Analysis

Pakistan Reader
Same Page Story: Civil-Military Relations in 2021

January 2022 | CWA # 648

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

NIAS Africa Monitor
Famine in Ethiopia: The government's refusal to acknowledge, worsens the crisis

December 2021 | CWA # 626

Harshita Rathore

NIAS Africa Monitor
South Africa: What is behind the pro-Zuma protests?

August 2021 | CWA # 534

Anu Maria Joseph

NIAS Africa Monitor
Impending famine in Tigray, should make Ethiopia everyone's problem

July 2021 | CWA # 519

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

NIAS Africa Monitor
Too late and too little is Ethiopia's international problem

July 2021 | CWA # 518

Anu Maria Joseph

NIAS Africa Monitor
Africa's Ethiopia Problem

July 2021 | CWA # 517

Sankalp Gurjar

NIAS Africa Monitor
Ethiopia's Tigray problem is Tigray's Ethiopia problem

July 2021 | CWA # 516

Apoorva Sudhakar

NIAS Africa Monitor
Beyond the apology to Rwanda: In Africa, is France still a 'silent colonizer'?

July 2021 | CWA # 513

Anu Maria Joseph

NIAS Africa Monitor
Migration in Africa: Origin, Drivers and Destinations 

July 2021 | CWA # 512

Mohamad Aseel Ummer

NIAS Africa Monitor
15 of the 23 global hunger hotspots are in Africa. Three reasons why

May 2021 | CWA # 470

Apoorva Sudhakar

NIAS Africa Monitor
Libya: A new unity government and rekindled hope, a decade after the fall of Gaddafi

April 2021 | CWA # 458

Apoorva Sudhakar

Daily Briefs


Photo : The National/Reuters

Sudan: Uncertainty looms as military reinstates PM Hamdok


Conflict Weekly #98, 25 November 2021, Vol.2, No.34 An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS

by Apoorva Sudhakar

In the news
On 22 November, Abdalla Hamdok was released from house arrest and reinstated as the Prime Minister to lead a technocratic Cabinet until elections are held in 2023. The reinstatement came after Hamdok signed a 14-point deal with the military; this includes a transfer of power to elected civilian leadership at the end of the transitional period, a probe into the killing of anti-coup protesters, and release of all political prisoners.
On the same day, the US Embassy in Khartoum tweeted a statement by the US, EU, UK, Switzerland, Norway, and Canada, stating that they were encouraged by the development. On 23 November, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the reinstatement. Blinken's spokesperson said that he saw the move as an "important first step."

On 23 November, the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), which consists of political parties and pro-democracy groups, said it would not accept the deal, terming it a move to legitimize the coup. Twelve ministers from the FFC who were part of the transitional government prior to the coup submitted resignations in protest of the deal.

Issues at large
First, the pressure on the military. The decision to reinstate Hamdok came amid external pressure. Following the coup, on 25 October, the US suspended aid worth USD 700 million to Sudan. The World Bank too, paused all its disbursements to Sudan. Similarly, the African Union suspended Sudan, calling for the restoration of the transitional rule. The UN Secretary-General had urged coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to bring back constitutional order.

Second, the widespread unrest. Sudan is witnessing one of the largest uprisings since the 2019 protests, which led to the ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir. The people have maintained their stance that they would not settle for anything less than a democracy. There has been a shift in the goals of the protesters, who initially pushed for an end to military rule. Yet, the reinstatement of Hamdok has not satisfied their demands, as they claim to have lost in him.

Third, the clampdown on movement and internet. Sudanese police have accused protesters of instigating violence and have refused to take responsibility for the casualties caused since the coup. Similarly, communication channels were cut off after the coup when the military announced an internet shutdown. Following the coup, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to condemn the coup and assign an envoy to map these alleged violations.

In perspective
The details of the deal signed recently are unclear regarding the power-sharing between the transitional PM and the military. The military is likely to find it challenging to win the people's confidence until the transitional period ends. Furthermore, Hamdok is likely to face trouble bringing the rest of the political parties on board, given their reluctance to accept the deal with the military. Despite this, the international community, including the major powers, seems to have accepted the ongoing political scenario in Sudan.

The ouster of al-Bashir gave new hope to Sudan. However, the October coup, which followed a similar attempt in September, signals that the transitional period in 2019 had a fragile foundation.

IN BRIEF
by D. Suba Chandran

Africa: "57.5 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance" in West and Central Africa region, says the latest UNICEF report
On 23 November, in its recent report titled, "Protecting children in West and Central Africa," the UNICEF mentions: "Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across the West and Central Africa region (WCAR). 57.5 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance, a figure that has almost doubled since 2020, due to a surge in armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic." According to the finding: "Between 2005 and 2020, 1 out of 4 United Nations verified grave violations against children in the world was committed in West and Central Africa. In 2020 alone, over 6,400 children were victims of one or more grave violations in the region. One in three victims was a girl."

Ethiopia: PM Abiy Ahmed in the front lines to lead State troops against Tigrayan forces; France and Germany ask their citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately 
On 23 November, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed went to the battleground, where the State forces were fighting the separatist Tigrayan forces. Al Jazeera quoted his tweet: "The time has come to lead the country with sacrifice…Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let's meet at the battlefront." Ethiopia's forces have been fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) amidst fears of famine. In a related development, France and Germany had advised their citizens to leave Ethiopia.



Photo : AFP/The Economist

Ethiopia: One after a year of the Tigray conflict, back to square one


Conflict Weekly #95, 4 November 2021, Vol.2, No.31 An initiative by NIAS-IPRI & KAS-India Office

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS

by Apoorva Sudhakar

In the news
On 4 November, Ethiopia marked one year of the beginning of the Tigray conflict after the federal government launched a military offensive into the country's northern region in 2020.

On 1 November, the Ethiopian cabinet declared a state of emergency and called on the citizens to defend the capital city Addis Ababa from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The justice minister termed the situation with the TPLF a threat to Ethiopia's "existence, sovereignty and unity" and said the danger cannot be averted "through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures." The development came after the TPLF claimed to have captured two towns in Tigray's neighboring region, Amhara. The TPLF spokesperson said: "We have to make sure that our children are not dying from hunger and starvation. We have to make sure that there is access to food, so we'll do what it takes to make sure that the siege is broken. If marching to Addis is what it takes to break the siege, we will."

On 2 November, the head of Addis Ababa's Peace and Security Administration Bureau directed residents to register their firearms within two days. The chief also said that the youth would be recruited and organized to coordinate with the security force.

Issues at large
First, a brief recap of the conflict. The ongoing conflict flared up on 4 November 2020, when the federal government ordered a military offensive into Tigray, alleging that the TPLF had attacked some federal military bases. The TPLF justified its attacks claiming that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had plans to send soldiers into the region as it defied federal orders not to conduct elections; despite the orders, the Tigray region held elections in September 2020. On 28 November, PM Abiy declared an end to the offensive and announced the capture of Tigray's capital, Mekelle. However, after a brief retreat, Tigrayan forces returned to fight, and in June 2021, Tigrayan forces recaptured Mekelle; since October 2021, Ethiopia has been carrying out a series of airstrikes on Tigray.

Second, the unraveling of ethnic fault lines. Following the outbreak of the conflict in Tigray, different ethnic groups have exploited the situation leading to massacres of rival communities in other regions like Afar, Amhara, and Oromia. Some of the incidents include the Mai Kadra massacre and repeated clashes between the Oromos and Amharas. Ethnic violence is also cropping up across other regions in Ethiopia, like in the country's west, where the Gumuz has targeted both Amharas and Oromos.

Third, the role of regional actors. The tensions between Eritrea and the TPLF can be traced back to the 1990s when the TPLF led the ruling coalition in Ethiopia. Following the military offensive in November 2020, the TPLF accused Eritrea, Ethiopia's neighboring country, which borders Tigray, of siding with the Ethiopian troops. After dismissing these claims several times, PM Abiy confirmed the presence of Eritrean troops in March 2021. Despite these developments, regional organizations like the African Union have not come down on Ethiopia or Eritrea. In August, professionals including former chief justices, authors, academicians from across Africa wrote an open letter criticizing the AU for the "lack of effective engagement" in the conflict.

Fourth, mounting international pressure. The United Nations, United States, and European Union have repeatedly called for an end to hostilities, reiterating that there is no military solution to the conflict. The US had also placed sanctions on the Chief of Staff of the Eritrean Defence Forces for the alleged role in abuses against Tigrayans. Further, rights organizations like Amnesty International have released several reports on the rights abuses in the region and have called for international action. However, PM Abiy has brushed aside such developments and termed them conspiracies of the West.

Fifth, the worsening humanitarian conditions. The actual number of casualties over the last one year remains unknown; meanwhile thousands have fled to Sudan. Media outlets like The New York Times have reported on mass rapes at the hands of security forces in Tigray; Eritrean troops have also been accused of systematic rape in the region. In another development, the UN has issued several warnings of famine in Tigray, the risk of malnourishment among pregnant women, and acute malnutrition in children under five years. In short, the humanitarian conditions seem to deteriorate over the days. 

In perspective
One year since the beginning of the conflict, the situation seems to be spiralling down for Ethiopia. Despite having declared a victory within three weeks of the conflict, with the airstrikes in October, Ethiopia and Tigray are back to square one. Though PM Abiy won the long-delayed elections held in July; however, the situation in Tigray seems to be going out of his control.  Once the West's hero, Abiy Ahmed seems to have fallen out with the international community. Meanwhile, the TPLF finds it difficult to sustain its fight without support; reports suggest that the TPLF and the Oromo fighters had joined forces during the conflict. The situation is not suitable for either side.

On the humanitarian front, the international community is rightfully concerned; however, calling for an end to hostilities and imposing sanctions will not convince the two sides to give up their fight.

 

IN BRIEF

By Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar

Burkina Faso: Unidentified gunmen kill ten
On 1 November, sources told Reuters that 10 people were killed and four others had gone missing following an armed attack by unidentified men on civilians going to the market in Markoye town, which falls under the country's Sahel stretch. The region borders Mali and Niger and has been witnessing Islamist attacks. President Roch Kabore said: "We will get through it together, or not at all."



Photo : Aljazeera/Marwan Ali/AP Photo

Sudan: Tensions flare-up as the military dissolves the civilian government


Conflict Weekly #94, 28 October 2021, Vol.2, No.30 An initiative by NIAS-IPRI & KAS-India Office

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS

by Mohammad Aseel Ummer

In the news
On 25 October, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s armed forces, in a televised broadcast announced that the civilian leadership of the transitional government has been dissolved due to political infighting which can lead to a civil war. Prior to the announcement, various news sources reported heavy deployment of security forces in the capital - Khartoum and key civilian leaders like Prime Minister Abdella Hamdock being detained from their residences.
Government supporters who had been demonstrating since last week as a response to a call for military coup took to the streets in Khartoum and other major cities demanding an immediate release of detained leaders and reinstating the civilian government back to power. The armed forces responded with live ammunition and military-grade weapons to disperse the protesters who gathered in front of important military and governmental establishments. By the second day, with a military enforced lockdown in the capital, seven individuals were recorded killed and nearly 140 wounded, with some in critical conditions as the military struggles to re-establish order.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the military take-over and called out for the immediate release of the civilian leaders, including the Prime Minister, in a statement. The EU Policy Chief Joseph Borell expressed strong contempt over the coup and said, “the actions of the Military represent betrayal of the revolution and the transition”. Chairperson of African Union Moussa Mahamat demanded the immediate release of the detained leaders and reminded that “dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and it’s democratic transition.” Sudan’s neighbors like Egypt and Ethiopia have expressed their concerns over the developments in Khartoum as any rise in tensions can ignite a spill-over causing regional instability.
On 26 October, White House Spokesperson Ned Price informed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a dialogue with Abdella Hamdock over telephone and re-stated his concern over the developments in Sudan.

Issues at large
First, the multiple attempts by the military to jeopardise the civilian leadership. With the civilian leadership being dissolved, the majority of the Sudanese population believe that the transition chalked out in 2019 has been entirely jeopardized. It is unlikely that the military would surrender its control and facilitate the elections expected to be held in 2023 as the military has previously made multiple attempts to monopolize governance in the past two years, which eventually strained the relations between the civilian and military leadership of the interim government.

Second, the rights violation amid the protests. The excessive and brutal force used by the military to control the protesters has raised international concerns as death tolls are expected to climb in the coming days. Human Rights Watch has already condemned the violence and stated, “the coup is a major blow to the Sudanese transition”. Various News agencies have also reported that there are internet and communication blackouts in the country, and some suggest that the military has taken complete control over State media.

Third, the deterioration of the economy. The plummeting economy is expected to take further blows in the coming days. The Eastern port of Sudan, a major shipping point that facilitates international trade is under a blockade enforced by local tribesmen. The restrictions are expected to be temporarily lifted, but analysts suggest that the instability lurking in the country can prevent foreign trade and with the chances of sanctions and the Biden Administration’s decision to suspend a financial assistance package worth 700 million USD, Sudanese economic future seems bleak.

In perspective
First, the tensions can escalate as the larger Sudanese population seems convinced that military administration cannot be the most promising option, and with the civilian leaders, except for Hamdock and his wife who were returned to their residence according to the military, while others being detained the ongoing protest will reach intensified extends causing further loss of life and damage to Sudan’s political landscape. On 27th, The Doctor’s Union has officially declared their active solidarity along with various other civilian organizations and are expected to participate in the ongoing protests.
Second, the international community is evidently concerned about the recent developments in Sudan and any further hinderance to the transition can place the country in a critical position. For instances, in December 2020, after 27 years US removed Sudan from the list of States which sponsored terrorism. Without a clear de-escalation of the current tensions, Sudan could be blacklisted or become a pariah state. 

IN BRIEF

By Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar

Ethiopia: Addis Ababa continues airstrikes on Tigray
On 26 October, Ethiopia carried out an airstrike on a town five kilometres away from Mekele, Tigray’s capital. The town has been under the control of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) since June. France24 quoted the Ethiopian government spokesperson who said: “A special-forces training centre for the terrorist group TPLF has been the target of today's airstrike,” adding, “(A) large number of the group's illegally recruited military personnel were taking military trainings at this center.” However, a TPLF spokesperson dismissed any such facility and accused the Ethiopian government of intending to terrorise Tigrayans.

Eswatini: Pro-democracy protests continue; King calls for calm and national dialogue
On 21 October, the Public Works Minister stopped all city and town municipalities from issuing permits for protests. The move comes amid ongoing pro-democracy protests, led majorly by students, across Eswatini. Prior to the announcement, protesters said one among them had died from a gunshot as security forces tried to control the protests. On 25 October, Africanews reported that the King of Eswatini called for “an end to all violence, as no dialogue can take place when tempers are so high” and a national dialogue. However, political parties rejected the call and said: “We will not let the king who has blood on his hands decide how and when the dialogue will be held," adding, "There can be no calm or peaceful dialogue while the security forces continue to kill and maim people.”

Somalia: Over 120 killed in three days in clashes between Army and ASWJ militia
On 25 October, a senior member of the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) militia said that more than 120 people had been killed and 600 injured in three days as clashes ensued between the ASWJ and the Somali Army in Galmudug state. The ASWJ was previously an ally of the Army; however, claiming that the government has failed to quell the Al Shabaab insurgency, the ASWJ is fighting the terrorist group. Meanwhile, the Galmudug Information Minister said that 16 government soldiers were killed and 45 wounded in the clashes which erupted on 23 October.



Photo : The Guardian/Mohammed Abu Obaid/EPA

Sudan: Political instability deepens as anti-government protesters demand a military takeover


Conflict Weekly #93, 21 October 2021, Vol.2, No.29 An initiative by NIAS-IPRI & KAS-India Office

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS

by Mohammad Aseel Ummer

In the news
On 16 October, anti-government protesters took to the streets of Khartoum and protested in front of the presidential palace demanding the dissolution of the interim government and calling for a military takeover.
 
On 18 October, an emergency cabinet meeting was held to bring in various factions of the civilian-led government led by the coalition locally identified as the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC). On the same day, tensions between protesters and security officials intensified, and the former were heard chanting "Down with the Hunger Government." The protesters called for General Abdel Fatah Al Burhan, the head of the country's armed forces and the Joint Military-Civilian Sovereign Council to assume leadership of the country through a coup; the pro-military protesters were forcefully dispersed from the vicinities of the presidential palace in an attempt to re-establish order.
 
Issues at large
First, Sudan's current political scenario. The country is currently undergoing its worst political crisis since the ousting of former President Omar-Al-Bashir in 2019, who is currently serving imprisonment for his involvement in the Darfur conflict. The recent political unrest is a result of a failed coup attempt on 21 September by the loyalists of Bashir which the interim government claimed to have foiled successfully. Various clashes were reported between pro-government supporters and the protesters.

Second, militaristic attempts to Sabotage the transition. The civilian administration has been a constant critic of the armed forces of the country and for their alleged attempt to hinder the functioning of the interim government. A former minister of trade criticized the increasing militaristic attempts as "They (armed forces) aim, by weakening the civilian authority through economic sabotage and encouraging ethnic protests to create a reality that allows them to take control of power in Sudan". It is widely alleged that many of the close ringleaders of the former president still hold important positions in defense and the recent attempted coup is seen as tendencies that can severely damage the delicate fabric of Sudanese politics.

Third, ineffective governmental responses to public demands.  Prime minister Abdella Hamdock's administration has failed to resolve ongoing ethnic tensions in various parts of the country. The Sudanese economy struggles to stay afloat while a major port in eastern Sudan remains under the blockade placed by local tribesmen hindering international trade; this has caused significant damage to the image of the interim government in power. According to pro-military groups and factions within the FFC aligned with the military, it is highly unlikely that the current administration can emerge effective.

Fourth, a divided civilian administration between government supporters and pro-military groups has enabled the military to use the lack of unity to their advantage. Various factions in the FFC which are loyal to former political oligarchies that reigned control under Bashir's regime have been making efforts to topple the existing interim administration.
 
In perspective
First, the ongoing tussle will effectively determine the political future of the country for the coming decades. The military appears to have gained enormous popular support in the past few years as the civilian administration struggled to maintain stability. Despite Bashir's ouster from power, much of Sudanese political elite undoubtedly are inclined towards Bashir and the military, this leaves the political scale of the country highly unpredictable.
 
Second, the civilian administration must buckle-up and enhance their administrative capabilities to improve a popular image which can possibly prevent a major military intervention. A sudden change in power can have serious regional ramifications as the country borders conflict-ridden neighbours like Libya, Egypt and Ethiopia. If the military takes complete control, the country can attract both regional and international sanctions, which will inflict further damage over its economy as the country is heavily dependent on international aid. Finally, if Sudan falls under military-rule through a coup, it will become the fourth country to have a military takeover in the Sahel region. 

IN BRIEF

By Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar

Eswatini: UN Secretary-General raises concern overuse of force against student demonstrations
On 18 October, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the use of excessive force against school demonstrations. The statement read: "The Secretary-General reiterates the importance of enabling the people of Eswatini to exercise their civil and political rights peacefully." With this, the Secretary-General called on the government "to ensure that security forces act in conformity with relevant international human rights standards, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Ethiopia: Airstrikes continue to target Tigray
On 20 October, residents said that the Ethiopian government had carried out new airstrikes in Tigray. This follows the airstrikes on 18 October wherein three children lost their lives and one person was injured in a series of airstrikes in the region; the state media said that Ethiopia had carried out the airstrikes. The state media coverage came even after the Ethiopian government spokesperson denied carrying out the airstrikes. Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) opined that "intensification of the conflict is very alarming."

Nigeria: 43 killed by gunmen in Sokoto 
On 17 October, at least 43 people were killed in an attack by gunmen at a weekly market in Sokoto State's Goronyo weekly market. The attacks continued well into 18 October. The Sokoto government spokesperson said: "We're faced and bedevilled by many security challenges in our own area here, particularly banditry, kidnapping and other associated crimes."



Photo : ZoubeirSouissi/Reuters/AlJazeera

26 September 2021

Tunisia: President announces rule by decree


The World This Week, 26 September 2021

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS
by Mohammad Aseel Ummer

Tunisia: President announces rule by decree
What happened?
On 22 September, Tunisian President Kais Saied declared that he will 'rule by decree' and defy the constitution's parts that challenge his executive and legislative authorities. According to the new rules that have been published in the official Gazette allows him to release 'Legislative text' upon his decree, he is also entitled to appoint a cabinet and determine its policies and direction of implementation without any interferences. The announcements raised immediate concerns among the Opposition; a senior leader of the Heart of Tunisia party rejected the presidential decisions calling it a "premeditated coup". The leaders of the Ennahda, the largest opposition party condemned it, as the declaration meant "cancelling the constitution".

On 23 September, Attayar, Al Joumhouri, Akef and Ettakatol parties released a joint statement calling for an end to Saied's intervention. These minor parties have significant influence among the non-elite sections of the country. The statement questions the President's authority and rejects his legitimacy, "He will be held responsible for all the possible repercussions of this dangerous step". A senior official of the UGTT union said, "Tunisia is heading towards absolute, individual rule."

On 24 September, the UGTT labor Union, a powerful political entity in the country said in a statement the recent developments can be a "danger to Democracy".  The union had earlier welcomed Saied's decision to dissolve the Parliament but had called for an immediate return political stability and to operate within the bounds of the constitution. The head of Amnesty International commented that the development is worrying and cautioned," the warning signs are blinking red".

What is the background?
First, the suspension of the Parliament. Kais Saied suspended the Parliament and dismissed Rached Mechichi as the Prime Minister on 25 July; he took over the legislative and executive powers. The decision came after series of nationwide protests against the misgovernance of the moderate-Islamic Ennahda party resulting in a plummeting economy. The party was accused of being instrumental in establishing a highly a corrupted administration that failed to handle the covid pandemic effectively. The legal immunity enjoyed by all Parliamentarians were withdrawn, and travel bans imposed. The Opposition condemned the suspension to be a constitutional coup. 

Second, the delayed decisions. The suspension was declared to be for 30 days, followed by the naming of a new Prime minister along with the cabinet. By 25 August, the interim administration was brought under both growing international and domestic pressure to name a new Prime minister. 

The Opposition headed by Ennahda and other minor parties called nationwide mobilization against Saied's administration and called for a swift return to the former status quo. Meanwhile, many supporters of the recent interventions have openly expressed concerns regarding the absence of clarity of Saied's roadmap to a new government.

What does it mean?
First, Kais Saeid, despite denying any aspiration to rule, can become an authoritarian ruler in the future. The new administration lacks support from the existing political parties and bureaucracy. He is criticized for lacking any prior experiences in governance; critics warn of the formation of a highly authoritarian regime that is incapable of delivering efficient governance. The security forces have remained uninvolved after the suspension, but in the light of the recent reforms, Tunisa's military and intelligence can be a critical factor in the new administration.

Second, the fragmented and divided Opposition that had created disunity and lack of collective consensus is being brought under a single banner to resist Saied's administrative reforms collectively. A strong and combined opposition that resist the new governance can possibly recreate the bloody images of the 2011 Arab Spring that swept across various countries in the region. 

Third, Tunisia was often seen as the beacon of democracy among the nations that was part of the Arab Spring. The new governmental policies can undermine the ideals and achievements of the revolution. A political tussle in Tunisia in the future can also cause regional instability in the North African Belt. 

IN BRIEF
 

Mali: Protests break out in support of the interim government and Russia 
On 22 September, protests broke out in Mali in support of the transitional government. Thousands gathered in the capital city of Bamako and called for closer ties with Russia while they dismissed relations with France. The protests broke out after the diplomatic tensions between Mali and France, which is pressuring the country to hold elections in February and end relations with the Russian mercenary group Wagner. The protests were against the French presence in the country. South Sudan

South Sudan: United Nations report points out threat to human rights and the peace process
On 23 September, the United Nations released a report according to which the extreme plundering of South Sudan's public coffers posed a threat to the human rights of the people and challenged the peace process. The country has been posed with numerous challenges since its independence, such as the civil war, chronic instability, economic chaos, ethnic violence and a hunger crisis. The Commission on Human Rights Chair Yasmin Sooka said: "Corruption, embezzlement, bribery, and misappropriation of State funds by political elites are merely the tip of the iceberg. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the National Revenue Authority, and a number of foreign corporations have all been complicit in this."



Photo : Reuters/BBC

22 September 2021, Wednesday

Rwanda: 'Hotel Rwanda' hero Paul Rusesabagina sentenced for terrorism offences


Conflict Weekly, 22 September 2021

GP Daily Brief |

IN FOCUS
by
Mohammad Aseel Ummer

In the news
On 20 September, Paul Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years of prison under charges of terrorism by a court in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Rusesabagina had climbed to popularity after the release of the Hollywood movie 'Hotel Rwanda' in which he was portrayed as the humanitarian hotel manager that housed nearly 1200 Tutsis during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The prosecutors of the legal row had sought life imprisonment for Paul under several charges, including terrorism, kidnappings, arsons and forming a terrorist organization.

Ned Price, a US Department of State spokesperson, commented that the US is concerned by the verdict and questions the fairness of the trial. Belgium's Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes resented the verdict and observed that Paul did not benefit from a fair trial. Paul's supporters and human rights activists call the trial a political sham and accused the Kagame government of arbitrariness.

Issues at large
First, the political intolerance in Rwanda.  President Paul Kagame has been criticized internationally for his totalitarian approach towards dissent and opposition at the domestic and international levels. Earlier in 2014, the Human Rights Watch had released a report titled 'Repression across Borders', which documents nearly 10 cases of mistreatment in the form of attacks and threats faced by critics in exile. Paul Rusesabagina is a prominent political figure and a critique of Paul Kagame and his administration. He has remained as a strong voice of the opposition coalition Rwandan Movement of Democratic Change (MRCD) overseas, especially in the west. He is also recognized to be among the leadership of the (MRCD). He is held responsible along with 20 other defendants for various acts of violence committed by the radical and armed wing of the Ihumure party called the National Liberation Front (FLN). Earlier in 2018, he openly expressed his support for FLN and called for armed resistance against the Kagame administration. However, he denies the allegation of being an active member of FLN. Many opposition figures and rights groups have condemned the trial as they view it as a strong expression of judicial unfairness.

Second, the questionable judicial trial. The Rwandan Intelligence Bureau detained Paul Rusesabagina from Dubai after being tricked to travel in a plane which he was given the impression would take him to Burundi, instead landed in Kigali. He was later kept in solitary confinement for nearly 250 days; according to Nelson Mandela rules for the treatment of prisoners (UN), this is a form of torture. Paul's legal team also accuses the Rwandan authorities of preventing proper audience with the defendant, and his international legal aids have been prevented from contacting him. In protest, Paul had boycotted the recent hearings while the other defendants attended.

Third, dwindling popular support to Paul Rusesabagina. The national hero has been facing increased criticism; many of his critics identify him as a 'manufactured hero' who had unjustly benefited from the genocide. According to the state-run media, his popular image is largely a product of the western interpretation of the genocide and contradicts the facts. Authors like Alfred Ndahiro, in his work on the genocide, provides an alternative reality based on the accounts of the survivors of the genocide who were at the hotel Paul managed. Such campaigns have caused significant damage to Paul Rusesabagina's popularity in the country.

In perspective
The opposition has unequivocally condemned the verdict. "In a country where freedom is limited, all power is in the hands of the executive, how could a judge dare to take a decision incompatible with the wishes of the president" commented an opposition leader. Paul has been acquitted of creating and running an armed group, but with the remaining allegations, he is expected to serve his sentence.

IN BRIEF
by Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Apoorva Sudhakar

Burundi: Lakhs displaced due to rise in Lake Tanganyika
On 19 September, the Save the Children organization said at least 103,305 people had been displaced due to crises including floods, landslides and storms, all linked to climate change. According to the organization, 84 per cent of the displacement has been linked to the rise in the water level of Lake Tanganyika to 776.4 meters above sea level in April, in contrast to the lake's average, 772.7 meters. Of the total displaced, seven per cent are less than one-year-old babies.
 
Burundi: Several dead in series of blasts in two days
On 20 September, at least five people were killed and 50 injured in a series of blasts in Bujumbura. Witnesses said two blasts took place at a bus parking lot and another in a marketplace. This comes after two people were killed in a grenade attack in Gitega, the country's administrative capital, on 19 September. Earlier on 18 September, an attack was carried out in the airport as the President was leaving for New York to attend the UN General Assembly; a Congo-based rebel group Red Tabara claimed responsibility for that attack.
 
Cameroon: Several killed in two attacks in English-speaking regions 
On 20 September, the Defence Ministry said heavily armed terrorists had killed 15 soldiers and several civilians in two attacks in the Northwest Region on 16 September. The Ministry said the attackers had used IED and an anti-tank rocket launcher in the attacks, which targeted the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. Al Jazeera quoted from the Ministry that said it had observed "links and exchanges of sophisticated weaponry" among "secessionist terrorists" and "other terrorist entities operating beyond the borders."
 
Sudan: Coup attempt thwarted; PM blames individuals linked to Omar al-Bashir
On 21 September, the government said military officials and civilians in ties with former President Omar al-Bashir had attempted to carry out a coup on 20 September, which was immediately thwarted; several arrests have been made, and interrogations are underway. The current Prime Minister linked the coup attempt to "remnants from the previous regime" aiming to foil "the civilian democratic transition."



Photo : Africa news

19 September 2021

ECOWAS imposes sanctions on the military government in Guinea


The US government prepares to sanction individuals and groups in Ethiopia

GP Daily Brief |

AFRICA THIS WEEK
Egypt: Government signs 14 MoUs with Unity government in Libya
On 16 September, the Egyptian government signed a series of deals with the Unity government in Libya. The deals include cooperative agreements and infrastructure projects as Egypt tries to engage with its oil-rich neighbour. A total of 14 memorandums were signed with Libya, covering industry, hydrocarbons, agriculture, communications and civil aviation. The deals mark the first engagement of Egypt with the Unity government after it backed it opponent in the previous conflict which lasted for almost a decade.  

Sahel: French troops kill IS head in Greater Sahara
On 16 September, the French President Emmanuel Macron reported the death of the head of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi. He referred to the death and called it "another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel." Although Macron did not disclose the details of the attack, the French Defence Minister Florence Parly tweeted that the death was caused by Operation Barkhane force's strike. She called it: "a decisive blow against this terrorist group and the fight continues."

Guinea: ECOWAS imposes sanctions on the military government 
On 16 September, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions against the military government of Guinea and held it responsible for slowing Mali's post-coup transition. The sanctions include freezing of assets and a travel ban on Guinea's military leaders and their family members and demanded the release of President Alpha Conde. The ECOWAS also pressured Mali to hold elections in February 2022 and come up with an electoral road map by the next month. It also threatened to impose sanctions on anyone who restricted the elections in Mali. 

Ethiopia: The US government prepares to sanction individuals and groups 
On 17 September, US President Joe Biden gave his consent to sanction individuals and groups engaging in violence and restricting humanitarian aid in Ethiopia. Although the names of the individuals and groups have not been named, the sanctions are considered to be one of the strongest warnings issued by the US to Ethiopia. On the same day, the UN World Food Programme revealed that since July 2021, more than 445 trucks with food had been dispatched to the Tigray region, but only 38 have returned. The lack of trucks has caused an obstacle to international organizations and prevent them from reaching out to the famine-struck population in the region. 

Somalia: President restricts Prime Ministers powers 
On 16 September, the Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed suspended the Prime Minister's power to hire and fire until the end of the election later this year, further deepening the conflict in the country. Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble was accused of violating the transitional constitution by President Mohamed. He said: "The prime minister has violated the transitional constitution so his executive powers are withdrawn, especially his powers to remove and to appoint officials, until the election is completed." Roble also reacted to the development by rejecting the order and said: "The prime minister reminds the president to preserve the principles of the constitution of the separation of powers of the government's institutions."