The UN Security Council on March 28 unanimously approved the first-ever "offensive" UN peacekeeping brigade, to fight rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The force of more than 2,500 troops will operate under orders to "neutralize" and "disarm" rebel forces in the resource-rich east of the country. The intervention brigade is unprecedented in UN peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution states that it will be established for one year "on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent" to the principles of UN peacekeeping. The force, to be deployed in July, will include troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi. The UN currently has some 18,000 troops in the DRC, and has been widely accused of doing little to stop the violence in the eastern region. The latest rebellion flared a year ago, and has forced some 800,000 from their homes.
At least 163 were reported dead March 28 in clashes at Okello, in Pibor county of South Sudan's Jonglei state, pitting government troops against a rebel force whose commander David Yau Yau is said to be among the slain. (See map.) South Sudan accuses Khartoum of supporting the rebels, with military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer saying a seized airstrip was used for arms drops. He suggested Sudan is arming the rebellion in a bid to block the South's plans to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to a port in Djibouti. Aguer said the South's military, the SPLA, would continue to "deal with the militia group." (The Guardian, March 28) A Kenyan route for the pipeline has also been broached, with the aim of freeing the South from having to export oil through Khartoum's territory.
Michel Djotodia, leader of rebel forces behind a coup in the Central African Republic (CAR), declared in a radio address March 25 that the country's constitution is dissolved and he is now the nation's leader. Djotodia, a leader of the Seleka rebel alliance that seized the country's capital over the weekend and caused President Francois Bozize to flee the country, also declared the dissolution of the CAR parliament and government. The Seleka rebels' actions in taking control of the country ran afoul of a peace deal brokered in January between Bozize and the group. Seleka claims, however, that its actions are justified because the Bozize government first failed to uphold elements of the agreement, including a promise to remove South African troops from Bangui. Djotodia intends to serve out the rest of Bozize's term, which is set to end in 2016.
Congolese war crimes suspect Gen. Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself to a US embassy in Rwanda on March 18 and requested extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda has been wanted by the ICC since 2006 on charges enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and of using them to participate actively in hostilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from July 2002 to December 2003. Ntaganda remained at large, however, and in 2012 ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a second warrant for Ntaganda's arrest for additional war crimes and crimes against humanity in contravention of the Rome Statute:
Local musicians in conjunction with the Kenyan Red Cross held a concert for peace in Nairobi Feb. 28, ahead of presidential elections next week. Dubbed Chagua Amani, Kiswahili for "Choose Peace," the concert marked the fifth anniversary of the accord that ended post-election violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives in early 2008. A few thousand people attended the show at the city's Uhuru Park—but no presidential candidates showed.
Twelve men charged with the murder of a prominent Islamic scholar, including Shabab leader Ahmed Godane, were sentenced to death after a court found them guilty in Bosaso, commercial capital of Somalia's autonomous enclave of Puntland. Puntland's North Eastern regional Military Court sentenced the 12 including Shabab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane to death by firing squad. Under Puntland law, all terrorism cases are held at military courts. Sheikh Ahmed Haji Abdirahman, a cleric, professor and doctor, was shot dead as he was leaving a mosque near his home in Bosaso in December 2011. The killing sparked an international outcry from the Somali diaspora around the world. The deceased Sheikh Abdirahman's friend and colleague Sheikh Abdiqadir Nur Farah—who spoke out against Shabab after Abdirahman was killed—was recently killed in Puntland's political capital Garowe while praying at a mosque. (Garowe Online , Feb. 27 via All Africa)
Senegal's newly-created Extraordinary African Chambers officially opened on Feb. 8 to prepare for the prosecution of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre (BBC backgrounder). Senegal's national assembly adopted a law in December allowing for the creation of the special tribunal with the support of the African Union (AU) and financial assistance from the European Union and the US. The Extraordinary African Chambers will operate within the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar and will have sections to handle investigations, trials and appeals. Habre is accused of administering thousands of political killings during his eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990. Seven victims filed a criminal complaint against him in January 2000, and a Senegalese court indicted him. However, the case was dismissed on appeal for a lack of jurisdiction. Habre's trial will not begin until the prosecution completes its investigation, which will open next week and is expected to last 15 months.
A Somali court on Feb. 5 sentenced a woman who accused Somali security forces of rape to a year in prison for insulting a government body and making false claims. The same court in Mogadishu also sentenced freelance reporter Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, who interviewed the woman in January, to a year in prison on the same charges. Both sentences have been criticized by human rights groups. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the charges as "politically motivated" and "a mockery of the new Somali government's priorities."