Burundi: Strife in Silence

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Last April President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would set aside Burundi’s constitution would seek a third term as the countries president. Three months later Nkurunziza was elected to a third term among claims that the election had been rigged. Since this election the country has suffered in silence as oppositionist to the president’s rule have been killed, fled the country, or disappeared all with very little notice from the outside world.

(Burundian Refugees in Rwanda. Photo Courtesy: BBC)

Before Nkurunziza could take office for a third term opposition parties staged a coup that eventually failed to oust the incumbent president. Following the failed coup were mass protests over the president’s third term and his alleged victory with 70% of the popular vote. Nkurunziza responded to critics violently. Since last April aid agencies have reported around 100 refugees daily cross the border from Burundi into Tanzanian with stories of the horrors they are leaving. This steady flow of refugees has put the number of displaced peoples from Burundi at an estimated 250,000 across the region.

In response to the worsening situation the UN Security Council passed a resolution to deploy security monitors to the region. This resolution has been met with resistance from Burundian government. In response to the resolution Burundi’s foreign affairs minister commented, “We don’t want deployment of hundreds of police officers. The United Nations has to remember that there are AU observers who are on the ground so we just need a few to help stabilize the situation in the country.” He then turned the conversation to reports that Rwanda had taken to training Burundi refugees as militants. If these rumors are true it could lead to more violence in Burundi and perhaps a civil war.

Yesterday there were reports of refugee, turned militant attacks on a town near the border between Burundi and Tanzania. These attacks, believed to be carried out by Nkurunziza oppositionist led by Leonidas Hatungimana left six dead. Hatungimana was a presidential aide to Nkurunziza but was fired after advising the president not to attempt a third term. Should these attacks continue they will likely only give the Nkurunziza regime more reason to be violent and oppressive.


For More Information Please See:

ABC News – Burundi: 6 People Killed in Gun Fire Linked to Rebels – 12 April 2016

The Guardian – The world looks away as blood flows in Burundi – 10 April 2016

All Africa – Burundi Rejects Deployment of UN Police, Monitors – 9 April 2016

Deutsche Welle – Burundi: Beneath the ‘peace’ lies fear – 6 April 2016

Third ICC Conviction is Full of Firsts

By Tyler Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

BRAZZAVILLE, Congo ­– On March 21st the International Criminal Court (ICC) declared Jean-Pierre Bemba, the ex-vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, guilty of all five charges brought against him. Bemba was being charged for his leadership role with the MLC militia, which committed atrocities in the Central African Republic’s civil war. This is only the third conviction ever reached by the ICC but it comes with multiple landmarks for the court.

Photo of Jean-Pierre Bemba during his ICC hearing. Photo Courtesy of NBC News.

Bemba was convicted of two counts of crimes against humanity, murder and rape, and three counts of war crimes, murder, rape, and pillaging. This is the first time that the ICC has landed a conviction for rape as a war crime. This conviction by the ICC shows the continued change of how rape is viewed in the context of war. Instead of being written off as an inevitable byproduct of war it is now seen as weapon of war that must receive consequences when used.

The ex-vice president is also the highest-ranking official to ever be convicted by the court. Conviction of a high-ranking official, who was not present or near the ground fighting, shows acceptance of a different line of legal reasoning from the court. The all women three-judge panel stated Bemba was guilty by failing to properly exercise the control he had over the troops. This line of reasoning could now be taken to hold military commanders and high up government officials for, not only what they do, but also when they have failed to responsibly exercise the control their office gives them. The judges summed up this line of culpability when they said they were finding him guilty for what he had “failed to prevent.”

Now that the court has accepted that superiors can be held accountable for the actions of those below them we could see more convictions come from the ICC. Although, we should be cautious of expecting any large changes too quickly. The next step in Bemba’s case will be sentencing after the court has heard from the two parties and the legal representatives of the victims.

For More Information Please See:

BBC – Jean-Pierre Bemba: DR Congo ex-warlord guilty of war crimes – 21 March 2016

The New York Times – Congolese Politician, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Is Convicted of War Crimes – 21 March 2016

ICC – ICC Trial Chamber III declares Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity – 21 March 2016

NBC News – Jean-Pierre Bemba Convicted at ICC of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity – 21 March 2016


18 Elephants Saved or Stolen?

By Tyler Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

MBABANE, Swaziland – This Tuesday, a plane loaded with some unusual passengers started the long flight from Swaziland to the continental U.S. Instead of people this plane is carrying 18 heavily sedated elephants to their new homes in three U.S. zoos. The three male and 15 female elephants will be split between the Dallas zoo, Sedgwick County zoo in Kansas, and Henry Doorly zoo in Nebraska were they hope to be bred. This move has been heavily criticized by some animal rights activists.

Photo of the Dallas Zoo’s Elephant exhibit, one of the destination zoos for the 18. (Photo Courtesy: Dallas Zoo)

In February the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the plan and granted permission to the three zoos to import the 18 elephants. To get approval for this moce the zoos had to meet requirements under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. To fulfill both bodies of law the receiving zoos and the sending country had to make certain legal and scientific findings.

The exporting country must determine that:
• the export is not detrimental to the survival of the species,
• the animal was legally acquired,
• the animal will be prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment, and
• the importing country has issued an import permit for the animal.

The importing country must determine that:
• the import is for purposes that are not detrimental to the survival of the species,
• the proposed recipient is suitably equipped to house and care for the animal, and
• the animal is not to be used for primarily commercial purposes.

(CITES regulations at 50 CFR 23, Appendix-I)

After permission was granted the group, Friends of Animals, filed a suit in federal court against the Fish and Wildlife Service seeking an injunction to stop the move. At the time the suit was filed the move from Swaziland to the U.S. was scheduled to take place in May and the court date was set for March, 17.

In an unexpected and seemingly questionable move, the zoos changed the move date and decided to move the animals on Tuesday, 10 days before the court date. Michael Harris, the legal director at friends of Animals, called the move “blatantly underhanded.”

The zoos have attempted to justify their actions saying the move was necessary due to heavy drought that has affected the region. In theory the move not only saves the elephants but will also help to ease the strain that is being place on Swaziland’s Hlane national park by the dry conditions. The zoos are also scheduled to pay $450,000 to the park in an attempt to help save the severely endangered rhino population that lives there.

For more information please see:

The Guardian ­- US zoos secretly fly 18 elephants out of Swaziland ahead of court challenge – 9 March 2016

The Telegraph – Swazi elephants sedated and flown to US zoos in dramatic ‘rescue’ mission – 9 March 2016

CBSDFW – Animal-Rights Group Moves To Block Zoos’ Elephant Import – 16 February 2016

Fish and Wildlife Service – Q&A: Importation of Elephants from Swaziland – 21 January 2016

Unusual El Niño Brings Sever Drought Across Africa

Record high temperatures in February and a dry El Nino season have combined to leave 49 million hungry across southern and eastern Africa. The UN’s World Food Program has declared that Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland will all be in need of food assistance within the year. The El Nino driven drought will have far reaching effects past food and water shortages and will make these populations venerable to other natural disasters like fires and infectious disease.

(Dry river bed outside Utrecht, a small town in South Africa.)

This season’s El Nino pattern has been unusual in two respects. First, it has been much more severe than any in recent memory. South Africa is having the driest season it has seen in 35 years, while South America is dealing with heavy rains. Second, it is predicted to last longer than normal. This El Nino pattern started in mid-2015 and many meteorologists are predicting it to last throughout much of 2016.

El Nino is a natural weather pattern that is brought on by the warming of the Pacific Ocean. Although it is a natural occurrence many meteorologist believe the increased severity is a result of global climate change.

Drought conditions and high temperatures are severely affecting crop yields in South African countries. Zimbabwe has seen output drop by half compared to 2015. Other countries have seen similar drops in production which has sent prices for staples crops, like maze, 50-70% higher in some regions. Should drought conditions and crop failure continue, these high prices and poor economic conditions could be felt well into 2017.

The UN and other aid agencies have been slow to react to these increasingly serious conditions. Global aid is already spread thin from other emergencies like the Syrian and Ebola crisis. Ocha, the UN’s coordination agency began to put need estimates out in mid-February of what response may be needed. These numbers show just how large and wide spread a problem this sever El Nino season is creating. Ten million are projected to need food aid in Ethiopia and 2.8 million more will see some kind of need in Guatemala and Honduras.

A detailed response plan has not yet been laid out by these organizations but one will likely be needed because of the scale of the problem. Even if the rains started today regions would still be faced with some food shortages. Britain’s Department for International Development said in a statement, “the planting window for cereals has already closed in the southern part of the region [Africa] and is fast closing elsewhere.”

For more information please see:

The Guardian – Drought and rising temperatures ‘leaves 36m people across Africa facing hunger’ – 16 March 2016

The Guardian – El Niño is causing global food crisis, UN warns – 16 Feb. 2016

Reuters – Drought may affect 49 million in southern Africa: WFP – 15 Feb. 2016

Reuters – South Africa drought likely to persist -weather service – 18 Dec. 2015

2 Nigerian Villages to Sue Shell in UK

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


ABUJA, Nigeria – Two Nigerian towns, Ogale and Bille, have decided to take on Goliath and sue the seventh largest oil company in the world, Royal Dutch Shell in a British court. This case will be different from other suites Shell has faced from Nigeria. Instead of claiming damages for spills, these two villages are seeking compensation for Shell’s neglected clean up of effected areas in the Niger Delta. It was unclear at first if Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd., could be sued in the British court for events that occurred outside the county’s boarders. The decision handed down be a UK judge on Wednesday allowed the case to proceed for now.

Effects of repeated oil spills on Niger Delata. (Photo Courtesy of Deutsche Welle)

The suites from these two villages are being headed by Leigh Day, a British human rights law firm. This is not the first time Leigh Day has taken on Shell for their involvement in polluting the Niger Delta. Just last year Leigh Day won $83.5 million for Bobo, another Nigerian Village effected by pollution. Shell had only offered $50,000 to the village to settle.


Shell has decided to challenge the courts jurisdiction over the matter and have asked English courts to intervene. Shell is also claiming that they are not to blame for the pollution citing multiple attacks and thefts from their systems by third parties in Nigeria.


Shells defense is not completely unfounded. The sites by these two villages are plagued with thefts, but also suffer from old infrastructure and a lack of general upkeep. Besides neglected cleanup the village of Billie is also suing Shell for failing to protect their Nigerian properties from these break-ins and sabotages.


These two villages have been some of the hardest hit by pollution in the Niger Delta since the late 1950’s. Ogale, which sits on the Ogale River, relies heavily on farming and fishing and has seen their natural recourses crumble due to polluted water ways, ground water, and swamps. The Bille village also relies heavily on fishing and is made up of a number of small islands strung throughout the Niger Delta. In some cases spills have been so bad that villagers were forced to put sand bags around buildings to stop oil from flowing in.


For more information, please see:


RT – No-one listens, no-one cares’: Nigerian communities sue Shell over chronic oil pollution – 3 March 2016

The Jurist – UK court rules Nigeria towns can sue Shell in UK ­ 3 March 2016

ABC News – Nigerians Sue Shell in UK Court for Oil Spills Contamination – 2 March 2016

The Guardian – Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd – 2 March 2016

Settlement Reached for South African Gold Miners

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


CAPE TOWN, South Africa – A case between 4,365 South African miners and two major mining companies has come to an end after 12 long years. The two mining companies, Anglo American South Africa and AngloGold Ashanti settled the suite before it went to court for 500 million Rand ($32.5 million). The miners brought the suite because of a lung disease they had contracted while working in the companies’ mines.

Gold miner working near Johannesburg South Africa. Photo Courtesy: Reuters

Heading the case was Richard Meeran a lawyer from the UK, human rights firm, Leigh Day. Leigh Day first got involved in the case in 2012 and has followed through till its completion on Wednesday. However, much still remains to be done before sick miners receive their payouts.


Although 4,365 miners were included in the suite it is clear that not all of them will receive compensation. The money paid out by Anglo American and Anglo Gold will be put into a trust and paid out to all those who qualify. If one qualifies how much they will receive will depend on the severity of their silicosis and their age.


Meeran admits that he does not expect everyone in the class action to receive compensation. The law firm did its own sampling and estimates that just over half of the plaintiffs will qualify to receive payout. According to the structure of the trust all testing and payouts must be done within six years, but Meeran believed it should all be concluded in four.


The miners are all suffering from a condition known as Silicosis, a condition contracted from repeated inhalation of airborne dust particles. Complications of Silicosis can lead to severe respiratory disease, ultimately leading to death. The conditions created by mining are exactly the type lead to Silicosis. The two mining companies were not being sued because of creating unsafe working conditions but instead because they failed to provide the correct protective gear for their workers.


Although many human rights groups have been supportive of the settlement it may be that it does not go far enough. The deal did include a payout for affected workers but did not include an admission of liability for either company. This means that the settlement will be almost meaningless for any upcoming cases against the two companies for the same disease. One of these cases that could have bolstered by an admission of liability is currently in the South Gauteng High Court, South Africa’s superior court.


For more information, please see:


City Press – Silicosis claims: Anglo has to cough up nearly R500m – 6 March 2016

The Guardian – South African gold miners awarded £22m in compensation – 5 March 2016

SABC News – Multi-million rand silicosis settlement is a victory for human rights – 5 March 2016

Bloomberg Business – Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Agree on Silicosis Deal – 4 March 2016

Cameroon Continues Battle Against Boko Haram

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


ABUJA, Nigeria – This Friday Cameroon reported that its military, working in conjunction with Nigerian forces, had killed 92 Boko Haram militants and freed 850 villagers from the small Nigerian town of Kumshe. This is the latest victory claimed in the fight against Boko Haram, a group that the U.S. has labeled as the most violent armed group in the world.

Photo of a raided Boko Haram camp in Nigeria. Photo Courtesy of the Guardian

It is reported that during the raid five soldiers were injured and two Cameroon soldiers were killed when a mine accidentally exploded. Besides freeing 850 villagers the multinational group also seized arms, ammunition, and what seemed to be a homemade mine production site.

While nations like Nigeria and Cameroon continue to have success against Boko Haram in traditional combat settings, guerrilla type tactics continue to be a problem. These types of attacks are reported to be responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 and the displacement of over 2 million since 2009, when Boko Haram first started their campaign.

Cameroon and Nigeria have seen some of the worst of the Boko Haram campaign but the violence has spilled over to Chad and Niger as well. In just this past year Cameroon has lost as many as 1,000 people to Boko Haram attacks and suicide bombings. The group has shown no signs of slowing down through the first two months of 2016.

Beginning in January the group attacked the northern Nigerian village of Dalori multiple times in a string of days and killed 86 and injured multiple others. February began with two suicide bombings in Cameroon that killed 12 and injured as many as 50. Boko Haram later claimed responsibility for those bombings.

Besides death and destruction the actions of this group have had other negative effects on the area. The group is known for targeting children and in response many parents have kept their children out of school for fear they will be taken. This group first gained national recognition after they kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a Nigerian boarding school.

Nigerian president Buhari ran on a platform that promised to defeat Boko Haram by the end of 2015. Unfortunately, it does not appear that his goal was met although, he says that there have been marked improvements on the ground. Boko Haram’s switch to guerrilla style tactics and heavy use of IED’s is seen as a positive sign by the president instead of a negative.


For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Cameroon: 92 Boko Haram fighters killed in Nigeria – 27 Feb. 2016

All Africa – Cameroon – 92 Boko Haram Fighters Killed in Nigeria – 27 Feb. 2016

The Guardian – Cameroon says 92 Boko Haram militants killed and 850 captives freed – 26 Feb. 2016

Reuters – Cameroon says its army kills 92 militants in operation with Nigeria – 26 Feb. 2016

Egypt on Path to Repeat 2011?

By Tyler Campbell Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CAIRO, Egypt – People gathered together protesting repeated instances of police brutality. A wide range of people, from doctors to taxi cab drivers, actively voicing their frustration with a government they see as increasingly heavy handed. Reporters catching every moment and informing the public with social media. All this leading to grass roots support with the hashtag Jan25. For many this sounds like the start of the Egyptian unrest that took place in 2011. However, for people living in Cairo, this could also describe what has been happening in the last few days.

Egyptian Doctors stage protest and threaten to strike after police violence. Photo Courtesy: Iran-Daily

Just as in 2011, there has not been one major spark to ignite the people’s feelings against the government. Instead a dangerous mix of authoritarian tendencies, police brutality, and general distrust continue to move people to stage these protests against the current regime.

The problem of police brutality was a major part of what lead to overthrow of ex-president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It appears the people of Egypt are again facing the very same problem. Last Friday the doctors of Egypt took to the streets to protest an instance of police brutality committed against 2 of their own.

On January 28th two doctors were assaulted and arrested after two police officers visited the Matariya hospital in Cairo. Allegedly, while receiving treatment for a cut on the forehead a doctor called an officer’s injury “simple.”  This comment ended with two doctors being assaulted and being placed on a bus toward the police station. The 2 doctors were later released but the larger group of protesting doctors threatens to go on strike if no action is taken against the officers.

Yesterday another instance of police brutality led to more protests around Cairo. Mohamed Ali, a young taxi driver, was shot by an out of uniform police officer during an argument between the two. It is reported that the two got into an argument as the officer and a relative of his were getting into Ali’s cab.

A statement from the Interior Ministry stated, “The policeman pulled out his gun to end the fight but a bullet came out by mistake, killing the taxi driver.” It is unclear at this time where the officer is, some reports say he was apprehended by authorities while others claim that he was killed by bystanders who saw the altercation.

Young Ali’s death came only a day after the regime had moved to close the Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence. This Human Rights organization had been documenting complaints of torture against Egyptian authorities and giving families effected by violence and torture a resource to turn to. Little explanation for the closure was given besides they had been operating outside their license.

If instances of police brutality and Human Rights violations continue to occur we could see a situation come together in Egypt that heavily mirrors 2011.

For More Information Please See:

The Guardian – Thousands of doctors in Egypt protest after police accused of attack on two medics – 12 Feb. 2016

The Guardian – Egyptian authorities move to shut down torture watchdog – 17 Feb. 2016

All Africa – Deadly Police Shooting Sparks Egypt Protests – Feb 19 2016

Deutsche Welle – Deadly police shooting sparks Egypt protests – Feb 19 2016


Uganda Election Won With not so Popular Vote

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


KAMPALA, Uganda – It was announced yesterday that Yoweri Museven has been elected to his 5th term in office as Uganda’s President. However, the streets were rather quiet and lacked the celebration that you would expect for someone who won 60.8% of the vote. Instead of supporters filling capitol square to celebrate their re-elected leader armed soldiers and police kept watch silently. While President Museven sat comfortably in the capitol, the leader of the opposition party, Kizza Besigye, was at home under house arrest.

Ugandan police surround runner-up Besigye’s Home, keeping him in and reporters out. Photo Courtesy: VOA News.

This is the fourth time Besigye had been arrested since voting started. Finally, he was placed under house arrest after trying to enter a home where he believed ballots were being altered. Supporters of Mr. Besigye have also clashed with Ugandan police forces since voting began Friday. Police forces and Besigye followers traded rocks and teargas canisters thought the capitol city after the election was called for President Museven with just over 10% of the polls reporting.


Mr. Besigye has officially called for an independent audit of the election in an open letter he sent to the people of Uganda on Saturday. Besigye commented on the election calling it “stolen” and “what must be the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda.”


Mr. Besigye and his supporters do seem to have good reason to be upset. During the election social media sites were blacked out along with mobile-money services. Urban areas that were expected to be heavily in favor of Besigye did not receive their ballots until late in the day. This led to lower voter turnout and ended with some citizens not getting to vote at all. Finally, there were reports of ballots arriving at polling stations that had already been marked for President Museven.


The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) were in attendance at the election and do not claim to have seen this level of fraud, but stopped short of calling the election free and fair. The EU-EOM reported that there was great enthusiasm to go out and vote but also admitted that this enthusiasm was over shadowed by intimidation and a lack of transparency.



For more information, please see:


The Guardian – Uganda election victory extends Yoweri Museveni’s grip on power – 20 Feb. 2016

Al Jazeera – Uganda’s Museveni re-elected amid controversy – 20 Feb. 2016

All Africa – Uganda: Poll Observers Give Mixed Verdict – 21 Feb. 2016

The Economist – Yoweri Museveni wins a fifth term as Uganda’s president – 21 Feb. 2016

The Day the Press Stood Still

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

CONAKRY, Guinea ­– This Tuesday, 5 media outlets in Guinea joined together to create a media blackout day in remembrance and in protest to the death of fellow journalist, El Hadj Mohamed Diallo. The black-out was intended to draw attention to the dangerous climate that Guinea journalists work in on a daily basis. At this point it is not clear if Diallo was targeted for being a journalist or just caught in the cross fire during a politically motivated uprising in the nation’s capital.

Media Outlets Closed during Black-Out for Slain Journalist (Image Courtesy Yahoo News)

Before his death, Diallo was covering the opposition party’s vice president, Mamadou Bah Oury’s attempt to enter his office after he had been removed from that office by supporters of Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) earlier that day. The opposition party and their ex-vice president are blaming each other for the violence that broke out during the walk in.

The risk involved with being a journalist in Guinea cannot be chalked up to mere government oppression. In fact the government is currently investigating the death of Diallo. However, it is not unusual for journalists to be targeted by different segments of the Guinea public. There are wide reports of journalists being beaten by police officers and media outlets and radio stations being told to not run stories.

One notable instance of journalist oppression happened during the 2014 Ebola crisis. One journalist and two media workers lost their lives while trying to cover the crisis in Guinea. This media team lost their lives not to the disease they were covering but for covering the story. The three went missing and were later found murdered in a septic tank. It is in this environment that Guinea journalist are risking their lives.

In response to the murder of Diallo the authorities in Guinea have arrested 17 opposition party members. Why these 17 members were arrested and what they are being charged with is unclear at this time.

Diallo worked for Guinee7 news and wrote for the weekly L’independent. He is survived by his wife and younger daughter.

The Guardian ­– Guinea’s media holds ‘press-free day’ over shooting of journalist in clashes –9 Feb 2016

AfricaNews — Guinea: 17 arrested over journalist’s death – 12 Feb. 2016

Bloomberg Business — Guinea Reporter Killed During Clash Between Opposition Party – 9 Feb 2016

All Africa — Guinea: Media Blackout in Memory of Slain Journalist — 9 Feb. 2016

Mass Graves Found in Burundi?

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


BUJUMBURA, Burundi – Human Rights group Amnesty International has released Satellite photos of suspected mass burial sites inside Burundi. There are five separate areas outside the capitol of Burundi, which seem to indicate mass burial. This report is corroborated by eyewitness stories and a UN investigation into 9 mass burial sites. These sites are linked to the violence that occurred when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would be running for a third term.

Satellite Images of Suspected Mass Grave Sites (Photo Courtesy of Amnesty International)

Back in April 2015 President Nkurunziza made his announcement and it lead to violence in the nations capitol. The UN has reported that since his announcement at least 400 people have died and 240,000 people have fled the country.


The images of the reported mass grave sites are linked to new violence that occurred in early December. Government authorities, mostly police, carried out attacks on civilians on December 11th, in response to an attack on a military base in Bujumbura. These attacks have been focused on areas and villages believed to be in opposition to the reelection of the president.


The UN is worried that these mass graves are just the beginning of trends of other human rights violations. Along with the mass graves there have been reports of sexual violence, torture, and increased disappearances. The UN believes 87 people were killed last month bringing the total to above 400 since the April announcement. Although, the UN admits the actual number may be much higher.


In response to the allegations from the UN and Amnesty International, Burundi’s foreign minister called it “mudslinging against the authorities in Bujumbura.” The minister also asked that organizations wait to see result of an investigation that had been ordered by the attorney general. Organizations and governments alike are worried that the violence could devolve back into the civil war that rocked the country from 1993 through 2003. It is believed nearly 300,000 people died during that war.


For more information, please see:


CNN – U.N. rights chief calls for investigation of rapes, mass graves in Burundi – 15 Jan. 2016

BBC – Burundi crisis: Amnesty claims evidence of ‘mass graves’ – 29 Jan. 2016

France 24 – Amnesty says dozens buried in Burundi mass graves – 30 Jan. 2016

The Herald – Burundi mass graves “a lie” – 6 Feb. 2016


Five Years after Tahrir Square

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


CAIRO, Egypt – It was January 11th, 2011 and the people of Egypt would no longer take the rule of president Mubarak. A month of protests, some of which turned violent, would end with the president Mubarak resignation and eventual life sentence. Five years later Egypt is faced with the realization that it has traded one repressive regime with multiple others in this short period of time.

Protesters in Tahrir Square the night before Mubarak’s resignation. Photo Courtesy: NY Times

On February 11th 2011, the people of Egypt had their victory and by June 2012 held their first real election in some 30 years. This victory was short lived. The newly elected Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was overthrown with in a year by the Egyptian Military because of massive public outcry. The military would then declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and wage a campaign against them.


Fast-forward to 2014, and Egypt has drafted a new constitution and elected the former Armed Forces chief, el-Sisi as their president. El-Sisi has held his presidency into 2016 but with a repressive hand. Many human right’s activists are calling el-Sisi’s regime the most repressive in decades. Egyptian human rights activist and reporter, Hossam Bahgat has said the levels of oppression are worse than the worst periods in ex-president Mubarak’s or Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regimes. Bahgat recently found himself victim of the regime’s oppressive nature, and was detained for a number of days for publishing false news harmful to national security.


Since el-Sisi took power, his regime has imprisoned a record amount of journalists according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Support of ex-president Morsi has also been outlawed. Not only has the Muslim Brotherhood been labeled a terrorist organization, but any political party with a religious base was also made unconstitutional by the 2014 constitution.


Most of the laws are focused on quieting any political dissidence. The country now has a protest law that criminalizes any unsanctioned march or rally. There have been reports that the regime is going so far to control the message that they are instructing preachers to declare any anti-government action a sin. Along with message control has also come increased surveillance around Cairo. Authorities have installed new surveillance equipment around Cairo especially in Tahrir Square. Authorities have also raided thousands of homes, taken political prisoners, and allegedly forced disappearances.


The joy and promise that was felt five years ago seems to be gone. The whole period of Arab Spring is merely a distant memory for the people of Egypt. Citizens and human rights activists must wonder how many more oppressive regimes must be toppled and replaced in Egypt until the that feeling of promise is not misplaced.



For more information, please see:



Bustle – It’s Been Five Years Since The Egyptian Revolution. Here’s What’s Changed – 25 Jan. 2016

Global Research – Five Years After Tahrir Square, Egypt’s Police State Worse Than Ever – 25 Jan. 2016

The Guardian – State repression in Egypt worst in decades, says activist – 24 Jan. 2016

The Atlantic – A Revolution Devours Its Children – 23 Jan. 2016

The New York Times – Hossam Bahgat, Journalist and Advocate, Is Released by Egypt’s Military – 10 Nov. 2015

Shell’s Failed Clean Up Efforts In Niger Delta

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


ABUJA, Nigeria – Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) released a report today calling Shell’s claims about its clean up effort in the Niger Delta “blatantly false.” Some of these un-cleaned spill cites date all the way back to 1970’s. Even though Shell Nigeria claims to have cleaned them twice, most recently in 2011, they are still polluting the surrounding area.

(Area of the polluted Niger Delta. Photo Courtesy of the Guardian)

The long-term effects that these spills continue to have are a combination of poor handling by Shell Nigeria and minimal regulation by the Nigerian Government. The Niger Delta is the largest oil producing section of Africa and Shell Nigeria is the largest producer in that area. The Nigerian government also happens to be the largest share holder of Shell Nigeria, meaning that polluted, or not, the Niger Delta is one of Nigeria’s largest revenue streams.

This conflict of interest may be one of the reasons that government regulation of oil spills has been relaxed at best. Three out of the four contaminated sites in the Amnesty report were actually cleared by government regulators as clean. Shell Nigeria claimed that it had cleaned all four of these cites, but all still showed visible signs of damage and pollution. The report found that this visible pollution was a product of ineffective clean up and not from new spills in the area.

Contractors that Shell hired to clean the areas were questioned by Amnesty investigators about their methods of cleaning spill cites. They gave candid and troubling answers. “This is just a cover up. If you just dig down a few meters you find oil. We just excavated, then shifted the soil away, then covered it all up again.” Amnesty has said that this method of “clean up” does nothing to prevent lasting harm to surrounding areas. It his is hard to know who to blame for the inadequate job done by these local contractors. They are trained and supervised by Shell Nigeria, but until the Nigerian government forces a more stringent clean up little is likely to change.

Shell was quick to place blame on others about the remaining pollution. It first vehemently disagreed with the reports findings, but declined to comment any further. It also released a statement that said that oil theft and illegal refining was the major cause of   this pollution, but again promised to keep cleaning, no matter the cause.


For more information, please see:


VOA – Shell Accused of Failing to Clean Up Nigeria Oil Spills – 3 Nov. 2015

Al Jazeera America – Amnesty: Shell Has Not Cleaned Nigeria Oil Spills – 3 Nov. 2015

All Africa – Shell – New Report Slams Oil Spill Clean-Up Claims on 20th Anniversary of Ken Saro-Wiwa Execution – 2 Nov. 2015

The Guardian – Amnesty report accuses Shell of failing to clean up Niger delta oil spills – Nov. 2 2015


The Horrors of the South Sudan Civil War

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

JUBA, South Sudan – A report released this Tuesday by the African Union has shed light onto the unbelievable scale of the atrocities committed during the two-year civil war in the new country of South Sudan. Wide spread reports of murder, rape, mutilation, torture, and even forced cannibalism make the report a disturbing and depressing window into the short history this country has faced.

Young Dinka Tribe Warrior Photo Courtesy of the Guardian

South Sudan came into existence in 2011 when 99% of the population voted to separate itself from North Sudan. President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his vice president, Riek Machar, held the new nation together for two years. Both leaders were representatives of their respective ethnic groups, the President, a Dinka, and the Vice President, a Nuer. Then, unexpectedly, in the summer of 2013 President Kiir abolished his cabinet and fired his vice president.


Kiir’s action sent shockwaves through the country and within days it had descended into full civil war between the two major ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer. This August the fighting was halted when the two leaders, president and former vice president, came together and signed a peace deal. In theory ending the civil war. However, this shocking report threatens to shatter the fragile peace between the two groups.


The report from the African Union found “sexual and gender-based violence” and “extreme cruelty” in the practices of both sides during the war. Even more alarming is the report that most of the atrocities were carried out against civilians not involved in the fighting. These atrocities include mass rape against all ages, the beating and then burning of civilians based only on tribal facial marks, and the forced cannibalism of civilians by soldiers. Places of worship, hospitals, and places of protection were also attacked.


The report from the AU ruled that there were reasonable grounds to find that war crimes were committed and human rights violated. However, the AU was not yet willing to rule that genocide had been committed, even though the lines of the conflict were drawn between two distinct ethnic groups.


A lot is still yet to be decided and resolved. The AU report gave some advice on what is to happen next with the young country. First, it stated that the government was certainly at fault for what had happened. The reports by President Kiir that the fighting began because of an attempted coup do not seem to have any basis in fact. Second, the AU suggests that neither Kiir not Machar play any role in a transitional government.


It still remains to be seen if the peace agreement formed by the two sides will be completely effective. Both sides still remain hostile against one another, constantly accusing the other of breaking the peace deal. The AU report, which was written a year ago, was only just released because of fear it would incite more violence. This still remains a distinct possibility.



For more information, please see:


The Washington Post – South Sudan report shows civil war horror: “I have seen people being forced to eat other humans’ – 29 Oct. 2015

The New York Times – Rape and Cannibalism Cited Among South Sudan Horrors – 28 Oct. 2015

The Guardian – South Sudan civil war inquiry details torture and forced cannibalism – 28 Oct. 2015

Sudan Tribune – South Sudan’s Kiir moves to take down Machar & Amum, Khartoum says accords unaffected – 23 July 2013

Fee Protests Leads to Tear Gassed Students

By Tyler Campbell

Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa


CAPE TOWN, South Africa – A proposed student fee increase by the by the finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, ended with students being tear gassed and hit with stun grenades last week in South Africa. Students were trying to stage a sit-in on the mid-term budget meetings to show their frustration with the proposed fee increases to higher education in 2016. Police responded with force when the students forced their way into the parliament complex in Cape Town. This clash with students continued outside of the parliament complex, where students threw bottles at police and chanted, “We want Blade, We want Blade.” These chants referred to Blade Nzimande, the education minister.

Police Arrest Students in Cape Town. Courtesy: The Guardian

This one incident is not an isolated occurrence. Students all around South America have mobilized to protest the proposed increases to student fees for the country’s universities. The movement has been named the #FeesMustFall movement, based on the twitter handle used by the group to organize events around the country. The group is made up of students who are worried that the 10% to 15% fee increase will lead them to a lifetime of debt. Many of the students find themselves in a gap between the rich, who can afford the increase, and the poor, who qualify for government assistance with tuition.


Frustration with he cost of education has been growing for many years inside of South Africa. In 1994, the promise of free education and racial transformation was prevalent with the election of Nelson Mandela. Since then, the promise of free education was sacrificed for other political priorities. The cost of higher education has continued to rise almost as fast as frustration with the cost of that education. A medical degree at Wilts University in Johannesburg now costs 58,140 rand ($6,000) a year. Proposed fee increases could push that as over 65,000 rand in 2016.


In an attempt to ease riots around the country the government offered to cap fee increases at 6% annually. This cap would still be above inflation, doing little to help struggling students to keep up with tuition payments.


The government and school leads have been placed in a difficult position. They claim that the fee increases are necessary to maintain the standards of higher education. Educational leaders have pleaded with the government to find even more funding to support an already struggling higher education system. Nene pushed the government “to find solutions where the current situation is inadequate,” but admitted “the government is seized with this matter.”


For more information, please see:


SABC News – Free education policy sidelined post 1994 – 22 Oct 2015

ABC – South African riot police clash with student protestors, fire tear gas and stun grenades – 21 Oct 2015

The Guardian – South African police fire teargas at students in university fee protests – 21 Oct 2015

Al Jazeera English – South African students protest education fee hike – 26 Oct 2015