DR Congo – Kasai Bloodshed

Investigators unearth more mass graves as concern grows over further escalation.

On April 19th the United Nations (UN) said it had found a further 17 mass graves raising the total number known to 40. Fifteen graves were found in Tshimbulu town and two in Tshienke

Earlier on March 22nd, UN investigators counted 10 mass graves connected with the conflict between security forces and militias, at a cost of at least 400 lives. Seven were found in Demba town, with three in Tshimbulu.

Further, the UN said on April 21st that more than one million people had been displaced in the region over the last eight months. This is alongside violence in North and South Kivu, which has led a further two million to be displaced.

Fighting erupted in Kasai after government forces last August killed tribal chief Jean Pierre Mpandi, aka Kamwina Nsapu, who had launched an uprising against the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Further, two UN researchers, American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean dual national Zaida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12th with four Congolese nationals. Their bodies were found in a grave 16 days later.

Chief military prosecutor, Major General Joseph Ponde, said two men had been arrested for allegedly killing the UN experts. The remaining suspect was being interrogated in Kananga, capital of Kasai.

The Kamwina Nsapu militia “is increasingly taking violent and hostile action against anyone it sees as being outsiders, interfering in the Kasai,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


CC-2013

Resentment of Kabila’s administration runs deep in the region, which had overwhelmingly supported opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi in the 2011 election. Before he was killed, Mpandi had called on his militia to fight anyone representing the government, posting an audio appeal online for the “liberation of Congo”.

On March 28th, 39 police were killed in an ambush by rebels in Kasai and buried in a mass grave around 75km north of Tshikapa. The police had been travelling in two army transport trucks, with substantial equipment, which was taken by the rebels.

Jordan Anderson, Africa analyst for IHS Markit, cited reports that all 39 had been beheaded.

Suspected militia fighters also reportedly decapitated two soldiers on the outskirts of the Kananga airport, and have managed to release scores of prisoners from jail in Luebo area. Some escapees are seen as highly dangerous and could contribute to worsening the situation in the already embattled region.

(© AFP 28, 30, 31/3, 4, 14, 21/4 2017; BBC Monitoring 3, 11/4; Radio Okapi 9, 11/4)

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Concern over Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21328B–21329A

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bloody Christmas [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21258A–21258C

DR CONGO: Targeted Attacks on Press
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21217B–21218A

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Somalia – Piracy Revival

After a decline in activities, there has been a resurgence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. 

After an extended period of inactivity, pirates operating from the Somali coast have recently taken a number of ships; on March 13th a small oil tanker was hijacked and on March 24th pirates attacked a fishing boat, the first such attacks since 2012.

“We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean…they dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain and engineer,” Head of Maritime Police Forces in Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamud said.

The pirates were reportedly from the village of Marrayo. Their tactic was reportedly to use the smaller ship as a mothership or launchpad for other more large scale attacks.

Further, on April 3rd Somali pirates seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew members, and taken the vessel along the central coast, a state official said. The boat is currently in an area which was the centre of piracy in 2011, the coast near Elhur.

The attack happened as the vessel passed through the channel between Yemen’s Socotra Island and the Somali coast, reported the Independent


NATO troops on suspected Somali pirate ship – CC 2012

On piracy expert said, “we’re starting to see copycat attacks and there is a growing realisation that the shipping industry is taking huge risks.” British maritime safety firm Dryad Maritime has warned clients to stay 100 nautical miles away from the Socotra gap due to piracy concerns.

In 2011, Somalia pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, and held many hundreds of hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

However, the frequency of attacks eventually fell as shipping firms increased security, such as blocking easy entrance points, installing secure panic rooms with communication equipment, and hiring private and military security escorts, reported the Independent.

Piracy in the region was once a serious concern for the global shipping industry. However since the decline, attention has turned to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Recent events, however, suggest that the situation in the Gulf of Aden is deteriorating.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

AFRICAN UNION: Maritime Security Deal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170A–21170C

Mauritius – Somalia: Piracy Sentences
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21097A

GULF OF GUINEA: Step Forward in Tackling Piracy
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 3, Pp. 20512A–20512B

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Nigeria – ‘Astonishingly High’ Pollution

Oil giant accused of concealing data on the health effects of two major spills. 

Data gathered among the Bodo community, which was devastated by two huge oil spills in 2008 and 2009, showed levels of pollution were “astonishingly high”, according to a letter by former employee of Shell, Kay Koltzmann.

Holtzmann was the former director in charge of Shell’s project to clean up oil spills in the Bodo community, in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. He accused the company of refusing to make the findings public.

The clean-up project carried out an analysis of the environment in the Bodo creeks in August 2015 “against fierce opposition” from Shell’s subsidiary company, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). 

“The results from the laboratory were astonishingly high, actually the soil in the mangroves is literally soaked with hydrocarbons. Whoever is walking in the creeks cannot avoid contact with toxic substances… negative long term effects on their health are unpredictable,” he said.

The letter was addressed to the chairman of the Bodo Mediation Initiative, which is sponsored by the Dutch Government and is tasked to ensure the clean up meets international standards.

Shell accepted liability for the 2008 and 2009 oil spills. In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a report claiming it would take up to 30 years to clean the Niger Delta from oil spills. In 2015, Shell agreed to pay £55m to the Bodo community.

Holtzmann called for “immediate action to protect the health of the Bodo residents” and urged for “medical mass screening” to take place, warning against the risk for people exposed to toxic substances by bathing or drinking the polluted water, reported UK-based the Independent

No one could explain the decision to withhold the data from the public.

Further, on April 10th Shell and ENI were forced to deny that their staff had been involved in payments to officials. In 2010 transactions worth $1.3bn were made by Shell and ENI for exploration of the OPL 245 offshore block, but the companies reportedly knew the funds would go to a front company connected to former petroleum minister Dan Etete, reported Lagos-based, the Guardian

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

NIGERIA – UK: Pollution Claims Blocked
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21560C–21562C

OIL AND GAS: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21549B–21550C

OPEC TALKS: Oil Price Boost [Free to Read]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21508A–21509A

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Ethiopia – State of Emergency Lifted

The government halts security provisions but the ethnic tensions continue to bring violence.

The government has announced a relaxation of its state of emergency, lifting restrictions on the media and restoring some personal freedoms, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa said on March 15th. Fegessa said the monitoring of media content and arbitrary searches would now cease.

Similar curfew restrictions that had been in place on industrial sites, which were targeted in arson attacks, have also been lifted. The state of emergency was declared on October 8th 2016 after a breakdown of law and order in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The crisis was catalysed by a stampede during the Irrecha festival outside the capital, during which witnesses claimed that police fired at the crowd.

The state of emergency had been intended to restore military style rule, but many armed incursions have continued along the borders into eastern and southern Oromoia, which borders the Somali regional state.

In east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Ababa, militiamen conduct cross border raids in various localities. The border incursions have also hit West Hararghe, particularly Bordede woreda where more than 30 people were killed on February 22nd.

In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km from the capital, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas. As well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state.

Many of those conducting raids are thought to be members of the Liyu Police, a paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state in 2007 to counter the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Ogaden region, in the east of the country.

The Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa said, over the past six months hundreds of Liyu police have entered Oromia villages and attacked, killed and looted, with the number of dead at around 200.

Oromo Woman – CC 2013

The boundary line between Oromia and Somali regional state is contested, and a border referendum was held in 2004 to determine resident’s choices. According to official results residents in close to 80% of disputed areas have voted to be under the Oromia regional state.

However Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2012 accused the special police of executing 10 men, being implicated in many other abuses against civilians under the context of counterinsurgency operations.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has accused some local leaders of inciting the ethnic clashes.

(Addis Standard 3/3; © AFP 3/1 2017; BBC Monitoring 9/3)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ETHIOPIA: South-East Tension
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21330A–21331A

ETHIOPIA: OFC Leader Detained [Free to Access]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21255A–21255B,

ETHIOPIA: State of Emergency
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21167A–21170C

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Kenya – Pastoralist Land Dispute

Incidents of violence involving herders highlight the increasingly precarious situation faced by pastoralists. 

A recent upsurge in attacks by herders on white-owned ranches and wildlife conservancies in Laikipia has led to an outcry, with some describing the pastoralist herders as primitive with no respect for private property or wildlife.

According to the Independent around 10,000 nomadic herders with around 135,000 cattle have invaded ranches and conservancies in Laikipia over the last four months.

In Kenya the white-owned ranches have full support of the government and many are funded by influential donors through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), controlling around 10.8 million acres of land; around 8% of Kenya’s total landmass.

In an example of the influential funding support, the Tullow Oil Company from Turkana County has donated US$11.5m to the NRT to establish further conservancies.

According to some commentators the land was acquired with the help of politicians who subsequently have hailed the NRT as a success, protecting both wildlife and the environment.

The CEO of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) stated: “Conservancies amidst the increasing complex social and economic pressures, have been used as an avenue to bring together warring communities to co-manage resources, develop enterprises to enhance livelihoods, diversify tourism, secure grass banks for livestock during the dry seasons and create jobs for the local communities.”

However issues relate to pastoralists not being able to use the land during drought periods, when water is scarce. According to journalist John Mbaria, as the conservancies are United Nations (UN) protected, they are largely insulated from public scrutiny, reported the Daily Nation

The conflict also has highlighted prevalent attitudes towards pastoralists, who are perceived as damaging to the environment. Such a perspective ignores the fact that for centuries herders such as the Maasai and Samburu have lived relatively harmoniously with wildlife.


Herder in Samburu County – CC 2014

In the colonial period settlers turned Kenya into a hunting ground, while after independence and the ban on poaching, settlers needed to justify their ownership of property and thus established wildlife conservancies. Much of the land dates back to the 1904 Anglo-Maasai Agreement when locals “willingly” gave their land in the Central Rift Valley, according to the Daily Nation

Attempts by pastoralists to reclaim land have largely failed. In 2004 herders who drove their cattle into a ranch in Laikipia, were shot at by the police.

A British-Kenyan rancher, Matthew Voorspuy was shot dead while riding to inspect cottages that had been torched on his land earlier in March; a Kenyan politician Matthew Lempurkel was arrested and later bailed in connection to the incident.

In Kom, Isiolo County, a clash between armed herders from Isiolo and those from Samburu led to the deaths of ten people. Reports suggested that the Isiolo herders attacked the Samburu after they entered their grazing areas without permission, reported the East African.

On March 20th the Daily Nation reported that two people were killed in Baragoi after clashes between Samburu and Turkana communities, after four cows and around 300 goats were reportedly stolen from the Samburu.

The situation also highlights the precarious situation of pastoralists, caught between state repression, communal infighting and persistent drought. According to the Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), more than 65% of the arable land in the country is in the hands of 20% of the population.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

KENYA – UK: Reparations Claim [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21271B–21272C

CONSERVATION: Kenya
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 3, Pp. 20948A–20948B

KENYA: Deadly Attacks
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 51, Issue. 11, Pp. 20358C–20360A

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East Africa – Pest Outbreak Threatens Crops

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There are serious concerns over the new armyworm outbreak, which has already ruined large areas of cultivation.

On February 14th international leaders held talks in Harare, Zimbabwe, to tackle the armyworm outbreak, which has spread across several African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana.

There have been more recent reports suggesting that Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia may also be seeing outbreaks. The species of ‘fall armyworm’ originates from the Americas and United Nations (UN) FAO coordinator for South Africa, David Phiri, said, “farmers do not know really how to treat it.”

The caterpillars eat maize, wheat, millet and rice, key food sources in southern and eastern Africa. The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) recently said that it is spreading rapidly and needs an urgent response.

The armyworm name is misleading as the pest is actually a caterpillar, and should not be confused with the African armyworm, which is known in the region. This species originates from the Americas, although no-one is sure how it made it to Africa. It is thought that it could have arrived on a commercial flight or in imported food.

According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it has taken only eight weeks for the pest to spread to six southern African countries. The caterpillar stage does the damage but “it’s the adult moth that migrates long distances and that’s how it’s managed to get round Africa,” said Professor Ken Wilson, an armyworm expert.

“These army worms attack the maize leaves, the flower and even bore into the stalk. And because they dig into the stem of the plant, it is difficult to notice them. It is only on close inspection that you realise almost the entire plant has been destroyed” said Chimenya Phiri, Malawian farmer, reported BBC News on February 14th.


Armyworm – www.phys.org

South Africa’s agriculture ministry said little was known about how the armyworms arrived or what their long-term effects would be; “It may become a migratory pest similarly to the African armyworm and may migrate in large numbers from one area to another, causing great damage,” reported UK-based the Guardian.

“If it is a small level of the worms, it’s easy to control, using pesticides. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to control it, so they will have to use different methods – including sometimes burning the crops,” said Phiri.

Zimbabwe’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Davis Marapira said that the pest had been detected in all of the country’s 10 provinces.

The FAO, which is hosting the Harare meeting, said armyworm outbreaks combined with current locust problems “could be catastrophic” as southern Africa has yet to recover from droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

Zambia reported that almost 90,000 hectares of maize have been affected. In Malawi, some 17,000 hectares have so far been affected. In Namibia approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet has been damaged, and in Zimbabwe up to 130,000 hectares could be affected.

The FAO said it had initiated the process of procuring pheromone insect lure traps, which are used for capturing armyworm and monitoring their spread.

(© AFP 14/2 2017; PANA, Lusaka 16/2)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

RWANDA: Food Security Fears
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21568A–21568C

Drought and Hunger
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21563A–21563C

Africa’s Pulse – Agriculture Could Be The Key
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21424A–21424B.

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Cameroon – Protests Continue

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The tensions between Anglophone and Francophone regions may be a sign of deeper problems.

Three activists are currently in detainment in Cameroon with their trials suspended, following a crackdown on anglophone protests. Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi are among another 100 arrested, charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium has also been banned since protests in mid-November 2016 and many local independent media outlets have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between youths and the police.

Additionally in the northwest and southwest areas the internet has been shut off completely for over a month; according to reports the decision is expected to have cost the country in the region of US$1.39bn.

The tensions in the anglophone and francophone regions revolve around perceptions that the constitution contains bilingual principles but that these are not being respected or implemented satisfactorily. The Anglophone regions speak of a sense that they are forced to assimilate to accept what is dictated by the Francophone majority. During the colonial period Cameroon was ruled as two separate territories by both France and Britain.

Others, while recognising the historical trajectory, also state that the unrest is symptomatic of larger government problems, particularly surrounding corruption. For a lengthy period many groups in the north have complained of marginalisation and the lack of state presence.

There have been attempts at implementing a federal-type system to devolve some power to Anglophone courts and administrations, but these have reportedly been undermined by irresponsibility and corruption. The government initially argued that the Anglophone protestors were secessionists and did not acknowledge their legitimate claims.

Renowned Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ said Mbembe.

There are different opinions concerning the scale support for Anglophones during the protest; some suggest that Francophone Cameroonians supported calls by trade unions and students. However other views have suggested that a ‘genocide’ is being planned and reject secessionist claims.

To date the international community has expressed little reaction and the African Union (AU) has not been involved in any efforts to resolve the situation, apart from one statement expressing concern. The President Paul Biya is also to stand for re-election next year, although the expectation is that he will secure another mandate, despite the growing discontent.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CAMEROON: Linguistic Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series,
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21289A–21289C

CAMEROON: Anglophone Unrest [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21257A–21257B

CAMEROON: Rights Violations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074A–21074B

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