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)
A French court opened trial Feb. 4 against former Rwandan intelligence chief Pascal Simbikangwa in the country's first trial of a suspect in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Simbikangwa, 54, is charged with arming and directing Hutu extremists in the violence that claimed the lives of an estimated half a million ethnic Tutsi. He was arrested in 2008 while in hiding on the French island of Mayotte. A paraplegic since 1986, Simbikangwa faces a potential life sentence for complicity in the genocide and crimes against humanity. The current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has accused France of supporting the Hutu militia and harboring fugitives who fled to France in the years following the genocide. This trial is seen as an important first step in repairing relations between the embittered nations.
The African Union (AU) called Feb. 1 for African countries to "speak with one voice" against the trials of sitting heads of state in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statement comes in relation to the trial of two current heads of the Kenyan government, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto. The AU asked the UN Security Council to postpone the trials while the Kenyan leaders were still in power, but the resolution failed to get the required nine votes, making it the first resolution in decades to fail without a veto from one of the permanent members.