At least 6,000 villagers have fled their homes in Mozambique's western Tete province amid renewed fighting between the government and RENAMO guerillas. Most are now in refugee camps across the border in Malawi, where the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is calling on the government to grant them asylum. Violence has been escalating since mid-December, and on Feb. 8 RENAMO formally announced a return to war, accusing the government of murdering and kidnapping their leaders. The Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO), which waged a brutal insurgency in the 1980s, formally re-organized as a political party at the end of the Mozambican Civil War in 1991. However, it returned to arms in 2013, charging the ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) with controlling elections and running a one-party state. There have been repeated ceasefires since then, but the current fighting is the most serious since the end of the civil war. (Times Live, South Africa, UNHCR, Malawi24, Feb. 18; MSF, South Africa Institute of International Affairs via AllAfrica, Mozambique News Agency via AllAfrica, Feb. 16; Mozambique News Reports & Clippings via AllAfrica, Feb. 14)
The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, on Feb. 5 called for an end to conflict in Darfur between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid which may have led to violations of international law. Tens of thousands of civilians have reportedly fled the Jebel Marra area in the past two weeks, with 21,338 fleeing to North Darfur state and 15,000 fleeing to Central Darfur state. (The Jebel Marra straddles the states of North, South and Central Darfur.) Nononsi also stated there have been an unspecified number of civilian casualties and destruction of property. The UN is urging that all parties protect unarmed civilians and respect international law and human rights. Nononsi also urged Sudan to provide access to UN-African Union Mission (UNAMID) in Darfur to areas affected by conflict.
Amnesty International (AI) reported Jan. 29 that satellite images show five possible mass graves in Buringa, Burundi, which may be connected to last month's infamous massacre. On Dec. 11, security forces killed at least 87 armed protesters who stormed military barracks in the capital of Bujumbura. Witnesses told AI that authorities retrieved bodies from the streets the following day and dumped them in several undisclosed locations. Local reports suggest that there may be nine more mass graves in Mpanda and Kanyosha. AI has called on African leaders to demand further investigation into the matter during the African Union summit taking place this weekend.
At least 29 people were killed as three suicide bombers carried out a coordinated attacks at a market in the village of Bodo in northern Cameroon Jan. 25. The first explosions struck the road leading to the market, while the second and third blasts hit the entrance and interior of the marketplace. It was the second terror attack to hit Cameroon this year. On Jan. 13, a suicide bomber killed 12 people and wounded at least one other in an attack on a mosque in Kolofata village. Dec. 10 also saw a suicide attack in Kolofata that left at least 10 dead. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 25; Al Jazeera, Jan. 13) But villagers are also being caught in indiscriminate army attacks in the northern region. On Jan. 19, troops fired rocket-propelled grenades in the village of Ashigashiya, on the Nigerian border, killing a family of four. Witnesses said two elderly men were also dragged from their homes and shot. Scores of civilians are believed to have been killed in recent weeks as the army attempts to enforce a "no-go zone" along the border. (AP, Jan. 19) Locals have started to form vigilante committees to defend their villages from Boko Haram. In a sign of hope, Christian vigilance committees have been patrolling outside mosques during prayer sessions, while Muslims are guarding churches during services. Both have been targeted by the militants. (VOA, Jan. 19)
Jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel in the central Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, setting cars ablaze and firing randomly, leaving 28 dead on Jan. 15. All but five of those killed were foreigners. The siege ended with a joint operation by Burkinabe and French commandos, in which at least four assailants were killed—including both Arabs and Black Africans. French special forces are stationed outside Ouagadougou as part of ongoing counter-terrorist operation in the Sahel. In an online statement entitled "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts," al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the attack was carried out by "mujahideen brothers" of its West African franchise, al-Mourabitoun. The statement boasted of "many dead Crusaders," although the victims appear to have been entirely civilians. (BBC News, DW, RFI, AP, NYT)
A sharia high court in Nigeria on Jan. 6 sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine others to death by hanging for committing blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The prosecution claimed that Duada, a preacher also known as Abdul Inyass, stated that the Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the founder of a rival sect, enjoyed a larger following in the region than Muhammad. The prosecution further asserted that Dauda and his disciples incited people to religious violence. The trial took place behind closed doors to avoid public protest.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) formally closed Dec. 31 after issuing 45 judgments. The ICTR, established in 1994, was the first international tribunal to deliver verdicts against those guilty of committing genocide. Within its 21 years, the ICTR sentenced 61 to terms of up to life imprisonment for their roles in the Rwanda massacres. There were 14 acquittals, and 10 accused were transferred to national courts. An International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals has been established and eight fugitives remain at large.
Approximately six million Rwandans on Dec. 19 approved a referendum by a vote of 98% to amend Article 101 of the Rwanda constitution which states the president may only serve two seven-year terms. The referendum will allow President Paul Kagame (official profile) to serve another seven-year term beginning in 2017 and then two more five-year terms. Kagame has served as president since 2003. Last month, the Rwandan Senate unanimously approved the referendum following approval from Rwanda's lower house of parliament in October. Also in October, Rwanda's Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the referendum, but this did not stop the vote from moving ahead.