South Sudan's rival leaders have finally agreed to form a transitional government of national unity, officially putting an end to more than six years of war that has left millions displaced and an estimated 400,000 dead. The breakthrough came on Feb. 20, when President Salva Kiir met rebel leader Riek Machar in the capital Juba, and agreed to appoint Machar as his deputy in a new three-year coalition government—part of a long-delayed power-sharing deal. Kiir and Machar, who leads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO), first signed the deal in September 2018, but were unable to finalize terms and missed two previous deadlines—May 2019 and November 2019. The new pact comes just as a third 100-day extension, brokered last year by Uganda, was about to run out.
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)
In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Nov. 4 that the Ugandan police and military have responded harshly to students protesting fee increases at Makerere University in Kampala. Police and military troops have "fired tear-gas into student residences, raided dormitories, and beaten and arrested students." Security forces have also been arresting journalists and detaining students for days without charge. The demonstrations began Oct. 22, when 12 female students held a campus protest over the fee increases and were arrested. They were released later that day, but one received threatening text messages. The next day, she was reported missing and later found unconscious near the university.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government recruited former M23 rebel fighters to protect President Joseph Kabila after protests broke out last December over his refusal to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two terms, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Dec. 5. During December of last year, at least 62 people were killed and hundreds were arrested. The M23 fighters were granted authority to use lethal force. Many journalists were also detained to keep them from reporting about the events taking place. According to the report, rebel forces have long been recruited into the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), without formal training or extensive vetting. The forces in question were deserters from the group, who were initially recruited from Rwanda and Uganda. The FARDC have themselves been criticized for various human rights violations.
Security forces in western Uganda arrested Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere of Rwenzururu Nov. 27 amid claims he was harboring militants seeking independence for the semi-autonomous region. Heavy fighting broke the day before in the regional seat of Kasese, after royal guards attacked a police patrol, leaving 14 officers and some 40 guardsmen and associated militants dead. The king's palace was set afire during the two-hour battle, and a cache of weapons seized. President Yoweri Museveni had phoned the king that morning and ordered him to disband the guards, who are accused of leading a militia seeking an independent "Yiira Republic," straddling the border of Uganda and North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A BBC News account today notes an action by a group of elderly women in a village in northern Uganda that made local headlines in April. When officials backed up by soldiers and police were sent to Apaa village to begin a land demarcation project, the women stripped naked in front of them while chanting "Lobowa, lobowa!"—"our land" in the Luo language. Women appearing naked is a traditional form of shaming and dishonoring. The conflict affects several villages in Uganda's northern Amuru district, where residents were forcibly relocated to government camps (ostensibly for their protection) during the 18-year war with the Lord's Resistance Army. Now that they are returning, they find that Uganda's Wildlife Authority seeks to demarcate 827 square kilometers of their traditional lands as a game reserve to be leased to a private investor—said to be a South African businessman. At Apaa village alone, some 21,000 residents who cannot prove official title to their lands stand to be evicted.
Former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) commander Dominic Ongwen on Jan. 26 made his first appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The pre-trial hearing was brief as Ongwen simply had to confirm his identity and that he clearly understood the charges against him. During his hearing, Ongwen thanked God and referred to himself as a former soldier saying that he "was abducted in 1988 and...taken to the bush when [he] was 14 years old." He spoke in Acholi, his native language. Ongwen faces three counts of crimes against humanity: murder, enslavement, and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering; and four counts of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, and pillaging. A pre-trial confirmation of charges hearing has been scheduled for August. This hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Ongwen committed each of the crimes with which he is charged. The ICC took legal custody of Ongwen in Central African Republic's capital Bangui earlier this month.