Africa News In Brief: Feb. 26 Edition

| February 20, 2014


nigeria police 1[3]U.S. holds confab in Nigerian capital while attacks escalate in north

(GIN)—As Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Bureau of African Affairs, makes her third trip to Nigeria since assuming her post in August, a bloodbath is occurring in northern Nigeria where a state of emergency was imposed almost nine months ago.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield is leading the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission meeting Feb. 17 to Feb. 18 in Abuja.

In northern Borno State, meanwhile, suspected Islamist fighters launched an early morning attack on Sunday, Feb. 16, setting off explosions and burning down dozens of homes. In Izghe village, the gunmen reportedly rounded up a group of men and shot them, before going door-to-door and killing anyone they found. The death toll at 90 is mounting.

“As I am talking to you now, all the dead bodies of the victims are still lying in the streets,” a resident, Abubakar Usman, told the Reuters news agency by phone. “We fled without burying them, fearing the terrorists were still lurking in the bushes.”

Police commissioner of Borno State, Lawal Tanko, confirmed the attack but said he had no details of the casualties.

Efforts by President Goodluck Jonathan to crush the insurgents have had little effect. In fact, according to observers, by increasing troop levels Jonathan increased the level of violence. Some of the current crisis, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, permanent representative to the U.N., suggested a possible link to security forces themselves.

Power, speaking to civil society groups in Abuja last December, said: “The U.S. is concerned by some of the stories we hear of inhumane detention practices in Nigeria… I have discussed those with officials here. Security crackdowns that do not discriminate between legitimate targets and innocent civilians are both counterproductive and wrong.

“We know how hard it is to fight insurgency and terrorism, but we have also seen how much more effective we are when we put the welfare of the local population at the heart of our efforts.”

According to the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the N.Y.-based Council on Foreign Affairs Africa project, the number of victims from President Jonathan’s inauguration in May 2011 to January 2014 had reached 6,866.

In addition to the much-publicized Boko Haram insurgents who want to carve a breakaway Islamic state in Northern Nigeria, others resorting to violence include ethnic rivals, farmers, herdsmen, a new generation of Niger Delta militants, and government soldiers who kill civilians indiscriminately, according to the Tracker. Police are also notorious for extrajudicial murder.


somali truck 1[1]Somalia runs weapons bazaar for clan leaders, warlords

(GIN)—Rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition purchased by Somali authorities are being secretly supplied to clan leaders and warlords including the al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab militant group in violation of a U.N. accord, a confidential U.N. report obtained by the Reuters news agency alleged.

Reports of the unofficial arms bazaar operating out of Somali warehouses confirms the worst fears of U.N. Security Council members, a minority of whom opposed lifting the arms embargo on Somalia, fearing it would permit the arming of militants in a country “already awash with weapons,” diplomats said.

“The progress achieved (in Somalia) does not justify so far the lifting of the arms embargo,” Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala had argued at the time. Also opposed was Amnesty International, which called the idea premature and warned that it could “expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Even the clan of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appeared to be a beneficiary of the arms sales, the investigation found.

But, the Somali government in Mogadishu, with the support of the U.S., prevailed and a British-drafted resolution that also renewed a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force for a year was passed unanimously.

The discovery last week of heavy weapons trading presents a security dilemma for the Africa Union’s peacekeeping force made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia. Battling al Shabab militants on several fronts, they now face weapons being used against them that were purchased by the government they are there to defend.

In the new report, the monitors describe difficulties they had in getting access to weapons and information about its growing arsenal. The government reportedly cancelled several inspections of armories that the monitors and UN officials had planned to undertake.

Further, parts of shipments of weapons from Uganda and Djibouti, including assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition, “could not be accounted for.” The report also mentioned discrepancies in accounts of what had happened to arms sent from Ethiopia.

“Given the gaps in information… it is impossible to quantify what the scale of diversion of weapons stocks has been,” the report said. “However, the Monitoring Group has obtained other pieces of qualitative evidence that point towards systematic abuses by the (Somali army).”

The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords, who a year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the country into civil war.

The Somali mission to the United Nations on Thursday questioned the validity of the experts’ sources.

Rejecting the report, Somalia Military Chief Gen. Dahir Aden Elmi Indhaqrshe, responded: “ The UN Monitoring Group wants Al Shabab to be an endless project in order to gain funds from the world while they are struggling hard to make Somalia government weak and nonfunctional.”


Reunion-children-1[1]‘Stolen children’ seek justice from France over forced migration

(GIN)—This week the French national assembly will address the country’s role in the “forced migration” of children from the island of Reunion from the 1960s to the 1980s. The policy was designed to provide French farmers with cheap workers, servants and maids.

From 1963 to 1982 a total of 1,615 children were forcibly removed from the island just west of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa. The motion to be debated does not provide for compensation, but denounces the “forced migration” of the children from Réunion Island and describes their fate as “irreparable”.

“They took babies who were only six months old,” said Ericka Bareigts, one of the territory’s deputies who is behind the initiative. Poor and illiterate families were informed that their children would be sent to France, “and of course they imagined Paris and the Eiffel tower,” she said. “They were promised a home, schooling, and told they would succeed. The families were told the children would return for the holidays. But it was all a lie.”

Jean-Jacques Martial said he was six years old when he arrived at Orly airport in Paris one November morning wearing flip-flops and shorts. He had been removed from his grandmother’s care. Martial, now 55, was raised by an elderly farmer and his wife, the Guardian newspaper reported. He wrote of his experience in a memoir, Une Enfance Volée (Stolen Childhood).

His effort to sue the government in 2002 for “kidnapping and sequestration of minors, roundup and deportation,” brought the scandal to light although the suit failed for exceeding the statute of limitations.

Reunion continues to be an “overseas department” of France with a population of 840,000 citizens of African, Chinese, Malay and Indian descent. The name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseille with the National Guard in Paris, which took place Aug. 10, 1792.


MbuleloMzamane[1]South African literary giant, Pan-Africanist makes transition

(GIN)—Friends of scholar and activist Mbuelelo Mzamane, first post-apartheid Vice Chancellor and Rector at the University of Fort Hare, teacher of literature and African studies at universities in Southern Africa, West Africa, Europe, U.S., and Australia, are recalling the accomplishments of their colleague who passed suddenly at the early age of 66.

Mzamane was scheduled to chair a panel discussion at a conference next month on policies and practices relating to indigenous languages in education in the 20 years since democracy. The conference, organized by the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa, will take place March 13 through March 15 in the Birchwood Conference Center in East Rand.

A widely published author and editor, his works include Bernard Magubane: My Life and Times (2010) and Words Gone Two Soon: A Tribute to Phaswane Mpe and K. Sello Duiker (2006) among others. He was Project Leader and General Editor of an initiative under the auspices of the National Department of Arts and Culture to produce an Encyclopedia of South African Arts, Culture, and Heritage.

Since leaving the University of Fort Hare, Mzamane was a vocal contributor to international debates on issues confronting African populations on the continent and in the diasporas of the Americas . Mzamane chaired and served on numerous boards, including: the African Arts Fund (affiliated to the U.N. Centre against Apartheid) and the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand ).

Mzamane was the director of the Centre for African Literary Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela called him a “visionary leader, [and] one of South Africa’s greatest intellectuals.” Schooled in Swaziland, Mzamane went on to obtain a Masters in English from the University of Botwana and Doctorate in English Literature from the University of Sheffield (England).

Mzamane’s academic work was focused on issues confronting the populations of Africa in the post-colonial era.

Kassahun Checole, publisher of the NJ-based Africa World Press and Red Sea Press described Mzamane as a continental Pan Africanist, a staunch anti-Apartheid fighter and robust intellectual, in the front lines for the advancement of African literatures.

“With his passing, the struggle for the advancement of African literatures in the global arena has suffered a major blow. He leaves a very solid, strong fellowship and exemplary role, and is represented by his children, many grandchildren, his wide range family of friends, comrades and fellow writers and activists.”

“May the ancestors receive you well, my friend,” declared publisher Checole. “You will be sorely missed.“

Category: Africa Briefs

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