Africa Theater

CAR armed groups still committing 'war crimes'

Armed groups continue to commit war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR), according to a report released July 5 by Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailing violence in three central provinces between November 2014 and April 2017. During that time period, HRW documented at least 566 civilian deaths at the hands of the Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups. Armed groups also destroyed no fewer than 4,207 homes, forcing people to flee and causing the deaths of 144 children and elderly people. Those responsible for the deaths have not been "detained, arrested or otherwise held accountable," and are still free to roam the areas where their crimes occurred. In addition to seeking international support for improved civilian protection, the report also asks the UN and other individual governments to back the Special Criminal Court (SCC) financially and politically. Although President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has praised the SCC, the government has "lagged in steps to operationalize" it. The SCC, an institution within the CAR's justice system with international judges and prosecutors, has the "unique chance to hold accountable the perpetrators of these grave crimes."

CAR: attacks continue despite peace accord

A UN human rights expert warned June 20 that the Central African Republic (CAR) "must act now" to protect its population and implement justice. According to Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, the expert on human rights for the CAR, armed groups are spreading throughout the country at a worrying rate, and a lack of response from the government to defend civilians has led to revenge attacks, public outrage, and "cries of distress" from citizens. The announcement from the UN comes on the heels of a peace accord signed by the CAR and most of the armed groups, aimed at ending the ethnic and religious conflict that has killed thousands. The peace accord was mediated by the Roman Catholic Sant'Egidio peace group (which brokered the end of the civil war in Mozambique in 1992) and was signed in Rome.

Senegal: condemn 'draconian' anti-terrorism laws

Anti-terrorism laws that were passed by Senegal's National Assembly in October, are "draconian" and could "restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal," according to a report (PDF) released April 3 by Amnesty International. The laws in question were passed as part of the government's efforts to deal with the rise of terrorism in the region, including Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Recognizing the country's need to address terrorism, AI claims the vagueness of the laws are problematic, as violations such as "insults" and affronts to "morality" could be interpreted in a way that suppresses dissident opinions. Other provisions of the new laws criticized by AI include those designed to prevent "defamation of the President of the Republic," "the dissemination of false news," and acts likely to "cause serious political unrest."

DRC soldiers arrested in video-recorded massacre

Seven army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to government officials at a press conference on March 18. The charges stem from a massacre of unarmed civilians in Kasaï-Central Province in February that was recorded and widely shared on social media. Congolese military auditor general Joseph Ponde Isambwa said that all seven arrested soldiers were members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC. Ponde said the charges against the officers include "war crime by murder, war crime by mutilation, war crimes by cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of an offense committed by persons subject to military jurisdiction."

Pirates or protesters in Somalia sea stand-off?

The March 13 seizure of an oil tanker en route from Djibouti to Mogadishu—the first such incident since 2012—enflamed global fears of a resurgence of piracy off the coast of Somalia. But the tanker and its Sri Lankan crew were released without ransom or any other conditions March 16—hours after brief a gun battle between the captors and the marine force of Somalia's autonomous region of Puntland, followed by intensive negotiations brokered by local clan elders. International media reports referred to the captors as "pirates," whereas local media in Somalia called them "fishermen." In an interview with Puntland's Radio Garowe via phone to the fishing village of Alula, one hijacker said: "We are fishermen in Alula town, our livelihood destroyed by the illegal trawlers and chemical waste dumping. We were fishing and then we saw the vessel spilling waste in the sea, which reached our coast... We are not pirates as reported by the media. We are protecting our territorial waters from the international ships dumping the toxic and chemical wastes on our coast."

Somali refugees stranded by Trump travel ban

At least 100 Somali refugees previously cleared for resettlement in the US are stranded in Kenya in the wake of President Trump's travel ban. The refugees now face an uncertain future as they wait at a transit center run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Nairobi. They are mostly from Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, which currently shelters nearly 300,000 and is considered the world's largest. Trump's order has forced the IOM to cancel "all flights for refugees till further notice," said Christelle van Rosmalen, resettlement officer at the UN refugee agency UNHCR at Dadaab. 

World Court to hear Kenya-Somalia maritime case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Feb. 2 ruled that it has the authority to adjudicate a dispute over a stretch of water in the Indian Ocean that is potentially laden with oil and gas. Somalia asked (PDF) the ICJ to rule on the dispute in 2014 after negotiations with Kenya broke down over the 100,000-square mile stretch. The ICJ rejected Kenya's claim that a 2009 agreement (PDF) between the two countries to settle the dispute through negotiations deprives the court of jurisdiction in the matter. Kenya's attorney general, Githu Muigaistated: "Kenya maintains the view that litigation can resolve only one aspect of a wide range of complex issues the parties must agree upon." This decision allows the case to proceed, with no date set as of yet for the trial to begin.

African Union leaders back leaving ICC

Leaders of multiple African countries announced Feb. 1 that they have backed a "strategy of collective withdrawal" from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prior to this week's African Union (AU) summit, the AU issued a document seen by Reuters that proposed a coordinated withdrawal unless the ICC is reformed. The AU claims that the ICC is improperly focusing on prosecuting individuals from African countries, and its exit could be significant, as almost a third of the ICC's member countries are African. The AU and the ICC have had a tumultuous relationship over the course of the past year. In July an AU advisory board accused the ICC of narrowly focusing its investigations on African government leaders since its inception in 2002. The AU's Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) recommended that members quit the ICC should Rome Statute signatories follow through with a proposed amendment allowing the prosecution and arrest of sitting heads of state. Human Rights Watch stated that giving sitting leaders immunity would defeat the purpose of the ICC's creation.

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