Africa News Week in Review 8/2/2013
- Foreign Policy’s Micah Zenko reports that the Obama administration is expanding its footprint in Somalia, beefing up support for the Somalia and Puntland intelligence services and flying more surveillance drones over Somali territory. A resurgent al-Shabaab, rampant corruption in the Somali government and wayward conduct by U.S-backed peacekeepers have threatened U.S. interests, according to Zenko.
- The Pentagon sent Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter to Uganda and Ethiopia, where he met with government and defense officials and thanked both nations for their role in maintaining regional security.
- The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) kicked off a joint military exercise with the South African National Defense Forces (SANDF) on July 24. Codenamed Shared Accord 13, it will comprise 3,000 SANDF members alongside 700 American troops and will also include health services for local South Africans until its close on August 7.
- A U.S. District Court on Wednesday ruled to uphold Sections 1502 and 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which required companies using minerals sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or its neighbors to certify that they were not sourced from mines controlled by armed groups. The decision was lauded by human rights groups, according to the Inter Press Service, who said it was crucial to lessening the impact of conflict in the region.
- Secretary of State John Kerry called on countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa to end support for rebel groups in the DRC at a U.N. Security Council meeting on July 25, though he did not directly name Rwanda, whose government is widely purported to provide substantial aid to rebel group M23.
- Zimbabwe took to the polls on Wednesday for its first presidential election since 2008’s violent polls prompted a power-sharing agreement and constitutional haul. The election passed under largely peaceful conditions, although al-Jazeera described security as “heavy” with “heavily armed riot police deployed” and the New York Times documented allegations of pre-election intimidation by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Early reports had Mugabe in the lead, but challenger Morgan Tsvangirai called the election “null and void” and said the result was “illegitimate” due to the “shoddy manner in which [the election] has been conducted. Human Rights Watch also voiced concerns about “major flaws in the electoral process” and called for an investigation into irregularities. However, African Union (AU) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) observers praised Zimbabwe for conducting a free and peaceful election, although SADC said it was too early to determine if the election was fair.
- Amid lingering worries about the country’s ability to carry out a credible vote, Mali held its first presidential election on Sunday. According to the Guardian, EU policy chief Catherine Ashton called the polling “calm and serene,” while Voice of America quoted an EU official as saying he was “pleasantly surprised” by the election preparations, and reported a historically high turnout. Malian television announced that the election would go into a runoff, with former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita capturing 39.2 percent of the vote and Soumaila Cisse in second place with 19.4 percent.
Sudan and South Sudan
- In an unexpected move, President Salva Kiir sacked his entire cabinet along with Vice President Riek Machar, according to the BBC. Machar subsequently told al-Jazeera he would challenge Kiir for the presidency. The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply concerned” in a statement and called on Sudan to “maintain calm and prevent violence”. The Sudan Tribune reported that South Sudanese security forces were being deployed to ensure security in Juba, the capitol last Wednesday in the wake of the firings. Kiir refilled his cabinet with 10 ministers, down from 19, with the BBC saying that the President used the shakeup to promote those loyal to him.
- Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement on Wednesday to cease support of rebel groups in each other’s territories, according to the Sudan Tribune. The agreement follows weeks of tension over oil exports.
- Darfurian rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), part of the larger Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF), launched an attack on a Sudanese army base in North Kordofan state last Wednesday, according to the BBC and Reuters. Both sides claimed victory, and Sudan accused South Sudan of supporting the attack.
- An article in the July 20 edition of the New York Times highlighted the deterioration in relations between South Sudan and the United Nations, with the latter increasingly unpopular among South Sudanese. The UN has not hesitated to criticize South Sudan’s human rights record, while, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is increasingly seen in South Sudan as ineffectual and self-serving.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- The UN announced on Tuesday a 48-hour ultimatum for anyone in the cities of Goma and Sake in North Kivu province to disarm, sending a clear message to rebel group M23 that it would use its Intervention Brigade to forcibly disarm anyone who did not comply. An M23 spokesman replied to al-Jazeera the following day that the measure “did not concern” M23. On Thursday, a U.N. spokesman told Voice of America that a security zone had been established in the two cities.
- Earlier, the BBC quoted Refugees International as saying “military action by the Intervention Brigade could further exacerbate DR Congo’s humanitarian crisis” and cited similar unease among other organizations about the Intervention Brigade’s offensive mandate. Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo also expressed concern that the move could upset the ongoing peace talks between M23 and the Congolese government.
- A new report from Human Rights Watch alleges that Rwanda continues to support M23 rebels in the DRC, despite protestations from Kigali that it is not involved in M23 activities. The report also chronicles human rights abuses including murder and rape of civilians by M23. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters on July 23 that the Obama administration acknowledges the report provides credible evidence that Rwanda is supporting M23.
- According to Reuters, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked Rwanda to provide evidence to the UN supporting allegations made by Rwanda that MONUSCO peacekeepers are colluding with former genocidaires. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) contain elements of the militias that carried out the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and remain active in the eastern DRC.
- Nigerian newspaper the Vanguard reports that Abubakar Shekau, the head of jihadist group Boko Haram, has been shot by Boko Haram members and replaced with Abu Zamira Mohammed, the group’s negotiator with the Nigerian federal government. Earlier this week explosions targeting Christians in the city of Kano killed at least 24, according to the Washington Post. The Nigerian government attributed the attack to Boko Haram and made subsequent arrests across the country.
- A spokesman for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, told local newspaper This Day that Nigeria did not invite Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who briefly visited Nigeria last week before leaving amid protests by human rights groups. Instead al-Bashir, who has a warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC), visited at the invitation of the AU, which held a summit on health last week in Abuja. Abati said Nigeria was obliged under the AU treaty to welcome Bashir. Voice of America reported the ICC is considering sanctions against Nigeria for failing to arrest al-Bashir as required under the terms of the Rome Statute.
- The Nigerian Navy has begun collaborating with the U.S. Navy to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, according to This Day. The newspaper quoted Nigerian Rear Admiral Joseph Aikhomu as saying the U.S. was assisting with intelligence-gathering and coastal surveillance.
Central African Republic (CAR)
- The AU announced it is stepping up efforts to stabilize CAR with the formation of a new peacekeeping force. Existing MICOPAX (Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic) peacekeepers from ECCAS (the Economic Community of Central African States) will be integrated into the new force, which will swell from 1,100 peacekeepers to 3,600, according to Reuters. This week several news articles have highlighted the widespread violence and instability in CAR, with Reuters terming the country a possible “new Somalia”, The Guardian calling the country “a state where killers thrive” and the UN concerned with human rights violations.
- Togo headed to the polls last Thursday as it seeks to hold its first election since 2010 and first legislative elections since 2007. President Eyadema Gnassingbe’s Union of the Republic Party retained power, increasing its vote share, although Al Jazeera reported that the opposition alleged the election would be fraudulent and argued for a postponement of the election on the eve of the vote.
- A Guinean government spokesperson told Reuters that the death toll in recent pre-election ethnic violence had climbed to 98, with 160 injured. With the Guinean army deployed to halt the clashes between the Guerze and Konianke groups, 131 people suspected of perpetrating the violence have been arrested.
This post was written by CIP intern Alex Dobyan.