Three weeks after an uprising in Burkina Faso sent long-ruling president Blaise Campaore fleeing into exile, hopes for a civilian-led transition to free elections were dimmed this week as the military held on to powerful posts in a new cabinet. Lt. Col. Isaac Zida will be both prime minister and defense minister. Four other ministries, Interior, Sports, Environment, and Mines, will also be headed by military men. Civilian interim President Michel Kafando will also serve as foreign minister. In a bid for popular support, the interim regime has announced new efforts to verify the burial place of slain revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara. Speaking in Burkina Faso's national sports arena during the formal handing over of power to Kafando, the new civilian leader said to loud applause: "I.. decided that investigations to identify the body of Thomas Sankara will no longer be subject to a decision of the courts but will be the responsibility of the government."
Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)
The UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) on Sept. 26 rejected an appeal by former Liberian president Charles Taylor of his convictions for war crimes committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone. According to a press release from the court, Taylor's lawyers appealed his convictions on 42 grounds, arguing that the Trial Chamber erred in evaluating evidence and that the 50-year sentence was "manifestly unreasonable." The court ruled that his guilt had been proved beyond doubt and upheld Taylor's 50-year sentence. The sentence came after Trial Chamber II convicted (PDF) Taylor of planning as well as aiding and abetting crimes committed by rebel forces in exchange for diamonds during the civil war, including acts of terrorism, murder, rape, sexual slavery, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces, enslavement and pillage.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines on July 23 issued a "temporary environment protection order" against 94 "small-scale mines" that extract nickel in Zambales, Central Luzon region. Activists who brought the petition claim that among the "small" mines are at least five fronts for giant nickel miners from China. The mines are operating under small-scale mining permits (SSMPs) that can be granted by provincial authorities in special minahang bayan, or People's Mining Areas, under a new policy instated by the Benigno Aquino administration. But local peasants charge that the mines are operating outside the designated areas, and go essentially unregulated, causing grave pollution to local waters. The Chinese parent companies, said to really be a single coordinated venture, are identified as Jiangxi Rare Earth & Metals Tungsten Group, Wei-Wei Group, and Nihao Mineral Resources Inc. They set up the five "small mines" through Filipino dummy companies, bribing officials to look the other way. The SSMP policy, enacted by executive order last year, has sparked a new mineral rush in the Philippines. (Philippine Star, July 24; Inquirer Mindanao, July 15, 2012)
Senegalese police on June 30 detained former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre. Habre has been under house arrest in Senegal since 2005. Senegal and the African Union signed an agreement in December to set up the Extraordinary African Chambers to try Habre for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture during his time in power between 1982 and 1990, in which rights groups report that some 40,000 people were killed. Habre's lawyer said that Habre was taken from his home in Dakar to an unknown location in preparation for his trial.
The US Department of Justice on April 15 accused Guinea-Bissau's top military official, Gen. Antonio Indjai, of plotting a cocaine-for-weapons deal with Colombia's FARC rebels, according to court documents seen by Reuters. The indictment, filed in district court in Manhattan, charges Indjai on four counts: "narco-terrorism conspiracy"; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; cocaine importation conspiracy; and conspiracy to acquire and transfer anti-aircraft missiles. The supposed deal came to light after Guinea-Bissau's former navy chief and six henchmen were arrested on the high seas by US forces.
Britain's The Telegraph on Feb. 13 reports on a document reportedly found by their reporter in the ruins of a Gendarmerie Nationale barracks outside Timbuktu that had been used by the jihadists and then destroyed in a French air-strike. The document, purportedly the notes from a March 18, 2012 leadership meeting of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), chaired by AQIM "prince" Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud, is said to lay bare AQIM's plan to consolidate control of northern Mali, stating: "We had to think of the necessity to draw a plan to command and control the jihad activities there at this critical moment and target all efforts to achieve the required goals." The supposed document is portrayed as especially expressing concerns over Ansar Dine, the faction that controlled Timbuktu, as too independent.
Senegal's newly-created Extraordinary African Chambers officially opened on Feb. 8 to prepare for the prosecution of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre (BBC backgrounder). Senegal's national assembly adopted a law in December allowing for the creation of the special tribunal with the support of the African Union (AU) and financial assistance from the European Union and the US. The Extraordinary African Chambers will operate within the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar and will have sections to handle investigations, trials and appeals. Habre is accused of administering thousands of political killings during his eight-year rule from 1982 to 1990. Seven victims filed a criminal complaint against him in January 2000, and a Senegalese court indicted him. However, the case was dismissed on appeal for a lack of jurisdiction. Habre's trial will not begin until the prosecution completes its investigation, which will open next week and is expected to last 15 months.