Category Archives: Central Africa

Chadian forces drive Boko Haram from Nigerian town

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: Chad ‘captures Nigerian town from militants’

Soldiers of the Chadian army at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon - January 2015Earlier this month, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria

Chad’s army has driven Boko Haram militants out of Malumfatori town in north-eastern Nigeria, a senior official from Niger has told the BBC.

The reported capture of the town, which lies near the borders of Chad and Niger, follows two days of fighting.

Both ground and air forces are reported to have been used in the assault.

Niger officials said Chadian ground forces moved into the town after crossing Lake Chad. It is not known if the operation was approved by Nigeria.

Refugee who fled from Boko HaramHundreds of thousands have been displaced because of the Boko Haram insurgency

Boko Haram insurgents have carried out a number of cross-border attacks on Nigeria’s neighbours in recent months, attacking villages and military bases.

The Islamist group has seized dozens of people and taken them back to north-east Nigeria, where it controls a swathe of territory.

Action plan

The Nigerian authorities say they are doing all they can to tackle the militants but neighbours, including Niger and Cameroon, have said more must be done.

Chad has already sent troops to Cameroon to help it counter Boko Haram incursions and last week Nigeria said the Chadian army would be fighting on its territory.

However, it was not immediately clear if the authorities in Abuja had prior knowledge of, or any role in, the operation in Malumfatori.

People who fled the area told the BBC they had seen military planes bombing the town, which is on the shores of Lake Chad.

Armoured vehicle of Boko Haram captured by Nigerian troopsThe Nigerian army has recently captured military vehicles used by Boko Haram

Some of those who left the town during the fighting are reported to have crossed into Niger.

Meanwhile, reports from the area say fighting has now spread to a nearby town, Abadam.

Nigerian officials have made little public comment. They said they were investigating the reports of fighting in the north-east.

Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka told the BBC that Nigeria “has to redefine its fault lines in fighting” Boko Haram.

He said tackling the group required not just military action but also “improving the capacity of the Nigerian state” in areas such as the judiciary, prison system and law enforcement agencies.

“A lot will be done about Boko Haram beyond fighting them in the north-east part of the country,” he said.

African Union heads of state are due to discuss the crisis over Boko Haram at their summit beginning on Friday.

Ghanaian President John Mahama has said the leaders must produce a “specific plan of action” to “deal permanently” with Boko Haram.

Thousands have died and many more have been displaced because of the group’s six-year insurgency.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style 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 – has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Has abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Has launched attacks on Cameroon

ISS says African Union should act early on presidents’ third term bids

ISS

The AU should take early action on third term bids
29 January 2015

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The African Union (AU) has a critical role to play in ensuring democratic governance in Africa. It should therefore speak out strongly against attempts by African leaders to manipulate constitutions to extend their mandates, said the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

At a seminar yesterday on the margins of the 24th bi-annual AU summit, held in Addis Ababa, ISS researchers said the AU Constitutive Act and other documents, like the 2007 Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance provide a framework for ensuring democratic changes of government on the continent. Civil society organisations and groups opposing constitutional changes to prolong the rule of the incumbents – like those in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – should be able to draw on the support of the AU, said the ISS.

The popular overthrow of Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaoré has set a precedent and indicates the strong opposition in many parts of the continent against African leaders who stay in power for extended periods.

Stephanie Wolters, head of the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis division of the ISS, said efforts by leaders to prolong their mandates is already causing political instability in countries like the DRC, Burundi and the Republic of Congo.

‘In all three of these countries, the constitutions were the result of negotiations following conflict and therefore the efforts to change them are a very emotional issue. People see them as a step backwards.’

The decision by the senate of the DRC to block the government’s proposed controversial new law, which would potentially postpone presidential elections for several years, was ‘unprecedented’ and seen as a victory for the opposition, she said.

Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, head of the ISS office in Dakar, said interventions by the AU and regional economic communities like the Economic Community of West African Sates (ECOWAS) to sanction unconstitutional changes of government should be better coordinated. ‘For sanctions to work, they must be seen as a real threat,’ she said.

It is critical for the AU to pre-empt possible instability linked to elections and the issue of presidential mandates, said the ISS. The AU has sent special envoys to Togo and Burundi recently to try and mitigate the risk of violence in those countries. In Togo the constitution does not impose term limits, but there is strong opposition against President Faure Gnassingbé’s bid for a third term. In Burundi supporters of a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza are arguing that he should constitutionally be able to run for elections later this year.

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South Sudan – Kiir rushed to hospital with stress-related illness

Sudan Tribune

January 28, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir was rushed to hospital in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday after he fell ill during a meeting.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (AFP)

Kiir arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to attend the 24th ordinary session of the assembly of head of states and government of the African Union (AU).

He was also expected to attend the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) leaders summit due to kick off on Thursday to discuss the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.

Kiir’s sudden illness interrupted a meeting between the president and rebel leader Riek Machar, which was being hosted by Ethiopian prime minister and IGAD chairperson Hailemariam Desalegn ahead of the leaders summit, which was due to be held on the side lines of the AU assembly.

The direct talks were aimed at securing an agreement between the rival leaders on a series of contentious issues, particularly on the structure of the agreed interim government.

The meeting was also being held to brief African leaders on the progress of the IGAD-led mediation process and to reports on the outcome of consultation meetings between the government and rebel faction held in Juba and Pagak during the recess.

An IGAD source later told Sudan Tribune that president Kiir had suffered a nosebleed brought on by “stress”.

As a result, IGAD was forced to cancel the meeting between the two rival leaders.

IGAD has also been forced to delay the regional leaders meeting.

IGAD officials told Sudan Tribune that if Kiir’s condition does not improve by Thursday, the leaders summit may have to be postponed indefinitely.

According to medical doctor Yonas Yohannes, one of the main causes of non-trauma induced nosebleeds is an increase in blood pressure caused by either stress, excessive consumption of alcohol, dry climate or heavy smoking.

However, he cautioned that the causes of Kiir’s illness could not be properly determined without a thorough medical examination.

(ST)

South Sudan – Yay Yau and Murle self-determination

African Arguments

David Yau Yau and South Sudan’s Internal Wager with Self-Determination – Mayank Bubna

IDPS in jonglei state

Amidst protracted conflict with Nuer rebels and a peace-negotiation impasse in Addis Ababa, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is also one year in to a brave political experiment granting semi-autonomous governance to a former rebel commander in southern Jonglei – a place that is largely home to the Murle people and smaller communities like the Jei, Anyuak and Kachipo.

On 30 January 2014, the GOSS formally codified a peace agreement between itself and David Yau Yau’s Cobra faction under the broader South Sudan Defense Movement/Army (SSDM/A). On 9 May, a presidential decree led to the creation of the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), and Yau Yau was made administrator-in-chief in the region. According to the pronouncement, the GPAA would have independent government structures, be recognized at par with other states within South Sudan, and citizens of the GPAA could be appointed to national positions directly by the President. By most accounts, such a deal is unparalleled and Yau Yau appears to have drawn a good hand.

South Sudan, itself a product of a secession, is not unaccustomed to homegrown feats of dissent. Beset by political fissures and problems of elite conflict in the post-CPA era, the GOSS has attempted to bring rebel groups into the frame of ‘normal’ politics either by forcing their hand or offering incentives like blanket amnesties and military promotions.

Reaction to this process gave rise to the outbreak of a series of small wars between the SPLA and various non-state armed groups in 2010 and 2011. By mid-2013 however, almost all these groups’ leaders had accepted face-saving integration into the SPLA, been killed in action, moved north of the border or simply become inconsequential.[1] David Yau Yau’s Cobra Faction remained the last bastion of resistance, and its latest peace deal with the government – involving self-governance and partial territorial sovereignty – remains unprecedented in character and scope.

The ‘Murle secession’, although it is not always termed as such, is problematic from a state’s perspective because it implies the existence of a challenge to the dominion of South Sudan. So why and how did Yau Yau succeed in obtaining the sort of concessions that others failed to acquire?

A definitive answer is hard to come by, although several conjectures may be made: First, geographic concentration of the Murle is likely to have influenced and reinforced their separatist stance vis-à-vis the rest of South Sudan. Furthermore, the moment may have been opportune – given southern Jonglei’s strategic geographic location as a buffer between the Nuer-controlled Greater Upper Nile and the Equatorias, alienating the Murle on the advent of the newest civil war may have been perceived by the GOSS as a bad idea.

Last but not least, it is also likely that Yau Yau may have made a highly cognizant and judicious gamble in pursuing a “just about right” self-determination claim and carefully balancing external perceptions – neither appearing too soft (thus avoiding the fear of not being taken seriously) nor pursuing too radical an agenda (and by extension, being regarded a serious threat).

As Yau Yau engages with communities within the GPAA and transforms his militant group into an acceptable political entity, he has focused, sometimes by choice and often out of compulsion, on social welfare, economic development and building sustainable security arrangements. Schools have been renovated, agricultural activities restarted and health facilities re-introduced for the first time in a long time.

In September 2014, Yau Yau appointed seven commissioners, followed by additional ministerial appointments in December to kick-start local governance institution building.[2] A selection process for the GPAA council is underway and Pibor town has emerged as the de facto center. As of November 2014, local authorities have also started implementing fiscal policies to compensate for budgetary shortfall, and Yau Yau’s group have begun levying taxes on traded commodities and goods being moved in or out of the area.

Yet, the process of building a state within a state does not come without its own set of challenges. Amidst its institutional enterprises and promises of democratic representation, Yau Yau’s state system has had the whiff of hegemonic centralization. For example, in September 2014, Pochalla North youth communities protested the appointment of their county commissioner, a man known to be a close associate of Yau Yau, in favor of another nominee who was believed to have been deprived the post despite securing a higher vote count.

In October, Yau Yau’s choices for county commissioner for Fertait, Likuangole and North Pochalla were also rejected by local communities. Additionally, the Jie, an ethnic minority within the GPAA, have accused Yau Yau of taking a hard stance against them and failing to incorporate their demands for a separate county.[3] Some among the Jie community also felt the need to form their own separate armed group to protect the community’s interests. The GPAA project faces substantial discredit from within its constituency, and demarcation of the GPAA’s internal and external borders remains contested.[4] Internally displaced people returning to the area in the last few months have found their homes occupied by some of Yau Yau’s men.

Considerable confusion persists about the exact political and security arrangement between the GOSS and the GPAA. Some officials continue to see the GPAA as part of the Jonglei region, a position that Yau Yau and his deputies vehemently oppose. Some have suggested that members of parliament and ministers from Pibor serving in the central government ought to plausibly be removed from office and reinstated within the GPAA. Relations between the government and Yau Yau have further been strained over the SPLA’s presence in the area, procedural aspects of integration of the Cobra Faction into South Sudan’s armed forces, and his tumultuous relationship with Nuer rebel forces.

GOSS rejected an earlier proposal to integrate Yau Yau’s men as two divisions in the SPLA (at one point they claimed to be more than 27,000 strong), and although some of Yau Yau’s forces collocate with the SPLA in Pibor, a date for formal integration has yet to be set. Delays in the security sector reform process have left members of the Cobra faction in a state of limbo, some of whom are rumored to be facing food shortages.

Internal and external security for the GPAA remains weak. Earlier in 2014, a split within the Cobra faction occurred between elements aligned with the SPLA, those who chose to remain independent, and others who teamed up with estranged deputies. Tensions with the SPLA also escalated after Brigadier General Joshua Konyi, disfavored by Yau Yau, was temporarily appointed as the SPLA commander in the GPAA in December 2014 (his appointment was allegedly canceled after Yau Yau lodged a protest) and James Kuburin, a former member and later enemy of Yau Yau’s top military brass, was relocated in the GPAA with the SPLA. Furthermore, in October and November 2014, in Pibor town and Fertait County, fighting between the Lango and Kurenen and Nyakurumo – various age sets of the Murle – led to several casualties.

Continued clashes in December between the Lango age set – who have historically supported Yau Yau, but may have felt disenfranchised of late – and members of the Cobra faction threatened to undermine Yau Yau’s position as chief administrator in the GPAA. Yau Yau reportedly traveled around the GPAA in the last several months mobilizing youth from minority communities like the Anyuak to join the SPLA. Simultaneously however, he has created rivals among the Dinka Bor by resisting the idea of teaming up with the SPLA to clash directly with Nuer rebel groups from further north.

Yau Yau’s efforts to carve out his personal dominion may be well-intentioned and his control over the GPAA thus-far complete, however, in many ways he has been thrust into a situation that mirrors the problems that South Sudan has always faced. In trying to design a functioning framework for the realization of Murle minority rights in the midst of protracted warfare, the GPAA has become a microcosm of all that could possibly go right and wrong with governance at large in South Sudan.

Mayank Bubna is a researcher who has worked in various capacities in South Sudan since 2010. His travels in the region have taken him to Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, Abyei and Khartoum. Some of his past work can be sourced online.

Central African Republic – UN says world must wake up to the crisis

UN News Service

The top United Nations humanitarian official in the Central African Republic (CAR) is calling for increased protection of displaced communities in the northern town of Batangafo, where relief agencies are working hard to ease suffering as the country’s ongoing conflict drives a steady stream of terrified people into the area seeking safety.

Senior Humanitarian Coordinator Claire Bourgeois visited Batangafo over the weekend to assess the increasing protection needs in the area caused by a continuous influx of newly displaced persons (IDP). There are now more than 30,000 IDPs in the main site of the city, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

After visiting the overcrowded displacement site in Batangafo – which daily receives hundreds of people driven from their homes by violence – Mrs. Bourgeois, in a press release today, stressed the urgent need to restore State authority in the town.

While impressed by the way the humanitarian response is organized by the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain, and by the active role played by the Committee of Wise Men and the Transhumance Committee, she nevertheless emphasized that immediate action is needed to ensure the safety and protection of civilians who are at severe risk of attacks in the region, especially in the western area.

“This will stop the daily influx of hundreds of displaced people arriving at the site searching for safety; it will facilitate the return to their places of origins; and, at the same time, will enable humanitarian actors to reach people in need in areas where activities are now interrupted due to safety concerns,” Mrs. Bourgeois said.

Mrs. Bourgeois was accompanied on her visit by representatives of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN refugee agency (UNHCR), World Health Organization (WHO), and other humanitarian partners.

The delegation met with the Committee of Wise Men, representatives of the Pheul community, non-governmental organizations and IDPs themselves in Batangafo, to discuss their basic needs and the challenges impeding their return to their places of origin.

OCHA notes that the most urgent needs identified were: improvement of the security and protection of civilians, and assistance to newly arrived displaced people. The mission participants called on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and humanitarian workers in CAR.

“The world needs to wake up to the enormity of the crisis in CAR. This is one of the most serious humanitarian emergencies in the world. We urgently need more action and more commitment. Action to protect civilians must be the top priority for all actors,” Mrs. Bourgeois added.

Her strong call comes following the launch last Friday by UNHCR of its latest funding appeal to help more than 450,000 Central African Republic refugees struggling to survive across the region. The $331 million appeal presented seeks to provide safety, food, clean water, shelter, health and other basic services to people, which the agency expects will be seeking refuge in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Republic of the Congo by the end of the year.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian CAR faces a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. Nearly a million people have been displaced and 2.7 million people, over half of the population, are in dire need of immediate assistance.

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South Sudan – militia starts releasing chold soldiers

BBC

A South Sudanese militia has freed 280 child soldiers as part of a wider deal to release about 3,000 underage fighters, the UN’s children agency Unicef has said.

More releases will occur in the coming weeks, said the agency, which helped negotiate the children’s freedom.

The soldiers were recruited into an armed group which has now made peace with the government.

Other rebel militias have been locked in a civil war since 2013.

Fighting began after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy of trying to foment a coup, triggering a descent into nationwide violence and forcing about 1.5 million people from their homes.

According to Unicef, around 12,000 children have been forcibly recruited by armed groups in South Sudan over the past year.

Child soldier case study: Silva, 11 years old:

I have been fighting for more than two years. I haven’t seen my mother and father since last summer.

I’ve seen many people killed when I was on missions.

I had an AK-47. It was heavy. I was fighting to protect my family and village.

Now I want to go to school and learn. I don’t want to fight anymore, I was scared.

Swapping guns for books

The 3,000 young fighters due to be released were members of a militia called the South Sudan Democratic Army Cobra Faction.

The group, which had been fighting to win greater rights for the Murle ethnic group, did not join the wider rebellion that erupted in December 2013.

Led by David Yau Yau, it was often involved in cattle raids and deadly revenge attacks and had been fighting for almost four years in Pibor county in Jonglei state.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” said Unicef’s South Sudan representative, Jonathan Veitch.

Unicef said it was trying to reunite the demobilised child soldiers with their families.

African economies – Lagarde warns of effects of China’s economic slowdown

Reuters

IMF’s Lagarde warns African economies of headwinds from China, U.S

 

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaks at the Ending the Experiment event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015.  REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaks at the Ending the Experiment event in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 22, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Ruben Sprich

KIGALI (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde has warned that African economies could be hurt by a slowdown in China‘s economy and an imminent hike in United States interest rates.

Lagarde, speaking on Tuesday on a visit to Rwanda, said IMF’s global economic forecasts have been revised down over the past few months despite a huge fall in oil prices.

Lagarde called for “vigilance” across Africa and added this slower growth has implications for a continent that is now more integrated into the global economy than ever before.

“Momentum is slowing in many advanced and emerging economies, including China — one of Africa’s main trading partners,” Lagarde told Rwandan lawmakers in the capital Kigali.

Lagarde said the overall outlook for sub-Saharan Africa was promising at close to 5 percent, but growth forecasts for the region have been trimmed due to lower oil and commodity prices.

African countries such as Nigeria and South Sudan depend on oil for the majority of their revenues.

Lagarde said some African oil exporters will struggle in case oil prices remain low and warned of instability once the United States starts imminent “monetary policy normalization”, a move that is expected to see the U.S. raise interest rates.

“Even if this process is well-managed and well-communicated – and I believe that it has been and will be – there could be negative effects for emerging markets and global financial stability. African economies could also be impacted,” she said.

Hurt by cooling investment, manufacturing and a sagging housing market, China’s economy grew 7.4 percent last year, a level not seen since 1990 when the country was hit by sanctions after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

A Reuters poll in January showed China’s economic growth was expected to slip to 7 percent this year before dipping to 6.8 percent next year.