Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP AFRICOM News Update – August 2012

LDESP NEWS CENTER: NEWS UPDATE FROM AFRICA (1-22 August 2012)

Note: This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to African countries threatened by political instability or civil unrest, impending humanitarian crisis, emerging security threats and terrorist activities, energy security activities and economic and/or security cooperation efforts. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP Staff.

AFRICOM

U.S. forces perform mass casualty evacuation training with Botswana Defence Force

Air and Army National Guard, Marine Reservists, and soldiers from the Botswana Defence Force trained together to save lives on 14 August, during a mass casualty evacuation exercise at Southern Accord 2012. SA12 is a combined, joint exercise which brings together the Botswana Defense Force with U.S. Forces to strengthen their partnership through humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping operations and aero medical evacuation. (AFRICOM)

Ham to Seek More National Guard Partnerships in Africa

As the North Carolina National Guard builds on successes of the Southern Accord 12 exercise that wrapped up here last week [11 August] with Botswana, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said he’ll press to expand the State Partnership Program on the continent. Amy Gen. Carter F. Ham, who calls himself “a big fan” of the National Guard program, said he hopes to increase the number of partnerships in Africa to as many as a dozen within the next two years. “The State Partnership Program is one of the most important tools that we have in our collective kit bag,” Ham said during an interview here with Soldiers Radio and Television Service correspondent Gail McCabe. “And we see that certainly here between North Carolina and Botswana, where it is hugely powerful.” Ham said he has asked the National Guard Bureau chief, Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, to consider additional partnerships. “I would like to get two more this year, and maybe two more next year, and then see how that might unfold,” he said. Ham told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year Libya could be a good candidate for the program. The State Partnership Program has grown dramatically since it was formed 20 years ago to support former Soviet bloc countries after the Soviet Union collapsed. Today, the program includes partnerships with 63 countries around the world. AFRICOM currently has eight state partnerships. The California National Guard is partnered with Nigeria, the New York Guard with South Africa, the North Dakota National Guard with Ghana, the Michigan National Guard with Liberia, the Vermont National Guard with Senegal, the Utah National Guard with Morocco, and the Wyoming National Guard with Tunisia. The North Carolina Guard has partnered with Botswana since 2008. (DoD)

U.S. AFRICOM Commander Welcomes Regionally Aligned Brigade Focused on Africa

The commander of U.S. Africa Command said he welcomes the arrival next spring of an Army brigade to support U.S. engagement on the African continent. Army Gen. Carter F. Ham was referring to the arrival of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kan. The unit will become the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa. The “Dagger Brigade” will also become the first Army unit to be regionally aligned with a specific unified combatant command. Under the new arrangement, brigades will be on deck for their mission for a full year to perform security cooperation when needed, but not operational or regular warfare missions, Army officials said. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno called the plan “a new model for building partnerships” that enhances ongoing Army security cooperation missions while developing soldiers’ familiarity with a region where they may operate. “The most important thing that this does for us in Africa Command is, it provides us predictability,” Ham said during an interview here with Soldiers Radio and Television Service correspondent Gail McCabe at the conclusion of exercise Southern Accord. (…) With no troops directly assigned to it for Africa, Africom has relied heavily since its standup in 2007 on its service components: U.S. Army Africa, based in Vicenza, Italy; U.S. Air Forces Africa, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and U.S. Marine Forces Africa and Special Operations Command Africa, both based in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, many of its engagements have been conducted by reserve-component forces. Ham said that won’t change with the arrival of an active Army brigade, tentatively set for March. “We will continue to rely very, very heavily on the National Guard and reserve component from all the services,” he said. In the past, the Army Africa Command was limited by what forces the service had available to support requirements in Africa, an arrangement Ham called “unsatisfying.” Ham said the regionally aligned brigade concept opens the door to a whole range of opportunities. It essentially says to Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahue, commander of U.S. Army Africa, “Here is a brigade that I am going to make available to you to use however you see being necessary for … about a year,” Ham said. That, he added, empowers Donahue to be able to say, “Yes, I will provide this force,” when asked, whether the requirement is for engineers, intelligence, signal or logistics specialists or other experts. While welcoming the availability of additional forces, Ham underscored that the United States will continue to maintain a “light footprint” on the continent. (Defpro.news)

African militaries urged to collaborate

General Ham made these remarks when addressing members of the media yesterday at the closing ceremony of Southern Accord 12 Exercise, at Thebephatswa Base: “In my experience, the challenges that are currently present in Africa have a trans-national aspect to them. As such, it requires a multinational contribution to conquer them,” said Ham. He also said if African countries were to exercise together it might increase regional security. Major General Placid Segokgo of BDF said exercising with other African countries would not mean that the countries would be compromised, he said it would instead build trust between the forces: “Exercising with other SADC countries would indicate that we are partners who are committed to working together and have a shared responsibility towards ensuring the security of the region,” said Segokgo. Meanwhile, General Ham described the BDF as an important partner to the United States because it provides a positive influence throughout the SADC region. He also said the BDF is one of the most professional military institutions he has come across: “All the American and Batswana soldiers have proved that are ready to take on more challenging missions to protect our nations,” said Ham. Segokgo said, “this is a signal of a strong partnership between our two nations and their armed forces, the BDF continues to enjoy great support from AFRICOM and the State partnership with North Carolina.” (Mmegi Online)

U.S Africa Command Denies Plans of Establishing in Bases in Botswana

In response to a recent newspaper article in Botswana, U.S. Africa Command’s commanding officer, General Carter Ham, once again denied reports that the United States is seeking to establish a base or move the command’s headquarters to Botswana or anywhere else on the continent. “No, there is no American base in Botswana. There are no plans whatsoever to have a base in Botswana,” said Ham. “I see these reports where people talk about an American base, but there is no base and there are no plans for an American base. I cannot be clearer than that.” The United States has only one base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier, located in Djibouti, Africa. Currently, there are approximately 5,000 U.S. service members in Africa, the majority at Camp Lemonnier, with the remainder serving on a temporary basis ranging from a few days to a few weeks across the continent. U.S. service members working in Africa are there at their host nation’s invitation. (AFRICOM)

African Union

Govts Urged to Invest in People

The former President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, has called on African governments to use state resources to invest in their citizens if the continent is to attain its desired economic development. He said this while addressing the IX Leon Sullivan Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, a summit that he currently chairs. Kufuor said the Africa Union through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), had shown how by pooling resources together, Africans could create value, increase wealth and become more competitive in this era of globalization. (…) The NEPAD blueprint, he said, called for partnerships among Africans and with the outside world on a ‘win-win’ basis in an effort to make up for the lack of technological development on the continent through years of neglect and subjugation. “Africa can only benefit from such partnerships if it empowered its people with the cutting edge skills that will enable them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world,” he added. Former President Kufuor urged the governments to continue on the path of constitutionalism, saying good governance should be their hallmark while they upheld rule of law and human rights of their people. (allAfrica)

Ambassador Battle Discusses People to People Relationships Between the U.S. and Africa

On 15 August 2012, U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU) Ambassador Michael Battle met with Mr. Samuel M. Gebru, Chief Executive Officer of the Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI), for a brief discussion on U.S. policy on Africa and Ethiopia. Mr. Gebru briefed Ambassador Battle on how EGI is working to harness the skills and talents of students and professionals in the Diaspora to support Ethiopia’s transformation. The two discussed ways to strengthen EGI’s activities and eventually introduce projects in other African countries. The Ambassador expressed his appreciation and support for the Initiative’s vision and encouraged Mr. Gebru to continue not only enhancing the people to people relations between Ethiopia and the United States, but to encourage similar exchanges across the African continent. (allAfrica)

EU

EU sends team to combat terrorism in the Sahel region

The European Union’s Capacity Building Mission, EUCAP, has sent an advisory team to Niger to help local authorities combat Islamist militants who are spreading in the Sahel region. 1 August 2012, marked the start of the European Union’s 50-strong mission to help combat terrorism and criminal networks in the Sahel region of Africa. The team was sent to Niger’s capital Niamey ahead of schedule after the EU learned that the security situation in the region was worsening. The aim of the mission is to prevent Islamist militants from taking control of the Sahel region. The team is led by Colonel Francisco Espinoza from the Spanish Guardia Civil. “It is a civilian mission, we are not sending in troops with guns to fight,” spokesman Michael Mann said in an interview with DW. However, some of the members of the mission will be working as military advisers. (Deutsche Welle)

EU anti-piracy fight with warships ‘must go on’

The European Union should continue to use warships to tackle pirates off the coast of Somalia following a reduction in the rate of kidnappings, a parliamentary committee has said. Operation Atalanta, which also involves putting armed guards on ships, has been in place since 2008. The Lords EU Committee said hostage-taking had more than halved in the last year and said funding should go beyond a planned cut-off at the end of 2014. It also urged more aid for Somalia. (BBC News)

EU Hails Formation Of New Parliament In Somalia

The European Union on 21 August hailed the formation of the new Federal Parliament of Somalia as a major “milestone” in the country’s efforts to end the eight-year-long transitional period. The European bloc also noted the convening of the new parliament on 21 August marked the first time in twenty years that Somalis have met in Somalia to decide the future of their country. In a statement issued by her office, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton praised the Committee of Elders and the Technical Selection Committee for their work thus far in nominating and selecting Members of Parliament in accordance with the Garowe Principles. (…) She also congratulated Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Somalia, for his tireless efforts and paid tribute “to all those Somalis and African Union forces who have sacrificed so much to create the conditions of security in which the Somali people can fulfill their aspiration for a life of peace, stability and prosperity.” (RTT News)

European Union Scales Down Humanitarian Aid to Zimbabwe

The European Union (EU) head of delegation, Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia has said the bloc was scaling down on its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe because of the reduced disaster situation in the country. He however said the bloc would remain committed to providing emergency relief whenever the need arises. (allAfrica)

EU resumes aid to Madagascar

The European Union said on 8 August that it would donate 54 million euros (66.7 million dollars) to Madagascar – its first development grant to the impoverished country since it was cut off from aid programmes in 2009 following a coup. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement that 22 million euros would go to health, 22 million euros to education and 10 million euros to civil society programmes. Funds will be managed by non-governmental organizations and UN agencies, rather than by local authorities, because the EU still has a ban on giving direct development aid to the Madagascar government, a commission official told dpa. (ioL)

EU pledges extra money for Horn of Africa

Countries in the Horn of Africa will receive an extra 22 million euros (27 million dollars) from the European Union to help them prepare for natural disasters, the bloc’s executive said on 31 July. The pledge brought to 791 million euros the humanitarian and development aid the EU had offered to Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia since the region was hit by severe drought last year – the worst in 60 years – the European Commission said. (ioL)

UN

Mali: at Security Council meeting, Ban urges more action, including targeted sanctions

Addressing the “deeply troubling situation” in Mali, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged the Security Council to consider taking more action – such as travel and financial sanctions – against those responsible for some of the West African country’s current instability. (…) “Since the start of the crisis earlier this year, we have seen the situation take one alarming turn after another, reaching seemingly new depths with every passing week,” Mr. Ban said. “These grave developments have brought enormous suffering to the people of Mali. They also pose a widening threat to international peace and security.” He added, “I am also extremely concerned about reports that armed groups in the north are committing serious human rights violations, including summary executions of civilians, rapes and torture.” In addition to international engagement, the UN chief stated that the crisis in Mali will require a holistic and comprehensive approach, rather than partial and disconnected measures, given its complex and multidimensional nature. (…) In a unanimously adopted resolution in early July (resolution 2056), acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council condemned the forcible seizure of power in Mali, and demanded the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by rebel groups in the country’s north. It also indicated its willingness to consider the deployment of a stabilization force in the troubled West African country, and expressed serious concern about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation and the increased terrorist threat due to the presence of members of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in the country. (…) In resolution 2056, Council members expressed their readiness to further examine this request and encouraged close cooperation between the Malian transitional authorities, ECOWAS, the AU and other countries, to prepare detailed options in regard to any such force’s mandate. Turning to the political situation, the Secretary-General noted that limited progress had been made in restoring constitutional order. (UN News Centre)

Security Council requests details of proposed West African stabilization force

Condemning violations of human rights and the destruction of ancient sites in Mali, which is gripped by insurgencies in the north and political turmoil in the capital, the Security Council today [10 August] encouraged countries and organizations in the region to prepare detailed proposals for a stabilization force for the West African country. In a statement read to correspondents by Gerard Araud, Permanent Representative of France, which holds the Council’s rotating Presidency for the month of August, members of the 15-Member body encouraged the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) to prepare detailed options for “the objectives, means and modalities” of the proposed regional force. In that effort, it requested ECOWAS to work closely with the Malian Transitional authorities, the Commission of the African Union, and countries in the region, with the support of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. (UN News Centre)

Ban urges Great Lakes group to help resolve security crisis in eastern DR Congo

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today [7 August] renewed his call for the Great Lakes regional grouping to help resolve the security crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “I reiterate my call to key international stakeholders to provide enhanced and sustained support to the Congolese authorities for Security Sector Reform and other key endeavours,” Mr. Ban said in a message to a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) focused on the situation in the eastern DRC. “I also call on the members of the Great Lakes Conference to renew their efforts to implement the Pact on Peace, Security and Development aimed at ensuring regional stability, integration and socio-economic development,” Mr. Ban added in his message. Agreed on in 2007 by the leaders of 11 countries, the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region sets out four areas of cooperation to help consolidate peace in Central Africa’s war–ravaged Great Lakes area: security, democracy and governance, economic development, and humanitarian and social welfare. According to the ICGLR, as part of efforts aimed at find a lasting solution to conflicts in the region, it convened the so-called Extraordinary Summit, starting today and ending on Wednesday, to discuss the security situation in the eastern DRC. (UN News Centre)

UN-AU peacekeeping mission deeply concerned over violence in North Darfur

The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur today [6 August] voiced its deep concern over recent violence and attacks on civilians in and around the town of Kutum, in the Sudanese state of North Darfur. “I call upon all parties involved to put down their arms, to seek a peaceful resolution and a common dialogue. Killing and destruction are not the answer,” said Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint Special Representative and head of the peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym UNAMID. “It is my hope that the government with promptly restore law and order in the area, fulfilling its responsibility to protect civilians and to allow those recently displaced to return to their homes,” he added in an UNAMID news release. (…) Adopted at the end of July, the resolution extended the mandate of UNAMID for another year, while also underlining the need for the peacekeeping operation to give priority to the protection of civilians, including at IDP camps. Mr. Gambari has requested that the Government of Sudan investigate the reported attacks, adding that the perpetrators must be brought to justice. (UN News Centre)

Security Council calls for consensus on restoring stability in Guinea-Bissau

The Security Council today [30 July] called on all political actors and civil society in Guinea-Bissau to engage in a consensual, inclusive and nationally-owned process to restore constitutional order in the country. In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, which holds the Council’s presidency for this month, the 15-member body also encouraged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (known by the Portuguese acronym CPLP), in collaboration with the United Nations and African Union, to support this process. (…) The Council, in its statement on 30 July, reaffirmed the importance of the coordination of international efforts to address the crisis in Guinea-Bissau and, in that context, called on the Secretary-General to actively engage in this process, “to harmonize the respective positions of international and regional partners.” Council members underlined the need to support Guinea-Bissau’s efforts to establish a clear timetable for the organization of free, fair and transparent presidential and legislative elections. They also underlined the need for concrete measures in key areas for long-term stability in Guinea-Bissau, among those the reform of the security sector, the promotion and respect of rule of law, the creation of an enabling environment for the enhanced control over the security forces, the fight against impunity and the fight against drug-trafficking and the promotion of social-economic development. (UN News Centre)

Security Council grants one-year extension for UN peacekeepers in Côte d’Ivoire

The Security Council today [26 July] extended the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire and the French forces that support it until 31 July 2013. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the Council also reduced the strength of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) by the equivalent of one battalion, in line with a recommendation by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Council reiterated its continuing authorization for UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, including with respect to its priority concern, the protection of civilians. It also decided that UNOCI should put an added focus on supporting the Government in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, as well as on security sector reform. Furthermore, the 15-member body called on the Government to enhance dialogue with the political opposition and on the opposition parties to contribute to reconciliation, and urged it to ensure that all those responsible for serious human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations were brought to justice. In late 2010, Côte d’Ivoire was the scene of intense fighting after Alassane Ouattara won a disputed presidential run-off election, leading to months of deadly violence when the runner-up and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down. The West African nation continues to face a number of key post-crisis tasks, including the restoration of law and order, national reconciliation, the holding of legislative elections, and economic recovery. (UN News Centre)

NORTH AFRICA, SAHARA/SAHEL REGION

Algeria

Algerian Muslim Brotherhood warns of revolution

The Algerian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood warned on 6 August that a popular revolution was imminent if the ruling elites did not introduce real reform in the country. Referring to the ‘Arab Spring’ protests that have rocked the region since January 2011, Bouguerra Soltani, president of Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) – the Brotherhood’s branch in the north African country – said there was still a threat of an uprising. “The sooner change comes the better in order to save people from danger. The government can still benefit and learn from what happened in the region and find positives in it,” he said. “Algeria has postponed its spring, but it hasn’t cancelled it,” he added. Soltani’s party belongs to the Islamist Green Algeria alliance which comprises parties from across the political spectrum but won just 60 seats in the last parliamentary elections after widespread accusations of fraud. A multi-party committee said the elections were “marred by numerous excesses and breaches from the beginning of the operation to the end,” including fraud. Soltani said that it was not too late for the government to introduce real reforms and added that the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence last month provided an historic opportunity for reviewing the constitution. But he warned that without change the Algerian people would rise up. “One of the characteristics of the Algerian people is patience, which has been proven over history, but when the people do rise they do so completely and entirely,” he added. (al-akhbar)

Libya

Libyan Council Hands Over Power to Elected Legislature

Libya’s National Transitional Council handed over power to a newly elected interim legislature, the next step in the country’s transformation after 10 months of unrest since Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster and death. The NTC, which headed Libya after Qaddafi was driven from power in one of the bloodiest uprisings in the so-called Arab Spring, passed authority to the National Congress in a ceremony in Tripoli. The 200-seat legislature is charged with naming a prime minister and a Cabinet before parliamentary elections expected to be held in 30 days. “The National Transitional Council hands over all constitutional authorities in the country to the interim legislature, which is considered from this historical moment the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people,” Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the council’s chairman, said around midnight local time in a televised address. The audience in the conference hall cheered and some people chanted, “The blood of the martyrs will not go in vain.” In his remarks, Abdel Jalil acknowledged that the council was unable to meet public expectations for dealing with issues such as security, refugees and help for those wounded in the revolution. “We were not able to establish security like we wanted or in the manner that the Libyan people hoped,” he said. The change in Libya has been far from smooth. The lack of a clear victor in the elections that seated the new body, as well as unrest, moves toward autonomous rule and the reluctance of militias to disband, have left the incoming assembly with little flexibility as its members seek to revive the economy and restore security. (…) As Libyan officials jockey for power in the new assembly, much of the country’s future stability is likely to hinge on how smoothly the handover of power goes, with some NTC officials expected to be absorbed into the new government as advisers to ministries. Among the names touted in the Libyan media for the premiership are current Deputy Prime Minister Mustapha Abushaghur and former wartime Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni. National Front president Mohammed Yussef Magariaf said the consensus was that the prime minister and the speaker of the assembly will not be from the same region, to provide broader representation from across the country. One of the main tasks facing a new government will be reducing the economy’s dependency on oil. The International Monetary Fund said in an April report that crude had typically accounted for 70 percent of gross domestic product, more than 95 percent of exports and about 90 percent of government revenue. Foreign investors have been slow to return. Oil and gas companies, who have worked to develop Africa’s largest source of proven crude reserves, have returned with skeleton crews and lower budgets. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Libya’s abandoned weapons put civilians at risk: report

Abandoned weapons that were once part of toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi’s arsenal pose an ongoing and serious threat to civilians in Libya, warned a report published by Harvard University on 2 August. “These weapons may have been abandoned, but their ability to harm civilians remains intact,” said Bonnie Docherty, leader of the research team sent to Libya by Harvard Law School and partner organization CIVIC. Weapons left behind after last year’s conflict range from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles, creating an “explosive situation” in a country with a weak central government, the report said. “The sheer scale of weapons here is shocking,” co-author Nicolette Boehland told AFP in Tripoli. “Arms are spilling out of hundreds of inadequately secured bunkers. Other weapons have spread across the country to militia stockpiles in urban centers, museums, fields and even homes,” she added. Threats to civilians include stockpiles at risk of explosion in or near populated areas, civilian curiosity and access to contaminated sites and munitions, plus the harvesting of abandoned weapons for sale or personal use. Civilians are endangered during the clearance of munitions by local communities that lack professional training and the display of weapons as mementos of war, the report found. (…) The report noted that the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and international organisations have shouldered the brunt of the work in clearing ordnance and advising local communities on stockpile management. Citing UNMAS, Boehland said that as of June, there had been at least 208 casualties, including 54 fatalities, from explosive remnants of war. The toll included 72 children either wounded or killed. (…)The report called on Libya’s newly elected authorities to develop a national strategy to secure leftover ordnance and manage stockpiles. It urged international organisations, notably NATO, to help out. (Times-Live, AFP)

Egypt, Libya Agree on Anti-Smuggling Effort on Border Crossings

Egypt’s Finance Minister Momtaz al- Saieed agreed with his Libyan counterpart to tighten security measures at border crossings to combat smuggling, according to a statement received from the minister’s office by e-mail on 7 August. Libyan Finance Minister Hassan Zilkam, who was visiting his country’s neighbor, told al-Saieed in a meeting on 6 August that Libya is keen on increasing its investment in the Egyptian market and bolstering economic ties, according to the statement. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Mauritania

In Mauritanian refugee camp, Mali’s Tuaregs regroup

As conflict returns to northern Mali, Mbera refugee camp in neighboring Mauritania that had slowly dwindled in peacetime has burst to life once again, now hosting 100,000 refugees. Most of these refugees are ethnic Tuaregs, supporters of the separatist rebels who swept Malian government troops from the arid northern two-thirds of the country in April, and were then themselves pushed out by former allies, the Islamist militant groups who now rule the north by fiat. An aspiring volunteer giggles nervously as she lists the visible symptoms of malnutrition in young children (“sunken eyes, thin arms, big belly”) in a recruitment interview with the UN World Food Programme. For nomads hardened to the conditions of Saharan life – scarce food and water, sleeping in tents or under the stars – the austerity of refugee life is not far from their customary daily struggle. Solidarity with the separatist movement also helps many of these refugees deal with their displacement, along with the fact that refugees have been coming back and forth to Mbera since the early 1990s, during previous Tuareg rebellions. Because of that, Mbera camp resembles less a cesspit of misery than a kind of wellspring of Tuareg revivalism, a rare space in which the predominance of Tuareg culture is unchallenged and unrestricted. In Mali, on the other hand, Tuaregs are under attack by both Malians and Islamists. Refugees say they are “stuck between the hammer and the anvil” now. (…)The UN estimates that 420,000 people have fled northern Mali since the outbreak of the Tuareg rebellion last January. An assortment of Al Qaeda-linked groups currently control two-thirds of the country, having sidelined and outmaneuvered the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad’s (MNLA) armed struggle to carve out an independent territory from northern Mali. Recent attention has focused on the risks these Islamists pose to the region and global security, forgetting the initial cleavage between Tuaregs and the Malian state that sparked this rash of war in the north. The Mbera camp was founded during a prior Tuareg separatist rebellion in the early 1990s. A pillar of the peace accord between Mali and the Tuaregs at that time was the integration of “white” Tuareg and Arab soldiers into the national Army. When the latest rebellion broke out, many of those defected with weapons and arms to join the rebellion; black southern soldiers persecuted and in some cases killed soldiers who did remain loyal. Nevertheless, refugees perceive Al Qaeda-linked rebel groups as a greater threat. For while the Tuaregs have a history of raids and resolutions with the Malian government, the Islamists that have hijacked the Tuareg rebellion and are violently imposing sharia upon the North pose an existential threat to northern culture and patrimony, in which musical traditions, empowered women, and local saints figure prominently. (CS Monitor)

Morocco

Morocco, France seek tough action against Mali Islamists

Morocco and France have called on the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to consider taking action against Malian Islamists should diplomacy fail. The strong views from Paris and Rabat follow reports on the deteriorating state of affairs in Mali. Northen Mali is currently under the leadership of the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), two groups whose socio-political ideologies threaten the Maghreb, West Africa and Europe. Moroccan Foreign minister Youssef El Amrani told reporters that the kingdom is encouraging its allies in the UN Security Council to find a political solution to the crisis, but the regional community will have to consider “other options” if diplomacy failed. El Amrani minister said there was “an urgent need to act, to prevent the Sahel-Saharan region from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and a refuge for criminal networks.” French Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday said his government would back an African military intervention, a strategy he described as “desirable and inevitable.” (The Africa Report)

Tunisia

Tunisia’s draft constitution brands women ‘complementary’ to men

Tunisian politicians have provoked outrage by debating draft laws that would impose prison sentences for vaguely defined acts of blasphemy and approving wording in the country’s new constitution that says women are “complementary” to men. The clash between the Islamist-dominated interim government and those who fear that rights and freedoms are being eroded is the latest struggle in the battle to redefine Tunisia’s political and cultural landscape after the 23-year rule of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was deposed last year. (…) The panel approved an article to the new constitution under the principle that a woman is a “complement with the man in the family and an associate to the man in the development of the country”, according to Ms Mabrouk’s 1 August Facebook post — Selma Mabrouk is a member of the centrist Ettakatol party and the parliamentary committee tasked with drafting a new constitution. (…)Human Rights Watch said the proposed anti-blasphemy legislation threatens freedom of expression, citing proposed prison terms and fines for insulting “the sanctity of religion”. The watchdog raised concern that “broadly defined” offences would restrict freedom of speech. “If passed, this draft law would introduce a new form of censorship in a country that suffered from so much censorship under the ousted president,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director, in a statement issue on 3 August. The bill will be debated by the National Constituent Assembly, in what is likely to be a tense discussion. (The National)

Tunisia emergency extended by one month

Tunisia’s state of emergency has been extended by just one month, rather than the usual three, due to an improvement in the country’s security situation, the president’s office announced on 31 July. It is the sixth time the state of emergency has been extended since it came into force on 14 January 2011, when a mass uprising prompted veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country. “The state of emergency will be extended by one month, to the end of August,” a statement said, adding that the decision followed a “marked improvement” in the security situation in Tunisia. The announcement comes just days after violent demonstrations in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of Tunisia’s revolution. Protesters angry over their living conditions attacked the provincial government headquarters with rocks and police fired tear gas to disperse them. Some demonstrators also broke down the door and sacked the local offices of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda. Separately, a curfew was imposed in Tunis and elsewhere for three days in June after an attack on an art exhibition, which included a painting of a naked woman with bearded men standing behind her, that led to riots. (ahram online)

WEST AFRICA

Mali

Mali forms new unity government under PM Diarra

A new government of national unity has been formed in Mali in the latest effort to restore stability after a military coup in March. The cabinet is comprised of 31 ministers, including five seen as close to coup leader, Capt Amadou Sanogo. The head of the existing shaky interim government, Cheick Modibo Diarra, stays on as prime minister. During July, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened to expel Mali unless a unity government was installed. The composition of the new cabinet was announced in a statement read out on state television. (BBC News)

Al Qaeda’s richest faction dominant in north Mali: U.S.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa is the militant organization’s richest faction and the dominant Islamist force among those controlling northern Mali, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said on 26 July. General Carter Ham said the international community and the Malian government now faced a complex challenge to try to deal with the strengthened presence in Mali’s largely desert north of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the militant group’s North African franchise. (…) Ham said the groups now controlling Mali’s north were boosted by the spillover of arms and fighters from Libya’s conflict last year. But he criticized as “ineffective” previous efforts to tackle AQIM in northern Mali, where its members have held kidnapped foreigners for multi-million-dollar ransoms. “We – the international community, the Malian government – missed an opportunity to deal with AQIM when they were weak. Now the situation is much more difficult and it will take greater effort by the international community and certainly by a new Malian government,” Ham told reporters in Senegal. The U.S. general said relationships between the various Islamist groups in northern Mali were complex and that it was not clear if they were aligned on an ideological or a purely opportunistic basis. “We believe the most dominant organization is AQIM. We think they are al Qaeda’s best funded, wealthiest affiliate,” he said. “AQIM gained strength, they gained a lot of money through kidnapping for ransoms and they became a stronger and stronger organization,” he added. (Reuters)

Saying Mali ‘Is Our Country,’ Militias Train to Oust Islamists

Hundreds of young men are stuffed into makeshift training camps near this provincial capital, arising at 4 a.m. for physical exercises and simulated hand-to-hand combat in preparation for the day when they can free their north Mali homeland from the radical Islamists whose harsh rule has driven tens of thousands of frightened, desperate civilians to flee the country. The eager recruits have almost no weapons, little military instruction, and not much more than the hard ground to sleep on. They are definitely not in the army. A trainer in a scavenged uniform yells out, “Present, arms!” but there are no arms to present. Yet the young men (and a few women) in these haphazard citizen militias, poised at the edge of the de facto front line with the Islamists, have something the regular Malian Army here appears to lack: a fierce will to undo the jihadist conquest of northern Mali that has alarmed governments across the world, spurred threats of a regional intervention force and imposed a repressive regimen of public beatings, whippings and even stonings on the local people. Ever since the Malian Army overthrew the president in March, ending decades of democratic rule, the country has lost control over its vast desert north. An array of fighters bent on enforcing a hard-edged brand of Islam and Shariah law — including members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — have seized the once tourist-friendly town of Timbuktu and other strategic sites, terrorizing or driving out any other claimants to power, destroying historic shrines and freely meting out punishment in the streets. The Malian Army has been in seeming disarray, preoccupied with suppressing revolt within its own ranks and dissent within the citizenry in the south of the country. Soldiers who oppose the military junta have been tortured, journalists have been abducted and the military command seems more focused on punishing its rivals around the nation’s capital than on challenging the powerful Islamists up north. Given its internal discord and reluctance to take on the Islamists, the army has been only too willing to embrace the fledgling militias, feeding them, providing instruction and even allowing them to shelter and train on abandoned state lands. (NY Times)

Mali armed groups using hundreds of child soldiers: NGO

Hundreds of children have been forced into armed groups in northern Mali, some serving as soldiers and others used as sex slaves, rights campaigners told reporters on 6 August. “We have several hundred children aged between nine and 17 within the ranks of the armed groups including the Islamists who control northern Mali,” said Mamoud Lamine Cisse, president of a Malian child rights coalition. “After investigations, we have corroborating information that these children are used as soldiers, minesweepers, scouts, spies, messengers, look-outs, cooks and sexual slaves in the case of young girls,” Cisse told journalists. The children were mostly from Mali, Senegal and Niger, he said. The Malian Coalition of Child Rights is a grouping of 78 Malian and international associations. The Islamists, who have controlled the vast desert north of Mali for four months, recently told AFP they were recruiting children of “all ages” throughout the Sahel “to fight in the name of God.” (gulfnews.com)

Malnutrition – Worrying in north, rising in south

At Koutiala reference hospital in the Sikasso region of southeastern Mali, 300 children are crammed into one room, most of them attached to drips while they receive blood transfusions to treat severe malnutrition with complications, usually malaria. “Even after several years here, I’m taken aback when I see them,” said Johanne Sekkenes, head of NGO Médecins sans Frontières in the capital, Bamako. This is nothing new. Last year, 12,000 children were hospitalized in Koutiala, mainly for a combination of malaria and malnutrition, while the local health centre handled 85,000 consultations. “There is no pediatric hospital anywhere in the Sahel that’s big enough to treat these kinds of numbers,” Sekkenes said. The hospital was not built to house 300 in-patient children, but when malaria infection is at its highest during the peak of both the rainy and lean seasons, it can squeeze in 350 if it has to. “The bulk of our work lasts three to six months,” Sekkenes noted. MSF treats acutely malnourished children with and without complications at five community health centres and one reference hospital in Koutiala. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 1.7 million Malians are at risk of severe hunger this year due to drought, high food prices, poor terms of trade for animals, and conflict-driven insecurity. Malnutrition rates are sharpened by these factors, but they are always unacceptably high in Mali. The 2011 government nutrition survey (called a SMART) reported 150,000 acutely malnourished children, and MSF estimates that aid agencies and the government cared for 30,000 of them. “What happened to the rest?” Sekkenes asked. (IRIN)

Niger

Niger struggles against Islamist militants

DIFFA, Niger This West African desert town hardly seems like the front line of an emerging struggle against terrorism. The market is bustling. Young men listen to French rap music blaring from boomboxes. Boys play soccer on unpaved roads. Yet the nearby border checkpoint with Nigeria, where hundreds of people once crossed back and forth daily, is now closed. Soldiers patrol the streets day and night. And a U.S. Special Forces captain and his comrades, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, are here, training Niger’s ragged army. “We are in the center of some big problems,” said Kolo Ligari Katiella, a U.N. regional security official and former police officer here. In recent years, Islamist radicals have staged suicide attacks and kidnapped Westerners in North and West Africa. But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolts, the fight against militant Islam in this moderate swath of Africa has gained fresh urgency. The swift takeover of northern Mali by al-Qaeda-linked militants, aided by weapons and fighters from Libya, has raised alarm that an explosive cocktail of rebellion, terrorism and religious extremism could spill across borders. Such concerns are increasingly visible in Diffa and other towns nestled along Niger’s long border with Mali and northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram, another Islamist militia with suspected links to al-Qaeda, has intensified attacks this year. In such places, local officials and U.N. workers say, fundamentalist Islam is slowly replacing Sufism, a more open, mystical brand of the faith that has been practiced here for centuries. Boko Haram is trying to spread its hard-line ideology and violent aspirations in these border towns, and its fighters are using Niger as a gateway to join up with the Islamists in northern Mali, U.N. security experts and local officials say. Diffa, in particular, is about 100 miles from Boko Haram’s main base in Nigeria and is known as a hideout for the militia’s leaders and other members escaping authorities in Nigeria. “We have al-Qaeda north of us and Boko Haram to the south,” Katiella said. “The population lives day by day in fear because they face plenty of threats.” (Washington Post)

Nigeria

Nigerian government enters talks with Boko Haram

The Nigerian government has confirmed that it is in dialogue with Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group notorious for terror attacks against Christians and others across the country’s restive north. The dialogue began this month with a secret meeting between Boko Haram’s deputy leader, Abu Mohammed, and Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo, security adviser Sambo Dasuki, and other top government officials. The meeting was held in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Mohammed with Boko Haram confirmed the talks after they were first announced by Nigeria’s minister of information, Labaran Maku, 22 August. “The government is willing to negotiate because of the security challenges posed by the group who are attacking security formations, universities, and other government formations,” said Mr. Maku. “The government welcomes any initiative that will usher in peace, security, and tranquility in the country, especially in the light of the security challenges that we have faced in the last two years.” This marks the second time the government and Boko Haram have engaged in talks. The first dialogue broke off because the federal government could not accept the mediators. This time, the announcement has been met with optimism in the conflict-weary north. (Minn Post)

Nigeria Governors Debate Creation of Local Police

Nigeria’s governors discussing a controversial plan to decentralize the country’s security forces by creating state police departments. Some officials say local police forces could increase security, but others fear the move will return the country to civil war. Nigeria has not forgotten its civil war. In a brutal two-and-one-half years between 1967 and 1970 more than a million civilians and soldiers died from fighting and famine. Ethnic violence still plagues the country. Today, the word “unity” can be seen everywhere in the capital: on street signs, billboards and on the lips of political leaders. Former Inspector General of Police, Muhammadu Gambo, says decentralizing the security forces by creating state police departments could threaten this unity by giving local leaders militias. He says before the civil war state police departments prevented politicians from conducting campaign activities in areas where their opponents were in control. (…) Gambo says most of Nigeria’s 36 states could not finance a police department if they had one. But other prominent officials, including former president, General Ibrahim Babangida, say fears of civil war are outdated. They say local police departments are essential to strengthening democracy, citing the United States and the United Kingdom as countries that have both local and national security forces. Nigeria’s security forces are battling militants in the north, kidnappings in the south and ethnic violence that has killed thousands in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt.” (…) Nigeria’s governors are meeting to debate the issue. The governors are now publicly divided, like much of Nigeria, between the north and the south. Governors from the predominantly Muslim north oppose state police, while those from the mostly Christian south support the idea. (VOA News)

Nigeria’s Former Oil Bandits Now Collect Government Cash

Alhaji Dokubo-Asari once stalked the mangrove-choked creeks of the Niger Delta, a leaf stuck to his forehead for good luck, as a crew that he ran bled oil from pipelines and sold it to smugglers. “Asari fuel,” they called it. Last year, Nigeria’s state oil company began paying him $9 million a year, by Mr. Dokubo-Asari’s account, to pay his 4,000 former foot soldiers to protect the pipelines they once attacked. He shrugs off the unusual turn of events. “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said the thickly built former gunman, lounging in a house gown at his home here in Nigeria’s capital. Nigeria is shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars a year to maintain an uneasy calm in the oil-rich delta, where attacks ranging from theft to bombings to kidnappings pummeled oil production three years ago, to as low as 500,000 barrels on some days. Now production is back up to 2.6 million barrels daily of low-sulfur crude of the sort favored by U.S. refineries, which get nearly 9% of their supply here. The gilded pacification campaign is offered up by the government as a success story. But others say the program, including a 2009 amnesty, has sent young men in Nigeria’s turbulent delta a different message: that militancy promises more rewards than risks. While richly remunerated former kingpins profess to have left the oil-theft business, many former militant foot soldiers who are paid less or not at all by the amnesty, and have few job prospects, continue to pursue prosperity by tapping pipelines. … (WSJ)

Nigeria, Boko Haram claims attacks in Sokot and Zaria

he Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram today claimed responsibility for the 30 July attacks in Nigeria. The attacks targeted 2 police stations in Sokoto and the residence of Vice President Namadi Sambo in Zaria, two cities in the north of Nigeria. A spokesmand for the terrorist group, Abu Qaqa said, “We wish to express our profound gratitude to all-powerful Allah for having given us the opportunity to fully carry out the launching of simultaneous attacks in Sokoto,” seat of the spiritual and charismatic leader if Nigerian Islam, Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar IV. It has been the presence of the Sultanate itself in Sokoto, according to experts, which has kept Boko Haram away from the city, which has never been attacked by the terrorist group. Monday, in two almost simultaneous suicide attacks, besides the three bombers, two police officers were killed, while over thirty were wounded. “We are responsible,” Boko Haram’s claim continued, “for the attacks on the residence of Namadi Sambo as well.” Sambo is originally from Zaria, the city in the northern state of Kaduna. (…) Tuesday Nigerian police forces arrested two of the three terrorists suspected of the attack on the Vice President’s villa. In another anti-terrorism operation in the northeastern state of Borno, epicenter for Boko Haram, the Nigerian army, working with the armed forces of neighboring Chad and Cameroon, killed two terrorists and seized munitions and weapons, including ten grenade-launchers. (AGI.it)

EAST/HORN OF AFRICA

Eritrea

Eritrea Seeks to Facilitate Talks Between Sudan and SPLM-N Rebels

Eritrean government has launched an initiative to bridge gaps between the Sudanese government and Sudan people’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) in order to end the South Kordofan and Blue Nile conflict, a news report said. According to Al-Sudani newspaper, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki proposed to facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict that erupted in June last year when the Sudanese army asked the SPLM-N fighters to disarm before the implementation of a protocol related to the Two Areas. Sudanese defence minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein on 17 August travelled to Asmara to discuss the initiative with the Eritrean leader. (…) The newspaper further said that Malik Agar and SPLM-N Secretary General Yasir Arman have already met with Eritrean leader in Asmara. Eritrea also reassured the parties that its initiative would not hamper the ongoing negotiations taking place in Addis Ababa. The talks are held under the UN resolution 2046 which provides that the process concern the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. The Security Council decision also indicates that negotiations are based on the framework agreement. (allAfrica)

Eritrea’s flag-carrying runner seeks asylum in UK to flee repressive regime

It was while his team-mates on Eritrea’s Olympic team were out watching the men’s marathon in the 12 August sunshine that Weynay Ghebresilasie finally decided to take the decision that has changed his life forever. Without a goodbye, the 18-year-old walked out of his quarters at the Olympic village, threw away the sim card that had been given to him by the team’s minders and embarked on the process of claiming asylum in the UK – turning his back on a life as a conscript in the army of one of the world’s most reclusive and repressive regimes. “As recently as last month, when I competed in Spain, I had managed to retain some optimism that the conditions back home would get better, but they seem to be getting worse and worse instead,” Ghebresilasie told the Guardian. The middle-distance runner carried his nation’s flag during the Olympic opening ceremony at the head of a team 12 Eritrean athletes. While there have been reports that as many as a dozen athletes from various countries have gone “missing” rather than choose to return to their home country, Ghebresilasie is the first to go public on why he has chosen to claim asylum. Visas permitting Olympic athletes to be in the UK legally run out in November but Ghebresilasie said that he has already spoken to immigration officials at the UK Border Agency’s asylum screening unit in Croydon. Three other Eritrean athletes including Rehaset Mehari, the team’s only female athlete, have also claimed asylum but were not willing to come forward to speak due to fears of retribution against their families, according to the Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change, a diaspora-based opposition group which is now providing support to Ghebresilasie. (The Guardian)

Ethiopia

A US ally, Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi dies

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s long-time ruler and a major U.S. counter-terrorism ally who is credited with economic gains but blamed for human rights abuses, died of an undisclosed illness after not being seen in his East African country for weeks, Ethiopian authorities said on 21 August. He was 57. (…) Hailemariam Desalegn, who was appointed deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in 2010, became acting prime minister and will be sworn in as prime minister after an emergency meeting of parliament, said Bereket Simon, the communications minister. Parliament is controlled by Meles’ ruling party and governing coalition, ensuring Hailemariam will be approved. No new elections will be scheduled, Bereket said. The death is not likely to have an impact on the strong U.S. diplomatic and military relations with Ethiopia, given the hand-picked nature of the transition of power. A European Union spokesman said that Meles died in Brussels. Officials had expected Meles to return to Ethiopia but a sudden complication reversed what had been a good recovery, Bereket said. (Associated Press)

In Ethiopia, African Commission charts way forward on pastoralism

The African Union Commission (AUC) meeting on the Policy Framework for Pastoralism, opened on 22 August with a focus on validating the institutional arrangements and resource mobilization strategies proposed for the implementation of the AUC Policy Framework on pastoralism. Officially opening the meeting, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA), Head of Division for Rural Economy, Janet Edeme, representing the AUC DREA Commissioner, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, said pastoralists make crucial but often undervalued contributions to national and regional economies in Africa. She pointed out that human development and food security indicators for many pastoral areas in Africa were among the lowest in Africa, and it was for that reason that the AU Heads of State and Government in 2011 adopted the Policy Framework for Pastoralism as the Continental Framework for addressing the complex challenges facing pastoral communities in Africa. (…) She noted that the meeting was critical in the AUC’s continued efforts to develop pastoralism in Africa and thanked the stakeholders for their continued support and active participation. (…) United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) representative Choice Okoro, commended the AUC for developing a comprehensive policy that took into account the views of all stakeholders. Okoro stressed that the policy framework was cardinal because food insecurity in Africa could not be addressed without addressing pastoralist challenges as well. (Bikya Masr)

Kenya

Kenyan, Ugandan troops battle al-Shabaab

The African Union Mission in Somalia’s battle against Somali al-Shabaab militants continues. Uganda is contributing 6,500 soldiers to AMISOM, followed by Kenya, with 5,000 troops. On 12 August, three of four Ugandan Mi-24 combat gunship helicoptersflying to the AMISOM in Somalia crashed on Mount Kenya. Nevertheless, Uganda is willing to send another set of combat helicopters to fight al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, Radio RBC Uganda reported. Highlighting the regional threat, three suspected al-Shaabab members were killed in Kenya’s Lamu East district on 15 August. The Somali insurgents were members of a group of seven heavily armed al-Shaabab militants who infiltrated into Kenya across the Somali border. (UPI)

Kenya clashes kill at least 48 in Coast Province

At least 48 people have been killed in ethnic clashes in south-eastern Kenya, police say. The clashes in Tana River district, Coast Province, took place late on 21 August between the Orma and Pokomo groups, the region’s police chief said. (…) The clash is the worst single incident since violence rocked the country after disputed polls four years ago. (…) The attack is believed to have escalated from a dispute over grazing rights for cattle. (…) The victims included 31 women, 11 children and six men, Mr Kitur, the regional deputy police chief, said. It is unclear whether any of the perpetrators have been arrested. Mr Kiturs aid that, according to investigations, the attack had been carried out by the Pokomo on the Orma. Danson Mungatana, the lawmaker for the area, said the killings were the latest in a string of attacks and cattle raids and had been taken in retaliation for a previous incident. “There have been problems simmering for a while,” he told AFP. The BBC’s Frenny Jowi in the capital, Nairobi, says violence between the two communities is often reported, but not on such a huge scale. Our reporter says there is long-standing enmity between the communities, who get caught up in a cycle of revenge killings over the theft of cattle and grazing and water rights. In 2001, a series of clashes between the Orma and Pokomo left at least 130 dead in the same region. The semi-arid region is one of the poorest in Kenya, with very little infrastructure or industry. The government recently created a ministry to promote development in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas, but there has been little improvement in peoples’ lives, our reporter adds. The violence comes as Kenya prepares for elections early next year. More than a 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced in the months following the last election in 2007. (BBC News)

Somalia

UN officials welcome ‘historic’ approval of new constitution for Somalia

The overwhelming approval of a Provisional Constitution for Somalia by the representative body convened for that purpose – a key step toward ending the Horn of Africa country’s long transition to stable governance – was hailed today by United Nations officials. “The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption,” a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on 1 August. “He congratulates the delegates and the Somali leadership for this historic achievement and their commitment to ending the transition and to establishing new, representative political institutions in the country.” “Today is a day of celebration,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga, said in a statement. “The adoption of the Provisional Constitution is an historic achievement as it completes one of the most important milestones towards ending the current transitional period and ushering in a new political future,” he added. After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with the country’s Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in 20 days’ time. The Provisional Constitution was a key part of the process – it will provide a legal framework governing the workings of the new Somali Federal Institutions after 20 August. (UN News Centre)

MPs sworn in to historic parliament

Somalia’s first formal parliament in more than 20 years has been sworn-in in the capital, Mogadishu, marking an end to an eight-year transitional period. The MPs are holding their first session at the main airport, one of the most heavily secured areas of the city. Their main task will be to elect a new president – a vote expected within a week or two. Outgoing moderate Islamist President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in power since 2009, is regarded as a favorite. Other strong candidates include Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and former parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. It is a critical moment for the country which, since the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991, has seen warlords, Islamist militants and its neighbors all taking a hand in its affairs. With the help of African Union troops, the interim government has been able to gain control the capital, but al-Shabab – an armed group that has joined al-Qaeda – runs many central and southern areas of the country. Members of the new parliament spent the morning of 20 August at the country’s main airport, which is under protection of the African Union force, being accredited. The new parliament, to be made up of a lower house with 275 members and an upper house with a maximum of 54 members, is holding its first session. So far, 211 MPs have been sworn in – enough for a quorum – by clan elders and vetted by a technical selection committee to eliminate people accused of war crimes. The MPs’ first meeting comes on the day the mandate for Somalia’s UN-backed transitional government expires. According to tradition, the interim speaker of parliament is the oldest MP – Gen Muse Hassan. He will oversee the formation of an electoral commission that will organize the vote of the new parliamentary speaker and the president. Analysts say Somali politicians, the United Nations and other outside powers have been working frantically to ensure a new authority is in place. It has been a long and difficult process as the country has been without effective central authority for so long that numerous power bases have emerged. (BBC News)

Africa Union pledges to work with new Somali leaders

The Africa Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia on 14 August said it would work with newly elected Horn of Africa nation’s authorities to help bring unity in the country. The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra also applauded the people of Somalia on the inauguration of a new parliament, the first to be sworn in on Somali soil in over 20 years. “We will continue to work with the new authorities selected by the representatives of the Somali people to ensure that ordinary citizens can go about their daily lives in peace and security,” Diarra said in a statement issued in Nairobi. (Coast Week)

Somali Police Commissioner welcomes the first AMISOM Formed Police Unit in Mogadishu

The Somali Police Commissioner, General Sharif Shekuna Maye has formally welcomed Formed Police Officers from Uganda who have been deployed in Mogadishu to serve under the police component of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Speaking during a parade by the AMISOM Formed Police Unit in Mogadishu, General Sharif Shekuna Maye expressed his appreciation to the African Union and the government of Uganda for the continued commitment to supporting Somalia in its endeavor to ensure sustainable peace and security in the country. He informed the formed police officers that Somalis are expecting a lot from them. He said; “The main expectation of the Somali community is the securing of every corner where remnants of Al-Shabaab terrorist group might be hiding. The community is expecting you to help bring back law and order in the country.” The AMISOM Police Commissioner, Dr. Charles Makono said another group of formed police officers from Nigeria is expected in Mogadishu before the end of the year to join their colleagues from Uganda. “The major task of the Formed Police Unit will be to assist the Somali Police Force in consolidating the security of Mogadishu. This will be done through public order patrols in coordination with the Somali Police Force.” Said Dr. Makono. The deployment of officers from Uganda becomes the first deployment by the African Union of a Formed Police Unit since the formation of the Organization of the African Unit in 1963 and later the African Union in 2002. (AMISOM-AU)

UN and Somalia sign action plan on ending killing and maiming of children

The United Nations and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have signed an action plan on ending the killing and maiming children in the Horn of Africa country. Signed on 6 August by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Hussein Arab Isse, on behalf of the TFG, and the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, on behalf of the United Nations, the plan commits the Somali National Armed Forces, allied militia and military groups under its control to ending the killing and maiming of children in contravention of international law. “We are calling on donors to support the Somali Government and its armed forces towards bringing about and enforcing the changes that will put these terrible practices to an end,” Mr. de Clercq said in a news release issued by the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). The plan is the second one signed between the TFG and United Nations that helps bring about measures to halt and prevent the violation of children’s rights. The first action plan – to end the recruitment and use of children by the Somali National Armed Forces – was agreed on by the TFG in July. According to UNPOS, full compliance with the latest action plan will result in the Government of Somalia being removed from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s list of parties who recruit, use, kill and maim children. (UN News Center)

African Union Mission in Somalia concern over Kismayo casualties

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is concerned with media reports of civilian casualties in the Al Shabaab-run port city of Kismayo caused by recent military airstrikes, the mission said in a statement. Reports from Kismayo, 500 km south of the capital Mogadishu, said that a number of people were either killed or wounded following airstrikes launched on targets in the port city. “We urge all other military forces to exercise due restraint in areas with a substantial civilian population,” said Boubacar Diarra, special envoy of the AU Commission. Daira urged what he called the relevant authorities to expedite investigations into such persistent media reports of civilian casualties as a result of the air raids, saying that AMISOM “did not as yet have any air assets or forces in the city.” “AMISOM takes its responsibility for the safety of the people of Somalia very seriously and fully understands its obligations to conduct operations without causing undue risk to the local population,” Diara said. (Mareeg)

Sudan

US: Sudan Should Accept Plan for Demilitarized Zone with South Sudan

The United States says it is time that Sudan accept an African Union plan to pull back troops from both sides of its contentious border with South Sudan. Officials say that could help move forward an agreement to restore oil exports. Demilitarizing the border between Sudan and South Sudan starts with agreeing on a map drawn up by the African Union to demarcate the division between the countries. South Sudan has accepted the map. Sudan has not. “Once that is accepted, we can move ahead on the other elements of demilitarization. So that is the first priority. And Khartoum must come around to accepting the map. Second, there are good proposals before Khartoum on humanitarian access. We are waiting for their response to a plan of action. Again, Khartoum has the action here, and we need to hear from them right away,” said Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. Lyman says accepting the African Union plan would go a long way toward minimizing tensions along the border, some of which are fueled by fighting and food shortages in the regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. “There is very great importance to getting humanitarian access and a cessation of hostilities in the areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile because that, too, affects the security along the border. If we can get progress toward those in the next few weeks, then the oil agreement can go forward and be implemented with some confidence,” Lyman said. (VOA News)

Sudanese rebels say seeking to establish large political party similar to ANC

Yasir Arman, Secretary General of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) reiterated his movement’s demand for comprehensive talks saying they seek to establish a broad political formation similar to the African National Party (ANC). The SPLM-N and the Sudanese government reached a humanitarian agreement aiming to reach needy civilians in the rebel held areas in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The African Union mediation acting under UN resolution 2046 prepares to resume political talks after achieving this positive step. The first round of indirect political negotiations was suspended as the positions of the two parties were deeply different. Khartoum rejected SPLM-N demands for a comprehensive process including Darfur issue and to implement some dispositions included in the 28 framework agreement like: lift of a ban on the party’s activities, release of SPLM-N political prisoners and reinstatement of it chairman Malik Agar as Blue Nile governor. SPLM-N leads an alliance forged with Darfur rebel groups and warns to include them in any negotiations with the regime. The group also believes that Khartoum is not serious in its commitment to a political settlement on the issues of the two areas (Blue Nile and South Kordofan). The rebels say Khartoum aims to separate them from their allies of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) with which they aim to re-found Sudan. (Sudan Tribune)

UNAMID deeply concerned over violence in North Darfur

The African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) leadership expresses its deep concern over the spread of violence and attacks against civilian population in Kutum, North Darfur. The series of incidents began on 1 August when the Commissioner of the district of Alwaha, in Kutum town, and his driver were shot dead and his vehicle was carjacked by three unknown armed men. Later in the day, the official’s vehicle was recovered by Government of Sudan security agents 2 kilometres from the Kassab internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. Subsequently, on the same day armed men surrounded Kassab, looted the market, burnt down the Sudanese Police post in the camp and reportedly killed four persons (three civilians and one police officer) and injured six others. Similar events leading to the deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation occurred the following days in and around Kutum town, Kassab and Fataborno IDP camps, including fighting between the armed elements and Government Forces, as well as looting and displacement of civilians. UNAMID has taken measures, including 24/7 protection force presence in affected IDP camps to protect civilians and reinforced the strength of its forces. An assessment team from the Mission visited today Kutum and Kassab camp to meet with local authorities and community representatives, and to evaluate the conditions on the ground and needs of the population. Furthermore, Mission leadership has directly engaged Government officials on their responsibility to provide protection and defuse tension. In his capacity as Joint Chief Mediator a.i., UNAMID Joint Special Representative (JSR) Ibrahim Gambari is initiating a mediation track between the feuding parties as provided for in UN Security Council Resolution 2063 (2012). (UNAMID)

South Sudan

South Sudan human rights panel releases annual report for 2011

Insecurity in South Sudan continues to hinder the government’s ability to safeguard the rights of its citizens, according to the annual human rights report for 2011 issued by the South Sudan Human Rights Commission (SSHRC) on 9 August. The commission’s chairperson Lawrence Korbandy called a press conference in Juba to present the report, which also noted that the harassment and arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists undermined freedom of speech and expression last year. The report estimated that more than 200,000 people were displaced by inter-communal conflict over a period of eight months in 2011. Nearly one-quarter of South Sudanese citizens who were uprooted by violence last year live in Jonglei State. The report found that human rights conditions for women were significantly worse last year than for men. Women and girls continued to face discrimination in South Sudan, according to its findings, and domestic violence and early marriages were still widespread. Other human rights challenges ranged from dire living conditions in prisons to limited access to basic services for refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. Focusing on the government’s achievements in 2011, Mr. Korbandy cited improved access to health care and education despite the country’s poor infrastructure facilities. “(The commission) has drafted a Girl Child Education Bill to ensure that girls remain in formal education,” he said. The SSHRC chairperson urged the South Sudanese government to ratify all existing human rights treaties and conventions, especially those pertaining to women. (UNMISS)

UNHCR and partners race to reverse alarming health situation in South Sudan camps

In South Sudan, UNHCR and partners are intensifying efforts to reverse the alarming rates of malnutrition, disease and death in two camps hosting Sudanese refugees. Health workers in Yida camp in Unity state first saw a significant increase in death rates among refugee children in late June and early July. MSF reported an average of five children dying every day, mostly from diarrhea and infections. During the last three weeks of July, mortality and morbidity rates have started to stabilize, as aid agencies took urgent action to address the root causes. In addition to providing emergency treatment, the aid agencies are also working to mitigate the risk of water-borne and hygiene-related diseases. However, intensive efforts need to continue. UNHCR has so far dug two out of the six additional boreholes that will double the supply of potable water in Yida. Together with the NGO Solidarites, we have been conducting a 40-day bucket cleaning and chlorination campaign at water points. Drainage systems are being improved at all seven water points to reduce the risk of contamination and water-borne diseases from standing water. We are promoting hygiene practices throughout the camp and have distributed some of the 7 tons of soap that were airlifted from Bentiu. Community latrines are being built to meet the needs of the growing population. On 3 August UNHCR began distributing more soap, jerry cans and blankets to over 8,200 families with children under the age of five. We are targeting the most vulnerable refugees in the camp to improve sanitization and minimize the risk of respiratory infections in these households. The distribution of other supplies such as plastic sheeting and buckets will continue throughout the month. Nonetheless, the challenges remain daunting in Yida. This remote border camp now hosts some 60,000 refugees from Sudan’s South Kordofan state, a four-fold increase since April. Children form more than a quarter of this population. Most refugees have been arriving in a very weak state – exhausted, dehydrated and malnourished. The rainy season has exacerbated the situation, bringing seasonal diseases to an already fragile population. The rains have also flooded nearby roads and turned Yida into a virtual island. Airlifts are now the only way to get life-saving aid into the camp. (UNHCR)

Uganda

HRW Report: Ugandan Civil Society Under Attack

Threats and intimidation of civil society groups is on the rise in Uganda, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The Ugandan government has been stepping up harassment of non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The watchdog group claims organizations dealing with governance, land rights, oil and homosexual rights are increasingly under attack by Ugandan officials. The report, called “Curtailing Criticism: Intimidation and Obstruction of Civil Society in Uganda,” says the government’s rhetoric toward NGOs has grown more hostile during the past year, accompanied by threats, harassment of individuals and the arbitrary closure of meetings. Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch says since the presidential elections last year, the Ugandan government has put more effort into curtailing access to information. (…) The administration of President Yoweri Museveni has been under increasing pressure at home and abroad. Government spokesman Fred Opolot insists the administration is not hostile toward civil society and it has been instrumental in opening the country to NGOs. (VOA News)

CENTRAL AFRICA

Central African Republic

Joseph Kony’s sister tells of family’s ‘curse’

Deep in the jungle of the Central African Republic, about 2,000 Ugandan troops are spearheading the campaign to catch Joseph Kony. Hacking through the jungle with machetes, they lead us to a camp abandoned just two weeks earlier by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the rebel group commanded by Kony, who claims to be fighting to install a government in Uganda based on the Biblical 10 Commandments. A rebel defector led the Ugandan army to the camp, which would have housed between 50-60 fighters, including women and children. Among the children was a five-year-old boy, said to be Kony’s son, and his mother Doreen Abango. She was abducted by the LRA aged 13, and had managed to escape only 10 days earlier. “I started walking at night with my child… I did not leave any tracks that could be used to follow me, because I knew if I was found I would be killed,” she said. Few in northern Uganda escaped unscathed from Kony’s war, including his own family. His older sister Gabriela Lakot still lives in Odek, northern Uganda, where Kony was born. “As soon as Kony was born he stood on his own two feet,” she says. “Everyone was astonished and wondrous saying: ‘This child is strange.’ “God has brought a curse on this family – that was my mother’s lament. Kony brought so much trouble on us up to now. Everyone hates us.” Gabriela also blames her brother for the death of her son. “My first born was shot by the Ugandan army when he was with Kony. All that is his fault,” she said. (BBC News)

DR Congo

DR Congo: Who are the various rebel groups at war?

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern region has been plagued again by fighting between militias and army forces since early May, as one of the deadliest conflicts on the planet started up again. While civilians are the first victims of the conflict, the Rwandan and Congolese governments are accusing each other or supporting rival militias. But who exactly are the armed groups operating in this part of the country?

The M23 rebel group
The March 23 Movement – M23 in short – was formed in April 2012. It mainly comprises former members of the Tutsi National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a former armed opposition group led by Laurent Nkunda until his arrest in January 2009. The group takes its name from a peace agreement signed on March 23, 2009 with the Congolese government. The rebels claim that the treaty was never faithfully implemented, in particular the provisions stating that former militiamen be integrated into the DR Congo’s army, that their rank be recognised and that the former members of the CNDP join the central government. According to a confidential UN report leaked in June, the M23 rebellion receives military support from Rwanda and Uganda while both of these countries have denied the accusations. For the past few months, the M23 rebellion has been threatening to advance on Goma, the regional capital of North Kivu, in eastern DRC.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
Known by its French acronym FDLR, this Rwandan Hutu rebel group claims to defend the Hutus, who fled to DR Congo after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. But most observers say a number of its members come from the former Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, which took part in the massacre of Tutsis. Rwanda has always accused DR Congo of supporting the FDLR, and relations have never thawed between the two countries, even after Congolese President Joseph Kabila let Rwandan troops hunt FDLR members in Congolese territory. Mass rapes, massacres and other atrocities committed by the FDLR but also by the Congolese army in the Kivu province are regularly reported.

Maï Maï militias
The term Maï Maï (literally water water, no relation to Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion) refers not to a specific political movement but to a broad range of armed groups active in the provinces of North and South Kivu. These militias were formed by local warlords, tribal leaders, village heads or politically motivated fighters and bear names such as the Kivu Resistance and Defence Front and the Movement Against the Aggression of Zaïre. They became particularly active as communities organised their self-protection against the rising tide of violence in the region.

The Lord’s Rebel Army (LRA)
The Lord’s Rebel Army (LRA) was founded by Joseph Kony in the late 1980s in northern Uganda, with the goal of establishing a Christian theocracy based on the Ten Commandments. The insurgency is believed to have recruited tens of thousands of child soldiers and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing its guerrilla warfare. But it found itself considerably weakened by the Ugandan army’s counter-insurgency measures when the International Criminal Court launched an arrest warrant against Joseph Kony in 2005.After signing a truce with the Ugandan government in 2006, the LRA withdrew to the north of DR Congo.

The Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo
The armed branch of the Union of Congolese Patriots political party has been accused of numerous abuses of human rights in the mineral-rich province of Ituri, in northeastern DR Congo, where it was involved in ethnic warfare from the early 2000s. In 2006, the movement was weakened by the arrest of its leader Thomas Lubanga, who was sentenced last July to 14 years in prison by the International Criminal Court for the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Source: France 24

DR Congo intervention force to have 4,000 troops: minister

An international military intervention planned for the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east would have 4,000 troops from different African countries, Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo said on 17 August. The proposed “neutral international force” would not include troops from DR Congo or any of the countries accused of involvement in the fighting in the country’s volatile Kivu region, Luba Ntambo said the day after meeting six other defence ministers from around the region to tackle the unrest. “The DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, to name just those countries, are involved. It would not be proper for them to take part in the force,” he told AFP. Eastern DR Congo has been rife with rival militia and rebel forces since the 2003 end of a war that engulfed large tracts of the vast central African country. Most recently, the army has been fighting deserters from its own ranks who have formed an armed group called M23, made up of ethnic Tutsi ex-rebels who were incorporated into the army in 2009 under a peace deal that they say was never fully implemented. The group’s clashes with the army have forced some 250,000 people from their homes near the border between DR Congo and Rwanda, which the UN has accused of backing the rebels — a charge strongly denied by Kigali. DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame have agreed on a neutral force to pacify the region, but heads of state from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have so far failed to reach agreement on its composition. At their meeting, Luba Ntambo and the defence minister of Angola, Burundi, Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda agreed that the M23 rebels must “return to their pre-June 30 positions” on three hills near the Ugandan and Rwandan borders, he said. The rebels must also stop “all unconstitutional activity”, including setting up their own local governments and replacing the national flag with their own, he added. The ministers have sent a report to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who will present it in September at the next summit of the ICGLR. (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

Rwanda

Southern Africa tells Rwanda to stop DR Congo rebel support

Southern African leaders on 18 August slammed Rwanda for supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a threat to regional stability and urged Kigali to immediately stop its “interference”. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) resolved to send a mission to Rwanda as it wrapped up a two-day annual summit in the Mozambican capital. “Summit noted with great concern that the security situation in the eastern part of DRC has deteriorated in the last three months causing displacement of people, loss of lives and property,” said Thomas Salamao, executive secretary. “(The) summit noted with great concern that the security situation in the eastern part of DRC has deteriorated in the last three months causing displacement of people, loss of lives and property,” said executive secretary Thomas Salamao. “This is being perpetrated by rebel groups with the assistance of Rwanda,” he said, adding that the summit “urged the latter to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability not only to the DRC but also to the SADC region.” (…) Reading the bloc’s final communique, Salamao highlighted the group that Rwanda President Paul Kagame was accused of supporting with arms and ammunition in a June United Nations report which prompted several countries to suspend aid. “Summit mandated a mission to Rwanda to urge them to stop support for the M23 he said. (Agencies AngolaPress)

SOUTHERN AFRICA

Angola

SADC Observers Mission Arrive in Angola Ahead of Elections

Over one hundred observers from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have arrived in Luanda, in Angola to launch the SADC’s Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) in a ceremony ahead of the 31 August polls. SADC’s Executive Chairman, Tomáz Augusto Salomão says that in the coming days, another considerable number of observers will arrive in Luanda adding that SEOM is in Angola to ensure SADC’s principles and norms on democratic elections are respected. Augusto Salomão stressed that, the holding of elections is a real witness to the fact that the member states have been deepening their democratic values and practices, thus strengthening the institutions in southern Africa. (allAfrica)

Angola might reach food self-sufficiency – Says ambassador

Angola might achieve food self-sufficiency if serious investments are made in the farming sector and policies to support national businesses created. This was said over the weekend in central Benguela province by Angolan ambassador to the Republic of Argentina, Herminio Joaquim Escorcio. Speaking to journalists, Herminio Escorcio said that among the various protocols that Angola has signed with the Republic of Argentina, the farming sector appears to be one of those that need to be explored. According to the ambassador, in order to become effective in animal husbandry the protocol that the country has signed with Argentina, it is necessary that Angola indicates the skilled people it needs, according to the areas of training, so that Argentina can send experts in here to provide knowledge to Angolans. “With the training and creation of policy for access to subsidised loans for entrepreneurs, yes we can achieve food self-sufficiency,” he told press in Benguela. (Agencies AngolaPress)

South Africa

Politics blamed for failure to end dispute

Marikana, which has become the democratic era’s Boipatong, was identified by the Chamber of Mines as potentially explosive early in the week and desperate attempts to get the government, the unions and business together to talk about the problems at the Lonmin mine failed because the matter had been turned into a political football. Chamber president Bheki Sibiya did not want to comment on the politics behind the failed talks, but it is understood that the ANC leadership was wary to engage with the main union that represented the striking workers as it fell outside of the Cosatu umbrella, which is allied to the governing party. By 16 August, the situation had exploded without meaningful intervention taking place with President Jacob Zuma – who had been away in Zimbabwe on the fateful day – returning from Mozambique only on Friday “after the horse had bolted” as it was described by Cope MP Mluleki George. By the time the president returned from the SADC summit – and about R2 billion in potential revenue was estimated to have been lost by the mine – there were already at least 44 people dead. The first 10 were killed earlier in the week, including two policemen. Police commissioner Riah Phiyega reported that 34 people had died on “dark Thursday” when police opened fire on striking miners, some of whom had guns. While Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu visited another mine and was at a gala dinner that night, the chamber feverishly worked to get the rival unions – the Cosatu-aligned National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Allied Mining Workers’ and Construction Union (AMCU), a politically non-aligned union – to thrash out their differences to avoid further violence. But by 17 August it was clear to the chamber that its interventions to bring mining executives, the government and the unions together had come to nought. The NUM refused to attend meetings with the AMCU. A meeting set for Friday afternoon was then cancelled. However, efforts to meet began on Tuesday, business and chamber sources said. The minister, meanwhile, tried to get the parties together but left the AMCU out of a meeting set for Saturday. Her spokesman, Zingaphi Jakuja, was not available to comment on the reason for its exclusion. It is understood that the department did not recognise the AMCU as a legitimate union. The Chamber of Mines said: “The leadership of both labour organisations agreed to send their representatives to a meeting that was scheduled to take place on 17 August afternoon. It is regrettable that this meeting was cancelled due to the non-availability of one of the unions the NUM’,” Sibiya said. The NUM had apparently objected to the presence of the AMCU. (ioL News)

Zambia

Zambia’s economic growth seen steady, construction helps

Zambia’s economy will grow steadily despite uncertain copper prices, as construction and agriculture supports Africa’s top producer of the metal, a Reuters poll found. The survey of 10 economists showed the landlocked southern Africa nation’s economy expanding 6.8 percent this year, slightly below the 6.9 percent forecast in a June poll, and then by 7.1 percent in 2013. While better than an estimated 6.6 percent growth for 2011 that would still be some way short of the 7.6 percent rise in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 that was mainly driven by the construction sector. Foreign mining companies are increasingly investing in Zambia, and the resulting windfall will give a boost to other industries too. “GDP growth in Zambia is expected to be driven by strong growth in agriculture, the mining sector and construction,” said Fredrick Mulenga of Zanaco, a state-owned bank. The slight downgrade from the previous consensus can be attributed to a sharp fall in copper production during the first half of this year, as orders waned from resource-hungry China. Nonetheless, growth in Zambia is still up there with other heavyweights in the continent. The government has targeted growth of 8 percent over the next five years and for the inflation rate to stabilize to 5 percent over the medium term. (News Day)

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Coalition Partners Disagree Over Draft Constitution

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has rejected a draft constitution submitted by a government-appointed committee. The leaders of the ruling party want a constitution that gives the president more powers. Among the provisions of a draft constitution submitted last month by a government-appointed committee is one that mandates the president to share power with parliament. ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said his party is not happy with that provision. (…) Additionally, Gumbo said his party is against introducing dual citizenship, homosexual rights and the U.S. style of having running mates in an election. He said ZANU-PF wants the death penalty upheld in the new constitution. He said his party had handed its draft constitution to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party for consideration. The MDC party formed a coalition government with President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party in 2009, following a disputed election. South African leader Jacob Zuma – appointed by regional leaders to mediate between the two parties – last week failed to convince Mugabe and Tsvangirai to find common ground on the draft constitution. ZANU-PF leaders said that if the impasse continues, the two draft constitutions should be voted on in a referendum. If such a referendum can be held in Zimbabwe later this year, elections are possible in 2013. (VOA News)


As always, we’re eager to hear feedback on the usefulness of this service as well as your suggestions on improving it.

LDESP Staff
ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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