Category Archives: Central Africa

South Sudan – Machar’s opposition demands that kiir step down in any settlement

Sudan Tribune

December 18, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The SPLM-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) faction led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, has passed a resolution renewing its demand that president Salva Kiir steps down, despite previous indications by officials from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that the two principal leaders agreed to work together for the sake of sustaining peace.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir on 12 December 2013 (Photo: AP/Sayyid Azim)

As details of the final 9-page resolutions which Machar signed emerge, the SPLM-IO in the Pagak conference declared president Salva Kiir illegitimate for the “Juba genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during this current war” and therefore does not deserve to lead a transitional period.

The resolutions seen by Sudan Tribune also resolved that there shall be two separate armies with their respective commanders in chief during a 2 or 3 years of transitional period until elections are conducted.

It also reaffirmed the proposed leadership structure to comprise the president as head of state, with some executive powers, and the prime minister as head of government, taking majority of the executive powers, including the power to chair the council of minister.

Previously a power-sharing arrangement presented by the top rebel leader to the IGAD mediation in Addis Ababa before their conference in Pagak compromised that the president would chair the council of ministers.

However when reached on Thursday to clarify the circumstances surrounding what seemed to be a change of position in the rebel group, particularly on the renewed call for president Kiir to step aside, Machar’s spokesman said the decision had been intact all along and was only relaxed during the peace process.

“Initially we wanted Salva Kiir to immediately step down because of the Juba genocide in December last year. We demanded that he stepped down before the peace talks kicked off in January,” said the rebel leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak.

“We however made a compromise by relaxing this demand during the peace process. We have continued to negotiate with president Salva Kiir and his regime. Our leadership has been working with him as a counter-part in order to bring peace but not for him to lead the would-be transitional period,” he further explained.

Dak said there seemed to be a misunderstanding by some who thought that when the rebel group talked of sharing power with the president, it automatically meant president Kiir.

“When we talk of power-sharing between the president and the prime minister, we talk of a leadership structure, not personalities. We don’t automatically attach such positions to particular personalities,” he further explained.

He also reiterated the opposition group’s demand to head the government, saying this was to ensure that the “badly needed reforms, initiated and championed” by the SPLM-IO, would be implemented.

The rebel group demands that the executive powers and responsibilities be attached to the prime minister – a position the two parties agreed to establish during the interim period – just like in the parliamentary regime.

Dak further defended the necessity to have two separate armies, saying this would also ensure confidence building during the transitional period as well as deter each side from reneging on a peace agreement or resorting to “witch-hunting and violence.”

Juba however passed counter-resolutions on 24 November rejecting to share executive powers with the prime minister, a nominee of the rebels, and dismissed any attempt to institute two armies during a transitional period.

The two warring parties were set to resume the peace talks on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, but government delegation did not show up, prompting IGAD mediators to reschedule the talks for Thursday.


Turning Africa’s elephants and rhino into economic assets

The jury really is out on this approach to conservation.  It has a certain logic but the trade is so valuable and so criminalized that it is hard to see any government, whether in Africa or abroad, having the expertise, funding and manpower to police a legalised ivory or rhino horn trade and thereby provide income that could ensure ultimate survival but at the cost of regulated hunting. There are strong arguments against it and the real effects of temporary lifting of the ban on ivory sales in the past are still far from clear.  I also have the lingering suspicion that there are those in South Africa who want a legalised rhino trade who are constructing efforts to stop poaching or are actively involved in it. KS

Mail and Guardian

Turning Africa’s Big 5 into hard cash

19 Dec 2014

Lifting ivory and rhino horn trade bans could translate to an economic turnaround for Africa, where the black market for animal products is thriving.

While elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered illegally for their tusks and horns, some argue that legalising trade could be beneficial for both animal and the economy. (Reuters)

For many outsiders, Africa’s big animals are among the natural wonders of the world and a major tourist draw.

For many Africans, elephants, rhinos and lions – or at least the bloody trade in their body parts, and the proximity of big, dangerous critters to their crops, cattle and kin – are part of a wider “resource curse” that has long afflicted the continent.

Commodities such as oil and minerals – or elephant ivory – have historically been extracted in Africa in ways that have enriched a few but failed to spread the prosperity. At its worst, the curse has fueled colonialism, apartheid and conflict.

Framing wildlife issues in this context may help policy makers find solutions to a poaching crisis, which has seen rhinos and elephants slaughtered at a record rate.

Legalising trade in their horns and tusk could provide revenue for housing and other social needs among communities living near wildlife. Similar initiatives in sectors like platinum have been undertaken by black-owned companies such as Royal Bafokeng Platinum.

But trade in African ivory, for example, has long benefited the traders, who exploited or terrorised local communities.

Demand for ivory
European and American demand for ivory for billiard balls reached industrial scale in the 19th century, helping to fuel the great power scramble into Africa. Men such as Tippu Tip, a Zanzibari trader, made a fortune out of the trade, using slave labour to ferry his “blood ivory”.

King Leopold of Belgium treated the Congo like a fiefdom. His officials killed elephants with abandon and confiscated tusks from villagers – part of a genocidal campaign to plunder natural resources that killed millions of people.

Today, ivory from elephant tusks and horn from rhino still benefit a limited number, including global criminal syndicates, a point underscored by the arrest this month of 16 people in the Czech Republic for horn smuggling.

The United Nations has also linked the ivory trade to terror groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, while a report by conservationists last year found a strong link between poverty, infant mortality and elephant poaching.

Surge in slaughter
After the trade in ivory was banned at the end of the 1980s, poaching declined sharply. It has since been escalating dramatically, driven by consumer demand in China, where ivory is coveted for decorative items and jewellery.

Last year was the third consecutive year in which at least 20 000 elephants were poached in Africa, according to the UN-linked Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Poaching of rhinos for their horns, used in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China, has also soared, with South Africa at the epicentre.

According to government data, South Africa had lost 1 020 rhinos in 2014 by the middle of November, compared with 1 004 for all of last year and over triple the 333 rhinos poached in 2010.

Based on the average weight of rhino horns, that could represent 4 000kg to 5 000kg of the commodity, which conservationists say is fetching $65 000 a kilogram on the black market – making it more valuable than gold or platinum.

That works out to a total ranging from $260-million to $325-million – money that could be used for development in poor communities such as rural villages in Mozambique, from which many of the poachers killing South Africa’s rhinos hail.

Rhino horn can be harvested, because it grows back. South Africa is considering a proposal to CITES to lift the trade ban on the commodity, though Environment Minister Edna Molewa stressed last month that no final decision has been reached yet.

Depriving income
Elsewhere, the wholesale slaying of elephants in regions such as central Africa is depriving the rural poor of a potential source of future income in the form of eco-tourism.

Finding ways to generate cash from big animals also has wider conservation and social imperatives. Poor villagers have to contend with elephants raiding their crops and lions preying on their livestock or worse.

This is another part of the curse that has contributed to African poverty, according to academics such as Jared Diamond.

African animals are especially ornery: the Asian buffalo has been harnessed to the plough, while Africa’s version is untamable, putting put the region at an historical disadvantage.

The task facing policy makers and conservationists is to lift the curse by making big animals an economic boon instead of burden to Africa’s rural poor. – Reuters

Sudan – Darfur Déjà Vu

African ArgumentsBy Alex de Waal

Alex-de-Waal1There is an old joke that Sudanese politics is different every week but if you come back after ten years it is exactly the same.

That sums up my impressions of the Darfur peace talks in Addis Ababa two weeks ago, except that it is nine years ago, not ten, that I became engaged full time in working for the African Union on the last round of the Darfur mediation.

The participants are almost all the same, except greyer, thicker around the middle, and (in the case of the rebels) wearing smarter suits. It is the same Minni Minawi; the same Abdel Wahid al Nur (booked into a different hotel and refusing to turn up); Khalil Ibrahim has been replaced by his brother Jibreel; Majzoub al Khalifa has been replaced by his deputy Amin Hassan Omar.

The same issues, the same demands, the same procedural gimmickry, the same obstinacy, the same selective memory. (Didn’t they sign a Declaration of Principles that includes all the issues they are raising now, back in July 2005?)

The same claims by the government generals that they are on the brink of victory, and by party bosses that they are about to win round most of the rebel commanders, leaving the rebel leaders isolated; the same earnest claims by the rebels that they are talking to the Arabs who are about to rise in revolt, and the government is about to collapse when the next army offensive fails.

The same blithe insistence from U.S. diplomatic staff that Minni should be taken seriously and the rebels have learned a lot. (They have learned that the U.S. is gullible.)

The Darfur Peace Agreement failed eight and a half years ago because the government delegation had other priorities than settling the Darfur conflict on terms they thought were too expensive. (Today, the Khartoum government’s priority is not to lose the $2 billion promised by Qatar on the condition that there is no interference with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.)

It failed because the same rebel leaders represented a small fraction of Darfurians, and moreover were too weak to take their followers with them into a peace deal, and so the rebel movements fragmented.

Darfur’s conflict can be settled but not by these means.

Alex de Waal is Director of the World Peace Foundation.

Sudan warns South Sudan over rebels in Bahr el-Ghazal

Sudan Tribune
(Reuters) – Sudan’s intelligence chief warned South Sudan against “hostile moves from its territory”, saying any incursion by rebel forces based in its neighbour would be treated as an “assault” by Juba.

In comments broadcast by a Sudanese news channel, Mohamed Atta named two camps in neighbouring South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and urged Juba to disarm the rebels there.

Each side has accused the other of harbouring rebels seeking to destabilise the other, but tensions have spiked again since the collapse of African Union-brokered talks in the Ethiopian capital on Dec. 9.

Atta said the rebels were from the Justice and Equality Movement, an armed group that emerged during the war in Sudan’s western Darfur region. While fighting peaked there in 2003 and 2004, law and order has not returned and clashes between insurgents and government forces have continued despite a large United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force.

“We say to the South Sudan government that peace is better for you and better for us and ask them for reciprocity in not harbouring any armed movements.”

Relations between the two states have been troubled since the oil-rich south seceded in 2011. The governments have been unable through the African Union-backed negotiations process to reach an agreement on disputed sections of 1,800-km (1,200-mile) border. Fighting along the frontier came to the brink of full-scale war in 2012.

Zambia – Guy Scott sacked by PF and ministers demand his resignation


Zambia Reports

Photo: Zambia Reports

Acting President Guy Scott

The drama concerning the leadership of Zambia’s current ruling party and its selection of a presidential candidate took an unexpected turn on Tuesday night, as an emergency meeting by the party’s Central Committee voted to remove Acting President Guy Scott as the party’s Vice President.

The Central Committee voted on the resolution for Scott’s removal during an emergency meeting held at Lusaka’s Blue Nile Lodge.

Guy Scott, whose takeover of power following the death of President Michael Sata has been the subject of extensive controversy, had earlier today written a letter to Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda, which argued that the country’s highest court must not allow nomination papers to be filed for candidate Edgar Lungu until the court challenge by competitor Miles Sampa had been exhausted before the courts.

In his letter to the Acting Chief Justice Chibesakunda, who is several years beyond the legal retirement age but had held on to her position due to direct blood relations to the late President Sata, Guy Scott argued “please note that any attempt to bring forward the nomination of any candidate before the end of legal processes should not be entertained.”

In response, the Lungu camp also wrote a letter to the Acting Chief Justice, pointing out that under the constitution the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is a fully independent institution that cannot take instructions from the Supreme Court, and that Edgar Lungu was indeed the duly elected candidate.

“As Party President neither, the Central Committee nor myself were consulted by my Vice-President, Dr. Guy Scott before this letter could be written to yourself,” Lungu’s letter to Chibesakunda reads. “Therefore the letter written to yourself must be ignored in totality as it has no authority or blessing of the President, or the Central Committee and can best be described as an act of gross indiscipline.”

Following the emergency Central Committee meeting following these events, Lungu signed another letter, this time directly to Guy Scott, notifying him of the resolution regarding his immediate removal as the party’s Vice President, describing his action as “gross indiscipline” that has “threatened the Peace, Law and Order in the Party and the Nation.”

“You are aware that I was elected PF President by the General Conference held on 30th November 2014 at the Mulumgushi Rock of Authority in Kabwe,” Lungu states in his letter to Scott. “This Consent Judgment remains valid and binding on all members of the Patriotic Front and has not been discharged or set aside by any court of law. You are also aware that the High Court upheld this decision through a Consent Judgment issued on 3rd December 2014.”

Lungu’s letter to Scott concludes: “In pursuance of Article 19 (c) and 61(j) of the Party Constitution you are hereby informed that you have been removed from the position of the position of Vice-President with immediate effect and will henceforth remain an ordinary member of the party.”

14 Cabinet Ministers Demand Scott’s Resignation as Acting President

MinistersMore than half of the members of Cabinet known as ministers – the top most body charged with the responsibility of government operations – have asked Acting President Guy Scott to quit his position because his continue stay at the helm of the country was threatening the peace and stability of Zambia.

The ministers held a press briefing a short while ago at which they demanded that Scott resigns for engaging in activities that had the potential to throw Zambia in turmoil.

Among the ministers were Alexander Chikwanda (finance) Ngosa Symbakula (home affairs), Harry Kalaba (foreign affairs), Fackson Shamenda (labour), Christopher Yaluma, Yamfwa Mukanga, Chishimba Kambwili, Jean Kapata, Nkandu Luo, Inonge Wina, Joseph Kasonde, John Phiri and Katema, Emerrine Kabanashi.

The 14 Cabinet ministers have since called for an urgent Cabinet Meeting to discuss the replacement of Guy Scott.

Spokesperson for the group Harry Kalaba states that Scott’s action have consistently endangered the peace, security and stability of the country.

Yesterday, drama ensued as Scott attempted to block the candidature of Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu by writing a letter to acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda.

Nigeria – Uganda starts sending former M23 rebels back but some flee


KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda began sending home over a thousand fighters of a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel group on Tuesday after Kinshasa pressured it to return the refugees so they do not regroup to fight again.

Some 1,430 DRC fighters are believed to have fled into Uganda after Congolese and U.N. forces quashed their rebellion in eastern Congo in 2013. Most live in military-run camps awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

Kinshasa has been pressing Uganda and Rwanda to repatriate the fighters, fearing they could mobilise and start another rebellion in the country’s troubled east.

Congo has come under international pressure to speed up implementing the peace deal, which grants amnesties for former rebels who promise not to take part in any future insurrections. It does not apply to those wanted for war crimes.

“The first batch of 120 fighters from those willing to go back home will be flying out today,” said Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan military.

Ankunda said several fighters had refused to return home and escaped from a military encampment in western Uganda to a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in the same region.

“We can’t force anyone to go back home, so for those who have escaped, they’re now the responsibility of the U.N.,” he said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Lucy Beck said her agency knew some ex-M23 fighters were headed for the U.N. camp but they would be handed over to a government representative as they are ineligible for refugee status.

“These people will not be considered for refugee status as they are ex-combatants and have been involved in fighting,” she said.

A Congolese delegation arrived in Uganda early this month to discus the rebels’ possible repatriation.

U.N. experts have accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting M23 with troops, arms and intelligence during the 2012-13 conflict, but both countries denied any involvement.

In its most recent report released in June, the experts warned that M23 members were escaping from camps in Rwanda and there was evidence the movement was regrouping in Uganda.


Congo M23 rebels ‘on the run in Uganda ahead of handover’

Members of the former Congolese M23 rebels sit at a compound in Uganda's Bihanga Training School, about 380km south-west of the capital Kampala, on 7 February 2014 Hundreds of former M23 fighters fled to camps in Uganda and Rwanda after their defeat in November 2013

More than 1,500 Congolese ex-rebels have gone on the run in Uganda ahead of their handover to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the group’s leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, has told the BBC.

The M23 president said they had left a camp where they were being held because they feared returning home.

They had fled to Uganda a year ago after being defeated by the Congolese army and UN forces.

However, Uganda’s army spokesman has denied that most of them are missing.

‘Neighbouring hills’

The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in Uganda says a Congolese government delegation was in the capital, Kampala, earlier this month to negotiate the former fighters’ return to DR Congo, where the authorities have said they will be demobilised and reintegrated into society.

They are not believed to be armed, she says.

Mr Bisimwa said the estimated 1,600 ex-fighters who had been staying at the military training school in western Uganda since November 2013 were due to be handed back to the authorities in DR Congo on Tuesday.

But when Ugandan army trucks arrived to pick them up in the morning they ran away into the neighbouring hills, leaving only a handful who were sick, he said.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC that he did not know how many of the former fighters had escaped, but a number of them were on their way to Kampala to be transferred.

Some 800,000 people fled their homes in eastern DR Congo during the 20-month M23 insurgency.

At the time the UN accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels – charges both countries denied.

An accord to end the rebellion stipulated that former fighters, who had gathered at camps in Rwanda and Uganda, would be granted an amnesty on their return to DR Congo.

It also said the leaders of the group should be returned to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Sudan – UN says tens of thousands dead in a year of civil war

Al Jazeera

Security Council says feuding leaders “personal ambitions” fomented crisis, as nation marks one year since start of war.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2014

Fighting has displaced more than 1.9 million people [Reuters]
Tens of thousands of people have died in South Sudan during one year of war and the country’s leaders are putting their “personal ambitions” ahead of the young nation’s future, the UN secretary-general has said.

Ban Ki-moon called on the country’s leaders to agree to an inclusive power-sharing arrangement that would address the root causes of the conflict and ensure accountability for any crimes committed on the battlefield.

There is no official death toll for the conflict, but Ban said “tens of thousands” of South Sudanese have died.

The UN Security Council blamed South Sudan’s “man-made political, security and humanitarian catastrophe” on its feuding leaders on Monday, as the world body threatened targeted sanctions against those impeding the peace process.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that civilians faced a “dreadful” situation and were victims of targeted killings and looting.

“The people of South Sudan are living in a tinderbox, with emotions high, an abundant flow of weapons and with both sides recruiting fighters, often forcefully and including children,” Hussein said.

South Sudan: Peace talks or petty squabbles?

War broke out in the world’s newest nation a year ago on Monday, when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of trying to organise a coup.

More than 1.9 million people were displaced by the fighting, the UN says, with sectarian battles pitting militias loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against those who support Machar, an ethnic Nuer.

The two sides have signed several peace deals brokered by neighboring governments, but none has succeeded in stopping the fighting in the oil-rich country.

In recent days, government troops and armed youths have been battling in Upper Nile state, a sign that widespread violence could return now that the six-month rainy season has ended.

Rights groups say the country is locked in conflict, with the bloodshed that erupted in Juba a year ago having set off a cycle of retaliatory massacres across large swathes of the country.