Zambia – Media Repression


As the government extends the state of emergency there are concerns that it is being used to stifle independent media. 

The Independent Press Institute (IPI) on July 5th expressed concern over the imposition of emergency powers and comments made by the Inspector-General of police, Kakoma Kanganja, that some media publications could be closed while the 90-day state of emergency was in place.

On July 5th, Zambian President Edgar Lungu initiated a “state of threatened public emergency” and indicated that he might declare a full state of emergency if the “existing situation” in the country is “allowed to continue.”

The move came amid a string of arson attacks, including one that burnt down Lusaka’s main market. Lungu alleged that supporters of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) were behind the attacks.

On July 11th the National Assembly approved emergency powers and extended the state of emergency for 90 days, although the vote was held without 48 UPND members who had been suspended after they reportedly boycotted an address by Lungu.

Inspector-General Kanganja said that some media publications could be shut down. “During this period, police will regulate and prohibit publication and dissemination of matters [that are] pre-judicial to public safety,” he said.

Others commentators have expressed concern that the emergency powers are politically motivated. IPI Director of Advocacy and Communication, Steven Ellis said, “the partial state of emergency would seem to be part of a broader effort that we have observed to silence critical voices, including the country’s remaining independent media outlets, and to step up the crackdown on the main opposition party, while at the same time fending off challenges from within his own party.”

“We fear that emergency rule could facilitate human rights violations and we call on Zambia’s government to respect the vital role of media freedom in a democracy and to refrain from exerting political pressure on the country’s media outlets,” Ellis continued.

Edgar Lungu – Ventures Africa

Zambia has often been regarded a model for stability, democracy and human rights in Africa, but events surrounding the disputed August 2016 general elections, in which President Lungu was re-elected to a second term, have raised concerns about the state of democracy and media freedom.

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who narrowly lost the 2016 presidential election to Lungu, has been arrested on treason charges after his motorcade allegedly blocked Lungu’s presidential motorcade in April 2017.

In worrying signs, the independent media has largely been suppressed. Tabloid newspaper The Post was closed in late 2016. In February 2017, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Post owner and Editor-in-Chief Fred M’membe.

In August 2016, the government also suspended the operating licences of the country’s largest privately-owned television channel, Muvi TV, and two private radio stations on “national security” grounds, although the suspensions were lifted after the broadcasters apologised.

The government later acknowledged that the broadcasters were targeted because of their perceived bias against Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) party before and after the elections, reported the Independent Press Institute.

Earlier in June African Arguments commented that with 48 opposition MPs suspended, an opposition leader in jail, and clear signs of growing authoritarianism, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) still decided to agree an aid package of US$1.2bn, only strengthening further Lungu’s position.

Some analysts have said that real debt in the country stands at around $30bn, in contrast to figures quoted by Finance Minister Felix Mutati of $7.2bn. Based on projections from current economic growth rates, some analysts claim that the country will not be able to pay off the debts in a sustainable way, according to Zambia Reports.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ZAMBIA: Slide To Dictatorship?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 6, Pp. 21465A–21466C

ZAMBIA: Hakainde Hichilema Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21396C–21397A|

ZAMBIA: Re-Election Bid?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21287C–21288C

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Malawi – Opposition Divisions


The main opposition in the country is torn by infighting as the leader is accused of corruption. 

The opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is in disarray as a group of party rebels led by Secretary General Gustav Kaliwo is seeking to oust the President Lazarus Chakwera. The rebel group have called for a emergency convention in July this year.

“I have had meetings with almost 23 committees from various districts across the country who requested me to call for a convention. Time is running out, as Malawi Congress Party we need to put our house in order if we are to have any chance in 2019. Therefore, I am today announcing a convention will take place on Friday 7th July to Sunday 9th July,” said Kaliwo.

According to Article 40 of the MCP constitution, an emergency convention can only be called if the party’s national executive committee resolves by two thirds of its membership. Kaliwo challenged that he has a backing of more than half of the party’s district committees.

“The convention is the highest authority of the party. Some people might find this unacceptable, they are entitled to their opinion but the party belongs to these people (district chairpersons). Let us not destroy the party. We can disagree but let’s not be disagreeable,” he added.

According to Article 38 (1) of the constitution, the convention being the highest authority of the party may remove the president, deputy president, or a member of national executive committee from office if he or she wilfully and persistently disobeys the constitution.

Lazarus Chakwera – source

MCP, the oldest party in the country, has been hit by divisions and factionalism. Chakwera is accused of corruption and lack of leadership, the misuse of funds and practicing a ‘tyrannical leadership’ which poses a threat to the country if he was to be elected as Malawian President in the future.

Party funds have also reportedly been diverted into Chakwera’s personal accounts, alongside accusations of soliciting money from renowned business tycoons in return for positions and favours, reported the Nyasa Times.

Kaliwo accused Chakwera of snubbing his calls for a face to face meeting to resolve issues. Kaliwo said all his efforts to meet the leader of opposition have failed without any justification or explanation. Kaliwo added that Chakwera has used the MCP Administrative Secretary Potipher Chidaya to communicate.

“I have been at pains to explain what is going on in Malawi Congress Party. People are losing hope. Malawi Congress Party has been known for unity and discipline and now it is degenerating into this state. I am concerned as people keep on asking questions of what is going on. I was hoping we resolve our issues internally than washing our dirty laundry in public,” Kaliwo said, reported the Nyasa Times.

Responding to the calls for a national convention, the MCP said that Kaliwo has no mandate for such a move, particularly without consulting Chakwera himself.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin: 

MALAWI: ‘Maizegate’ Minister Sacked
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 3, Pp. 21353B–21354A

Malawi – Cabinet Reshuffle
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 4, Pp. 20958A

Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 1, Pp. 20845A–20845C

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Tunisia: Opposition politician Chokri Belaid shot dead


Mr Belaid had reportedly received death threats.

Tunisian politician Chokri Belaid (Picture: Rais67)

The Tunisian news website Tunisien Numerique is today reporting that the opposition politician Chokri Belaid has been shot dead outside his home in Tunis. His brother, Abdelmajid Belaid, said that he was shot in the neck and head on the way to work.

The Paris-based France 24 TV station has reported that Mr Belaid had reportedly received recent death threats. It said that he died in hospital after being shot by “three men in a black vehicle” who fired two bullets into his chest and neck.

Belaid was an outspoken and prominent secular opponent of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which is currently running the government.

Associated Foreign Press reported that Ennahda offices were attacked and a number of protests had broken out in several towns throughout the country. At least 1,000 people protested outside the interior ministry in Tunis shouting abuse.

The BBC quoted the Prime Minister  Hamadi Jebali as saying that the assassination was an ‘act of terrorism’, and a blow to the country’s Arab Spring revolution, which took place in January 2011.

The murder prompted President Moncef Marzouki to cut short a foreign tour, and cancel a visit to Cairo to attend the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.  The president urged “restraint and wisdom”, dubbing the murder as an “odious” crime designed to “lead the Tunisian people to violence.”

France condemned the murder, describing Belaid as a courageous fighter for human rights.

“This murder robs Tunisia of one of its most courageous and free voices,” President Francois Hollande said,.

Belaid headed the opposition Democratic Patriots party, a member of the Popular Front coalition of leftist parties that has emerged to challenge the government. He had been a harsh critic of the Ennahda-led government.

The murder of Belaid comes at a time when Tunisia is witnessing a rise in violence fed by political and social discontent two years after the mass uprising that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Several opposition parties and trade unions have accused pro-Islamist groups of orchestrating clashes or attacks against them.

The country is in the throes of a political crisis as talks on a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle to include a wider range of parties in a coalition led by the Ennahda party have broken down.

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Mutiny in the east escalates

International and regional alarm over the situation in North Kivu is growing.  Ongoing army defections allow vicious militia to step in to the power vacuum as tens of thousands flee in all directions. Rwanda’s role remains under scrutiny.

The North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Picture: United Nations)

The March 23 movement (M23) mutiny is proving difficult to quell. The mutineers are former DR Congolese Tutsi rebels from the CNDP (National Congress for the Defence of the People) who joined the regular Congolese army (known by the French acronym FARDC) under a March 2009 peace deal.  They defected in April, led by indicted war-criminal General Bosco Ntaganda, aka ‘The Terminator”. This faction seems now to have joined up with another group of mutineers under Sultani Makenga, a CNDP officer.

As defections from FARDC continue and the national army is stretched beyond capacity, other militita groups have moved in.  Amid the chaos and violence, conditions in eastern DR Congo are worsening, with more than 200,000 people chased from their homes, fleeing in all directions and seeking refuge across the borders in Rwanda and Uganda.

It was the Kinshasa government’s announcement in April that it was finally ready to hand over Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which precipitated the mutiny.  The M23 operates from the Runyoni area, near the Rwandan border, and has launched several ferocious attacks.

The UN Security Council on June 15th strongly condemned the mutiny as well as the killing and abuse of civilians, mostly women and children, by armed groups. It had received a report from the head of the special UN peacekeeping force (MONUSCO), Roger Meece, who told the Council that it was vital to put an end to the armed mutiny, which has led to a worsening of the security situation and a major displacement of civilians. MONUSCO itself has been criticised for failing to protect civilians however.

The 15-member Security Council expressed “strong concern”  and called on all countries in the region to “actively cooperate with the Congolese authorities in demobilizing the M23 and all other armed groups, and preventing them from receiving outside support in contravention of the Council’s sanctions regime.” They also called for a full investigation of “credible reports” of outside support to the armed groups, the UN News service reported.

The outside support being referred to is neighbouring Rwanda.  According to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), Rwandan military officials have been arming and supporting the mutiny. HRW claimed that Ntaganda’s militia had built up its strength by recruiting hundreds of new members, including civilians in Rwanda who were forced into service.  “Witnesses said that some recruits were summarily executed on the orders of Ntaganda’s forces when they tried to escape,” HRW alleged in a June 4th report based on field research carried out the previous month.

The report accused Rwandan officials of assisting Ntaganda in the mutiny. “The Rwandan government should immediately stop all support to Ntaganda and assist in his arrest,” HRW added.

In a press statement, the Rwandan government denied the allegations, calling them “false and dangerous”. Rwandan President Paul Kagame told a press conference on  June 19th that he rejected all accusations of complicity: ‘You Congolese, don’t run away from your responsibilities and start claiming that this is our problem.’ Rwanda was ‘only in it to be part of the solution’, said Kagame, adding that the latest fighting did not involve outsiders, only ‘different shades of Congolese’.

Pressure is mounting for the publication in full of a UN investigation into the links between Rwanda and  the M23, said Africa Confidential. The DRC government and international human rights groups are accusing the US, because of its relationship with Rwanda, of obstructing the release of the investigators’ full findings. A UN Panel of Experts submitted an interim report to the Security Council on June 18th but diplomats say it excluded an annexe showing links between senior officials in the Rwandan government and  M23.

Although DR Congo’s Foreign Minister, Raymond Tshibanda N’tungamulongo, received his Rwandan counterpart, Louise Mushikiwabo, in Kinshasa on June 19th to sign a bilateral cooperation accord, relations between the two governments are worsening.

Tiny Rwanda should be inconsequential to the affairs of the DRCongo, one of Africa’s biggest countries, said iMaverick, South African daily tablet newspaper (6/6). Yet when Rwanda chooses to exert its malign influence from the unstable eastern border, the whole country shudders with the impact.

iMaverick said that as well as the strong historical reasons for Rwanda’s involvement, there are also financial concerns. Rwandan businesses have substantial interests in eastern Congo, as do Rwandan generals. There is also the precious matter of the abundant minerals, and the more stable the government in the DRC, the greater the threat to Rwandan interests.

‘If you resist, we’ll shoot you’

Political leaders must act immediately and halt arms supplies to the DR Congo where they continue to fuel unlawful killings, rape, looting and abductions, Amnesty International said in a new report published on June 12th.

The report, ‘If you resist, we’ll shoot you’, highlights how Congolese security forces and armed groups alike are able to commit serious human rights violations because of the easy availability of weapons and ammunition.

“The situation in the DRC demonstrates the urgent need for governments around the world to agree on a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty when final negotiations take place at the UN in July,” said Paule Rigaud, Deputy Programme Director for Africa at AI.

In recent years, a range of weapons, munitions, and related equipment has been supplied to the DRC’s government, including small arms, ammunition, tear gas, armoured vehicles, artillery guns and mortars. The main arms suppliers to the DRC include China, Egypt, France, South Africa, Ukraine and the US.

In the majority of cases examined transfers have been allowed by supplier states in spite of the substantial risk the weapons are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses or war crimes in the DRCongo. AI is calling for an Arms Trade Treaty that requires supplying states to undertake a rigorous case-by-case risk assessment of each proposed arms transfer.

States must determine if there is a substantial risk that the arms are likely to be used by the intended recipient to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Where the risk is substantial the supplying state must stop the transfer until the risk is removed and safeguards are in place.

Senior DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) officials often sell or give weapons to armed groups, including those they are fighting against. Armed groups also frequently obtain weapons and ammunition left behind when FARDC units flee combat zones.

Following the waves of troop defections, the FARDC entrusted a colonel with a truck full of ammunition and tens of thousands of dollars for supplies. He then deserted to join a new armed group, taking the weapons and money with him, AI says.

As usual civilians bear the horrific cost of such lack of control, diversion of weapons and impunity.

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Joseph Kony responsible for hundreds of kidnappings in last three years

A new UN report has revealed that the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has kidnapped almost 600 children in the past three years.

The United Nations has published a report accusing Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of kidnapping hundreds of children, who were subsequently forced to become child soliders, sex slaves, human shields, and spies.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented the report to the UN security council, giving a detailed analysis of the LRA’s brutal regime against children.

The report found that, between July 2009 and February 2012, Kony’s group kidnapped at least 591 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Of the kidnapped children, 323 were boys, and the remaining 268 were girls.

“Children reported that they were used in various capacities, as cooks, porters, guards, spies or directly in hostilities as combatants or human shields,” Secretary General Ban said.

“Girls who spent a substantial period of time associated with the group reported to have been subject to sexual slavery and exploitation, including by being forcibly ‘married’ to combatants. Some children were forced to use violence, including to kill their friends or other children in the armed group.

“Numerous children abducted, especially boys, reported to have received so-called magical potions from LRA leaders, which they were told would increase their physical capacities and make it possible to trace and re-abduct them if they escaped.”

Furthermore, the report outlines the difficulty and stigma faced by victims of sexual violence when returning to their former lives.

Ban said: “Families that take in such LRA victims are often accused by their community of supporting LRA and the girls or young women escaping LRA with babies are often seen as bringing bad luck.”

“[The] LRA continues to pose a significant threat not only to children, but also to the civilian population at large and has forced 45,000 persons in the region to leave their homes. While the number of children killed or maimed by LRA in 2010-11 appears to have decreased compared to previous years, the ongoing abduction and forced recruitment of children, as well as the systematic rape and sexual exploitation of captive girls, is egregious and unacceptable.”

Formed over 20 years ago, the LRA initially sought to fight against what it perceived as the marginalisation of the ethnic Acholi people from northern Uganda. However, its current aims are much less clear.

The UN describes the LRA as maintaining organisational cohesion through “a mixture of violence justified by a cultic ideology which posits individuals outside the LRA as being impure and therefore deserving death; spiritualism which promotes the authority and appearance of clairvoyance of Joseph Kony; and severe punishments for indiscipline or disloyalty.”

Kony has been hunted unsuccessfully for decades.  However, a senior LRA commander, Caesar Acellam, was captured this May. Last year US President Barack Obama sent 100 special forces personnel to assist Ugandan soldiers in track Kony and his senior commanders.

Major General Caesar Acellam Otto, LRA third-in-command after Kony and Okot Odhiambo, was captured along the banks of the Mobou River in the Central African Republic in mid-May.  Top Ugandan army officers, announcing the arrest, defined it as ‘‘big progress’’ towards the capture of Kony. Uganda’s Major General Katumba Wamala said Acellam’s arrest has boosted the morale of forces hunting Kony and his fighters.

According to the UN, Kony changes his location every few days, and could be in DR Congo, South Sudan or the Central African Republic. All three countries are preparing to coordinate their efforts to capture Kony after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest.

Kony and the LRA gained widespread international notoriety when a video produced by the US charity Invisible Children was watched by hundreds of millions of people after going viral. The video was subsequently criticised for over-simplifying the situation, and its director (and co-founder of Invisible Children), Jason Russell, was arrested and hospitalised after a bizarre public breakdown.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin

US Backs LRA Hunt (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 10) 

Uganda: Increased Defence Budget (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 8) 

DR Congo. LRA Killings.  P 18912c (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 7) 

Child Soldier Recruitment Continues (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 4) 

LRA Attack (Political, Social and Cultural Series, Vol 48 no 3) 

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Somalia: Mogadishu’s building boom

After years of bloody violence and civil war, Mogadishu is experiencing a renaissance.

Mogadishu, Somalia (Picture credit: TedX Photos)

Once an elegant, Italian-colonial era coastal city, the Somali capital of Mogadishu has been reduced to little more than rubble in some areas after decades of savage fighting. But recently the city has begun to renew and rebuild, and its citizens are increasingly optimistic that the city is beginning to emerge from the darkness.

Violence first erupted in Somalia in the late 1980s in an uprising against the dictatorship of Siyad Barreh, culminating in his removal from office after a coup in 1991. There followed a brutal civil war, with rival militias, warlords and Islamist fighters battling ever since for control of the lawless nation. These decades of fighting have left Mogadishu wearied and battle scarred.

Today, however, reconstruction projects are underway across the city, business is booming for construction companies, and land prices are rising rapidly.

Security remains a concern, and for many displaced Somali living in shanty towns on the edge of this war scarred city, there is a long way to go before Mogadishu is restored to anything like its pre-war state.

“Security is still not reliable, but people decided they wanted to return life to normal. People are rebuilding their destroyed buildings,” trader Ahmed Sheikh Gure told the Associated Foreign Press.

Somalis who fled the country are beginning to return to Mogadishu, bringing with them much needed finance. According to the Somali government, the country’s  far flung diaspora are now returning to the country, and this has meant an acceleration in the rebuilding process, with homes reconstructed and the reopening of many businesses.

Construction is booming

After al-Shabaab’s fighters left their positions and withdrew from the city a year ago, Mogadishu has got on with the job of rebuilding itself.

“We are not jobless these days, construction is booming,” painter Adan Sharif said. “Every four or five weeks we are called for a new construction job.”

“Most of the buildings in our neighbourhood were renovated in recent weeks and are looking good, the area is no longer looking like the aftermath of war,” said Fadumo Moalim, a a resident of the city’s Wardhigley district.

The rebuilding of Mogadishu has had some knock on effects, sparking a rise in property and land speculation, as well as an increase in the cost of living.

And fears remain that violence could yet return to scupper the positive work that has begun in the last year.

“Buying land is very hard these days because of the rising prices, security is a major concern … traders are also thinking about what could happen next, as the war does not seem to be over yet,” said Abdukadir Bashir, a trader.

Security analysts have warned that Al-Shabaab fighters, who continue to carry out strikes against the city, remain a threat to long term peace in Somalia. Since they withdrew from the capital’s central parts in August 2011, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s surrounding area. However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.

New Offensive

Mogadishu does not reflect the rest of Somalia and its situation is precarious.  Just outside the capital, in the Agfooye corridor, the joint African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) / Somali National Army launched a new offensive against forces of Al Shabaab on May 22nd.

AMISOM issued a statement saying Afgooye has for a long time been a stronghold of Al Shabaab insurgents and is a strategic junction for routes to the north, west and south of Somalia.  It stated that in the military action, tagged: “Operation Free Shabelle”, significant progress had been made towards Afgooye town, with the aim of bringing security to the 400,000 people located inside the Afgooye corridor.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that 6,200 people had fled  – mostly to Mogadishu – putting a further strain on humanitarian agencies who are already struggling to meet the needs of an estimated 184,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Lt Gen Andrew Gutti, Force Commander, said that AMISOM was taking every precaution to prevent harm or injury to civilians.

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Liberia: Charles Taylor found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes

Former Liberian president found guilty after near five year trial at The Hague.

The International Criminal Court, The Hague

Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, has been found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war. Taylor stood accused of supporting rebels who killed tens of thousands in the war, which took place for over a decade, finally ending in 2002.

Taylor was convicted on 11 counts including terror, murder and rape, but was cleared of ordering the crimes.

Taylor’s conviction is a landmark moment for the international justice system as he is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremburg trials of prominent Nazis in the aftermath of the second World War. International human rights campaigners believe this is a watershed moment that could set a legal precedent, something that will be on the mind of Taylor’s former Hague prison neighbour, Laurent Gbagbo. The former leader of Ivory Coast  is currently awaiting the outcome of his own trial on charges of crimes against humanity. Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice-president of DR Congo, is also on trial at the ICC at the moment.

Amnesty International released a statement saying the conviction “brings some measure of justice to the people of Sierra Leone.”

Taylor had pleaded not guilty, but was ultimately found to have been “criminally responsible” by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The former president’s crimes occurred between 1996 and 2002, when he supported the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in committing crimes involving murder, rape, sexual slavery, enforced amputations, and terrorising the general civilian populace in Sierra Leone.

Of Taylor’s conviction, Human Rights Watch said:

“For decades, so-called “big men – people who either led armed groups or wielded significant political power – have been allowed to carry out abuses, seemingly with no fear of being investigated or held accountable by a credible judicial body. In this trial, for the first time, such a ‘big man’ was taken into custody and forced to answer for his alleged crimes.”

Charles Taylor has 14 days in which to appeal his verdict. If he loses his appeal he is expected to serve his sentence in the UK.

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