Africa Briefs: July 24 edition

| July 23, 2013

Courtesy of Global Information Network

Genocide Court losing grip on Africa

(GIN)—Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir’s recent trip to Nigeria made one thing perfectly clear. He would enjoy his trip in comfort, unperturbed by an arrest warrant by a Europe-based court that some believe targets Africans but overlooks equally atrocious crimes by the west.

In Abuja for a two-day summit of the African Union on the subject of HIV/AIDS, al Bashir dined with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, African Union chair, and posed for a photo op with Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigeria earlier rebuffed a request by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to surrender al Bashir. It cited the African Union’s position of noncooperation with the ICC for the decision.

The AU “broke” with ICC after the tribunal, headquartered in the Netherlands, “undermined ongoing efforts aimed at facilitating the early resolution of the conflict in Darfur.”

Further, noted the AU, the U.N. Security Council equally ignored African Union requests to defer action against al Bashir while “delicate peace processes” were underway.

The ICC, since 2002, tries individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It has publicly indicted 30 people—all African—of which proceedings against 23 are ongoing. The list includes Laurent Gbagbo, former president of the Ivory Coast and his wife; Joseph Kony; Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, and William Ruto, deputy president.

Meanwhile the ICC case against Kenyan president Kenyatta has been postponed until November.

“In part, this reflects the complexity of the case,” said a British academic observer. “The prosecution has perhaps taken longer to submit all the evidence they need to submit. And of course the defense needs to have time to go through that and figure out what the defense will be.”

Kenyatta was charged in January 2012 with crimes against humanity, including rape and murder, at the time of the disputed 2007 presidential election in which more than 1,100 people died.

Kenyatta, elected Kenya’s president in March 2013, denies the charges.

There is a perception in the region that the ICC is targeting Africans and trying to undermine Kenya’s democracy, said Adjoa Anyimadu of the British think tank Chatham House. “That view has actually had quite a lot of support within Kenya,” said Anyimadu.


Anonymous whistleblower has Zimbabwe glued to social media

(GIN)—Using social media, a whistleblower has been igniting a firestorm in Zimbabwe with seemingly accurate allegations of ruling party corruption as the country prepares for national polls.

In recent postings on Facebook, “Baba Jukwa” as he calls himself, appears to be the Wikileaks of Zimbabwe. His Facebook page, about four months old, has almost 250,000 followers and receives hundreds of responses to new posts.

A self-described “concerned father fighting nepotism,” Baba Jukwa offers details of government assassination plots, corruption of government ministers and police brutality.

President Mugabe has reportedly offered a $300,000 reward for anyone willing to out the whistleblower.

In a recent post, Baba Jukwa urged citizens to monitor the vote counting. “If we wait for (July) 31 (national voting day),” he wrote, “ZEC (the electoral commission) will tamper with these results… I can tell you cops not to fear anything let’s get rid of evil people together, they can’t kill all of you remember you are 38,000…”

Long lines and the late delivery of ballot papers marked the two-day early vote, which started on July 14, for police officers and soldiers who will be on duty on July 31 when the rest of the country votes.

Opposition party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Is seeking to end a power-sharing arrangement with Robert Mugabe which was set up in 2009 following a disputed election. Mugabe, 89 years of age, is running for a sixth term as president and few would bet against him. He’s been Zimbabwe’s only president since the country became independent in 1980.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, released a report July 12 accusing Zimbabwean police of clamping down on basic freedoms in the election run-up.

The report, “Walk the Talk,” alleges that Zimbabwean police are conducting systematic raids on offices, arresting human rights defenders and seizing equipment to intimidate and disrupt the work of organizations carrying out voter education and other election-related work.

Zimbabwean authorities have dismissed the report as lacking tangible and verifiable facts.

Although economic hardships blamed on foreign nation sanctions are repeatedly referenced by the president, the U.S. Embassy there dismisses the claim. Only 120 Zimbabweans, several companies and privately held farms fall under U.S. sanctions, according to the Embassy website. Trade between the U.S. and Zimbabwe however continues to grow, and U.S. foreign aid since 2001 amounts to more than $1 billion. Loans blocked by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are due to the country’s failure to service its debts.


The articles above originally appeared in the July 24 print edition.

Rights activists mourn torture killing in Cameron by ‘anti-gay thugs’

(GIN)—Friends discovered the body of prominent gay rights activist Eric Ohena Lembembe at his home in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, last week after he was unreachable for two days, according to a release by the group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The executive director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS), Lembembe was an outspoken activist and journalist who defended the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

Lembembe’s neck and feet were said to be broken and his face, hands and feet had been burned with an iron.

Lembembe contributed to the blog “Erasing 76 Crimes,” which spotlights countries where homosexuality is illegal, and wrote several chapters in a book released in February on the global gay rights movement titled “From Wrongs to Gay Rights.”

Homosexuality is punishable by prison terms of up to five years in Cameroon, and the country prosecutes more people for gay sex than any other in sub-Saharan Africa, according to HRW.

“It is a big loss for our community, and we are a bit scared about what can happen to us,” said Yves Yomb, executive director of Alternatives-Cameroon, a gay rights group that provides HIV services. “He was one of the leaders of this community. So what can happen to the other leaders?”

In other suspected homophobic attacks, the headquarters of Alternatives-Cameroun was burned down on June 26; the Yaounde office of human rights lawyer Michel Togue, who represents clients charged with same-sex conduct, was burgled and his legal files and laptop stolen; and Mr Togue and Alice Nkom, another lawyer who represents gay and lesbian people, have received repeated death threats by email and SMS, including threats to kill their children.

“There is no doubt: anti-gay thugs are targeting those who support equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Lembembe said on July 1. “Unfortunately, a climate of hatred and bigotry in Cameroon, which extends to high levels in government, reassures homophobes that they can get away with these crimes.”

“We don’t know who killed Eric Lembembe or why he was killed,” said HRW researcher Neela Ghoshal. “But, President Biya should break his silence on the wave of homophobic violence in Cameroon and publicly condemn this brutal attack.”


Africa Union commits to finding peaceful solution for Egypt

(GIN)—Backing down from its heavy-handed punishment of Egypt after a military shake-up of government, the African Union is offering an olive branch. They’re sending a high-level panel of African leaders to seek a solution to that country’s political and sectarian crisis.

While most countries expressed concern, and hope for a rapid return to democracy, few countries took punitive action when President Mohamed Morsi was removed and a caretaker government installed. The action was initially backed by millions of Egyptians who rallied in the historic Tahrir Square.

The AU panel includes Alpha Oumar Konare, former President of Mali and former chair of the AU Commission; Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former president of Botswana and Dileita Mohamed Dileita, former Prime Minister of Djibouti. The panel will be assisted by a group of experts.

Egypt becomes the fourth country in the past four years, after Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Mali (which has since been reinstated) to be suspended from the organization.

The suspension includes all branches of the AU, reducing Egypt’s influence over internal African affairs, at a time when the North African giant had been attempting to regain influence in the continent.

The Egyptian foreign ministry, in response, expressed “deep regret” in a statement posted on its official Facebook page.

At least one sub-Saharan African differed with the AU over its suspension order. In a commentary in Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper, an acerbic retired career diplomat Harold E. Acemah wrote: “I hardly need to remind the chairperson of the AU, Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, that power belongs to the people and it is the Egyptians themselves who decided to take back the power which they had, by mistake, entrusted to a novice who, within one year in office, had the audacity to arrogantly declare himself the new pharaoh of Egypt.”

Acemah disputed the moral authority of the AU to suspend Egypt from the union “when many of the current African leaders came to power illegally and unconstitutionally through rigged elections, intimidation, fraud and bribery.” He cited Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia and Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea as examples.

The columnist concluded with a call to the AU to immediately reverse its suspension of the embattled north African nation.


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GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK distributes news and feature articles on Africa and the developing world to mainstream, alternative, ethnic and minority-owned outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.

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