Africa News Week in Review 7-12-13

Due to the holiday weekend, the following is a round-up of the top articles and news highlights from the African continent during the past two weeks.

Nigeria

  • Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgent group operating in northeastern Nigeria, has agreed to a cease-fire agreement, ending its campaign of violence and murder while it negotiates with the Nigerian government. Mobile phone service in Adamawa, one of the three states where the clashes were occurring, has been restored after being cut off by the government. In an interview, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto said the U.S. State Department supports “any agreement” that will bring peace and stability to Nigeria, which has seen some areas draw to a virtual standstill amid fighting.
  • In confirming the ceasefire agreement, a spokesman for Boko Haram also denied Boko Haram’s involvement in a gruesome attack on a boarding school that left 42 dead, saying, “I appeal to those who lost their loved ones to our activities to forgive us and on our side we have forgiven all those who committed atrocities against us. I want to state clearly that we have no hands in the unfortunate attack on the secondary school (Government Secondary School,Mamudo, Yobe State).”
  • Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission released a report on June 30th that says Nigerian “security forces are killing, torturing, illegally detaining and raping civilians in a fight to halt an Islamic uprising in northeast Nigeria that has killed nearly 2,000 people since 2010,” according to a Sapa-AP report.  On July 1, the Nigerian military convened a general court martial to try one officer and 17 soldiers for abuses against civilians, including murder.

Zimbabwe

  • International observers are joining Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in decrying the upcoming national elections as likely to be unfair. Concerns are emerging about a depleted election budget, outdated voting rolls and links between the government and a shadowy contracting company (see our June 25 post for more coverage). International NGO the Carter Center announced that it had been denied a permit to oversee the election amid reports of intimidation of human rights defenders. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has requested that the South African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc, review the country’s electoral preparations. However, Mugabe threatened to withdraw from SADC if they interfered too strongly in the elections, and said he was sure of his electoral victory.

Chad

  • Police detained ex-Chadian president Hissène Habré on Sunday in Dakar, Senegal, where he had been living in exile since 1990. Habré’s rule from 1982 to 1990 was marked by significant human rights abuses, according to Human Rights Watch, including the killing of some 40,000 dissidents. He now faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. “After 22 years, Habré’s victims can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody told the New York Times.

Egypt

  • In the wake of the military coup that overthrew the government of Mohammed Morsi, the African Union (AU) has moved to suspend Egypt from its ranks. “The overthrow of the democratic elected president does not conform to the relevant provisions of the Egyptian constitution and is therefore false under the definition of an unconstitutional change of government. The council decides to suspend the participation of Egypt in AU activities until the restoration of constitutional order,” Admore Kambudzi, secretary of the African Union Peace and Security Council, said. The Egyptian foreign ministry has written the AU to express its rejection of the AU decision. Voice of America reports that AU leaders will be traveling to Egypt to consult with its new rulers, but the country will remain suspended until it restores constitutional order and holds democratic elections.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

  • A confidential report from U.N. experts seen by Reuters alleges that Rwandan military officers continue to support M23 in the eastern DRC despite its signing of a peace framework in February. The report claims that Rwandan officers assist in recruitment of M23 soldiers in Rwanda and have met with M23 leaders, although there are no reports of the involvement of full units or materiel support. The same report also claims that the Congolese military (FARDC) is collaborating with the FDLR, the remnants of the forces that perpetrated the 1994 Rwandan genocide, to combat M23. A report this week by the Associated Press also indicated that the FARDC was arming the Mai Mai rebel group with the goal of throwing M23 into disarray.
  • A U.N. Security Council meeting will convene on July 25 to “strengthen efforts to achieve peace in the Great Lakes region,” according to Voice of America. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will chair the meeting, which will see U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, U.N. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Mary Robinson and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim scheduled to attend. The DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and the African Union (AU) have also been invited.

Mali

  • The state of emergency imposed by the government upon the arrival of French troops into Mali in January has been lifted, reflecting hopes that the country may stabilize as it prepares to hold elections later this month. However, analysts continue to advocate for a delayed election amid fears that the vote may be neither peaceful nor credible. The decision comes on the heels of the deployment of the first U.N. peacekeepers to the region, a mission that may be underfunded if the U.S. Congress is fails to approve funding, according to the Better World Campaign’s executive director, Peter Yeo.
  • The humanitarian situation in Mali is increasingly dire, drawing increased attention from aid organizations. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof points out, “one child an hour is now dying of malnutrition in Mali — a far higher toll than that lost in the warfare itself.” U.N. Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Robert Piper said the Sahel region was in “crisis mode” with 3.5 million facing food insecurity in Mali alone. As of January this year, the U.S., the largest donor in the region, allocated over $445.9 million in humanitarian assistance (PDF) to the Sahel region in FY2012 and FY2013.

Niger

  • The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is increasing its use of drone surveillance on the continent, stationing planes in Niger as it seeks to monitor jihadist groups in neighboring Mali. Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, says the Pentagon “sees a continued need for intelligence collection in that region”, with drone missions continuing even as French forces withdraw from Mali. However, analysts say there may be drawbacks – one plane has already crashed, and there may be blowback from locals.

East Africa

  • At a summit in Entebbe, Uganda, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced a series of agreements to move towards greater integration of the East African Community (EAC). Included are accords on implementation of a customs union, monetary union and large-scale infrastructure projects. The agreements are expected to be presented to the other EAC members Tanzania and Burundi for adoption in November when the member nations’ heads of state convene in Arusha, Tanzania.

Guinea

  • A spokesman for Guinea’s opposition coalition said on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with the ruling party to hold legislative elections in September. The opposition had previously alleged that the ruling party was trying to rig the vote, delaying the election, but U.N. mediation was able to resolve the squabble.

Sudan, South Sudan & Ethiopia

  • Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has proposed a neutral investigative organization to determine the status of rebel groups in both countries. Each side accuses the other of supporting insurgencies within its borders, creating tensions that boiled over last month when Sudan threatened to cut off South Sudanese oil exports before the AU stepped in to mediate the dispute.

South Sudan

  • U.N. Special Envoy to South Sudan Hilde Johnson recommended that the U.N. deploy unmanned surveillance aircraft and military helicopters to protect civilians in South Sudan. Johnson says that UNMISS, the current peacekeeping mission, is not well-equipped enough to protect civilians and needs reinforcements. Meanwhile, the U.S. is calling on the South Sudanese government to do more to protect civilians as it combats insurgents in the country’s east. Prominent activists who supported the establishment of South Sudan are also criticizing its government for corruption and human rights abuses in an open letter published on the second anniversary of the country’s independence on Tuesday.

Sudan

  • Elite Sudanese troops have been deployed in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur and Sudan’s second-largest city, as part of an ongoing outbreak of violence. Members of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) have been sent in response to devastating clashes between the security forces following the killing of a paramilitary officer by a member of Sudan’s military.
  • Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad are facing increasingly desperate conditions, according to refugee camp leaders. Increasing prices and falling rations are hindering the refugees’ nutrition as they begin fasting for Ramadan.

Rwanda

  • Rwanda is easily the least corrupt country in Africa, according to Transparency International’s annual worldwide survey released this week. Fewer than 15 percent of Rwandans report having paid a bribe, and some institutions scored very highly. The survey indicated that corruption is a persistent challenge for Africa, with many of the survey’s worst performers located on the continent.
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working to resolve the situation of 100,000 Rwandan refugees whose refugee status ended this week per UNHCR guidelines. Rwandans who fled the country in the wake of the 1994 genocide or the First and Second Congo Wars before the end of 1998 are affected by the change, although the host country is ultimately responsible for determining refugee policy. The UNHCR is working with host countries throughout the region to repatriate or locally integrate refugees, although refugees who still require political protection will keep their refugee status. Rwanda is anticipating an increased rate of returning refugees and is working with the UNHCR to reintegrate refugees into Rwandan society.

Somalia

  • The Somali government is increasingly rankled by the presence of Kenyan troops in the Jubaland region of the country, asking Nairobi to pull out its forces. Analysts have suggested that Kenya may be seeking to create a buffer zone in southwestern Somalia under its control for its own security needs. While Kenya says it is merely seeking peace and security in Somalia, its relationship with the Ras Kamboni militia has led to accusations of sectarian favoritism from government-backed forces.
  • Reports indicate that the U.S. is slowly ramping up ties with the government of Somalia as it seeks to bolster the Somali government against the threat of al-Shabaab extremists. However, U.S. diplomats say they are operating in extremely confined conditions, unable to leave the Mogadishu airport amid security concerns.

Djibouti

  • Local workers are staging protests over planned layoffs at Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. base in Africa. The new contractor hired to staff the base, KBR, plans to cut the workforce by 400, provoking a mass strike and demonstrations among local Djiboutian laborers.

This post was written by CIP intern Alex Dobyan.

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