Category Archives: East Africa

Somalia – Al Shabab inflict substantial casualties in attack on AMISOM base

BBC

Al-Shabab fighters in somalia
Image captionAl-Shabab has lost most of its key strongholds in south and central Somalia

Fighters from the al-Shabab militant Islamist group have overrun an African Union military base in southern Somalia, inflicting heavy casualties, witnesses have told the BBC.

The militants said they have killed 70 AU soldiers at the Janale base, 90km (55 miles) south-east of the capital.

AU forces say they are back in control after taking a “tactical withdrawal”.

Al-Shabab, part of al-Qaeda, is battling the AU-backed government for control of Somalia.

Residents said the attack started with a suicide car bombing at the base’s gate, followed by sustained gunfire which lasted more than an hour.

They told the BBC Somali service that AU forces were seen leaving the base, which is run by the Ugandan troops.

They said they counted the bodies of 20 AU soldiers and later they saw more troops arriving at the base after the militants had left with weapons.

The AU mission in Somalia (Amisom) says the situation is complex and it does not yet have casualty figures.

The BBC’s Mohamed Mualimu in the capital, Mogadishu, says the situation in the area is very tense and few residents remain there.

map showing who controls which parts of Somalia

The militants had earlier damaged a nearby bridge with a massive bomb to prevent troops from escaping, Col Ahmed Hassan from the Somali army told the Associated Press.

This is being seen as an attempt by the militants to isolate AU bases in the area, our reporter says.

In June, the group overran another African Union base in Lego, a small town in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, killing dozens of soldiers and seizing military equipments.

Despite losing most of its key strongholds in south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues to carry out attacks on the government and African Union troops across the country.

The militants also stage frequent suicide attacks inside the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia – Al Shabab storms African Union base

Mail and Guardian

Militants from Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab group rammed a suicide car bomb into an African Union army base and stormed inside.

Al shabab militants. (AP)

There were no immediate reports on casualties, and the rebels said in a statement that the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) troops had fled the base, situated in Janale district, 80 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu in the lower Shabele region in Somalia.

The base is thought to be manned by Burundian soldiers.

“There was heavy explosion and fighting broke out at the Amisom base in Janale. We don’t have details but we are hearing that Al-Shebab militants attacked the base,” said Mohamed Shire, a Somali military commander based in the region.

A local eyewitness said Shabab fighters stormed into the base.

“Heavy fighting broke out after a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the camp,” said local resident Ali Moalim Yusuf. “I saw heavily armed fighters chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is greatest’] pouring into the base.”

The militants, who are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed and AU-protected government, confirmed they were behind the attack.

“Mujaheddin fighters captured the base after a suicide bomber struck it, the enemy fled,” the Islamists said in a brief statement.

In June, Shebab fighters killed dozens of Burundian soldiers when they overran an Amisom outpost northwest of the capital. The militants also stage frequent suicide attacks inside the capital.

But AMISOM, the 22 000-strong AU force in Somalia, has also made key gains against the Shebab in recent months, pushing them out of several strongholds in the southwest of the country. – AFP

South Sudan – rival forces trade accusations over ceasefire violations

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – Rival forces in South Sudan conflict have issued statements counter-accusing each other of violations of the permanent ceasefire hours after it came into effect on Saturday midnight as declared by president Salva Kiir and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.

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Soldiers from the South Sudan army (SPLA) patrol the streets in the Upper Nile state capital, Malakal, on 21 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Charles Lomodong)

The spokesperson of the government forces, Colonel Phillip Aguer, issued a series of statements on Saturday evening and again on Sunday, accusing forces loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar, to have carried out attack on positions held by forces allied to president Kiir in Malakal town.

The intention of the rebels attack on the government forces, according to Aguer, was to gain more territories which they were seeking to use as assembling points in the event peace deal is implemented.

“Their intention is to gain more territories. This is the purpose of these attacks. That was why they attacked the positions of our forces in Malakal yesterday (Saturday) and again today (Sunday),” said Aguer.

“For us, our forces will not attack them but they have the right for self-defense,” he added.

However, the military officer revealed that the government had dispatched troops using river transports for delivery of military supplies to Malakal town, capital of the remaining oil producing Upper Nile state.

Spokesman of the leader of the armed opposition leader, Machar, on Saturday and Sunday said government forces moving with barges and gunboats from Juba to Malakal along the river Nile have been attacking their bases.

“Government forces have been attacking our bases along the river Nile. They attacked Tayer port on 26 August, the day President Kiir signed the peace Agreement. They attacked our base at Adok port on Friday as they continue to move northwards towards Malakal. Government forces in Malakal also shelled our base on the west bank,” said Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak.

Government spokesman, Philip Aguer, admitted that government forces were moving along the river Nile through territories controlled by the rebels, warning that they will fire back in self-defense should they come under attack from the rebel forces.

Peter Adwok Nyaba, one of the leading figures in the armed opposition faction led by Machar confirmed separately that government forces on Sunday shot at one of their speed boats while traveling between Wau Shilluk and Watbajwok around Malakal, wounding one passenger.

“The information we have is that the government forces continued shelling Ditang, Bukieny, Obuwa and Lelo. Our forces did not return fire respecting the orders of the commander-in-chief Dr. Riek Machar to cease fire,” said Nyaba.

Dak also said their forces came under separate attacks on Sunday morning in their bases in Koch, Leer and Mayiandit counties, just hours after the ceasefire went into force.

NEW ACTING SPOKESMAN FOR SPLA-IO

Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, who has been handling both political and military issues as spokesman after defection of military spokesman, Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, to government, said there is now an acting military spokesman to handle military issues.

“I want to take this opportunity to introduce to you my colleague, Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, who has become our acting military spokesperson,” Dak said on Sunday while distributing to the media Colonel Deng’s first press statement on the military situation after violation of the permanent ceasefire.

Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang, who was military spokesperson for the rebels’ military defected to the government this year. His deputy, Colonel James L. Thichot Ngundeng, who became the acting military spokesperson also defected from Machar with the group of Major General Peter Gatdet Yak and Major General Gathoth Gatkuoth.

Dak urged journalists to also establish contacts with the acting military spokesman, Deng, as he may be dealing mainly with political issues.

(ST)

South Sudan – Machar accuses government forces of breaking ceasefire

BBC

South Sudanese SPLA soldiers inspect a burned out car in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015.
Image captionGovernment troops have been battling rebels since 2013

South Sudan’s rebel leader has accused the government of violating a ceasefire hours after it came into effect.

Riek Machar said the army attacked his forces in two northern states, allegations which the military denies.

President Salva Kiir, under the threat of sanctions from the UN, signed a peace agreement on Wednesday, despite “serious reservations”.

Several ceasefires to end the brutal 20-month conflict in the world’s youngest nation have failed to hold.

The ceasefire came into effect at midnight local time on Saturday (21:00 GMT).

Mr Machar said his troops remained committed to the ceasefire despite the reported attacks in northern Unity and Upper Nile states, but would act in self-defence if the offensive continues.

“The government is unable to control its own troops,” Mr Machar told reporters in Ethiopia.

map

He also accused the government of launching a “belligerent convoy”, including gunships, on the River Nile from the capital Juba.

The convoy had been bombarding villages as it headed through rebel-held territory on its way north, he said.

Army spokesman Col Philip Aguer denied that there were any government troops operating in the areas where the alleged attacks took place.

“These are mere fabrications by the rebels. We don’t have any report of clashes,” he is quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

The government has also accused Mr Machar of failing to properly order his troops to stop fighting.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than two million have been displaced from their homes since the conflict started in December 2013.

In a unanimous statement last week, the UN Security Council called on both parties “to adhere to the permanent ceasefire immediately”, or face an arms embargo and other sanctions.

Under the agreement, the rebels will be given the post of first vice-president, a position Mr Machar held until 2013 when he was dismissed by President Kiir.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

Fighting broke out in December 2013 after President Kiir accused his sacked deputy Mr Machar of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the charges, but then mobilised a rebel force to fight the government.


Key points of the peace deal:

South Sudanese soldier on patrol in Bentiu - January 2014
  • Fighting to stop immediately. Soldiers to be confined to barracks in 30 days, foreign forces to leave within 45 days, and child soldiers and prisoners of war freed
  • All military forces to leave the capital, Juba, to be replaced by unspecified “guard forces” and Joint Integrated Police
  • Rebels get post of “first vice-president”
  • Transitional government of national unity to take office in 90 days and govern for 30 months
  • Elections to be held 60 days before end of transitional government’s mandate
  • Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing to investigate human rights violations

Sudan – Darfur conflict changing and becoming more internecine but not getting better

ISS

In Darfur, things have changed, but not for the better
31 August 2015

The Peace and Security Council (PSC) undertook a field mission to Darfur and Khartoum this month amid growing concern about the situation in Darfur. The African Union (AU) has been involved in attempts to solve the Darfur conflict for over a decade, having started to send peacekeepers to the area in 2004.

In June 2015, the United Nations (UN) Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the UN–AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), citing a ‘significant deterioration of the security situation’.

The unanimous vote represented something of a defeat: an admission that after 11 years of international involvement, the region remains as dangerous and unstable as ever.

It is important not to underestimate the scale of the Darfur conflict, and its cost – in both human and financial terms. Since the fighting began in earnest in 2003, more than 300 000 people have been killed and an estimated 2.5 million more displaced (this from a population of around 6.2 million).

The AU has had a presence there since 2004, in the form of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which morphed into UNAMID in 2007. UNAMID’s mandate provides for 15 845 military personnel, 1 583 police personnel and 13 formed police units of up to 140 personnel each, which are drawn from 37 different countries. Its budget is currently US$1.1 billion per year. The International Crisis Group (ICG) estimates that the total international cost of the war in Darfur, including humanitarian aid, has exceeded US$20 billion since 2003.

Over the years, the conflict has changed, becoming ever more fractured and internecine
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This investment of money, personnel and diplomatic capital has failed to resolve the situation, however. Even though a high-profile peace deal – the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) – was signed in 2011 between the government of President Omar al-Bashir and various rebel groups, the fighting has intensified over the last 18 months. This has left policymakers wondering whether UNAMID is fit for purpose, and what it should be doing differently.

Changing nature of the conflict

Understanding the tangled web of alliances and motivations that underpin the conflict has never been easy, although when the fighting began it was possible to observe the broad trend, which pitted non-Arab tribes against government forces and government-sponsored militia groups (known pejoratively as the Janjaweed). It is on this basis that peace talks proceeded, and the DDPD reflects this understanding, even though several major rebels groups refused to sign the document.

Over the years, however, the conflict has changed, becoming ever more fractured and internecine. ‘Violence in Darfur has continually evolved. In 2003–2005, it was mostly due to attacks by pro-government, largely Arab militias targeting non-Arab communities accused of supporting the rebels. While those continued and intensified again in 2014, violence has mutated since 2006, with Arab communities and militias fighting each other and, to a lesser extent, non-Arab communities targeting non-Arab communities. Arab militias also turned against their government backers, while rebel factions fragmented and fought against each other as well,’ said the ICG in a report in April 2015 entitled ‘The chaos in Darfur’.

It is also important to note that the conflict has outgrown Darfur itself, especially with the occasional cross-border incursion by Chadian forces, and the deal between several major Darfuri rebel groups and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SFR).

This poses challenges for any effective peace talks (although the prospect of new peace talks remains illusory, as the Sudanese government resolutely refuses to renegotiate the DDPD). Where should the international community begin: With the rebels and the government? With the government and the Janjaweed, themselves increasingly resistant to Khartoum’s dictates? With the intra-Arab spat between the Salamat and Misseriya, or the resource-fuelled dispute between the Beni Husein and abbala Reizegat? With the long-standing tensions between the non-Arab Zaghawa and other non-Arab militias? With the faction fighting between fragmenting rebel groups?

Involving armed groups in parallel processes

‘Resolution of Darfur’s diverse conflicts requires many things, including a rethink by the international community, in particular the UN Security Council, of many aspects of its relationship with Sudan. One element of that resolution, however, must be to involve as many armed groups as possible in parallel peace processes, including local inter-tribal conferences; Darfur regional security talks; and the national dialogue. In particular, Arab militias need representation in all processes, and government and rebels must acknowledge that they do not fully represent those communities,’ concluded the ICG.

There are encouraging signs that the AU is cognizant of the need for a new, inclusive peace process, particularly in the wake of the PSC’s field mission to Darfur and Khartoum from 19–21 August. Following this visit, the PSC met to discuss the activities of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan and South Sudan, and issued a communiqué that emphasised the importance of national dialogue. Most significantly, the communiqué indicated that the PSC had extracted significant concessions from al-Bashir while in Sudan:

The PSC extracted significant concessions from al-Bashir while in Sudan
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‘[The PSC] notes the statement made by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir that the Government of Sudan is ready to observe a two-month ceasefire in order to create the necessary confidence for all stakeholders, including representatives of the armed movements, to join the National Dialogue process, and further notes the commitment made by President al-Bashir to grant amnesty to members of the armed movements to enable them to attend the National Dialogue in safety,’ said the communiqué.

This is a ‘big picture’ issue, however, and if it is to have any chance of success it will need a great deal of political will, and time. In the short term there is still an important role for UNAMID and the international community to play. But to do so they may need to focus on smaller, more readily solvable issues.

Room for improvement

In assessing the effectiveness of any peacekeeping mission, there are two distinct levels of analysis. Firstly, would the situation be worse without the presence of the mission? And secondly, what can the mission do better?

To the first point: almost certainly, Darfur and its beleaguered civilian population would be worse off without UNAMID. The mission not only provides protection to various camps for internally displaced persons but also conducts regular patrols and containment operations to minimise the opportunity for violence. According to the most recent report of the UN secretary-general on UNAMID, during the period from 26 February 2015 to 15 May 2015, the mission ‘conducted 10 376 patrols, comprising 5 567 routine patrols, 682 short-range patrols, 204 long-range patrols, 2 007 night patrols, 178 humanitarian armed escorts and 1 738 logistics and administrative armed escorts. A total of 5 008 villages were covered during these patrols.’

In addition to this, UNAMID provides protection and support for other humanitarian operations, and support for high-level mediation efforts. All these go some way towards improving the situation on the ground, even if only marginally.

‘What can UNAMID do better? This question can be answered by asking another question. What would Darfur look like if UNAMID was not there? Clearly, the situation without UNAMID would have been much worse than the situation on the ground now. It is not perfect, but I believe the mere presence of UNAMID contributes a lot,’ said Meressa Kahsu, a Researcher and Training Coordinator for the Institute for Security Studies who has visited Darfur recently.

UN spokesperson describes ‘conspiracy of silence’

Despite its obvious impact, UNAMID has not been immune to criticism that it could and should be doing more to fulfil its mandate, especially when it comes to protecting civilians. Most damaging were the revelations from former mission spokesperson Aicha el Basri, who resigned from her position to reveal what she described as a ‘conspiracy of silence’ to mask the mission’s shortcomings. She said that UNAMID troops had repeatedly failed to intervene to protect civilians, even when incidents happened before their eyes; and that the mission was also guilty of covering up the scale of these incidents. ‘I felt ashamed to be a spokesperson for a mission that lies, that can’t protect civilians, that can’t stop lying about it,’ she told the BBC.

Recognising shortcomings

The UN denied these accusations, but it is well aware of other shortcomings in the mission. In his report, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon outlined several factors that prevent it from fulfilling its mandate effectively. These included 60 attacks and hostile incidents against UNAMID personnel in the 90-day reporting period; other attacks against UN agencies and other humanitarian actors; restrictions on movement, access denial and denial of clearances imposed on UNAMID and humanitarian actors, most often by local government officials; and delays or denials of visas for UNAMID staff. These add up to an extremely hostile operating environment.

Despite its faults, Darfur’s civilians would be worse off without UNAMID
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‘The mission is like a prisoner who can’t move outside the jail. UNAMID can’t move outside the base without permission from the Government of Sudan. So how can it be effective in implementing its mandate? One example is the media reports on an incident of mass rape in the village of Tabit towards the end of 2014,’ said Kahsu. ‘UNAMID was unable to reach the village in a timely manner and investigate the alleged cases, only gaining access some days after the incident. This brings the credibility of the UNAMID report on the incident into question.

‘Consent of the host country is one of the principles of UN peacekeeping. In my view, this consent is no longer there,’ said Kahsu. In fact, things have become so bad that the government has demanded that UNAMID leave the country entirely. In response, UNAMID is examining possible options for an exit strategy.

If some of these challenges are beyond UNAMID’s control, it can work harder to address other criticisms. One that is well within the mission’s control is to improve cooperation between the UN and the AU, which is not always as good as it should be. The hybrid nature of the operation poses difficulties, but it also represents an opportunity: by leveraging the UN’s experience with the logistics of such missions and the AU’s political influence with the government in Khartoum, UNAMID should be able to punch well above its weight – and make a real difference. At the moment, Institute for Security Studies research shows that this is not happening.

The international community may not be able to solve the situation in Darfur in the near future. It can, however, take concrete steps to make UNAMID more effective, thereby allowing the peacekeeping force to better fulfil its mandate. Already, UNAMID’s presence is able to mitigate the worst effects of the violence for thousands of Darfuris, and there is no reason why it cannot play this role even more effectively. In fact, if it is truly to live up to its mandate, it must do so.

Relevant documents

Communiqué of the 539th meeting of the PSC on the activities of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) for Sudan and South Sudan

Report of the Secretary-General on the African Union–United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, 26 May 2015

UN Security Council Resolution 2228 (2015) [extending UNAMID’s mandate until 30 June 2016]

South Sudan – what hope of peace after Kiir and Machar sign

East African

Kiir, Machar declare ceasefire in South Sudan amid disagreement in camps

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Dr Riek Machar have declared a ceasefire beginning midnight of August 29. This was one of the requirement of the agreement where both parties were to declare a ceasefire within 72 hours of the signing. FILE PHOTO | TEA GRAPHIC  

By FRED OLUOCH, TEA Special Correspondent

IN SUMMARY

  • For Dr Machar however his breakaway generals have vowed to continue fighting both the government and the rebels on the grounds that he was simply looking for government positions.
  • Dr Cirino Hiteng, one of the former detainees, told The EastAfrican that there is no political will in Juba, beginning with the reluctance to sign the agreement in Addis Ababa on August 17.
  • Igad will monitor compliance and report directly to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission on the implementation of the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements during the transition period.

President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Dr Riek Machar have declared a ceasefire beginning midnight of August 29. This was one of the requirement of the agreement where both parties were to declare a ceasefire within 72 hours of the signing.

For Dr Machar however his breakaway generals have vowed to continue fighting both the government and the rebels on the grounds that he was simply looking for government positions.

One of those opposed to the deal, Chief of General Staff Paul Malong, tried unsuccessfully to persuade some of the members of the Cabinet to reject the deal during Monday’s expanded leadership meeting involving state governors, and members of the allied political parties inside and outside the government.

During the signing on Wednesday evening, Gen Malong was confined in his house in Juba, reportedly under house arrest, while Information Minister Michael Makuei reportedly walked out when President Kiir was about to sign the document.

Dr Cirino Hiteng, one of the former detainees, told The EastAfrican that there is no political will in Juba, beginning with the reluctance to sign the agreement in Addis Ababa on August 17. The other challenge, he says, is meeting deadlines as per the agreement, for example, convening a workshop on security and the establishment of a unified command.

“President Kiir’s supporters dread the idea of Dr Machar coming back to the government and displacing Vice President James Wani Igga, for the second time. The other major issue is the integration of two armies. Forming a unified army that’s not tribally based will not be easy,” said Kiur Garang, an author based in Camada.

On the rebel side, Gene Peter Gatdet Yaak, who was dropped from his post of director for operations in the rebel movement, is opposed to the deal and remains holed up in Khartoum, raising fears that he could mobilise his forces to undermine the implementation of the peace deal.

The existing Igad Monitoring and Verification Mechanism will transform itself into the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism and will report on the progress of the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements (PCTSA).

It will monitor compliance and report directly to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission on the implementation of the PCTSA during the transition period.

One of the key concerns to the government was that the US started circulating a document on sanctions at the United Nations even before the expiry of the 15-day grace period that was given by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), thereby intimidating the government into signing the document.

South Sudan deputy ambassador to Kenya, James Morgan argued that the Troika — US, UK and Norway — have been pushing a peace agreement that favours their interests and not the welfare of the people of South Sudan.

“Our mediation team in Addis Ababa did not do well because any objection from them was overruled by Igad mediators. We are not against peace but an imposed deal will not silence the guns, especially from the rebel side,” said Mr Morgan.

At the signing ceremony on Wednesday, President Kiir sought to attach a 12-page list of reservations on many key points of the deal. But White House spokesman Josh Earnes warned that it does not recognise the list.

South Sudan – rebels says they repulsed army attacks in Unity State

Sudan Tribune

(GANYLIEL) – South Sudanese rebels say they twarted attempts by pro-government forces (SPLA) to recapture Taiyar port in Payinjiar county, south of Unity state.

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SPLA soldiers sit in a pick-up in the key north oil city of Bentiu after capturing it from rebels on 12 January 2014 (Photo: AFP/Simon Maina)

The rebel-appointed commissioner for Payinjiar county, John Tap Puot said their forces pushed back the enemy on Thursday.

“Our forces have repulsed the attackers, and we are still speedily pursuing them towards Shambe port,” he toldSudan Tribune over satellite phone from Ganyliel payam.

Heavy fighting reportedly occured east of Ganyliel payam at Lieda, some 10 kilometers south of Taiyar main port the country’s armed opposition faction and forces allied to President Salva Kiir, according to local officials and aid agencies operating in the area.

The attack comes a day after President Kiir signed the long-awaited IGAD-brokered peace agreement to end the 20-months old onflicts in the country on Wednesday.

Puot accused government forces of renewed military offensives against their forces in the area.

He claimed forces loyal to President Kiir heavily shelled Taiyar port at 4:30pm and largely accused the Juba government for failing to adhere to the recently signed peace accord.

“It is not a surprise to us that pro government will violate this document, which they have signed yesterday [Wednesday]. Our position is to inform the international community that the government of Juba does not stick on its words and this has reflected [that] they are not ready to bring peace to the people of South Sudan,” Puot told [Sudan Tribune].

The official further claimed the rebels mainly reacted in self-defense and warned of imminent attacks should government forces continue attacking their positions.

“I want to tell our supporters around the world that Payinjiar county shall never and will never be captured by anyone. It would be better we all die first than surrendering our home land to the enemies,” he added.

Puot says the armed opposition leadership remains committed to the peace deal, but claimed the Juba regime was not supporting an end to the war through negotiations.

A source, who asked not to be named, said the government-appointed Payinjiar county commissioner, William Nyuon Joak commanded forces that attacked the area Thursday.

Sudan Tribune was, however, unable to independently verify these claims.

(ST).