Africa Theater

African women protest at Mt. Kilimanjaro

Women from various African countries gathered at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to demand land rights Oct. 15, during observations of International Day of Rural Women. The protest, dubbed the "Women to Kilimanjaro Initiative," is an attempt to bring attention to denial of land rights and other unequal treatment women face across various economic sectors. [Organizers noted that women are particularly vulnerable to land-grabbing in countries where rural families often lack legal title to their lands, and are less likely to receive just compensation for lost lands. A small delegation of women even climbed the peak itself—an elevation of nearly 6,000 meters above sea level—in a symbolic statement of their determination.] Under the social media campaign #Women2Kilimanjaro, the women called on governments to enforce laws and policies that promote land rights and gender justice. The women also circulated a petition that will be delivered to regional leaders in the coming days.

Chemical attacks in Darfur claimed

Amnesty International claims "horrific evidence" of repeated chemical weapons attacks carried out by Sudanese government forces against civilians, including young children. Using satellite imagery, more than 200 telephone interviews with survivors, and analysis of dozens of "appalling images showing babies and young children with terrible injuries," Amnesty's new report, "Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air," indicates that at least 30 likely chemical attacks have taken place in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since January. The most recent was Sept. 9 Amnesty estimates that between 200 and 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to chemical weapons agents, with many or most being children.

Ethiopia: Amhara protests over land, autonomy

Tens of thousands from Ethiopia's Amhara ethnic group marched in the northern city of Gondar—the largest demonstration yet in a wave of recent protests. Amhara are angered by the government’s decision to place a local district called Welkait (Wolkayit) under the administration of neighboring Tigray region. In videos shared on social media, protesters are seen carrying signs reading: "Stop mass killing of Amhara people" and "Restore the historic border." The demonstration—staged in defiance of a government order—also expressed solidarity with the Oromia protests held between November and March in opposition to a government development plan in the region that could affect poor farmers.

Cameroon: 'horrific' abuses in Boko Haram fight

More than 1,000 are being held in horrific conditions, facing disease, malnutrition and torture, as part of Cameroon's crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled "Right cause, wrong means: Human rights violated and justice denied in Cameroon's fight against Boko Haram," the report details how the military offensive has resulted in widespread rights violations against civilians in the Far North region of the country. "In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, Cameroon is pursuing the right objective; but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances the authorities are using the wrong means," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty's West and Central Africa regional director. "With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon's government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram."

South Sudan: renewed war on independence day

On the fifth anniversary of its independence from Khartoum, South Sudan is again descending into civil war, with last year's tentative peace deal breaking down. Fighting has escalated across the country in recent weeks, and on July 9 it reached the capital Juba, with clashes reported between the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the Government (SPLA-IG) led by President Salva Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by former South Sudanese vice-president Riek Macher. Some of the worst recent violence came in late June, when a force of SPLA-IG troops and irregular Dinka militia entered the northern town of Wau, reportedly attacking civilians and looting their property, causing more than 100,000 civilians to flee their homes. Those targeted were mainly from the Fertit ethnicity. The violence apparently began in a conflict over who is to control the newly created Wau state, which was carved out of the former Western Bahr el Ghazal state under last year's redrawing of administrative borders. (Radio Tamazuj, July 10; Al Jazeera, July 9; VOA, June 28; Sudan Tribune, June 24)

Kenya: officers detained in death of rights attorney

Kenyan authorities have detained three police officers for involvement in the murder of a human rights lawyer. The officers have not yet been charged, but a judge announced they will remain in detention for two weeks as investigations are conducted. The body of Willie Kimani, a Nairobi lawyer working for the human rights organization International Justice Mission, was found on July 1 along with a client and a taxi driver. Kimani had accompanied his client, Josephat Mwenda, to court after filing a complaint against a police officer for shooting him in the arm. The three went missing shortly after leaving the courthouse.

Hundreds killed in Ethiopia to quell Oromo protests

Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 since November, and arrested tens of thousands more, in hopes of quashing protests in the Oromia region, according to a report by Human Rights Watch June 17. The report calls the killings "the latest in a series of abuses against those who express real or perceived dissent in Oromia." It also discusses Ethiopian government efforts to restrict media freedom and access to information in Oromia. Most notably, the government has restricted access to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and any "diaspora-run television stations." HRW called for the government to drop charges and release all those detained in protests, as well as a "credible, independent and transparent investigation into the use of excessive force by its security forces."

What was behind Ethiopia-Eritrea border clash?

The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are blaming each other in the weekend's deadly border skirmish that threatens a return to open war between the regional rivals. Ethiopia's Information Minister Getachew Reda described the clashes as "an Eritrean initiative." In a short statement, the Eritrean regime said Ethiopia had "unleashed an attack against Eritrea on the Tsorona Central Front. The purpose and ramifications of this attack are not clear." (BBC News) The independent exile-based Gedab News, which covers Eritrea, says it has received "credible information" that the battle was triggered when a group of Eritrean conscripted soldiers crossed the border to Ethiopia in an attempt to desert, and were shot at by Eritrean troops. Members of an armed Eritrean opposition group hosted by Ethiopia returned fire before Ethiopian soldiers then entered the fray. (Awate.com)

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