Category Archives: Africa – International

Rwanda – singer jailed for Kagame assassination plot


Rwanda singer Kizito Mihigo planned to kill Paul Kagame

Rwandan musician Kizito Mihigo in April 2014Kizito Mihigo’s arrest in April 2014 came as a shock to many Rwandans

A popular Rwandan singer has been jailed for 10 years after being convicted of planning to kill President Kagame and inciting hatred against the government.

Kizito Mihigo had earlier said he was guilty and asked for forgiveness, meaning his sentence was reduced.

His co-accused, Cassien Ntamuhanga, the director of a Christian radio station, was jailed for 25 years for terrorism and incitement.

He had continued to deny all charges.

Mihigo had admitted exchanging text messages with a South Africa-based opposition group, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC).

He was cleared of terrorism while Ntamuhanga was acquitted of plotting to assassinate President Kagame.

Members of the Rwanda National Congress opposition party protesting in Pretoria, South Africa - January 2014RNC supporters believe the government was involved in their leader’s killing, which Rwanda denies

Although Mihigo pleaded guilty to all charges, his lawyer later told the court his client had been speaking emotionally and there was no evidence to convict him.

The RNC was co-founded by Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former spy chief who was once an ally of President Kagame.

He was found dead in South Africa last year and his allies, family and the South African authorities blame Rwanda’s government, which has denied responsibility.

Shortly after Mr Karegeya’s death, however, President Kagame told a prayer meeting: “You can’t betray Rwanda and not get punished for it.”

Rwanda’s police have said the accused were planning revenge attacks in retaliation for the assassination of Mr Karegeya.

Mihigo used to be close to the governing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party and his arrest in April 2014 came as a surprise to many Rwandans.

He is a survivor of the 1994 genocide and is well known for his reconciliation work and religious songs.

The RPF’s rebel movement took power after the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

President Kagame, who has won two elections, has been hailed for driving rapid economic growth but human rights groups accuse him of not tolerating dissent.

DR Congo-Rwanda – Congolese forces drive Rwandan rebels from hills in N Kivu


KIRUMBA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Congolese government forces ousted rebels from hills in heavy fighting in North Kivu province on Friday, an army spokesman said, cranking up a campaign to crush an insurgency at the heart of two decades of conflict.

The rebel ranks contain remnants of fighters involved in neighbouring Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. Since moving into chaotic eastern Congo, they have sought to exploit the region’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin and waged periodic war with the Kinshasa government and other armed groups.

Around 100 soldiers backed by presidential guard troops fired machine guns from jeeps at positions of rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who responded with automatic weapons fire, a Reuters witness said.

By 1400 GMT, the army had secured most of the hills and rebels retreated deeper into the forest near Kirumba in Virunga National Park, an army spokesman said. The park abuts the border of Congo and Rwanda and is famous for its mountain gorillas.

There was no information on casualties in the fighting.

Millions died of conflict, hunger and disease during a war in the east between 1998 and 2003 and the region remains plagued by armed factions.

President Joseph Kabila formally launched the anti-rebel offensive on Jan. 29 but combat did not begin in earnest until Tuesday in neighbouring South Kivu province, where the army says it has captured several rebel strongholds.

The army began action on Wednesday to clear rebels from North Kivu where the bulk of the 1,400 fighters were believed to operate, army spokesman Leon Kasonga said.

“We have captured seven FDLR, among them a major …. They don’t resist on the ground because our dominance is established,” he said.

Analysts said the rebels would avoid large-scale battles that could risk defeat and instead retreat into remote hills and forests they know well after decades of fighting.


Lesotho prepares for vote in bid to ease political crisis

Mail and Guardian

Campaigning has been largely peaceful but analysts say tensions are high before the parliamentary vote.

After a coup attempt last year, Lesotho is preparing for an election in a bid to stabilise its political crisis. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

Feuding parties in Lesotho’s ruling coalition will face off on Saturday in early national elections staged in a bid to restore stability six months after an attempted coup.

The vote is being held about two years ahead of schedule under a political deal brokered by South Africa, which surrounds the mountainous kingdom.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane briefly fled to South Africa in August, after soldiers occupied police headquarters and encircled his palace.

Thabane accused his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing of working with the army to oust him, an allegation Metsing and the military dismissed.

Tensions high
Campaigning has been largely peaceful but analysts say tensions are high before the parliamentary vote that will pit Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) against Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), alongside other parties.

“The idea of these elections is to try to solve a crisis but I think they might perpetuate one,” said Gary Staden, a political analyst at NKC Independent Economists.

“My concern is any mess up, like failure to deliver ballot papers, is going to be interpreted as someone trying to rig the election and that could set off an unrest,” he added.

Commentators have been reluctant to call a winner in the absence of reliable opinion polls.

Metsing said he expected another coalition government made up of LDC and a smaller rival, the Democratic Congress (DC) party. “They are our natural ally and they are the ones we’re going to form a coalition government with,” he said.

Metsing, who has promised faster economic growth to create jobs, said the most pressing issue was peace and stability.

Little optimism
There was little sign of optimism on the streets of the capital.

“Why bother voting? I am not going to waste my time to vote because this election is all about Thabane and Metsing. It has nothing to do with what we want as voters,” said Dineo Motlou, a 22-year-old supermarket sales assistant.

Thabane (77) said his main priority was to restore order.

“The nation needs stabilisation,” he said. “We as politicians have destabilised communities by causing divisions among the people.”

Relations have been stormy between ABC and LCD, which have both been ruling the country since 2012, since Thabane dissolved Parliament in June to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Post-election unrest could further erode confidence in the $2.3-billion economy, which is forecast to expand by nearly 5% this year. – Reuters

Zimbabwe – factional and internal ZANU-PF battles continue

African Arguments

Zimbabwe: Mugabe’s birthday celebrations obscure Zanu PF’s never ending wars – By Tendai Marima

Didymus Mutasa, one of the oldest remaining members of the liberation era, was recently expelled from the party and sacked as Minister of State in the President’s Office. Maligned as the chief instigator of Mugabe’s alleged assassination attempt, Mutasa and his allies, including Rugare Gumbo, former Zanu-PF spokesperson, are bent on challenging Mugabe. Some observers forsee a minor splinter group forming around Mutasa who remains an MP until formally recalled by the party. However, Mugabe will be wary of precipitating by-elections, in which Mutasa and his allies would surely stand, for fearing of allowing the expelled individuals a political platform to air grievances on the national stage.

Other than the disgruntled Mutasa and those around him, an emerging group of Young Turks has also been making noise over the appointment of Mugabe’s heir apparent and faction leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as Vice President after Mujuru’s exit. Known as ‘the Gang of Four’ (G4) or ‘The Committee’ in wider circles, it is made up of the remaining members of Generation 40, a group of six 40 something ministers who supported First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rise toNational Secretary of the Women’s League.

Expecting greater reward for their help, the quartet are reportedly unhappy over Mnangagwa’s elevation. G4 member, Patrick Zhuwao, Mugabe’s nephew, has asserted that Mnangagwa’s vice presidency does not necessarily mean Mugabe’s succession is a done deal. While Zhuwao is correct, the fact is that Mnangagwa is the current first Vice President of Zimbabwe and Second Secretary of the party. In the event that Mugabe is absent or unable to perform his role, Mnangagwa is constitutionally authorized to step in as acting leader. A distrusted, crafty politician Mnangagwa may not be a universally approved choice, but Mugabe appears determined to become a life president and is therefore unlikely to hand over power – the individual who is his deputy at the time of his eventual passing is most likely to take over as an interim figure.

The issue of Mugabe’s succession has been a burning question within Zanu PF for close to two decades, but the 91 year old has been reluctant to name a successor. His secretiveness has been the cause of many fierce factional battles, but it is becoming apparent that this could well be a strategy to advance his own agenda at the expense of the party.

The entry of First Lady Grace into party politics can arguably, be seen as the stirring of a self-centred political project designed to maintain the Mugabe legacy. Grace led a vicious and successful campaign demanding Mujuru step down. Responding to the call, war veterans and party youths demonstrated and engaged in physical confrontations with pro-Mujuru supporters who held smaller counter-protests around the country.

In return for corralling the masses to action, Mugabe has rewarded his wife with greater power. As Secretary of the Women’s League she was recently appointed to the Presidium, Zanu-PF’s highest body. While a procedural appointment in terms of the party’s 2004 resolution on gender parity, her seat at the top table has raised eyebrows. As ‘Gucci Grace’ gains more power, her role as a potential contender, kingmaker or spoiler in her husband’s succession, becomes much more interesting.

For almost half his life Mugabe has presided over a divided movement, but at 91 there is an increasingly mortal limit to his rule. Should the factional scrambles over Mugabe’s succession continue to escalate, they may one day threaten not only his own interests, but Zimbabwe’s stability too. Perhaps, as Mugabe looks forward to celebrating his 35th year in power, the best gift he could give a nation uncertain of its future is ensuring that Zanu-PF’s hive of elite conflict is contained within the political realm and does not infect the country’s wider population.

Tendai Marima is a freelance journalist and academic researcher. Follow her on Twitter @i_amten.

Zimbabwe – Mugabe admits land reform flaws


Robert Mugabe admits Zimbabwe’s land reform flaws

Robert Mugabe Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has admitted failures in the country’s controversial land reform programme.

“I think the farms we gave to people are too large. They can’t manage them,” the 91-year-old leader said in unusually candid comments.

In the past he has tended to blame poor agricultural productivity on the weather and Western sanctions.

The seizure of land from white farmers is seen as a key factor in Zimbabwe’s economic collapse since 2000.

The BBC’s Brian Hungwe in the capital, Harare, says it is not the first time President Mugabe has criticised new black farmers – but his comments are surprisingly frank.

They point to continuous problems in accounting for low production levels and the under-utilisation of farms, which reflect badly thought-out land policies, he says.

Grace MugabeThe president denied that Grace Mugabe was the “power behind my throne”

Mr Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, was interviewed on the state broadcaster ZBC to mark his 91st birthday, which he celebrated last weekend.

He said he wanted to encourage farmers to go into wheat farming, and blamed low productivity on the new commercial farmers for failing to utilise all their land.

“You find that most of them are just using one third of the land,” Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper quotes him as saying.

In the interview, he also denied pushing his wife Grace to enter politics.

Last year, she became head of the women’s league and in the ruling Zanu-PF party, and embarked on a nationwide tour, in which she denounced party rivals.

This led to speculation that she was being readied to succeed her husband as president.

“She is not the power behind my throne. She has come into politics in her own right,” Mr Mugabe said.

The headline of The Herald, widely seen as a government mouthpiece, is: “I’m still in charge, says President”.

Rwanda – high court upholds life sentence for genocide era justice minister


Life sentence for Rwanda’s genocide-era justice minister upheld

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Rwanda’s high court on Friday upheld the life sentence of the s genocide-era justice minister, who was convicted six years ago for her role in the 1994 slaughter that killed 800,000 people.

Agnes Ntamabyariro is the only senior official in the former government to have been brought to justice in Rwanda. Others were tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the Tanzanian city of Arusha and elsewhere.

Ntamabyariro was found guilty in particular for her role in the murder of Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, the head of Butare prefecture in southern Rwanda, who was a Tutsi.

Most of those killed in the genocide were minority Tutsis or moderates from the Hutu majority.

“She is guilty of being an accomplice to carry out the genocide,” Judge Muhima Benoit said.

Ntamabyariro, who pleaded guilty, was not present in court for the ruling, but her lawyer said he was considering an appeal the severity of the sentence.

“She still has the right to go the supreme court to appeal and I am ready to help her win this judicial fight,” lawyer Gatera Gashabana told Reuters.

Nigeria – 13 dead in Jos bomb blast

Premium Times

Police confirm 13 dead, 14 injured in Jos explosion


PREMIUM TIMES counted nine corpses being deposited at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital mortuary with 11 injured people hospitalized at the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Among the nine corpses placed on the mortuary floor was the body police traffic officer.

Most of the corpses had injuries to the head; one was completely mutilated.

The management of the hospital declined comments. However, a senior nurse, who pleaded anonymity as she was not authorised to speak, said most of the injured victims were in stable condition Friday morning. She called for blood donations.

Four injured victims were hospitalised at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital. One of them died during treatment early hours of Friday.

Meanwhile, the University of Jos spokesperson, Abdullahi Abdullahi, has debunked reports that 12 students died in the explosions on Thursday evening.

Mr. Abdullahi in a telephone interview on Friday said, “The report in some national dailies that the University of Jos lost 12 of it students to the blast was false. No student or any member of the university community was affected by the explosions. As I speak with you the second semester examinations are ongoing. We have intensified security of lives and property in all our campuses.”

At the scene of the blast, it was gathered from witnesses that four commercial drivers were killed in the explosion.

A witness, Sarki Adams, told PREMIUM TIMES that other bodies were evacuated for burial Thursday by relations according to Muslim rites. He said five cars were also affected and several other structures were torched.

According to another witness at the scene on Friday, Mustapha Kawu, who owns a shop at the park, a man and a woman suspected to be among the suicide bombers, were lynched by angry youth.

Mr. Mustapha said the suspected bombers drove in a saloon car, while another suicide bomber, a woman, allegedly alighted from a Jeep.

Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Ali, a relation to one of the survivors, said his brother Umaru, who is a butcher at the motor park, was injured in the explosion but was being treated at the Plateau Specialist Hospital Jos.

Ali said the 42 year old butcher was about closing for the day when the explosions occurred.

The Thursday Bauchi Road Motor Park twin bomb explosion was the fourth since Christmas Eve, 2010 when a blast rocked Gadabiu area, Jos north.

As a result of the recent incident, there has been an intense stop and search of motorists by security agents within the state capital Jos.

Attempt by the Plateau state Government to relocate the park two years ago was met by stiff resistance, as management of the motor park approach a court of law for redress. The park remained in use.