Category Archives: Central Africa

Gabon – dozens of opposition held in crackdown on election result protests

BD Live

BY AGENCY STAFF  OCTOBER 01 2016, 13:01
Soldiers patrol a street near opposition campaign headquarters after the election in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday. Picture: REUTERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIBREVILLE — Some 70 people, including several opposition figures, were still in detention nearly a month after a wave of post-election violence erupted in Gabon, a judicial source said on Friday.

Thirty-nine people have been charged for their alleged role in rioting and looting that broke out in Gabon after the disputed vote. They are being held pending trial, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Some 30 others have been brought before a court and were awaiting sentencing, the source added.

Violence erupted on August 31 after President Ali Bongo was first declared the winner of the contested vote. Opposition demonstrators who believed the election had been rigged set parliament ablaze and clashed with police, who made hundreds of arrests.

Many of the detainees were released within days, after being held in often grim conditions.

Among the opposition figures still in detention were ex-MP Bertrand Zibi Abeghe, who resigned in July.

He was charged for “incitement of rebellion” and “committing acts aimed at disturbing the public peace” in the aftermath of the August 27 vote, which Bongo won by a wafer-thin margin.

“He is now being held in solitary confinement in a dungeon and no one is allowed to see him. He runs the risk of paying with his life for having the courage of resigning … during an election rally,” said the former MP’s lawyer, Eric Moutet.

The former head of intelligence, Leon-Paul Ngoulakia — a cousin of Bongo’s who defected to the opposition — was granted provisional release but was still facing charges, the judicial source said.

Even after the violence died down, the Gabonese authorities continued to arrest opposition figures ahead of the Constitutional Court’s dismissal last week of a claim that electoral fraud had been committed.

Bongo was installed for a second time as president on Tuesday, but his second mandate has received a cool reception from the African Union and the United Nations, while the European Union voiced regret the vote count had not been transparent.

On Friday, Gabon’s Justice Minister Denise Mekamne said in a statement an inquiry had been opened into a European Union electoral observer mission, which had reported “anomalies” in the vote count.

AFP

 

International Business Times

Gabon elections

People hold banners and photos during a demonstration to protest against the validation of the re-election of Gabon’s president Ali BongoAnne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

Gabon’s opposition leader, Jean Ping, who claims he was cheated of victory during the recent elections, has urged the Gabonese people to “actively resist” Ali Bongo’s power after his swearing-in ceremony as president for a second seven-year term this week.

Ping, 72, accused the incumbent leader of vote rigging to secure a win and filed a request for a recount of the votes within the nation’s Constitutional Court.

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Recounts are not unprecedented in Gabon – the court ordered a recount that upheld Bongo’s victory in 2009.

In its 24 September ruling on Bongo’s win, the Constitutional Court partially changed the results.

While Bongo was initially awarded 49.8% of the vote – beating Ping’s 48.2% – with wafer-thin margin of fewer than 6,000 votes, the court then said Bongo had taken 50.66% of the vote against 47.24% for Ping. The new results put Bongo’s margin at 11,000.

The European Union, which had sent observers during the vote, questioned the integrity of the electoral process, explaining its monitoring mission was only given “very limited access” to the court review process.

The final result received a cool reception from the international community, including from the United Nations and African Union.

Former colonial ruler France said it regretted the ruling had not “lifted all the doubts” about the process.

Bongo was sworn into office after the court validated his controversial re-election in the 27 August vote, but Ping rejected the high court’s ruling, adding that the court had demonstrated “bias” in its “unjust” decision to uphold Bongo’s victory.

Ping: ‘We must all reject this military-electoral coup’

Setting the stage for a potentially violent showdown, Ping called for the Gabonese to “massively reject” the legitimacy of Bongo’s re-election and to “not give credence in any way to (his) power”. In a lengthy statement published on 29 September, the politician doubled down on his claim that he was the legitimate winner of the presidential election.

“I re-affirm my commitment to my responsibilities as president elected by the sovereign people; beyond the circumstances imposed on us,” Ping said in the statement on his official Facebook page.

“I live with the responsibility of taking care of the Gabonese people who elected me on 27 August 2016. (As the) President elected by you, the Gabonese people, I reaffirm Urbi et Orbi that I will not recognise the authority of Ali Bongo, whose hands are stained with the blood of our countrymen.”

Describing Bongo’s re-election as a “military-electoral coup”, Ping called “on each and every Gabonese people to carry out an active resistance until the end of this abuse of power”.

“Our fight is not against an individual or a group of individuals: whoever they are. Our fight is against a dictatorial system and for democracy (…) The Gabonese people must reject and obstruct with the greatest determination this new imposture that [he] wants to impose on our country.

“We must all reject this military-electoral coup that offers no prospects for Gabon. I personally commit to it.”

National dialogue is ‘vain attempt to legitimise the abuse of power’

In a bid to ease the simmering tensions in the West African nation, Bongo earlier this week promised a national dialogue but excluded the option of international mediation.

In his statement, Ping highlighted that, while he was “not fundamentally against the dialogue”, he would refuse “to go to any dialogue under the aegis of this impostor”.

“What dialogue? With whom and for what purpose? Here is someone disowned by the people and beaten at the polls, who calling on whom he stole the election from to come talk with him! … My position on this is clear, I do not associate myself to this vain attempt to legitimise the abuse of power that the Gabonese people are denouncing.”

The politician, however, agreed to carry out an inclusive national dialogue to be held at his initiative and on terms that are being studied. “I invite the Gabonese of all conditions, so that we sit around a table to lay together the foundations of the new Gabon we all want: a Gabon of justice, truth, transparency and good governance.”

Adding the dialogue would include “the new majority”, Ping invited political parties, trade unions, civil society, religious groups, the diaspora and all other forces of the nation to take part.

Ping, who had been a close ally of former President Omar Bongo – President Ali Bongo’s father –called for a general strike on 6 October, effectively urging the Gabonese to stay at home.

President Bongo took over the resource-rich nation in 2009 when his father died after running the country for more than 40 years.

Chad and Niger kill 123 in offensive against Boko Haram

Reuters

A joint military operation between Chad and Niger has killed 123 Boko Haram militants since July and recovered a significant quantity of weapons, Niger’s Defence Ministry said on Friday.

Allied Chadian-Nigerien forces launched an offensive against the Islamists after a surprise attack in Niger killed 30 of the country’s troops in early June, its deadliest ever attack there.

Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Moustapha Ledru said 14 of the two nations’ own troops had also died and 39 had been wounded in fighting with the Nigerian militant group over the same period.

“An important quantity of arms and weapons were recovered,” he added.

Boko Haram is waging a guerrilla war to establish a breakaway Islamic caliphate around the Lake Chad region, where Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad meet.

Ledru said a parallel offensive involving Nigerian forces had recaptured four towns from the Islamists, whose insurgency has killed thousands and displaced 2.4 million.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the region said on Friday that tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger because insecurity has prevented farmers tilling the land and made access for aid agencies almost impossible.

(Reporting by Boureima Balima; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Sandra Maler)

South Sudan – rebel commander rejoins SPLA

Sudan Tribune

September 29, 2016 (JUBA) – General Dau Aturjong, a high ranking military officer who abandoned government at the height of the civil war in 2014 and joined rebellion, has returned to the South Sudanese army (SPLA).

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General Dau Aturjong (ST)
Aturjong defected to the armed opposition movement led by South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, but has now rejoined the army and also instructed his forces Aweil to follow him without conditions.

What prompted the ex-rebel commander to switch sides remain unclear, with his supporters claiming he responded to call from the community to forget the past and open a new political page.

Other, however, claimed Aturjong failed to secure a high ranking position within the armed opposition leadership, during the selection and recommendation for officials to occupy high level positions, including in cabinet, upon returning to the capital, Juba.

In an attempt to assure the public of his reconciliation with the army chief of staff, General Malong Awan, the duo travelled to Aweil, the former administrative headquarters of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state and held a community meeting to announce the abrupt decision.

While addressing the community, Aturjong said he abandoned the armed opposition for government and returned to the community in order to work for peace and reconciliation among the population.

“There have been who have been asking me what I was doing with Riek Machar and what did I get from him. I tell them I was not going for a position. There was a reason for which I went and I have now returned because I have accepted the call of the community and today mark my return. It is a happy day. It is an historic day for the people of Aweil and our message is that we want to work together, we want unity,” said Aturjong.

He likened his decision to switch allegiance from the armed opposition to the government side to cleanliness of a person who cleans his own house thereby attracting other people to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Awan said the former rebel commander was a “liberator” known by everyone in the area, but decided to join rebellion due to “grievances” and other “political disappointments”.

“It is indeed a very important day for the people of Aweil as General Dau has said it correctly, because in reality General Dau is one of the people who were in the struggle. Everybody knows him. He was just absent because of a certain disappointment which we don’t want to go back to it. And he has come back without any condition,” Awan told the community.

He said Aturjong was in the community to assure the people that he was ready to work with government in the struggle to restore peace.

“So that is why we have just taken this day to be for him in Aweil to talk to his people and to be seen by his people that he is just among us and he is highly welcome,” stressed Awan, who later held Aturjong’s hand as they waved to the public to signify reconciliation.

(ST)

South Sudan – US criticises Machar call for armed resistance

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA)- The State Department has strongly condemned South Sudan’s armed opposition leader’s call for armed resistance against the government, describing it as “inexcusable”.

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South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar addresses a news conference in Uganda’s capital Kampala January 26, 2016 (Reuters photo)

Rebel leader, Riek Machar issued a statement saying his armed opposition would re-organize to “wage a popular armed resistance against the authoritarian and racist regime of President Salva Kiir,” raising fears young nation could plunge into a renewed civil war.

This came in a resolution passed by the political bureau meeting convened on Saturday in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, under the leadership of Machar, also commander-in-chief of the rebels, who spoke for the first time since leaving Juba.

The State Department spokesman, John Kirby, however, said violence would never resolve the ongoing armed conflict in the world youngest nation.

“We find it inexcusable that he would continue to promote armed resistance,” said Kirby, adding “It indicates a lack of concern for the well-being of the South Sudanese people, many of whom continue to struggle just to survive and just as much want to see peace.”

Machar, the country’s former first vice president, fled the capital, Juba in July after his forces violently clashed with those loyal to President Salva Kiir; an incident that left more than 200 soldiers dead.

Kiir, citing his former deputy’s absence, later sacked Machar and named ex-rebel negotiator Taban Deng Gai as first vice president.

The armed opposition faction said it had dismissed all its senior members, including Gai, who are part of the coalition government.

Article 2 (d) of the resolution passed by the armed opposition’s political bureau, “Called for reorganization of the SPLA (IO) so that it can wage a popular armed resistance against the authoritarian and fascist regime of President Salva Kiir in order to bring peace, freedom, democracy and the rule of law in the country.”

The group, in their resolution, also accused President Kiir’s regime of allegedly attempting to “assassinate” the leadership of the armed opposition when fighting erupted at the presidential palace in July.

The opposition group, however, said they were for peace and to “resuscitate” it, calling for rapid deployment of regional forces in order to salvage the peace agreement signed in August 2015.

They claim both the peace accord and the transitional national unity government have collapsed in its absence as a peace partner. In August last year, a peace deal was signed by both Machar and Kiir, but fighting has put the accord at risk of collapse.

“(The SPLM-IO) call on the international community to declare the regime in Juba a rogue government,” the resolution reads in part.

It urged those monitoring the peace deal to suspend their activities.

Barely five years after its independence from neighbouring Sudan, South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese civilians were killed and more than 2 million displaced.

(ST)

Sudan – Amnesty International accuses Khartoum of using chemical weapons in Darfur

Reuters

Sudan’s government has carried out at least 30 likely chemical weapons attacks in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since January using what two experts concluded was a probable blister agent, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The rights group estimated that up to 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to the chemical weapons agents.

The most recent attack occurred on Sept. 9 and Amnesty said its investigation was based on satellite imagery, more than 200 interviews and expert analysis of images showing injuries.

“The use of chemical weapons is a war crime. The evidence we have gathered is credible and portrays a regime that is intent on directing attacks against the civilian population in Darfur without any fear of international retribution,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s director of Crisis Research.

Sudanese U.N. Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed said in a statement that the Amnesty report was “utterly unfounded” and that Sudan does not possess any type of chemical weapons.

“The allegations of use of chemical weapons by Sudanese Armed Forces is baseless and fabricated. The ultimate objective of such wild accusation, is to steer confusion in the on-going processes aimed at deepening peace and stability and enhancing economic development and social cohesion in Sudan,” he said.

Amnesty said it had presented its findings to two independent chemical weapons experts.

“Both concluded that the evidence strongly suggested exposure to vesicants, or blister agents, such as the chemical warfare agents sulphur mustard, lewisite or nitrogen mustard,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Sudan joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1999 under which members agree to never use toxic arms.

A joint African Union-United Nations force, known as UNAMID, has been stationed in Darfur since 2007. Security remains fragile in Darfur, where mainly non-Arab tribes have been fighting the Arab-led government in Khartoum, and the government is struggling to control rural areas.

Some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003, the U.N. says, while 4.4 million people need aid and over 2.5 million have been displaced.

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes and genocide in his drive to crush the Darfur revolt.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown)

Trade in pangolins banned by CITES

BBC

New safeguards agreed for world’s most trafficked mammal

WENDY PANAINO Pangolins are found all over African and Asia but their numbers have plummeted because of illegal trade

A little known species driven to the edge of extinction by poaching has gained extra protection at the Cites meeting in South Africa.

Pangolins are slow moving, nocturnal creatures found across Asia and Africa but over a million have been taken from the wild in the last decade.

The trade is being driven principally by demand for their scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Now the Cites meeting has agreed to ban all trade in eight species of Pangolin.

Scales of destruction

As the world’s only mammal covered in scales, these species are sometimes known as scaly anteaters. The creatures have very long, sticky tongues. These come in very handy when searching for ants, their favourite food

However these scales, which the animal uses for protection, are one of the key reasons for their demise.

In traditional Chinese medicine they are dried and roasted and used for a variety of ailments including excessive nervousness, hysterical crying, palsy and to aid lactation.

As well as the scales, the meat of the Pangolin is eaten as bush meat in many parts of Africa and in China it has become something of a delicacy.

The level of illegal trade is astonishing. Between January and September this year, authorities seized more than 18,000 tonnes of Pangolin scales across 19 countries.

The majority of these scales came from African pangolins in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. Experts estimate that each kilogramme of scales requires the killing of three or four animals. It is believed that pangolins make up around 20% of all illegal trade in species.

Zero quotas

All pangolins are already listed on Appendix II but with a zero quota for Asian species. This has caused major problems say conservationists.

pangolinTIKKI HYWOOD TRUST Pangolins only produce one offspring per year, limiting their ability to recover from poaching
PangolinGETTY IMAGES The trade in frozen pangolin scales and meat is one of the biggest illegal markets

“When pangolins are just in their product forms as scales or meat it’s impossible to tell the Asian ones from the African ones,” said Jeff Flocken from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

“Up to now all Pangolins were on Appendix II with zero quota trade in the Asian species, but what that allowed was a massive trade in African species and also enabled a whole mechanism for laundering Asian ones as African ones which are legal.”

Here at the Cites meeting, range state countries proposed that four species of African pangolins and four Asian varieties be up-listed to Appendix I meaning that all commercial trade would be stopped and greater protection demanded from law enforcement.

There was widespread support for the move, with few dissenting voices. All over the large hall, stuffed toy pangolins could be seen on desks, indicating sympathy for the plight of this little known species.

Indonesia objected to the up-listing of two Asian species, the Sunda and Chinese pangolins but the conference voted overwhelmingly to include them.

PangolinSPL Pangolins curl into a ball when threatened which is useful against predators but not against poachers

“This is a huge win and rare piece of good news for some of the world’s most trafficked and endangered animals,” said Ginette Hemley from WWF.

“Giving Pangolins full protection under Cites will eliminate any question about legality of trade, making it harder for criminals to traffic them and increasing the consequences for those who do.”

Some objections had been expected about the African species but none materialized and the Conference of the Parties accepted the extra safeguards without a vote.

“Everyone wants this, law enforcement wants this,” said Jeff Flocken from IFAW.

“When they are listed as Appendix I there will be no mistake as to what’s legal or illegal, because they will all be illegal.

“This is a clear message from the world that the pangolins are in dire need of protection and we are going to try and make it happen.”

South Sudan seeking regional help to deny rebels support

Sudan Tribune

September 27, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan government has started soliciting for support from countries in the region not to host and provide military support to a rebel groups with ambitions to oust the Juba regime through unconstitutional means.

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Riek Machar sits in his field office in a rebel controlled territory in Jonglei State February 1, 2014. (Photo/Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

The presidential advisor on security affairs disclosed that officials from the world’s youngest nation have approached regional leaders, particularly countries with interest in the country, over the matter.

“There is a peace agreement which is being implemented already. This is the agreement which was mediated by the countries in the region,” Tut Kew Gatluak told Sudan Tribune Monday.

“These countries [in the region] now need to continue to support the implementation of peace and isolate those who are against it. They should host and provide any kind of support, whether be it political and military support to those against the implementation of peace agreement,” he added.

According to the official, South Sudan is now appealing to countries within the region immediately expel rebel groups within its territories.

“They [should] really try their best to discourage such people and convince them to join peace”, stressed the presidential advisor.

Gatluak is the first senior government official to react to a report in which the leadership of armed opposition under the ousted first vice president and leader, Riek Machar, announced resumption of armed struggle after holding a consultative meeting in Khartoum.

Machar, who is currently in Khartoum after fleeing Juba on July 11, has been denied asylum in Ethiopia where he had hoped to take refuge after completing treatment from a Khartoum-based hospital.

Last week, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, told reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, that Addis Ababa “does not need someone who is leading an armed struggle on its soil.”

Ethiopia, after the civil war broke out in Juba in December 2013, played an important role in mediating peace to end conflict in South Sudan and also hosted Machar for most of the two-and-a-half years of the peace negotiations led by the regional bloc (IGAD). However, Addis Ababa is now bowing to pressure from Juba and the dynamics of the deployment of the UN-backed regional protection force.

Ethiopia was supposed to provide the bulk of the 4,000 troops and this was going to complicate their participation, if the country gives asylum to Machar, who is still determined to wage armed struggle.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir removed Machar from his position and replaced him with his former lead negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, as the country’s first vice president, citing his prolonged absence.

Machar is also experiencing difficulties with his political activities in Sudan after authorities stopped him from holding a press conference in Khartoum following a week-long leadership meeting that explored the ongoing political crisis in South Sudan.

Sudan’s information minister, Ahmed Bilal Osman said Machar was in Khartoum for treatment and would not be permitted to conduct political activities.

He, however, said Khartoum was waiting for the implementation of the security arrangements so that Machar returns to South Sudan.

Machar vowed he would only to return to the South Sudanese capital, after the deployment of the regional protection force, which Juba appears to be reluctant to accept as a boost to the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in the young nation.

According to a UN Security Council resolution, the protection force is supposed to act as a buffer between President Kiir’s soldiers and those of Machar as well as secure humanitarian supply lines and key installations.

September 27, 2016 (KHARTOUM) – South Sudan on Monday urged Khartoum to ban political and media activities of SPLM-IO leader and former First Vice President Riek Machar.

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South Sudanese ambassador in Khartoum Mayan Dut Waal

On Monday, South Sudan’s Ambassador to Khartoum Mayan Dut Waal, said he was surprised to see the Sudanese government allowing Machar to declare war against his government.

Machar ’’cannot declare war on the South Sudan’s government from Khartoum,’’ Waal said.

“We were surprised because when Machar arrived to Khartoum it was on the pretext of humanitarian propaganda. Also, a week ago, Khartoum said it would not allow Machar to exercise any media or political activity. However from 20 to 23 September Machar held a meeting for his group in Khartoum, ” he said

“Now we have all the meeting papers and recommendations, Khartoum is the place of meeting indicated in the documents, which are signed by Machar himself,” he added..

The South Sudanese diplomat went further to say that Khartoum is misleading Juba when it pledges to restrict the activities of the opposition leader.

“This means that Khartoum is fooling us,” he said.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has anticipated the South Sudanese accusations and declared his government would not allow the armed opposition to attack the neighboring country from Sudan.

He further stressed that his government is supporting regional efforts to bring peace in the South Sudan.

AMBASSADOR DEMANDS PROTECTION

In a separate development, Ambassador Waal said he has asked the Sudanese government to provide police bodyguards to protect him, pointing that he feels unsafe in Khartoum.

“I have sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting providing personal protection and we wait the feedback,” he said .

Last Saturday, the ambassador was attacked by some South Sudanese while he was shopping in Khartoum’s down town.

The diplomat pointed that he only feels safe inside the embassy which is protected by police.

when reached by Sudan tribune for comment, Foreign Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ambassador Gharib Allah Khidir said said that the request of the South Sudanese ambassador request is “normal’’.

“Any diplomat who feels unsafe requests the ministry of foreign affairs to protect his diplomatic mission and residence,” he said without further details on the response of his government to this demand.

(ST)