Tag Archives: Burundi

Protests Continue in Burundi as President Dismisses Opposition Calls to Step Down Next Year

Posted on in Burundi title_rule

Violent protests have continued since Sunday in Burundi, with a spokesman for the country’s president announcing that President Pierre Nkurunziza will continue with his bid for a third term in office.

On Wednesday, a telecoms official disclosed that authorities have cut mobile access to several social networks and messaging applications. Networks including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, which have been used to organize protests, were no longer accessible via mobile telephone in the capital on Wednesday, with officials providing no explanation for the service cut. A telecoms source confirmed that operators had been ordered in writing by Burundi’s telecommunications regulator, ARCT, to block mobile access to certain sites.

The move to block mobile access to certain social networks and messaging applications came after three days of violent protests in the capital Bujumbura. On Tuesday, anti-government protests continued, with police reinforcements boosting the numbers of security forces deployed to the streets. While protesters remained defiant, most were contained in the side streets and were blocked from the city’s center. On the ground sources have reported that protesters burned tires and erected street barricades in the capital. On Monday, the ruling party indicated that the protests in the capital are “nothing short of rebellion.” Officials have accused the opposition of trying to make the country ungovernable.

This week’s protests in Burundi erupted on Sunday, a day after the country’s president was nominated as the ruling party’s candidate for a third term in office, a move that has prompted complaints from the opposition and drawn criticism from the United States. Security was tightened across the capital city as the ruling CNDD-FDD opened a special party congress, during which President Nkurunziza was officially designated as the party’s candidate. Opposition figures have indicated that the move is unconstitutional and have warned President Nkurunziza that his efforts to remain in power will push the country back into violence. They have vowed to defy a nationwide ban on demonstrations and warnings that the army could be deployed. Washington has also condemned Nkurunzia’s candidacy, warning that the central African nation “is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy.”

Despite this, a spokesman for President Pierre Nkurunziza stated Tuesday that the president will continue his bid for a third term in office. Presidential communications chief Willy Nyamitwe stated that “we wont back down, that is out of the question,” adding that he blamed demonstrators for the violence. The government has banned all protests and has deployed large numbers of police and troops onto the streets, with on the ground sources reporting that police have fired live ammunition, tear gas and water canons at protesters. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters have been arrested. Officials have indicated that at least five people have died since clashes broke out Sunday. Sources have disclosed that some of the protesters killed were shot at close range. Police officials have indicated that at least 37 officers have been wounded.

According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda over the weekend, effectively bringing the total number of arrivals in April to nearly 21,000. The Rwandan government has warned that the number of arrivals could increase to 50,000 as tensions in neighboring Burundi continue to rise. Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, has disclosed that most of the new arrivals in Rwanda are women and children, noting that the refugees have reported facing intimidation and threats of violence that are linked to the upcoming elections. According to the UNHCR, since the beginning of this month 3,800 Burundian nationals have also fled to the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Presidential elections in Burundi are due to be held on 26 June.

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CAR Security Update

Posted on in Central Africa Republic title_rule

On Tuesday, officials in France vowed to continue their mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) after the death of two elite soldiers, which have highlighted the risks of a mission that aims to disarm rogue rebels who have plunged the country into chaos.  The death of the two French soldiers came hours before French President Francois Hollande visited the country.

First French Losses

Antoine Le Quinio, 22, and Nicolas Vokaer, 23, both members of the 8th Parachute regiment that is based in Castres, south western France, died overnight Monday after being caught up in a fierce fire fight during a night patrol in the capital city of Bangui, where sectarian clashes last week killed hundreds.  French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed the first French losses, stating that they would have no impact on the tactics or the size of the 1,600-strong force that Paris has deployed in its former colony.  Claude Bartolone, speaker of France’s National Assembly, told reporters that the soldiers “were injured and very quickly taken to the surgical unit, but unfortunately they could not be saved.”

The French troops, along with African peacekeepers, had launched an operation on Monday to forcibly disarm militiamen who claim to be part of a new national army.  After last week’s clashes, in which the Red Cross has indicated that 394 people were killed in three days of fighting, tensions throughout the country remain high, with fear of continued violence.  While the French army has indicated that it had restored some stability in the capital by Monday night, low-level violence continued on Tuesday.

Following a request from France, the United States announced on Monday that it would help fly African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops into the CAR.  According to a spokesman for US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, US forces have been ordered “to begin transporting forces from Burundi to the Central African Republic.”  US President Barack Obama has also called for calm and has asked the CAR’s transitional government to arrest those who are committing crimes.

Presidential Visit

Meanwhile President Francois Hollande arrived in Bangui on Tuesday after attending a memorial service for South African former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.  Upon his arrival, the French leader paid tribute to his country’s two fallen soldiers.  During the short visit, the French President is expected to meet with Michel Djotodia, the country’s interim president.

Francois Hollande has defended France’s military intervention in the CAR, stating that it was necessary to avoid a bloodbath.  Speaking in Bangui, the French leader stated, “it was time to act.  In Bangui itself, nearly 400 people were killed.  There was no time to procrastinate.”


France’s envoy to the United Nations announced on Tuesday that his country wants elections in the CAR to be held “as quickly as possible,” preferably by late 2014.  Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters that “in light of political tensions on the ground, it would be preferable to have elections as quickly as possible, that is to say in the second half of 2014,” adding that “if the elections could take place in the second half of 2014, in the fall of 2014, that could be positive.”  Currently, the CAR has a deadline to hold legislative and president

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Al-Shabaab Turns To A More Regional Focus

Posted on in Somalia title_rule

One month after Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants stormed Kenya’s Westgate shopping centre, killing sixty-seven people during a four-day siege, the threat from the militant group, and local sympathizers, remains high as officials in Somalia and in the African Union (AU) look towards increasing troop numbers in a bid to completely destroy a group which has transformed itself into a regional threat.

Posters reading “if you haven’t learnt the lesson Westgate, more is coming,” which were posted up last week during rallies held in the southern Somali port of Barawe, an al-Shabaab stronghold, confirm what is already going on throughout the country.  Over the past number of months, al-Shabaab has significantly increased its attacks, both within Somalia and near the border regions with Kenya and Ethiopia, both countries which have deployed troops to Somalia in order to combat the militant group.  While these attacks will not stop any time soon, recent remarks made by commanders within the group have indicated that al-Shabaab may increasingly place pressure on those states that have deployed troops in Somalia in a bid to force their withdrawal.

While over the past two years, AMISOM forces throughout Somalia have dislodged al-Shabaab from a number of its strongholds, including from the capital city of Mogadishu and the surrounding regions, as well as from the southern port city of Kismayo, the militant group has continued to carry out assassinations of politicians and journalists along with a number of suicide bombings that have targeted troops and security officials.  While most of the groups‘ previous attacks have typically been small in scale, al-Shabaab has carried out large scale attacks in Somalia and in the region, such as the June 2013 attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu or the 2010 bombings in Kampala which killed seventy-six people.  However this more recent attack on the Nairobi mall has demonstrated a significant and worrying step up in al-Shabaab’s operations, with the group now seemingly increasingly concentrating on attacks that require longer periods of planning and surveillance.  Uganda’s announcement last week that it had increased its security level in the capital city of Kampala, after officials from the US Embassy indicated that they had credible information of a possible terror attack linked to al-Shabaab, also signified that the terrorist group may now increasingly focus on targeting regional interests, especially in those countries which have deployed troops to battle the militant group in Somalia. This recent move may also signify that al-Shabaab is turning its focus from Somalia’s internal politics to a more global agenda, similar to al-Qaeda, which the group is aligned with.

The battle to defeat al-Shabaab will now likely have to concentrate not only within Somalia, but also throughout the wider region, including in the countries that have deployed their armies in Somalia, such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.  While the AU force in Somalia has requested that its size be increased by a quarter, which will amount to 23,000 troops, preventing al-Shabaab from attaining territorial gains within Somalia will not eliminate the group entirely.  A UN report recently indicated that “al-Shabaab continues to pose a regional and international threat through its affiliates,” noting that as AU troops have seized more territory throughout Somalia, there has been an “increasing exodus” of foreign fighters, some of whom left “with the intention of supporting jihad in the region.”  Last week’s announcement that a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, 23-year-old Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, was suspected of being one of the attackers in the Westgate incident confirmed what United Nations experts have already noted.  That dozens, if not hundreds, of young men from countries across the Horn of Africa travel to Somalia in order to train with al-Shabaab militants.  In turn, it remains unknown whether the Westgate attackers were sent specifically from Somalia, or whether they were a “homegrown” team recruited within Kenya.  Consequently increasingly focusing on fighters coming from Western or Arab nations, along with local sympathizers and groups aligned with al-Shabaab across eastern Africa, will be a necessary step in fighting the militant group.

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