, had briefed its Peace and Security Council on the developments and situation in South Sudan.
The Council expressed its concern over the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, including the escalation of hostilities and the grave humanitarian situation of civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.
The continental body criticised the warring parties for abandoning dialogue and resorting to war as a way to end their impasse.
The Council further noted that the people of South Sudan have already been devastated by war, and that the current escalation threatens to unleash irreversible consequences on the young nation.
“[The] council strongly condemned the resumption of hostilities in South Sudan and the untold suffering inflicted on the civilian population, in total disregard of International Humanitarian Law,” the AU said in a statement.
It further expressed deep disappointment over the failure of the leaders of the belligerent parties in South Sudan to rise above personal and factional political interests and put the national interest and well-being of their people first.
The council has stressed that these actions are wholly contrary to the expressed will of the AU, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, UN and the international community as a whole.
“In this regard, [the] council called for urgent steps by the sanctions committee, established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015), to designate individuals and entities subject to the measures provided for therein. Council requested the UN Security Council to urgently consider the immediate imposition of an arms embargo on the belligerents,” its statement further read.
Meanwhile, the council reiterated its commitment to extend full support to the IGAD mediation efforts in South Sudan, notably through the early operationalisation of the AU High-Level ad hoc Committee, established by the Peace and Security Council in December 2014, and other related measures.

South Africa – no protection from xenophobia

Mail and Guardian


Xenophobia: ‘They know they can kill us and we can’t do a thing’

The police and army’s Operation Fiela is only fuelling xenophobia, say NGOs and visitors from nearby countries.


 Many foreigners run and hide when they see police officers. Those who don’t risk being rounded up and arrested. (Mujahid Safodien, AFP)

Since the police and the army started Operation Fiela shortly after the xenophobic attacks a month ago, more than 1?650 foreigners have been arrested.

The police say that among those arrested were two Ethiopians accused of child trafficking, a Zimbab­wean man was found in possession of explosives worth about R100 000 and two murder suspects were also arrested in Dobsonville.

A Mozambican was arrested at the Lebombo border post with more than 2kg of ephedrine, and copper and gold worth around R24-million was seized at the Beitbridge border post.

But despite the apparent success of the anti-crime operation, a coalition of nongovernmental organisations, including Lawyers for Human Rights, Médecins Sans Frontières, Section27, Corruption Watch, Africa Diaspora Forum and Awethu, has criticised Operation Fiela for perpetuating xenophobia.

They say the campaign is unfairly targeting foreign nationals and mistakenly equates the presence of undocumented foreigners in South Africa with crime.

Below, five foreign refugees tell of their hopes and fears for their future in South Africa


Lucas Machel (25), a bricklayer from Mozambique

Machel has been living in South Africa since 2008. Four months ago, his work permit expired. He now feels uncertain about his future.

Since Operation Fiela was intensified, he finds it hard to do his job. In the early hours of last Monday, he and other foreigners were dropped off at the Johannesburg house they are renovating. An unmarked car packed with policemen suddenly appeared. They all ran for their lives. Some hid in an outside room, others jumped over walls into neighbours’ yards. Only the project manager who had the correct documents remained behind. “Eish, now things are difficult again,” says Machel. “People here no longer want us, they say we should go back home.”

With the little money he earns he pays rent, his children’s school fees and sends home what’s left. Because he is paid daily, he cannot afford to miss work.

“Since I don’t have a permit, I’m thinking of going to Pretoria to apply, but money is scarce.”

Two of his three children are in Mozambique and one is in South Africa. Machel is worried about his little boy. He asks: “If I’m sent back home, who’s going to support him?”


Kazango Elizee (38), a teacher and priest from the DRC

Elizee’s provocative preaching about corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) got him into trouble with the law there. In 2001 he had to flee for his life in the back of a truck. “I found myself in Johannesburg by default,” he says. “I did not know where the driver was taking me but I knew I was going to be alive.”

Elizee met and married his soulmate in South Africa. Life was bliss until the 2008 xenophobic attacks began. His wife was raped while pregnant with their second child and they lost all their possessions when they were forced to move out of the place they were renting near Thokoza on the East Rand.

Elizee and his family now live in a shelter in Randfontein. He is a qualified teacher but cannot find work. “It’s terrible. I cannot get a job, cannot open a bank account. I feel insecure. It’s like hell. What can I do?

“I need protection from somewhere. South Africa is our country; it’s in Africa.” Elizee says the protection he seeks can only come from the department of home affairs in the form of refugee papers, but he is reluctant to visit because he has experienced xenophobia at their offices.

Even though he has lived in South Africa for 16 years, he is still an asylum seeker. All his children were born here but they don’t have rights as the locals do.

“What South Africans are doing, beating people, is the same way they treat us in the office,” he says. “


Shakina Murhububa (28), a hairdresser from the DRC

“When you are free, you can do something with your life,” says Murhububa, who lives in Pretoria West in a single room in a building once used as a student dormitory. “I’m like a slave person. I have kids. I don’t have money. I cannot get a job.”

She unlocks her door and her three children ­– Victoria, Sarah and Samuel – come to greet her. Her bed takes up almost the entire room. With a TV and a fridge, there’s not much space left.

Because of the political upheaval and a broken family, Murhububa had to flee her country. She got here with her children on the back of a truck in 2012. She struggled to find a place until a man offered her one. After a few weeks he demanded sex in exchange. She fell pregnant and the man vanished. Now she survives by plaiting people’s hair and washing clothes. Her charges vary according to what the customer can afford.

She adds: “Sometimes I struggle paying the rent. Life here is difficult. There is no food to feed the kids as we speak.”

When she has a serious problem she doesn’t bother to lay a charge. Police usually tell her to go back where she comes from. “Once they see that you cannot speak Sotho or Zulu, they know that you are a foreigner already and since there is xenophobia, everyone takes advantage.

“They know they can kill us and we cannot do anything.”


Yemani Embaye (30), a businessman from Eritrea

In 2007, Embaye bribed his way to South Africa, after fleeing his home for political reasons – he was conscripted to serve in the army.

He says: “I heard SA is a free country and I decided to live here.”

Embaye got his temporary asylum permit and for a while things went well for him until he wanted a permanent permit. He claims the home affairs offices in Marabastad demanded a bribe. He did not have money then and is still undocumented. Embaye went to Lawyers for Human Rights, who wrote him “a letter that states that my application is in review”, he says. “I should produce it when the police want to see my papers.” Luckily, he has not been asked yet. “I’m not sure the police will accept it, but if I see police on the streets, I hide.”

Embaye can speak both Sesotho and Sepedi. He is married to a South African woman and they have a daughter – “I feel very welcomed here,” he says.

When I ask him about Operation Fiela and how it might affect his life, he takes a moment to respond. “Whatever will happen, I will stay here,” he says. “I cannot go back home. If I go back, they will kill me.”

Police ask for R3 000 ‘token of appreciation’ to free detainee

The 34-year-old is a Zimbabwean from Harare. He is married with two children and sends money home to them from South Africa.

He was a sales agent when he left school and then worked for his father’s business as a building contractor. When the farm invasions happened, there was no work and times were hard. He finally came to South Africa five months ago. This is what happened to him on Tuesday morning: “I was in a taxi rank in Howick at about 5.45am. [It] was very busy. I was about to board the taxi when 12 armed police officers stopped us. There were some regular police and some traffic police.

“I was asked a question in Zulu. My Zulu is not very good and when they heard me stammering to answer, they asked me about my documents: passport and work permit. I didn’t have any documents with me so I was arrested.

“I was taken in the back of a Nissan bakkie with a canopy with two other guys, one a Zimbabwean like me and one a Malawian. An Indian officer sat with us. He was tall and fat; he read us our rights and made us turn off our phones. Then he said: ‘This operation is going to happen nationwide for a month. People are smuggling drugs and selling them in our country. We no longer need foreigners here – you must go back to your countries. Our children are suffering; they don’t have work or anything to do. You are coming here and doing bad things and criminal stuff. Go back to your country.’

“We were taken to the central police station in Pietermaritzburg and when we got there I counted 22 other people who had been arrested. Some had documents with them, but they had overstayed their permits and were told they would go to prison for two months and then be deported.

“There were two black officers speaking to us; one spoke Zulu and the other English. I saw the name badge of the one who spoke English. It said ‘Ndlovu’. Those of us who had no documents were told that we needed to show ‘a token of our appreciation – give us something so that we can let you go’. I asked for my phone so that I could speak to my boss, but Mr Ndlovu wouldn’t give it to me. I said to him: ‘How can I show my appreciation if you won’t let me speak to my boss?’ He said no, but that I would be held for five or six hours and then [I would be] given my phone to speak to my boss.

“The figure mentioned was R3 000. Nobody among the 22 who were arrested with me had that much money. A few had some money; one guy I saw paid R1 500, a few others R1 000, and in all, 13 guys paid and were allowed to go straight away, but I had nothing so I had to stay.

“During the day I saw three people arrive with cash in their hands to pay bribes to set guys free. The process was the guy who was being set free would be told by the police there was someone to see him and they would be taken into another room. One of the guys with us had been arrested four times before and he explained that if we didn’t see the guy again it meant his bribe had been accepted and he was set free. I think all the bribe money goes to one person and at the end of the day they share it out among themselves.

“Eventually I was given my phone back and I got hold of my brother. He managed to borrow R800 from his boss and he came to the police station to pay at 6pm. They told him it wasn’t enough and that he must go and find more. So they kept me overnight. I could hear noises coming from the cells next to mine, and I learned from some of the guys who were arrested with me that they were assaulted. They told me they were made to lie on the ground and were hit on the back with batons.

“I wasn’t assaulted and my brother came back at 6am and begged them to release me. He told the police that he couldn’t get any more money and they said it’s not enough. He said: ‘I can’t get any more. If it’s not enough just take the money and send him home.’ Then they came to me and said: ‘We don’t want to see you again. Go with your brother.’

“When I left there were six guys who were arrested with me still there. One was from Mozambique and there were also a couple of Nigerians. We are all now living in fear in this country. It is not so simple to just tell us to go home. There is nothing for us at home. No work and no money to live.”o

Ethiopians vote in first post-Meles election


Ethiopians are voting for a new parliament in the first election since the death of long-serving Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in 2012.

The current parliament has only one opposition MP – and Mr Zenawi’s successor Hailemariam Desalegn is expected to hold on to power.

The opposition and human rights groups have accused the governing party of intimidation – a criticism it rejects.

Observers from the African Union are monitoring the poll.

Polling stations opened at 06:00 (03:00 GMT) and close at 18:00 pm (15:00 GMT).

Hailemariam Desalegn on left, Debretsion Gebremikael (centre) and Tewodros Adhanom or right


Current Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn (L), is favourite to retain the post but faces competition from leading challengers Debretsion Gebremikael (C) and Tewodros Adhanom (R)

Final results will not be known for a month.

Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been in power for almost a quarter of a century.


More than 36m Ethiopians – and 57 political groups – have registered for the election. Many of them are organised along ethnic lines.

Other contenders include the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum, a coalition known as Medrek [the Forum] and the Semayawi [Blue] Party, which has held protest rallies and draws support from young people.

Chart showing ethnic groups of Ethiopian population

Ethiopia has more than 80 different ethnic groups

“The government people came to go door-to-door asking us to register as voters and to promote the EPRDF,” Reuters news agency quoted a student as saying. “For me, all I see is that prices increase.”

Another voter told AFP: “I will give my vote to the ruling party because I do not have faith in the opposition parties’ ability to govern.”

Ethiopia has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies – with government-financed investments extending to new railways, roads and hydro-electric dams.

People take part in a Blue Party election rally in the capital Addis Ababa on 21 May.

Many young people have taken part in protests called by the Semayawi (Blue Party)

But critics accuse Prime Minister Desalegn of stifling dissent. One opposition candidate, Yilekal Getinet, said the government had closed political space.

Addis Ababa rejects the criticism. Government spokesman Redwan Hussein told AFP it was up to voters to choose.

“If they want to give us another chance they will vote for us. If they have a grudge, they will not.”

A general view shows part of the capital Addis Ababa on 17 May.

The government has invested massively in infrastructure projects

Predictions of another government success have turned some voters off the idea of casting a ballot. “The election will bring no change,” Behailu Ayele told Reuters. “It is already known that the EPRDF will win the vote like the previous elections – by fraud.”

In 2005, 174 opposition politicians won seats in the 547-seat parliament, but many did not take them up after pronouncing the vote rigged.

In the 2010 polls, Girma Seifu, of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), was the sole opponent to win, while the EPRDF garnered 99.6%. An independent candidate was also elected.

The opposition MP is not running again.

Mali – investigation of abuse and executions by UN


The United Nations said on Friday it was investigating reports of serious human rights abuses, including the execution of civilians, in northern Mali following clashes this week between northern Tuareg separatist rebels and pro-government militia.

U.N.-brokered peace efforts in Mali’s north are in danger of unravelling because of repeated violations of a ceasefire between the Tuareg-led Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) and the pro-government factions around the flashpoint northern town of Menaka.

The clashes on Thursday killed at least six civilians, including a Malian aid worker, rebels and a local source said.

The U.N. mission in Mali said on Friday it had sent a team of investigators to verify reports of serious abuses and the execution of civilians, possibly including an aid worker in Tin-Hamma, in Gao region.

“These abuses followed as a result of the clashes on May 20 between members of the Platform (pro-government militia) and the Coordination of Movements of Azawad,” the mission said.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, a member of the CMA coalition, said in a statement that nine people including two who worked for international aid agencies were arrested by pro-government militia and executed. It added that several others were missing.

“The execution took place in public, at the town’s cattle market and the bodies were still exposed in the public square as of 1500 GMT,” MNLA said in the statement, listing the names of the nine.

The Malian government rejected accusations that its troops were involved in the abuses. It said in a statement late on Friday that Malian soldiers had intervened in Tin-Hamma to drive out insurgents who had killed three civilians in the attack.

“The government is surprised by the allegations of abuses on the population attributed to the armed forces following the events in Tin-Hamma,” it said. “The government rejects such accusations.”

The U.N. mission said it was concerned about an alarming escalation of fighting in several areas of northern Mali, which was in violation of the ceasefire and could jeopardise the peace deal.

Separately, it said 12 rockets hit its camp in Ber, about 50 km (30 miles) east of Timbuktu, on Friday. It did not name the attackers but said there were no casualties.

There was a lull on Thursday. On Friday morning, sources within the rebel CMA and later videos that Reuters obtained showed fighting had resumed around the town of Menaka, which the rebels had been trying to take back since last month when pro-government forces kicked them out.

In a separate battle, the rebels also seized the town of Tessit near Gao.

Violence has continued in northern Mali despite a 2013 French-led intervention that pushed back al Qaeda-linked fighters who hijacked the Tuareg-led rebellion and seized two-thirds of the country in 2012.

A ceasefire deal was signed between the government, its allies and northern separatist groups last year, but violations of the agreement have increased since pro-government fighters seized Menaka late last month.

(Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; Editing by David Lewis, Andrew Heavens and Leslie Adler)