Category Archives: Africa – International

Kenya – police panic as ICC police witness disappears

Star (Nairobi)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 – 07:00 — BY KAMORE MAINA MISSING: Francis Okonya Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

SENIOR police are in turmoil after former senior Deputy Police Commissioner Francis Okonya vanished last Friday. His official car was reportedly seen driving into the US embassy in Gigiri on Friday afternoon following an acrimonious row with Inspector General David Kimaiyo and his deputy Grace Kaindi in the morning. Okonya has since disappeared and his phones are switched off. Police officers went to his home in Westlands on Friday and Saturday but his family said that they had not seen him.

The police panic is largely because Okonya was the chief police investigator into the post election violence in 2008. The National Police Service Commission dismissed him in April after he was vetted. However he went to court and the court ruled that he should stay in office until the matter is heard and determined. Okonya resumed work in May but last Friday morning he found that the locks on his office had been changed. He first confronted Deputy IG Grace Kaindi at her office in Vigilance House. He then stormed over to Kimaiyo’s office in Jogoo House around 9am. Two of his cars were withdrawn but he then drove out of the compound of Vigilance House at 9am in his official MG car. That car was reportedly spotted at the US embassy at around 3pm by GSU guards who called Vigilance House.

Okonya’s office has now been allocated to Senior Assistant Inspector General of Police Joseph Ashimalla who has been appointed deputy to Kaindi. Top cops tried repeatedly to reach Okonya but he had switched off his mobile phones. The fear is that Okonya might volunteer to be a witness in the International Criminal Court against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. As Deputy Director of CID in 2008, he prepared a detailed Power Point and 100 gigabyte report that he presented to senior police officers. He also made several appearances at the Waki Commission that investigated the post-election violence.

It was the ‘Waki envelope’ containing the names of top suspects that eventually led to the ICC prosecutions in Kenya. Former head of the Administration Police training college, Uku Kaunya, went into exile in 2010. There has been widespread speculation that he is still a potential witness at the ICC. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made frantic efforts in 2012 to question Provincial Police Officers and Provincial Commissioners over the 2007/2008 post election violence. Former Internal Security minister George Saitoti refused permission to police officers to give information to the ICC that might compromise national security or incriminate themselves. Yesterday, a senior official told the Star that he is shocked that the ICC might still be interested in the evidence of police chiefs. “PCs and PPOs are not like documents that you can hand over to the ICC prosecutor. If the ICC wants any evidence from us, let the court approach us individually and such a request will be considered,” he said. In October 2010, former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo wrote to then AG Amos Wako requesting to interview police chiefs on how they managed the post-election violence with details of their provincial security meetings at the time. In 2011, Judge Daniel Musinga barred Justice Kalpana Rawal from taking the evidence of the security chiefs. – See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/police-panic-possible-icc-witness-disappears#sthash.SoEE6aXP.dpuf

Liberia keeping foot on pedal to beat ebola

allAfrica

By Boakai Fofana

The incidence of reported Ebola cases is no longer increasing nationally in Liberia, enabling the United States government to consider scaling back the number of Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) it is building in the country. But while there is debate among some Liberians about how many new facilities are still needed, those building them are determined to “keep the accelerator… down until Ebola is gone from Liberia.” AllAfrica’s Boakai Fofana reports from Buchanan on the opening of the first completely American-built ETU in the country.

Locals watched in awe from a distance as dozens of United States Army engineers prepared to take journalists on a guided tour of a newly-built Ebola Treatment Unit in the port city of Buchanan, about 70 miles southeast of Monrovia.

A few children scavenged in a pile of building waste from the 100-bed facility, as grown-ups looked on, unperturbed. And the adults were justified in their lack of worry, according to 32-year-old Albertha Dunn. Not only had the new unit admitted no patients yet; even during the heyday of the epidemic in Liberia, the city was not greatly affected.

“I only heard on the radio one time that we had about 12 persons with Ebola in the county,” she said. Albertha believes Grand Bassa County, where Buchanan is situated, was saved from the scourge by God. “We have been having strong prayers here”. But she added that people have stopped shaking hands and they follow the preventive measures laid down by health workers. The mother of five had been coming out every day to watch the month-long construction of the facility with another concern: she’s hoping to get a job as a cook.

In September, President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of thousands of American soldiers to help corral the Ebola outbreak which was ravaging Liberia and some of its neighbors. Their mission included building 17 treatment centers and training thousands of local health care workers. But as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control begin to report that the outbreak is stabilizing in Liberia, officials are reassessing their strategy.

“If you look back to August, we were all under attack,” said Mia Beers, the leader of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She announced that because the nature of the epidemic is changing, they were looking to build 15 ETUs instead of the planned 17, so that there will be one in each of the counties. “The strategy now is to go out in the rural areas and really hunt down Ebola,” she added, warning that although the numbers have dropped, “the fight is not over”.

The Buchanan unit is the first exclusively built by U.S. Army engineers and sits on more than four acres of land outside the city. The few units already constructed in other parts of the country were built in collaboration with either the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) or local contractors. Major General Gary J Volesky, who heads the U.S. military mission to Liberia, praised the role of the AFL: “With our Armed Forces of Liberia brothers, we are going to complete all the ones… under the current plan,” he said at the opening.

In addition to the ETUs donated by the Americans, facilities are being built by donors including WHO and the Chinese government, who have brought in 160 military health workers to staff a U.S. $41 million facility they are constructing at the country’s international sports stadium. But with two-thirds of the hundreds of beds currently available empty, according to the Liberian health ministry, and WHO’s recent announcement that Ebola is “no longer increasing” across the country as a whole, pundits are beginning to question the rationale for building more.

“They would be fools to spend all that money on ETUs,” Stephen D. Cashin, chief executive of the Pan African Capital Group, told the New York Times. He suggested that some of the money be spent on putting in place the expertise and skill sets needed “to provide care to the masses of people of Liberia”. However, not everyone sees it that way, and along with the Liberian government, aid organizations warn against the country letting its guard down.

Lifting the 90-day state of emergency imposed at the height of the epidemic, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf cautioned Liberians that “until the national goal of zero-new-cases by Christmas is achieved all across the country, we will keep many of the previous measures in place.” She said notwithstanding the gains, “a number of our compatriots are still lying in ETUs, hot-spots are springing up in rural areas, and many are still dying of Ebola.”

General Volesky echoed the president’s point at the unveiling in Buchanan: “We are going to keep the accelerator on that car down until Ebola is gone from Liberia.” He announced that the U.S. is bringing in three more mobile labs to be deployed in the southeastern counties.

South Africa Maharaj says Zuma only required to answer questions in parliament four times a year

Mail and Guardian

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj says President Jacob Zuma is only required to answer questions by invitation, once per quarter.

President Jacob Zuma is not avoiding answering questions in Parliament, says the presidency. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma is not sidestepping his duties to answer questions in Parliament, presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said on Tuesday.

“The continuing statements by political parties that President Jacob Zuma has avoided going to Parliament are incorrect, and are creating a wrong impression,” Maharaj said in a statement.

“The president has fulfilled his parliamentary responsibilities since his election as president in May 2014 to lead the fifth administration.”

Zuma is required to answer questions in Parliament four times a year.

Maharaj said Zuma was not an MP and was only required to answer questions by invitation. “The president is required to answer questions once per quarter in the National Assembly. He was elected and inaugurated in May 2014. That is when we begin counting for the new term of office of the president,” Maharaj said.

Zuma appeared in Parliament once this year, on August 21, to answer questions – but he could not conclude the session because of the disruption of the House by Economic Freedom Fighters MPs.

Maharaj said Zuma would continue answering questions both in writing and when invited to orally respond to questions in both the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

“The presidency is working on the president’s calendar for 2015, and as usual it will include parliamentary responsibilities at the required times.” He said these included the State of the Nation address, the budget speech by the minister of finance, the budget vote of the presidency, and questions.

“We wish to emphasise that there should be no expectation that the president will appear regularly in Parliament, given the fact that he is not a Member of Parliament.”

Over the past few months opposition parties have criticised Zuma for not making himself available four times this year to answer questions in the National Assembly.

Last week, the Democratic Alliance introduced a motion to censure the president but it failed to pass when the ANC majority voted against it. – Sapa

Nigeria – 65 killed in double suicide bombing in Maiduguri market

Punch

Maiduguri market

Two suicide bombers – a male and female – attacked a heavily populated Maiduguri market, killing scores of people, an eyewitness, Yusuf Ahmed, said on Tuesday.

An unconfirmed source said 65 corpses had been evacuated while others claimed 30 people were killed in the explosion.

Ahmed said on the telephone, “As I am talking to you, people are still trying to rescue the injured and evacuate the corpses. It is difficult to know the number of casualties.”

He said the place had been condoned off by security agencies making it difficult to assist in the rescue operations.

A youth vigilante source confirmed that the female attacker kept a parcel in one of the shops on One-way, a commercial area beside the popular Monday Market, telling the traders that she had something to pick from the market,

“The package detonated few minutes later. And as people were still wondering what happened and trying to rescue the injured, a bomber in the same area detonated a bomb planted on her; this claimed so many lives,” the source said.

Details later…

Another source claimed that the third bombing suspect was caught by the people. This also could not be confirmed as the police had yet to give an official confirmation of the explosion.

BBC

Nigeria’s Maiduguri city hit by ‘deadly blasts’

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau with fighters. 31 Oct 2014Boko Haram has vowed to create an Islamic state in Nigeria

Two female suicide bombers have blown themselves up at a crowded market in northern Nigeria’s Maiduguri city, causing many casualties, witnesses say.

At least 30 people were killed when the teenage girls detonated themselves, witnesses told AP news agency.

Witness Sani Adamau told Reuters news agency that the second blast occurred while people were trying to help those injured in the first blast.

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in Nigeria.

It was based in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, after its formation in 2002, but it has since been driven out of the city by the military and vigilante groups.

It now controls a large number of towns and villages in Borno, amid fears that it is preparing to launch an assault to capture Maiduguri.

Boko Haram has not commented on the explosions.

line

Who are Boko Haram?

  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Nigeria – Boko Haram raid Damask disguised as traders

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: ‘Militant traders’ raid Nigeria town

Aftermath of a Boko Haram attack in Kano state, 15 November 2014Despite a state of emergency in the north-east, Boko Haram has been stepping up its attacks

Hundreds of residents and soldiers are fleeing a northern Nigerian town attacked by militant Islamists disguised as traders, officials say.

Shootings and explosions had rocked the trading town of Damasak, near Niger’s border, a senator told the BBC.

Boko Haram fighters seized a nearby fishing village on Thursday, reportedly killing 48 people.

On Sunday, Nigeria’s top Islamic leader accused soldiers of “terrorising”, rather than defending, civilians.

“Soldiers take to their heels and abandon their bases, arms, ammunition and other military hardware on the approach of the insurgents,” said the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.

Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar (February 2009)The sultan of Sokoto is Nigeria’s most influential Muslim scholar

“Nigerian security forces only surface after the deadly attacks and terrorise an already terrorised people by installing road blocks and searching homes,” he added in a statement issued on his behalf by Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the main body representing Muslim clerics in Nigeria.

‘Inflicted horror’

The militants entered Damasak carrying containers which they claimed were full of goods for sale when were, in fact, stuffed with AK-47 rifles, local government official Mohammed Damasak said, AFP news agency reports.

Map

The gunmen “inflicted horror” and “many traders escaped with bullet wounds while many are lying dead at the market”, he is quoted as saying.

Senator Maina Ma’aji Lawan told the BBC Hausa service that Boko Haram appeared to be on the verge of capturing Damasak, forcing people to flee to outlying villages and across the border into Niger.

line

Who are Boko Haram?

  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Who are Boko Haram?

Profile: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau

line

Mr Lawan is the senator for the northern area of Borno – one of three states where President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency last year, vowing to crush the insurgency.

Boko Haram has stepped up attacks since then, declaring a caliphate (Islamic state) in areas it controls.

In Thursday’s assault, traders were on their way to Chad to buy fish when militants blocked their path near the village of Doron Baga, some 180km (112 miles) north of Maiduguri.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau with fighters. 31 October 2014Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has declared an Islamic state in the north-east

A fish traders’ group said some of the 48 victims had their throats slit whilst others were tied up and drowned in Lake Chad, in one of the most brutal attacks blamed on Boko Haram.

BBC Nigeria analyst Aliyu Tanko says the militants appear to be advancing northwards after taking control of much of southern Borno in recent months.

It seems the group wants to isolate the state capital, Maiduguri, to make it easier to launch an attack on it, he says.

The sultan of Sokoto’s intervention shows a growing lack of confidence in the security forces, although the government says it is doing its best to defeat Boko Haram, he adds.

Last week, another influential Muslim leader, Muhammad Sanusi, the emir of Kano, said residents should “acquire what they need” to protect themselves.

Boko Haram has killed Christians and Muslims opposed to its version of Islam since launching its insurgency in 2009.

Sudan accused of violating South Sudan airspace

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The South Sudanese government said on Monday that two warplanes from neighbouring Sudan entered its airspace last week, calling it an act of intrusion and a “serious violation” of international law.

JPEG - 52.3 kb
Sudanese Air Force MiG-29 (Photo Wikipedia)

The planes were witnessed flying over the Khorshamam area in Western Bahr el Ghazal’s Raja county.

Raja county commissioner Hassan Jallab told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the area had witnessed two warplanes flying over Khorshamam area, which

The area was bombed by Sudanese jet fighters in earlier this month, resulting in the death of at least 35 people and wounding of 17 others.

It remains unclear why this particular area, located about 20km east of Raja town, has been targeted by Sudanese military.

Raja county commissioner Hassan Jallab has expressed fears over possible further bomb attacks by Sudanese warplanes, saying he had called on Juba to raise the issue with the Sudanese government at the highest level.

“I thought things would change to better when our president [Salva Kiir] visited Khartoum recently. They assurances we heard he was told by the Sudanese president and his government, which was in the press, is that his government and the Sudan armed forces, have no interest in destabilising South Sudan, especially people in the border areas, but now these developments are raising concerns and questions asking whether the president of Sudan was really serious with the statements he made,” he said, adding that people in at-risk areas had been told to take precautionary measures against future attacks.

Jallab said Sudan’s military activities in border areas were becoming an increasing concern to local communities.

He said he had raised his concerns with the state government and was told they would be passed on to Juba.

“I brought to the attention of the state government. I talked to the governor about these military activities which are causing security concern to the people,” he said.

Jallab said he had also raised the issue of rising consumer prices for basic items.

“Things are becoming expensive in the markets. Local markets are empty. They are no items to buy. Things like soap, salt and other basic commodities are not there,” he said.

“These things come from Sudan, but because of these military activities, traders are afraid to cross when they see huge presence of troops at crossing points,” he added.

The Sudanese army has maintained silence over the different accusations of bombing in Raja.

Military experts in Khartoum confirm the air attacks saying the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) pulled out of South Kordofan and has established a military base for its fighters in the Western Bahr el Ghazal’s county which borders the southern part of Darfur region.

JEM has started a new round of talks over a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and needs to have its troops inside the region.

Sudan and South Sudan trade accusations of support to rebel groups from both sides. Last April, said Juba is using JEM fighters in its conflict with a splinter faction of the SPLA in the Unity state.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan after a 2005 peace deal paved the way for a referendum on self-determination, ending more than two decades of brutal civil war.

Although the South officially gained its independence in 2011, a number of contentious post-secession issues remain unresolved, resulting in ongoing tensions, particularly in border areas.

(ST)

Would an arms embargo help end the South Sudan civil war?

African Arguments

Would an arms embargo help end South Sudan’s civil war? – By James Copnall

JamesCopnallIn filthy camps for the displaced, thatched huts in half-forgotten villages, and Juba’s proud new concrete buildings, South Sudanese are waiting. As the rainy season peters out, and the deadlines rush to expiration, everyone wants to know whether a meaningful peace agreement will be signed.

Alongside the sort of optimism born of desperation, there is also the fear that the squabble over power, and other issues, will lead to renewed heavy fighting. Can leaders from both sides overcome their differences, their desire for revenge, and their overwhelming need for power?

If not, if the war rumbles back to a heightened state of intensity, if thousands more are killed, and hundreds of thousands more displaced, there must be consequences.

Already the US and the EU have imposed sanctions on individual commanders accused of breaking the cessation of hostilities agreement. To date, though, these have been on field commanders rather than on those with real decision-making power.

More than 50 South Sudanese and international human rights organisations have called for an arms embargo to be imposed on both sides, in an effort to make further conflict less feasible. The rights groups wanted the regional mediators IGAD to inform the UN Security Council of a ‘clear request’ to impose the embargo.

IGAD did not go quite that far, but the mediators were unusually direct in the November 7 communique following IGAD’s 28th extraordinary summit. South Sudan’s neighbours threatened collective action, including, but not limited to, asset freezes, travel bans, and the ‘denial of the supply of arms and ammunition, and any other material that could be used in war’.

The threat of regional sanctions is now explicit, along with the possibility of further US and EU action, and even UN measures too. But how likely is it that sanctions will be applied?

The first point to note is the extent to which IGAD drives international thinking about South Sudan.  Individual countries or entities may opt to punish the South Sudanese leaders, but UN sanctions are unlikely unless IGAD acts first.

There is some logic to this. After all, IGAD, for better or worse, is in charge of the mediation process. It is also difficult to see how meaningful sanctions could be imposed on South Sudan if neighbouring countries were not prepared to apply them.

Second, the terms of IGAD’s sanctions threat are interesting. Targeted sanctions are directly tied to any ‘violation of the cessation of the hostilities by any party’. The key point here is that IGAD is not threatening sanctions on leaders who fail to make the necessary concessions needed for peace, merely on those who break the cessation of hostilities.

It is not immediately clear if this would target the individual commanders, or those higher up the chain. Is IGAD sending a shot across the bows of Riek Machar and Salva Kiir? Or warning those giving the orders in the field?

Linking the sanctions to Cessation of Hostilities violations means that it is particularly important to increase the effectiveness of the monitoring and verification teams. At the moment, they struggle to work in SPLM/A – In Opposition areas.

So far, although the monitors have accused both sides of initiating conflict, most of the blame for the violations has been directed at the SPLM/A-IO forces.

Both the rebels and the government have expressed, at different times and for different reasons, their reservations about IGAD’s neutrality. In fact, there are strong reasons to question whether IGAD are the right people to adjudicate sanctions.

Uganda is heavily involved militarily in the conflict. Its troops have fought alongside forces loyal to Salva Kiir. Both Uganda and Kenya have strong economic interests in South Sudan too. Neither is particularly likely to want to impose sanctions on those in power in Juba.

Sudan, for all its public declarations of support for Kiir, has also been accused of supporting his enemy, Riek Machar. The neighbours are all too involved in the conflict to be considered impartial.

There is a possibility that any regional punishments will not be a fair reflection of the abuses on the ground. There must also be serious doubts, given their obvious interests, whether the region is really prepared to take the necessary steps to impose sanctions.

This is unfortunate, because I believe sanctions are necessary.

It is certainly possible to argue that they may not be effective. Economic sanctions in Sudan have largely hurt the people, not the politicians. Travel bans and asset freezes may not be enough to deter further conflict.

However, those who commit abuses simply cannot be allowed to escape without punishment. Those who have fled conflict, or been raped by unruly soldiers, or suffered the unnecessary pain of a lost loved one, deserve to know that the world is watching, and will punish anyone who continues to fight.

This idea must be extended, too, to a more general sense of accountability, which has been missing in South Sudan for so long. When the conflict ends, the worst abusers must face justice, both for the sake of their victims, and to deter future fighting.

The AU Commission of Inquiry report on South Sudan will make interesting reading. Several sources suggest a strong draft has already been written, in which names are named. This could form the basis for future prosecutions – if that version makes it out into the public domain.

Among the sanction options suggested by IGAD, the arms embargo seems the most promising. It has the potential to squeeze the warring parties’ ability to fight, if not stop the war entirely. It would need to be thoroughly policed, however, and here regional commitment to the embargo would be vital.

However one option outlined by IGAD seems to me to contain more risks than potential rewards.

Point 4 of the 7 November communique states that: ‘Further, the IGAD region shall, without further reference to the warring Parties, take the necessary measures, if need be, to directly intervene in South Sudan to protect life and restore peace and stability.’

This threat of military action, surely intended to push Kiir and Machar to a deal as quickly as possible, should remain just that: a threat.

Already the military presence of the Ugandan troops, and apparent Sudanese support for Machar, has made resolving the conflict more complicated.

Regional military action runs the risk of regionalising the conflict, the last thing South Sudan needs.

James Copnall is a journalist and author of ‘A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts: Sudan and South Sudan’s Bitter and Incomplete Divorce’He is editor of ‘Making Sense of the Sudans’.