Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Posted by George Fominyen, AlertNet‘s humanitarian affairs correspondent for West and Central Africa, based in Dakar. He is also West Africa coordinator for Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Emergency Information Service.
The abduction of two Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers in Chad this month after a robbery at their compound near Sudan’s Darfur region has again brought to the fore the question of attacks on aid workers.
Aid workers in Chad told me assaults on compounds and car-jacking on the roads happen every week and that armed bandits are their biggest worry. But Chad is not unique. There have been at least 16 reported attacks on humanitarian workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and June this year, according to statistics from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Fifteen of these attacks involved guns and in one case the attackers took hostages.
Nine out ten of malaria deaths occur in Africa – that’s nearly 1 million fatalities a year. The World Health Organisation estimates the financial loss to Africa because of malaria at 12 billion dollars a year.******And yet it’s an illness that’s preventable: the cheapest and easiest method is to stay under a mosquito net during the night.******In South Sudan, a mosquito net costs around $2, still too expensive for many here, where income per capita is just 25 cents per day. So the government and private charities have launched a campaign to distribute 75 million dollars’ worth of nets to 6 million people in the south before the rains start in July. With only 14 km of paved roads in the entire region, it won’t be easy.****** (more…)
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has orchestrated a defiant response to international efforts to arrest him for war crimes in Darfur but this is seen as hiding vulnerabilities that could signal trouble ahead.
Bashir has been travelling in the region in defiance of the arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. His travels demonstrate the court’s inability to arrest him and have won support from Arab countries and at home. He has also closed down aid groups accused of helping the court and addressed a string of nationalistic rallies.
For all their prowess at the last two continental championships, and their glittering array of successes at club level, Egyptian soccer is becoming increasingly haunted by the spectre of continued failure to make it to biggest footballing showpiece of them all.
Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has seen off other challenges in almost 20 years in power and there is no sign that he is going to give in to the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Some supporters of the court’s move hope it will eventually persuade Sudan’s politicians to hand over their leader in a palace coup, end the festering conflict in Darfur and do more to repair relations with the West.
A multinational offensive aimed at wiping out Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels – and planned and equipped with U.S. support during the dying days of the Bush administration - has scattered fighters who have unleashed a wave of massacres on Congolese villages.
LRA fighters have killed nearly 900 people in reprisal attacks in northeast Congo since Ugandan troops, together with Sudanese and Congolese soldiers, launched a military operation in December against fugitive rebel leader Joseph Kony, whose two-decade insurgency has killed tens of thousands of people and uprooted 2 million. (See Alertnet briefing for more)
Reuters reported on the U.S. involvement in December. The New York Times said recently that the Pentagon’s new Africa Command (Africom) had contributed intelligence, advice and $1 million in fuel. The Washington Post argues the operation has been so unsuccessful it amounts to little more than “throwing a rock at a hive of bees”.
Foreign Policy magazine said that the LRA, who failed to sign a planned peace deal in April, would be hard to stamp out and that the operation was putting the Pentagon’s reputation at risk.
There are sceptical voices in the blogosphere too.
“One of the first publicly acknowledged Africom operations has turned into a general debacle, resulting in the death of nearly a thousand civilians and sending untold numbers of children into sex slavery and military servitude,” Dave Donelson says on his Heart of Diamonds blog.
Writing in Uganda’s Monitor, Grace Matsiko said the offensive was proving a real test for officers of Uganda’s army (UPDF).
“Uganda should brace itself for a protracted war, should Kony and his top lieutenants continue to evade the UPDF dragnet,” the journalist wrote.
Meanwhile, aid agency MSF has accused the United Nations force in Congo, the world’s biggest, of failing to protect civilians from Ugandan rebel attacks – accusations the world body has rejected as totally unfounded. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also accused U.N. peacekeepers of inactivity and of living alongside the LRA for three years and doing nothing about the guerrillas.
While expressing his horror at the what he called ‘catastrophic’ consequences for civilians from the offensive, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes has said the joint force still needs to see the operation through.
Should the offensive continue or is it time to halt it? If so, what should be done about the rebels? How big an impact should the conduct of this operation have for the U.S. Africa Command’s future role?
Look down the list of the cases the International Criminal Court is pursuing – Congo, Central African Republic, Darfur, Uganda – and it doesn’t take long to spot the connection.
Of the dozen arrest warrants the court has issued, all have been against African rebels or officials. On Monday, the court begins its first trial - of Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers to wage a gruesome ethnic war in northeastern Congo. Earlier this month, former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba was in court for a decision on whether to confirm charges of ordering mass rape to terrorise civilians in the Central African Republic.
The announcement by a U.S. investor that he has a deal to lease a swathe of South Sudan for farmland has again focused attention on foreigners trying to snap up African agricultural land.
A few months ago, South Korea’s Daweoo Logistics said it had secured rights to plant corn and palm oil in an even bigger patch of Madagascar – although local authorities said the deal was not done yet. Investors from Asia and the Gulf are looking elsewhere in Africa too.