Africa Theater

Sierra Leone war crimes court convicts three former guerrilla leaders

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) Feb. 25 found three former guerrilla leaders guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in the country's civil war. Issa Hassan Sesay, Morris Kallon, and Augustine Gbao are the three highest-ranking surviving Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leaders, after founder Foday Sankoy died before being tried in 2003. Of 18 charges, Sesay and Kallon were found guilty of 16 offenses and Gbao was found guilty of 14 offenses.

Somalia: rebel factions unite; Turkey sends warship

Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the new president of Somalia's transition government, responded Feb. 5 to the formation of a new alliance of rebel factions, asking the opposition leaders to lay down their arms and join the government. "We are requesting our brothers to work with us in restoring peace and unity," he said, adding that he is willing to open a dialogue with all opponents and would welcome their participation in government.

Kenya: disaster reveals desperation

From the BBC News, Feb. 1:

Scores killed in Kenya oil fire
At least 111 people have died in Kenya after an overturned petrol tanker caught fire on a highway and exploded. Reports say the fire broke out after hundreds of people gathered to collect spilled fuel.

Obama brother busted for ganja in Nairobi

George Obama, half-brother of President Barack Obama, was arrested and jailed for possession of one joint in Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 31. "They took me from my home," he said, denying the charge against him. "I don't know why they are charging me." Obama was charged with possession of marijuana and resisting arrest. He is currently at Huruma police station awaiting a court hearing.

Japan sends destroyers to Somali coast; Islamists taking over on mainland

Tokyo is preparing to dispatch Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers to protect Japanese commercial vessels from pirates off Somalia. The issue of use of force against the pirates is likely to hotly contested in legislation the government is readying to allow the mission. "Basically, MSDF anti-piracy measures should be dealt with under a new law," Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said, raising further fears of an erosion of Japan's pacifist constitution.

Sudanese forces bomb Darfur town as pressure mounts on Bashir

Sudanese government planes bombed a key town in south Darfur Jan. 24, a week after its seizure by the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), peacekeepers and insurgents said. Bombs landed close to a base run by the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force, UNAMID, in the town of Muhajiriya and destroyed houses, a UN official said. A senior JEM commander told Reuters 16 civilians were killed in the raid, including a young child. Air attacks in Darfur are forbidden under a 2006 peace deal and UN Security Council resolutions.

Congo rebel leader Laurent Nkunda arrested in Rwanda

Gen. Laurent Nkunda, leader of the largest guerilla army in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested in Rwandan territory Jan. 23. He reportedly crossed the border after fleeing a joint Rwandan-Congolese operation to arrest him. Reports call it a startling about-face by Rwanda, which had been widely accused of backing Nkunda. The DRC government has issued an international warrant for Nkunda's arrest following accusations that his forces committed atrocities.

US Navy leads international task force against Somali pirates

Somali pirates reportedly received a $3 million ransom for the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star and its crew, including two Brits—but in the words of one former captive "got their comeuppance." Pirate captain Mohamed Said, speaking yesterday from Xarardheere, north of Mogadishu, said six of his crew were killed when their boat capsized while returning from the transfer site. Capt. Said said his men feared capture by the Combined Maritime Forces which are now patrolling Somalia's coast. (