South Sudan – treason charges dropped against Amum and three other “plotters”

BBC

South Sudan drops treason case against four ‘plotters’

Pagan Amum in Khartoum, Sudan on 2 December 2012 Pagan Amum was once a staunch ally of the president

South Sudan is withdrawing the case against four top politicians accused of treason that triggered the civil war, the justice minister has said.

The four, who include a former leader of the governing SPLM party, denied plotting a coup and also denied any links to the ongoing fighting.

Their release had been a key demand of the rebels.

Some one million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.

Analysis

The four men have always denied any role in the violence that broke out in Juba in mid-December, although some of them had been particularly vocal critics of President Salva Kiir.

Many in South Sudan and the region believed they should not have been on trial at all. The regional body Igad and the US led the calls for the men to be released, almost from the moment they were arrested in December.

The trial had proved problematic for the prosecution, notably when a key prosecution witness said he did not see any evidence linking the four to the alleged coup attempt.

The timing of this announcement – hours after the UN threatened to impose sanctions on those blocking peace in South Sudan – is surely significant.

Dropping charges for the “Juba Four” looks like a counterweight to President Kiir’s other major recent decision – replacing his army chief of staff with a man seen as a hardliner.

Justice Minister Paulino Wanawilla said that the case was being dropped in the interest of peace and reconciliation. He said that the four would probably be released by Friday.

Separately on Thursday, the UN Security Council threatened sanctions against those responsible for continued deadly violence in South Sudan.

In a strongly worded statement, council members expressed “horror and anger” over the mass killings of hundreds of civilians in the town of Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, last week.

‘Significant step’

The charges against the four politicians carried the maximum sentence of death and related to an alleged coup attempt on 15 December.

South Sudan analyst James Copnall says this is a very significant step, because the trial was seen as a stumbling block to the peace talks in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

In addition to former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) secretary general Pagan Amum, ex-National Security Minister Oyai Deng Ajak was cleared, as were former Defence Minister Majak D’Agoot and former ambassador to the US Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth.

In addition to the treason charge, they were accused of inciting the army and fuelling an insurgency in South Sudan, the world’s newest state which became independent in 2011.

Earlier on Thursday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir sacked the head of the army following recent rebel advances. No reason was given for the dismissal of Gen James Hoth Mai.

Conflict first broke out in the capital, Juba, between troops loyal to Mr Kiir and those allied with his sacked deputy, Riek Machar.

It later spread to other parts of South Sudan, with numerous reports of ethnic killings.

Civilians flee from renewed attacks in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan on 20 April 2014. Many residents of Bentiu have fled the oil town since the rebels took over
Debris outside the Kali-Ballee Mosque in the oil town of Bentiu, Unity State, on 15 April 2014. The UN says civilians were attacked in a church, hospital and an abandoned World Food Programme office

Eleven ex-officials were arrested in December, but seven of them were later released.

The two sides signed a ceasefire agreement on 23 January, but sporadic fighting has continued.

The latest move comes amid worsening violence in South Sudan, with both sides implicated in atrocities and war crimes.

Last week, the United Nations accused the rebels of massacring hundreds of civilians who sought refuge in a church, mosque and hospital, after capturing Bentiu.

The rebels, however, blame the retreating government forces for the killings.

The UN Security Council expressed on Thursday its “readiness to consider appropriate measures against those responsible”, which could mean sanctions.

It also said it was gravely concerned by the growing humanitarian crisis in a UN camp in Bentiu, where more than 23,000 people are seeking shelter.

Correspondents say the Bentiu killings are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.

Nigerian leaders in show of unity against Boko Haram

Reuters

Nigerian leaders unite against Boko Haram

 

Bomb experts gather evidence in a crater that was caused by a bomb blast explosion at Nyanyan, Abuja April 14, 2014. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Bomb experts gather evidence in a crater that was caused by a bomb blast explosion at Nyanyan, Abuja April 14, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

ABUJA (Reuters) – Leaders from across Nigeria appealed for a united front against Boko Haram on Thursday, saying the Islamist insurgents were waging war on Christian and Muslim Nigerians alike.

President Goodluck Jonathan held a security meeting with governors of 36 states straddling Nigeria’s largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north to seek ways of ending the Islamists’ five-year-old insurgency.

“We agreed that the Boko Haram war is not a religious war and therefore it’s a war against all Nigerians and should be treated as such,” a statement said after the meeting.

The insurgents abducted 230 schoolgirls on April 14 and most are still missing. On the same day, a bomb in a bus station on the edge of the capital Abuja killed 75 people, an attack for which Boko Haram claimed responsibility.

The two attacks showed the inability of the Nigerian security forces to protect civilians against Boko Haram, seen as the biggest security threat to Africa’s top oil producer.

The insurgency by the group, whose name means “Western education is sinful” in the northern Hausa language, has killed thousands in the past two years.

Officials have long feared that Boko Haram, which wants to carve a breakaway Islamic state out of Nigeria, will harden religious divisions.

But while the group has repeatedly targeted Christians – blowing up churches or killing minority Christian ethnic groups in the north – the majority of their victims have been Muslims. The Islamists destroy churches, but also mosques.

“Both Muslims and Christians are being killed. Boko Haram doesn’t discriminate against any person,” Theodor Orji, governor of the southern Abia state, said after the emergency meeting.

“Boko Haram is not a religious war and people should not misrepresent it to be,” Orji said.

Heightened Boko Haram attacks coincide with rising communal violence in the Middle Belt, where north and south meet, that has killed hundreds. Officials fear the Islamist insurgency will merge with this so far distinct conflict.

The military said on Thursday it had arrested gunmen who killed 40 people in two attacks on villagers in the east in the past week and they had confessed to being Boko Haram militants. The attack initially looked like Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacking ethnic Tiv Christian farmers. reuters

 

South Africa – Tutu says TRC never able to complete reconciliation mission

Mail and Guardian

Tutu: ‘Unfinished business’ of the TRC’s healing

25 Apr 2014 00:00 Desmond Tutu

Nelson Mandela’s departure from office was a blow from which the commission never recovered.
Desmond Tutu shares a light moment with the press during the days of the TRC, which he now believes failed in its objectives. (Reuters)

 

 

At the first gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, on Reconciliation Day in 1995, I spoke at some length of the importance of the political impartiality of the process if it was to succeed.

This was not the pious pleading of a priest; it was the truth commission’s legal mandate.

Ours was not to judge the morality of people’s actions, but to act as an incubation chamber for national healing, reconciliation and forgiveness. We were a wounded people, all of us, because of the conflict of the past. No matter on which side we stood, we all were in need of healing. As members of the commission we were, ourselves, wounded healers.

The commission had three tangible tasks: to establish as complete a picture as possible of the causes, nature and extent of gross violations of human rights perpetrated between 1960 and 1994 by conducting investigations and creating dignified platforms for victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to tell their stories; to grant amnesty to qualifying perpetrators of human rights violations; and to make recommendations to government on reparations. It also had a broader and less tangible responsibility to contribute to the development of a fundamentally new, compassionate, fair, just and moral society.

“The objectives of the commission shall be to promote national unity and reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and divisions of the past,” the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 stated.

“We are privileged to be on this commission,” I told my new team of commissioners, “to assist our land and our people to come to terms with our dark past once and for all.”

The structure of South Africa’s truth commission, and the principles that underpinned its work, were fêted and copied in many other countries around the world. Indeed, the commission was regarded by many as among the most glittering jewels in the irenic crown of our founding father, Nelson Mandela.

But, today, as we reflect on the commission’s contribution to re-weaving the fabric of our society, we do so against a backdrop of appalling violence being perpetrated, especially against women and children across our country. We do so against a backdrop of a hopelessly inequitable country in which most of the rich have hung on to their wealth, while the “freedom dividend” for most of the poor has been to continue surviving on scraps. We do so against the backdrop of an education system that is failing to prepare our youth adequately to contribute to their own and our nation’s development. We do so against the backdrop of the Marikana massacre and of the public protector’s report into the obscene spending on our president’s property in Nkandla. We do so against the backdrop of a dearth of magnanimity and accountability and ethical incorruptibility.

Many have lamented the fact that President Mandela served only a single five-year term. From the perspective of the truth commission, his departure from office was a mortal blow. I do not believe that Mandela would have left the commission’s business so scandalously unfinished, as his successors have.

By “unfinished business” I refer specifically to the fact that the level of reparation recommended by the commission was not enacted; the proposal on a once-off wealth tax as a mechanism to effect the transfer of resources was ignored, and those who were declined amnesty were not prosecuted.

The commission played a magnificent role in facilitating the telling of the story of the true horrors of apartheid. I believe truth is central to any healing process because in order to forgive, one needs to know whom one is forgiving, and why.

But healing is a process. How we deal with the truth after its telling defines the success of the process. And this is where we have fallen tragically short. By choosing not to follow through on the commission’s recommendations, government not only compromised the commission’s contribution to the process, but the very process itself.

Why? Well, largely because by the time the commission was ready to report back to the nation on its findings, the ruling party appeared to have forgotten the commission’s legal mandate to be politically impartial.

Literally on the eve of the hand-over of the commission’s report to President Mandela, the ANC took the commission to court in an attempt to force it to excise from the report findings in respect of human rights violations committed by ANC members and supporters. The commission opposed the application, and was vindicated by the finding of the court.

To his eternal credit, President Mandela defied the wishes of his party and attended the ceremonial handover of the report before the world’s cameras in Pretoria. Years later, the former president said that although he remained a loyal member of the ANC, he had disobeyed his party’s instructions because of the integrity of the commission.

But the damage was done. Mr Mandela was soon to retire, and with him, the magnanimity that characterised government during his term of office. The relationship between the commission and ruling party was never to recover.

The commission was a beginning, not an end. It united South Africans around a common fire for the first time in history to hear the stories of our past, so that we could begin to understand each other – and ourselves – and take forward the job of developing the compassionate and just society for which so many had suffered and laid down their lives.

The tardy and limited payments of reparations to victims of human rights violations eroded the very dignity that the commission sought to build. The fact that the government did not prosecute those who failed to apply for amnesty undermined those who did. The proposal of a once-off wealth tax as a vehicle for those who had benefited from the past to contribute to the future was stillborn.

To use a medical analogy, the soul of apartheid South Africa was on its deathbed, fundamentally crippled, shot through with the cancers of immorality and inequity, and financially bankrupt.

In the 1990s a new superintendent took over the hospital. South Africans dared to dream of a miraculous recovery. The superintendent appointed a matron, on a contract basis, to blow some momentum into the recovery process.

The commission succeeded in its mandate to stabilise the patient sufficiently to move it out of intensive care into a general ward. But then the government decided further treatment was unnecessary.

Our soul remains profoundly troubled. The symptoms are all around us.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission  M&G

Nigeria – 250 killed in Plateau cattle attacks in six months

This Day

260 Killed, 2,501 Cows Stolen in Plateau in Six Months

25 Apr 2014

Gov Jonah Jang

Seriki Adinoyi
The Special Task Force (STF) deployed to restore law and order in Plateau State has put the number of people killed in the raging ethno-religious crisis in the state in the last six months at 260.

It also said the state had witnessed at least 160 attacks by  gunmen and the rustling of 2,501 cows  during the period.

Also, 1,312 of the cows were recovered and over 88 arms and 2,734 ammunition seized.

Commander of the STF, Major General David Enetie, who was represented by Colonel Ali Bello, gave the figures during the sixth Plateau Architecture, a dialogue meeting held at the cabinet office, Jos, yesterday.
According to him, “The attacks were fuelled by activities of cow rustlers, a major security challenge confronting the task force in the state.

“The problems of cattle rustling is concentrated mostly in Mangu, Bokkos, Barkin Ladi, Shendam, Jos South, Riyom, Langtang North and Langtang South Local Government Areas.”

Enetie said apart from the casualties, the task force had recorded some successes in its efforts to address the problems of cow rustling with the arrest of 15 armed dealers.

“The successes recorded in the fight against the rustlers in the state could be attributed to the ‘Operation Restore Peace’ launched by the task force in the state to specifically combat the new found criminality,” he added.
Organisers of the dialogue series, Search for Common Ground (SCG), in collaboration with the office of the Special Adviser to Governor Jonah Jang on Peace Building and Conflict Management, said with the efforts of civil society organisations (CSO) and security agencies, the rate of attacks and killings had reduced.

Country Director of SCG, Mr. Chom Bagu, in his remarks said: “The peace-building and dialogue process is not restricted to government and security agencies alone, all stakeholders are required to join hands to chase conflicts out of Plateau.”

  Special Adviser to Jang on Peace Building and Conflict Management, Mr. Timothy Parlong, told the gathering that some Fulanis who withdrew from the dialogue last month in protest have agreed to return to the negotiation table for peace to reign in the state. This Day

Malawi – Banda and main rival Mutharika skip first TV debate

DW/allAfrica

Malawi: Banda Boycotts Malawi’s First Presidential TV Debate

Photo: Katie C. Lin/IPS

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda (file photo).

Malawians were able to size up hopefuls competing in the May 20 elections in a first ever televised presidential debate. But four candidates, including President Joyce Banda and her chief rival, failed to turn up.

President Joyce Banda, who enters the election arena with her credibility seriously impaired by a huge corruption scandal, has decided to ignore the three presidential debates, the first of which was held on Tuesday (22.04.14).

She told the nation in a statement released by the ruling People’s Party (PP) secretary general, Paul Maulidi, that “she could not attend those debates. This is a campaign period and she is busy reaching out to the people.”

Her main rival Peter Mutharika of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was also absent and has so far offered no explanation. Mutharika is the brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack in 2012.

‘Lack of seriousness’

Joyce Banda become president in April 2012 after her predecessor President Bingu wa Mutharika (picture) died in office

Augustine Magolowondo is an analyst with the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, based in Lilongwe. He told DW’s Africalink show that the public mood was such in the country that people expected these two parties (PP and DDP) to take part in the debate. “It was also a disappointment to their supporters” and could have “a negative impact” on the parties’ prospects at the polls, he said.

Malawians DW spoke to in Blantyre said Banda was showing “a lack of seriousness” by staying away from the debates. They were also “a missed opportunity” for those candidates who did not take part.

Two other candidates, Davis Katsonga of Chipani Cha Pfuko (CPP) and George Nnensa, leader of the Tisintha Alliance, were apparently prevented from attending by transport problems.

‘Secure enough to hire people more competent than themselves’

Candidates who did take part were given time to explain to the electorate how they would revamp the economy. They also focused on the crucial agricultural sector, food security, mining and the separation of powers in the state.

Atupele Muluzi from the United Democratic Front (UDF) said Malawians were worried about the future and he believed “the solution was quality leadership.” Helen Singh of the United Independent Party (UIP) bemoaned Malawi’s lack of progress in improving the standard of living. “Poverty levels are very dirty and painful, but this nation is very rich and the rich resources of this nation are not used for development.”

Education was discussed by the candidates in Malawi’s first presidential debate

Earlier in the year Malawians took to the streets of Blantyre in anger at their government over one specific instance of wasted resources – the so-called Cashgate scandal which broke last year. A damning audit has since revealed that corrupt officials had stolen over $30 million (22 million euros) from state coffers – a huge sum for a country dependent on foreign aid.

Touching on the leadership theme – in the absence of President Joyce Banda – James Nyondo from the National Salvation Front (Nasaf) said he had encountered many educated and competent Malawians in international organizations, but when they returned home “their contribution is thwarted by insecure politicians. What Malawi needs is a man or woman secure enough to hire people more competent than themselves.”

While following the debate Augustine Magolowondo said he was struck by the candidate of the United Democratic Front (Atupele Muluzi) “making himself ready to declare his assets well before the elections and calling on the other candidates to do likewise.”

Malawians vote in presidential, parliamentary and local elections on May 20.

Asked whether the polls would bring change to Malawi, Magolowondo said “at the moment, it’s too close to call.”  allAfrica

Mozambique: Renamo military presence accepted to permit voter registration

Mozambique News Reports/allAfrica

Nine registration posts are opening in Gorongosa district under the protection of the Renamo military, with no Mozambican police presence, the National Elections Commission confirmed at a press conference this morning (Thursday 24).

This follows an agreement last night between Renamo and the government, which will also permit the registration of Renamo president Afonso Dhlakama and of Renamo soldiers.

This also confirms the very unusual position of Renamo, which is the main opposition party in parliament and is participating in the electoral process, while having an armed force which controls part of a district and will only allow registration if there are no government police present.

The nine registration posts in Gorongosa district, Sofala, had never opened because of on-going fighting between Renamo and the government.

CNE spokesman Paulo Cuinica this morning said members of the National Elections Commission (in pairs of Renamo and Frelimo) are today going to Sofala to go with the registration teams, and that they would not be accompanied by members of the Mozambican police (PRM).

The nine registration brigades will be in Casa Banana, Vunduzi, Nhataca, Chionde, Tsikiri, Mussikazi, Piro and Mukodza. Cuinica also confirmed that the brigades would not stay overnight in these places, but would return to more secure areas each night.

Cuinica also confirmed that Renamo had made a request to delay the end of registration, now scheduled for Tuesday 29 April. Renamo alleges that there are regions where registration started late because of rains and others where there were constant breakdowns of equipment including generators and computers. Cuinca said that CNE and STAE had reinforced the capacity of brigades in problem locations and thus there was no need to an extension, but the request is being considered by the CNE. Any delay of more than a few days would create serious problems, because registration data is needed for subsequent processes, including party selection of candidates.

With just 6 days to go, registration under 78%

CNE announced this morning that 6,424,570 voters have been registered this year in Mozambique, 70.3% of the 9,143,923 unregistered voting age adults. Registration ends on Tuesday 29 April.

To this must be added the 3,059,804 voters registered last year for 2013 local elections, who need not register again. Thus total registration is 9,484,374, which is 77,7% of the estimated 12,203,727 people who will be over 18 years old on voting day, 15 October.

For the 2009 election, registration was over 90%.  allAfrica

Nigeria – boom as oil contracts go to local firms

This Day

Nigeria: Aiteo, Taleveras, Barbedos, Others Win U.S.$40 Billion Oil Lifting Contracts

Photo: Leadership

Oil refinery.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has awarded yearly crude oil lifting term contracts for 2014/2015 of about $40 billion to mostly Nigerian companies comprising Aiteo, Taleveras, Barbedos and others, and by so doing, has downsized contracts awarded to international oil traders.

In a break with tradition, no contracts were given directly to foreign traders such as Glencore, Trafigura and Vitol, with only Switzerland’s Mercuria winning a contract.

With this development, global traders need to partner the local companies to access crude oil from Nigeria, Africa’s top producer.

The crude lifting contracts cover around 340 million barrels of oil, valued at close to $40 billion annually based on current Brent prices, and run for a year, though they can be renewed. They were allocated to just 28 companies, as against about 50 in 2012.

The list, released by the NNPC, according to Reuters, is preliminary and subject to revision. A senior oil trading source, who formerly bought Nigerian crude oil, was quoted to have said it was “incredible to have an OPEC member selling its oil this way. There’s one international trading house and barely any refiners on the list”.

Several Nigerian oil companies that featured on the annual list for the first time include oil trading company Hyde Energy, oil and gas firm Springfield, and Barbedos Group, a conglomerate that also provides luxury aviation services. Also, Nigerian oil trading firms Taleveras and Aiteo were also named on the list, which was circulated to winners last week. Nigeria’s policy has been to increase the role played by local firms, both in operating oil blocks and trading, with the official aim of ending decades of control over the business by foreign majors.

Nigeria is one of a small group of major oil producers that allocates its crude directly to trading houses, offering middlemen an opportunity to make margins through reselling the crude.

Although many large trading houses were absent from the list, they may have other ways of accessing the oil. As in Nigeria’s upstream sector, where Glencore recently submitted a bid as part of a consortium of local companies for $3 billion in energy assets, partnerships with domestic firms can help global traders get a share of the business.

According to the report, Vitol may have indirectly won a share of the Nigerian exports to market via a Bermuda-based firm called Calson, in which it is a minority shareholder.

“It’s not that the Swiss traders are being left out, it’s that they’re forcing them to share their pie with the indigenous companies,” Reuters quoted an unnamed industry source in Nigeria as saying. Another way for traders to access oil is to buy the contract off a winning firm at a premium.

A number of other former winners were also absent from the 2014/2015 list, which will take effect from June. China’s Unipec, the trading arm of top Asian refiner Sinopec Corp as well as Azeri state oil company Socar, were former contract holders and did not feature on the new list.

West African governments such as Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, which used to refine Nigerian oil in domestic refineries, formerly had contracts that were not renewed, according to the provisional list. A portion of NNPC’s oil meant for domestic refining is also sold via swap deals whereby crude oil is given in exchange for imported fuels. This Day