Category Archives: East Africa

DR Congo – Congolese mob kills and burns suspected Ugandan Islamist rebel

Reuters

Congo crowd kills man, eats him after militant massacres – witnesses

BENI Democratic Republic of Congo Fri Oct 31, 2014  (Reuters) – A crowd stoned to death a young man in northeast Congo on Friday before burning and eating his corpse, witnesses said, in apparent revenge for a series of attacks by Ugandan rebels.

The incident in the town of Beni followed a number of overnight raids in the area blamed on the Islamist group ADF-NAUL, who are thought to have massacred more than 100 people this month, using hatchets and machetes to kill their victims.

Witnesses said the man, who has not been identified, aroused suspicion on a bus when passengers discovered he could not speak the local Swahili language and that he was carrying a machete.

Speaking from the town of Beni, Congo’s President Joseph Kabila said the ADF-NALU militants would face the same fate as the rebel movement M23, which was defeated by a U.N.-backed government offensive last year.

“There is no question of negotiation with the terrorists,” Kabila said in a speech at a local hotel. “They will be defeated as was the case with the M23. And it will be very soon.”

ADF-NALU is an alliance of groups opposed to the Ugandan government that has operated from bases in neighbouring Congo since the mid-2000s, undermining Kinshasa’s grip on the area.

The movement was blamed for the deaths of 14 people, killed early on Thursday in the village of Kampi ya Chui, bringing the total death toll this month to at least 107, said Teddy Kataliko, president of the Civil Society of Beni.

Tensions ran high in the town on Friday morning with around 100 demonstrators blocking the road from the airport into town, throwing stones and waving machetes to demand greater government protection against the rebels.

Local government officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Earlier in the week, the government sought to downplay the threat posed by the group, which it had previously said was defeated in an operation earlier this year.

Estimates of its strength vary greatly, but the website of the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Congo estimates it has around 500 fighters.

The Ugandan government has said ADF-NALU is allied with Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement, but analysts say the nature of these ties is not clear, despite the ADF-NALU’s clear Islamist ideology.

In his speech on Friday, Kabila appealed for public support for a ramping up of its offensive against the group, but did not specify what that would entail.

“I call on the population to support the army because the victory against the M23 was because the population was behind the army,” he said. “I call on young people to join the army in great numbers.”

Kabila also defended the U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MONUSCO following criticism from locals that it had failed to defend them and had even collaborated with ADF-NALU.

Crowds of mainly young men attacked several peacekeeping facilities with stones and bows and arrows last week, forcing the evacuation of some staff.

The U.N. mission says it has stepped up patrols in the area in the wake of the massacres.

 

South Sudan – rebels repulse government attack on Bentiu

Sudan Tribune

S. Sudanese rebels repulse government’s attempt to retake Bentiu: spokesperson


October 30, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s rebel faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) led by former vice-president, Riek Machar, said they repulsed a counter-attack by government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir in their attempt to retake Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, which the rebels claimed they captured on Wednesday.

JPEG - 10.5 kb
South Sudanese rebel troops loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar stand on guard in Unity state capital Bentiu on 12 January 2014 after recapturing the strategic town from government troops (Photo: Reuters)

The SPLM-in Opposition’s military spokesman, Brig Lul Ruai Koang in a press release he issued on Thursday, claimed government troops suffered heavy losses when “they tried to retake” the twin town of Rubkona, north of Bentiu on Thursday afternoon.

He said the fighting took place in a place called Maan-Kuai, north of Rubkotni town.

“Kiir’s tribal militias this afternoon launched unsuccessful counter attacks on our positions at Maan-Kuai north of Rupkoni (Rubkona) but were repulsed,” he wrote.

Government troops allegedly lost Bentiu and Rubkotni to the rebel forces in a fierce fighting which rebels claimed had killed 290 Juba soldiers including a senior officer.

“Meanwhile, confirmed reports from our field commander indicated that 290 government soldiers were killed in and round Bentiu town including one Brigadier General,” Koang said.

He added that among the war equipment captured by the rebels included one T-72 (tank) along with two Urol trucks each mounted with ZU 23 and 27 heavy machines and commander’s official car containing documents and laptops.

“Over 500 different weaponry were also captured,” he said.

Koang blamed the government for starting “a war they could not win.” He said the movement was committed to the cessation of hostilities agreement and other agreements signed but reserved the right to fight in self-defense when attacked.

South Sudan government has not yet confirmed the fall of both Bentiu and Rubkotni.

Government troops of division 4 maintained control of Bentiu for the last four months and amassed thousands of additional troops from various divisions 4 and 5 from Greater Bahr el Ghazal region in order to defend the oil-rich state capital.

Observers say the fall of these strategic towns to the rebels, if confirmed, will be a big blow to government.

US CONDEMNS REBEL ATTACKS

The United States has condemned in the “strongest” terms the latest attacks by SPLM/A – In-Opposition (SPLM/A – IO) in and around the strategic oil-rich town.

“Despite the parties’ recent acceptance of collective responsibility for the crisis, these current attacks demonstrate that the SPLM/A-IO has yet to abandon violence to achieve its goals,” said Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the US state department.

“We call on both sides – both of whom have committed violations of the agreement that have delayed peace – to ensure their forces refrain from further actions that violate the January 23 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and undermine the peace process in South Sudan,” adds the statement.

The US government also warned the two warring parties against using these latest attacks as an excuse not to engage in the peace process or not to work in good faith to negotiate a sustainable political transition for sustainable peace and national unity.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and over a million displaced since the violence broke out in mid-December last year amidst warning of looming famine early next year.

(ST)

Africa’s Long Road Since Independence

Hurst and Company

Africa’s Long Road Since Independence

The Many Histories of a Continent

Keith Somerville

Bibliographic Details
Hardback
May 2015 • £25.00
9781849045155 • 500pp

IMG_1021.JPG

South Africa – will questions over ivory fund threaten rhino horn plans

Mail and Guardian

The alleged misappropriation of funds raised by the sale of ivory could stymie plans to legally sell rhino horn, writes Sipho Kings.

Over 900 rhino have been killed this year in South Africa. The majority have been in the Mpumalanga section of the Kruger National Park, with nearly 600 poached. With few options left and a growing illegal trade, the environment department is planning to ask for permission to sell rhino horn.

The department has argued that this would stop demand for illegal horn by “flooding” the black market. When she announced that er department would start consultations on legalised trade, environment minister Edna Molewa said, “The reality is that we have done all in our power and doing the same thing every day isn’t working”.

The pragmatism behind this decision has been widely questioned by environmentalists. Opponents say putting more rhino horn on the market will grow demand instead, something which happened each time elephant ivory was sold in legal, once-off, sales.

If Molewa’s department chooses this route, it will approach the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in 2016 and ask for permission to sell its rhino horn stockpile. This is the body that lists whether species are endangered, and how much of each species can be traded. Trade in rhino is illegal, as most of the species are endangered. The Southern White Rhino – which constitutes the majority of South African rhino – is listed as near threatened as births still just exceed deaths.

But alleged corruption in Mpumalanga the last time South Africa was allowed to sell horn — this time from elephant tusks — could mean the idea is dead before it can even be proposed.

The trade in ivory was banned in 1989, when elephants were listed as an Appendix One species by the Cites. Seventy-five thousand elephant a year were being poached.

The ban meant countries with large herds of elephant were left with huge stockpiles of ivory from culling and natural deaths, which had to be safely stored. This cost money. In 2008 Cites gave permission for a once-off sale of ivory to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

South Africa sold 47 000kg of ivory, at a value of $157 a kilogram, to the Chinese and Japanese governments.

The Cites permission came under the condition that the money be ring-fenced and ploughed back into conservation. It said the funds must be “used exclusively for elephant conservation and community conservation and development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range”.

Cites said this week that to the best of its knowledge this condition had been adhered to. In Mpumalanga the money was place in the Problem Animal Fund.

This was started in the 1990s as an account to hold money raised from killing animals that had escaped from parks in the area. These, normally Big Five animals, were a danger to people and property. At first anyone was allowed to hunt them and this was abused. An internal memo from the province’s Wildlife Protection Services said one night “three hippo were shot and another wounded on a wild hunting spree”.

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency then started giving permits to hunters, who would pay to hunt the escaped animals. The money raised went into the Problem Animal Fund.

Internal correspondence between the Agency and its Wildlife Protection Services Unit in 2009 — seen by the Mail & Guardian — said: “Funds generated would only be utilised for the management of problem animals and associated issues.”

The correspondence, in the form of a memo, casts the fund as a saviour, at a time when departmental budgets were shrinking. It allowed provincial wildlife workers, who did much of the work in their extra time, to fix fences and buy specialist conservation vehicles. For a decade all the rhino horn chipping in Mpumalanga was also financed by the fund, it said.

But the memo also warned that there was “no proper control over the income and expenditures generated from the fund”. This meant that “large amounts of money had not been accounted for”, it said.

In 2009 private investigator Paul O’Sullivan found that money in the Fund had been used for ad-hoc expenses. Motor vehicles, stationary and other consumables not linked with elephant conservation were purchased. A spotter plane was bought and used by provincial authorities for other work.

O’Sullivan found that on some occasions private individuals flew the plane. In his report, released earlier this year, he found that the “tens of millions” of rands that flowed through the fund had by-passed normal procurement processes.

People he interviewed in provincial conservation referred to the Fund as a “slush fund” that could be used for anything.

Juan Carlos Vasquez, a spokesperson for Cites, said the once-off sale of ivory had come under strict conditions. If there was non-compliance, Cites could “decide to cause the trade to cease partially or completely”. He said the South African branch of Cites would investigate the issue further.

Vasquez could not comment on how this breach would affect any future proposal for a once-off sale of rhino horn because no formal proposal had been received. But if South Africa did ask for permission in 2016, it would only be done under the strictest conditions and if the species was not harmed.

Albi Modise, spokesperson for the environment department, said it was not aware of any cases where ring-fenced funds were abused. It had received reports from all of the entities which benefited from the ivory sale. There was no timespan for the use of the funds, so the Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency had to “still develop project proposals” for the expenditure of the funds, he said. The agency would then consult with the environment department before they were implemented.

He could not comment on the impact of the alleged discretions on any future sale of rhino horn, because “a final decision on a possible proposal relating to legal commercial trade in rhino horn has not been taken”.

Read more from Sipho Kings
Twitter: @SiphoMcD
Google+: Sipho Kings
M&G

IMG_1019.JPG

Ethiopia: Ethnic Oromos arrested, tortured and killed by the state in relentless repression of dissent

Amnesty International

Ethiopia: Ethnic Oromos arrested, tortured and killed by the state in relentless repression of dissent

Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, are being ruthlessly targeted by the state.Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, are being ruthlessly targeted by the state.

© AFP/Getty Images

The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality.

Source:
Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

Thousands of members of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, are being ruthlessly targeted by the state based solely on their perceived opposition to the government, said Amnesty International in a new report released today.

“Because I am Oromo” – Sweeping repression in the Oromia region of Ethiopia exposes how Oromos have been regularly subjected to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without charge, enforced disappearance, repeated torture and unlawful state killings as part of the government’s incessant attempts to crush dissent.

“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher.

“This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”

More than 200 testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reveal how the Ethiopian government’s general hostility to dissent has led to widespread human rights violations in Oromia, where the authorities anticipate a high level of opposition. Any signs of perceived dissent in the region are sought out and suppressed, frequently pre-emptively and often brutally.

At least 5,000 ethnic Oromos have been arrested between 2011 and 2014 based on their actual or suspected peaceful opposition to the government.

These include peaceful protesters, students, members of opposition political parties and people expressing their Oromo cultural heritage.

In addition to these groups, people from all walks of life – farmers, teachers, medical professionals, civil servants, singers, businesspeople, and countless others – are regularly arrested in Oromia based only on the suspicion that they don’t support the government. Many are accused of ‘inciting’ others against the government.

Family members of suspects have also been targeted by association – based only on the suspicion they shared or ‘inherited’ their relative’s views – or are arrested in place of their wanted relative.

Many of those arrested have been detained without charge for months or even years and subjected to repeated torture. Throughout the region, hundreds of people are detained in unofficial detention in military camps. Many are denied access to lawyers and family members.

Dozens of actual or suspected dissenters have been killed.

The majority of those targeted are accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – the armed group in the region.

However, the allegation is frequently unproven as many detainees are never charged or tried. Often it is merely a pretext to silence critical voices and justify repression.

“People are arrested for the most tenuous of reasons: organizing a student cultural group, because their father had previously been suspected of supporting the OLF or because they delivered the baby of the wife of a suspected OLF member. Frequently, it’s because they refused to join the ruling party,” said Claire Beston.

In April and May 2014, events in Oromia received some international attention when security forces fired live ammunition during a series of protests and beat hundreds of peaceful protesters and bystanders. Dozens were killed and thousands were arrested.

“These incidents were far from being unprecedented in Oromia – they were merely the latest and bloodiest in a long pattern of suppression. However, much of the time, the situation in Oromia goes unreported,” said Claire Beston.

Torture

Amnesty International’s report documents regular use of torture against actual or suspected Oromo dissenters in police stations, prisons, military camps and in their own homes.

A teacher told how he had been stabbed in the eye with a bayonet during torture in detention because he refused to teach propaganda about the ruling party to his students.

A young girl said she had hot coals poured on her stomach while she was detained in a military camp because her father was suspected of supporting the OLF.

A student was tied in contorted positions and suspended from the wall by one wrist because a business plan he prepared for a university competition was deemed to be underpinned by political motivations.

Former detainees repeatedly told of methods of torture including beatings, electric shocks, mock execution, burning with heated metal or molten plastic and rape, including gang rape.

Although the majority of former detainees interviewed said they never went to court, many alleged they were tortured to extract a confession.

“We interviewed former detainees with missing fingers, ears and teeth, damaged eyes and scars on every part of their body due to beating, burning and stabbing – all of which they said were the result of torture,” said Claire Beston.

Detainees are subject to miserable conditions, including severe overcrowding, underground cells, being made to sleep on the ground and minimal food. Many are never permitted to leave their cells, except for interrogation and, in some cases, aside from once or twice a day to use the toilet. Some said their hands or legs were bound in chains for months at a time.

As Ethiopia heads towards general elections in 2015, it is likely that the government’s efforts to suppress dissent, including through the use of arbitrary arrest and detention and other violations, will continue unabated and may even increase.

“The Ethiopian government must end the shameful targeting of thousands of Oromos based only on their actual or suspected political opinion.  It must cease its use of detention without charge, torture and ill-treatment, incommunicado detention, enforced disappearance and unlawful killings to muzzle actual or suspected dissent,” said Claire Beston.

Interviewees repeatedly told Amnesty International that there was no point trying to complain or seek justice in cases of enforced disappearance, torture, possible killings or other violations. Some were arrested when they did ask about a relative’s fate or whereabouts.

Amnesty International believes there is an urgent need for intervention by regional and international human rights bodies to conduct independent investigations into these allegations of human rights violations in Oromia.

Amnesty

Sudan – ruling NCP wants to stop election of state governors and have pressident appopint them

Sudan Tribune

October 27, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The National Congress Party (NCP) would forgo the direct election of state governors and instead recommend their appointment by the president of the republic, said a leading member of the ruling party on Monday.

JPEG - 47.4 kb
Delegates attend the general convention of the ruling National Congress Party in Khartoum October 23, 2014. (Photo Reuters Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The head of NCP legal secretary, al-Fadel Haj Suleiman, told Sudan Tribune that the Leadership Council will discard the party’s nominees for governors in the next year election and recommend that the president of the republic appoint state governors rather than elect them.

The NCP regional conventions held in the 17 Sudanese states selected 51 people, each state submitted three nominees. The party’s leadership has to pick one of the three to run for governor in the gubernatorial race.

“The General Convention of the party issued a recommendation, requiring to review the federal system, including the selection of governors, after divisions over the appointment or election,” Suleiman said.

He was referring to the failure of the fourth convention, which wrapped up on Saturday, to reach a consensus over the matter.

President al-Bashir in his speech at the opening session of the party’s conference underlined the tribal and ethnic alliances that transpired during the regional conventions particularly in Darfur when it came to select the nominees for governor, and called to correct the “negative effects” of the current territorial administrative system.

“The issue needs to be studied to determine positive and negative effects of previous experiences,” Suleiman said, emphasising that negative tribal and ethnic practices appeared during the nomination of the party’s candidates for the gubernatorial election.

Last September in remarks delivered at the party’s convention in South Darfur’s capital Nyala Ghandour vigorously denounced the functioning of the ruling party in the state saying “the loyalty of its membership is based on tribal affiliations”.

Ghandour further said the “NCP principles call to strengthen the national unity and bring people together on common interests.

Suleiman expected the party opts for the appointment of governors by the president of the republic and advocated saying “this step does not break the principles of democratic governance because an elected president can select the governors who are accountable before elected regional assemblies that can recommend to relieve them.”

He further said that every regional assembly can nominate several persons and the president chooses one of them as governor. Or the head of state can submit some names to the state legislators who will select one of them.

Suleiman said the leadership council might discuss the appointment or the election of governors in its first meeting within a week.

The general convention of the ruling party selected the incumbent president Omer al-Bashir as its candidate for the presidential election scheduled for April 2015.

Last January, Bashir called for a national dialogue process aiming to end war in the Two Areas and Darfur, but also to discuss democratic reforms paving for a permanent constitution.

(ST)

Rwanda – why the claim that only 200,000 Tutsis died is wrong

African Arguments

Rwanda: Why claim that 200,000 Tutsi died in the genocide is wrong – By Marijke Verpoorten

MarijkeVerpoortenOn October 1, 2014, BBC broadcasted its documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story. The documentary features two academics, Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, who put forward a controversial argument that 200,000 Tutsi were killed during the genocide (a figure that is much lower than conventional estimates). Several claims were made in the documentary, but the 200,000 estimate stood out, triggering outrage from diverse sources.

Rwandan genocide survivor groups, in an open letter to BBC, call the documentary a “blatant denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi”. In another open letter, 38 prominent international signatories, refer to the 200,000 estimate as “an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported”. Professor Filip Reyntjens, who also features in the documentary, writes in a recent African Arguments piece that “the figures provided by Professors Stam and Davenport on Tutsi and Hutu killed in 1994 do not appear to be based on solid research. At least the data they have published (not in a scientific journal or book, but merely on their website) are insufficient to support their claim, which flirts with genocide minimisation or denial.”

Let’s look at the factual data. To establish a reliable death toll among Tutsi, one needs to answer two questions. First, how many Tutsi lived in Rwanda at the eve of the genocide? Second, how many Tutsi survived? As revealed on their website, Davenport & Stam assume that there were 506,000 Tutsi in Rwanda in 1993, and 300,000 survivors after the genocide. Hence, the 200,000 death toll claim. How reliable are the two figures that make up this claim?

The 506,000 figure is unreliable. Davenport & Stam arrive at 506,000 based on an extrapolation of the 1952 population census data. The extrapolation from 1952 to 1993 assumes 2.5% population growth and subtracts UNHCR-numbers of Tutsi that fled Rwanda prior to 1994. Assuming 3.0% population growth instead of 2.5% would have yielded 620,000 Tutsi in 1993 instead of 506,000.

The UNHCR-numbers should also be taken with a pinch of salt. Clearly, extrapolating over such a large period does not yield reliable results, certainly when dealing with an exponential growth process in a turbulent period.

The last population census prior to the genocide was conducted in 1991. This census reported 596,000 Tutsi living in Rwanda, representing 8.4% of the population. Assuming an annual population growth of 2.5%, the number of Tutsi would have been 642,000 on the eve of the genocide, much higher than what is put forward by Davenport & Stam.

Why choose 1952 as a baseline over 1991, thereby seriously compromising the quality of the extrapolation? Concerning the 1991 census, the Human Rights Watch Report Leave none to tell the story says “Some critics assert that the number of Tutsi was underreported in that census and in the prior census of 1978 because the Habyarimana government wanted to minimize the importance of Tutsi in the population.”

This concern with Rwandan national census data may indeed motivate the use of the pre-independence 1952 census. But, here is the catch: because the concern with the 1991 census is one of underreporting of Tutsi, not overreporting, 642,000 Tutsi in 1993 (extrapolated from the 1991 census) should be seen as a lower bound. Davenport & Stam’s 506,000 estimate thus falls off the chart.

Regarding the underreporting of Tutsi in national census data, the 1999 HRW-report further says: “Although frequently said, no documentation has been presented to support this allegation.” In 2005, I published evidence in support of this allegation (French version here). I compared 1990 population data from the local Rwandan administration with data from the 1991 national Rwandan population census. Across these two data sources, I found an almost perfect match for the number of men and women, indicating the quality of the local population data.

In contrast, the share of Tutsi was much higher in the local population data than in the census data. This discrepancy is evidence for the underreporting of Tutsi in the 1991 census because the local administration had no reason to misreport the number of Tutsi (the ethnic quota policy depended on the national figures, not on the local ones), and Tutsi themselves could also not easily misreport their ethnicity towards local administrators (because family histories were known locally).

In 2005, I did this comparison only for one Rwandan province, so the finding could not be generalized to the whole of Rwanda. Recently, I obtained local population data for all Rwandan provinces, be it for the year 1987. These data indicate a share of 10.6% Tutsi in Rwanda, instead of 8.4% as reported in the 1991 census. I do not claim that 10.6% is perfectly reliable, but – given the allegations and evidence of underreporting in the 1991 census – I consider it more reliable than 8.4%.

Applying 10.6% to the total population reported in the 1991 population census (7,099,844), one reaches a number of 754,713 Tutsi in 1991. Assuming 2.5% population growth, one can calculate that on the eve of the genocide, there were 811,941 Tutsi living in Rwanda. Depending on what you consider as reliable for the number of survivors (300,000 or 150,000), you then reach a death toll of 512,000 or 662,000.

The range of 150,000-300,000 survivors is commonly used. At the end of July 1994, head counting in refugee camps resulted in an estimated 105,000 Tutsi survivors. According to Gérard Prunier 25,000 survivors who did not go to camps should also be added, and HRW adds another 20,000 surviving Tutsi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. This gives a total of 150,000 Tutsi survivors. In later years, various surveys by the Rwandan government, the gacaca transitional justice system and genocide survivor organizations reached higher estimates of around 300,000.

In the 1999 HRW-report Alison Des Forges wrote “Establishing a reliable toll of those killed in the genocide and its aftermath is important to counter denials, exaggerations, and lies. The necessary data have not been gathered but speculation about death tolls continues anyway, usually informed more by emotion than by fact.” Even twenty years after the genocide, there still is a need for more independent factual research, as is also recognized by Davenport in a recent piece. Based on the research done so far, I would claim that 512,000-662,000 is a much more plausible range for the Tutsi death toll than a range that includes 200,000.

Marijke Verpoorten is Associate Professor, University of Antwerp.