Category Archives: Africa

ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public; Guineans Await Election Results

Posted on in Africa, Guinea, Ivory Coast title_rule

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has released an arrest warrant for Ivorian ex-minister Charles Ble Goude pertaining to charges over war crime allegations.  According to the ICC, he is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity which occurred during the violence that erupted following the 2010 disputed elections in the Ivory Coast.  Meanwhile in Guinea, the country’s President has called on the opposition to accept the results of Saturday’s vote.  While the provisional results have yet to be announced by the country’s electoral commission, security in the capital city has increased as the atmosphere has been tense.


ICC Makes 2011 Arrest Warrant Public

While the Ivory Coast’s Charles Ble Goude, 40, has denied leading pro-Laurent Gbagbo militias in the violent attacks that occurred shortly after the 2010 elections, the ICC has indicated that Mr. Ble Goude, who is currently detained in the Ivory Coast, is suspected of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts that were committed between December 2010 and April 2011.  During that time, some 3,000 people lost their lives in the crisis after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.  Judges in The Hague have stated that forces loyal to former President Gbagbo targeted civilians who backed his opponent, the Ivory Coasts current President Alassane Ouattara.  Although the arrest warrant for Mr. Ble Goude was issued in December 2011, it has only now been made public and it describes the Ivorian ex-minister as a member of Mr. Gbagbo’s “inner circle.”

Following the post election violence, Mr. Ble Goude spent more than eighteen months in hiding.  He was arrested in January 2013 in Ghana and extradited to the Ivory Coast, where he also faces war crimes charges.  He has previously stated that as head of the Young Patriots group, he had only organised rallies and meetings and that he never ran a militia.  Mr. Ble Goude, who was placed under United Nations sanctions in 2006 for allegedly inciting attacks against UN personnel, has indicated that he is prepared to go in front of the ICC in order to clear his name.

Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, 67, was arrested in 2011 and is currently awaiting trial, on four charges of crimes against humanity relating to the election violence, at The Hague.  The former president’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, has also been indicted by the ICC however the Ivory Coast’s ministers have voted to dismiss the ICC warrant and have instead indicated that they will try her in the country’s own courts.


Tensions Increase as Guineas Await Election Results

On Wednesday, in the midst of security being increased throughout the capital city amid fears of violence, Guinean President Alpha Conde urged party leaders to accept the results of the September 28 legislative polls.  While the results have not yet been confirmed, the President has praised the vote, calling it the dawn of democracy in the West African state which has been chronically hit with instability.  During Conde’s speech, which marked the 55th anniversary of Guinea’s independence from France, the President stated “I would like to say how proud I am…of your amazing mobilization to make these legislative polls a real success.”  The 75-year-old added that the election “has allowed us to take another step on the path to democracy.”  However while the president has urged for calm as the election results begin to trickle in, the country’s main opposition parties have already stated that the elections were rigged.  On Tuesday, Guinea’s electoral commission released some partial and provisional results.  Although full provisional results had been due to be released on Wednesday, officials indicated late on Tuesday that tally sheets were still being transported from polling stations.

On Wednesday, police and military reinforcements were visible on the streets of Conakry, with barricades being set up around the headquarters of the electoral commission.  Despite the independence day bank holiday, an increased number of shops and market stalls remained shut as the atmosphere continued to be tense.


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Fighting Breaks Out In Mali; Guinean Vote in Delayed Elections

Posted on in Africa, Mali title_rule

A gun battle between Malian soldiers and suspected separatist rebels has erupted in the northern town of Kidal, sparking concerns that the violence could escalate amidst already rising tensions.  Meanwhile in Guinea, polling stations have begun to announce the preliminary results after Saturday’s elections.

Northern Mali Tense After Two Days of Clashes

On Sunday, the Malian army came under attack from gunmen in the northern rebel stronghold of Kidal.  The regional governor has confirmed the attack, which appears to be a sign that violence is intensifying against the army after peace talks with Tuareg rebels broke down last week.  According to a source in Adama Kamissoko’s office, “fighters from the MNLA came armed into the city centre, not far from a bank where there were Malian troops.  They never wanted the army around.  The army fired warning shots, and a firefight began.”  The governor has indicated that the exchange ended after more than an hour with “some wounded,” however it was not immediately clear whether the casualties were soldiers or militants.

International troops and UN peacekeeping forces, who were already present in the city, were deployed after the attack in order to protect the town hall, where the governor lives and works.  According to Kamissoko’s office, the gunmen were separatist rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which is the main Tuareg group that is involved in the peace talks.  A statement released by the MNLA has accused Malian troops of “flagrant aggression” in Kidal, stating that three of its fighters had been injured in exchanges of fire.”

Since Tuareg rebels, who are claiming autonomy for northern Mali, pulled out of peace talks on Thursday, there have been two militant attacks that have been carried out on Malian soldiers in the northern regions of the country.  On Saturday, four suicide bombers blew up their car at a military barracks in the city of Timbuktu.  Two civilians were killed and six troops were wounded.  This attack occurred less than twenty-four hours after militants threw grenades at the army in Kidal, wounding two soldiers.  Although no Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks, many have blamed them on militants belonging to the MNLA.

While the Malian government urged Malians to remain calm after Saturday’s attacks, stating that security was being enhanced across the country, the breakdown in peace talks, coupled with an increase in attacks, has dealt a blow to hopes that peace will last in the troubled West African nation.  A statement released by the government indicated that “the multiplication of these attacks shows that the war against terrorism is not over and that the security situation remains fragile throughout the Sahel-Saharan region.”

In February of this year, the MNLA took control of Kidal after the French-led military operation ousted al-Qaeda-linked fighters who had taken advantage of the latest Tuareg rebellion to seize most of northern Mali.  Although Malian authorities reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire accord with the MNLA, the situation has remained tense.  The June 18 Ouagadougou accord between the rebels and the government effectively enabled the Malian military to return to Kidal in order to prepare for the July presidential elections, which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita elected President.  The agreement, which was signed in Burkina Faso, outlines that the government and rebels agreed to respect the country’s territorial integrity and that they will hold peace talks that will focus on the status of northern Mali, which the Tuaregs call Azawad.  However on Thursday, the Tuareg rebels indicated that the government had not kept its commitments to start prisoner releases, and therefore they would pull out of any further discussions.

Elections in Guinea

Meanwhile in Guinea, the first polling stations across the country began to declare the results of Saturday’s elections.  On Saturday, the country’s voters chose from more than 1,700 candidates vying for 114 seats in a national assembly that will replace the transitional body that has been running the country since military rule came to an end in 2010.  Sources have indicated that there were no major incidents reported on Saturday.  Guinea’s election commission has announced that it will publish “partial and provisional” results on Monday and Tuesday prior to releasing the preliminary results on Wednesday, which will show the full picture across the country.  Under Guinea’s election law, the supreme court has to confirm the final results within ten days of polls closing.

While opposition activists, election observers and local media have reported that there were logistical problems in many polling stations, which prevented people from voting, including shortages of indelible ink, envelopes and delays in the provision of electoral lists, the observation mission of the Economic Community of West African States, which is made up of 100 observers who are led by former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo, has stated that the elections “were held in acceptable conditions of freedom and transparency.”  The vote, which was originally due to be held within six months of the swearing-in of President Alpha Conde in 2010, had been delayed amidst disputes pertaining to its organization, resulting in violence between government and opposition activists.

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Hostage Situation Continues at a Shopping Centre in Nairobi, Kenya

Posted on in Africa, Kenya title_rule

On Monday, Kenyan security forces announced that they were attempting to clear the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi after a three-day siege.

Earlier on Monday, sources outside the Westgate shopping centre reported that explosions and heavy  gunfire were heard as soldiers stormed the mall where suspected al-Shabaab militants are thought to be holed up.  The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) have also indicated that three terrorists had been killed and that all escape routes inside the centre have been sealed off.  Flames and thick smoke continues to rise from the building, with KDF officials stating that the fire had been started by “terrorists to distract the ongoing operation.”  The blaze is currently being managed by firefighters.  On the ground sources have reported that the attack was carried out by ten to fifteen militants, with officials stating that some of them are still on the run, hiding in shops.  The Kenyan government has also stated that almost all of the hostages have been evacuated from the shopping centre, however it remains unclear whether any are still in the hands of the militants.  This may be one of the reasons why authorities are moving cautiously in an attempt to ensure that there is no further loss of life.  Security has increased throughout the country.  The Interior Ministry has issued regular warning for people to stay away from the area for their own safety.  Security at entrance and exit points across the country has also been stepped up, with the ministry confirming that “more than ten individuals” have been arrested in relation to the attack.

Three Day Siege Began on Saturday

The official death toll stands at 62, with more than 170 injured.  Eleven KDF soldiers have also been injured during the operation  The three-day siege started on Saturday when militants entered the Westgate centre at about 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT), throwing grenades and firing automatic weapons.  Although dozens of shoppers fled the scene, many remained trapped inside.  Some witnesses reported on Saturday that the gunmen had told Muslims to leave and that non-Muslims would be targeted.  In a nationally televised address on Saturday, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta indicated that the operation to secure the mall and catch the gunmen was ongoing.  As on the ground sources reported that officers were going from shop to shop in order to secure the area, a senior al-Shabaab figure confirmed that the militant group was responsible for carrying out the deadly attack on the shopping centre.  On its Twitter account, al-Shabaab stated that it was behind what it called the “Westgate spectacle,” adding that the attack was in response to Kenya’s ongoing presence in Somalia.  Some seven hours after the initial assault began, al-Shabaab indicated on its Twitter account that its fighters were still battling Kenyan security forces inside the Westgate centre.  However a security source had indicated that police and soldiers had finally “pinned down” the gunmen in one corner of the shopping centre after several hours of fighting.  Kenyan officials also stated that four gunmen have been arrested and that one died of his wounds.

On Sunday, Kenya’s President stated that the country would remain united and strong in the wake of the deadly attack.  The announcement came as witnesses outside a security cordon reported gunfire and a large explosion, with increased gunfire occurring around 16:00 GMT on Sunday.  Between ten and fifteen attackers, all believed to be al-Shabaab militants, were still inside the complex along with some civilians who are still trapped, either as hostages or in hiding.  Some reports have indicated that the gunmen are holed up in a supermarket and that there are a number of women who have been reported to be amongst the attackers, however these reports have yet to be confirmed.  Al-Shabaab has claimed that there are currently at least thirty-six hostages being held inside the complex, however this number cannot be confirmed.  During a news conference on Sunday Kenya’s President stated that “the criminals are now located in one place within the building,” adding that “with the professionals on site, we have as good a chance to neutralize the terrorists as we could hope for.”  He also thanked those who helped with the rescue efforts, and asked other countries not to issue travel advisories against visiting Kenya

Amongst the confirmed dead are Mr. Kenyatta’s nephew and his fiancee.  The UK Foreign Office has also confirmed that three Britons have been killed, noting that the number is likely to rise.  French, Chinese, Ghanaian, Dutch, South African, Indian and Canadian nationals are also among the foreigners confirmed killed, along with a dual Australian-British national.  The wife of an American working for the US Agency for International Development was also killed along with prominent Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, who was attending a literary festival in Nairobi.

Who are al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab, which is based in Somalia, has links to al-Qaeda and although the Somali government has pushed the militant group out of a majority of the main towns it once controlled in southern and central Somalia, this latest deadly attack carried out on a shopping centre in neighbouring Kenya proves that the militant group remains a potent threat.

In Arabic, al-Shabaab means “the youth.”  The group emerged in 2006 as the radical youth wing of Somali’s now obsolete Union of Islamic Courts was fighting Ethiopian troops who had entered into Somalia in order to back the weak interim government.  It is banned as a terrorist group by both the United States and the United Kingdom.  There have been numerous reports that foreign jihadists have travelled to Somalia in order to help al-Shabaab which strives to impose a strict form of Sharia law in those areas under its control.  Al-Shabaab’s version of Sharia law includes stoning to death women who have been accused of adultery as well as amputating the hands of thieves.

While over the past two years, al-Shabaab has lost control of the towns and cities thorughout central and southern Somalia, the militant group continues to control many rural areas in the region.  The group was forced out of the capital city of Mogadishu in August 2011 and in September 2012, they left the vital southern port of Kismayo.  The port city had been a key asset for the militants as it effectively allowed supplies to reach areas under their control, providing taxes for their operations.  While the African Union (AU), which is currently supporting Somali government forces, hailed the withdrawal of al-Shabaab from Kismayo and Mogadishu as a great success, the militant group continues to carry out frequent attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.  Furthermore, although they have lost control of the major cities, al-Shabaab has increasingly been focusing on a guerrilla style of warfare that has effectively made the group more potent.

Rarely seen in public, Ahmed Abdi Godane is the head of the group.  Also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, al-Shabaab’s leader comes from the northern breakaway region of Somaliland.  He is known for his hardline and international agenda and is responsible for the group’s close links with al-Qaeda.  Godane announced in February 2012 that al-Shabaab joined forces with al-Qaeda.  In a joint video, Godane stated that he “pledged obedience” to al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri.

While the group has carried out a number of attacks within Somalia, with attacks increasing in recent months, al-Shabaab has carried out deadly attacks outside of the country as well.  The most recent was carried out on a shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September, in which at least sixty-eight people were killed.  It was responsible for a double suicide bombing in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, which killed seventy-six people who were watching the 2010 football World Cup final on television.  The attack was carried out because Uganda, along with Burundi, were responsible for providing the bulk of AU troops in Somalia prior to Kenya sending in its own troops.  The 2002 twin attacks on Israeli targets near the Kenyan resort of Mombasa were allegedly planned in Somalia by an al-Qaeda cell, while officials in the US believe that some of the al-Qaeda operatives responsible for carrying out the 1998 attacks on its embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam fled to Somalia shortly after the attacks.



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Security Forces Battle Boko Haram Militants in Southern Capital City

Posted on in Africa title_rule

Security forces in in Nigeria’s capital Abuja have indicated that a cell of suspected Islamist militants has opened fire on its forces.  If confirmed, this would be the first time that Boko Haram has staged an attack in Abuja this year.  In turn, it has cast doubts on claims that the group’s rebellion has been contained.  Attacks in the northeastern region of the country have increased recently despite the massive military deployment and state of emergency in the worst-affected areas.  In the latest incident to occur in the northern state of Borno, officials have stated that at least eighty-seven people have been killed by militants, who disguised themselves in military uniforms at a checkpoint outside the town of Benisheik.  Officials have reported that the militants shot dead those trying to flee.

According to the State Security Service, Nigeria’s spy agency, the clash occurred at about 03:00 local time after a tip off pertaining to the location of a suspected Boko Haram weapons cache.  On the ground sources have indicated that the shooting occurred at a two-storey building which is under construction in Abuja’s Apo district, which is home to a huge residential complex for Nigerian parliamentarians.  Reports also indicate that the building has been used by young men where they sleep at night.  According to the agency, the security team which approached the building, had been acting on information that was received from two men.  A statement from the State Security Service further noted that “no sooner had the team commenced digging for the arms, than they came under heavy gunfire attack by other Boko Haram elements.”  The Agency did not provide an further details pertaining to the casualties however eye witnesses have reported seeing nine bodies.

Meanwhile the attack in Benisheik took place on Tuesday however news of it has been slow to emerge as all phone lines in the region have been cut in an effort to help the ongoing military offensive.  According to security sources, Boko Haram militants drove into the town in about twenty pick-up trucks.  In what is one of the deadliest attacks to occur in the region since the state of emergency was declared, over the last three days, witnesses have reported health workers loading dead bodies onto trucks, with some reports indicating that the militants have killed more than 140 people.  According to an officials within the state’s environmental protection agency, “apart from the dead bodies recovered today (Thursday), we collected 55 on Wednesday and the fact is that we did not go deep into the bush where I strongly believe that many people have fallen there.”  There was also an attack that occurred on Wednesday night in neighboring Yobe State, which is also under a state emergency but which has not witnesses a high level of violence such as Borno state.  Sources have indicated that Boko Haram militants attacked the town at about 22:30, burning the police station along with other public buildings.  State police commissioner Sanusi Rufa’i has stated that “a soldier was killed in a shootout and the wive of the divisional police chief was burnt to death in her home.”

While this is attack is the first to occur in Abuja this year, Nigeria’s capital city had already suffered two major Boko Haram attacks two years ago.  The first occurred when a suicide bomber rammed a car into the police headquarters in June 2011, killing eight people.  Two months later, the group attacked the United Nations Headquarters, killing twenty-three people.  This most recent attack however is startling as it comes at a time when the country is experiencing a military offensive in three northern states coupled with a state of emergency that has been in place since May of this year.  In turn, the attack comes at a time when analysts have increasingly warned that while the military offensive may route out Boko Haram militants from the affected northern state, it may also drive them further south and into the neighboring states, therefore further exacerbating the issue.

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Hostage Video Is First Proof-of-Life Since France’s Military Intervention in Mali

Posted on in Africa, Mali title_rule

Al-Qaeda’s north African branch has released a video depicting seven kidnapped Westerners.  The video was received by Mauritanian news agency ANI, which indicates that all the captives seemed to be in good health.  France’s Foreign Ministry has announced that the hostage video seems to be “credible.”

The newly released video depicts seven hostages, including four Frenchmen and a Dutchman, who were kidnapped from a uranium compound in northern Niger exactly three years ago; along with a Swede and a South African who were abducted from a hostel in Timbuktu in northern Mali November 2011 in an attack that left a German man dead.  In the video, which was released to Mauritanian news agency ANI, Frenchman Daniel Larribe, 61, introduces himself as the head of the French group, stating that he was kidnapped by militants belonging to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  According to ANI, Mr. Larribe states that he is “…in good health but threatened with death,” adding that he holds the French authorities responsible for his fate.  The video also includes statements from the other French hostages, including Pierre Legrand, Theirry Dol and Marc Feret as well as South African Stephen Malcolm, Dutchman Sjaak Rijke and Swede Johna Gustafsson.  It also shows the French hostages reportedly urging the French administration, as well as their family members, to work for their release.  At the time of their kidnapping, the four Frenchmen were mostly working for French public nuclear giant Areva and its subcontractor Satom.  They were kidnapped in Arlit, northern Niger, on 16 September 2010.  At the time, Daniel’s wife, Francoise Larribe, was also captured however she was released in 2011.

Although it remains unclear when the video was made, officials from ANI have indicated that the messages recorded by the French hostages were made in June of this year.  Furthermore, this is the first video that is said to depict the men since France launched an intervention in Mali in January after al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to overrun the capital Bamako.

According French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Philippe Lalliot, “based on an initial analysis, the video seems credible to us and provides new proof of life of the four French hostages kidnaped in Arlit (northern Niger) on September 16, 2010,” adding that the footage was being authenticated.

AQIM is currently believed to be holding eight European hostages, including five French nationals.  According to French prosecutors, one of the French hostages, Philippe Verdon, who was kidnapped in Mali in 2011 and found dead earlier this year, was executed with a shot to the head.  Officials in France believe that his killing was in retaliation to France’s intervention in Mali.  A fifth hostage, Serge Lazarevic, was kidnapped along with Mr. Verdon from their hotel in Hombori on the night of 24 November 2011.  Shortly after their kidnapping, the families of the two men insisted that they were not mercenaries or secret service agents.  These comments were in response to threats made by AQIM militants stating that the two hostages would be killed as they were French spies.

While the newly released video depicts the pleas of the French hostages for their release, it is highly unlikely that the French government will get involved, and that their plight will be publicly discussed.  Although in July of this year French President Francois Hollande announced that France was “doing everything” to bring the hostages back, he indicated that officials would “…not talk so as not to complicate a situation which is bad enough.”

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