Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

New UN mission in Central African Republic should urgently improve protection for civilians

Human Rights Watch

Displacement camp at the Kaga-Bandoro catholic parish where several thousand civilians from the town and nearby Mbres are seeking safety from attacks.

The new United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic should urgently improve protection for civilians in eastern and central parts of the country where sectarian violence is increasing, Human Rights Watch and Stichting Vluchteling, a Netherlands refugee foundation, said today. The new mission is to take over peacekeeping responsibilities from African Union forces on September 15, 2014.

During two research missions to the country, in July and September, one conducted jointly with Stichting Vluchteling, Human Rights Watch documented the killing of at least 146 people since June in and around the towns of Bambari and Bakala in Ouaka prefecture, Mbres in Nana-Gribizi prefecture, and Dekoa in Kémo prefecture. This figure represents only a fraction of the total reported to have occurred since many killings were in remote areas that are difficult to reach.

“Civilians are being killed by all sides at an alarming rate and people are desperate for protection,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is no time to lose. The new UN mission urgently needs to get more troops into eastern and central areas and take bold steps to protect civilians from these brutal attacks.”

The Central African Republic has been in acute crisis since early 2013, when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a campaign characterized by widespread killing of civilians, burning and looting of homes, and other serious crimes. In mid-2013, groups calling themselves the anti-balaka organized to fight against the Seleka. The anti-balaka began committing large-scale reprisal attacks against Muslim civilians and later against others.

The deadly cycle of sectarian violence has been escalating in central and eastern parts of the country in recent months, particularly in Ouaka and Nana-Gribizi prefectures, despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the two factions in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, on July 23, 2014.

Some 6,000 African Union peacekeepers, known as MISCA, who began to deploy in October 2013, and 2,000 French peacekeeping troops deployed as part of Operation Sangaris in December 2013, have been struggling to protect civilians. Thousands have died in the violence, some 500,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes, and 300,000 have fled across the borders as refugees, many of them Muslims.

While the presence of AU and French peacekeepers has helped deter some of the violence, it has not stopped attacks on civilians. In Dekoa, a town where peacekeepers are based, most of the population has crowded into a makeshift displacement camp around the Catholic parish desperately seeking safety from Seleka fighters. On September 9, 2014, the Seleka shot and killed three men, one of them elderly, only 200 meters from the camp. A Human Rights Watch researcher working nearby heard the shots and interviewed the witnesses.

Of the recent 146 killings that Human Rights Watch documented, at least 59 were in Bambari, where French and African Union peacekeepers are based. Of the 59, 27 were killed in July while taking shelter in a displacement camp at Bambari’s Saint Joseph’s Parish and the adjacent Bishop’s residence.

Civilians were also attacked in or near their villages, when they fled or attempted to hide from their attackers. The attackers tied up some victims, then slit their throats.

In one case on June 19 in Sabanga, a village a few kilometers from Bakala, a small group of civilians hiding from the Seleka was attacked. Five members of one family were killed, including a 7-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. A witness said: “There were bullets whistling everywhere. We ran in every direction but those who were hit could not run away. The Seleka continued to shoot even those who were injured.”

In another case, in the Kajbi gold mine, near Morobanda in June, anti-balaka militias buried a man alive and killed another with a machete for speaking to the Seleka. One witness told Human Rights Watch in despair: “We are trapped between the anti-balaka and the Seleka. We cannot breathe.”


“  HRW

South Sudan – government puts travel ban on opposition leader Lam Akol

South Sudan

September 13, 2014 (JUBA) – South Sudan government on Saturday blocked the leader of opposition parties taking part in its ongoing talks with rebels in Ethiopia, despite an invitation extended to the latter by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

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Lam Akol who heads the opposition SPLM-DC party (splm-dc)

Lam Akol said he was turned away at Juba international airport by security operatives allegedly acting on South Sudan government instructions.

“I have been blocked. They told me that they have instructions that I should not travel to attend the talks,” Akol exclusively told Sudan Tribune.

The opposition leader insisted he was still head of the political parties’ leadership.

“I have not been removed. What happened was that some of the political parties in the government called the meeting engineered by the government because government wants to use them as proxy delegation at the talks,” said Akol.

“It was not the political parties meeting,” added the opposition parties’ head.

Akol further claimed government’s decision to block him clearly shows it was opposed to independent views to resolve the conflict.

“The message is clear. The government does not want independent views,”he said.

The political parties, at a meeting chaired by president Salva Kiir Friday, resolved that Akol be removed from the delegation to the talks and named Martin Tako Moyi as his successor.


Several observers and members of the public reacted differently to this new development, with government supporters welcoming the decision, which they described as the right decision at the right time.

“The decision of the political parties to remove Lam Akol is right decision because he was causing confusion within the leadership of the political parties. Actually he was representing the views of the political parties. The political parties did not go to demand positions in the government at the talks but they were simply going to help the way this conflict can resolved,” said James Makuek, a member of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM).

Makuek claimed Akol used the peace talks as an opportunity to settle political scores with the government in the name of other political parties instead of prioritising settlement of the conflict.

But Deng Bol, a native of Northern Bahr el Ghazal in Juba, said he was not surprised of the behaviours of some of the political parties because they were already within government.

“You honestly do not need to ask the motives behind all these confusion. The motives are obvious. What happened as you may have followed political events was a clear fight for allegiance between those in the government, who do not want the government to cut their cake and those who were advocating real reforms so that they can get a political space to propagate their activities in the new political environment when peace talks are concluded with the signing of the agreement,” said Bol.

He claimed those who were in government, but were removed in last year’s cabinet reshuffle; find it hard to live a common man’s life.

“This group wants to return the government by all means. They are working hard to grab the attention of the government by supporting whatever the government says. So Lam Akol cannot survive in this environment especially that he seems to advance independent views,” added Bol.

Anthony Sebit, a Juba based political commentator, equally described the development as a competition between political interest and those advocating for “creation of political space”.

“Let me put it bluntly that these developments are activities of people wanting to retain their current positions in the government at any cost. You see clearly that people who were appointed as members of Parliament by the president, without having contested any parliamentary seats anywhere in this country as well as the case those who are currently holding cabinet positions in the government,” said Sebit.

“Do you expect such people to shoot themselves by supporting views which are against the very government which settles their monthly bills? No. It would be a political suicide if they do so,” he added.


Kenya -Kenyatta lawyers ask ICC to drop the case

Photo: Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Arusha — Defence lawyers for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to drop his case, after the Prosecution said it does not have enough evidence.

“The Defence respectfully requests the Chamber to deny the Prosecution’s request for a further adjournment, terminate the proceedings, and issue a final determination of the charges against Mr Kenyatta,” say British lawyers Steven Kay and Gillian Higgins in a notice to the Court on Wednesday.

This comes after Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on September 5 asked that Kenyatta’s crimes against humanity trial be postponed again, saying she still does not have enough evidence and the Kenyan government is not cooperating fully. She asked that the Court adjourn the trial, which was originally due to start in February, “until the GoK (Government of Kenya) executes the Prosecution’s Revised Request for records in full.”

Kenyatta is charged with crimes committed during post-election violence in 2007-2008. A pre-trial Chamber of the ICC confirmed the charges in January 2012.

However, the Defence argues that the charges were confirmed on the basis of false evidence and that the Prosecution has no case. It says Kenyatta’s rights are being violated:

“Mr Kenyatta’s fundamental fair trial rights have been subordinated in the process of the Prosecution seeking to divert blame to the Government of Kenya for the failure of its case,” say Kay and Higgins. “By proclaiming insufficiency of evidence ‘at the door of the court’, yet seeking to prolong the proceedings indefinitely, the Prosecution has placed the Accused in a position not countenanced by the Statute, nor by any true conception of justice, namely that of an individual in respect of whom there is insufficient evidence to prosecute but who must nevertheless endure the stigma of criminal charges and subjection to a prolonged criminal process.”

This is the second time the Prosecution has asked for a postponement of the trial. Its first request in December 2013 came after one prosecution witness said he was no longer willing to testify and another said he had given false evidence.

The prosecution is facing not only the withdrawal of witnesses but also strong pressure from some African leaders.

Since Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto were elected — despite the ICC accusations against them –, the African Union has mobilized, claiming that serving leaders of their rank should not be prosecuted by the ICC.

In Ruto’s trial, which has been ongoing since September 2013, the judges agreed to a softening of rules so that he may be absent from certain hearings to carry out his national duties.


Nigeria – residents of 10 Zamfara villages flee armed bandits

Daily Trust

Thursday, 11 September 2014 13:15Written by Shehu Umar, GusauHits: 1119

Armed bandits have forced residents of 10 villages in Mada and Wonaka districts of Gusau local government areas of Zamfara state to flee their communities to the Neighbouring safer places and Gusau the state capital following the deadly and unending attacks on them.

This is the latest in the series of deadly raids on the farming and herding communities of the state by the bandits and cattle rustlers believed to be hiding in the forests near the borders with Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara states.

Last April, more than 150 persons were killed in Yar’ galadima village in Maru local government area when dozens of unidentified gunmen laid siege and started firing at the vigilantes that were holding a meeting to brainstorm on how to end the wave of attacks on their communities.

According to a resident Mallam Tasi’u Kanawa, residents of fegin kanawa, fegin Mahe, Wonaka, Tambalawa ,Majiro ,kofa,Fura girke,kundamau ,Koshiya ,Ingwai and many other villages have since abandoned their communities following the deadly and unending attacks on them by the armed bandits.

“I have two wives and four children and I’m here with them taking shelter in this primary school without food because we have abandoned all our belongings at home that is why  we are appealing to the state government to come to our rescue because these attackers are bent on eliminating us all.” He added.

Another refugee Zainab Lawali at a primary school in Damba community told Daily Trust that many women were raped by the bandits and some were taken to hospitals and some have even died and she alleged insider conspiracy in the whole menace saying that some residents feed the bandits with information on young and beautiful ladies and or women in their communities.

The terrorized residents are now taking refuge in Mada,kwatarkwashi,Gusau and even the neighbouring states and other neighbouring communities following the incessant attacks on them by the bandits and suspected cattle rustlers hiding in the notorious Dajin Gwamna forests that extends along Katsina -Zamfara border.

The Special adviser to the governor on media and communication Alhaji Sani Abdullahi Tsafe said the affected residents have fled their communities and are now taking shelter in Gusau and Tsafe local government areas and Wonaka and Mada districts of Gusau local government are badly affected.

“Its unfortunate, these bandits are still attacking our villages killing residents and dispossessing them of their belongings  and the state government is doing its best to restore law and order in those communities and the governor Abdulaziz Yari has set up committee to find ways of assisting the victims. The displaced residents will be provided with food and and medicines.” He added.

When contacted the Public Relations Officer of the state police command DSP lawal Abdullahi said he was yet to get the details promising to get back with the details later but did not respond to the several calls put to him.  Daily Trust

Nigeria – vigilantes killed Boko Haram fighters in Adamawa


Boko Haram members


Youths and vigilance group members in Michika and Madagali local government areas of Adamawa State on Tuesday night killed about 80   Boko Haram insurgents fleeing   the areas.

The insurgents, who had   been wreaking havoc on some boundary communities in Adamawa and Borno states, were said to have run into the bush after running out of arms and ammunition.

It was gathered that normalcy had returned to the the LGAs   with   troops stationed in strategic places.

A resident of Michika, Vandi Joseph, told journalists on Wednesday in Yola,   that the insurgents were overpowered by youths and   vigilantes who shot them to death.

He said, “As I am speaking to you, our youths and vigilance group   members ambushed and killed over 80 insurgents who escaped from soldiers and hid themselves in the bush. Our youths and vigilantes saw them and killed them.”

Meanwhile, the Mubi Emirate Council of Adamawa State has refuted media reports (The PUNCH not included) that the Emir of Mubi, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmadu, left Mubi and his palace for Yola, following an attack by Boko Haram on the town.

The spokesperson for the council, who is also the Danruwata Mubi, Chief John Elias, said at a     news conference on Wednesday,   that the Emirate was dismayed by the report.

Elias explained that the Emir who is the Amirul Hajj for the 2014 Hajj operation for Adamawa State , went to Yola to meet members of the delegation over preparation for the pilgrims.

He said, “The Emir did not leave Mubi for Yola as an escape from the insurgents but rather for meeting with members of the 2014 pilgrimages delegation committee which he is the leader. He returned to Mubi immediately the meeting was over.”

The Danruwata Mubi   cautioned people   to desist from spreading information that had no source and creating panic in the Emirate and the state in general.

He claimed that there was no attack on Mubi and anywhere in Mubi North and Mubi South LGAs as well as Maiha LGA.

Elias,who however said only   Michika and Madagali had been affected by insurgency,   called on the public to   remain calm .

However, report from Michika indicated on Wednesday night that the   attacks on the people might   be linked to the fact that some people   in the town   harboured   insurgents.

An indigene of the town, who gave his name simply as   Daniel said,   “Some people who have sympathy for the sect are frustrating   military’s efforts at flushing out the insurgents.”

Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,   Olisa Agbakoba, has asked President Goodluck Jonathan to relieve the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, of his job.

Agbakoba said since the military   had failed in its mandate to win the war against Boko Haram, Badeh had no right as the CDS, to remain in office.

Agbakoba made the call on Wednesday at a press conference   where he spoke on sundry issues of national interest in his office.

Agbakoba said that the CDS who was appointed in January this year had lost control of the army, citing the case of about 480 Nigerian soldiers who ran into Cameroon during a confrontation with the Boko Haram insurgents as a confirmation of his position.

The SAN, who was a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, said it was worrisome that Boko Haram was now copying the tactics of the ISIS by declaring a caliphate   in the North-East.

He therefore called on the President to show more seriousness in tackling the insurgency , adding that the first step to take was for him to sack Badeh.

He said, “I think our first task is to look around the world and ask whether our Nigerian intelligence and military infrastructure are doing just what they ought to do. If I were the Commander-in-Chief, I would   invite the CDS , Alex Badeh and tell him that if he loses any command in the army, it’s over. If the President fails to send a strong message that the mission is not accomplished, then the chain of command would be weak.

“In the army, it is obedience to superior orders. How can you have Nigerian soldiers carrying our equipment into Cameroon and running away? It tells you that the Army is degraded. The only way that you can solve the Boko Haram problem is by a resolute decapitation of the leadership. There is no other way.”


Maiduguri under siege by Boko Haram – so where’s the huge Nigerian army?


Nigeria’s Boko Haram puts Maiduguri under ‘siege’

File picture of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre)Boko Haram was launched in Maiduguri in 2002

Nigeria’s militant Islamists have “completely surrounded” Maiduguri, the main city in north-eastern Borno state, traditional elders have warned.

The military needed to “fortify” the city, which had a population of more than two million, to prevent an assault “from all directions”, they said.

The Boko Haram militants had “annexed” areas that were about 50km (30 miles) from Maiduguri, they said.

Boko Haram declared a caliphate in areas it controls last month.

The government has not yet commented on the statement issued by the Borno Elders Forum (BEF).


It represents influential people in the state, including former government ministers and civil servants.

Map showing towns captured/threatened by Boko Haram

Boko Haram has also captured territory in neighbouring Adamawa state, forcing people to flee into hills, where they are eating leaves, residents told the BBC.

“We are convinced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not shown sufficient political will to fight Boko Haram and rescue us from the clutches of the insurgents which may ultimately lead to the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno,” BEF said.

“The insurgents have rendered impassable almost all the roads leading to Maiduguri,” it added.

Air strikes

BEF said the military needed to “urgently fortify” the city, where Boko Haram was founded in 2002.

“The insurgents have surrounded Maiduguri and are nursing the ambition of attacking the city from all directions,” BEF said.

Children who fled their homes following an attacked by Islamist militants in Bama, take a lesson at a camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, 9 September 2014The violence has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes
In this file photo taken Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, a Nigerian soldier patrols in an armoured car, during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Thousands of extra soldiers have failed to quell the five-year insurgency

The BBC’s Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi in the capital, Abuja, says tens of thousands of people are taking refuge in Maiduguri after fleeing Boko Haram’s advance.

It is unclear what is happening in territory under their control in Borno, as the mobile telephone network in many places is down, he says.

In Adamawa, the military has launched an air and ground assault to recapture the town of Michika, seized by Boko Haram on Sunday.


Who are Boko Haram?

  • Founded in 2002
  • Initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – but also attacks on police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Who are Boko Haram?


Residents said people in Michika were trapped between the bombs of the Nigerian air force and the militants who shoot anyone that dares move, at times slitting their throats.

One woman told the BBC many children were trapped in her house and had no idea where their parents were.

A man said seven people had died where he was sheltering and they could not be buried.

Michika has a population of about 700,000, and is the gateway to Adamawa’s commercial hub, Mubi.

Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency is seen as the biggest threat to Nigeria’s territorial integrity since the 1967-70 civil war, analysts say.

The group has changed tactics in recent months, holding on to towns in the north-east, where most people are Muslims, rather than carrying out hit-and-run attacks.  BBC

In defence of the African Union


THINK AGAIN: In defence of the African Union
9 September 2014

The African Union (AU) gets a lot of flak. Critics often argue that it is slow to respond to security threats; that it prioritises power over justice; and that it fails to adequately represent the needs of this continent’s 1,11 billion citizens.

The continental organisation is often dismissed as a talk shop for tyrants, or depicted as an ineffectual, lumbering bureaucracy that worries more about per diems than it does about Africa’s most pressing political problems.

There is merit to some of these critiques. But they don’t tell the whole story, and they leave out the good bits. It is time to give credit where credit is due, and to recognise that – as imperfect as it may be – Africa is in much better shape with the AU than without it.

The AU operates under massive constraints, which greatly limit the scope of its ability (if not its ambition, so often couched in the lofty rhetoric of pan-Africanism). Firstly, it faces an immense financial challenge.

Africa is the poorest continent, and also the continent most afflicted by violence. Yet the AU’s budget in 2014 is just US$308 million (to put this in perspective, the United Nations’ budget is US$5,2 billion). In the context of the challenges that the AU is supposed to address, this amount is wholly inadequate. Member countries are intended to contribute to the AU, but while countries such as South Africa and Nigeria pay more than their fair share, many struggle to meet their financial commitments. Still more funds must be raised from international partners.

Africa simply can’t afford to address major crises on its own. Nor should it

Why does this matter? Because successful interventions – be they medical, humanitarian, military or police – are expensive. For example, the United Nations (UN) estimates that US$600 million is necessary to contain the spread of Ebola (the AU has so far contributed just US$1 million from its humanitarian fund), while there is an US$800 million shortfall in the international fund to prevent famine and relieve suffering in South Sudan.

Peacekeeping is particularly expensive. The latest budget for Monusco, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is US$1,4 billion. It’s all very well to strive for African solutions to African problems, but the truth is that Africa simply can’t afford to address major crises on its own. Nor should it. The developed world, with its long history of interfering in Africa’s affairs, often with disastrous results, must bear some responsibility – and not just when the interests of the major powers are at risk.

Another major constraint is the structure of the institution; essentially a club of member states with no distinction between elected or unelected national leadership. All African countries, with the exception of Morocco, are members – and all have an equal vote. In organisations such as the European Union (EU), by comparison, membership is by invitation only and countries must meet certain economic criteria. This distinction is crucial. The AU is a political organisation first, whereas the EU is premised on economic cooperation. Although often compared, the two organisations are fundamentally different.

Giving all African countries a say, regardless of their political, economic or human rights background, can make it difficult for the AU to execute a progressive mandate. (It should be noted that the AU does take a stand against unconstitutional changes of government, with suspensions handed out recently to Madagascar and Egypt until both had held new elections.) Present at every AU summit are some leaders (although today a declining minority) who do not domestically subscribe to the values of individual human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Nonetheless, one of the true ironies of the AU is how these same leaders are prepared to commit – on paper, at least – to high standards of human rights, democracy and good governance on the continent.

The AU is a political organisation first, whereas the EU is premised on economic cooperation

It is in this context, and mindful of these constraints, that the achievements of the AU and its Commission should be assessed – rather than against the rubric of impossible ideals.

Take, for instance, the recent amendment to the protocol on the proposed new African Court on Justice and Human Rights, passed in June at the AU Summit in Malabo. The amendment sparked an outcry from civil society and rights groups, because it gives heads of state and senior government officials immunity from prosecution for serious crimes. Fair enough.

But the outraged headlines failed to mention that there is a lot more to the draft protocol than this amendment – and much of it is ground-breaking stuff. It gives the proposed new court jurisdiction over corruption, money-laundering, human and drug trafficking, and piracy – in addition to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The scope of the court’s ambit is a tacit recognition of the deep links that exist between conflict, corruption, terrorism and other transnational crimes, and gives prosecutors the necessary legal tools to take on these networks as a whole.

African leaders did vote to protect themselves in the African Court protocol, but they also broke new legal ground in adopting a holistic approach to the prosecution of serious crimes. This approach will be vital to the continent’s future counter-terrorism and conflict resolution strategies, when (cynics would say if) the court gets off the ground.

The AU also attracts criticism for not responding fast enough to crises (such as in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic and Libya), leaving it up to the likes of France to intervene militarily. A general lack of military muscle (and finances) makes such intervention impossible – but this doesn’t stop the AU from assuming important conflict prevention and mediation roles.

‘In terms of peace and security issues across Africa, there have been considerable achievements from the African Union, even though there are still challenges,’ says Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, regional representative for the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa.

Some of these achievements are high profile, such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which has almost single-handedly stabilised large parts of Somalia in the absence of the UN. (After the Black Hawk Down incident, the UN was just not prepared to engage.) Other efforts go under the radar – such as the recent special meeting in Nairobi of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, where African leaders gathered to adopt a unified counter-terrorism strategy. Threats like terrorism are often transnational in nature, which means responses must be at the regional or continental level. The AU plays a vital role in coordinating these responses.

This coordination role extends to other areas too. It was under the auspices of the AU that African leaders agreed on Agenda 2063, a 50-year roadmap towards a more peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa; and they approved the common African position on climate change, which ensures that Africa has a unified (and therefore more powerful) voice at international climate talks.

It’s easy to dismiss documents such as Agenda 2063 as fanciful indulgences, but the truth is that when the AU does seek to support specific values, they do eventually frame approaches elsewhere in the continent. One good example of this is on the issue of regional integration, which the AU has strongly encouraged.

This is now starting to bear fruit, with the East African Community leading the way by relaxing work permit restrictions for citizens of member states, allowing freer movement across borders and minimising cross-border tariffs. Another is the adoption of the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy, which encourages governments to adopt a broader – and likely therefore more effective – definition of maritime security, even if it is a bit unwieldy.

Under severe institutional constraints, the AU can’t always take the big decisions or make the grand gestures that we’d like it to. But it puts a lot of effort, much of it effective, into smaller initiatives that yield incremental results, and for this it deserves recognition.

‘I believe that Africa is better off with a pan-African organisation like the AU,’ says Akinsanya. For all the organisation’s faults, it’s hard to disagree.

Simon Allison, ISS Consultant