Africa Theater

Uganda rebel commander to be transferred to ICC

After days of discussions, the Ugandan military decided on Jan. 13 to send Dominic Ongwen, a rebel leader with the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), to trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC has sought to try Ongwen, who is thought to be the second-in-command to Joseph Kony, since 2005 when an initial warrant of arrest was issued. He is accused of enslavement and directing attacks against civilian populations, among other charges, for his actions in the early 2000's in which thousands were killed and children abducted to be used as soldiers or sold as sex slaves.

Boko Haram massacres 2,000: Amnesty

Up to 2,000 are feared dead in an ongoing massacre after Boko Haram seized Baga, a town on Nigeria's border with Chad in Borno state. Amnesty International cited witness claims that the town was "razed to the ground." Hundreds of bodies remain strewn in the bush, where fighting has continued since the town's military base was overrun by the militants on Jan. 3. Said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International: "The attack on Baga and surrounding towns, looks as if it could be Boko Haram’s deadliest act in a catalogue of increasingly heinous attacks carried out by the group. [T]his marks a disturbing and bloody escalation of Boko Haram’s ongoing onslaught against the civilian population." Meanwhile in Potiskum, Yobe state, at least six people are dead after two suspected child suicide bombers blew themselves up in a market Jan. 11. 

Shell agrees to settlement in Niger Delta oil spills

Royal Dutch Shell on Jan. 7 reached a settlement in a lawsuit concerning the Niger Delta oil spills of 2008. The settlement, totaling $84 million, will be divided between 15,600 individuals who will receive $3,300 each as compensation for losses caused by the spills. The remaining $30 million will be disbursed throughout the community, which also suffered significant damage from the spills. Rights group Amnesty International noted that this settlement is "an important victory for the victims of corporate negligence," but expressed disappointment that it took six years for the victims to be compensated. They argue that Shell knew that the oil spills [which took place near Bodo in October and December 2008] were a distinct possibility since 2002 and took no "effective" action to prevent them from occurring. However, the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Mutiu Sunmonu, contends that they have taken responsibility for the spills from the beginning, and that the spills were due to operational pipe failure. AI also accused Shell of making false claims about the impact of the oil spills in documents presented to a UK court in November. They state that Shell claimed that only 4,000 barrels of oil spilled for both spills but AI believes the number is closer to 100,000 barrels for the first spill alone.

UN issues report on CAR war crimes

The UN published a report (PDF) Jan. 8 finding that acts committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not genocide. The report summarized the investigation of the situation in the CAR, which began in December 2013. The purpose of the investigation was to identify and hold accountable perpetrators of violations against humanitarian law. The report states that holding perpetrators accountable will help bring an end to impunity in the CAR, which contributed to the cycle of violence in the country. The report identifies the responsible actors as members of the CAR Armed Forces under President Francois Bozizé and the principal militia groups Séléka and anti-Balaka. While the report concludes that the crimes committed do not meet the threshold required to be considered genocide, it holds the principal actors responsible for serious humanitarian offenses including rape and the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population.

Kenya approves harsh anti-terrorism law

Kenya's parliament on Dec. 18 passed a sweeping new anti-terrorism law after some of its members engaged in a shoving match that led to blows being exchanged. Those opposed to the law, citing violations of free speech and other civil liberties, shouted, threw water, and even threw books at the Speaker in protest of the bill. The law allows security services to detain suspected criminals without charging them for up to 360 days, allows media members to be persecuted for publishing material that is likely to cause fear or alarm, and enables a domestic spy force to carry out secret operations. President Uhuru Kenyatta has backed the bill due to increased pressure to improve security in the country after a 2013 terrorist attack by Somali al-Shabaab rebels that killed 67 people.

Police 'anti-crime' extermination campaign in DRC

The decades-long civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo shows signs of winding down, but is apparently leaving in its wake a good old "anti-crime" police state that sees impoverished youth as a threat and seeks to exterminate them. Human Rights Watch reported last month that police in the DRC summarily killed at least 51 youth and "forcibly disappeared" 33 others during an anti-crime campaign that began a year ago. "Operation Likofi," which lasted from November 2013 to February 2014, was officially a crackdown on criminal gangs in Congo's capital, Kinshasa. HRW's report, "Operation Likofi: Police Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Kinshasa," details how uniformed police, often wearing masks, dragged suspected gang members—known as kuluna—from their homes at night and executed them. Police shot and killed the unarmed young men and boys outside their homes, in open markets where they slept or worked, or in nearby fields or empty lots. Many others were taken without warrants to unknown locations, never to be seen again.

More ICC trials for Ivory Coast political figures

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Dec. 11 confirmed four charges of crimes against humanity against Charles Blé Goudé, and committed the ally of former President Laurent Gbagbo to trial at The Hague. Blé Goudé is accused of working with Gbagbo to orchestrate a wave of post-election violence between December 2010 and April 2011. Both Goude and Gbagbo are in ICC custody, and the prosecutor's office will seek to join Gbagbo's trial with Goudé's. The charges were a result of a five-month post-election crisis in which Gbagbo refused to step down after internationally recognized results of the November 2010 election proclaimed the current president, Alassane Ouattara, the winner. At least 3,000 people were killed and 150 women raped during the crisis. Much of the violence was carried out along ethnic, political and religious lines. Goude is allegedly responsible for murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence and other inhuman acts.

ICC halts Darfur probe; Bashir threatens rebels

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Dec. 12 that she has suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur, citing the UN Security Council's inaction in the case. "I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda told the Security Council, rebuking the UN body for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Presenting her 20th report to the Council on Darfur, Bensouda stated that without action, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked. "What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects," Bensouda told the Council, or there would be "little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future." She also emphasized that the conflict is not over, saying that "massive new displacements" have taken place this year in Darfur.

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