Category Archives: East Africa

Rwanda – high court upholds life sentence for genocide era justice minister

Reuters

Life sentence for Rwanda’s genocide-era justice minister upheld

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Rwanda’s high court on Friday upheld the life sentence of the s genocide-era justice minister, who was convicted six years ago for her role in the 1994 slaughter that killed 800,000 people.

Agnes Ntamabyariro is the only senior official in the former government to have been brought to justice in Rwanda. Others were tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the Tanzanian city of Arusha and elsewhere.

Ntamabyariro was found guilty in particular for her role in the murder of Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, the head of Butare prefecture in southern Rwanda, who was a Tutsi.

Most of those killed in the genocide were minority Tutsis or moderates from the Hutu majority.

“She is guilty of being an accomplice to carry out the genocide,” Judge Muhima Benoit said.

Ntamabyariro, who pleaded guilty, was not present in court for the ruling, but her lawyer said he was considering an appeal the severity of the sentence.

“She still has the right to go the supreme court to appeal and I am ready to help her win this judicial fight,” lawyer Gatera Gashabana told Reuters.

China imposes one year ban on ivory imports

BBC

China has imposed a one-year ban on the import of ivory, amid criticism that demand among Chinese consumers is fuelling poaching in Africa.

The announcement was made by the State Forestry Administration, with officials saying they hoped it would be a first step towards protecting wild elephants.

Conservationists have warned the animal could be wiped out in parts of Africa in the next few years.

China is the world’s largest importer of smuggled tusks.

However, the government says it has stepped up efforts to target illegal trading, which has been fuelled by a desire for ivory from an increasingly affluent population.

It is hoped the temporary ban on imports, which came into effect on Thursday, will help reduce demand for African tusks.

According to state media, a government official said China would evaluate the effect on elephant protection before taking further, more effective steps.

Criminal gangs

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) banned the ivory trade in 1989, but China is allowed to trade domestically and has around 150 licensed shops.

Six years ago, the government was also given permission to import one consignment of more than 60 tonnes of ivory from Africa.

Conservationists say this has fuelled demand and has led to an underground trade, with criminal gangs slaughtering elephants for Asian markets.

Earlier this month, broadcaster David Attenborough was one of several signatories of an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The letter called on the country’s leader to outlaw the buying and selling of ivory completely and to provide Chinese citizens with information on the issue.



Sudan becomes arms producer

Radio Dabanga/allAfrica

Abu Dhabi / Khartoum — A wide range of Sudanese weapons and military equipment are currently on display at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.

All the weapons are produced by the state-owned Military Industry Corporation (MIC). Since its establishment in 1993, MIC has strongly expanded its production, making Sudan the third largest weapons producer in Africa, after Egypt and South Africa.

President Omar Al Bashir attended the Idex opening ceremony on Sunday. He arrived at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday, accompanied by a an 11-member delegation, comprised of Ministers of the Presidency, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Investments, Electricity, Minerals, Livestock and Fisheries, Labour, the director of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and the head of police.

It is Al Bashir’s first official trip to the UAE since 2008. MIC spokesman, Ali Osman Mahmoud, said that the visit represents an effort on the part of the Sudanese government to improve ties with the UAE, Khaleeej Times reported on Monday.

Embargo

An international arms embargo was imposed on Sudan in the early 1990’s. “We ourselves had to meet the needs of our armed forces and reach self-sufficiency,” Mahmoud explained. “We have reached a level in which we are producing genuine, highly-efficient products. We now hope that we can compete with other countries.”

He said that all Sudanese weapons systems are battle-proven, and have been tested in the field. “Our army is already using these very same products.”

“We would like to pursue new technologies and get up to date, in the area of electro-optics, for example. We now have enough technologies that we are able to computerise, and upgrade all our systems,” the MIC spokesman added.

On display

The MIC presented the Khalifa-1, a self-propelled D-30 howitzer, capable of sending a 122-mm projectile to strike targets up to 20km away; the Khatim-2, which has been identified as the Sudanese version of the Iranian Boraq-2 IFV, which is similar to the Russian BMP-2; a mobile version of the Taka 107 mm multiple rocket launcher, as well as the Nimir long-range patrol vehicle; an unarmoured Tamal tactical vehicle, and the Sarsar-2 armoured reconnaissance vehicle, that is listed as being armoured to the Russian CEN level BR6.

A stabilised remote weapon station called the Ateed appeared to be identical to the ARIO-H762, which is made by an Iranian company.

Other new products on the main stand appeared to be of Chinese origin, among them the Sarib anti-tank guided missile, which strongly resembles the Chinese HJ-8 optically tracked, wire-guided system on the lightweight launcher. Another Chinese weapon, the 35 mm QLZ-87 automatic grenade launcher, of which the MIC says it produces under the name Ahmed was not on display.

Among the Sudanese-produced vehicles on display are self-propelled mortar and rocket-launching systems, and smaller vehicles for use on long-range patrols over rough terrain. Many of the MIC vehicles are designed to operate on long-distances in remote areas.

Sudan participated at the Idex for the first time in 2013.

(Sources: Khaleej Times, Sudan Tribune, Sudan Vision Daily)

Mozambique – threat of violence and the predictable game of politics

African Arguments

Mozambique elections and beyond: Renamo MPs sworn in, but violence raises stakes in a predictable game – By Justin Pearce

JustinPearceIt has taken almost four months since Mozambique’s last general election for members of parliament from the largest opposition party, Renamo, to be sworn in. Renamo had rejected the electoral results and demanded new political concessions in return for participation in parliament: a strategy that the party has used in some form at previous elections. What was different about the October 2014 elections was that they took place after two years of armed, organised and politically motivated violence. Some respected observers called it “war”. After 22 years of peace, 20 years of electoral democracy, and 10 years of declining fortunes for Renamo, in 2014 gunfire and bloodshed came close to sabotaging the constitutional process entirely.

Renamo and its leader Afonso Dhlakama came close to winning Mozambique’s second elections in 1999. At the 2004 general election and 2008 municipal elections they saw their support shrink progressively. Dhlakama’s response was to disengage from national politics. Some in Mozambique blame Dhlakama’s own political ineptitude for this and say he had run out of other strategies. Others suggest that Joaquim Chissano, president until 2004, was able to keep Dhlakama in the system through a mixture of political wisdom and patronage, while his successor, Armando Guebuza, regarded Dhlakama as a problem that could simply be wished away.

Whatever the reason, in May 2009 Dhlakama left Maputo for the northern city of Nampula, claiming he could be more effective there, in a region that usually votes for him. Renamo parliamentarians remained active in the capital. Dhlakama, as always, was accompanied by his “presidential guard”, the armed force that he retained under his personal control in terms of the 1992 Rome Peace Accord that ended the civil war. In March 2012 these guards, plus several hundred other former Renamo guerrillas, exchanged fire with riot police outside Renamo’s Nampula provincial headquarters.

Relations between Dhlakama and the government worsened to the point where in October 2012 the Renamo leader relocated to Satungira, one of his wartime redoubts in the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique. In June 2013 a series of ambushes on Mozambique’s single north-south arterial road, as well as exchanges of fire between Renamo guards and government security forces, indicated that Renamo was prepared to use weapons more powerful than yet another threat of electoral boycott.

Initial negotiations happened quickly. Governments faced with an outbreak of armed violence are usually quick to cry “terrorism” and to deny the legitimate motives of their adversaries. Frelimo’s attitude, by contrast, was conciliatory. Party officials explain this in terms of needing to halt the violence as quickly as possible. Critics say it was because Frelimo knew that Renamo retains enough of a political constituency that it cannot be dismissed as a mere nuisance. Renamo’s early demands concerned the framework for conducting elections, echoing the party’s long-held conviction that previous elections have been conducted fraudulently. This time the call was for “parity” on the National Electoral Commission, meaning equal representation for all those parties with seats in parliament.

Talks dragged on for more than a year, as did ambushes by Renamo and military operations by the Mozambican Armed Forces against Renamo bases. Some concessions in the electoral law were made in time for the November 2013 municipal elections. Conflict later resumed and Renamo’s demands shifted. By the time an informal truce took hold in June 2014, Dhlakama had raised the issue of “parity” in relation to the government’s armed forces, insisting that half the senior officers should be Renamo nominees. This involved a reinterpretation of the Rome Accord, the precise implications of which were left deliberately unresolved in 1992. A peace plan published in August 2014 provided for the integration of Renamo’s “residual forces” into a national army that would be non-partisan. The finer details were left for another day, but the agreement at least brought Renamo into the elections that went ahead as scheduled in October.

The violence and subsequent peace talks loomed over the electoral campaign. Renamo trumpeted the efficacy and moral rightness of its return to arms. The music that jangled from the cars on campaign convoys had lyrics about “Dhlakama – a life of sacrifice!” that drew parallels between the attacks of the last two years and Renamo’s historic image of itself as the party that brought democracy to Mozambique. This message did more than simply to animate the Renamo faithful. On the streets of Maputo, deep Frelimo country, unemployed young men picked up this theme with comments like “Dhlakama went to the bush to fight for democracy”. The most remarkable reaction was from that social stratum that we call civil society: urban middle class intellectuals, clergy, NGO types. They came as close as they could to saying that Dhlakama had done the right thing, stopping just short of endorsing his call to arms.

Such sentiments sounded odd coming from a section of society not known for its taste for armed conflict, and contradicted Dhlakama’s habitual complaint that “civil society” is a front for Frelimo. That they could do so was possible thanks only to the way in which Dhlakama framed his demands during negotiations: the separation of ruling party and state, and electoral law reform so as to put an end to perennial fraud. These are exactly the demands that civil society activists have been making for years. Although Dhlakama’s other main demand, concerning parity between Frelimo and Renamo officers in the security forces, was of lesser concern to wider society, he made it acceptable to the middle ground by framing it in terms of the Rome Accord.

Frelimo’s campaign, meanwhile, rested on the premise that it is the party that commands the resources to get things done: a convenient conflation between party and state that persists in the absence of any change of ruling party since 1975.

“Frelimo é que fez e Frelimo é que faz” (Frelimo did and Frelimo does) was among the slogans that emphasised continuity and effectiveness. At the same time, television spots presented candidate Filipe Nyusi as “the son of farmers, a Mozambican like you”, an image distinct from that of his predecessor Armando Guebuza, who had become an icon of a party elite’s self-enrichment through privileged access to the emerging energy sector and other business opportunities.

The MDM, the third political force that since 2009 has picked up much of the votes lost by Renamo at national and municipal elections, engaged in the campaign on the basis of the usual opposition party demands: fairer distribution of wealth and better public services. It was in places like Beira, where the MDM has controlled municipal administration for some years, that the MDM was best able to confront Frelimo on its own terms, as a deliverer of public goods. Voters in the second city recounted how as mayor, MDM leader Daviz Simango had cleaned up the streets and – in a macabre but heartfelt detail – improved the organisation of the city mortuary where bodies had previously been left in an untidy heap.

Results revealed that in comparison with the 2009 election, Frelimo’s tally of parliamentary seats dropped from 191 to 144, while Renamo increased its representation in parliament from 51 to 89 and the MDM from eight to 17 seats. In the presidential poll, Nyusi came in with 57%, well below the 75% gained by Guebuza in 2009. MDM leader Simango’s share of the presidential vote shrank from 9% in 2009 to 6% this time around. Dhlakama, meanwhile, more than doubled his share of the vote from 16% to 37%, reversing a steady decline in support since his heyday in 1999. In other words, the election spelt steady gains by the opposition as a whole, though they still came nowhere near challenging the outright majority enjoyed by Frelimo and by its candidate. However, while the gains recorded by Renamo and the MDM as parties were roughly proportionate to each other, Dhlakama’s surge in the presidential vote contrasted with what must have been a disappointing outcome for Simango.

The mismatch between the presidential and parliamentary results demonstrates the ambivalence that led a substantial number of people to split their vote: Dhlakama was more popular than his party, Simango was less popular. Voters I spoke to in Beira in the days before the election had attended both Renamo and MDM rallies and considered themselves above all opposition voters: which party they voted for was of lesser consequence. Both MDM and Renamo benefit from a long-held sentiment in central and northern Mozambique that those regions have been neglected by successive southern-dominated governments. Simango’s loss of support this time around was not, in fairness, his own fault: it was not so much a case of people abandoning Simango as a case of people being wooed by the publicity that surrounded Dhlakama’s decision to take up arms and play his habitual game of political brinkmanship for higher stakes than before, while presenting it in a language of social justice and constitutional legitimacy. The more civil and civic politics represented by Simango couldn’t shout loud enough to be heard above the noise surrounding Dhlakama.

Dhlakama rejected the election results and threatened to declare an independent republic in the northern and central regions where his support is strongest. This gave rise to another round of talks with the government, this time with regional devolution on the table. In return for Renamo’s participation in parliament the government agreed to continue discussing devolution, though this would require such profound constitutional change that the agreement to keep the issue on the table looks like yet another diplomatic fudge.

So much about the events of the past two years in Mozambique has followed a script that dates back to the first peace moves of the early 1990s. Renamo cries foul, seeks to change the rules and claims to be the defender of democracy. It can do so without losing the moral high ground because, no less predictably, Frelimo seems compelled to cheat at elections – even though its massive superiority in campaign resources would allow it to win by honest means. The violence of the past two years has raised the temperature and revealed the shortcomings of the Rome Accord, but it will not push Mozambique back to large-scale conflict. It has however served to rebrand Dhlakama as someone to be taken seriously. He achieved this by means of a dangerous gamble that succeeded: he left the institutional politics in which he felt he had been marginalised, and went back to doing what some might say he always did best: making war, though always with an eye on the spoils of peace as well.

Wherever you may lay the blame for the events of the past two years, the consequence of the violence has been the entrenchment of a politics defined by the bipartisan logic of the Rome Accord, and rooted in antagonisms from a war that ended 22 years ago. The newest generation of voters, in particular, is aware that natural gas exploration has enriched a small Frelimo-linked elite and has offered no obvious benefit to anyone else. But such substantive issues of social justice are crowded out by the bipartisan manoeuvrings that fill the space of formal politics, with a predictable winner and a predictable runner-up. The losers, again, are those who seek to shift the terms of the game.

Justin Pearce is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at POLIS, University of Cambridge and a Research Associate of St John’s College, working on contemporary politics in Mozambique and Angola. His book on the Angolan civil war, Political Identity and Conflict in Central Angola 1975-2002, will be published by Cambridge University Press later this year. @drjustinpearce

US appoints ambassador to Somalia since botched intervention

Reuters

U.S. nominates first ambassador to Somalia since ill-fated intervention

Wed, Feb 25 2015

NAIROBI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has nominated the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since the early 1990s, when the United States pulled its diplomatic staff out of the country following an ill-fated intervention exemplified by the “Black Hawk Down” disaster.

The U.S. State Department said the nomination of career diplomat Katherine Dhanani signals the deepening relationship between the two countries.

Somalia is attempting to rebuild after two decades of civil war and lawlessness triggered by the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. The fragile government is being backed by international aid aimed at preventing it from becoming a haven for al Qaeda-style militants in East Africa.

The United States intervened in Somalia in 1992, initially on a humanitarian mission, but became embroiled in a conflict against war lords.

In the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed and two helicopters shot down in fighting against Somali militias. Hundreds of Somalis also died in the battle, which was depicted in the film “Black Hawk Down”.

U.S. troops pulled out in 1994, ending the mission.

At the time, the battle marked the U.S Army’s heaviest losses in a single day since the Vietnam War and it has remained central to the American view of the Horn of Africa state.

In recent years, persistent attacks in the capital have complicated the government’s efforts to secure the nation for a referendum on a new federal constitution and a presidential election in 2016.

“Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation,” the statement said. “The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner.”

The U.S. Mission to Somalia is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. The State Department said Washington hoped to increase its diplomatic presence in Somalia as security improves.

Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated militants, were pushed out of Mogadishu by African peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has waged a series of gun and grenade attacks to try to overthrow the government and impose its strict version of sharia law.

The United States has launched a series of strikes against al Shabaab leaders in recent months, killing its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September, and Tahliil Abdishakur, chief of al Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, in late December.

UN’s Ladsous laments lack of political will in South Sudan peace process

Sudan Tribune

February 24, 2015 (NEW YORK) – The ongoing violence between South Sudan’s warring parties, despite the cessation of hostilities agreement, could escalate the conflict, a top United Nations official warned.

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UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous (second right) on a visit to the UNMISS base in Tomping, which has been sheltering civilians since conflict erupted in the country (Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Billy)

Herve Ladsous, the UN undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations said on Tuesday that “the volatile security environment is a direct illustration of the parties’ continued lack of political will”.

“The government [of South Sudan] and opposition do not seem to take the political negotiations seriously and appear unwilling to make the necessary compromises,” he told the UN Security Council (USC).

Thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced by the conflict that hit the country following disagreements within South Sudan’s governing party.

The more than 14-month-long conflict has had devastating a impact on the country, with the UN estimating 2.5 million people remain at risk of starvation.

Ladsous has accused South Sudanese leaders of paying little attention to the suffering of the people in the country.

“In the light of the fragile security environment, the ongoing round of peace talks is not likely to achieve much progress,” he said.

According to the top UN official, the current talks mediated by East African regional leaders have remained shaky due to the proposed power-sharing, security arrangements and constitutional reforms.

“There is now an urgent need to reinforce the mediation efforts, as well as to impose consequences on the parties if they fail to show willingness to compromise and continue engaging in a conflict that will result in further loss of innocent lives,” said Ladsous.

He urged the UNSC to consider issuing a strong presidential statement calling on the parties to immediately cease all military operations and make the necessary compromises to reach a comprehensive peace agreement during this round of talks “or face the consequences”.

Meanwhile, UN assistant secretary-general for human rights Ivan Simonovic gave a distressing account of the situation I South Sudan weeks after he visited the country.

“Many government officials told me that the people of South Sudan fought for decades for their dignity, independence, and human rights. What I saw on my mission was certainly not what they have been fighting for,” Simonovic told the 15-member council.

“After decades of killing and other violations, there is a need for cultural change based on respect for human life and human rights. It takes two leaders to end a war in South Sudan, but it takes many for the peace to become sustainable,” he added.

However, the official stressed that justice and accountability measures needed to be put in place to break the cycle of impunity.

“It is of the utmost importance that this Council remains seized of the question of accountability for past and present violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan,” he said.

(ST)

DR Congo army starts offensive against Rwandan Hutu rebels

BBC

DR Congo launches operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels

Democratic Republic of Congo regular army soldiers stand guard in the Nakabumbi area of Kimbumba, 20kms from Goma, near the border with Rwanda, on June 14, 201Eastern DR Congo has been plagued by violence for years

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has launched an attack against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the east of the country.

Ministers had previously pledged to target the FDLR militants after they failed to meet a deadline to disarm last month.

Hutu rebels were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

UN peacekeepers in DR Congo withdrew an offer to support the operation because two government generals are suspected of human rights abuses.

Tuesday’s attack took place in the eastern South Kivu province, about 10km (six miles) from the border with Burundi, the military said.

Speaking as army chiefs launched their assault, the outgoing US special envoy to the region said the government “owes it to its people” to end the threat posed by Rwandan Hutu rebels, reported the AFP news agency.

Russ Feingold said extinguishing the threat was an “international responsibility”, according to the agency.

The presence of hundreds of Hutu rebels in eastern DR Congo has been a source of instability for the country.

Many of the rebels were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people – mainly from the Tutsi minority – were killed.

A Tutsi-led government subsequently took power in Rwanda, while Hutu rebel leaders fled across the border into DR Congo.

Their presence has been used by the Rwandan government as a reason for military interventions against its neighbour.