Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

South Sudan: how hate radio was used to incite Bentiu massacres

African Arguments

South Sudan: how hate radio was used to incite Bentiu massacres – By Keith Somerville

Bentiu

The spectre of ethnically-motivated killings, and the use of ethnic rivalry or hatred to mobilize and incite one community against another, hangs over the conflict in South Sudan. Coming just weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which will forever be associated with the use of radio to incite hatred and help direct genocidal killings, the UNMISS report that a rebel commander in Bentiu used the local FM radio station to incite hatred against Dinkas, Darfuris and other non-Nuer, sent a shiver down my spine.

In a country with an estimated 80 per cent illiteracy rate, South Sudanese are particularly reliant on radio as a means of getting news and of communicating information.  It reaches those who cannot read or cannot access or afford to buy newspapers. It can be listened to throughout the day alone, or in groups and can have a mass effect if used to generate fear, mobilize support or, worst of all, incite hatred of others.

The Radio Bentiu FM station is a key source of news for the population.  UNMISS said that the rebels had taken over the station and at times “broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community”.  The UN mission roundly condemned the use of the radio to incite hatred and encourage killings or rape, though it did note that some rebel SPLA commanders had broadcast messages calling for unity and an end to ‘tribalism’. While UN radio stations and the Netherlands-funded Radio Tamazuj can be heard in Unity state, the local FM station is the key local outlet and so has a wide listenership in Bentiu.

Several hundred civilians were killed after the rebel occupation of the key oil town and most of the dead are believed to be Dinkas, Darfuris and a number of other Sudanese, deliberately targeted by sections of the rebel force as ‘enemies’.  At times the rebels have claimed that members of the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and other groups from Sudan have been fighting alongside the South Sudanese army.  UNMISS in its statement on the killings specifically referred to the targeting of Darfuris and to the killing of at least 200 and the wounding of 400 non-Nuer civilians in a mosque.  There were even reports, the UN said, of Nuer being killed for failing to show their support for the rebels. Among the targets for attacks were the mosque, the hospital and a World Food Programme compound.  The UNMISS personnel in Bentiu managed to rescue hundreds of civilians and it says it is now protecting 12,000 civilians at its base – part of an estimated total of 60,000 being guarded throughout South Sudan.

The use of radio to call on rebels and Nuer, in particular, to attack Dinkas and other groups does bring chilling echoes of Rwanda and of the use of local radio stations – especially vernacular ones in Kenya and the DRC – to incite fear, hatred or violence against particular groups. These include the Banyamulenge in eastern DRC or Kalenjin against Kikuyu and vice versa during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-8 (a Kenyan radio editor and presenter, Joshua arap Sang, is currently in trial at the ICC for using radio as part of the incitement of hatred and violence). The spokesperson for UNMISS, Joseph Contreras, said in an interview on UN Radio in South Sudan that the use of radio to fan the flames of hatred was to be deplored and made a direct reference to the role of hate radio in Rwanda.

But South Sudan is not Rwanda and the ethnic/linguistic picture is more diverse and blurred.  Political and ethnic allegiances shift according to time and expediency.  There is also a very different media environment with various church, UN or foreign-sponsored radio stations broadcasting – in addition to the national radio based in Juba and smaller government FM stations in the main towns of each state.  The local FM stations are the ones most likely to be seized by government or rebel forcers as they capture towns – UNMISS says it is already aware that some stations have been broadcasting hate speech.  Mr Contreras called on all sides “to prevent the airing of such messages”. He added, though, that it was impossible to say what effect the messages in Bentiu had had on the course of the violence there after the rebel take over.

The media in South Sudan is more varied than in Rwanda in 1994 – when the only stations broadcasting in Kinyarwanda were the Hutu government-controlled Radio Rwanda, the Hutu Power-owned Radio Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) and the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s Radio Muhabura.  These were supplemented by international broadcasters like the BBC, Radio France International and Voice of America, but none of these transmitted in the local language. In South Sudan, in addition to the national radio service in Juba and state stations in nine provincial capitals, there are over 30 FM or AM stations broadcasting locally, including the UN’s Radio Miraya, Radio Tamazuj, the Catholic Bakhita FM, and the USAID-funded Sudan Radio Service. Most broadcast in English and basic Arabic, though the local stations also broadcast in a number of vernaculars, such as Zande, Madi, Muru, Bari and Kuhu.

Reporters without Borders (RWB) ranks South Sudan as 111th out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, compared with 170 for Sudan. But the role of independent journalists, newspapers and radio stations in reporting corruption has not been popular with President Salva Kiir’s government and journalists have suffered periodic harassment.  One leading commentator and thorn in the side of the government, Diing Chan Awuol, was shot and killed outside his home in Juba in December 2012. Awuol wrote columns for the Sudan Tribune and Gurtong websites and the newspaper ‘Destiny’ under the pen-name of Isaias Abraham.  There have also been arrests of leading journalists, such as Ngor Aguot Garang, the editor of Destiny, and his deputy editor in November 2011 for a critical piece on Salva Kiir’s daughter.

This harassment has not yet made South Sudan’s media into a clone of the state-controlled and intimidated media of the north, but Reporters without Borders said that a South Sudanese media expert had told them that “The authorities in Juba were brought up in the Khartoum school and now they are getting ready to put what they learned about repression into practice…Listen to the information minister. He tells us: ‘Watch what you write. Be patriotic…Unlike what happens in the North, the repression is not concerted, but high-handed actions, harassment, impunity and brutality are nonetheless the rule.”

Harassment has increased since the start of the conflict between forces loyal to the Salva Kiir government and those backing Riek Machar.  In recent weeks, the South Sudanese Information Minister, Michael Makuei, has warned reporters in Juba not to interview opposition leaders or spokespeople or face arrest or expulsion from the country. Makuei said broadcast interviews with rebels are considered “hostile propaganda” and “in conflict with the law.”  The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the minister’s outburst followed a recent interview conducted by the Juba-based and independent Eye Radio with a rebel leader at the deadlocked peace negotiations taking place in Addis Ababa. Makuei said this sort of reporting was “disseminating poison”. The minister ordered journalists in South Sudan to convey “a neutral position that does not agitate against the government.”

There have been a number of cases of journalists being interrogated or arrested since the start of the conflict. On occasions the security services have seized newspapers such as the Juba Monitor and put pressure on Eye Radio to force the resignation of the editor, Beatrice Murail, who left Juba and returned to France as a result.  There have also been reports from the CPJ and the Inter Press Service that Nuer journalists are being viewed as potential enemies and supporters of Machar in government-controlled areas and similarly, as the conflict has ratcheted up ethnic tensions, journalists of Dinka origin are under threat in areas controlled by the rebels.

The well-known South Sudanese journalist Bonifacio Taban, who has himself been put under pressure by the government, told the CPJ in March that this situation is making it hard for journalists to report and dangerous, in particular, for those of Nuer origin to cover the story from the government side.  He said the tough stance of the government is making it more and more difficult for the local press to stay impartial. “The news in South Sudan is not balanced, it has become one-sided, the government side,” Taban told the CPJ.

In these circumstances, it is not surprising that when the rebels seize a town like Bentiu they quickly make sure they control the output of the local media, especially radio.  But as the conflict continues and killings escalate, along with the proliferation of both accurate or exaggerated/invented stories of atrocities, the chances of impartiality slipping into propaganda and then down the slope into hate broadcasting is very real.

Keith Somerville is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London; teaches at the Centre for Journalism, University of Kent; and edits the Africa – News and Analysis website (wwww.africajournalismtheworld.com).  His book Radio Propaganda and the Broadcasting of Hatred was published in 2012.

Kenya – car bomb kills four at Nairobi police station

Reuters

Car bomb kills four in Kenyan capital

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Four people killed when a car bomb exploded outside a police station in a poor neighbourhood of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said.

Police officers had earlier stopped the saloon car at traffic lights and were taking the occupants for questioning when the bomb exploded, the ministry said.

Kenya’s security forces are struggling to contain a surge in bomb and gun attacks that the authorities blame on the Somali Islamist militants who killed at least 67 people when they laid siege to Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in September.

Kenyans are increasingly alarmed at the relative ease at which the militants and radicalised youths are able to carry out deadly strikes in the heart of Kenya, east Africa’s biggest economy.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

“At least 4 people dead after a saloon exploded at Pangani police station. Two of them are police officers,” the ministry said.

Pangani is located next to Nairobi’s Eastleigh district, an area populated by Somalis and targeted in past bomb and grenade attacks.

A second controlled detonation was carried out by bomb disposal officers shortly after the initial blast, a Reuters witness said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last month said the vital tourism industry was “on its knees” after attacks by al Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgents carried out in retaliation for the country’s troop deployment in neighbouring Somalia.

It is common for Kenyan police to demand a ride back to police stations in vehicles they have stopped. But some Kenyan and African Twitter expressed consternation that they should get into a suspicious car at a time of heightened insecurity.

“Crazy & unfortunate that #Kenya police officers would board a “suspicious” car. Not good protocol,” one Twitter user wrote.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Mukoya and Richard Lough,; Writing by Richard Lough,  Reuters

 

Standard

By CYRUS OMBATI

NAIROBI, KENYA: At least four people including two police officers were Wednesday night killed in a car explosion outside Pangani police station in Nairobi in an apparent suicide incident.

The explosion happened at the gate of the police station after an explosion that was in the car went off.

Police boss David Kimaiyo who visited the scene confirmed the deaths.

Other police officers said the blast went off killing two police officers and the apparent two bombers they had arrested earlier on without knowing they had the explosives.

The officers had intercepted a salon car at about 8 pm at the nearby Pangani roundabout in the area and decided to board it.

“They spotted the car and suspected it before boarding leading the driver to the station. The police car then trailed that of the terrorists to the station,” said Kimaiyo at the station.

It was at the entrance that it went off killing all the occupants including the officers.

The blast was so powerful that it was heard several kilometres away.

Some residents of Parklands and Ngara said they heard it.

Witnesses said when the blast went off other officers who were at the station took cover for several minutes before coming to check the car.

The car was extensively damaged following the blast as police said they were yet to know where it was to be used.

Kimaiyo said they will intensify their operations on terrorists in the country. Interior cabinet secretary Joseph ole Lenku also visited the scene. There was panic at the scene when another explosion went off as the dignitaries briefed the media.

Police have in the past days been rounding up suspects in a major swoop.  standard

 

 

 

Uganda – LRA commander Okello captured in Central African Republic

VoA/allAfrica

Uganda: LRA Commander Captured in Central African Republic

 

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN

Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers (file photo).

Uganda’s military says troops have captured a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] and freed 10 people who were held captive by the rebel group.

A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA seized Charles Okello in the Central African Republic.

The spokesman said most of those rescued were children.

The LRA is notorious for attacking and looting villages, and also for its forced recruitment of child soldiers.

The rebel group formed in the mid-1980′s and battled the Ugandan government for 20 years before fleeing to nearby areas.

Ugandan troops have been leading a U.S.-backed African Union mission to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony and other LRA figures.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Authorities believe he is hiding in remote parts of the C.A.R.

DR Congo – absence of policing leading to mob violence in Ituri

IRIN

Mob violence rife in DRC’s Ituri District

BUNIA, 17 April 2014 (IRIN) – The near absence of any effective policing in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) district of Ituri, Orientale Province, is fuelling mob violence which has seen about 100 people killed and 1,500 houses torched in the past year, according to local civil society groups.

People are killed in Ituri after petty disputes or on mere suspicion of practising sorcery, Samuel Jakwong’a, a spokesperson of civil society groups in Mahagi Territory, told IRIN. Revenge attacks are also common, leading to a vicious circle of violence where innocent victims, especially women and children, are affected, according to local human rights NGO LIPADHO.

“When we find a corpse close to a village, there will be revenge [attacks] from the dead person’s family. This brings about a cycle of violence with houses being burnt down in the suspect’s village,” explained Jakwong’a.

Personal disagreements in Mahagi easily degenerate into inter-communal clashes, said Joachim Unegi, a human rights activist.

He told IRIN of a case in February where a row between a headmaster and one of his students in Angal Chiefdom (the most populous of eight chiefdoms in Mahagi Territory) had led to clashes between the two families, leading to the burning down of dozens of houses. The insecurity has left families homeless and vulnerable.

Houses torched

Jacqueline Uyera, 60, is a farmer and a petty trader. Her house was burnt down, alongside 71 others, in a February attack in the village of Mungere, 180km south of Ituri’s main town of Bunia, after a corpse was discovered there. Children were not spared in the attack.

“At the time [of the attack], my husband and I had gone mourning. Unfortunately, a large portion of my money and other property was burnt down in the house – clothes, blankets, maize, beans, cassava, everything. Even if you were present you would not have saved anything. They [the attackers] were very many, in three different groups.

Uyera, whose goats and pigs were also looted, told IRIN that her family, including the orphans she supports, are now going hungry.

“We have done nothing wrong, besides we are not of their ethnicity. We are Gweno and they [the attackers] are Panduru. They should restrict themselves to their place,” she said, adding that the police had not come to their rescue, only showing up the next day to find that people had fled the village.

Since then, she added, some residents had returned to rebuild their houses. Uyera’s family, however, is still seeking refuge among the banana plants in the field. She urged the Congolese government to provide shelter and education materials for the children to enable them to resume schooling.

Intoxicated police

An inadequate police presence and a weak justice system are part of the problem, according to public officials in Mahagi.

“You will find one police officer for two villages, without equipment or a means of travel. They are also high on cannabis and alcohol. Or you will find five police officers for a whole chiefdom,” said Joel Batena, the president of the Mahagi Court.

Those who are arrested, prosecuted and detained end up at the central prison which is very old and in a state of disrepair. It is also guarded by just two police officers, making prisoner escapes easy. Prisoners there are not fed, added Batena.

Some detained perpetrators of mob violence also escape or are released on bail.

“These criminals become very dangerous to the population,” said Jean Bosco Ngamubieme, the Mahagi Territory administrator, adding that they sometimes end up being killed in repeat mob attacks due to the danger they are seen as posing.

EU aid to stem impunity

According to the head of police training in the DRC, Gen Juvenal Bideko, some 500 new police officers are to be deployed to Orientale Province. “Admittedly, this is far from satisfactory. We are also looking to involve other sponsors in the training and equipping of another 1,000 police officers,” he said.

Through its justice support programme in eastern DRC, the European Union has provided 1.2 million euros (US$1.65 million) towards supporting judicial infrastructure in the provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in the district of Ituri. The funds are designed to help build the capacity of judicial personnel, improve access to justice for all litigants especially the poor, improve prison conditions and boost the fight against impunity for serious crimes, Hubert Nzakumuena, the head of the programme, told judicial staff in Bunia recently.

Head of the Angal chiefdom Serzh Jalaure urged the DRC government to set up local courts to bring formal justice closer to the people. He also proposed that the government allow local arbitration mechanisms to deal with petty crime. Angal is the worst affected of the eight chiefdoms in Mahagi Territory by acts of mob violence.

“The people are forced, even for small problems, to go to the magistrate’s court which is far away from here, and cases often drag on. Consequently, the people prefer to resolve their problems themselves,” said Jalaure.  IRIN

South Sudan – rebels fighting army in Upper Nile and Jonglei

BBC

South Sudan rebels in ‘multiple attacks’

Member of the "white army" which make up some of the rebel forces loyal to Riek Machar in South Sudan - Upper Nile State, 14 April 2014 There has been recent fighting in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states

Rebels in South Sudan are involved in fierce fighting with the army in several areas of the country, the military spokesman has told the BBC.

There is ongoing fighting in the north-east of Upper Nile State and the east of Jonglei State, Philip Aguer said.

Earlier, the rebels denied a UN report that they killed hundreds of civilians after taking control last week of the oil hub, Bentiu, in Unity State.

A ceasefire deal in January has failed to halt the violence.

More than a million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.

Philip Aguer in Juba, South Sudan - January 2014

There is no war where you bombard residential areas indiscriminately at night”  Philip Aguer South Sudan’s army spokesman

The conflict pits President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, from the Nuer community.

‘Temporary loss’

Mr Aguer said that the army had also been forced to withdraw from Mayom in Unity State in order to reorganise its forces following the loss of Bentiu.

“The victory that’s been achieved by the rebels is temporary, it’s just a matter of time [before] they will be out of Bentiu,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

But he said there were several other fronts on which the rebels were active.

For the last week, the town of Renk in the north-east of Upper Nile State had come under attack from Mr Machar’s forces.

“That should be condemned internationally; there is no war where you bombard residential areas indiscriminately at night… [it has] caused havoc and fear.”

An army soldier on patrol in Malakal, South Sudan, in January 2014 More than one million have fled their homes in the four months since the conflict began
UN soldiers patrol in the UN camp in Malakal, South Sudan - 18 March 2014 Some have left to neighbouring countries many others have sought shelter at UN camps

“I have never seen a movement that have a desire in killing many people as possible as Riek Machar’s force.”

On Tuesday morning, there had also been “heavy fighting” in several places in Duk county in Jonglei which came under rebel attack, the army spokesman said.

But he said the army had repulsed them and was pursing the rebels.

‘Tribal war’

Correspondents say last week’s killings in Bentiu are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

The UN said that civilians were killed along ethnic lines at a mosque, a church and a hospital.

Both Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have prominent supporters from various communities, but there have been numerous reports of rebels killing Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers.

Rebel commander Brig Lul Ruai Koang told the BBC on Tuesday that the rebel soldiers had not killed any civilians in Bentiu.

He suggested that government forces and their allies could have been responsible in order to make the conflict appear as though it was “tribal war”.

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president earlier in 2013, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.

Nigeria – more aid needed for those displaced in north-east by Boko Haram attacks

IRIN

KANO, 22 April 2014 (IRIN) – Security fears, a lack of humanitarian actors on the ground and a perception that Nigeria’s government can handle its crises without help, are leaving many of the thousands displaced by Boko Haram violence in the northeast short of food, with little to no access to health care or basics like clean water and blankets.

The Nigerian disaster authority is calling for international help to urgently boost the aid response.

“We can’t cater to needs of all [the affected] – resources are not adequate. We are trying our best to meet people’s needs but it’s not easy,” Manzo Ezekiel, spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which is leading the disaster response, told IRIN. “We need the help of international NGOs. The government alone cannot do it.” NEMA and the State Emergency Management Agencies, (SEMA) are leading on the humanitarian response.

According to the most recent assessment by NEMA, violence displaced 249,446 people in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states between January and March 2014. Half of the population of 12 million living in these three states are directly affected by the ongoing violence.
Extremist group, Boko Haram, has been waging a campaign of indiscriminate violence for the past few years. In its latest attack it abducted 100 schoolchildren from their school hostel in Chibok in Borno State.

Many of the displaced face “horrendous” sanitation conditions, according to NEMA, with 500 people sharing a single latrine; the already crumbling healthcare system is in a state of “entire collapse” – 37 percent of primary health centres are closed; while civilians who have experienced brutal violence have no human rights commission to address their concerns.

Most people NEMA interviewed said they had reduced their meals from three to one per day. NEMA has delivered food to 200,000 people but 50,000 had not yet received distributions as of its March assessment.

Why aid slow

Assistance has been slow to gear up for a variety of reasons. Firstly, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are hard to find, as just a fraction of them live in camps – the vast majority are staying with family or friends in state capitals, or southern states.

“IDPs fear they will be attacked in camps. They prefer moving to urban areas trying to blend with the host families. But the capacity of host families to absorb has been stretched,” said Choice Okoro, OCHA’s representative in Nigeria. “We have to provide assistance to a population that is not in camps and that is constantly moving,” she said. “The displaced populations from the three states under a state of emergency usually live with host families, and then the host families are attacked.”

NEMA has since appointed a location in flood-affected Gombe State to host IDPs, and is currently setting up coordination and camp management systems.

Boko Haram’s indiscriminate violence is also hampering aid access, and negotiating access has remained difficult for aid agencies who are attempting it.

“The problem in the northeast is a security problem – we have no idea what happens from one day to the next,” NEMA’s Ezekiel told IRIN.

Not many humanitarian agencies are present in northeastern Nigeria, mainly because of the insecurity, and also because the government is strong and has traditionally projected an image that it is capable of taking care of its own problems, despite consistently high malnutrition levels and a crumbling health infrastructure. Only a dozen or so aid agencies are present in the northeast and just a few of them are responding to the humanitarian situation, among them the Nigerian Red Cross, ICRC, International Rescue Committee, Action against Hunger, and the UN Population Fund. Most declined IRIN’s requests of an interview.

“Taken by surprise”

“This is a country that has actually harboured distressed populations from neighbouring countries [such as Niger]. and it has been [traditionally] considered one of the stable countries in this region,” said OCHA’s Okoro. “This is the first time that we’ve had this level of displacement linked to conflict and it’s taken the country as well as the international community by surprise,” she said.

Humanitarians want to do more but they are having difficulty finding humanitarian “entry points” she said. “We cannot operate in Nigeria like it’s a country of three million when it’s almost 200 million [people].”

Discussions of how to respond are gaining momentum, partly because “actors recognize that Nigeria, in terms of its regional role, cannot fall apart,” she said.

Thus far European Union aid body ECHO has allocated 7.5 million euros to help meet humanitarian needs in Nigeria, including those unrelated to Boko Haram violence; but the bulk of the IDP response has been funded by a government Presidential Flood Committee set up in 2012.

Next steps

NEMA, ECHO, OCHA, the International Organization for Migration, and others met on 15 April to discuss how to step up the response, including how to open better communication channels with the military to ensure places are safe to access.

The best way forward “in a context that is so fluid and so insecure”, will be to collaborate with national and community-based NGOs, said Okoro.

NEMA, OCHA and operating agencies are sharing information more openly now, and NEMA says it will try to facilitate access for agencies.

OCHA and the government are working on a joint humanitarian action plan which will be launched in May and will call for US$75 million to help the conflict-affected.  IRIN

French troops in Central African Republic escort Muslims to safety

Reuters

French troops in Central African Republic escort Muslims to safety

BAMBARI, Central African Republic  (Reuters) – French peacekeepers in Central African Republic escorted a convoy of Muslims away from the threat of violence in the capital on Monday to a town effectively controlled by Muslim rebels.

A Reuters witness said 102 Muslims guarded by 150 French troops, supported by a helicopter patrolling overhead, left the northern suburb of PK-12 on Sunday in trucks for Bambari, about 300 km (190 miles) northeast of the capital.

Almost all Muslims have fled Bangui since the Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power in March 2013, were forced to step aside in January. The United Nations has since reported a “cleansing” of Muslims from the country’s west.

Inter-communal violence has gripped Central African Republic since late 2012 when a battle for power degenerated into violence between Muslims and Christians that have forced about 1 million people from their homes.

Almost 200,000 people have fled the country since December with a further 160,000 are expected to this year.

There was no violence during the journey to Bambari, a town effectively controlled by Seleka in the centre of the country. But the fact that the Muslims went there is a sign of growing de facto partition of Central African Republic.

“I’m going to stay in Bambari. Once the country calms down I’ll go back (to Bangui) but if it doesn’t calm down I’ll remain here,” one girl in the convoy told Reuters.

The convoy passed through a Christian neighbourhood of the capital where anti-Balaka forces that have conducted much of the violence against Muslims are a powerful force.

“We don’t want the Muslims to stay in Bambari … They need to get out and go directly to Chad. That’s what we want,” said an anti-Balaka fighter who identified himself as Paterne.

The United Nations Security Council this month authorised a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission to be deployed in September, recognition that the 6,000 African and 2,000 French peacekeepers already there have failed to stamp their authority on the country.

 

South Sudan – rebels deny massacres and call for federal form of government

Sudan Tribune

South Sudanese rebels call for federal state formation


April 21, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels allied to the former vice president, Riek Machar, have officially launched the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) “armed resistance” and called for restructuring of all public sectors in the state of South Sudan to conform to the federal system of governance.

JPEG - 21.5 kb
South Sudan’s former vice-president Riek Machar (AFP/Getty)

The leadership of SPLM/SPLA and representatives of other political parties, faith based groups, civil society organizations, youth and women groups, traditional leaders, church leaders and eminent personalities, met from April 15th-18th, 2014 in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, in a consultative conference which resolved on various matters in the newly launched armed struggle.

The conference “resolved to establish in South Sudan a democratic, just, transparent and people-driven political system-Federalism,” reads one of its resolutions.

The conference further agreed that a future interim government shall be based on a comprehensive peace agreement which shall address the structuring of the state on the basis of an interim federal constitution.

It also resolved to transform and sensitise the regular forces as well as ensure the transformation of the volunteer fighters into discipline soldiers under the SPLA command and control.

The conference also endorsed the former vice president, Riek Machar, as the chairperson and commander-in-chief of the new movement.

It also declared president Salva Kiir as “an illegitimate leader given his deeds” that have dragged the country into the current political, security and humanitarian crisis, and further called on the international community to do the same.

The rebel movement formed a provisional leadership structure with eight specialised committees, each to be headed by a chairperson. He or she will be deputised by a deputy and secretary, three of whom shall be appointed by the chairperson of the movement from able and competent members of the movement.

Each committee shall comprise of 15 members and assisted by a secretariat.

The conference resolved that such committees shall include peace and national reconciliation committee; political mobilisation committee; foreign affairs committees; justice and human rights committee; finance and resources mobilization committee; information and public relations committee; humanitarian and social services committee; and women and youth empowerment committee.

The conference reiterated the call for withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country, such as the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) that are fighting alongside Salva Kiir’s government.

It also renewed commitment to the peace processes mediated by the regional bloc –IGAD, but warned of intensifying the war into Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions to remove Kiir from power should the government in Juba not talk peace in good faith.

(ST)

BBC

South Sudan rebels deny Bentiu slaughter accusation

Rebel soldier in Bentiu Rebel fighters remain in control of Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State

Rebels in South Sudan have denied a UN report that they killed hundreds of civilians after taking control of the oil hub, Bentiu, last week.

Brig Lul Ruai Koang told the BBC there was a security vacuum after government forces left the town.

The UN said that civilians were killed along ethnic lines at a mosque, a church and a hospital.

More than a million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.

The conflict pits President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, from the Nuer community.

Analysis

In a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

The rebels are accused of killing Dinkas (President Kiir’s ethnic group), Sudanese (because of the alleged support of Darfuri rebel groups for President Kiir) and Nuers who were not overtly cheering their fellow Nuer rebels.

The victims hid in hospitals and places of worship, but did not find sanctuary there.

Many of the rebels say they took up arms because of the murder of their relatives in Juba at the beginning of this conflict.

Both sides have committed terrible abuses.

However the scale of the killings carried out by rebel troops, including the feared White Army militia, in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, has turned many people against the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

With the rainy season approaching, and negotiations set to resume in Addis Ababa, there is likely to be more fighting – and very likely more atrocities – in the next few weeks.

Although both men have prominent supporters from various communities, there have been numerous reports of rebels killing Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers.

But correspondents say that the killings in Bentiu are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

‘Piles of bodies’

The UN’s top humanitarian official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that he had seen “piles of [the bodies of] people who had been slaughtered” last week.

He said they all appeared to be civilians.

Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said.

Some 200 civilians were reportedly killed at the town’s Kali-Ballee mosque where they had sought shelter.

At the hospital, Nuer men, women and children, who hid rather than cheer the rebel forces as they entered the town, were also killed, it said.

The statement also said that hate speech had been broadcast on local radio stations, urging men to rape women from certain communities.

Many of those killed were Sudanese traders, especially from Darfur, Mr Lanzer said.

South Sudan analyst James Copnall says they could have been targeted because rebel groups in Darfur are alleged to back President Kiir against the rebels.

But Brig Koang told the BBC’s Newsday programme: “Our forces are not responsible for killing civilians anywhere in Bentiu.”

He suggested that government forces and their allies could have been responsible in order to make the conflict appear as though it was “tribal war”.

Grab from UN video footage of bodies found in Bentiu
Video footage from the UN shows bodies lying in the streets of Bentiu

Upsurge in fighting

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president earlier in 2013, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.  BBC

 

South Sudan government and rebels trade atrocity accusations

Sudan Tribune

S. Sudan rivals trade accusation over human right abuses

separation

April 21, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudanese government officials on Monday accused rebels loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar of committing “all kinds of immeasurable atrocities” when they recaptured Bentiu, the Unity state capital last week.

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The newly appointed caretaker governor of Unity State Joseph Montuil (Photo: Larco Lomayat)

Joseph Nguen Monytuil, the state’s caretaker governor told Sudan Tribune in an interview that what he witnessed had never ever occurred in the history of the Neur ethnic community. Not even his personal aides were reportedly spared by the rebels.

“What happened after the rebels of Riek Machar entered Bentiu town had never occurred in the history of our community? Some innocent civilians who could not run away when they [rebels] came and thought they would not be killed because they were members of the same community were executed, heartlessly,” said Monytuil.

“Not even single person had survived from those who did not run. Only those who run into the UN [United Nations] camp in Rubkona survived. Everything has been destroyed”, he added.

The caretaker governor, during the exclusive interview, also wondered what the rebels wanted to achieve with the mass killings, looting and destruction of key infrastructure every time they took control of certain areas from government troops.

“I really do not know what they [rebels] want to achieve with this destruction and mass killings of innocent civilians. I don’t know the objective of this rebellion. They killed even their own people, their own relatives. They destroy public infrastructure. I am told people who did not go to receive them when their leaders entered the town after our forces withdrew were killed”, asserted the governor.

He further said most of those killed were accused of either being his supporters or were seen as loyal to President Salva Kiir and his leadership.

“They[rebels] accused them of being my supporters and the president. They have committed immeasurable atrocities in their own communities,” Monytuil told Sudan Tribune, adding that “Those who came are from the area”.

South Sudan army (SPLA) spokesperson, in a separate interview, also accused the rebels of having committed “all kinds of atrocities” during last week’s attack.

“They [rebels] have committed all kinds of atrocities. When they entered the town, we are told that they went straight to the hospital and removed all those fled there and killed them. They did exactly what they did in Bor and Malakal. They killed sick people in the hospital. They raped and killed women. The elderly were killed. All the foreigners were killed”, Phillip Aguer told Sudan Tribune.

He added: “They did not leave anybody when they entered”.

The UN mission in the country said when rebel forces captured Bentiu on 15 and 16 April, they searched several places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge and killed hundreds of them after determining their ethnicity or nationality.

“These atrocities must be fully investigated and the perpetrators and their commanders shall be held accountable”, Raisedon Zenenga, the officer in charge of the human rights department said in a statement issued Monday.

Zenenga reminded the parties of their respective obligations to protect civilians and called on them to immediately stop the targeting of innocent, unarmed civilians, and to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement they both signed in January.

On 15 April, the top human rights officer said, several Nuer men, women and children were killed at Bentiu hospital for allegedly hiding and declining to join their tribemates who had gone out to cheer the SPLA in Opposition forces as they entered the town.

“Individuals from other South Sudanese communities, as well as Darfuris, were specifically targeted and killed at the hospital. On the same day, the SPLA in Opposition forces entered the Kali-Ballee Mosque where civilians had taken shelter, separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed. More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded at the Mosque,” Zenenga noted in the statement.

“At the Catholic Church and at the vacated WFP compound, SPLA in Opposition soldiers similarly asked civilians who had taken refuge there to identify their ethnic origin” it added.

The world body further said its mission, between 15 and 17 April, extracted hundreds of civilians who were facing threats of violence in several places in Bentiu and Rubkona where they had taken refuge.

“Over 500 civilians, including many wounded, were extracted from the Bentiu hospital and other places, while thousands were escorted as they walked to the UNMISS base”, is noted, adding that it is currently protecting over 12,000 civilians in its base.

REBELS DISMISS CLAIMS

But Hussein Maar Nyuot, a former deputy governor-turned rebel spokesperson told Sudan Tribune their forces only target government soldiers, not innocent civilians.

“This is not true. Our forces don’t do that. How can they [rebels] do that while they rebels are fighting for them [civilians]? They are fighting to free them from the bondage and sufferings introduced by the government of Salva Kiir. These allegations do not reflect any trust but clear fabrications by the government which had forced the United Nations to report what suits their interest.” Nyuot exclusively said Monday.

“Our forces fought the government soldiers which I suspected to be the ones the United Nations is reporting to be civilians. Some of them (government soldiers) could not flee in time and did not want to surrender”, he added.

The rebel official further claimed it was against their culture to kill innocent civilians.

“What is being alleged is not part of the culture of our forces. They operate under strict instructions and clear directives. They are very discipline and operate with clear rules of engagement. They engage the targets, who do not include civilians. It is the government forces that do that,” Nyuot observed.

“What happened in Bor is a clear testimony. That is part of their culture,” he added.

The rebel spokesperson also claimed what happened in Bor when armed youth attacked a UN based “reflects the intention of the government of Salva Kiir to exterminate a certain tribe,” which is what our forces are resisting.

(ST)

Lesotho high court delivers setback for women’s chieftaincy rights

South Africa Litigation Centre/allAfrica

Lesotho: Dark Day for Women’s Rights

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN

Women collect water from a communal tap in the village of Ha Rantismane in Lesotho’s mountainous Thaba-Tseka District (file photo).

Johannesburg — Lesotho’s highest court today struck a serious blow against women’s rights and gender equality by upholding a discriminatory section of the Chieftainship Act, which denies daughters the right to succeed to chieftainship solely due to their gender.

“This is a dark day for women in Lesotho. Through its judgment, the Court of Appeal has re-affirmed that women remain second-class citizens in Lesotho,” said Priti Patel, Deputy Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which intervened as a friend of the court (amicus curiae) in the matter. “In recent years, Lesotho had made significant strides towards eradicating gender discrimination, by ending male marital power among other things. But this ruling sends a clear signal that it is still permissible to discriminate against women solely because they are women.”

The case, Masupha v The Senior Resident Magistrate for the Subordinate Court of Berea and Others, was an appeal from the decision of the Constitutional Court, which also upheld the law denying women the ability to succeed to chieftainship.

The case was brought by Senate Masupha, the first-born child of a chief. Upon her father’s death, her mother was appointed as caretaker of the chieftainship. Following her mother’s death, the chieftainship was contested between Masupha’s uncle and half-brother. Masupha intervened seeking to succeed to the chieftainship as she was the first-born child. However, she was denied the right to succeed solely on the basis of her gender.

The decision goes against the trend on the continent of courts upholding the rights of women. The Constitutional Court in South Africa has struck down laws which deny women the right to inherit or succeed to chieftainship. In Botswana, the Court of Appeal recently affirmed that any customary law discriminating against women solely on the basis of their gender would be unlawful. Courts in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania have also all struck down laws which deny women the right to inherit due solely to their gender.

“We hope that parliament will now act to ensure that women are equal to men with respect to chieftainship as the Court of Appeal has clearly failed to do so,” said Patel. allAfrica