Africa Theater

Nigeria: demand war crimes investigation

Access to Justice (A2Justice) and eight other civil rights groups brought an action against Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan before the Federal High Court in Abuja Dec. 1 with the goal of forcing an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by members of the Nigerian military and the state-sponsored militias, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). The rights groups have sought permission from the court to file a mandamus action under Order 34 Rule 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009 (PDF). If granted, the order would require the Nigerian government to investigate allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by CJTF in northeastern Nigeria. The push for an investigation was sparked by a report from Amnesty International accusing the Nigerian military and the CJTF of war crimes during the ongoing campaign against Boko Haram.

ICC upholds Lubanga conviction

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Dec. 1 upheld the conviction and sentence of former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. Lubanga was convicted in March 2012 for the war crimes of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities. He received a 14-year prison sentence from the ICC. Lubanga's lawyers were seeking to have the conviction and the sentence replaced with an acquittal. Lubanga has spent the past eight years in prison, all of which count towards the 14-year total. He will serve out the remainder of the sentence in one of the ICC's 122 member states and will be eligible for early release next year.

North Nigeria: 400,000 displaced in 'urgent need'

More than 400,000 people in northeastern Nigeria, who have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing violence by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, are in "urgent need" of assistance, humanitarian agencies say. This number is likely to increase as attacks against civilians escalate. "There's a major crisis going on in the northeast, and it's not being recognized for the crisis it is," said Sarah Ndikumana, country director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Nigeria. "Since late August, the insurgency movement has been aggressively and progressively taking Adamawa State over and establishing their presence, and what this means is that hundreds of thousands have fled." This has left "countless" people without access to food, water, shelter, medical care and other basic necessities.

Burkina Faso: regime to identify Sankara remains

Three weeks after an uprising in Burkina Faso sent long-ruling president Blaise Campaore fleeing into exile, hopes for a civilian-led transition to free elections were dimmed this week as the military held on to powerful posts in a new cabinet. Lt. Col. Isaac Zida will be both prime minister and defense minister. Four other ministries, Interior, Sports, Environment, and Mines, will also be headed by military men. Civilian interim President Michel Kafando will also serve as foreign minister. In a bid for popular support, the interim regime has announced new efforts to verify the burial place of slain revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara. Speaking in Burkina Faso's national sports arena during the formal handing over of power to Kafando, the new civilian leader said to loud applause: "I.. decided that investigations to identify the body of Thomas Sankara will no longer be subject to a decision of the courts but will be the responsibility of the government."

Vigilantes fight Boko Haram with bows and arrows

Two teenage female suicide bombers blew themselves up in a busy market in Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri, Borno state, on Nov. 25, killing at least 30 people. Deutsche Welle reports from neighboring Adamawa state (see map) that traditional hunters in rural areas, armed only with bows and arrows, are organizing patrols to protect their villages against Boko Haram. While one vigilante told DW, "our prayers protect us against their weapons," the report was not clear if the force is made up of Muslims, Christians or both. Said Hilary Matfess, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: "What's interesting about the rise of these vigilante groups is the fact that they typically don't fall along sectarian lines. It's an almost spontaneous response by local communities to the failure of the police and military to maintain order." (DWCSM, Nov. 25)  

UN renews resolution to fight piracy off Somalia

The UN Security Council on Nov. 12 unanimously adopted a resolution renewing its international call to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Working under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, resolution 2184 (2014) calls on all able states to provide military forces to repress piracy in the region. The Security Council also continued an exemption on a 1992 arms embargo imposed on Somalia and encouraged states to adopt legal framework to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates. Such efforts, both inland and off the coast of Africa, have slowed the frequency of pirate attacks in the area since 2012.

Nigeria: court rules for #BringBackOurGirls

A Nigerian federal court on Oct. 30 ruled in favor of the Bring Back Our Girls group, saying that the police had no right to block protests in Nigeria. Earlier this year, the Bring Back Our Girls activists began daily sit-ins at the Unity Fountain in the capital city Abuja to press their demands for the release of the 219 school girls that were abducted by insurgents in Chibok. Soon after, former Federal Capital Territory (FTC) Police Commissioner Joseph Mbu banned the group from holding further protests. In the new ruling, Justice Ebenezer Aladetoyinbo declared the law does not authorize the police to disrupt rallies or processions about the abducted girls. The judgment is applauded as a victory for the group. It is unclear whether the police will appeal, but the lawyer for the police said that the judgment would be studied.

HRW: Boko Haram abductions and abuses continue

Militant group Boko Haram has forced kidnapped women and girls to marry their captors and begun using them for military tactical purposes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Oct. 27. HRW interviewed 30 individuals who were abducted by the group between April 2013 and April 2014 and later managed to escape, and 16 others who saw the abductions. Among those interviewed were 12 girls who were among the approximately 300 abducted from a school in Chibok in April. According to the advocacy group, more than 500 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2009, about 30 of whom were taken just last week. The group, taken from Borno state, included girls as young as 11. At least 40 women and girls were taken in Adamawa a week prior, despite government claims of a ceasefire deal. Once at the camps, the kidnapped girls are reportedly forced to perform household chores and are often exposed to rape, forced marriage and violence. One woman recounted that she was threatened with death until she converted to Islam. HRW criticized authorities for not doing enough to prevent the kidnappings, for not working to bring the perpetrators to justice, and for not providing survivors with adequate support and medical care.