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."
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on April 21 alleged that armed rebels engaged in ethnically targeted killings during a raid on the northern city of Bentiu last week, resulting in more than 200 civilian deaths and 400 injuries. Rebels loyal to deposed vice president Riek Marchar reportedly sought to capture Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, in order to seize the city's significant oil fields and installations. The UN reported that the massacres took place at a mosque, a hospital and an abandoned UN compound.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 7 found (PDF) Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga guilty of four counts of war crimes and one count of crime against humanity. The crimes were committed during an attack on a village in a diamond-rich region of Congo in 2003, in which approximately 200 civilians were killed and some sexually assaulted. During a public hearing Friday, presiding judge Bruno Cotte delivered a summary of the judgment. He explained that based on the evidence presented and witness testimony, it had been established beyond a reasonable doubt that Katanga made a "significant contribution to the commission of crimes by the Ngiti militia." The court acquitted Katanga of the other charges, including sexual slavery, using child soldiers and rape. Katanga is only the second person to be convicted since the court's inception in 2002.
The local Islamic police, or Hisbah, in Nigeria's Bauchi state (see map) are carrying out a hunt for members of a putative "homosexual organization," whose formation was reported in a local newspaper last year. The article in Hausa Leadership daily included a list of names, and the state's Sharia Commission ordered they be arrested. If apprehended they could face death by stoning. One man convicted by the Bauchi sharia court last month was publicly lashed 20 times, the death sentence waived because the defendant showed "great remorse." On Jan. 30, an angry mob gathered outside the sharia court in Anguwan Jaki, Bauchi, and attempted to lynch seven suspected gays who were on trial there. Protesters hurled rocks at the court, breaking a window and injuring one, demanding that the defendants be stoned to death. Security forces fired tear gas canisters and several gunshots into the air to disperse the mob. Also last month, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, criminalizing gay marriage and gay organizations on a national level. (BBC News, Feb. 6; Vanguard, Lagos, Jan. 30 via AllAfrica; AP, Jan. 16; AP, Jan. 13)