Africa Theater

Boko Haram war spills into Chad

Authorities in Chad announced the arrest of a key Boko Haram leader and two henchmen in the capital N'Djamena on June 28. The militant leader, named as Mahamat Moustapha AKA Baana Fanay, is accused coordinating trafficking of weapons between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Chadian security forces have arrested 74 accused militants since June 15 terror attacks in N'Djamena that killed 38 people and injured 100 others. But the day after the arrest ot Baana Fanay, two new suicide bombings in N'Djamena kiilled at least 11, including five police officers. The blasts were in residential neighborhoods, but at least one was apparently set off as police raided a suspected Boko Haram safe-house. (News Agency of Nigeria, June 30; AP, Al Jazeera, June 29)

Ivory Coast fights Ansar Dine along Mali border

Ivory Coast reinforced security along its northern frontier after a series of attacks by Islamist militias on towns just across the border in Mali. Troops from Ivory Coast are also reported to have crossed the border to assist Malian forces in driving out the rebels. Gunmen attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a border town in Mali's southern region of Sikasso, on June 28. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of militants ransacked a police station in the nearby town of Misseni. Ansar Dine is named as the group behind the attacks, and this appears to represent the first extension of its reach into Mali's south from its territory in the northern deserts. (Reuters, AFP, AFP, July 1)

Cameroon holds 84 children after raid on madrassa

Amnesty International urged Cameroon on June 19 to end the six-month detention of 84 children being held after raids on Koranic schools. AI reports that some of the children were as young as five years old. The children remained detained in a children's center in Maroua even after being charged with no crimes. The government charged the teachers of the Koranic schools of running terrorist training camps for the Nigeria-based group Boko Haram. The raids were part of the Cameroon government's on-going battle against the terrorist group. Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa, stated: "Detaining young children will do nothing to protect Cameroonians living under the threat of Boko Haram." AI has urged Cameroon to immediately release any children under the age of 15 to their parents and ensure a fair trial for any other's associated with the raid.

Ethiopia: army 'massacre' of tribespeople

UK-based advocacy group Survival International says it has received reports that violent conflict between Ethiopian soldiers and Hamar pastoralists left dozens dead last month. The Hamar are one of several tribal peoples of the Lower Omo Valley who are subject to the government's policy of "villagization." They are being forcibly relocated to government-created villages along new roads through the region, while their ancestral grazing lands are sold off to investors for commercial plantations. These land-grabs have already led to starvation in parts of the Lower Omo Valley. Tensions have been rising as a result of these evictions and, at the end of May, Hamar were reportedly attacked by soldiers with rifles and mortars. Survival says a "news blackout" imposed by the government makes it impossible to know the exact number of casualties, but one observer referred to what took place as a "massacre." The incident follows a pattern of abuses in the Lower Omo, including beatings, rape and arbitrary arrest. One displaced Hamar told Survival, "The government told us that if we don't give in to them we will be slaughtered in public like goats." (Survival International, June 5)

Amnesty: Nigeria military in crimes against humanity

Around 8,000 Nigerian civilians have been killed since 2011 as a result of abuses by military forces, Amnesty International (AI) reported June 3. The report attributes civilian deaths to torture, starvation, suffocation and executions by military forces at detention camps. AI's secretary general Salil Shetty said, "[t]he previous Nigerian administration's utterly callous 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' attitude when it comes to the hundreds of stories of death coming out of the military detention centers beggars belief." AI says the military's actions at the detention camps are part of a "witch hunt" in an effort to locate members of Boko Haram. AI called for President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate any possible crimes against humanity committed at the camps and to bring justice to the victims.

Uganda: displaced villagers protest land-grab

A BBC News account today notes an action by a group of elderly women in a village in northern Uganda that made local headlines in April. When officials backed up by soldiers and police were sent to Apaa village to begin a land demarcation project, the women stripped naked in front of them while chating "Lobowa, lobowa!"—"our land" in the Luo language. Women appearing naked is a traditional form of shaming and dishonoring. The conflict affects several villages in Uganda's northern Amuru district, where residents were forcibly relocated to government camps (ostensibly for their protection) during the 18-year war with the Lord's Resistance Army. Now that they are returning, they find that Uganda's Wildlife Authority seeks to demarcate 827 square kilometers of their traditional lands as a game reserve to be leased to a private investor—said to be a South African businessman. At Apaa village alone, some 21,000 residents who cannot prove official title to their lands stand to be evicted.

UN calls for investigation of CAR peacekeepers

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, on May 30 called on several states to investigate allegations that members of their peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) have committed serious human rights violations. It is reported that soldiers have engaged in the killing of civilians, summary executions, abductions and sexual exploitation of local women and children. Zeid summarized the troubling contradiction by saying, "[t]he role of international forces in halting the worst of the fighting and sectarian slaughter in CAR has been invaluable, and their presence has unquestionably saved many, many lives. Yet, in some cases the longed-for protectors turned into predators." The High Commissioner's statement revealed that many states' forces are under suspicion of engaging in the "disturbing" behavior and some have disciplined the soldiers involved. In addition to requesting further investigation, the High Commissioner also announced he is sending a team to look into possible further measures to address human rights violations in the CAR.

Burundi arrests military officers in coup attempt

Burundi authorities arrested several military generals May 15 after an unsuccessful coup attempt and said the suspects will face a military court for mutiny charges. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare [who fought alongside Hutu rebels in the 1993-2005 civil war] announced the coup on May 13. President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Tanzania at the time the coup was announced but is believed to be back in his country. In Bujumbura, troops supporting the president and those supporting Niyombare fought on the streets for two days after the declared coup. Following the announcement, the airport in Bujumbura and the land borders were closed, but the streets reportedly calmed by May 15.

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