Recent Reports and Articles on the Sahel and the Horn

A few new reports have come out lately about the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, all of which may interest readers:

In the comments, please feel free to alert of us about any other new reports.

Continued Rejection of the ICC in West and East Africa

It is not new to read of African governments ignoring or rejecting the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s claims to jurisdictional authority. But two stories this week reinforce the idea that many key players on the continent are willing to cross the Court.

First is Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s attendance at an African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria. The ICC issued a warrant for Bashir’s arrest in March 2009, in connection with war crimes in Darfur. His travel itinerary since then charts a map of ICC rejection across Africa and beyond. While Nigeria is the first West African nation to host Bashir, it joins a trend that includes several other countries and the African Union itself. From the BBC:

Mr Bashir has visited numerous African countries since the arrest warrant was issued – including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

Only Botswana and Malawi have threatened to arrest him.

In May, the AU called on the ICC to drop war crimes charges against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta after accusing it of “hunting” Africans because of their race.

Mention of Kenya brings us to the second news item from this week: Yesterday, the ICC rejected another request from Kenyan Vice President William Ruto, who like Kenyatta faces charges at the Court, to hold his trial in Africa.

The election, in March of this year, of Kenyatta and Ruto seemed a rebuke to the Court. Both men have been under indictment since March 2011 in connection with election/post-election violence in 2007-2008. David Bosco, writing shortly before Kenya’s most recent election, spelled out some potential consequences that a Kenyatta victory might have for the Court. One of these is particularly noteworthy in light of the Court’s decision on Ruto’s request for a trial location change:

That a freshly elected African head of state will bear the burden of ICC indictment would likely worsen already poor relations between the court and African officialdom. Many African leaders have argued that the ICC, which to this point has indicted only Africans, systematically ignores crimes committed in other parts of the world. At various points, African leaders have discussed withdrawing en masse from the treaty that created the court or, more likely, empowering a regional court to investigate atrocities, thereby displacing the ICC.

The ICC’s decision to keep Ruto’s trial in The Hague may strengthen such sentiments among some African leaders.

From both Nigeria and Kenya, then, I see fresh examples of the difficulty the Court is having in achieving legitimacy and recognition in Africa.

South Sudan: Basic Information on David Yauyau’s Rebel Movement

The rebellion led by David Yauyau in South Sudan’s Jonglei State has attracted some press coverage lately; here I’ll try to provide some background sources about Yauyau and his movement, as well as some key dates. Yauyau has rebelled twice – from May 2010 to June 2011, and from April 2012 to the present. Small Arms Survey published a backgrounder (.pdf) in 2011 on the first rebellion. The backgrounder analyzes the rebellion partly in terms of internal politics within the Murle community, to which Yauyau belongs. Reports by the Sudan Tribune (April 2012) and Reuters (September 2012) offer information on the second rebellion and its place within the broader constellation of rebel movements South Sudan faces. From the Reuters story:

Yau Yau, thought to have limited military experience, first rebelled in May 2010 after standing as an independent candidate in the state’s parliamentary election for the Gumuruk-Boma constituency. He lost to the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the ruling party in South Sudan] candidate by a big margin.

During his first revolt, he gained support amongst the youth because he was seen as a champion of Murle interests. But he also lost backing when he accepted a South Sudan government amnesty in June 2011, allegedly in exchange for a house, cars and cash, according to Murle involved in the negotiations.

He defected to Khartoum in April while supposedly being treated in a Kenyan hospital, and later went back to Jonglei with 19 men, arriving in July, Murle leader Konyi said.

According to a radio station called Radio Yau Yau, which the Juba government believes is broadcasting from Khartoum, his rebels are fighting in reaction to abuses committed during the disarmament program, especially the rape of Murle women.

VOA has more on Yauyau’s recruitment among Murle youth in the wake of government disarmament campaigns in Jonglei State in March 2012.

In April of this year, continued attacks by the rebels seemed to indicate that they were rejecting a government offer of amnesty. In an interview with VOA this week, Yauyau said that the rebels want the government to create a new state for minority ethnic groups like the Murle:

“This time around, we are fighting for the people of South Sudan, the minority communities like the Murle and the others…They don’t have a voice… they don’t have rights to live in the land. We don’t have a voice in the government. We are struggling together with them and we’ve lost some of our sons.”

Here are the dates of some battles between Yauyau’s forces and the SPLM’s Army, the SPLA:

Sudan: A Cross-Amputation in Political Context

Q 5:33 is rendered, in Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief throughout the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

On February 14, Sudanese authorities carried out a “cross-amputation” against an accused highway robber named Adam al Muthna. According to Human Rights Watch, “Muthna was convicted of armed robbery (Haraba) under article 167 of the 1991 Sudanese Penal Code in relation to an armed attack on a truck carrying passengers between North Kordofan and East Darfur in March 2006.” HRW adds,

Article 168(b) of the Sudanese Penal Code provides cross amputation as a penalty for armed robbery when it results in grievous injury or involves the robbery of property equivalent to an amount decreed by the judiciary, currently set at 1500 Sudanese Pounds (approximately US$ 340).

Amputation as a form of corporal punishment was incorporated into Sudanese law in 1983 when then-President Gaffar Nimeiry introduced Islamic reforms known as the “September laws.” Although sentences imposing amputations have been handed down under those laws, there are no known cases since 2001 in which such sentences have been carried out. Human rights groups had hoped this signaled a de facto moratorium on the practice.

[…]

Sudanese authorities have imposed stoning sentences and routinely order flogging penalties. Both penalties are forms of corporal punishment justified as Sharia (Islamic law). In 2012, two sentences of death by stoning for adultery were imposed on women but were overturned following an international outcry.

Reuters discusses some of the political context that helps explain why the “de facto moratorium” has ended. Some argue that the cross-amputation represents a move to claim religious legitimacy amid domestic dissent. (Diverse forms of dissent in recent years have included armed rebellion in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, an alleged coup attempt, street protests motivated by economic and political grievances, etc.) Reuters also points out that the government has consistently pledged deeper Islamization of society, government, and law since the run-up to South Sudan’s secession.

[The cross-amputation] followed a pledge by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to implement a “100%” Islamic constitution as a result of the secession in 2011 of the mainly non-Muslim south of Sudan.

Let’s flash back to December 2010:

Sudan’s president said the country would adopt an Islamic constitution if the south split away in a referendum due next month, in a speech on [19 December 2010] in which he also defended police filmed flogging a woman.

“If south Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity,” President Omar Hassan al-Bashir told supporters at a rally in the eastern city of Gedaref.

“Sharia (Islamic law) and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language,” he said.

And to July 2012:

“We want to present a constitution that serves as a template to those around us. And our template is clear, a 100 percent Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western (influences),” said Bashir [in a speech in Khartoum on 7 July 2012].

“And we tell non-Muslims, nothing will preserve your rights except for Islamic sharia because it is just,” he said.

Bashir, facing small-scale protests calling for him to step down, said a committee made up of “all parties, religious sects and Sufis” would be set up to draft a constitution.

That appeared to be a move to assuage resentment by other opposition parties – many of which are still dominated by Islamist figures – over Bashir’s reluctance to loosen the grip of the ruling National Congress Party.

He did not give a date for the new constitution.

As of last month, momentum toward a new constitution seemed to be growing.

I think the cross-amputation is a sign that the Bashir government’s statements and plans concerning deeper Islamization deserve to be taken seriously. It seems likely that there will be continued efforts by his government to design and carry out legislation based on the government’s reading of shari’a.

A few relevant resources:

A Sudanese Reaction to OSJI’s Torture Report

The Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) recently released a report (.pdf) entitled, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition.” The report includes sections on numerous countries whose governments reportedly participated in detention and rendition. Readers of this blog may be interested to look at the sections on Algeria (p. 65), Djibouti (pp. 73-74), Ethiopia (pp. 75-76), Gambia (p. 77), Kenya (p. 88), Libya (pp. 88-90), Mauritania (p. 96), Morocco (pp. 97-98), and Somalia (pp. 106-107). At the Washington Post, Max Fisher has created what he calls “a staggering map of the 54 countries that reportedly participated in the CIA’s rendition program.”

The report has no stand-alone section on Sudan, but the report refers to Sudan several times as a site where people were transferred.

I have been interested for some time in the issue of what “leverage” the United States government has over the Sudanese government, and whether Khartoum has grown pessimistic about its chances of normalizing relations with Washington. In light of this concern, I was interested to read the Sudan Tribune‘s article on the OSJI report. The Paris-based Sudan Tribune is not a government-run publication and sometimes takes an oppositional tone toward the government, but I would not be surprised if some officials in Khartoum share the paper’s sense of what it calls the “irony” of Sudan’s cooperation on renditions:

“It is true that there was a period of time, as in 2002, 2003 and 2004, when intelligence cooperation with NISS went up but that has to be put in context … It is relative as it [counterterrorism ties] went from nothing to something,” [a US] official told Sudan Tribune last month.

He said that the US intelligence cooperation with Sudan is nowhere near the one that exists with Jordan, for example.

Ironically Sudan has been on the US blacklist of states sponsoring terrorism since 1993 over allegations it harboured Islamist militants.

Sudan has also been subject to comprehensive economic sanctions since 1997 over terrorism charges as well as human right abuses. Further sanctions, particularly on weapons, were imposed in 2003 following the outbreak of violence in the western Darfur region.

Have you read any other reactions to the OSJI report from around the region?

It’s Still Dangerous to Be a Politician in Somalia

It’s still dangerous to be a politician in Somalia.

September 12, 2012:

Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, survived an assassination attempt Wednesday when suicide bombers attacked the Mogadishu hotel where was living.

[…]

Militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombings.

[…]

Somalia’s parliament elected Mr. Mohamud president on [September 10]. It was the last step of a U.N.-backed plan to bring a stable central government to Somalia.

January 29, 2013:

A suicide bomber Tuesday detonated explosives outside the prime minister’s home in Somalia’s presidential palace compound, killing two people, security officials said. [Al Shabab] claimed responsibility for the attack.

Remember, these attacks occurred after (1) a multi-year military offensive carried out by African Union troops, Kenyan soldiers, and Somali government forces against Al Shabab and (2) a months-long political transition that was hampered by delays and left key questions regarding the nature and extent of federal authority unresolved. Somalia’s conflicts are not over.

Somalia, in my view, fits neither the narrative of “hellhole where nothing ever changes” nor the narrative of “brand new success story.” Reconquering rebel-held territory and holding elections (or in this case selections) for new political leaders do not necessarily end strife and division. Before one touts Somalia as a model for Mali or anywhere else, it’s important to keep in mind the formidable obstacles to national unity and reconstruction that remain there.

Coup Rumors and Reports from Eritrea and South Sudan

Eritrea

Martin Plaut:

At around 10am on 21 January a contingent of Eritrean troops stormed the state television station. They rounded up the staff – all employees of the Ministry of Information – and forced the director of Eritrea TV, Asmellash Abraha Woldu, to read a statement calling for:
the freeing of all prisoners of conscience
the implementation of the Eritrean constitution
and stating that the ministry of information was under their control.
Almost immediately the television broadcast was interrupted, and remained off the air for several hours, before resuming its broadcasts with pre-recorded material. This is about all that is clear.

Al Jazeera:

The small country in the horn of Africa remains isolated and is often described as repressed.

With thousands of political prisoners, a constitution that remains in limbo, and a president who has failed to keep promises of reform, analysts say more challenges are inevitable.

The BBC has more reporting, while Think Africa Press takes a look at Eritrea’s present and its possible future. Jay Ufelder, meanwhile, reminds us that there’s more to events like these than the equation “poverty+repression=coups.”

South Sudan

The BBC:

South Sudan has denied to the BBC that the dismissal of more than 30 top army officers has anything to do with a rumour about a coup attempt.

The country’s information minister said the changes were been made to bring younger people into top positions.

On Monday, all six deputy chiefs of staff were removed and 29 major generals were dismissed.

It is the biggest shake-up of the military since South Sudan became independent in July 2011.

More here and here is the official document from the Government of South Sudan, via their website.

What do you make of these events?