Category Archives: Central Africa

Chinese oil workers evacuated from Paloch oilfields because of fighting in South Sudan

Sudan Tribune

May 21, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Chinese government announced it has conducted mass evacuation of its oil workers from Paloch oilfields in South Sudan due to the ongoing fighting around the oilfields in the oil-rich Upper Nile state territory.

  

JPEG – 16.6 kb

Oil workers at one of petrodar oil fields (photo petrodar)

Heavy fighting between troops loyal to president Salva Kiir and the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO), led by former vice president, Riek Machar, has continued near the oilfields since Tuesday.


In a statement announced in Beijing on China’s national television(CCTV) on Thursday, it said the decision came due to the insecurity around the oilfields resulting from the advance by the rebel forces towards the oilfields.


It said the Chinese embassies in both Khartoum and Juba with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), a government owned major oil company operating in Paloch, have already evacuated over 400 Chinese oil workers from the conflict area.


“More than 400 Chinese oil workers have been evacuated from South Sudan due to growing violence,” said the statement published by the Chinese government.


Beijing said the evacuated workers will be flown to China in the next few days.


This latest development largely contradicts South Sudan government’s claim on Thursday that oil workers were returning to Paloch allegedly after defeating the rebels.


REBELS BESIEGE PALOCH OILFIELDS


South Sudanese rebels, however, issued statements claiming their forces captured Tangrial Bil refinery site and besieged Paloch oilfields aiming to capture it.


They urged oil companies to close down and evacuate their workers for safety reasons.


The rebel leader’s spokesman, James Dak said the country’s main oilfields of Paloch, some 200kms north of Malakal, had been besieged and designated priority target.


“SPLM/SPLA forces have converged around Paloch oilfields – Adar (Upper Nile) state – from different directions to capture the oilfields from pro-Salva Kiir forces any time soon,” Dak said.


He said the leadership of the movement also renewed “strong advice” to any remaining oil worker in Paloch to evacuate for safety reasons.


He accused the government of allegedly using some oil workers as human shield and said Juba would be responsible for any harm on them.


“We have learnt with disbelief that the government, out of panic, has prevented some of international oil workers from leaving the area, using them as human shield,” he said.


“We call on oil companies operating in the area to ensure their workers are evacuated.”


The rebels said their counter-offensive aimed to temporarily close down oil production or to cut off Juba from the oil revenues which they said president Kiir’s government had been using to “hire mercenaries and buy weaponry to perpetuate the war.”


This, Dak said, was in response to government’s “full scale offense” which he described as a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement between the two warring parties.


(ST)

Burundi – protests continue to rock Bujumbura

Al Jazeera

ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS ROCK BURUNDI’S CAPITAL

By Al Jazeera

Protesters in Burundi have clashed with police in anti-government demonstrations against a third term bid for power by the president, a week on since a failed coup.

At least two protesters were killed and eight were wounded in Thursday’s clashes with police in the capital Bujumbura, the Red Cross said.

They are the latest victims of the unrest prompted by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, in which more than 20 people have died.

Heavy gunfire was heard all day in suburbs of Bujumbura, with intense bursts of automatic weapons, as protesters in reply hurled rocks from makeshift barricades.

Smoke rose from districts of the city where fighting as heaviest.

The sound of gunfire echoed in Bujumbura as night fell, with no apparent sign of easing in the darkness, especially in the Musaga and Kanyosha districts.

Police in Musaga said they had been sent to restore order “whatever the cost”.

Cholera outbreak

More than 110,000 people have fled the violence in Burundi to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope as tens of thousands of refugees stranded on Tanzania’s Kagunga Island face dire medical conditions.

UNICEF officials told Al Jazeera on Thursday that conditions at Kagunga were “tough” and that a cholera outbreak had made conditions even more dire.

At least 33 people have died, with 27 deaths believed to have been cholera related.

The World Health Organisation declared cholera a level 1 emergency in the region on Wednesday.

“It is very, very tough in Kagunga, and our focus now is to try and save those living in these very poor conditions,” said Thomas Lyimo, a health officer at UNICEF.

More than 100,000 people have crossed into Tanzania since political unrest began in Burundi on April 26.

At last count, some 70,000 refugees were still in Kagunga, waiting to be transferred to the Nyarugusu camp outside Kigoma.

The political crisis, which began in late April after Burundi’s ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June presidential election, deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.

Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye, the newly appointed defence minister, called for unity in the wake of the abortive coup, which was crushed by loyalist forces after street fighting between rival factions.

“The survival of Burundi as a nation depends on the cohesion of the army,” a military statement read, warning that, should the army splinter, it would result in a situation seen in Somalia.

One of those killed was shot as demonstrators tried to reach the National Assembly, where three ministers were sworn in at extraordinary session.

President’s claims

Nkurunziza, in an address to the nation late on Wednesday, said most of the central African country was secure, and that the upcoming parliamentary and presidential votes would be peaceful.

“Peace and security reign over 99.9 percent of Burundian territory and population are going about normally in their activities,” Nkurunziza said in a broadcast on state radio.

Most of the demonstrations took place in Bujumbura’s suburbs.

One group of protesters briefly reached the symbolic city centre, only to be swiftly chased away by the police.

Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to a 13-year civil war in 2006.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

On Wednesday, his office announced that parliamentary polls set for May 26 had been postponed to June 5, but there has been no mention of rescheduling the June 26 presidential election.

Rights groups accuse Nkurunziza of launching a crackdown on opponents and independent media in the wake of the failed coup.

The presidency has dismissed the claims.

Burundi’s government appears increasingly isolated diplomatically.

Belgium, the former colonial power, threatened on Thursday to end assistance to the country if Nkurunziza presses ahead with a third term.

Zambia – Green party questions lifting of lion and leopard hunting ban

Times of Zambia

By Hildah Lumba
sinkamba .By MOFFAT CHAZINGWA and CHARITY MOONGA –

GREEN Party president Peter Sinkamba has expressed concern over the decision by Government to lift the ban on big cat hunting in the country.
Tourism and Arts Minister Jean Kapata last week announced the lifting of the ban on cat hunting in the country on account that it greatly affected the wildlife resource livelihoods of local authorities in game management Areas.
But Mr Sinkamba said in a statement in Kitwe yesterday that the decision by Government to lift the ban on hunting lions and leopards was wrong.
He said the ban was initiated when conservationists warned that a wildlife population, especially in the cat family, was facing a greater threat than at any time since the 1980s.
“We all know that the number of lions and other big cat species in Zambia’s major parks is depleted and limited due to poaching and other anthropogenic activities,” Mr Sinkamba said.
He said the total population of lions in the country as at 2013 was estimated to be between 2,500 and 4,700.
These, he said, were unreliable estimates since successive governments after UNIP, have not sustained a continuous wildlife census system.
He urged Government to reverse lifting of the ban and instead come up with other revenue generating schemes.
But the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) commended Government for lifting the ban which was enforced two years ago.
ZAWA public relations officer Sakabilo Kalembwe said the lifting of the ban on hunting of big cats will ensure a great improvement in Government revenue.
Kalembwe said ZAWA will make sure that hunting of cats was carried out according to statutory regulations.
Government lifted the ban on cat hunting on condition that the guidelines were grafted into a statutory instrument so that they become part of the wildlife law.
Ms Kapata explained that lion hunting should only resume in the 2016/2017 hunting season and not this year.
She, however, said leopard hunting could resume this year 2015/2016 but with very precautionary quotas.
The two-year hunting ban was among others, necessitated by the weak regulatory mechanisms, declining lion populations in some areas due to over-harvesting, hunting of underage lions and depletion of habitats for lion.
Other reasons were the increased lion deaths in human-lion conflicts and lack of solid statistics upon which to base quotas.
The leopard ban was effected due to lack of serious monitoring lapses by ZAWA, which had since been rectified.

Burundi – police shoot dead soldier during protests

BBC

A policeman shouts as he holds his rifle during a clashes with demonstrators during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura
Burundi police have clashed with protesters as demonstrations continue

A soldier in Burundi has been shot dead by a policeman during a demonstration in the capital, Bujumbura.

A witness told the BBC the soldier was hit by accident after police starting shooting at demonstrators.

Protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid have continued despite a ban.

There have been weeks of tension in Burundi after Mr Nkurunziza said he would be a candidate in June’s election.

The shooting happened in the Nyakabiga district of Bujumbura. Police eventually withdrew from parts of the neighbourhood leaving the army to restore order, the BBC’s Andrew Harding reports from the city.

There has not been an easy relationship between the army and the police, with the police resenting the army’s tolerant attitude towards the protests, our correspondent says.

Last week, there was a failed coup against Mr Nkurunziza – senior officials from both the army and police have been arrested and accused of involvement.

President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi speaking to journalists in Bujumbura, 17 May 2015
President Pierre Nkurunziza is seeking a third term which opponents say is unconstitutional

Earlier, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza postponed parliamentary elections due on 26 May for 10 days.

He made the decision after a recommendation from the electoral commission, a spokesman said.

Mr Nkrunziza has been under pressure to delay June’s presidential election, but there has been no mention of that.

The African Union and the EU have called for a postponement of the presidential vote and said there should be dialogue to ease the tension.

Mr Nkurunziza has so far rejected that demand, saying the election will go ahead as planned.

Policemen stand in front of demonstrators during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20
Protests against the third-term bid have been taking place since April

Mr Nkurunziza’s critics say the third term contravenes the constitution, which requires him to step down after two terms.

They reject a ruling of Burundi’s Constitutional Court that Mr Nkurunziza’s first term does not count because he was elected by parliament and not voters.

The UN refugee agency says that more than 105,000 people have fled Burundi into neighbouring countries since the conflict started.

Mr Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has been president since 2005.

Burundi: Key facts

The country is facing its worst turmoil since the 12-year civil war ended in 2005

  • 10.4m population
  • 50 years – life expectancy for a man
  • 2nd poorest country in the world
  • 85% are Hutu, 14% Tutsi
  • 300,000 died in civil war

French forces in Niger seize huge drug and weapons haul from “militants”

BBC

Sahara desert gun battle yields drugs haul, says France

French soldiers with drug haul in Niger
French and Nigerien forces have been working together to tackle militant Islamists

The French army says it has seized 1.5 tonnes of drugs and a cache of weapons after stopping a convoy of militants in the desert in north-eastern Niger.

Militants in two pickup trucks opened fire on French and Nigerien forces after refusing to stop at a checkpoint on 14 May, the French military said.

Soldiers discovered the illegal cargo after a fire-fight in which three militants were killed, it added.

France has 3,000 troops in the Sahel region to combat militant Islamists.

Three other militants were also captured and handed over to Nigerien forces, the French army said in its statement.

Widespread trafficking in the Sahel region is a major source of funding for militant Islamist groups across the continent, analysts say.

Operation Barkhane, which comprises French forces as well as troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, was established in August 2014 to stop the emergence of jihadist groups.

Map of west africa

The checkpoint where the incident took place is located in the Sahara desert in an area the French army describes as “an important transit zone between Libya and the northern Sahel”.

The Sahel includes some of the world’s poorest countries but has rich natural resources in the form of minerals and gas.

France sent troops to Mali in January 2013 after Islamist militants threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako.

Niger – French help army attack drug and weapons smuggling convoy in north

Reuters

French, local forces kill three gunmen in northern Niger raid

French and Niger forces killed three gunmen in a convoy carrying drugs and heavy weapons in Niger close to the Libyan border, the French army said on Monday, as its troops step up efforts to stop militants crisscrossing the Sahel-Sahara region.

Paris, which has led efforts to push back Islamist fighters in the region since intervening in its former colony Mali in 2013, has deployed thousands of troops across West Africa to form a counter-terrorism force and prevent trafficking in the region.

The army said in a statement that on May 14 two pick-up trucks attempted to force their way through a checkpoint set up by about 200 French and Niger troops.

“The occupants of the vehicles attempted to drive through and responded to warning shots by violently opening fire,” it said. “Amid the fighting, three people in the convoy were killed and three others were captured and handed to the Niger army.”

It said 1.5 tonnes of drugs and weapons, including submachine guns, were recovered as well as communications equipment.

France has set up a base at Madama in northern Niger to monitor the Salvador Pass trafficking route that leads from southern Libya to northern Mali.

More than 3,000 French troops are now operating out of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — countries straddling the vast arid Sahel band — with the aim of stamping out Islamist fighters across the region.

The French operation, dubbed Barkhane after the name of a kind of sand dune formed by desert winds, has set up its headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but also placed an outpost in northern Chad about 200 km from the Libyan border.

French officials have said for several months they are concerned by events in Libya, warning that the political void in the north is creating favourable conditions for al Qaeda-linked fighters to regroup in the barren south of the country.

They have also said that failure to conclude a peace deal between the Malian government and separatist rebels is helping traffickers restore their previous networks in the region.

South Sudan – UN says children being targeted

BBC

South Sudan conflict: UN says children targeted

Displaced people in Bentiu, Unity State. 27 Feb 2015
Thousands of people in Unity State have been displaced by the fighting

Children in South Sudan as young as seven have been killed, abducted and raped in recent violence, the United Nations’ children’s charity says.

Survivors believed the attacks in Unity State were carried out by groups linked to South Sudan’s military, Unicef said.

Fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent weeks, displacing more than 100,000 people.

The Red Cross has warned of a looming food crisis as thousands flee fighting around the rebel stronghold of Leer.

“Survivors reported to Unicef staff that whole villages were burned to the ground by armed groups, while large numbers of girls and women were taken outside to be raped and killed including children as young as seven,” the charity said in a statement.

“At least 19 boys – some as young as 10 years of age – and seven girls were killed. Others were mutilated or recruited to join the fighting and take care of stolen cattle.”

The South Sudan government has so far not commented on the report.

Planting season

Government forces recently launched an offensive against rebel forces in Unity state and fierce fighting has also taken place in Upper Nile state.

On Monday, the Red Cross warned that the displacement of civilians in Leer was happening just as the country’s crucial planting period was under way.

“The upheaval will no doubt negatively impact residents’ ability to plant food that would be used to feed their families next harvest season,” it said.

The Red Cross called on both sides not to target civilians “and let those trying to escape hostilities travel unimpeded”.

South Sudan is the world’s newest state, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

However, conflict broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then formed a rebel army to fight government troops.

Leer, where government forces are advancing, is the birthplace of Mr Machar.

International mediation efforts to end the conflict have failed.