Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Nigeria – 172 women and children taken in Boko Haram raid on Gamsuri


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 172 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, residents said on Thursday.

Although no one has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km (15 miles) from this latest attack.

The campaign for an Islamic state by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has become the gravest threat to Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.

Village resident Abba Musa, a maize grinder who survived the attack, estimated the number abducted as 172 after the village did a head count following the assault.

The attackers shouted “God is Great” and unleashed salvos of gunfire, he said.

“My sister and her seven children were among those taken away,” he told Reuters by telephone. “We ran into the bush and were lucky. There were not many others who were lucky.”

He said at least 33 were killed.

Thousands of people have been killed and many hundreds abducted, raising questions about the ability of security forces to protect civilians, especially around the north Cameroon border where the militants are well established.

“The government is outraged and deeply saddened by this deplorable act,” government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a statement. “Boko Haram continues to choose, ever cowardly, to target civilian populations to spread their brand of terror.”

He estimated deaths at 17 but said the numbers abducted could not yet be reliably ascertained.

Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but is from Gumsuri and visited family there shortly afterwards, said the insurgents carted away their victims on open-topped trucks.

News from remote parts of Nigeria that are cut off from mobile communications sometimes takes days to emerge.

A security source confirmed that more than 100 had been abducted and 35 people killed, including the district head.

“They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops,” Chibok said.

The abductions have increased in frequency this year. A man who says he is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month rejected comments by the government that it was in talks to free the Chibok girls, saying he had in fact “married them off” to Boko Haram commanders, in a video posted on the Internet.

Aliyu Mamman, a young vigilante from the area, told Reuters by telephone that there was no security presence to stop the militants, who stayed in the town all night before leaving.

Nigeria sentenced 54 soldiers to death for mutiny in the northeast on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cameroon’s army killed 116 Boko Haram militants when they attacked a base in the Far North region of the country, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.


Sudan – Darfur Déjà Vu

African ArgumentsBy Alex de Waal

Alex-de-Waal1There is an old joke that Sudanese politics is different every week but if you come back after ten years it is exactly the same.

That sums up my impressions of the Darfur peace talks in Addis Ababa two weeks ago, except that it is nine years ago, not ten, that I became engaged full time in working for the African Union on the last round of the Darfur mediation.

The participants are almost all the same, except greyer, thicker around the middle, and (in the case of the rebels) wearing smarter suits. It is the same Minni Minawi; the same Abdel Wahid al Nur (booked into a different hotel and refusing to turn up); Khalil Ibrahim has been replaced by his brother Jibreel; Majzoub al Khalifa has been replaced by his deputy Amin Hassan Omar.

The same issues, the same demands, the same procedural gimmickry, the same obstinacy, the same selective memory. (Didn’t they sign a Declaration of Principles that includes all the issues they are raising now, back in July 2005?)

The same claims by the government generals that they are on the brink of victory, and by party bosses that they are about to win round most of the rebel commanders, leaving the rebel leaders isolated; the same earnest claims by the rebels that they are talking to the Arabs who are about to rise in revolt, and the government is about to collapse when the next army offensive fails.

The same blithe insistence from U.S. diplomatic staff that Minni should be taken seriously and the rebels have learned a lot. (They have learned that the U.S. is gullible.)

The Darfur Peace Agreement failed eight and a half years ago because the government delegation had other priorities than settling the Darfur conflict on terms they thought were too expensive. (Today, the Khartoum government’s priority is not to lose the $2 billion promised by Qatar on the condition that there is no interference with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.)

It failed because the same rebel leaders represented a small fraction of Darfurians, and moreover were too weak to take their followers with them into a peace deal, and so the rebel movements fragmented.

Darfur’s conflict can be settled but not by these means.

Alex de Waal is Director of the World Peace Foundation.

Nigeria – Boko Haram directly threatens Emir of Kano in new video


B’Haram threatens Emir of Kano in new video


Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the extremist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, has threatened to attack the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, for mobilising support against the sect.

In well publicised statements, Sanusi asked Kano State residents as well as vigilantes, to arm and defend themselves against future terrorist attacks following a recent attack on the Kano Central Mosque.

The latest threat was contained in a video posted on youtube and viewed on Wednesday by our correspondent.

Shekau condemned Sanusi and adherents of most Islamic sects, describing them as infidels who have abandoned the Islamic doctrine. He said they should be ready to repent and practise Islam as preached by his sect, or be ready to face the consequences.

Shekau said, “Before I start talking to my brothers who believed in me and the religion of Allah, not the religion of democracy, not that of western education, those who believed in the religion of the Quran not that of the constitution and not religion of the Emir of Kano.

“We do not practise the religion of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, not the religion of Jonathan, not the religion of Obasanjo, not the religion of Atiku, not the religion of Babangida, not the religion of Obama, not the religion of Bush, not the religion of Clinton, but the religion of Allah.

“Now listen to me Emir of Kano. I am talking to you and only you because of your recent utterances. Let me inform you now that you are late (dead), you should know that you are only the King of Kano, King of Central Bank, King of money, you are only Sanusi Lamido.”

Shekau said his group would continue to fight and kill local vigilantes, hunters, and all those who oppose the teachings of the sect.

He also said, “Emir of Kano Sanusi, you are late, that our triumph is just for a period of time so you said. Even your predecessors who are renowned idol worshippers in Islamic history like ‘Abujahal’ could not succeed in fighting Islam.

“Yes, you can say that our success is for a period of time, because you are a king of Bank and a loyal citizen of your country.

“Because you are made the Emir of Kano, that is why you got angry and was calling on the vigilante groups and hunters to attack us. Let me tell you that the hunters and the vigilante groups will fail and you will also fail.”

Shekau condemned all other Islamic sects in the country, calling them pagans.

He said the Izala, Tijjaniyya, Qadiriyya and Shiite Islamic groups were pagans and his group would continue to kill their followers.

The Boko Haram leader also condemned the government of Saudi Arabia, saying that all infidels would perish in hell.

“We will kill you people, we will capture hostages and keep selling them,” he said.

The Boko Haram leader said he (Shekau) was human, adding that “It is Allah that is supreme and even if there is no war, members of my sect and I will die.”

He said they were ready to die and go and rest in heaven.

Over 100 people died in the Kano Central Mosque attack which was believed to have been targeted at the Kano emir.

The Emir, who had travelled out of Nigeria at the time, visited the mosque on his return, and re-affirmed his vow that the Kano people would not bow to the Boko Haram’s threats.

Nigeria – Uganda starts sending former M23 rebels back but some flee


KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda began sending home over a thousand fighters of a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel group on Tuesday after Kinshasa pressured it to return the refugees so they do not regroup to fight again.

Some 1,430 DRC fighters are believed to have fled into Uganda after Congolese and U.N. forces quashed their rebellion in eastern Congo in 2013. Most live in military-run camps awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

Kinshasa has been pressing Uganda and Rwanda to repatriate the fighters, fearing they could mobilise and start another rebellion in the country’s troubled east.

Congo has come under international pressure to speed up implementing the peace deal, which grants amnesties for former rebels who promise not to take part in any future insurrections. It does not apply to those wanted for war crimes.

“The first batch of 120 fighters from those willing to go back home will be flying out today,” said Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the Ugandan military.

Ankunda said several fighters had refused to return home and escaped from a military encampment in western Uganda to a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in the same region.

“We can’t force anyone to go back home, so for those who have escaped, they’re now the responsibility of the U.N.,” he said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Lucy Beck said her agency knew some ex-M23 fighters were headed for the U.N. camp but they would be handed over to a government representative as they are ineligible for refugee status.

“These people will not be considered for refugee status as they are ex-combatants and have been involved in fighting,” she said.

A Congolese delegation arrived in Uganda early this month to discus the rebels’ possible repatriation.

U.N. experts have accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting M23 with troops, arms and intelligence during the 2012-13 conflict, but both countries denied any involvement.

In its most recent report released in June, the experts warned that M23 members were escaping from camps in Rwanda and there was evidence the movement was regrouping in Uganda.


Congo M23 rebels ‘on the run in Uganda ahead of handover’

Members of the former Congolese M23 rebels sit at a compound in Uganda's Bihanga Training School, about 380km south-west of the capital Kampala, on 7 February 2014 Hundreds of former M23 fighters fled to camps in Uganda and Rwanda after their defeat in November 2013

More than 1,500 Congolese ex-rebels have gone on the run in Uganda ahead of their handover to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the group’s leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, has told the BBC.

The M23 president said they had left a camp where they were being held because they feared returning home.

They had fled to Uganda a year ago after being defeated by the Congolese army and UN forces.

However, Uganda’s army spokesman has denied that most of them are missing.

‘Neighbouring hills’

The BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga in Uganda says a Congolese government delegation was in the capital, Kampala, earlier this month to negotiate the former fighters’ return to DR Congo, where the authorities have said they will be demobilised and reintegrated into society.

They are not believed to be armed, she says.

Mr Bisimwa said the estimated 1,600 ex-fighters who had been staying at the military training school in western Uganda since November 2013 were due to be handed back to the authorities in DR Congo on Tuesday.

But when Ugandan army trucks arrived to pick them up in the morning they ran away into the neighbouring hills, leaving only a handful who were sick, he said.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC that he did not know how many of the former fighters had escaped, but a number of them were on their way to Kampala to be transferred.

Some 800,000 people fled their homes in eastern DR Congo during the 20-month M23 insurgency.

At the time the UN accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the rebels – charges both countries denied.

An accord to end the rebellion stipulated that former fighters, who had gathered at camps in Rwanda and Uganda, would be granted an amnesty on their return to DR Congo.

It also said the leaders of the group should be returned to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Sudan – UN says tens of thousands dead in a year of civil war

Al Jazeera

Security Council says feuding leaders “personal ambitions” fomented crisis, as nation marks one year since start of war.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2014

Fighting has displaced more than 1.9 million people [Reuters]
Tens of thousands of people have died in South Sudan during one year of war and the country’s leaders are putting their “personal ambitions” ahead of the young nation’s future, the UN secretary-general has said.

Ban Ki-moon called on the country’s leaders to agree to an inclusive power-sharing arrangement that would address the root causes of the conflict and ensure accountability for any crimes committed on the battlefield.

There is no official death toll for the conflict, but Ban said “tens of thousands” of South Sudanese have died.

The UN Security Council blamed South Sudan’s “man-made political, security and humanitarian catastrophe” on its feuding leaders on Monday, as the world body threatened targeted sanctions against those impeding the peace process.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that civilians faced a “dreadful” situation and were victims of targeted killings and looting.

“The people of South Sudan are living in a tinderbox, with emotions high, an abundant flow of weapons and with both sides recruiting fighters, often forcefully and including children,” Hussein said.

South Sudan: Peace talks or petty squabbles?

War broke out in the world’s newest nation a year ago on Monday, when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of trying to organise a coup.

More than 1.9 million people were displaced by the fighting, the UN says, with sectarian battles pitting militias loyal to Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against those who support Machar, an ethnic Nuer.

The two sides have signed several peace deals brokered by neighboring governments, but none has succeeded in stopping the fighting in the oil-rich country.

In recent days, government troops and armed youths have been battling in Upper Nile state, a sign that widespread violence could return now that the six-month rainy season has ended.

Rights groups say the country is locked in conflict, with the bloodshed that erupted in Juba a year ago having set off a cycle of retaliatory massacres across large swathes of the country.

UN says forces in Sudan’s Darfur won’t leave amid rising violence


DAKAR Reuters) – A joint United Nations-African Union (UNAMID) peacekeeping mission in Darfur is unlikely to bow to Sudan’s request to leave the region when the situation there appears to be worsening, the head of the U.N. peacekeeping forces said on Monday.

Sudan said last month it had asked UNAMID to prepare an exit plan, days after denying peacekeepers permission to pay a second visit to the site of alleged mass rapes by Sudanese soldiers in the Darfur village of Tabit.

“They have asked us to form an exit strategy, which was always an objective, but they are doing it with a certain insistence and publicity which is a little bit special,” Herve Ladsous told Reuters in an interview.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when mainly African tribes in the region took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discriminating against them. UNAMID has been deployed in Darfur since 2007.

As many as 300,000 people have died in the conflict, the United Nations says.

Ladsous said a review of UNAMID had been completed and that he would consult with his African Union counterpart, but added Khartoum knew the mission would not leave any time soon.

“It won’t happen tomorrow and not while we continue to see so much suffering,” he said. “This year alone we’ve seen a further 430,000 displaced, which is a clear indication that the situation in Darfur is not good.”

UNAMID was deployed in Darfur with a mandate to stem violence against civilians in a conflict that has seen the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue a warrant for the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir for suspected genocide.

Khartoum has dismissed the charges and refused to recognise the ICC. Bashir claimed victory on Saturday over the ICC and reaffirmed his hard line on Darfur after prosecutors shelved further investigation of war crimes there.

“What we’re seeing is fighting between unidentified militias and people are being killed, women are being raped,” Ladsous said. “There was this incident in Tabit where we were not able to investigate in an independent way without being watched.”

Sudan initially refused to let UNAMID visit Tabit but later granted it access. UNAMID found no evidence of allegations by some Darfur rebels that Sudanese troops had raped about 200 women and girls.

But it expressed concern on Nov. 10 about a heavy military presence during interviews conducted with the alleged victims.


South Sudan – HRW asks where’s the African Union report on atrocities?

Human Rights Watch

Just two weeks after conflict broke out in South Sudan on December 15, 2013, with evidence that war crimes were in progress, the African Union (AU)’s Chairperson took action. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma set up the first ever AU Commission of Inquiry to investigate the ongoing crimes and recommend paths to peace and justice. Nearly a year later, the commission has yet to publish its report.

This missing piece is especially poignant today, the anniversary of South Sudan’s new war, which has brought some of the worst abuses South Sudanese have experienced – including possible crimes against humanity.

The report, apparently finished weeks ago, should be made public now. Or at least Zuma or the commission’s head, former Nigerian President Olesugun Obasanjo, should update the South Sudanese public on where the report stands, and say when it will be published and who will get to review it before it is made public.

South Sudanese civilians have suffered repeated abuses at the hands of men in power and their armed forces. Decades of impunity for past crimes have fuelled the brutality of this crisis, including ethnically motivated attacks and revenge killings. And the pattern continues. South Sudan’s government has taken no action to hold abusive leaders or soldiers to account. Army and police reports about the killings in Juba last December have been buried and, except for the national human rights commission, no South Sudanese officials have called for criminal investigations into the human rights abuses. As far as we can tell, Riak Machar’s opposition forces have made no serious efforts to hold abusive forces to account, either.

A strong AU report could be a game changer for South Sudan.

UN officials and diplomats are waiting for the report to guide them on what should be done to support justice for South Sudanese this time. A strong report would recommend holding abusers to account before a court of law. Recent Human Rights Watch research indicates that fair credible trials for the most serious crimes before domestic courts are not realistic in the short term and international assistance is needed.

It would also recommend an arms embargo and UN Security Council sanctions against individuals implicated in the worst crimes. That would, we hope, end the months of dilly-dallying by the US and other Security Council members on both of these crucial measures.

But we’re losing time. The dry season has begun, enabling troop movements and increasing the chances of more conflict and abuses.

South Sudanese were promised the truth; they deserve to hear it now.