Central Africa

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François Bozizé has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. Bozizé is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for "crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide." Authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant; Bozizé announced his candidacy July 25 before a large crowd of supporters at a congress of his party, Kwa na Kwa (Work, Nothing But Work in the Sango language), in the capital Bangui.

'Crimes against humanity' seen in DRC's Ituri

Ethnically targeted attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's resource-rich Ituri province may be reaching the point of "crimes against humanity," United Nations officials warned May 27. A report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documents a dramatic escalation in hostilities between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including children, mostly by fighters linked to the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group, whose members are predominantly of the Lendu ethnicity.

Virunga rangers killed in guerilla ambush

Twelve rangers were among 17 people killed in an April 24 attack by gunmen within Virunga National Park, the critical highland gorilla preserve on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Park administrators in a statement said rangers came under "a ferociously violent and sustained ambush" as they were coming to the aid of a civilian vehicle being waylaid by armed men near Rumangabo village. "This is a devastating day for Virunga National Park and the surrounding communities," park officials said.

Displacement crisis in eastern DRC —again

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is voicing alarm over the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's eastern Beni Territory, North Kivu  province, where violence has forced more than a hundred thousand civilians from their homes over the past two months. Attacks by armed groups since December on a number of towns and villages in the Watalinga Chiefdom, near the border with Uganda, have displaced residents to the town of Nobili and surrounding areas. Many were displaced previously and had only just returned to their villages in November last year, after fleeing violence in April. They remain in dire need of assistance. Violence in the region have been rising since the launch of a government-led military operation in December against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Civilians, including those displaced in November and December, are among those targeted by armed groups, including the ADF. An estimated 252 civilians are reported to have been killed in Beni Territory since December. Many people told UNHCR staff that they now live in fear, after witnessing killings, sexual violence and abductions at home and during flight. (Reliefweb)

Africa mining confab urged to address human rights

Amnesty International on Feb. 3 urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. African Mining Indaba, a conference centered on promoting the industry on the continent, is set to run this week, but several civil organizations, including Amnesty, are holding their own conference for the eleventh time to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the mining industry in Africa. Amnesty director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said in statement: "From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa's Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively."

Congolese survivors sue US tech companies

Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft on Dec. 15. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions during the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day.

Congo warlord gets life for crimes against humanity

A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) sentenced Frederic Masudi Alimasi to life in prison on Nov. 19 after a two-month trial. Alimasi, also known as Kokodikoko, was head of the Raia Mutomboki, one of the most powerful militia groups operating in the Eastern DRC. He and four others were arrested in April on multiple charges including murder, rape and enslavement committed against the civilian populations of two villages from February to August 2018. Two of the other militiamen were sentenced to 15 and 20 years in prison, respectively, and the remaining two were acquitted because none of the victims mentioned them.

Central African forests burning faster than Amazon

Central Africa's rainforests are currently being consumed by a vast system of forest fires dwarfing even those that are ravaging the Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of hectares have been engulfed by flames over the past weeks—to comparatively little notice in the world media. Bloomberg reported Aug. 23 that Weather Source satellite data recorded 6,902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, and 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo compared to 2,127 in Brazil. French newspaper La Voix du Nord states, "In Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia, thousands of fires consume phenomenal amounts of vegetation." Since the beginning of 2019, it is the DRC that has recorded the most fires, far ahead of Brazil. NASA attributes the fires to "widespread agricultural burning," as farmers employ slash-and-burn methods to clear land for crops.

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