Category Archives: Africa – International

Rwanda bans BBC Kinyarwanda broadcasts over film that questions the genocide

It might have been more honest of the BBC to say in this news story that the film has proved controversial among specialists on Rwanda and resulted in a formal written complaint to the BBC by a number of academics, journalists and people like Senator (for General) Romeo Dallaire.  It is not just the Kagame government that has doubts about the accuracy and balance of the film, I signed the letter of complaint as the film contains serious inaccuracies, very questionable interpretations and is highly selective in its use of  interviews and available evidence – anything that conflicts with its “untold story” is ignored or skated over. Poor journalism.  The BBC was also very short-sighted, as I put in a submission to the parliamentary foreign affairs committee some years ago, when it cut short-wave transmission to Rwanda and relied on local rebroadcasts. The Kagame government has no great adherence to freedom of the press and was bound to stop the BBC broadcasts whenever they were not in the interests of the government KS

BBC

Rwanda suspends BBC broadcasts over genocide film

Photographs of victims in the Kigali genocide memorialThere are numerous memorials around Rwanda to those killed in the genocide

Rwanda has suspended BBC broadcasts in the Kinyarwanda language with immediate effect because of a film questioning official accounts of the 1994 genocide.

The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura) said it had received complaints from the public of incitement, hatred, revisionism and genocide denial.

At least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the genocide.

The BBC has denied that any part of the programme constitutes a “denial of the genocide against the Tutsi”.

On Wednesday, Rwandan MPs approved a resolution calling on the government to ban the BBC and to charge the documentary-makers with genocide denial, which is a crime in the country.

Those killed in the genocide are generally believed to be mostly members of the minority ethnic Tutsi group, and Hutus opposed to the mass slaughter.

line

Rwandan genocide:

skulls on display in the Nyamata church
  • 6 April 1994: President Juvenal Habyarimana is killed when his plane was shot down on returning from peace talks with Tutsi RPF rebels
  • 7 April: It is not clear who is behind the shooting but it sparks the systematic mass killing of mainly Tutsis by extremist Hutu militia and military elements
  • April-July: An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus are slaughtered
  • RPF denies accusations they killed thousands of Hutus as they marched through the country
  • July: RPF captures the capital, Kigali
  • July: Two million Hutus flee to Zaire, now DR Congo
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The BBC programme Rwanda, The Untold Story, includes interviews with US-based researchers who say most of those killed may have been Hutus, killed by members of the then-rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has been in power since 1994.

The programme also included interviews with former aides of RPF leader President Paul Kagame, accusing him of plotting to shoot down the presidential plane – the act seen as triggering the slaughter.

BBC news reports recall how the genocide unfolded

He has consistently denied previous such accusations.

Rura said it had established a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations it had received about the programme, after which further action may be taken.

The cabinet is meeting next week to discuss parliament’s recommendations.

The BBC broadcasts affected by the suspension are produced by the BBC Great Lakes service, which was initially set up in the aftermath of the genocide as a lifeline service.

Its first broadcast – BBC Gahuzamiryango, meaning “the unifier of families” – was a 15-minute transmission aimed at bringing together families who had been separated.  BBC

To: “Mr. Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC”

Posted by David Peterson on October 14, 2014, 2:58 am, in reply to “Telesur: Justin Podur on the Rwandan Genocide – very informative


Friends: In this copy of a formal letter of complaint to the BBC Two over their production and broadcasting of the October 1 documentary, “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” notice whom the signatories-doctrinal enforcers include: Linda Melvern, Romeo Dallaire, Gregory Stanton, Gerald Caplan, George Monbiot, Andrew Wallis.)

(For a copy of the documentary, see Jane Corbin and John Conroy, “Rwanda’s Untold Story,” BBC Two, October 1, 2014, as now posted to the Vimeo website. < http://vimeo.com/107867605 >)

Mr. Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, Broadcasting House, Portland Place,
London. W1A 1AA

October 12, 2014.

Dear Sir,

We the undersigned, scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians are writing to you today to express our grave concern at the content of the documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story (This World, BBC 2 Wednesday October 1), specifically its coverage of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi.

We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and to reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda. However, attempts to examine these issues should not distort the reality of the 1994 genocide. It is not legitimate to use current events to either negate or to diminish the genocide. Nor is it legitimate to promote genocide denial.

The parts of the film which concern the 1994 genocide, far from providing viewers with an ‘Untold Story’ as the title promises, are old claims. For years similar material using similar language has been distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial. At the heart of this campaign are convicted génocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and their supporters and collaborators. These deniers continually question the status of the genocide and try to prove – like the programme – that what it calls the ‘official narrative’ of the 1994 genocide is wrong. The BBC programme Rwanda’s Untold Story recycles their arguments and provides them with another platform to create doubt and confusion about what really happened.

Three of the untenable claims made in the programme are of the utmost concern: the first is a lie about the true nature of the Hutu Power militia. The second is an attempt to minimize the number of Tutsi murdered in the genocide, and the third is an effort to place the blame for shooting down President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

First, the programme allows a witness to claim that ‘only ten percent of the Interahamwe (militia) were killers’. In fact, the majority of Hutu Power militia forces – estimated to have been 30,000 strong – were trained specifically to

kill Tutsi at speed, and indoctrinated in a racist ideology, part of genocide planning. There is eyewitness testimony by several militia leaders who cooperated with the ICTR.

Second, the programme attempts to minimise the number of Tutsi murdered, a typical tactic of genocide deniers. The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the génocidaires at the ICTR. They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu than Tutsi were murdered – an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Africa Rights, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators.

Third, the film argues that the shooting down of the plane on April 6, 1994 was perpetrated by the RPF. This same story was promoted by Hutu Power extremists within a few hours of the president’s assassination and promoted ever since by génocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers.

The film pays no heed to a detailed expert report published in January 2012 by a French magistrate Judge Marc Trévidic. This contains evidence from French experts, including crash investigators, who proved scientifically that the missiles that shot down the plane came from the confines of the government-run barracks in Kanombe on the airport’s perimeter – one of the most fortified places in the country, and where it would have been impossible for the RPF, armed with a missile, to penetrate.

Within hours of the president’s assassination, in this carefully planned genocide, roadblocks went up all over Kigali and the Presidential Guard started to target every member of Rwanda’s political opposition. These momentous events are barely mentioned. The members of the Hutu and Tutsi pro-democracy movements were hunted down and killed, including Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and ten UN peacekeepers from Belgium who were protecting her. These opposition politicians separately threatened the Habyarimana regime for advocating power-sharing and paid for their courage with their lives. Ignored in this film are the Hutu Power attempts to divide the internal political opposition along ethnic lines. Political violence in the film is seen only in the context of a ‘civil war’ between the RPF and the Habyarimana government, a smoke screen, used then and now, to hide the systematic killing of Tutsi carried out by the Hutu Power Interim Government and its militia.

The film-maker, Jane Corbin, who presented the programme, even tries to raise doubts about whether or not the RPF stopped the genocide. The authority on this subject is Lt.-General Roméo Dallaire, the Force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), and present in Rwanda throughout the genocide. Dallaire is categorical. ‘The genocide was stopped because the RPF won and stopped it’, he says. Corbin

ignores the testimonies of direct witnesses to what happened in 1994: Dallaire and his volunteer UN peacekeepers, Philippe Gaillard and the medics at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Dr. James Orbinski of Médecins Sans Frontières. Years of research and writing by academics and other experts along with hours of films by journalists who work for the BBC – all of this eyewitness testimony is dismissed as if fraudulent.

In broadcasting this documentary the BBC has been recklessly irresponsible. The programme has fuelled genocide denial. It has further emboldened the génocidaires, all their supporters and those who collaborate with them. It has provided them the legitimacy of the BBC. Denial of genocide causes the gravest offence to survivors. For them, the genocide is not a distant event from 20 years ago but a reality with which they live every day.

The denial of genocide is now widely recognised as the final stage of the crime. One of the world’s preeminent genocide scholars, the US Professor Greg H. Stanton, describes ten stages in genocide: classification of the population; symbolization of those classifications; discrimination against a targeted group; dehumanisation of the pariah group; organisation of the killers; polarisation of the population; preparation by the killers; persecution of the victims; extermination of the victims; and denial that the killing was genocide.

Denial, the final stage, ensures the crime continues. It incites new killing. It denies the dignity of the deceased and mocks those who survived. Denial of genocide is taken so seriously that in some European countries it is criminalized. In 2008 the Council of the European Union called upon states to criminalize genocide denial.

The 1994 genocide of the Tutsi should be treated by all concerned with the utmost intellectual honesty and rigour. We would be willing – indeed see it as our duty – to meet with journalists and to debate in a follow up programme the serious inaccuracies in Rwanda’s Untold Story.

We hope that the BBC management will quickly realise the gravity of the genocide denial in Rwanda’s Untold Story. We call upon the BBC to explain how the programme came to be made and the editorial decision-making which allowed it to be broadcast. In the course of any internal BBC enquiry we hope all relevant documents from the This World archive and from senior editors involved in approving the programme will be released for study.

Rwanda’s Untold Story tarnishes the BBC’s well-deserved reputation for objective and balanced journalism. We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Signed

Professor Linda Melvern
Author, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide; Conspiracy to Murder

Senator Roméo Dallaire Force Commander, UNAMIR

Professor Gregory H. Stanton President, Genocide Watch

Mehdi Ba
Journalist and Author

Bishop Ken Barham

Dr. Margaret Brearley Independent Scholar

Dr. Gerald Caplan
Author, The Preventable Genocide

Professor Frank Chalk
Professor of History/Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University, Co-author, ‘Mobilizing the Will to Intervene: Leadership to Prevent Mass Atrocities’ (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010)

Dr.Phil Clark
Reader in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS, University of London

Boubacar Boris Diop, Sénégal. Author, Murambi, the book of bones

Jean-Francois Dupaquier Author and Expert

Hélène Dumas,
Diplômée de l’IEP d’Aix-en-Provence (2003), Docteur en histoire de l’EHESS (2013)

Professor Margee Ensign
President, American University of Nigeria

Tim Gallimore
Independent genocide researcher

Peter Greaves
Former UNICEF staff member

Fred Grünfeld.
Emeritus professor in International Relations, Human Rights and the Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations, Universities of Maastricht and Utrecht, Netherlands. Author, The Failure to Prevent Genocide in Rwanda: The Role of Bystanders, 2007

Dr. Helen Hintjens
Assistant Professor in Development and Social Justice, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) The Hague

Dr. Georgina Holmes
Lecturer International Relations,
University of Portsmouth/Royal Holloway, University of London

Richard Johnson
Author, The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda

Eric Joyce MP

Ambassador Karel Kovanda (ret).
Czech Representative on the UN Security Council, 1994-95

Françoise Lemagnen
Chief Executive, Survivors Fund (SURF)

Ambassador Stephen Lewis.
Former Canadian Ambassador to the UN.

W. Alan McClue
Visiting Fellow, Bournemouth University/Cranfield University

Roland Moerland
Ph.D. Researcher and Lecturer in Supranational and Organizational Criminology, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology Maastricht University, The Netherlands

George Monbiot Author and Journalist

Jacques Morel
Author, La France au coeur du génocide des Tutsi (2010)

Barbara Mulvaney
International Law Consultant; Former Senior Trial Attorney – Bagosora et al., United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda

Dr. Jude Murison
School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Peter Raymont
President, White Pine Pictures, Toronto, Canada

Professor Josias Semujanga
Professeur titulaire, Département des littératures de langue française, Université de Montréal, Quebec

Jonathan Salt
Managing Director of Ojemba Education

Keith Somerville
Senior Research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; Lecturer in Communications and Humanitarianism, Centre for Journalism, University of Kent

Patrick de Saint-Exupéry Author and journalist

Dr James M. Smith CBE CEO, Aegis Trust

Rafiki Ubaldo Journalist

Andrew Wallis
Author, Silent Accomplice: The untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide, I.B.Tauris, 2014

Lillian Wong, O.B.E.
British Chargé d’Affairs in Rwanda 1994-1995

http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/msg/1413251912.html

 

Botswana votes in closest election since independence

BBC

Botswana votes in closest poll in 48 years

Residents queue to cast their ballots at a polling station in Serewe on 24 October 2014 for Botswana's general electionsVoting has been going smoothly with polls opening at 06:30 local time (04:30 GMT)

Voters are going to the polls in Botswana in what is expected to be the closest general elections in the world’s largest diamond producer.

President Ian Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has governed since independence in 1966, is expected to win a reduced majority.

But it has been battling to gain support in urban areas where opposition parties have made recent inroads.

Botswana is seen as one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries.

The sparsely populated country also protects some of Africa’s largest areas of wilderness.

There are three parties competing to win over the 824,000 registered voters who will elect 57 members of parliament.

The MPs then choose the leader, with President Khama, the son of the country’s first president, likely to get a second term in office.

President Khama at a polling station - 24 October 2014President Khama voted at a polling station in his home town of Serowe north of the capital, Gaborone
Botswana Congress Party poster in Gaborone - 21 OctoberHe faces competition from the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP)
Supporters of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) - 23 October 2014The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition includes a breakaway party from the ruling BDP

A year ago, the global mining giant De Beers relocated its auction rooms to Botswana, meaning rough diamonds are now cut, polished and sold in the country – not just mined.

But according to the African Development Bank, despite Botswana being a middle-income country, it continues to grapple with unequal distribution of wealth, high levels of poverty, unemployment and HIV.

The unemployment rate stands at 17.8% and it has an HIV/Aids prevalence of 23.4%, the bank said.

A survey this month by the research group Afrobarometer reported that 58% of people in Botswana considered unemployment the most important problem facing the country.  BBC

Sudan-South Sudan – Bashir fails to attend IGAD meeting

Sudan Tribune

October 23, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese authorities said on Thursday that a leadership meeting of Sudan’s ruling party (NCP) rendered president Omer Hassan al-Bashir incapable of attending Wednesday’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) meeting in Juba.

JPEG - 31.6 kb
Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (L), Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn (C) and South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (R) at the third Tanana Forum on Security in Africa held in Ethiopia’s Bahr Dar town on 27 April 2014 (SUNA)

“President Bashir was briefed by the chief mediator about the summit. He did not come because he had other commitments,” Ateny Wek Ateny, the presidency spokesperson said.

He however said the Sudanese leader had assured the mediators of his presence at the next summit on a date yet to be agreed upon.

“He [Bashir] told them [mediation team] to pick the date and let him know. He told them that he would in the next summit,” said Ateny.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and his Ugandan counterpart, Ruhankana Rugunda attended the one-day IGAD consultative summit held in Juba.

During the meeting, South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, said he would remove obstacles blocking progress in peace talks with the country’s rebel faction under the leadership of former vice-president Riek Machar.

“I said it in Arusha, Tanzania, that if the other people were committed and demonstrated [a] willingness to resolve this crisis, like we have done as the government, the people who are now in the [internally] displaced camps, would have returned to their homes and they would not have missed planting season. They would have cultivated,” Kiir told regional leaders at the meeting.

He said the government delegation had full powers to negotiate and resolve the current crisis.

South Sudan has been mired in conflict since mid-December last year after a political dispute in the ruling SPLM turned violent. The IGAD-led peace talks have so far failed to halt the violence amid repeated delays and disagreements over key issues.

(ST)

Mali becomes sixth West African country to be hit by ebola

Reuters

Mali becomes sixth West African nation hit by Ebola

BAMAKO Fri Oct 24, 2014

BAMAKO (Reuters) – Mali confirmed its first case of Ebola on Thursday, becoming the sixth West African country to be touched by the worst outbreak on record of the haemorrhagic fever, which has killed nearly 4,900 people.

Mali’s Health Minister Ousmane Kone told state television that the patient in the western town of Kayes was a two-year-old girl who had recently arrived from neighbouring Guinea, where the outbreak began.

“The condition of the girl, according to our services, is improving thanks to her rapid treatment,” the minister told state television.

A health ministry official, who asked not to be identified, said the girl’s mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago and the baby was brought by relatives to the Malian capital Bamako, where she stayed for 10 days in the Bagadadji neighbourhood before heading to Kayes.

A ministry statement said the girl, who came from the Guinean town of Kissidougou, was admitted at the Fousseyni Daou hospital in Kayes on Wednesday night, where she was promptly tested for Ebola.

People who came into contact with the patient in Kayes have been identified and placed under watch, the minister said, but he appealed to any person who believed they may have had contact with the girl to step forward.

The vast majority of the deaths and nearly 10,000 cases of the disease have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Small outbreaks also spread to Senegal and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, but they have since been declared Ebola-free by the WHO.

The official numbers are known to be under-reported and the true death toll may be three times as much, the WHO said this week.

A completely separate outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa also appears to have been contained. Reuters

 

Nigeria – Boko Haram abductions continue

BBC

Nigeria’s Boko Haram ‘abducts more women and girls’

Boko Haram militants from a video released by the groupAccording to residents, a large group of insurgents attacked the two villages on Saturday

Dozens of women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s north-eastern Adamawa state have been abducted by suspected militants, residents say.

The abductions have not been confirmed by the authorities, but residents say they took place a day after the military announced it had agreed a ceasefire with the Boko Haram group.

The government hopes the Islamist group will free more than 200 girls seized in April as part of negotiations.

Boko Haram has not confirmed the truce.

Following Friday’s ceasefire announcement, the government said further talks with Boko Haram were due to be held this week in neighbouring Chad.

A man poses with a sign in front of police officers in riot gear during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls from Chibok, in Abuja, on 14 October 2014. The government failure to secure the schoolgirls’ release has sparked mass protests

In a separate incident, at least five people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus station in a town in the northern state of Bauchi.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Hostage swaps

News of the new abductions came as MPs approved a $1bn (£623m) loan – requested by the president in July – to upgrade military equipment and train more units fighting the north-eastern insurgency.

But they asked the finance minister to give the chamber more details about how the external borrowing would be sourced.

Security already costs the country close to $6bn, roughly a quarter of the federal budget.

The abduction of the schoolgirls from their boarding school in Borno state sparked a global campaign to pressure the government to secure their release.

Borno is the group’s stronghold. It has been under a state of emergency, along with neighbouring Adamawa and Yobe states, for more than a year.

The villages that were attacked on Saturday – Waga Mangoro and Garta – are close to Madagali and Michika towns, which have been under the control of the Islamist militant group for several weeks.

Map showing Boko Haram areas of control in Nigeria

According to people in the area, a large group of insurgents attacked the villages, rounding up women and girls.

They forced them to harvest groundnuts on a farm, then abducted those who were teenagers or in their early 20s.

Communication with the affected area is difficult, which is why it takes time for news of attacks to filter out.

Other raids by suspected Boko Haram fighters were reported by residents in Adamawa and Borno over the weekend.

Since the state of emergency was declared in May 2013, Boko Haram has taken many women and children hostage and has agreed to some prisoner swaps.

The name Boko Haram translates as “Western education is forbidden”, and the militants have carried out raids on schools and colleges, seeing them as a symbol of Western culture.

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Who are Boko Haram?

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaking to the camera in a video the group released on 12 May 2014Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is the most wanted man in Nigeria
  • 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

BBC

  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Zimbabwe – Grace Mugabe announces plan to succeed her husband as president

Mail and Guardian

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has announced her candidacy to succeed her husband, 90-year-old president Robert Mugabe, when he leaves office.

Robert and Grace Mugabe. (Reuters)

“People say I want to be president, why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” the 49-year-old said when addressing veterans of the country’s liberation struggle in Mazowe at about 40 kilometres north of Harare.

Mugabe called on Vice President Joice Mujuru – regarded as one of the top contenders to succeed the president – to resign. “There are plenty of people who can run this country, not Mujuru,” she said, adding that her husband’s deputy would take Zimbabwe “back to where we were before independence”.

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, has travelled several times for medical care abroad, sparking speculation that he could step down before his term ends in 2018. Mugabe has meanwhile been appointed to head the women’s league of the ruling party Zanu-PF.

The first lady’s political ambitions have faced resistance from Mujuru and others who participated in the liberation struggle against the white minority government of the then Rhodesia – today Zimbabwe – alongside Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe has also come under fire for a doctorate she obtained from the University of Zimbabwe in September – allegedly just months after she enrolled there. – Sapa  M&G

IOL News

October 23 2014 at 04:59pm
By SAPA Comment on this story

Copy of nd GRACE MUGABE 2 (45252041) EPAZimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe addresses more than 15 000 party supporters who attended her ‘meet the people tour’ in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe. EPA/AARON UFUMELI

Mazowe, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe on Thursday announced her candidacy to succeed her husband, 90-year-old president Robert Mugabe, when he leaves office.

“People say I want to be president, why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?” the 49-year-old said when addressing veterans of the country’s liberation struggle in Mazowe at about 40 kilometres north of Harare.

Mugabe called on Vice President Joice Mujuru – regarded as one of the top contenders to succeed the president – to resign.

“There are plenty of people who can run this country, not Mujuru,” she said, adding that her husband’s deputy would take Zimbabwe “back to where we were before independence.”

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, has travelled several times for medical care abroad, sparking speculation that he could step down before his term ends in 2018.

Mugabe has meanwhile been appointed to head the women’s league of the ruling party Zanu-PF.

The first lady’s political ambitions have faced resistance from Mujuru and others who participated in the liberation struggle against the white minority government of the then Rhodesia – today Zimbabwe – alongside Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe has also come under fire for a doctorate she obtained from the University of Zimbabwe in September – allegedly just months after she enrolled there.

Sapa-dpa iol

Uganda-Central Africa – the problems in the hunt for Knoy and the lRA

Martin Plaut

Africa’s forgotten scourge: Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

In the past year, Joseph Kony is said to have been responsible for killing 76 civilians and abducting 467. Despite the lack of international coverage, an African operation to kill or capture him continues. Martin Plaut talks to its leader, Brigadier General Sam Kavuma.

Joseph Kony, photographed in Southern Sudan in 2006. Photo: Stuart Price/AFP/Getty
Joseph Kony, photographed in Southern Sudan in 2006. Photo: Stuart Price/AFP/Getty

Once they were at the top of the African crisis agenda, but ebola, civil war in South Sudan and the atrocities of Boko Haram have driven them out of the headlines. It is hard to find a single mention of Joseph Kony or his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the international media.

Yet they have not gone away. The charity Invisible Children, which tenaciously tracks the LRA says that it killed two people in the last month and abducted 26 more. In the past year Kony is said to have been responsible for killing 76 civilians and abducting 467. Behind these cold statistics is a trail of shattered lives: of villages living in terror and women too frightened to go to the fields to plant or harvest.

Kony, and his killers, are now hunted across a vast area of Central Africa. “There are probably no more than 100 fighters with Kony,” says Brigadier General Sam Kavuma, who is leading the African operation to kill or capture him. But the general is under no illusion about the scale of the problem. The LRA is dispersed over South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. It is an area approximately the size of western Europe and General Kavuma has only around 1,500 troops at his disposal.

Despite this, the general is optimistic. “Kony is no longer fighting – he’s hiding and trying to survive,” he told the New Statesman in a phone interview.

The General’s Regional Task Force should be far larger. The African Union mandate provides for a brigade-size operation of 5,000 troops, drawn from Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo (pdf).

But the civil war in the Central African Republic has meant it has provided General Kavuma with not a single soldier, while the fighting that erupted in South Sudan last December has also reduced its support. One of Uganda’s three battalions was also withdrawn to prop up South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, in his dispute with his rival, Riek Machar (pdf).

Joseph Kony – once a Ugandan church choir boy – has been the scourge of central Africa for more than two decades. Drawn from the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the LRA has used abduction and murder to further its ends and maintain its operations. Kony himself is notoriously canny and wary – characteristics that have allowed him to survive all these years despite the international efforts to kill him.

President Obama established the elimination of Kony as one of his African goals and recently increased the support given to this operation. Several CV-22 Osprey long range, high speed helicopters, plus 150 Air Force Special Operations troops and airmen joined the search.

In the end, though, the problem of the LRA is likely to require a political solution. “We know that 80 per cent of LRA fighters have been abducted themselves,” says General Kavuma. Talks have been tried in the past, but are ruled out for the present. Kony has used previous negotiations and ceasefires to regroup and re-arm his forces. “The Acholi leaders have sent messages to their people to defect and come home,” the general says and this is paying dividends. “Two months ago we had over fifty defectors, including women and children.”

This strategy has American backing from the 7th Military Information Support Battalion. Radio stations have been established to broadcast appeals to the fighters; half a million leaflets have been dropped from the air. Even aerial loudspeakers have been deployed to try to persuade LRA fighters to lay down their weapons and come out of the bush.

This has been a long and a deadly war. Ugandan troops serve for up to two years before going home. General Kavuma has a good reputation and is said to have transformed the African troops into an effective fighting force. But divisions in South Sudan and the Central African Republic have sapped the operation. The LRA is said to be hiding in Kafia Kingi, one of the areas claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. Kony may still receive backing from Khartoum, although the General says he has no evidence of this.

The fighting is unlikely to end soon. It is simply too low on the international agenda to receive sufficient resources. As one well-informed observer put it: “The LRA is a forgotten force in a forgotten part of the world.” MP