Uganda – LRA commander Okello captured in Central African Republic


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.

Nigeria – Niger group claims Boko Haram link

Daily Trust

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 05:01Written by Musa Abdullahi Krishi & Ronald MutumHits: 8381

Major-General Chris Olukolade

. Military says aware of cross-border activity


An insurgency group operating in Niger Republic has claimed having links with Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants from whom it receives “huge” payments for joint operations.
The Niger insurgents told the BBC Hausa radio yesterday that they are based in parts of Diffa in the south-eastern part of that country, and that they routinely offer help to Boko Haram in its campaign of violence in Nigeria.
Boko Haram pays them “huge sums” in return, they said.
Nigerian authorities have said in the past that the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad does receive support from foreign terror groups, but this is the first time any such organisation is publicly claiming working with the sect.
The Niger group, whose name was not given, comprises mostly youths of between the ages of 17 and 23, who wear singlets, jeans and chains round their necks, according to the report.
The young men are secondary school students, who conduct armed robberies especially during market days in Diffa, which is on the border with Nigeria. They showed the BBC correspondent some machetes, knives and other local weapons which they use in their robbery operations. But they said they do not use guns.
“What we do is to sit and drink tea, bear, drugs and marijuana before we go for operations and other insurgent activities,” one of them said.
“As a result of our activities, our parents and other people in our areas don’t like us. We have relationship with Boko Haram. Five of us went, but two of them lost their lives (in Nigeria) and three are alive.
“Even this one you’re seeing with us, it’s not up to a week that he returned. It’s all about money. The Boko Haram people have given us huge sums of money in the past, part of which we used in buying these chairs, clothes and other things you’re seeing here.”
Another young man said: “All the things we do are because we’re jobless; we’re doing this to get money.”
They also claimed that they are now giving Boko Haram members information about Diffa and its surroundings.
Governor of the state of Diffa, Mr. Yakubu Sumana Gawo, told the BBC that security personnel are working to ensure adequate security in the state, but that the government was not aware of the existence of any group of insurgents.
“We don’t know about these groups, since they have not launched any attack yet. We won’t allow any insurgent group to operate here. But we’re calling on the people to give us information about any terrorist group to help us and the country. God willing, security agents will go after such groups,” he said.
However, some citizens of Diffa who did not want to be named, confirmed the existence of insurgents.
When contacted yesterday, the Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, told Daily Trust: “We know they have been going across the border and are involved in terrorist activities in Nigeria.”
He added that so many of them have been killed by security forces carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.
“This only goes to confirm what we have been saying about cross-border involvement,” Major-General Olukolade said.
In his reaction, Special Duties Minister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, who is also the chairman of the presidential committee on dialogue with Boko Haram, told the BBC he was not aware of the Niger Republic group’s support for Nigerian insurgents.
“I don’t have that information, but I won’t be surprised if that is the case, because like I said, there are people whose major concern is to cause trouble so that they can fulfill their desires,” he said.
“Even if there are such groups, God will take control over them. Nigeria is a country that is above any terrorist or trouble maker. We are a country that believes in God, and we know He won’t forsake us,” he added.
On reported Boko Haram’s links with Somalia’s Al-Shabab group, Turaki said: “As a minister and head of the presidential committee on dialogue with the group, I am not aware of this. But as I know, some terrorist groups around the world are trying to cause trouble in different countries; I won’t be surprised if there is any joint effort among them.
“Again, I can’t think a newspaper will come out with such information without having any good reason. But I don’t have any information of any relationship between them (Boko Haram) and Al-Shabab.”
Speaking on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shakau’s claims that the sect is now in Abuja, Turaki said the sect’s members are like any other human being who could reside in any part of the country without government knowledge.
“It’s not surprising, because what we’ve been telling people all the time is that the Boko Haram members are like every other person. The way they operate, they are different from other religious groups since you can’t just see someone with kaftan and say they’re the ones. They have different ways of dressing, so I won’t be surprised if they’re in Abuja just the way they’re in other places,” he said.
Turaki also said his committee’s dialogue with the Boko Haram sect has been fruitful, though he would not make public their demands as the dialogue is ongoing.
“Our dialogue with them is ongoing. We have discussed with some of their members, and even the committee before this one did same. But this committee has discussed with many of them, and so far so good, by God’s grace and with prayers from Nigerians, we shall overcome all these challenges,” Turaki said. Daily Trust

China urges renewed peace effort in South Sudan


BEIJING Wed Apr 23, 2014

Civilians flee from renewed attacks in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Emre Rende

Civilians flee from renewed attacks in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan April 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Emre Rende

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Wednesday urged renewed peace efforts in South Sudan after the United Nations said rebels slaughtered hundreds of civilians when they seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu.

“We strongly condemn this and urge all sides in South Sudan, including the opposition and the authorities, to keep pushing political dialogue to resolve the relevant issues and achieve reconciliation, peace and development at the earliest date,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a daily briefing.

China has played an unusually active diplomatic role in South Sudan and is the biggest investor in its oil industry.

Bentiu is capital of South Sudan’s oil-producing Unity state. Oil firms in South Sudan, a country roughly the size of France, include China National Petroleum Corp, India’s ONGC Videsh and Malaysia’s Petronas.

“China has energy interests in South Sudan, so we hope even more that this country can maintain peace and stability,” Qin added.

“We also ask that the South Sudanese authorities provide protection to China’s reasonable rights in South Sudan and the safety of Chinese nationals,” he said.

China’s special envoy to Africa, Zhong Jianhua, told Reuters in February that China’s efforts to help resolve the conflict in South Sudan marked a “new chapter” in its foreign policy that would seek to engage more in Africa’s security.

The White House on Tuesday called the massacre an abomination and urged an end to the cycle of violence there.

The United Nations said rebels hunted down men, women and children who had sought refuge in a hospital, mosque and Catholic church.

Rebel troops overran Bentiu last week. Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied responsibility for the slaughter, blaming government forces for the killings.

More than 1 million people have fled from their homes since December when fighting erupted in the world’s youngest country between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar. Reuters


South Africa – SABC bans EFF election ad as inciting violence


South Africa row over Julius Malema election advert

Julius Malema speaks as he launches his Economic Freedom Fighters party in Johannesburg, South Africa on 11 July 2013 Julius Malema was once a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, but launched his own party in July last year

South Africa’s public broadcaster has said it refused to broadcast a campaign message from the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) as it incited violence.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) denied that it was banned because it came from the EFF.

The advert calls for people to “destroy e-Tolls”, a controversial new road tolling system.

The EFF, set up by ex-ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, is contesting an election for the first time next month.

‘Unfair coverage’

Mr Malema likened the SABC’s actions to those used by the apartheid government, which censored messages with anti-government sentiment.

Who is Julius Malema?

  • Born 3 March 1981 in Limpopo province
  • Mother was domestic worker and single parent
  • Joined ANC aged nine and elected leader of its youth wing in April 2008
  • Convicted of hate speech in March 2010 and September 2011
  • Expelled from ANC in April 2012 for sowing divisions in party
  • Toured mines following the shooting of 34 miners in Marikana by police in August 2012, urging workers to make the sector “ungovernable”
  • Set up the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) party in 2013

“Once you suppress the people contesting elections it means you not ready to give us free and fair elections because unfair coverage leads to unfair elections,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.

However, SABC spokesman Kaiser Kganyago said it was to do with regulations, not politics.

“They submitted it, we looked at it, and we found that we couldn’t put it on air,” the South African Press Association news agency quotes him as saying.

“The EFF, like any other political party, signed the code of conduct with the IEC [Independent Election Commission] that says it will not incite violence…. [the advert] goes against the code.”

The SABC has reportedly written to the EFF telling them to amend the advert, but the party has refused to do so.

Earlier this month, the SABC also rejected an advert from the Democratic Alliance (DA), the country’s main opposition party, saying it used language that promoted violence and amounted to a “personal attack” against President Jacob Zuma.

But it was eventually aired after the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s (Icasa) complaints and compliance committee ruled in the party’s favour.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlovu said their party had also lodged an Icasa complaint.

A supporter of the leader of South African opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) which one of their posters - 16 April 2014 The DA initially had one of their adverts rejected by the SABC
ANC supporters sit by a campaign truck as people leave after listening to President Jacob Zuma delivering a speech at a rally at Umasizakhe stadium in the Eastern Cape city of Graaf-Reinet on 10 April 2014 Jacob Zuma became president five years ago

Its advert, which has been posted on YouTube, starts with a widow of one of the striking miners killed by police in August 2012 in what is called the Marikana massacre.

It is followed by a message from Mr Malema asking South Africans to vote against the “empty promises of the last 20 years”, then several slogans appear across the screen, one of which says: “Destroy e-tolls physically!”

Mr Malema was once a close ally of Mr Zuma but was expelled from the governing African National Congress (ANC) in 2012 for sowing divisions in the party.

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says opposition parties have in the past accused the SABC of a bias towards the ANC and censoring messages, which the broadcaster denied.

However, the refusal by the SABC to air these adverts plays into that perception, our correspondents says.

After a hotly contested election campaign, South Africans go to the polls on 7 May.

It will be the first time that the ANC is contesting a general election without Nelson Mandela, its former leader and South Africa’s first democratically elected president who died at the age of 95 in December. BBC

South Africa – reinstated Vavi calls on NUMSA for unity with COSATU

Mail and Guardian

Following his reinstatement at Cosatu, the trade union federation’s general secretary has responded to Numsa’s call for him to “abandon Cosatu”.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Gallo)

Cosatu general secretary ZwelinzimaVavi has called for unity at the trade union federation’s Western Cape office in Cape Town on Tuesday, the Star reported on Wednesday.

“Unity is the only way. There is no second way. And let us not be dishonest … ” the newspaper quoted him as saying. His words come as draft National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) central committee report shows two options for the metalworkers union “if there are moves to expel it [from the alliance with the Cosatu]: take the fight to stay within Cosatu to the courts, or consider breaking away”, according to the Star.

Numsa is Cosatu’s largest affiliate.

Last week, the Mail & Guardian reported that Numsa warned Vavi not to campaign for the ANC.

The strong warning came from Irvin Jim, his long-time ally and the Numsa general secretary.

It places Vavi in a dilemma, trapped between embracing the ruling party and being dropped by his supporters, who seem to be in no mood for reconciliation.

“It is wrong to say the resolution of the Numsa must bind Vavi. .. and Numsa is not [so] arrogant to tell me I must abandon Cosatu,” he was quoted as saying on Tuesday. “It does not work like that.”

‘United behind a principled federation’
Addressing about 500 shop stewards in Cape Town, Vavi said, “Without the unity of workers, everything else becomes impossible. Without the numbers united behind a principled federation, all is lost.”

Vavi returned to work at Cosatu House this month after eight months of being on suspension, following the high court in Johannesburg’s ruling setting aside his suspension.

The federation is backing the ANC in the upcoming general elections. Numsa, which supported Vavi and called for his reinstatement, announced in December that it will not to endorse the ruling party. – Additional reporting by Sapa M&G

Rwanda – Kagame will not rule out trying for a third term


Rwandan president says he is not ready to rule out third term

BOSTON Wed Apr 23, 2014

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ruben Sprich

BOSTON (Reuters) – Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Tuesday it was too early to say whether he will seek a third term as head of the east African state, adding “whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.”

Articles in pro-government newspapers in recent years have raised the prospect of him staying on after his mandate expires in 2017, a move that would anger his critics and require a change to the constitution.

“I have been asked when or whether I am going to leave office right from the time when I started. It is as if I am here just to leave. I’m here to do business on behalf of Rwandans,” Kagame told students and faculty after a speech at Tufts University near Boston.

“I don’t know what else I can give you on that, but let’s wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.”

He was responding to a student’s question about how he imagined his political role in Rwanda after his term ends.

Kagame was touring universities around Boston to speak about the country’s recovery from its 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people were killed. Kagame believes European powers played a role in triggering the conflict and that the international community failed to intervene to stop it.

“What we learned is that people must be responsible for their own fate. If you wait for outsiders you will just perish,” Kagame, rail thin and wearing a sharp suit and dark-framed eyeglasses, told the audience.

He accused the “international community” of destabilizing neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo by allowing people who committed the Rwandan genocide to later escape into Congo’s eastern hills and giving them guns.

Millions have died in eastern Congo, home to myriad rebel groups, since the end of Rwanda’s genocide.

Kagame came to power in 2000 after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front to overthrow the 1994 government. He won democratic elections in 2003 and 2010. The constitution currently limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Kagame has previously brushed off speculation he could seek to stay on for another term.

Critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian and trampling on media and political freedoms. South Africa expelled three Rwandan envoys last month and accused them of being linked to attacks on Kagame’s dissidents in the country. Kigali has denied the accusations.

But Kagame has also won international praise for progress in his bid to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. Rwanda was ranked 2nd in sub-Saharan Africa on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report for 2014, overtaking economic heavyweight South Africa, after a series of economic reforms.  Reuters


South Africa – DA seeks longer term for parliamentary committee on Nkandla

Mail and Guardian

DA seeks extension to Nkandla committee’s lifespan

23 Apr 2014

While the parliamentary committee is ready to start, the DA says it would need more time to ensure the investigation into Nkandla is thorough.

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home as pictured in October 2012. (Cornel van Heerden, Gallo)

Parliament is finally set to grapple with the hot potato that is the multimillion-rand upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla this week, more than a month since public protector Thuli Madonsela released her report into the matter on March 19.

But the success of this milestone is shrouded in doubt even before the specially constituted Parliament committee holds its first meeting.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, announced on April 9 he decided to establish an ad hoc committee to “consider the submissions by the president in response to the public protector’s report and make recommendations, where applicable”.

Sisulu gave the committee three weeks, until April 30, to complete its work and report back to the House.

While the speaker is responsible for announcing the membership of the committee, the rules of the National Assembly leave it to political parties to deploy members to a parliamentary committee within a period of 10 working days.

The ruling party took full advantage of this courtesy and only announced its seven members on Tuesday, the ninth of the 10-day period.

This move has been seen as stonewalling for time by the opposition, who claim that the ANC’s only interest is to protect Zuma from scrutiny, especially considering the limited time period before the May 7 general elections.

Parliament is key in this process. It is the body to which both the president and the public protector account, and which appoints and can remove a president and a public protector.

When it announced its members, the ANC downplayed the delay, firstly pointing out that it met the deadline, but then blamed the delay on it being parliamentary recess and elections season.

The party named a mixed bag of MPs: some are known as vocal Zuma supporters but the majority of members have considerable experience in Parliament and are familiar with parliamentary procedure as they either chair their own parliamentary committees or are whips of committees.

The committee will be chaired by National Assembly House chairperson Cedric Frolick, who is known as a stickler for the rules.

Controversially, the ANC also included Buti Manamela, a rising star in the party who last month said Madonsela was driven by the political agenda of the media and of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in her investigation of the Nkandla upgrades.

Manamela told a youth rally in Rustenburg in March that “President Zuma did not ask for security upgrades and renovations. He did not appoint contractors to do the upgrades. He did not unduly benefit from the entire process and therefore cannot take responsibility of the mess that was created by administrators.”

Committee members
Other ANC members in the committee are its National Assembly deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude, public service and administration portfolio committee chair Joyce Moloi-Moropa, ANC whip on the communications portfolio committee Faith Muthambi, joint standing committee on intelligence chairperson Cecil Burgess, justice and constitutional development portfolio committee chairperson Luwellyn Landers.

The latter two were responsible for pushing the infamous Protection of State Information Bill, also known as the secrecy Bill, earlier in this year’s parliamentary term.

With growing concerns that the committee will not be able to do a thorough job in the week that is left until the April 30 deadline, the DA has written to Sisulu requesting that he extends the life of the ad hoc committee by five more days to May 5. The party added it would not advocate for working on weekends in the interest of time.

The official opposition is also calling for a parliamentary sitting on May 5 or 6, a day or two before the general elections for the house to consider a report of the ad hoc committee.

Parliament’s term expires at midnight on May 6.

DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she was concerned with the quality of work that the special committee would produce given its tight deadlines.

Mazibuko, alongside James Selfe will represent the DA in the committee. Narend Singh will represent the Inkatha Freedom Party and Corne Mulder, the smaller parties.

The Congress of the People has declined an offer to serve on the committee.

‘Huge matter of concern’
“Our ability to do our job effectively is being undermined, I believe, deliberately by the ANC … and that is a huge matter of concern, which is why we are asking for this extension to give us an opportunity to get to as close to that three weeks that the speaker envisioned when he first set this up as possible,” Mazibuko told journalists in Parliament, before the ANC announced its deployees.

“We are now in a position where we are forced to take extraordinary measures. It is unusual for Parliament to sit a day or two days before an election.

“It is not ideal, it is disappointing that we are in this position but I can’t see how this committee can do a legitimate service to its mandate if it is essentially squeezing all the work of investigating this matter into less than a week, which could very well happen as a result of the ANC’s delays,” she said.

It would be interesting to see how Sisulu responds to the DA request for an extension, considering that the committee has not met nor has it drafted a programme.

While Parliament has in the past extended the deadlines of ad hoc committees, following a request from an operating committee, the DA could be accused of jumping the gun in this case.

Mazibuko envisages that the committee would fully explore all its legal powers, including the power to subpoena documents and summon witnesses including Zuma and Madonsela to appear before it.

“We will call for the president to be summoned to the committee, we will insist on it. This matter cannot be discussed independently of him,” she said.

But it is unlikely that ANC MPs would agree to opening Zuma up for a grilling by opposition MPs.

It is also not likely that the ANC would agree to a parliamentary sitting literally a day or two before the elections. And if such a sitting would be held, the ANC’s majority would not vote for the impeachment of its president, not especially a day before the elections.

Faced with a call for a no-confidence debate on Zuma in November 2012, a month before the party’s national conference in Mangaung, the ANC did everything to ensure such a debate did not take place before such a crucial occasion for Zuma.

Chairperson of the DA’s parliamentary caucus Wilmot James denies that the election fever has anything to do with the incessant pushing on Nkandla.

“Considering that we’ve been doing this for a number of years and not days, it is not an act of campaign opportunism,” he said.

“What it is is a consistent and deliberate effort to exert accountability from a president that has tried to evade it at every turn. And we will do so until the end of this parliamentary term,” said James.

Mazibuko added: “We are also fighting for the life of independent institutions that hold the state accountable for their work and the ANC is trying to slither as deviously and as cynically out of accountability as possible by either undermining independent institutions or by preventing them from doing their work.

“They tried to prevent the public protector from doing her work and they are now trying to prevent Parliament from doing its work.”  M&G