Africa Theater

South Sudan 'teetering on brink of disaster'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Dec. 14 warned  that South Sudan "teeters on the brink of a disaster." Speaking before the Human Rights Council Special Session on South Sudan, Zeid called for urgent action. "The highest priority must urgently be given to protection for those most at risk from killings, sexual violence and other serious human rights violations. And it is time for all national and regional actors to advocate decisively for a political process that is both inclusive and implemented on the ground." Zeid also urged the Council "to call on South Sudan's leaders to refrain from incitement to violence and ethnic hatred." Yasmin Sooka, chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, said the international community could prevent a "Rwanda-like" genocide by immediately deploying 4,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians. The Council concluded the session by adopting a resolution condemning the ongoing rights violations and reaffirming the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

Kenya's Shabaab amnesty: 'loaded gun'?

A Kenyan government amnesty for Shabaab militants who renounce violence was supposed include guarantees for security and support for resettlement—generally in marginal areas, such as Majengo district, a low-income suburb of Nairobi. But both the security and aid have been elusive. A Human Rights Watch report in July alleged that security forces "have forcibly disappeared at least 34 people in the past two years during abusive counterterrorism operations in Nairobi and in northeastern Kenya." There are concerns that resettled ex-militants, receiving little aid and vulnerable to reprisal attacks, are ripe for being recuited again into the Somalia-based Shabaab network that now extends into Kenya.

Uganda: tribal king accused in separatist rebellion

Security forces in western Uganda arrested Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere of Rwenzururu Nov. 27 amid claims he was harboring militants seeking independence for the semi-autonomous region. Heavy fighting broke the day before in the regional seat of Kasese, after royal guards attacked a police patrol, leaving 14 officers and some 40 guardsmen and associated militants dead. The king's palace was set afire during the two-hour battle, and a cache of weapons seized. President Yoweri Museveni had phoned the king that morning and ordered him to disband the guards, who are accused of leading a militia seeking an independent "Yiira Republic," straddling the border of Uganda and North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nigeria: pogroms target Shi'ites

Shops and homes belonging to Shi'ite Muslims in Nigeria's Kaduna state were destroyed by rampaging mobs in a wave of attacks that spread across several towns Oct. 15. The attacks, which came as Shi'ites were celebrating their Ashura religious festival, were reported from the towns of Tudun Wada, Ungwan Muazu and Kabala West. A Shi'ite religious school was also destroyed in Tudun Wada earlier in the week. Human Rights Watch blamed Kaduna state authorities for enflaming an atmosphere of intolerance by persecuting Shi'ites in appeasement of local Sunni fundamentalist sentiment. HRW stated that "the move to ban the Shia umbrella body, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), by the Kaduna State government appears to have triggered a wave of discrimination and violence against Shia elsewhere in the country." (ABNA, Information Nigeria, Premium Times, Nigeria, Oct. 15)

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."

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