Category Archives: East Africa

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)

Kenya – ICC witness Yebei allegedly seen near Eldoret

Star (Nairobi)

Thursday, January 29, 2015 – 00:00 — BY EUGENE OKUMU KILLED: ICC witness Meshack Yebei.The search for the missing ICC witness Meshack Yebei took a new twist when eyewitnesses said they have on several occasions spotted a man resembling Yebei on the outskirts of Eldoret town even after reports of his disappearance. Boda boda riders in Kiplombe led Yebei’s family led by his brother Reverend Moses Kisoria to a semi-permanent house where he was said to have been seen as recently as Saturday last week. “I saw him last Saturday. I have carried him on my motorcycle twice since you people reported that he had disappeared,” one of the riders said. Neighbours however contradicted the allegations of the riders saying no one has been to the house since the family left for Christmas.

Yebei was allegedly abducted on December 27, 2014 from Turbo market North of Eldoret where he had gone to have his sick child treated. A body initially believed to be that of Yebei’s was retrieved by police at River Yala bridge on January 5 this year bearing marks of barbaric torture – his ears were chopped off and his head had deep cut wounds. A DNA test however established that the retrieved body was that of Hussein Yusuf. Yusuf was buried on January 22 by family at the Eldoret Muslim cemetery. – See more at: http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/yebei-spotted-outskirts-eldoret-town#sthash.9UphqMID.dpuf

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.

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.

 

Burundi army accused of murdering rebels who had surrendered

BBC

Abandoned sandals in the bush in Burundi (January 2015)Abandoned clothing and footwear was found near the site of an alleged mass grave

Burundian soldiers shot dead 17 rebels at point-blank range after they surrendered in January, witnesses have told the BBC.

The rebels, with hands raised, were lined up on the edge of the cliff before being killed, one witness said.

Burundi’s army denied the allegation, saying 95 rebels were killed in a five-day battle in the remote north-west.

Low-level conflict has resurfaced in Burundi about a decade after a civil war which killed more than 300,000.

It is unclear who the new rebels are, but the government says they are linked to the opposition and have bases across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The violence comes at a crucial time as Burundi is due to hold parliamentary and local elections in May and presidential elections the following month.

Burundian army men present on 6 January 2015 in Cibitoke, arms they say they they captured from rebels in the north-western part of the country. Weapons were seized from the rebels, the government says

There is intense speculation that President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won elections at the end of the civil war in 2005, plans to run for a third term.

The peace accord that ended the conflict states there is a two-term limit, but some argue the constitution is open to interpretation.

They came holding their weapons above their heads and the soldiers told them to come closer, to lay their weapons down and then lined them up along the edge of a cliff”  Villager in Cibitoke province

‘Half naked’

In January, army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza said 95 rebels had been killed in the fighting in Cibitoke province.

The violence appeared to be an attempt to derail elections, he said at the time.

When I visited the area to investigate the conflict, villagers disputed the official version.

“I saw 17 rebels surrender to the army in Kibindi on 2 January,” one man said, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“They came holding their weapons above their heads and the soldiers told them to come closer, to lay their weapons down and then lined them up along the edge of a cliff,” he added.

The soldiers then formed a line as well, and opened fire on the rebels, he said.

“The insurgents fell off the cliff… Many villagers were watching when this happened, including children.”

Cibitoke in BurundiCibitoke, where the alleged killings took place, borders DR Congo
Burundian army men patrol in Rwesero as villagers carry on their daily life on 6 January 2015Allegations of extra-judicial killings of will be investigated if proof is provided, the army says

The narrow valley where this allegedly took place is about a 30-minutes’ walk from the main road – an area hidden by trees. Near the edge of valley there were bits of clothing, shoes and bullets scattered on the ground.

We slide down to reach the bottom and there we saw more clothes, stray bullets and a bullet case.

A few meters away, there a pile of recently dug earth that reeked – looking like a mass grave.

Another witness told me that a local official ordered villagers to bury the rebels there.

“I saw bodies scattered, half naked, covered in blood. I counted 15,” he said.

Those who were still alive were killed in front of him with machetes by young men from Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, the witness said.

Prominent Burundian rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa says he has been receiving “more and more detailed reports of executions, and burials of dozens of rebels in mass graves”.

“A lot of rebels are thought to be buried in an area called Kibindi, near the village of Mpinga. Probably 40 people. A lot are thought to have been executed there are well,” he added.

Col Baratuza insists the rebels were killed in a “real fight”.

“I can’t say that it was a football game. It was fighting,” he said.

If people had proof that extra-judicial executions were carried, they should forward it to the army for investigation, Col Baratuza said.