Uganda

DRC recruited ex-rebels to suppress protests: HRW

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government recruited former M23 rebel fighters to protect President Joseph Kabila after protests broke out last December over his refusal to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two terms, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Dec. 5. During December of last year, at least 62 people were killed and hundreds were arrested. The M23 fighters were granted authority to use lethal force. Many journalists were also detained to keep them from reporting about the events taking place. According to the report, rebel forces have long been recruited into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), without formal training or extensive vetting. The forces in question were deserters from the group, who were initially recruited from Rwanda and Uganda. The FARDC have themselves been criticized for various human rights violations.

Uganda: tribal king accused in separatist rebellion

Security forces in western Uganda arrested Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere of Rwenzururu Nov. 27 amid claims he was harboring militants seeking independence for the semi-autonomous region. Heavy fighting broke the day before in the regional seat of Kasese, after royal guards attacked a police patrol, leaving 14 officers and some 40 guardsmen and associated militants dead. The king's palace was set afire during the two-hour battle, and a cache of weapons seized. President Yoweri Museveni had phoned the king that morning and ordered him to disband the guards, who are accused of leading a militia seeking an independent "Yiira Republic," straddling the border of Uganda and North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda: displaced villagers protest land-grab

A BBC News account today notes an action by a group of elderly women in a village in northern Uganda that made local headlines in April. When officials backed up by soldiers and police were sent to Apaa village to begin a land demarcation project, the women stripped naked in front of them while chanting "Lobowa, lobowa!"—"our land" in the Luo language. Women appearing naked is a traditional form of shaming and dishonoring. The conflict affects several villages in Uganda's northern Amuru district, where residents were forcibly relocated to government camps (ostensibly for their protection) during the 18-year war with the Lord's Resistance Army. Now that they are returning, they find that Uganda's Wildlife Authority seeks to demarcate 827 square kilometers of their traditional lands as a game reserve to be leased to a private investor—said to be a South African businessman. At Apaa village alone, some 21,000 residents who cannot prove official title to their lands stand to be evicted.

Ex-LRA commander appears before ICC

Former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen on Jan. 26 made his first appearance  before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The pre-trial hearing was brief as Ongwen simply had to confirm his identity and that he clearly understood the charges against him. During his hearing, Ongwen thanked God and referred to himself as a former soldier saying that he "was abducted in 1988 and...taken to the bush when [he] was 14 years old." He spoke in Acholi, his native language. Ongwen faces three counts of crimes against humanity: murder, enslavement, and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering; and four counts of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, and pillaging. A pre-trial confirmation of charges hearing has been scheduled for August. This hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Ongwen committed each of the crimes with which he is charged. The ICC took legal custody of Ongwen in Central African Republic's capital Bangui earlier this month.

Uganda rebel commander to be transferred to ICC

After days of discussions, the Ugandan military decided on Jan. 13 to send Dominic Ongwen, a rebel leader with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), to trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC has sought to try Ongwen, who is thought to be the second-in-command to Joseph Kony, since 2005 when an initial warrant of arrest was issued. He is accused of enslavement and directing attacks against civilian populations, among other charges, for his actions in the early 2000's in which thousands were killed and children abducted to be used as soldiers or sold as sex slaves.

ICC halts Darfur probe; Bashir threatens rebels

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Dec. 12 that she has suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur, citing the UN Security Council's inaction in the case. "I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda told the Security Council, rebuking the UN body for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Presenting her 20th report to the Council on Darfur, Bensouda stated that without action, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked. "What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects," Bensouda told the Council, or there would be "little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future." She also emphasized that the conflict is not over, saying that "massive new displacements" have taken place this year in Darfur.

Jihadist hand seen in new Congo massacres

The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an Islamist insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified. The killings were carried out, in various episodes between Oct. 2 and Dec. 7, using knives, machetes and hoes, in parts of Nord Kivu province, on some occasions in close proximity to positions held by the national army (FARDC) and bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). Just in the 48 hours leading up to the night of Dec. 7, 50 people were killed in two parts of Beni territory, according to Civil Society in North Kivu, a local organization. (See map.)

Egypt: first FGM trial ends in acquittals

Two men in Egypt were acquitted on charges relating to female genital mutilation (FGM) on Nov. 27. Since the law banning FGM was amended in 2008, this is the only case of FGM that resulted in trial. The charges stemmed from the death of a 13 year-old girl who died last year of an allergic reaction to penicillin, after her father took her to a local doctor for an FGM procedure. The prosecutor charged the doctor with manslaughter and committing the practice of FGM, and charged the girl's father with endangering her life and forcing her to undergo FGM. While FGM is banned in Egypt, the practice continues due to a lack of prosecutions and investigations, in part due to the belief among local authorities that FGM is a private, family issue. In response to the verdicts, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report calling for Egyptian authorities to take clear actions to end the practice of FGM by enforcing the law, prosecuting and investigating those who carry out the procedure, and undertaking measures to increase national awareness of the harms of FGM.

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