Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Burundi army accused of murdering rebels who had surrendered

BBC

Abandoned sandals in the bush in Burundi (January 2015)Abandoned clothing and footwear was found near the site of an alleged mass grave

Burundian soldiers shot dead 17 rebels at point-blank range after they surrendered in January, witnesses have told the BBC.

The rebels, with hands raised, were lined up on the edge of the cliff before being killed, one witness said.

Burundi’s army denied the allegation, saying 95 rebels were killed in a five-day battle in the remote north-west.

Low-level conflict has resurfaced in Burundi about a decade after a civil war which killed more than 300,000.

It is unclear who the new rebels are, but the government says they are linked to the opposition and have bases across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The violence comes at a crucial time as Burundi is due to hold parliamentary and local elections in May and presidential elections the following month.

Burundian army men present on 6 January 2015 in Cibitoke, arms they say they they captured from rebels in the north-western part of the country. Weapons were seized from the rebels, the government says

There is intense speculation that President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won elections at the end of the civil war in 2005, plans to run for a third term.

The peace accord that ended the conflict states there is a two-term limit, but some argue the constitution is open to interpretation.

They came holding their weapons above their heads and the soldiers told them to come closer, to lay their weapons down and then lined them up along the edge of a cliff”  Villager in Cibitoke province

‘Half naked’

In January, army spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza said 95 rebels had been killed in the fighting in Cibitoke province.

The violence appeared to be an attempt to derail elections, he said at the time.

When I visited the area to investigate the conflict, villagers disputed the official version.

“I saw 17 rebels surrender to the army in Kibindi on 2 January,” one man said, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

“They came holding their weapons above their heads and the soldiers told them to come closer, to lay their weapons down and then lined them up along the edge of a cliff,” he added.

The soldiers then formed a line as well, and opened fire on the rebels, he said.

“The insurgents fell off the cliff… Many villagers were watching when this happened, including children.”

Cibitoke in BurundiCibitoke, where the alleged killings took place, borders DR Congo
Burundian army men patrol in Rwesero as villagers carry on their daily life on 6 January 2015Allegations of extra-judicial killings of will be investigated if proof is provided, the army says

The narrow valley where this allegedly took place is about a 30-minutes’ walk from the main road – an area hidden by trees. Near the edge of valley there were bits of clothing, shoes and bullets scattered on the ground.

We slide down to reach the bottom and there we saw more clothes, stray bullets and a bullet case.

A few meters away, there a pile of recently dug earth that reeked – looking like a mass grave.

Another witness told me that a local official ordered villagers to bury the rebels there.

“I saw bodies scattered, half naked, covered in blood. I counted 15,” he said.

Those who were still alive were killed in front of him with machetes by young men from Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, the witness said.

Prominent Burundian rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa says he has been receiving “more and more detailed reports of executions, and burials of dozens of rebels in mass graves”.

“A lot of rebels are thought to be buried in an area called Kibindi, near the village of Mpinga. Probably 40 people. A lot are thought to have been executed there are well,” he added.

Col Baratuza insists the rebels were killed in a “real fight”.

“I can’t say that it was a football game. It was fighting,” he said.

If people had proof that extra-judicial executions were carried, they should forward it to the army for investigation, Col Baratuza said.

Nigeria – army failed to act on intelligence on Boko attack on Monguno

Premium Times

The Nigerian military received reliable intelligence report indicating that the Boko Haram sect would launch a massive attack on Monguno, yet troops were taken by surprise when the insurgents struck early Sunday, suggesting the 5 Brigade stationed in the area failed to prepare adequately for the group’s onslaught.

Reliable military sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the Brigade received report indicating the insurgents would attack between January 22 and 25.

The report, our sources said, was read to officers and men of the Brigade on the night of January 22, with a stern warning that everyone should remain on high alert.

Despite warning troops to remain on alert, the leadership of the formation failed to take the necessary steps and make the right deployment of men and equipment to check the imminent attack, PREMIUM TIMES was told.

When the terrorists arrived on Sunday, the troops were therefore taken by surprise.

Military insiders said the insurgents arrived at about 2 am on Sunday, parking their Hilux vans deep into the bush, with their headlights on.

Soldiers of the Brigade, who saw the unusual lights, began to shoot in the direction of the vans without knowing that the insurgents had left the vans and advanced close to the Brigade headquarters.

Suddenly, the insurgents began to shoot sporadically. The troop of the Brigade, including those of the Multinational Joint Task Force [MJTF], who were camped at a school inside the barracks after they were dislodged from Baga, engaged the terrorists in a long exchange of gunfire.

The biggest fighting tank owned by the Brigade, known as Shika, killed several insurgents, and wounded several others.

It was such a long battle that the equipment, which provided cover for ground troops, suddenly ran out of ammunition and began to withdraw.

As it withdrew, the rifle men behind also retreated, as the insurgents followed in pursuit. In the process, the commander of the Brigade, a Brigadier General Yekini, and a few other soldiers were wounded. It is not clear the number of soldiers and insurgents killed in the attack.

“We could have overpowered the insurgents, but there was no enough ammunition,” an officer, who participated in the battle, told PREMIUM TIMES.

But when contacted Monday, the Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, dismissed the suggestion that the military did not prepare enough for the attack despite knowing days before that it was coming. “Because it is an area that is prone to attacks, our officers and men are always on the alert,” Mr. Olukolade said.

He declined further comments.

Meanwhile, the 5 Brigade commander, who was injured in the attack, has been removed from his post and replaced with another officer who addressed the dislodged soldiers on Monday morning asking them to remain calm and focused on the task ahead.

It is not known whether his removal has to do with the injury he suffered in battle or his alleged failure to prepare his Brigade well to fend off the onslaught.

Nigerian soldiers in Borno state had on Sunday faced three separate and daring raids by the extremist Boko Haram sect on three major towns, successfully repelling two of them, and losing the battle for one.

Mr. Olukolade said the daring attacks on Maiduguri and neighbouring Konduga by insurgents were successfully repelled by soldiers while officers and men of 5 Brigade lost the battle for Monguno.

Central African Republic – minister kidnapped to gain release of detained rebel

BBC

26 January 2015
CAR minister Armel Sayo kidnapped ‘for rebel chief’

The militia group which abducted Central African Republic’s sports minister has demanded the release of its detained commander, the minister’s spokeswoman has said.

Armel Sayo was seized while returning from church on Sunday by men linked to anti-balaka militia commander Rodrigue Nagibona, Tatiana Yangeko said.

The men had briefly abducted three people in the capital Bangui last week.

CAR has been gripped by religious and ethnic conflict since March 2013.

Mr Sayo is the first government minister to be abducted since the conflict broke out.

‘Pulled from vehicle’
The anti-balaka is a mainly Christian militia formed to oppose the Muslim-led Seleka rebel group which overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Seleka handed power to a UN-backed transitional government last year, but large parts of the country continue to be lawless.

UN troops arrested Mr Nagibona, known as General Andjilo, earlier this month.

UN peacekeepers earlier arrested one of the militia’s leaders
He was wanted for alleged murder and rape in connection with attacks on minority Muslims in December 2013, as well as on charges over rebellion and looting.

Ms Yangeko said contact had been made between Mr Sayo’s family and the kidnappers, who were demanding Mr Nagibona’s release in exchange for the minister’s freedom.

She did not give further details.

Mr Sayo was on his way home from church when his car was accosted in Bangui’s Galabadja neighbourhood by fighters in an unmarked taxi, his wife, Nicaise Danielle Sayo, told Associated Press news agency.

“They instructed us to stop… They pulled him from his vehicle to put him in their car to head to Boy-Rabe, their stronghold,” said Mrs Sayo, who was with her husband when he was abducted.

The anti-balaka have been involved in fierce fighting with Seleka rebels

Freed French aid worker Claudia Priest arrived in Paris on Sunday
Last week, a Kurdish UN employee, a French aid worker and her local colleague briefly were abducted.

The aid worker, Claudia Priest, 67, returned to France on Sunday.

Her abduction was said to be linked to Mr Nagibona’s arrest and the circumstances around her release and that of the other two people are unclear.

The conflict in CAR has killed thousands and displaced about one million.

The UN plans to bolster its troop presence in the country to 10,000 by April.

It currently has about 8,700 troops there.

Armel Sayo is the first government to be abducted since a transitional government was formed last year

2015/01/img_1043.jpg

Uganda – LRA commander Ongwen to appear at ICC in Hague

BBC

LRA commander Ongwen due to appear in Hague court

Dominic Ongwen arrives in a van at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial on war crimes charges in The Hague (21 January 2014) Mr Ongwen arrived in The Hague last week

Top Ugandan rebel commander Dominic Ongwen is due to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face war crimes charges.

A leader of the Lords Resistance Army, he is accused of four war crimes counts and three of crimes against humanity, including murder and enslavement.

His trial will be the first time that a member of the LRA has faced international justice.

The LRA is accused of seizing children to use as fighters and sex slaves.

An ICC statement says that the judge at Monday’s pre-trial appearance of Mr Ongwen will verify the suspect’s identity and inform him of the charges against him in a language that he will understand.

The prosecution is not expected to formally put its case at this stage.

Mr Ongwen, a feared commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was arrested after giving himself up in the Central African Republic last month.

Last week he was taken into custody at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Dominic Ongwen (centre right) in the Central African Republic accompanied by Ugandan Contingent Commander to the African Union Regional Task Force Col Michael Kabango (right) Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy in Bangui David Brown (left) and other unidentified military officialsMr Ongwen (in a blue shirt) appeared before journalists at an undisclosed location in the Central African Republic on 17 January before flying from Bangui to The Hague

His transfer “brings us one step closer to ending the LRA’s reign of terror”, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement last week.

Uganda agreed that Mr Ongwen should be tried by the ICC despite being a fierce critic of The Hague-based court.

US and African forces had been searching for him since 2011.

He is said to be the deputy to LRA commander Joseph Kony, who is still on the run.

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Who is Dominic Ongwen?

  • Said to have been abducted by LRA, aged 10, as he walked to school in northern Uganda
  • Rose to become a top commander
  • Accused of crimes against humanity, including enslavement
  • ICC issued arrest warrant in 2005
  • Rumoured to have been killed in the same year
  • US offered $5m (£3.3m) reward for information leading to his arrest in 2013

Dominic Ongwen – full profile

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The UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon both welcomed Mr Ongwen’s transfer from the Central African Republic.

The former child soldier said that after years of hiding in the forests it was time to face the charges against him.

His extradition comes nearly 10 years after he and four other LRA top commanders were charged. Three have since died and only Mr Kony remains at large.

Aerial view of the town of Obo in the Central African RepublicThe Lord’s Resistance Army fighters are now based in the forests of the Central African Republic

Mr Ongwen is accused of committing atrocities against civilians in Uganda and in parts of Central African Republic, South Sudan and DR Congo.

The LRA rebellion began more than two decades ago in northern Uganda and its estimated 200-500 fighters – many of them child soldiers – have since terrorised large swathes of central Africa.

Nigeria – army says it has repelled Boko attack on Maiduguri as Monguno falls

Premium Times

Nigerian soldiers repel Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri as Monguno falls to insurgents

Cameroonian soldiers

The attack by suspected members of the Boko Haram on Maiduguri has been foiled by soldiers, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

However, the neighbouring town of Monguno appears to have been taken over by the insurgents who are also said to have taken over the military barracks there, a senior soldier in the state capital told PREMIUM TIMES.

As if attacking from various fronts, soldiers were also battling the rampaging insurgents in Konduga, a town 35km from Maiduguri.

The military is expected to release details of the attacks after the battles are completed.

Our source said scores of people including soldiers and insurgents have been killed on the outskirts of Maiduguri since the current battles started late Saturday night.

Confirming the fall of Monguno to the insurgents, our source said “we have decimated the idiots (from Maiduguri) but Monguno has fallen”.

He said the military casualty from the Maiduguri and Monguno battles had been recorded, but would not provide details.

Already, the Army has imposed a curfew on Maiduguri.

The 7th Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri on Sunday announced the 24-hour curfew following the attacks.

The Spokesperson of the Division, Sani Usman, said this in a statement he signed and issued in Maiduguri.

“Be informed of the imposition of a curfew on Maiduguri immediately,” the spokesperson said as quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria.

“The curfew will remain till further notice.”

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: Militants attack key city of Maiduguri

President Goodluck Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri last week, 15 JanPresident Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri on 15 January and visited again on Saturday

Fighters from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have launched an attack on the key city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, reports say.

Fierce fighting was reported on the outskirts. The military is carrying out air strikes, and a curfew is in place.

Maiduguri is home to tens of thousands of people who have fled Boko Haram attacks and was visited on Saturday by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Another Boko Haram attack was reported in Monguno, north of Maiduguri.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria.

Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Lagos on Sunday.

‘Pray for us’

Residents of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, say they woke to sustained loud explosions and gunshots. Roads and business have been closed by security forces.

map of areas under attack by Boko Haram

The attack appeared to have begun in the Njimtilo district on the edge of the city.

One resident there, Rachel Adamu, told Reuters: “Please pray for us, we are in danger, under serious attack now.”

A resident of the Moronti area, Buba Kyari, told Agence France-Presse: “It is flying bullets everywhere. All we hear are sounds of guns and explosions. A rocket-propelled grenade hit and killed a person from my neighbourhood who was fleeing into the city.”

The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja says the military are carrying out co-ordinated air strikes and ground attacks against the insurgents.

Militants also reportedly attacked Monguno, 140km (86 miles) north of Maiduguri.

Security sources told Reuters the army there was being overwhelmed, with houses set on fire.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • 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 Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on Cameroon

Soldiers without weapons

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

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Maiduguri would be a major prize for Boko Haram, which last tried to take the city in December 2013.

President Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his election campaign for polls in February.

It was his second visit in two weeks. Before these trips his last visit had been in March 2013.

On his visit on 16 January, he told some of the 5,000 refugees who fled recent Boko Haram violence: “I want to assure you that you will soon go back to your houses.”

He pledged that “all the areas under the control of Boko Haram will soon be recaptured”.

His visit came after UK-based human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images of towns attacked by Boko Haram, suggesting widespread destruction and a high death toll.

The pictures showed some 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed in Baga and neighbouring Doron Baga in the first week of the year, the human-rights group said.

Nigeria’s government has disputed reports that as many as 2,000 were killed, putting the toll at just 150.

John Kerry is expected to meet both President Jonathan and rival presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday.

State department officials said Mr Kerry would urge them to appeal to supporters to refrain from violence in the lead-up to the election. Hundreds died after Mr Jonathan was elected in 2011.

Satellite images of Doron Baga Satellite images of Doron Baga which were taken on 2 January, before the Boko Haram attacks, and afterwards on 7 January. The vegetation is shown in red

 

 

Nigeria – Nigeria release 190 in Yobe

Reuters
(Reuters) – Nigerian Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram released about 190 captives, who returned to their community in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday, while other people were still being held, local and state officials said.

“The people will be presented to the government tomorrow (Sunday) for assistance as their houses were set ablaze when the insurgents attacked the village, Katarko in the Gujba local council,” Goni Mali, a community leader of Katarko said.

Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.

Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe.

Some of the women who were released said the militants let them go after they resisted following the rules of the group.

“They say since you have refused to accept our mode of religious teachings, go and follow your ‘Infidels’, we hereby order you to leave,” one of the women said.

The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria’s Adamawa state in July.

In neighbouring Borno state, at least 14 people were killed and houses set on fire on Friday in a suspected Boko Haram attack on the village of Kambari, 5 kilometres from state capital Maiduguri, a military source and eye witnesses said.

Nigeria: security chief says it doesn’t need UN help over Boko Haram

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: UN ‘not needed against Nigerian militants’

Nigeria soldiers in Borno state - June 2013Nigeria’s army has so far failed to contain the insurgency during the state of emergency

Nigeria does not need the help of UN or African Union troops to take on Boko Haram, the country’s national security adviser has told the BBC.

Sambo Dasuki said Nigeria, and its neighbours Niger, Chad and Cameroon, were in a “good shape to address the issue” of the Islamist insurgency.

He acknowledged the militants were a “real security threat” and said that close to 50% of Nigeria’s army was now deployed to the north-east.

Boko Haram took up arms in 2009.

It says it is fighting to create an Islamic state.

Since the government declared a state of emergency 20 months ago in three north-eastern states to deal with the insurgency, the group has strengthened and now controls several towns, where it has declared a caliphate.

The militants gained worldwide notoriety after kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls in April last year – who have yet to be rescued.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • 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 Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on Cameroon

Soldiers without weapons

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

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Recently they have carried out raids into neighbouring Cameroon and this week Boko Haram’s leader said his fighters had carried out the brutal attacks on the Nigerian town of Baga.

He said they had seized enough weapons from Baga’s military base to “annihilate Nigeria”.

Some reports said that as many as 2,000 people died in Baga but Nigeria’s government has disputed this, putting the toll at 150.

Mr Dasuki told the BBC’s Newsday programme the fact that so many of the country’s security sources had been deployed to deal with the militants showed how seriously the situation was being taken.

Chadian soldiers on Cameroon's border with Nigeria - 21 January 2015Over the weekend, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria to bolster security

However, several soldiers have complained about not being given enough weapons and working equipment to tackle Boko Haram.

Mr Dasuki has dismissed such criticisms, saying there were “cowards” within the armed forces who hampered the campaign against the insurgents.

When asked if Nigeria needed outside help, he said “No”, before saying it was an option to involve UN and AU forces, but regional partners were best placed to deal with the problem,

Nigerian soldiers currently make up the bulk of UN peacekeepers deployed to Africa, the security chief has said.

Correspondents say so far the regional fight against Boko Haram has been ineffectual.

Efforts to form a multinational force involving Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon have floundered.

However, following a meeting this week it was agreed that they would seek UN backing for the force – and move the headquarters from the captured town of Baga to Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

Over the weekend, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria to help secure the porous border.

map of areas under attack by Boko Haram