Category Archives: Africa – International

Upper Nile fighting might derail faltering South Sudan peace process

Sudan Tribune


September 20, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has condemned a renewed outbreak of fighting between South Sudan’s warring parties in Upper Nile, warning it could jeopardise the latest round of peace talks.

PNG - 174.5 kb
Rebel fighters hold their weapons in the air as they walk in front of a bushfire in rebel-controlled territory in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 13 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, the east African regional bloc, which is mediating the South Sudan peace process, said fighting had erupted between government and rebels forces in Renk county, south of Upper Nile state capital Malakal.

IGAD’s chief negotiator, Seyoum Mesfin, claimed the fighting was a deliberate act aimed to disrupt the latest round of peace talks.

The former Ethiopian foreign minister expressed regret over the latest development, urging both rival parties to remain calm and exercise restraint.

“It is unfortunate that this trend of events has been observed every time a new session of talks begins and any such sideshows aimed at derailing the peace process will not be tolerated,” said Mesfin.

Mesfin urged the two sides to adhere to all the agreements previously signed, particularly the January cessation of hostilities agreement.

REBELS REPULSE ATTACKS

Meanwhile, rebel spokesperson Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that rebel forces had repulsed a series of attacks from pro-government troops over the weekend.

He claims pro-governments troops attacked their positions with the intent to occupy rebel-controlled areas, adding that fighting remained ongoing and was advancing towards oil fields in Renk county.

“Our forces have captured nine areas between Friday and Saturday and still more fighting is going on toward Renk and Malakal towns,” said Koang in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

According to Koang, rebels had subsequently captured four areas on Friday and another five on Saturday after heavy clashes broke out in and around Nasir area, south of Malakal.

Koang has downplayed the number causalities on both sides in the latest outbreak of violence, saying it was unclear how many were wounded as fighting remained ongoing.

Residents at a camp for internally displaced people in Malakal town reported hearing gun shots to the south and north-west of the capital.

“Since yesterday (Friday) we could hear heavy gun firing in different directions of the area,” said one resident told Sudan Tribune.

“We could not tell who is attacking who as it has been the behaviour of the warring parties to trade one another when fighting resumes.”

Camp residents have called on warring parties to refrain from further fighting, urging them to give negotiations a chance to resume and allow peace to return to conflict-affected areas.

IGAD TO INVESTIGATE

Mesfin said IGAD Monitoring and Verification Teams will immediately investigate the latest outbreak of violence, warning those violating the ceasefire agreement would be exposed.

IGAD leaders, including Ethiopia’s prime minister, have previously blamed rebels for violating the terms of ceasefire arrangements.

However, the opposition group continues to accuse IGAD mediators of favouring president Salva Kiir rather than addressing the root causes of the conflicts.

Koang claims government forces triggered the latest outbreak of violence after launching an offensive on rebel-controlled areas in violation of the ceasefire deal.

He says the Juba government lacked credibility to negotiate and was simply buying time to delay peace talks.

Comprising largely of ethnic militias and dissident soldiers, rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar have been engaged in a brutal armed struggle with the government after a split in the country ruling party (SPLM) turned violent in mid-December last year.

IGAD has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to take punitive measures against parties found to be obstructing the peace process.

Proposed measures include blocking parties from participating in future governance arrangements in the country.

The latest violence comes after the signing of an implementation matrix for the cessation of hostilities agreement on 25 August.

Fighting in South Sudan has killed thousands while some 1.8 million have been displaced, sparking a major humanitarian crisis in the young nation.

Kiir has repeatedly accused Machar and his supporters of staging an attempted coup to overthrow the government – an allegation the latter denies and which has not been backed by the international community.

IGAD-led peace talks have been hampered by ongoing delays and have also come under criticism for failing to reach a negotiated political settlement to the crisis.

(ST)

UN Experts Urge Ethiopia to Stop Using Anti-Terrorism Legislation to Curb Human Rights

Addis Standard/allAfrica

Photo: Sudan Tribune

Ethiopia urged not to use anti-terrorism law to curb freedom of expression and association (file photo).

A group of United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Government of Ethiopia to stop misusing anti-terrorism legislation to curb freedoms of expression and association in the country, amid reports that people continue to be detained arbitrarily.

The experts’ call comes on the eve of the consideration by Ethiopia of a series of recommendations made earlier this year by members of the Human Rights Council in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review which applies equally to all 193 UN Members States. These recommendations are aimed at improving the protection and promotion of human rights in the country, including in the context of counter-terrorism measures.

“Two years after we first raised the alarm, we are still receiving numerous reports on how the anti-terrorism law is being used to target journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in Ethiopia,” the experts said. “Torture and inhuman treatment in detention are gross violations of fundamental human rights.”

“Confronting terrorism is important, but it has to be done in adherence to international human rights to be effective,” the independent experts stressed. “Anti-terrorism provisions need to be clearly defined in Ethiopian criminal law, and they must not be abused.”

The experts have repeatedly highlighted issues such as unfair trials, with defendants often having no access to a lawyer. “The right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of association continue to be violated by the application of the anti-terrorism law,” they warned.

“We call upon the Government of Ethiopia to free all persons detained arbitrarily under the pretext of countering terrorism,” the experts said. “Let journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and religious leaders carry out their legitimate work without fear of intimidation and incarceration.”

The human rights experts reiterated their call on the Ethiopian authorities to respect individuals’ fundamental rights and to apply anti-terrorism legislation cautiously and in accordance with Ethiopia’s international human rights obligations.

“We also urge the Government of Ethiopia to respond positively to the outstanding request to visit by the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and on the situation of human rights defenders,” they concluded. (UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights)  allAfrica

Sierra Leone ebola crackdown ends

BBC

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone lockdown declared “success”

A man travels along a street in his wheelchair during a three-day lockdown to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014Streets in the capital Freetown have been largely deserted during the three-day lockdown

A three-day curfew aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has been declared a success by authorities.

The wide-ranging curfew ended at midnight on Sunday (GMT) and will not be extended, authorities said.

Sierra Leone has been one of the countries worst affected by the outbreaks, with more than 550 victims among the 2,600 deaths so far recorded.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Liberia announced a four-fold increase in the number of beds for Ebola patients.

Liberia is the country worst-hit by the epidemic, accounting for more than half the number of total deaths.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The deadly virus is transmitted through sweat, blood and saliva, and there is no proven cure.

Dozens buried

The curfew in Sierra Leone came into force on Friday morning, with most of the country’s six million inhabitants confined to their homes.

Around 30,000 medical volunteers travelled to affected neighbourhoods to find and treat patients and distribute soap.

Empty streets in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 19 September 2014Normally bustling streets in the capital Freetown were deserted from Friday onwards
Police guard a roadblock in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 19 September 2014Police roadblocks were set up in Sierra Leone to enforce the curfew
An undated handout photo released by Spanish aid organisation Juan Ciudad ONGD, shows Spanish doctor and missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo (L) working at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra LeoneSpanish priest Manuel Garcia Viejo (l) was working at a hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, before becoming infected

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sarian Kamara said authorities had managed to discover 22 new cases of the virus during the curfew.

“Had they not been discovered, they would have greatly increased transmission,” he said.

He also said between 60 and 70 Ebola victims had been buried in the past two days. Bodies of Ebola victims are highly contagious and their swift burial is considered key to containing the disease.

Earlier on Sunday, the head of the country’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Stephen Gaojia said there was a “very strong possibility” that the curfew would be extended.

“Even though the exercise has been a huge success so far, it has not been concluded in some metropolitan cities like Freetown and Kenema,” he said.

The three-day curfew is the most aggressive measure taken against the virus yet by a West African country.

West Africa Ebola casualties

Up to 14 September

2,630

Ebola deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected

  • 1,459 Liberia
  • 601 Guinea
  • 562 Sierra Leone
  • 8 Nigeria
Getty

Meanwhile, a Spanish Catholic priest was evacuated from Sierra Leone on Sunday after contracting the virus.

A military plane carrying Manuel Garcia Viejo took off from the capital Freetown on Sunday evening and is due to land in Madrid in the early hours of Monday.

Last month another Spanish priest died after contracting the virus in neighbouring Liberia.

In a separate development on Sunday, Liberia said it would increase from 250 to 1,000 its beds for Ebola patients in the capital Monrovia.

Information Minister Lewis Brown told AFP news agency that patients were currently being rejected due to lack of space.

“So the government is trying its best to finish the 1,000 beds so we can accommodate all the patients,” he added.

It follows a warning from the WHO about a huge expected spike in infections in Liberia.

School closure plea

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, a teachers union called on the government to delay the start of the school term because of the outbreak.

Pupils are due to return to school on Monday after an extended summer break, but the National Union of Teachers said that adequate safety measures were not yet in place.

President Goodluck Jonathan dismissed the call for a postponement. Eight people have died in Nigeria out of 20 who have contracted the disease, but no new cases have been discovered for 10 days.

line

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola virus
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

BBC

Nigeria – Joshua’s followers stop fighting rescuers

Mail and Guardian

TB Joshua’s church has turned from attacking potential rescuers to helping them. So has Nigeria’s government but it’s a case of too little too late.

Nigerian authorities and church members have made a U-turn on co-operating with South Africans at the collapsed guesthouse tragedy. (Reuters)

Nigerian authorities and church members have made a U-turn on co-operating with South Africans at the collapsed guesthouse tragedy, following a diplomatic skirmish, which saw an entire week fritter away while vital efforts to save lives were blocked.

“It’s completely different, I can’t believe it’s the same people,” Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman told the Mail & Guardian on Sunday. “Now it is all smiles, it’s just strange. We can go to whatever hospital we like, go to the church, the mortuaries.”

A diplomatic source from South Africa confirmed that the Nigerian authorities have proven to be far more co-operative since Friday, a week after the devastating collapse that has seen the largest number of South Africans killed outside of the country since even the downing of the Helderberg airliner in 1987 which killed 71 South Africans.

“The officials, police and experts we have sent say they are being allowed to work,” said the source. “They are working with their counterparts there and they have not reported any difficulties in the work they are trying to do.”

At least 84 South Africans died and scores more injured when a six-story hostel collapse in Lagos last Friday. The building was part of famed televangelist and self-proclaimed prophet TB Joshua Synagogue Church of All Nations.

Scarce skills
A team of experts were in Lagos by Friday, according to Minister Jeff Radebe, head of the inter-ministerial task team created to deal with the situation, including Brigadier Helena Ras, who Radebe emphasised was “an international expert on body identification” who consulted internationally.

The stress on scarce skills in the field followed the shock decision by Nigerian authorities to turn down help from South Africa earlier in the week, including one of the continent’s best search and rescue teams.

Another diplomat told the M&G on Thursday that “Nigeria is obsessed with its competitive attitude towards South Africa”.

“The Nigerians have flatly refused our search and rescue missions, the same way they initially refused international assistance during the search for the missing girls,” said the senior South African government official involved in the mission to bring the bodies of citizens home.

“They feel that this could send a politically worrying message that they don’t have capacity,” said the official.

Search and Rescue South Africa was placed on standby by the department of international relations, Sunday Times reported, but by Sunday last week it was too late.

Ian Scher from Search and Rescue South Africa said: “We didn’t go. It’s crucial to get in there within the first 24 hours … it’s easy to deduce that they didn’t want our help … It’s common knowledge that our team is the only one in sub-Saharan Africa with the resources to carry out this rescue.”

Gift of the givers, a South African-based Islamic relief organisation, were initially blocked in their efforts to access mortuaries and hospitals in Lagos to find South African hurt and deceased South Africans.

‘Some of us were even attacked
In addition, the crucial 24 hours after the collapse, when survivors could have been found in the rubble, was missed as information about the collapse was at a black-out with Nigerian authorities failing to communicate with their South African counterparts in time, and church staff and goers proving downright hostile.

Ibrahim Farinloye, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, told the Sunday Times that rescue workers managed to save three people who were trapped near their gathering point on Friday, but church officials prevented rescuers from accessing the church.

“Some of us were even attacked [by church members]. We wanted to ask the military to deploy to force access for us, but there were many foreigners at the church and we did not want to create an international incident,” said Farinloye.

Church members were also hostile to journalists and smashed at least one television camera.

A number of South Africans trying to help described how they were chased away from mortuaries when trying to identify those who had died.

But according to Sooliman attitudes began to change from Thursday, a week after the collapse.

“We were chased away from the Avon healthcare facility on Wednesday. On Thursday staff at Subol Hospital was friendlier. On Thursday evening we went back to Avon and the attitude had changed. On Friday our embassy came to the church site and introduced us to the church people. There was still a bit of reluctance but by Saturday everything had changed.”

Sooliman was not certain what had led to the belated change of heart.

Mending of diplomatic relations
“The first 48 hours of any disaster there are always problems,” he noted, having experienced multiple aid operations to disaster zones. “When you get there people look at you not understanding what you’re trying to do. People have their own anxieties and fears and we don’t know what that is.”

The mending of the diplomatic relations between the two economic giants on the continent would have also played a role. Dr Oladiran Bello of the South African Institute of International Affairs told the M&G earlier this week that the relationship between the two countries has ebbed and flowed in the past 20 years, and would recover this time too. “There is a tendency for irritants to build up in this relationship, but the fundamentals and economic complements are such that they have to work together.”

Sooliman said the difference from when his Nigerian team had first arrived on Wednesday was remarkable, particularly the attitude of the church staff.

“They’re walking hand in hand, sitting together, working together and praying together like nothing happened,” he said. While all five of the Gift of the Givers local team were Muslims, this had caused zero tensions with church staff, Sooliman said. “The church guys are so happy that there are people wanting to help.”

But it is a case of too little too late.

While South African teams were now allowed unfettered access to the relevant sites, the first diplomatic source said it was purely to identify and recover the dead at this stage.

“We’re talking about the recovery of the bodies and identifications. There is no point rescuing, the Nigerians called it off on Friday. It was exactly seven days after the collapse. There is nothing to rescue.”

Evacuate the injured South Africans
The South African government on Sunday sent an aircraft to Lagos to evacuate the injured South Africans, the Sunday Independent reported.

It is believed that the building was in the process of having additional stories added without first securing the foundations, although Joshua has blamed it on a mysterious attack, citing the appearance of an aircraft above the building shortly before the collapse.

It is the fourth building disaster to befall the church, according to notes on its websites, City Press previously reported. “The roof of the first church was blown off by a storm, the second church was washed away by a flood while the third church also collapsed due to severe weather conditions,” the church said. Building collapses happen repeatedly Nigeria because of the use of substandard material and flouted construction regulations.

Spokesperson for the inter-ministerial task team Phumla Williams was not available for comment.


Nigeria – Boko Haram kills dozens in market attack

BBC
20 September 2014

Boko Haram militants have attacked a rural market in the north-east Nigerian town of Mainok, killing dozens of people, officials and witnesses say.

Gunmen shot at traders and customers as they raided the busy market for food supplies on Friday.

The number of casualties is not yet clear, with some reports suggesting as many as 30 people were killed.

Boko Haram has taken control of a series of towns and villages in north-eastern Nigeria in recent weeks.

Authorities have struggled to defeat the militant Islamist group, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

The BBC’s Will Ross, in Lagos, warns that parts of north-eastern Nigeria are slipping further and further out of the government’s control, creating a growing humanitarian crisis.

Pandemonium
Many residents fled Mainok after the attack, making it difficult to obtain accurate information.

Reuters news agency quotes two security sources as saying that at least 36 people, including 13 gunmen, were killed in the gun battle, which continued into Saturday.

“Thirteen of the terrorists… were killed, some of them fled with gunshots and our colleagues are already on their trail. Unfortunately, 23 civilians died in the attack,” one source is quoted as saying.

The militants are well-armed and often wear military uniforms
Eyewitnesses described scenes of pandemonium as the busy market came under attack in broad daylight on Friday, our correspondent says.

One resident said that some of those running for safety were killed after being hit by cars speeding away from the area.

He said that many soldiers and civilians ran away into the bush.

Mainok is located some 56 km (35 miles) outside of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency.

Thousands of people are displaced every week by violence in the north-east of Nigeria
But Boko Haram, which translates as “Western education is forbidden”, has stepped up attacks against civilian targets ever since the Nigerian military offensive began last year.

It frequently attacks schools and colleges, which it sees as a symbol of Western culture, and was behind the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno state.

Earlier this week gunmen stormed a teacher training college in the northern city of Kano in a suspected Boko Haram attack, killing at least 14 people.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch says more than 2,000 civilians have been killed this year

IMG_0971.JPG

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29297402

Kenyans view Al Shabab as serious security threat

Nation

Most Kenyans view Al-Shabaab as an ‘extremely high’ security threat

Two thirds of Kenyans consider Al-Shabaab an “extremely high” security threat, according to a new survey.

A morgue attendant walks past bodies of victims of the Mpeketoni attack on June 16, 2014. PHOTO | FILE

A morgue attendant walks past bodies of victims of the Mpeketoni attack on June 16, 2014. FILE PHOTO |  AFP

NGARE KARIUKI

Two thirds of Kenyans consider Al-Shabaab an “extremely high” security threat, while only a third believe the group was responsible for the Mpeketoni attacks.

A new survey also shows that both supporters of Jubilee and Cord believe the terrorist group was “most responsible” for the attacks in Lamu County, where more than 100 people were killed.

Also, twice as many Jubilee supporters hold “local political networks” responsible for the Mpeketoni attacks as do those for Cord.

The survey, released by Ipsos Kenya on Friday, cited insecurity as one of the most serious problems currently facing Kenya, second to the high cost of living.

“As in the past, only a minority of victims of crime (42 per cent) reported to the police, with a solid majority (60 per cent) completely dissatisfied with the response they receive.

“Indeed, this high level of dissatisfaction may explain why more crime victims do not report such incidents,” says the report.

INTERNATIONAL FORCE

Surprisingly, 28 per cent of Kenyans are aware of the presence of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in Somalia as part of an international force to rid the country of Al-Shabaab militants.

A third of those who are aware of KDF’s presence in Somalia believe this will lead to a reduction in crime and terrorist attacks in Kenya.

One in every three people interviewed during the survey said they thought KDF’s presence in Somalia would only lead to an increase in terrorist attacks back home.

When asked whether they had heard of any Muslim clerics who had been killed in the last year or two, 36 per cent of the respondents said they were not aware of such killings.

Among those aware of any Muslim clerics killed, 79 per cent knew about the killing of Sheikh Shariff Abubakar (Makaburi).

 

Kenya – Kenyatta summoned for ICC hearing

BBC

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned by ICC to hearing

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta stands for Kenya's national anthem before the Africa Union Peace and Security Council Summit on Terrorism at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi, September 2, 2014The case against Uhuru Kenyatta has angered many African leaders

Related Stories

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has summoned Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to appear before the tribunal on 8 October.

Judges want to question him over claims that his government has withheld documents requested by prosecutors preparing his crimes against humanity trial.

The trial has already been delayed several times.

Mr Kenyatta denies organising ethnic massacres after elections in 2007.

Some 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 driven from their homes.

Two weeks ago, prosecutors asked for the case against him to be adjourned indefinitely, saying they did not have enough evidence because of obstruction by the Kenyan government.

President Kenyatta has repeatedly argued he needs to remain in Kenya to fight militants from the al-Shabab group and take care of state affairs.

In a statement, the ICC said discussions with Mr Kenyatta would focus on “the status of co-operation between the prosecution and the Kenyan government”.

A Kenyan woman cries before a mass funeral for victims of clashes on January 23, 2008 in Nairobi, KenyaKenya has not prosecuted anyone for the violence which wracked the country in 2007-8
Opposition party supporters chant their grievances near to a burning barricade, in Kisumu, western Kenya, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008,The political dispute soon descended into ethnic killings

African leaders have lobbied for the case to be dropped, accusing the ICC of only investigating alleged atrocities in Africa.

Mr Kenyatta’s lawyers have repeatedly said the whole case should be dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Mr Kenyatta was elected in 2013, despite facing the charges. Analysts said he turned the prosecution to his advantage, portraying it as foreign intervention in Kenya’s domestic affairs.

In 2007, Mr Kenyatta was a close ally of President Mwai Kibaki, who was declared the election winner despite claims of fraud from his rival Raila Odinga.

The disputes soon turned violent, with targeted killings along ethnic lines, pitting members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Kibaki against other communities.

Mr Kenyatta is accused of organising an ethnic Kikuyu gang, the Mungiki sect, to attack rival groups.

His Vice-President, William Ruto, faces similar charges, although he was on Mr Odinga’s side during the violence.  BBC