Week in Review – November 8, 2013

 Below is a roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the Africa over the last week:

  •  M23 Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) announced Tuesday, November 5th that it would end its insurgency and entered peace negotiations with the government. The peace agreement was finalized, and both parties are expected to sign on Monday. M23’s commander Sultani Makenga surrendered to the Ugandan government. This is a historic win for both the DRC’s government and the UN peacekeeping forces. In the words of Jason Stearns, Congo expert, “This is historic. … This would be the first time since 1996 that the Congolese Army defeats a major armed group and that Rwanda has no armed ally in the eastern Congo.”
  • The United Nations‘ new intervention brigade and its expanded mandate to actively disarm and demobilize rebels in the DRC “has proved pivotal,” according to the Wall Street Journal.  Now, the United Nations is considering directing its peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, to take on the ethnic Hutu militia known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR. French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud said, “The general consensus was that we have to handle the other armed groups, and among which – I guess on the front line if I may say – the FDLR.” Rwanda maintains members of FDLR were responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and affirms it will lobby the UN for an offensive against the FDLR.
  • U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Russ Feingold, praised the recent developments in the DRC. “In a region that has suffered so much, this is obviously a significant positive step in the right direction,” Feingold said. Feingold also pointed out that a military defeat does not address root causes of the conflict, and touched on questions about next steps, regional solutions to the conflict and the question of amnesty and accountability. Read his remarks here.

 Quick hits from across the region:

  •  Voice of America reports that the U.S. Department of Defense is considering expanding its train and equip program in Central Africa. This program is designed to improve the Ugandan military’s capacity to target the infamous rebel group, the Lord Resistance Army, lead by Joseph Kony.
  •  Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan asked the parliament to extend emergency rule in the north of the country.  Nigeria also appealed to its neighbor, Cameroon, to police their shared border in order to prevent the terrorist group Boko Haram from spreading. This comes after Boko Haram launched another offensive, including three attacks this week, which killed seventy people. 
  • The UN’s top expert on the prevention of genocide, Adama Dieng, warned the Security Council that the conflict in the Central African Republic is taking ethnic and religious overtones, and that the UN must take swift action to prevent an escalation into ethnic conflict. “If we don’t act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occurring in the Central African Republic,” said Mr. Dieng. Aljazeera this week uncovered evidence of mass killings around the capital Bouar.
  •  This week, the African Union gathered in South Africa to discuss the creation of a “rapid-deployment emergency force” as a standby force, which could mobilize swiftly to intervene in conflicts in Africa. South African President Jacob Zuma described this force as a mechanism “to enable [the African Union] to act swiftly and independently in response to the urgent security challenges this continent faces.”
  • Somalia-based money transfer company Dahabshiil won a temporary injunction against UK bank Barclays, which had threatened to end operations in Somalia due to concerns that remittances may benefit al Shabaab. The case goes to the heart of new financial strategies in the war on terror, which aim to limit the financial network of terrorists. In Somalia, where there is no formal banking sector, remittances represent a “key lifeline” for residents. Britain’s High Court will consider the question next year.
  • The World Bank and the UN published a report, Pirate Trails, which estimates that pirates based in the Horn of Africa earned $400 million between the years of 2005 and 2012. Ransoms from hostage-taking finance an economy from “kingpins” down to “food soldiers” down to the local community, which provides good and services to pirates. The report also linked the piracy network to an illegal economy around “human trafficking, arms trafficking, funding militias and money laundering.”
  • Morocco will host a “regional security conference on the Sahel and Maghreb countries” on Thursday, November 14.
  • In an international push to stabilize the region, the World Bank and the European Union pledged $8.25 billion for regional development and integration in the Sahel. 
  • France confirmed that it would maintain its schedule for withdrawing troops from Mali, despite the recent upheaval in which Al Qaeda in the Maghreb killed two French journalists over the weekend.
  • Ethiopia announced that it had credible intelligence suggesting that the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab is planning an attack in Ethiopia.
  • The Ethiopian opposition party accused the security sector of “beating, abducting and illegally detaining” members of the opposition this year during July and September.
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