Africa Week in Review November 22, 2013

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

  • The Open Society Justice Initiative, in conjunction with Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), published a report titled, “We’re Tired of Taking You to the Court: Human Rights Abuses by Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit.” The report documents how Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit committed wide-ranging human rights abuses, such as “use of excessive force during house raids; torture and ill-treatment of detainees; arbitrary detentions, including disappearances; and rendering terrorist suspects to countries where they faced a real risk of torture [including the United States.” According to the U.S. State Department, this unit of the Kenyan police received training and equipment in FY03 and FY04 through the Antiterrorism Assistance Program. The report’s recommendations to the United States include:
    • “Cease assistance and training to [units linked to human rights abuses.]”
    • “Disclose which security force units have been determined ineligible for assistance and training in Kenya due to their human rights abuses.”
    • “Make publicly available, in a regularized and easily accessible format, information about foreign military and counterterrorism support to Kenya.”
  • On Tuesday, November 19, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing on the “Crisis in the Central African Republic. “ The Honorable Robert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, testified (PDF). He foreshadowed the U.S. government’s request for funds to support the African Union-led peacekeeping unit, the International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA): “We believe MISCA is the best mechanism for quickly addressing the ongoing violence in the CAR. “ All three witnesses in the second panel, who represented the Catholic Church in CAR (PDF), Search from Common Ground (PDF), and Human Rights Watch (PDF), expressed strong skepticism whether the African Union Mission regional missions will be robust enough to protect the CAR’s civilian population.
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Jackson also spoke the United States’ concerns about continued Lord Resistance activities in the Central African Republic, and continued U.S. military assistance:
    • We remain concerned about the continued activity of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in southeastern CAR. . . .  The United States continues to support efforts by the regional forces of the AU Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) to end the LRA threat and bring its top commanders to justice. AU-RTF operations have resumed in the CAR, but remain limited by the insecure environment. With the support of U.S. military advisors, we believe the AU-RTF continues to make progress to degrade the LRA’s capabilities and promote defections from the LRA’s ranks.
  • On November 20, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement confirming the Department of States’ request:
    • Pending notification to the United States Congress, the Department of State plans to provide $40 million in assistance to MISCA, the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in the CAR, to help protect civilians and provide security throughout the country. This assistance may provide logistical backing, non-lethal equipment, training, and planning support. 
  • The Nigerian government praised last week’s U.S. decision to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist organization.  Spokesperson Rueben Abati, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, also deflected any criticism of the conduct of the Nigerian forces:
    • [It would] be an incorrect assessment [to say Nigerian government does not protect civilians from harm] … A fair assessment would be a commendation of the efforts of the Jonathan administration, to ensure the security and welfare of all Nigerians… Normalcy has been restored to [some] states [and] the threat of terrorism has reduced.
  • IRIN reported that human rights abuses by the Nigerian security forces are “monumental.” This Wednesday, Nigeria’s parliament approved President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for a troop surge and an extension of the state of emergency in the north.

 Quick hits from across the region:

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed an amended version of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013, after it stalled last year. While the bill requires stricter monitoring and transparency requirements for all U.S. assistance, it permits more flexibility for security assistance. According to ProPublica, the bill calls on the government to show that [security assistance] has “sufficient oversight.” Simultaneously, Reuters published an investigative report, which shows that the Department of Defense regularly enters false numbers in their accounting reports.
  • General Rodriguez, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) gave a press interview to the British press. Topics discussed include whether U.S. policy to Africa is increasingly militarized, U.S. assistance to Kenya, Somalia, and U.S. military advisors to Uganda’s counter-Lord Resistance Army efforts. Regarding the budget cuts, General Rodriguez indicated that AFRICOM “will be reducing the headquarters by about 20 percent [and will decrease] some of the size of the exercises.” Read the whole interview here
  • The U.S. military is expanding its bases in Kenya and Djibouti, The East African reports. In Kenya, the U.S. is “building air-support facilities at Manda Bay,” also known as Camp Simba.
  • Michel Djotodia, President of Central African Republic (CAR), indicated that his government has been in contact with the leader of the Lord Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and has provided food assistance in return for negotiations talks. African Union envoy, Ambassador Francisco Madeira, told reporters that intelligence indicates Kony may be seriously ill. The U.S. government confirmed that there had been contacts between CAR officials and a fraction of the Lord Resistance Army, but maintained that at this point this does not include Kony:
  • At this time, we have little reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of this group. . . .  [Kony and his senior commanders have used] any and every pretext to rest, regroup, and rearm, ultimately returning to kidnapping, killing, displacing and otherwise abusing civilian populations.
  • Forty-one soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo are on trial for war crimes, including mass rape, in a push for accountability.
  • The Institute for Security Studies released a paper arguing that terrorism ought to be treated in the larger societal context instead of “as an exceptional issue distinct from broader rule of law and development programming.” Counterterrorism approaches should focus on broader security sector reform, and rule of law issues:  “Better quality laws and their enforcement are key to ensuring such efforts protect civilians without becoming counter-productive in the process.”
  • Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, Hilde F. Johnson, briefed the UN Security Council on remaining challenges in South Sudan. She maintained that military abuses continue to be a problem: “The behavior of the security forces continues to be a cause for grave concern, whether with regard to human rights abuses or incidents of violence and harassment affecting UN personnel, diplomats and ordinary citizens”
  • Human rights activists in Swaziland protested the new terrorism law, asserting that the law has been used to stifle peaceful opposition.
  • UN backed African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) indicated that once the troop surge of an additional 22,000 troops arrives, AMISOM might resume its offensive against al-Shabaab. 19 peacekeepers died this week, after al-Shabaab successfully attacked a base near Ethiopia’s border. 

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