Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Rwanda – singer jailed for Kagame assassination plot

BBC

Rwanda singer Kizito Mihigo planned to kill Paul Kagame

Rwandan musician Kizito Mihigo in April 2014Kizito Mihigo’s arrest in April 2014 came as a shock to many Rwandans

A popular Rwandan singer has been jailed for 10 years after being convicted of planning to kill President Kagame and inciting hatred against the government.

Kizito Mihigo had earlier said he was guilty and asked for forgiveness, meaning his sentence was reduced.

His co-accused, Cassien Ntamuhanga, the director of a Christian radio station, was jailed for 25 years for terrorism and incitement.

He had continued to deny all charges.

Mihigo had admitted exchanging text messages with a South Africa-based opposition group, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC).

He was cleared of terrorism while Ntamuhanga was acquitted of plotting to assassinate President Kagame.

Members of the Rwanda National Congress opposition party protesting in Pretoria, South Africa - January 2014RNC supporters believe the government was involved in their leader’s killing, which Rwanda denies

Although Mihigo pleaded guilty to all charges, his lawyer later told the court his client had been speaking emotionally and there was no evidence to convict him.

The RNC was co-founded by Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda’s former spy chief who was once an ally of President Kagame.

He was found dead in South Africa last year and his allies, family and the South African authorities blame Rwanda’s government, which has denied responsibility.

Shortly after Mr Karegeya’s death, however, President Kagame told a prayer meeting: “You can’t betray Rwanda and not get punished for it.”

Rwanda’s police have said the accused were planning revenge attacks in retaliation for the assassination of Mr Karegeya.

Mihigo used to be close to the governing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party and his arrest in April 2014 came as a surprise to many Rwandans.

He is a survivor of the 1994 genocide and is well known for his reconciliation work and religious songs.

The RPF’s rebel movement took power after the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

President Kagame, who has won two elections, has been hailed for driving rapid economic growth but human rights groups accuse him of not tolerating dissent.

DR Congo-Rwanda – Congolese forces drive Rwandan rebels from hills in N Kivu

Reuters

KIRUMBA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Congolese government forces ousted rebels from hills in heavy fighting in North Kivu province on Friday, an army spokesman said, cranking up a campaign to crush an insurgency at the heart of two decades of conflict.

The rebel ranks contain remnants of fighters involved in neighbouring Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. Since moving into chaotic eastern Congo, they have sought to exploit the region’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin and waged periodic war with the Kinshasa government and other armed groups.

Around 100 soldiers backed by presidential guard troops fired machine guns from jeeps at positions of rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who responded with automatic weapons fire, a Reuters witness said.

By 1400 GMT, the army had secured most of the hills and rebels retreated deeper into the forest near Kirumba in Virunga National Park, an army spokesman said. The park abuts the border of Congo and Rwanda and is famous for its mountain gorillas.

There was no information on casualties in the fighting.

Millions died of conflict, hunger and disease during a war in the east between 1998 and 2003 and the region remains plagued by armed factions.

President Joseph Kabila formally launched the anti-rebel offensive on Jan. 29 but combat did not begin in earnest until Tuesday in neighbouring South Kivu province, where the army says it has captured several rebel strongholds.

The army began action on Wednesday to clear rebels from North Kivu where the bulk of the 1,400 fighters were believed to operate, army spokesman Leon Kasonga said.

“We have captured seven FDLR, among them a major …. They don’t resist on the ground because our dominance is established,” he said.

Analysts said the rebels would avoid large-scale battles that could risk defeat and instead retreat into remote hills and forests they know well after decades of fighting.

 

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

Reuters

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

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US appoints ambassador to Somalia since botched intervention

Reuters

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

Wed, Feb 25 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nigeria – president says he is winning war against Boko Haram

BBC

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan: Tide turned against Boko Haram

Nigeria"s President Goodluck Jonathan, speak to troops during a visit to Maiduguri, Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015Nigeria’s president is standing for re-election on 28 March

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has said the tide has “definitely turned” against militant Islamists as regional forces recapture territory.

His comments came hours after Boko Haram militants were blamed for killing 27 people in bombings in two commercial centres in the north on Tuesday.

Boko Haram had hit “soft targets” because of the setbacks it had suffered in battle, Mr Jonathan said.

Regional forces have recaptured eight major towns in recent weeks.

So Mr Jonathan’s comments appear to have some credence, even if he made similar remarks last year, says the BBC’s Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi in the capital, Abuja.

The Nigerian military, backed by regional troops, is now taking the war to Boko Haram, rather than fleeing the battlefield, our correspondent adds.

However, at least six major towns are still held by Boko Haram, he says.

Many residents fear the militants will regroup and launch a new offensive to regain territory, he adds.

‘Mourning victims’

Men inspect a bus following an explosion on the street in Potiskum, Nigeria, on  Tuesday 24 February 2015The bomber in Potiskum detonated his explosives as people were boarding the bus

On Tuesday, suicide bombers blew themselves up at crowded bus stations in Kano, the most populous city in the north, and Potiskum, the main commercial town in north-eastern Yobe state.

At least 17 civilians were killed in Potiskum and 10 in Kano, police and hospital sources said.

“The president assures all Nigerians and the people of the north-eastern states in particular that the days of mourning victims of incessant terrorist attacks in the country will soon be over as the tide has now definitely turned against Boko Haram,” Mr Jonathan’s office said in a statement.

Map

Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed by six week to 28 March to give troops more time to beat back Boko Haram.

Mr Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in the poll.

Chadian troops have played a key role in helping Nigeria’s military regain territory.

Military chiefs from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin, are currently meeting to discuss plans to create an 8,700-strong force to fight Boko Haram.

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Boko Haram at a glance

Abubakar Shekau (February 2015)
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on neighbouring states

 

Punch

Why we are winning war against Boko Haram -Presidency

The presidency on Wednesday reviewed the ongoing military onslaught against the members of the Boko Haram sect and said the success being recorded by the military was because of certain factors.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who spoke with journalists in Abuja, assured Nigerians that the war would soon be won.
He listed such factors like the deployment of specially trained anti-terrorism combat squad who were recently trained by Nigeria international partners, as one of them.
Others, according to him, were the acquisition and deployment of more sophisticated, adequate and appropriate Military hardware.
Okupe said, “There was a recent approval by the African Union and the United Nations for a broad based international coalition to collaborate with our Military.
“This approval also gives legal authority to our neighbours ( Chad, Niger and Cameroon) to lawfully deploy troops on Nigerian soil while our Military can now operate beyond our borders to hunt fleeing terrorists; thus removing their safe haven.”
He added that it was the combination of these factors that make it realistic to hope that the terrorists’ fighting capabilities will soon be terribly decimated and severely degraded.
This, he added,would ensure a safer climate for both the general elections and overall resumption of civic activities in the areas affected by insurgency.
He also denied the insinuations that President Goodluck Jonathan underrated the members of the sect.
He said, “In the first instance, what President Goodluck Jonathan said in the interview which has been mischievously twisted by the APC was that at the outset of the Boko Haram activities, the group was treated as a local insurgent group in view of the fact that there was scanty information on its global network in training, funding and supply of arms.”
Okupe said the government was so desirous to end the war to the extent of being ready to “buy weapon from the black market.”
The presidential aide said it was however regrettable that the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, had been issuing statements which, he said, were not true concerning the war against the sect.
He added that the government had expected that the APC would drop this toga by unequivocally supporting government and our troops to defeat terror; especially now that it is hoping that Nigerians would entrust it with the leadership of our dear Nation, but he said this appear not to be so.
Rather, he said the opposition party continues to engage in bare-faced lies, double-speak and twisting of facts to stand logic on its head in these very crucial times.
He said, “An example of this disposition to falsehood and outlandish assertions by the APC is the claim by Alhaji Lai Muhammed in his press statement that government had expended a sum of 32 billion dollars (6.5 trillion Naira) on the war against terrorism; a claim which is untrue and lacks any factual basis whatsoever.
“We find it very embarrassing that the APC always desperately seeks to feed on blood like leaches and profit from National tragedies and misfortune.”
But when asked how much had been spent so far to combat the sect, he said he was not in the know.

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

Sudan Tribune

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

JPEG - 18.4 kb
UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous (second right) on a visit to the UNMISS base in Tomping, which has been sheltering civilians since conflict erupted in the country (Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Billy)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(ST)

DR Congo army starts offensive against Rwandan Hutu rebels

BBC

DR Congo launches operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels

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

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

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

Hutu rebels were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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