Africa Theater

Ethiopia: slaying of musician sparks Oromo uprising

The military has been deployed in the Ethiopian capital amid a general uprising by the Oromo people that broke out after the assassination of a popular singer. Hachalu Hundessa, shot dead while driving on the outskirts of Addis Ababa on June 29, was an icon of the Oromo protest movement that has been mounting since 2015. His songs, such as "Maalan Jira?" (What Existence is Mine?) and "Jirraa" (We are Here), have been hailed as the "soundtrack of the Oromo revolution," and he was named "Oromo Person of the Year" by cultural advocates in 2017. Police say two have been arrested in connection with the killing, but rebellion continues to spread across Central Ethiopia. At least 80 have been killed and many detained. The prominent Oromo leader Jawar Mohammed is among those arrested.

African countries urge UN: investigate racism in US

African countries are urging the UN Human Rights Council to investigate systemic racism and police violence in the United States, according to a draft resolution revealed June 16. Diplomats received the resolution ahead of a debate at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that will be held this week on the question, convened at the request of Burkina Faso. The debate is a response to the death of George Floyd and others in police custody, as well as the ongoing protests across the US. The draft resolution calls for the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry (COI)—a measure normally used in response to a major crisis, such as the armed conflict in Syria. The resolution states that the COI should be empowered to "establish facts and circumstances related to the systemic racism, alleged violations of international human rights law and abuses against Africans and of people of African descent in the United States."

Sahel security forces accused of war crimes

Soldiers rampaging through villages in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have unlawfully killed or forcibly disappeared at least 199 people between February and April 2020, Amnesty International said in a new briefing published June 10. Some of the killings amount to extrajudicial executions and among the victims are internally displaced persons. The briefing, "'They Executed Some and Brought the Rest with Them': Civilian Lives at risk in the Sahel," calls on the governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to put an end to the impunity by their security forces, and to ensure that military operations are in conformity with human rights and international humanitarian law. In Mali and Burkina Faso, where the situation amounts to a "non-international armed conflict," the deliberate killings of unarmed civilians by security forces could meet the qualification of war crimes.

Darfur war crimes suspect transferred to Hague

Sudanese militia leader and war crimes suspect Ali Kushayb has been arrested, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced June 9. Kushayb surrendered to authorities in a northern area of the Central African Republic, near the border with Sudan. This comes more than 13 years after the arrest warrant was issued. The warrant details 22 charges of crimes against humanity and 28 war crimes charges, including murder, rape and pillage. The warrant further claims Kushayb commanded thousands of Janjaweed militia fighters from 2003-4, personally taking part in the rape and murder of civilians during the Darfur conflict. He also held commanding positions in Sudan's Popular Defense Forces and the Central Reserve Police.

Clashes threaten Sudan democratic transition

Recent inter-communal fighting in Darfur and Kassala State threatens Sudan's fragile democratic transition, United Nations officials warn. The government has dispatched the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to South Darfur and Kassala states to quell the fighting. In a national address, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the joint civilian-military Sovereign Council that is responsible for Sudan's transition to democracy, said that the security forces would act decisively "to secure the country, lives and property."

'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.

Sahel insurgency reaches Ivory Coast borderlands

In another sign of the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel reaching West Africa's littoral states, the armed forces of Ivory Coast announced on May 24 the completion of a joint operation with the military of neighboring inland Burkina Faso, to clear out a Qaedist camp that had been established on the border between the two countries. Some 1,000 Ivorian soldiers took part in the operation, in which eight militants were reported killed and 38 others detained—24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Ivory Coast. More are thought to have escaped on motorbikes through the bush of Comoé  National Park, which lies along the northern border of Ivory Coast. The militants are said to be followers of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda's West African franchise. Automatic weapons, motorbikes and other equipment was seized in the raid outside Alidougou, a border town in southern Burkina Faso.

SCOTUS: Sudan liable for terrorism damages

The US Supreme Court ruled May 18 in Opati v. Republic of Sudan that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) permits a punitive damages award against Sudan for the role it played in 1998 al-Qaeda bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Following the bombings, victims and family members sued Sudan under the "state-sponsored terrorism exception" to the FSIA, but the act at the time included no provision for punitive damages in suits filed under the "exception." Congress amended the act in 2008 to allow punitive damages in such cases. A district court in 2017 awarded a $6 billion judgment against Sudan, but the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the amendment did not allow plaintiffs to seek damages for attacks that occurred before its enactment. The Supreme Court disagreed, and held that Congress intended the amendment to apply retroactively.

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