Africa Theater

Darfur: Bush announces sanctions —against the resistance movement!

President Bush has announced an expanded regime of sanctions against Sudan, implementing what he called "Plan B" in his April speech at the Holocaust Museum, as an alternative to UN troops. Thirty companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government and one private Sudanese air company accused of transporting arms to Darfur are targeted by the sanctions. Individuals connected to the violence in Darfur will also be sanctioned, including Ahmad Muhammed Harun, Sudan's minister for humanitarian affairs, and Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group. Harun is accused of war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court, and Ibrahim has refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement. (Council on Foreign Relations, CNN, May 29)

Ethiopia terror: ONLF guerillas or government provocation?

At least 16 were killed and 67 injured in two attacks in the eastern Ethiopia towns of Jijiga and Degah Abur May 28. Up to 11 were killed when a hand grenade was thrown as hundreds of people gathered at a stadium in Jijiga. Regional president Abdullahi Hassan was wounded as he spoke at a ceremony to mark the 1991 overthrow of Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. The Ethiopian government blamed the attack on the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Adurahmin Mohammed Mahdi, the ONLF's spokesman in London, denied the claim. "Our policy is not to attack civilian targets or Jijiga," he told Reuters. "The ONLF attacks military targets only." (AlJazeera, May 28)

Mauritania: editor imprisoned

From Reporters Without Borders via AllAfrica, May 25:

Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of Abdel Fettah Ould Ebeidna, managing editor of the daily newspaper "Al-Aqsa", who was sent to prison in Nouakchott on 24 May 2007 because of a libel complaint against him by a businessman.

Somali Islamist leaders voice defiance from Eritrean exile

Exiled Somali leaders in Eritrea issued a call to boycott a Mogadishu peace conference scheduled for next month, warning of further violence if it goes ahead. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), and Sheikh Sharif Hassan Aden, a former Somali parliament speaker, released the joint statement in Asmara.

China rejects Sudan sanctions —again

China's newly-appointed envoy Liu Guijin called for greater humanitarian aid on a visit to Darfur—but said international sanctions against Sudan would only "further complicate the situation" and prolong the suffering of the 2.5 million refugees displaced by the conflict. Liu met local officials in El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, before touring two nearby refugee camps, the report said. An estimated 100,000 people now live in the Abu Shouk and As-Salam camps. (AlJazeera, May 24)

Congo: guerillas threaten gorillas

After raiding Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park and killing a wildlife officer, the Mayi-Mayi militia are threatening to slaughter rare mountain gorillas, officials said. The attackers looted the three sites—research stations and tourism camps—seizing arms and communications equipment. Thirteen park workers were also briefly held hostage. According to WildlifeDirect, an organization involved in conservation at Virunga, the area attacked is only two hours walk from a unique and isolated population of gorillas. The park is home to half of the 700 mountain gorillas that remain in the world. "This was an unprovoked attack on our Rangers and other wildlife officers who protect Virunga’s wildlife," Virunga’s park director Norbert Mushenzi said in a statement distributed by WildlifeDirect. "And the Mayi-Mayi said that if we retaliate, they will kill all the gorillas in this area." (Reuters, May 23)

Kenya: villagers flee Mungiki death cult

A rampage by the Mungiki gang, which climaxed May 20 with the beheadings of three men, has prompted scores of residents to flee Kianjogu village in Kenya's Muranga North District. One of the Mungiki leaders, Stephen Kiunjuri, was gunned down by police that night, to the cheers of villagers. The gang has imposed illegal fees, forced youths to sniff tobacco, and repeatedly invaded homes and slaughtered livestock as owners watch. "They would just come into your place and slaughter goats," one resident said. The group established checkpoints, including at the entrance to a shopping center, charging fees for men who were circumcised to pass. In nearby Githemba village, police found Mungiki suspects with parts of male reproductive organs. Local police commander Stanley Lamai said the scene was littered with blood and religious paraphernalia. More organs were found in a house nearby during the May 22 night raid in village. "This is weird. We suspect they were conducting a ritual," said Lamai. (The Standard, Kenya, May 23; The Standard, May 24)

ICC to investigate Central African Republic

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced May 22 that a war crimes investigation will be opened into hundreds of rapes and other violations in the Central African Republic. The investigation concerns the conflict between the former regime of President Ange-Felix Patasse and rebel forces after a failed coup by current president Francois Bozize in October 2002, but the Court is also monitoring the ongoing war in the country's north.

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