Africa Theater

Nigeria: mass death in military detention

Nearly 150 individuals, including 11 children, have died this year in Nigeria's military detention barracks, Amnesty International (AI) reported May 11. According to the report, the Giwa detention barracks in Maiduguri holds around 1,200 people, many of whom were arbitrarily detained and are being held without evidence. The detainees are allegedly housed in dirty, overcrowded cells and often face with starvation and dehydration. AI claims the overcrowding is "a consequence of a system of arbitrary mass arrest and detention" in the government's fight against Boko Haram. Netsanet Belay, AI's research and advocacy director for Africa, called for an immediate closure of the Giwa barracks. Nigeria's military spokesman Rabe Abubakar rebutted the report, stating that Nigeria has made improvements to the barracks, and the reported conditions are overstated.

Niger Delta Avengers re-ignite insurgency

Three soldiers were killed when gunmen on a speedboat opened fire on a military base in Southern Ijaw district of Nigeria's Bayelsa state on May 9. The soliders were part of Operation Pulo Shield, mobilized to protect oil operations in the Niger Delta region. No group has claimed responsibility for the slayings, but a new militant organization, the Niger Delta Avengers, has claimed a string of attacks on oil infrastructure in the region in recent weeks. Targets have included a Shell facility in Forcados, a Chevron platform in Abiteye, and pipelines transporting oil to the Warri and Kaduna refineries. The Avengers have pledged to contine the attacks, prompting Royal Dutch Shell to evacuate most of its staff from its Eja OML 79 production facility, near the massive Bonga oil-field. 

Darfur: Sudan planning 'Final Solution'?

Electoral authorities in Sudan say the results are in from the April 11-13 referendum on the administrative boundaries of strife-torn Darfur, with 97% voting to maintain its current five-state status. But the vote was boycotted by the civil and armed opposition alike in Darfur. Students at El-Fasher University in North Darfur protested the vote, and similar rallies were held in at least three IDP camps in Central Darfur. The US State Department issued a statement saying the referendum was unlikely to be fair, asserting that "insecurity in Darfur and inadequate registration of Darfuris residing in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps prohibit sufficient participation." The statement drew diplomatic protests from Sudan's regime, which supported maintaining the five-state status quo and posed the referendum as fulfilling terms of the 2011 Darfur peace agreement signed with some rebel groups, the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.  But rebel factions that did not sign on remain in arms, and even as the vote was prepared violence has again escalated in Darfur.

Ethiopian troops to South Sudan after border raid

A force of Ethiopian troops crossed into South Sudan on April 20 to launch a joint offensive with the Juba government against ethnic Murle militia fighters who staged a bloody raid into Ethiopia's Gambela region a week earlier. The Murle militiamen attacked several villages and massacred over 200 civilians of the Nuer ethnicity in the raid, and abducted some 100 children as well as stealing some 2,000 cattle. News reports initially described the incursion as a cattle raid, but the militiamen were said to be armed with AK-47s and wearing uniforms. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese, mainly Nuer, have fled to Gambela to escape armed conflict. The raid has heightened fears of the South Sudan war spilling into Ethiopia. (Ethiopian Herald via AllAfrica, DW, April 22; Radio Tamazuj, Sudan, April 20)

Mining fuels renewed Darfur conflict

Intensified fighting since January has resulted in a rapidly worsening security situation and large-scale displacement in Sudan’s Darfur region, the top United Nations peacekeeping official warned April 6. UN Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous said that since his last briefing to the Security Council on Jan. 25, the security situation in Darfur has been characterized by fighting between government forces and militants of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW) in the Jebel Marra region. "The escalation of fighting in Jebel Marra had led to large-scale displacement, especially from mid-January to late March, and humanitarian organizations estimated that at least 138,000 people from that region were newly displaced as of 31 March," Ladsous stated. (UN News Centre, April 6)

Niger Delta pipeline blast signals renewed insurgency

Three people were killed and several wounded when an oil pipeline belonging to Italy's ENI exploded in Nigeria's southern Delta region March 27. There have been numerous recent pipeline accidents in the region, where residents have long complained about oil pollution, but the blast at Olugboboro, Bayelsa state, appears to have been an intentional attack. One alleged perpetrator has been arrested, and four others are said to remain at large. Militant attacks are again on the rise in the Niger Delta. In February militants staged a sophisticated underwater attack, probably using divers, on a Shell pipeline, shutting down the 250,000 barrel-a-day Forcados export terminal. President Muhammadu Buhari, elected a year ago, has extended an amnesty signed with the militants in 2009, but has ended pipeline protection contracts to former militant groups. In a period of insurgency a decade ago, groups such as the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) attacked pipelines and abducted oil workers before Buhari's predecssor Goodluck Jonathan instated the amnesty and began granting contracts to the former militants. There are fears the militants are now returning to arms, and even reviving ambitions to secede from Nigeria. (Reuters, March 30; Reuters, March 29; The Guardian, Nigeria, March 28 via AllAfrica; IBT, July 28)

Horn of Africa water wars leave Somalia dry

Somali news site Mareeg reports March 23 that Ethiopia has for the first time actually halted the flow of water into Somalia by closing the gates on irrigation dams along the Shabelle River. The river, which flows from the Ethiopian highlands, now no longer reaches Somali territory, where banana plantations (one of the country's few sources of foreign exchange) have long depended on it. A photo with the report shows vehicles driving through the completely dry river bed. It also claims that impoundments on Ethiopia's Genale River have significantly reduced water levels in Somalia's Jubba River, into which it flows. Mareeg accuses Ethiopia of "taking advantage of its hydro-hegemony" at the expense of Somalia. 

Congo warlord convicted of crimes against humanity

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 20 declared unanimously (PDF) that Congolese ex-military leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes for his role in armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo lasted almost eight years, following Bemba's arrest by Belgian authorities in 2008. Bemba was on trial for crimes committed during his time as the commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). He was found guilty of rape, murder and pillage; the verdict condemned the widespread use of sexual violence as a means of war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, welcomed the judgment, stating the ruling "sends an important message across the world that international justice will finally prevail, even in cases where civilians with supervisory, or command, responsibility are accused of crimes committed in a country other than their own."

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