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Africa News in Brief

Africa News In Brief (1/7/14)

By January 7, 2014No Comments



Jan 7 (GIN) – South Sudan may be barely on the radar screen for most Americans but a bitter split in the ruling coalition threatens to make it one of the worst humanitarian disasters in Africa.


Over 1,000 people have been killed and 200,000 displaced in fighting by rival militia with reports of ethnically motivated atrocities by both sides. It is feared South Sudan could become another black mark for American policy on the continent.


“South Sudan is in many ways an American creation,” explained a Washington correspondent for The New York Times this week, “carved out of war-torn Sudan in a referendum largely orchestrated by the United States, its fragile institutions nurtured with billions of dollars in American aid.”


South Sudan was also the starting point for an exodus of some 20,000 young boys and girls of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who fled fighting during the second Sudanese Civil War.


They traveled by foot for years in search of safe refuge, on a journey that carried them over a thousand miles across three countries to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya and in various villages in South Sudan.


Over half died along their epic journey, due to starvation, dehydration, sickness and attacks by wild animals and enemy soldiers.


Approximately 3,800 Lost Boys were allowed to resettle in the U.S. Since independence was declared in 2011, many have been returning to re-start their lives in the new nation.


Andrew Bith Abui, 32, was a graduate with honors from a community college in Nebraska. An American citizen who planned to become a police officer, he could not wait to participate in building the new South Sudan, his teachers said. He recently returned to visit his home in Pariang County in Unity State to reconnect with his family and make arrangements for his marriage.


After the fighting began last month, a relative, Simon Nygok Deng, 32, was waiting in the capital city, Juba, refusing to evacuate without Mr. Abui, when he received a call from a satellite phone. A local official informed him that Mr. Abui had been killed.


“They attacked the village and overran the police,” Mr. Deng said. “They killed anybody just because they belonged to another tribe.”


Meanwhile, Mahmood Mamdani, director of the Makarere Institute of Social Research, faulted the 8-country political leadership in the region, known as IGAD.  “They have made things worse by calling on the two sides of the conflict to negotiate, while brazenly supporting the (President Salva) Kiir faction, where necessary, with troops. Uganda has taken the lead in this.”


“Neither external nor internal conditions for peace are possible,” he warned, “without a change of political perspective in IGAD and the region and a new political leadership in South Sudan.” w/pix of Phillip Madol, a Sudanese “Lost Boy”




Jan. 7 (GIN) – Senegal’s Minister of Fisheries has ordered the detention of a Russian trawler observed illegally catching fish in Senegalese waters. The move immediately won high praise from bloggers on the internet.


“Keep the fish, Charge a BIG FINE. If the Russians don’t pay, KEEP THE BOAT and sell it,” wrote “Bob” on the Yahoo comments page. Michael B wrote: “Good for the Senegal government for taking this action against foreign fishing vessels that are stealing and destroying what isn’t theirs. This illegal fishing needs to be stopped and this is an excellent start.”


Senegal loses about $311 million per year because of illegal fishing by foreign trawlers, according to the US Agency for International Development.


The Oleg Naidenov was boarded by the Senegalese Navy after it was spotted fishing near the border with Guinea Bissau, according to a military spokesman.


“This ship is a repeat offender,” charged Senegal’s Fisheries Minister and ecologist Haidar El Ali. Sixty-two Russians and 20 nationals from neighboring Guinea-Bissau were ordered confined to the ship.


A spokesman for the Russian federal agency for fisheries, Rosrybolovstvo, dismissed the charges  and claimed Russia had not been officially informed about the reason for its detention.


For years, large fishing vessels from Europe and other regions have used mechanized equipment to scoop up the greater part of African fish stocks for the dinner tables of rich countries or for their animal feed.


“There are about 50 such ships operating off our coast, entering [Senegalese territorial waters] fraudulently from time to time. We will not allow this,” Mr Ali said.


The Oleg Naidenov has also been a target of Greenpeace activists who two years ago painted the words “pillage!” and “plunder!” on the side of the ship’s hull after they discovered it fishing illegally — with canvas covering its identifying markings — in Senegalese waters. The Oleg Naidenov is on a blacklist of poaching vessels in West African seas.




Jan. 7 (GIN) – Some 75 officials in the West African nation of Burkina Faso resigned this week in mass to protest efforts by current president Blaise Compaore to give himself an additional five-year term.


According to critics, Compaore is planning to extend his time in office by changing the rule that limits presidents to two five-year terms. Compaore has been in power since 1987 and under the current rule would not be able to run again once his term expires in 2015.


A former parliamentary speaker and an ex-capital city mayor are among 75 officials who announced their departure from the ruling party. In an open letter, the officials said democracy had “disappeared” from President Blaise Compaore’s Congress for Democracy and Progress party.


Compaore came to power in a French-backed coup d’etat in 1987, ousting his former friend and popular leader Thomas Sankara.


Sankara’s revolutionary programs for African self-reliance had made him an icon to many of Africa’s poor but his policies alienated and antagonized the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labor and tribute payments, and France and its ally the Ivory Coast.


A week before his murder, Sankara declared: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”


Today, a tiny upper class has been the only real beneficiary of Compaoré’s rule, finding significant profits from gold mining, cotton production and development assistance.


According to the International Crisis Group in a recent report, “There is real risk of socio-political crisis in Burkina Faso. Since coming to power in 1987, Blaise Compaoré has put in place a semi-authoritarian regime, combining democratization with repression, to ensure political stability – something his predecessors have never achieved. This complex, flawed system revolves around one man who has dominated political life for over two decades and has left little room for a smooth transition. In fact, there are few alternatives for democratic succession.”


“Despite strong economic growth, inequalities are widespread and the country is one of the poorest in the world. Repeated promises of change have never been fulfilled, and this has led to broken relations between the state and its citizens as well as a loss of authority at all levels of the administration,” noted the ICG report.


If Compaore succeeds in extending his term, he would join the list of African Presidents for Life, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), Jose Eduardo Santos of Angola (32 years), and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (32 years). w/pix of B. Campaore




Jan. 7 (GIN) –  Six years after obtaining political asylum in South Africa, former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeye died under mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in Johannesburg.


South African police say the dissident appeared to have been strangled with a rope and a bloodied towel found in the hotel room safe.


Mr. Karegeya was a colonel under his former ally President Paul Kagame but was stripped of the rank after a falling out.


In a similar unexplained killing, Rwanda’s first post-genocide Interior Minister, Seth Sendashonga, was shot dead in Nairobi shortly after resigning in 1996, leading to a diplomatic row between Kenya and Rwanda. The Metropolitan Police has warned two dissidents based in London of threats to kill them. And there were two attempts to kill former army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.


The apparent murder of Patrick Karegeya will make Rwandan dissidents feel even less safe. His death is a blow to the opposition party he founded, the Rwanda National Congress. But it could also be a huge embarrassment for President Kagame.


According to ex-general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, also in South African exile, Mr Karegeya had gone to the upmarket Michelangelo Towers hotel to meet “somebody he knew very well, somebody who had come from Kigali”.


He accused the Rwandan government of being behind the killing. Rwandan officials deny the charge.


Mr Karegeya and Gen. Nyamwasa were among four exiled former top officials for whom Rwanda issued international arrest warrants in 2011. They were sentenced in absentia for threatening state security and promoting ethnic divisions.


Mr. Kagame has been accused of not tolerating opposition. w/pix of P. Karegeya


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