Category Archives: Central Africa

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 One of Uganda’s three battalions was also withdrawn to prop up South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, in his dispute with his rival, Riek Machar (pdf).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

Sufi leader tries to unify Sudanese opposition leaders

Sudan Tribune

October 22, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the Sudanese Araki-Qadiri sufi sect, Abdalla Ahmed al-Rayah, has launched a new initiative aimed at unifying opposition forces.

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NCF chairman Farouk Abu Issa (L) pictured with NUP leader Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi (C) and PCP leader Hassan Al-Turabi (Photo: Reuters)

He invited opposition leaders to meet on Monday in his headquarters in Tayba area west of the Gazira state capital of Wad Medani.

Born in 1946, al-Rayah is considered the spiritual leader of the National Unionist Party (NUnP) founded by Sudan’s former president, Ismail al-Azhari. He is known for his solid opposition stances against military regimes.

The chairman of the NUnP, Youssef Mohamed Zain, told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that the invitation has been extended to all opposition leaders, saying some of them apologies for not being able to attend the meeting due to a prior commitments but vowed to send delegates to represent them in the meeting.

In October 2009, opposition leaders including the National Umma Party (NUP) leader, al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, Popular Congress Party (PCP) leader, Hassan al-Turabi, besides leading figures from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement attended a similar meeting in Tayba under the auspices of al-Rayah.

Zain said the invitation was extended to all opposition forces including the PCP, NUP, Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), all Arab Ba’athist and Naserite parties, various unionists’ factions besides the civil society groups.

He said the meetings aims to unify opposition forces following the recent divisions, noting the meeting will issue a call for unifying opposition forces according to a common minimum program.

Zain acknowledged failure of the opposition forces to deal with their differences, saying it was improper that opposition leaders criticise each other in the media.

He underscored the call which will be issued at the end of the meeting will focus on the need for mutual respect and joint work to achieve a state that is founded on citizenship and developing a strategy to remove the totalitarian rule.

On Saturday, al-Mahdi and the leader of the opposition umbrella National Consensus Forces (NCF), Farouk Abu Issa, met in the Egyptian capital, Cairo to discuss ways for unifying opposition forces.

They stressed in a joint statement on the need to expedite the unification process of opposition forces for “the liquidation of one-party regime, the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace and full democratic transformation” in Sudan.

The rare meeting was a serious move to contain differences between the NUP and the NCF following suspension of the former’s membership in the opposition alliance and recent accusations made by Abu Issa that the NUP seeks to establish a new opposition alliance.

Observers say the political opposition forces are damned to work together and to reunite their ranks despite repression and lack of means if they want to achieve true change in Sudan.

The rule of the successive military regime and the lack of democracy in the country largely contributed to these divisions and rifts as they are isolated from their supporters and deprived of money.

Zain further lashed at the government policies and the slow pace of the national dialogue, pointing to recent fierce arrest campaign carried out by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) against opposition leaders.

The NUnP chairman also pointed the government and the NCP are preoccupied with selection of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir as candidate for the 2015 election and ignoring the deep economic crisis.

(ST)

Chinese peacekeeping trops due in South Sudan in 2015

Reuters

(Reuters) – Some 700 Chinese peacekeepers are expected to join a United Nations mission in South Sudan at the start of next year, the head of the U.N. operation said on Wednesday, though she appealed for Beijing to deploy the battalion “sooner rather than later.”

China announced last month that it would send the troops to help protect civilians amid renewed violence. U.N. officials say this would be the first time China has contributed an infantry battalion to a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Last year China sent a smaller “protection unit” to join the U.N. mission in Mali.

Ellen Margrethe Loj, U.N. special envoy to South Sudan and head of the world body’s peacekeeping mission, said there were currently 10,488 troops on the ground. The operation has a mandated strength of 12,500 peacekeepers.

“The Chinese battalion is not there yet, but we have a Chinese engineering company and we have a Chinese level 2 hospital,” she told a small group of reporters at the United Nations in New York.

“The latest I heard is that it would not be until the beginning of the year but we are trying to appeal to all the troop contributing countries, including China, but also Ethiopia and Rwanda and others, to deliver the troops and the equipment they have promised sooner rather than later,” she said.

Fighting erupted in December in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, after months of political tension between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy and political rival, Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened deep tensions among ethnic groups, pitting Kiir’s Dinka against Machar’s Nuer.

Loj, who took up her role six weeks ago, briefed the United Nations Security Council earlier on Wednesday and said she was “shocked by the complete disregard for human life.”

The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, caused over 1 million to flee and driven the country of 11 million closer to famine. By year-end, a third of the people could face the threat of starvation, the United Nations said.

Peace talks brokered by African regional bloc IGAD have yet to reach a deal. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has warned Kiir and Machar that if a peace deal cannot be reached during current talks then long-threatened sanctions were likely to be imposed by the U.N. Security Council.

South Sudan – SPLM rebels say they won’t re-unify while Kiir runs the party

Sudan Tribune

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 19, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s rebel faction, the SPLM in Opposition, led by former vice-president Riek Machar, said on Sunday it would not reunify with the ruling SPLM party unless president Salva Kiir steps down.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (AFP)

Delegations from the rival SPLM factions met in Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha where they held discussion from 12 to 18 October on holding intra-party dialogue aimed at reconciling the two groups.

However, rebel officials in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, ruled out possible reunification unless Kiir agrees to hand over the leadership of the party to Machar.

The officials said they remained pessimistic about the Tanzanian talks, saying they doubted the process would deliver any positive outcomes even if discussions centred on the same agenda.

They went on to say that the rebel delegation had agreed to take part in intra-party dialogue only to tell their side of story.

Their comments appear to contradict those of CCM secretary-general Abdulrahman Kinana, who said that the initial phase of dialogue was held in a frank, honest and cordial manner and that progress has been made on the establishment of a framework for the intra-SPLM dialogue, including shared principles, objectives and an agenda for ongoing talks.

The dialogue is being facilitated by Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, (CCM), which means revolutionary party in Swahili, the official language of Tanzania.

Following the conclusion of the initial phase of dialogue, Tanzanian president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete invited both Kiir and Machar to the official launching of the process, due to take place on Monday in Arusha.

According to a source at the talks, both rival parties had recognised the need for reconciliation and the reunification of the SPLM as the vehicle that will implement a comprehensive program of political reforms.

In an encouraging sign, he said participants at the talks had shown a willingness to be identified as one entity, rather then separate groups.

The ruling party in South Sudan split in mid-December last year following an internal political dispute, plunging the young nation into a deadly cycle of conflict that has increasingly divided communities along tribal lines.

The outcome of the latest talks remains unclear, with similar attempts by other ruling parties in South Africa and Ethiopia failing to bridge the gap between the warring SPLM factions.

Ongoing peace talks, which are being facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have also failed to yield a lasting political settlement to the crisis.

(ST)

DR Congo – gunmen free hundreds of prisoners in North Kivu

Reuters

(Reuters) – Heavily armed gunmen freed some 300 inmates from a prison in eastern Congo on Saturday, the provincial minister of justice said, amid fears over deteriorating security in the mineral-rich region.

Christophe Ndibeche said the attackers easily overpowered the security guards, freeing all the prisoners from the central prison of Butembo, a town in North Kivu province.

By Sunday evening, authorities had recaptured about 30 of the fugitives, he added.

“These are enemies of peace who committed this attack to liberate the bandits in the prison. We are going to do everything to find them,” Ndibeche said.

The assault comes at a time of growing alarm in North Kivu, a mineral-rich province bordering Rwanda and Uganda that has long been plagued by dozens of armed militias.

Last week, suspected rebels from the Ugandan ADF-NALU group carried out two overnight raids near the town of Beni, 50 km (30 miles) north of Butembo, killing more than 50 people.

Ndibeche said that highway bandits were the most likely culprits in the prison break given that group’s strong representation among the prison population.

Reuters

Sierra Leone – Koroma shakes up ebola system

BBC
Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has announced a major shake-up of the body in charge of fighting the Ebola outbreak in the country.

He said his defence minister would head a new national response centre and report directly to him. The previous team was headed by the health minister.

Mr Koroma said people were dying and quick decisions had to be taken.

The latest Ebola outbreak has killed about 1,200 people in Sierra Leone, and more than 4,500 across West Africa.

In the worst-affected countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – 9,191 people have been found to have the virus, which kills 70% of those infected, according to the latest WHO figures.

Mr Koroma’s office said Sierra Leone’s new National Ebola Response Centre was replacing the previous body – the National Operations Centre – “with immediate effect”.

The statement said the new centre would be headed by Defence Minister Paolo Conteh, and would have full powers to combat the disease and ensure a more effective use of aid.

The World Health Organization is ramping up efforts to stop Ebola from spreading elsewhere in Africa
The latest crisis in West Africa is the worst-ever Ebola outbreak.

The virus was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.

It spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

International donors have given almost $400m (£250m) to UN agencies and aid organisations, following an appeal launched in September for $988m.


“I’ve lost five members of my family”

On Friday, a damning internal report emerged from the UN’s health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO).

It found that the organisation had failed to respond in time to a “perfect storm”.

The report seen by AP states: “Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall. A perfect storm was brewing, ready to burst open in full force.”

It says that experts should have realised that traditional methods of containing infectious disease would not work in a region with porous borders and poor health systems.

Issues highlighted by unnamed WHO sources who spoke to Bloomberg news agency include

Delays in WHO experts in the field sending reports to headquarters in Geneva
Bureaucratic hurdles preventing $500,000 (£311,000) reaching the response effort in Guinea
Virus contact tracers (tasked with identifying people who may have come into contact with sufferers) refusing to work out of concern they would not get paid
The WHO said the document seen by AP was incomplete and had not been checked. A full analysis of its actions would only be completed once the outbreak was under control, it added.

The UN’s special envoy for Ebola, David Nabarro, told the BBC that plans were on course to provide 4,000 beds for Ebola patients by next month, compared with 300 at the end of August.

“We are putting in place the foundations of a very powerful response,” he said, in response to criticism of the UN’s work.

How not to catch Ebola:

Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
Wear goggles to protect eyes
Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29673633

South Sudan – Machar in Kenya for talks with Kenyatta

Sudan Tribune

October 17, 2014 (NAIROBI) – Former South Sudan’s vice-president, Riek Machar, who leads the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) is in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to meet president Uhuru Kenyatta.

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South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar gives a press conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 12 May 2014 (Photo: AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)

The rebel leader’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Machar accompanied by a number of senior members of his opposition faction arrived on Friday.

“Yes, our chairman, Dr. Riek Machar, arrived in the Kenyan capital today, Friday,” Dak said on Friday.

He said the visit comes following an invitation by the Kenyan leadership for consultations with Machar on the peace process mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

This will be the second visit in four months following Machar’s meeting with president Uhuru Kenyatta in June.

Dak said the visit may take a number of days.

(ST)