Africa Theater

French troops to Central African Republic

France is escalating its military mission in the Central African Republic, airlifting troops and equipment to the capital Bangui ahead of an anticipated UN-backed intervention. With some 400 French troops stationed in Bangui presently, at least another 1,000 are on their way, said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Paris, echoing the findings of rights groups, says the country has descended into chaos since the Seleka rebel coalition, many of its fighters apparently from neighboring Chad and Sudan, ousted president François Bozize in March 24. (France24, Nov. 29) With the French announcement, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the UN Security Council to "authorize a robust peacekeeping force" for the CAR. "If the Security Council does not act now to stem the horrific cycle of violence in the Central African Republic, that failure will hang heavily on the international community for years to come," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general. (AI, Dec. 12)

Disease, hunger fears after Somalia cyclone

Two weeks after a tropical cyclone struck the northeast coast of Somalia, killing more than 100 people and thousands of head of livestock, important infrastructure lies in ruins and fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases are mounting. The storm struck the autonomous region of Puntland from Nov. 8. "For four days, the cyclone brought heavy rainfall, icy winds, flash floods, and mudslides. Roads, houses, mosques, schools and farms were destroyed. Fishing boats sank. Water sources were damaged," according to Adeso, a humanitarian and development agency.

Congo: Katanga next for mineral boom —and war?

Recent headlines from the Democratic Republic of Congo are exceptionally optimistic, with government gains against the M23 rebels in the country's war-torn east followed by the guerilla army's pledge to lay down arms. (IRIN, Nov. 8) Few media accounts have noted that this development comes immediately after the US announced a suspension of military aid to Rwanda, the M23's patron, over use of child soldiers. The DRC itself was also officially blacklisted, but received a "partial waiver." Rwanda was explicitly held responsible for use of child soldiers by its proxy force in the DRC. (VOA, Oct. 3)

US sea raid on Somali rebel stronghold

Foreign forces launched a night raid on a rebel-held town in Somalia's southern Lower Shabelle region from the sea Oct. 4. "Westerners in boats attacked our base at Barawe beach and one was martyred from our side," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters by telephone. Sources indicated that the target of the raid may have been Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr AKA Ahmed Godane—but he was apparently not killed or captured. It is unclear whether any Shabaab leaders were killed in the operation. Pentagon spokesman George Little told NBC the next day: "I can confirm that yesterday, Oct. 4, US military personnel were involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist. We are not prepared to provide additional detail at this time." (BBC News, NBCGarowe Online, Oct. 5)

NYC Congolese protest Paul Kagame, Elie Wiesel

On the evening of Sept. 29, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel joined Rwandan President Paul Kagame on a panel sponsored by This World: The Jewish Values Network at New York's Cooper Union entitled "Genocide: Do the Strong Have an Obligation to Protect the Weak?"—with the obvious context being the crisis in Syria. But outside a small group of local Congolese protested, holding banners reading "KAGAME IS A CRIMINAL OF MASS MURDER" and "PROTECT THE WEAK FROM KAGAME." Said protester Kambale Musavuli of the group Friends of the Congo: "He should be on the terrorist list and instead he's being invited to speak about genocide. This is really sick."

Arab Revolution hits Sudan

Street clashes continued in the Sudanese capital Khartoum for a second day Sept. 26 after massive protests broke out over the regime's move to cut fuel subsidies. At least 30 have been killed, and protestors have taken up the slogans of the Arab Revolutions, "Freedom, Freedom!" and "The people want the fall of the regime!" The regime has suspended Internet access for 48 hours in a bid to head off new demonstrations that have been called for after Friday prayers. Authorities say that police are among the dead, and that armed militants from the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) are infiltrating and inciting the protests. Opposition figures, in turn, accuse agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of being behind arson attacks on government buildings and public buses. (Sudan Tribune, Sept. 26; BBC News, Sept. 25)

Charles Taylor's 50-year sentence upheld on appeal

The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Sept. 26 rejected an appeal by former Liberian president Charles Taylor of his convictions for war crimes committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. According to a press release from the court, Taylor's lawyers appealed his convictions on 42 grounds, arguing that the Trial Chamber erred in evaluating evidence and that the 50-year sentence was "manifestly unreasonable." The court ruled that his guilt had been proved beyond doubt and upheld Taylor's 50-year sentence. The sentence came after Trial Chamber II convicted (PDF) Taylor of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage.

AI: demand Sudan president surrender to ICC

On Sept. 20, Amnesty International (AI) called upon members of the UN to demand Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir turn himself in to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he faces charges for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed during the Darfur conflict. Al-Bashir has continually ignored the charges against him and is still being protected by the Sudanese government. AI is calling for the international community to come together in cooperation with the ICC in order to bring al-Bashir to justice. Despite the warrants for his arrest, al-Bashir has reportedly applied for a US visa in order to attend the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.