Almost 20,000 people of Chadian origin have fled violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) in recent weeks, and many more are expected to join the exodus, which is straining humanitarian capacity in Chad, a country many of those fleeing have never lived in. "Those of us who were born here are Central Africans, but we are treated like foreigners. We have never seen Chad but have to go there for our own protection," said Awa Rabilou, one of thousands of people camped for the last two weeks outside the Chadian embassy in Bangui, waiting for a place on a truck headed for Chad. "Our houses were burnt. We left with only the clothes we were wearing. They even threw grenades at us. It was people who joined the anti-balaka who did this. If we stay in our neighborhood, they will kill us," added Rabilou.
Amid ongoing fighting in South Sudan, the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 7 notes that two of the regional powers supposedly attempting to head off further escalation through a "diplomatic effort" are Kenya and Uganda—whcih were "recruiting investors to back an oil pipeline in South Sudan in December when a rebellion upended the world's newest nation." Most reportage reads as if the "upending" came out of nowhere, but when a precursor rebellion broke out in Jonglei state last March, we noted widespread theories that Sudan was quietly backing it to interrupt plans for alternative pipeline routes through Kenya or Ethiopia, which would break South Sudan's reliance on old enemy Khartoum for getting its crude to market. So we may now be looking at a proxy war for South Sudan, pitting US client states Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia against Sudan. On the ground, the Dinka (the group most closely linked to the ruling faction) are pitted against the Nuer (whose legitimate grievances may be exploited by Khartoum). Of course the model of a ruling clique controlling oil wealth and distributing it in clientelist manner to build a power base is what is really at root of the conflict—and neither side has any interest in challenging that.
At least 30 people were killed by gunmen said to be Hausa-Fulani herdsmen in a raid on Shonong village, in Bachit district of Nigeria's Plateau state Jan. 7. (See map.) Over 40 homes were reportedly burned by the attackers, and livestock stolen. Thousands have been killed in a spiral of violence in Plateau state in recent years, rooted in land disputes between semi-nomadic Muslim Fulani herdsmen and mainly Christian Berom farmers. Plateau lies in a belt of savanna where Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north meets the Christian-majority south. (BBC News, Leadership, Abuja, via AllAfrica, Jan. 7)
The authorities in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital, have set up tighter border controls in the Far North region to guard against infiltration by jihadist Boko Haram fighters from neighboring Nigeria as civilians flee insurgent attacks and a Nigerian military offensive, seeking safety across the border in Cameroon. A rapid response military unit has also been deployed and beefed up in the northern regions and some tourist hotels now have armed guards. "We have revised our security strategy. We have registered all expatriates and established police posts in areas where they work. There are security control posts along the border to reduce illegal entry," said Bob-Iga Emmanuel, the head of police division at the governor's office in the Far North region.
Fighting over four days in South Sudan's capital, Juba, following what the government has termed a "failed coup attempt," has left dozens dead and many more injured, forcing thousands of others to flee their homes, say officials. Close to 20,000 people have sought refuge at the two UN compounds in Juba over the past three days, up from a previous estimate of 10,000, according to Toby Lanzer, the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Resident and Humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan. The fighting erupted on Dec. 15, when soldiers loyal to former vice president Riek Machar allegedly attacked the Al Giada army headquarters on the outskirts of Juba, President Salva Kiir told the nation in an address on Dec. 16.
The bodies of at least 21 people, including women and children, were found after an attack near Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN "peacekeeping" mission MONUSCO said Dec. 16. Local civil organization North Kivu Civil Society blamed the massacre on Ugandan Islamist group ADF-NALU. (AFP, Dec. 17) Days earlier, MONUSCO announced that following the defeat of M23 rebels in North Kivu province, UN and government forces will shift focus to northeastern Orientale, giving armed groups there a two-week ultimatum to surrender their weapons and return to civilian life. Said MONUSCO commander Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz: "We are going to use force. We will do everything we can to allow the FARDC [DRC armed forces] to take on these armed groups." He named ADF-NALU, along with the Congolese People’s Liberation Army (ALPCU) and the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI). (IRIN, Dec. 13) The Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda has operated in the DRC-Uganda borderlands since 1995. (International Crisis Group)
Obama's notorious handshake with Raúl Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial in Johannesburg yesterday is prompting requisite outrage from all the predictable quarters—beginning with Florida's Republican Congressional delegation. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the handshake "nauseating and disheartening," while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, also the offspring of Cuban immigrants, said "the president's friendly demeanor with Raúl Castro is reflective of his policies to the Castro regime and every other terrorist dictatorship." Sen. Marco Rubio said Obama "should have asked [Castro] about those basic freedoms Mandela was associated with that are denied in Cuba." (USA Today)
With the passing of Nelson Mandela today, Barack Obama of course issued the requisite accolades, hailing the departed icon of South African freedom as "one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth... Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him." (USA Today) Obama's words may well be heartfelt, but the notion that the US stood beside Mandela in the long struggle against apartheid is revisionism that must be combatted.