An Ethiopian court on July 18 charged nine journalists with terrorism and inciting violence under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law (PDF). The journalists, including six bloggers, were arrested in April and have been prevented from accessing their families or legal counsel since their arrests. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the implementation of the anti-terrorism law in 2009, Ethiopian authorities have used it as a tool to limit journalism critical of the government. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly called upon the Ethiopian government to repeal the law, alleging that the government stifles the establishment of new media publications.
Militant group al-Shabab has lived up to its promise to step up attacks in Somalia, mainly against government installations and personnel, during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29. Over 30 people have been killed in Mogadishu alone. On July 8, the presidential compound was attacked during the iftar evening meal. Assailants entered the gate using a car bomb, and then engaged in a two-hour gun battle with palace guards, killing 14 soldiers. On July 5, at least four people, including two children, were killed when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside of the parliament building. Just two days earlier, a long-time member of parliament, Mohamed Mohamud, was killed with his bodyguard when armed assailants opened fire on his car. In response, the Somali government fired the police commissioner and head of the intelligence agency. Since then however, attacks have continued daily. Local media reported that the Ministry of Defense was attacked July 14.
Dozens of Muslim families in Mpeketoni, a coastal Kenyan town where more than 60 people have been killed in separate attacks this week, have fled following threats and assaults from the Christian majority. "Mpeketoni is not safe for us," Ali Lali Uweso, the headmaster of primary school, told Anadolu Agency by phone. "As we speak, we are travelling in a convoy of several vehicles from Mpeketoni with Swahili and other Muslim families heading to Mokowe Jetty to take a boat to the islands." The Swahili people are an ethnic group whose name is derived from the Arabic word meaning coastal. Local residents confirmed that a Swahili Muslim man in his 50s was beaten unconscious by youth armed with crude weapons who claimed to be avenging the victims of the recent attacks. At least nine were killed and a number of others wounded in the June 16 attacks in the usually quiet town near the Somali border. The previous evening, at least 53 were killed in armed attacks on a three hotels and a police station in the town. The attacks were reportedly claimed by the Somali rebel group al-Shabaab. (World Bulletin, Al Jazeera, June 18)
Gunmen killed at least eight people and burned down a church in attacks on two villages in Nigeria's central Plateau state, authorities reported June 11. Security officials said they are investigating who is behind the attacks in Nigeria's Middle Belt, where the largely Muslim north and Christian south meet. (Reuters, June 11) Two days earlier, more than 30 Fulani women were abducted by gunmen in three clustered settlements near the Borno state town of Chibok, where more than 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in April. Local sources said that gunmen stormed the settlements of Bakin Kogi, Garkin Fulani and Rugar Hardo and carried off the women in vehicles. Local Fulani men have launched a mobilization to rescue the abducted women. (The Guardian, Nigeria, June 9)
The United States has deployed 80 troops to Chad to assist in efforts to find the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, who are believed to have been absconded across the border. "The force, made up largely of Air Force personnel, will conduct surveillance flights and operate drone aircraft but will not participate in ground searches," the Washington Post informs us. While the deployment was announced by President Obama in a "War Powers Notification" letter sent to House and Senate leadership, the troops are actually there to maintain the drones—not to actually tramp through the forests in search for the missing girls. The drones are ostensibly unarmed and only for surveillance purposes. (Mashable, May 21)
Another battle for control over urban space is heating up in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa—concerning plans to expand the city's municipal boundaries and absorb several smaller outlying towns where the traditionally excluded Oromo people are still dominant. The "Integrated Development Master Plan" has sparked a wave of protests, principally by Oromo students. Official figures say seven have been killed by police in the protests since late April, but independent reports claim the death toll is more than 20.
A team of six US military advisors has arrived in Nigeria to assist in the search for the abducted girls, now said to number 276, and provide intelligence on the captors, militant group Boko Haram. Nine more advisors are en route. Not exactly a massive intervention, although a State Department spokesperson did say, "If there are needs for more, we'll continue to assess that." (NBC) However, judging from the reaction in the "left" and conspiranoid blogosphere, you'd think it was Operation Nigerian Freedom. There's something sickeninigly inappropriate about greater concern for the 15 military advisors than the 276 missing girls. But given how these screeds are being forwarded around cyberspace by animated partisans, we feel compelled to dive into the muck and do a little deconstructing, facile as it is...
Nigerian militant network Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the April 14 bombing of a bus station in Nyanya, a suburb of the capital Abuja, that killed 75 people. In a video message, Boko Haram commander Abubakar Shekau says he ordered the attack, but says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, most of whom are still missing. In the video, Shekau describes the bombing as a "tiny incident," and warns of many more to come. In words directed by name at President Goodluck Jonathan, Shekau says: "Jonathan, you are now too small for us. We can only deal with your grand masters like Obama the president of America. Even they cannot do anything to us. We are more than them."