Africa Theater

Sudan: Darfur trial opens, guerillas attack AU troops, Qadaffi to mediate?

In an obvious move to undercut the International Criminal Court, Sudan has announced that it will put three men on trial for atrocities in Darfur—including Ali Mohammed Abd-al-Rahman AKA Ali Kushayb, officially named as a suspect by the ICC. Sudanese authorities say the three are already in custody and their trials will start immediately in El Geneina. (NYT, March 7; AP, March 6) Meanwhile in a blow to the Darfur peace accord, gunmen kidnapped and killed two African Union troops, critically wounded a third, and stole their vehicle March 5 in Geraida, South Darfur. The AU said the assailants are believed to belong to the Minnawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, which signed the rather dubious "peace agreement" in May. (AP, March 7) In a sure sign of changing times, the US envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, has announced he will travel to Tripoli this week for talks on getting Libya involved in efforts to broker an end the Darfur conflict. Natsios made the announcement to the press after two hours of talks with President Omar al-Bashir. Said Natsios: "We believe that it should be one track of negotiations, the one of the UN and AU. I’m leaving tonight to Tripoli to see Qadaffi about the Libyan role." (AFP, March 7)

Displacement crisis, French intervention in Central African Republic

Increasing violence between guerillas and government forces in Central African Republic (CAR) has displaced an estimated 220,000 people, including 150,000 "internally displaced persons" (IDPs) and 66,000 refugees who have fled to Chad and Cameroon. In December, France sent special forces backed by helicopters and fighter jets to dislodge rebel fighters from Birao and others towns in the north of the country, and has maintained a contingent there since. Rebel forces were reported to have re-entered Birao March 3, but government soldiers and a detachment of French troops remained in the town, with the situation tense.

Puntland pinches protein pirates

Authorities in Somalia's autonomous Puntland region arrested four men Feb. 27 in connection with the Feb. 25 hijacking of a ship delivering relief food. But four other hijackers are still holding the ship and 12-member crew. World Food Program (WFP) spokesperson Stephanie Savariaud says the men were arrested when they went ashore to get supplies. Gunmen seized the MV Rozen in the waters off the northern coast of Somalia shortly after the ship unloaded 1,800 tons of food aid at two ports. The Kenyan-owned ship, contracted by the WFP to deliver food aid, was sailing back to Kenya when the incident occurred. The pirates anchored the MV Rozen in the waters near the town of Bargal. Media reports indicate that Puntland authorities are negotiating with the pirates.

The vagaries of international justice: our readers write

Our February issue featured the story "Presidents in the Dock: An End to Africa's Reign of Impunity?" by Michael Fleshman, a reprint from the UN publication Africa Journal. Our February Exit Poll was: "Why are Africa's ex-dictators Charles Taylor (Liberia) and Hissène Habré (Chad) facing the dock, while Guatemala's equally genocidal ex-tyrant José Efraín Rios Montt is free to run for that country's congress? Extra Credit: How is it possible that Taylor and Habré face the dock, while the Darfur genocide continues and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir remains in power, raking in petro-dollars and aspiring to lead the African Union? Extra Extra Credit: Would it merely be juvenile to even bring up George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Robert McNamara, etc.? And, oh yeah, Vladimir Putin?" We received two responses:

UN issues pseudo-indictments in Darfur genocide

As the Darfur genocide enters its fifth year, and nearly two years after UN Security Council Resolution 1593 of March 2005 referred violations of international law in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), on Feb. 27 ICC prosecutors formally identified two of those responsible for slaughter—Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman (nom de guerre Ali Kushayb) and Sudan's Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Harun. Under Article 58 of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, evidence of crimes against humanity will now be submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber, which will, in the words of the official summary of the Prosecutor's Application, “review the evidence submitted and decide how to proceed.”

African peasants receive Zapatista maize at Nairobi WSF

Nancy Flores writes for Mexico's El Universal, Feb. 24 (links added):

NAIROBI - Native Maya seeds from Zapatista cornfields reached the hands of small farmers in Africa last month as a symbol of solidarity and hope.

Latest "al-Qaeda" bust reveals GWOT futility

The latest entry in the wave of dangerously specious terror cases is giving us deja vu. Like Jose Padilla, Daniel Maldonado is a Latino convert to Islam. Like John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan, he is accused of bearing arms for Islamist forces in Somalia, but seems to have not actually done any fighting. He is from small-town New Hampshire, of all places. Most tellingly, if his statements are to be believed, he is a case study in how extremist jihadism and the near-official climate of Islamophobia merely fuel each other in a vicious cycle. From the Eagle Tribune of North Andover, MA, Feb. 23:

NYT: Ethiopia waged US-backed "blitzkrieg" in Somalia

The New York Times' increasingly questionable Michael R. Gordon has yet another report Feb. 23 (with Mark Mazzetti) based largely on anonymous sources. But this one, "U.S. Used Bases in Ethiopia to Hunt Al Qaeda in Africa," is just telling us what an astute reading-between-the-lines could have gleaned from previous reportage from the Horn of Africa. It does, however, have some vindicating tidbits for those of us who were prematurely correct in warning of a US proxy war in the Horn. Here are the relevant parts, emphasis and interjections added:

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