Africa Theater

Bin Laden calls for overthrow of Somalia's new president —despite sharia rule

In a new audio statement posted on the Internet, Osama bin Laden called on Somali militants to overthrow the country's new President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed—himself a former leader of the Islamic Courts Union. In the 12-minute tape, which could not be immediately verified, bin Laden said: "This Sheik Sharif...must be fought and toppled... He is like the [Arab] presidents who are in the pay of our enemies." (News Hour, March 19)

Israel: Eritrea destabilizes Horn of Africa

Israel's ambassador to Ethiopia, Oded Ben-Haim, in an interview with Ethiopia's Walta Information Center, charged that Eritrea is trying to destabilize the peace process in the Horn of Africa, and serving as a save haven for terrorist groups. Ben-Haim especially accused Eritrea of supporting and arming al-Shabab, the insurgent group in Somalia, and also asserted Eritrean ties to the Palestinian Hamas. He called upon Ethiopia to "continue bringing stability in the Horn of Africa and to the whole continent." (WIC, March 19)

Madagascar: coup d'etat or revolution?

Rejecting President Marc Ravalomanana's proposal for a referendum to end Madagascar's violent political crisis, opposition leader Andry Rajoelina instead called for his arrest March 16. As explosions were heard in the capital Antananarivo, the military intervened, seizing key government buildings. The military passed power to Rajoelina, a former mayor of Antananarivo who led weeks of angry protests demanding Ravalomanana's ouster.

Mauritania crisis mediation fails; still no justice for enslaved Blacks

Political parties in Mauritania have to sign a framework agreement for peace, after Libya's leader and African Union chairman Moammar Qaddafi was accused of bias in his attempts at mediation. Opposition politicians walked out on a speech to parliament by Qaddafi, March 11, saying that he was siding with the military rulers who seized power in a coup last year.

International lines drawn in Sudan war crimes warrant

The Sudanese government announced March 14 that President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur, would attend two consecutive summits scheduled for late March in the Qatari capital of Doha. The first is a meeting of the Arab League, to be followed by a meeting of Arab and Latin American leaders. The Arab League has officially rejected the ICC warrant, saying it threatens peace talks in Sudan. (Xinhua, AFP, March 14) Earlier this week, a delegation of officials from Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah joined Syria's parliament speaker and the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group traveled to Sudan to express international support for al-Bashir. (AlJazeera, March 7)

UN may investigate Sudan for expelling foreign aid groups

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said March 6 that his office may investigate whether Sudan's expulsion of foreign aid agencies is a breach of human rights law or war crime. UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Ron Redmond warned that the removal of the aid agencies could have a serious impact not only in Darfur, but also in the rest of Sudan and the region.

ICC charges Sudan president with war crimes, not genocide

The International Criminal Court (ICC) March 4 issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but declining to charge him with genocide. The warrant had been sought by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who in July filed preliminary charges against al-Bashir alleging genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute. This is the first time the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.

Somalia president announces support for sharia

Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said Feb. 28 that he would support the imposition of a "moderate" form of sharia law as part of a cease-fire agreement with the Hizb al-Islamiya and al-Shabaab rebels. Ahmed said, however, he would not agree to provisions that would prohibit girls from attending school, require women to wear headscarves, or ban music and television. Ahmed made the concession at the behest of Islamic religious groups that are mediating the conflict between the government and the rebels, but reports quoted rebels denying that a peace agreement had been made. Members of the country's parliament, which would have to approve implementing sharia in order for it to take effect, have expressed support for such a proposal.

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