African Leaders Encourage South Sudan to Revive Peace

By: Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch News Reporter, Africa Desk

 

JUBA, South Sudan — The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) concluded its summit meeting this past Monday with a focus on the worsening war situation in South Sudan.  The bloc at the summit called upon all parties involved to take necessary steps to follow a concrete plan to revitalize the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict on South Sudan, which was implemented in 2015.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (Photo Courtesy of Eyewitness News)

The IGAD also called for a forum including all parties, even estranged groups, to discuss measures to restore a permanent ceasefire.  The forum would also develop a more realistic timeline towards South Sudan’s August 2018 elections, and would delay the elections if necessary to a more feasible date.  South Sudan First Vice President Taban Deng Gai believes the elections should go forth as planned, however summit delegates officially decided that it would be “too premature” to hold an election considering the country’s high level of violence.

The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC) in South Sudan has also decried its country’s continuing violence.  JMEC chairperson Festus Mogae commented that “[t]he rapidly deteriorating political, security, humanitarian and economic situation in the country has caused unprecedented displacement, famine, and growing civilian flight.  The pace of the implementation of the Peace Agreement has been too slow…”

According to the UN OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin Report distributed on May 28, 3.7 million South Sudanese are homeless.  Some have relocated to civilian sites, and others have been moved to refugee settlements in neighboring countries Kenya and Uganda.  Also according to the report, 5.5 million people are “food insecure,” and there are many reports of human rights violations including murders, sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and detentions.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir did not attend the summit due to “pressing issues in the country,” however First Vice President Gai attended in his place.

Sudan’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Jamal Al Sheikh, told reporters that the summit commenced the opening of “Sudanese humanitarian corridors to forward to relief to the affected civilians in South Sudan.”  Al Sheikh confirmed that IGAD would continue its efforts to cooperate with willing partners.

 

For more information, please see:

Africa News — IGAD Redirects South Sudanese Warring Parties Back to Peace Agreement — 13 June 2017

All Africa — East Africa: IGAD Appreciates the Great Role Played by the Sudan in Hosting Juba Refugees — 13 June 2017

Eyewitness News — Africa Leaders Push South Sudan to Revive Peace, Delay Vote — 13 June 2017

The Star — End Hostilities, Abuse of Human Rights in South Sudan, JMEC tells IGAD — 13 June 2017

UN Peacekeepers Accused of More Sexual Abuse

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

KINSHASA, DR Congo– Another United Nations Peacekeeper is accused of sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The year has been filled with allegations of sexual misconduct against United Nations Peacekeepers in the DR Congo.  In this instance, a United Nations Peacekeeper was placed on leave after accusations that he had sex with a minor.

UN peacekeepers in Congo drive in armoured vehicle.

UN Peacekeepers in the DR Congo. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

This United Nations Peacekeeper is Romanian.  Out of the five cases that have come to light this year this recent case is the first involving a minor.  Two of the other cases against peacekeepers involve South African soldiers and paternal recognition.  In those cases one baby has been more and the other is expected soon.

The accusations that the United Nations Peacekeepers are facing in the DR Congo are not new to the United Nations Peacekeeping program.  Past allegations against peacekeepers have been made around the globe.  Nearby in the Central African Republic both United Nations Peacekeepers and French troops allegedly raped children.  The legal responsibility of the United Nations and the Peacekeepers in cases of sexual abuse is still hotly contested and unclear.  The victim of this most recent allegation has been put into the care of UNICEF.

For more information, please see:

BBC Africa – DR Congo: UN peacekeepers face fresh sexual abuse claims – 28 April 2017

Inner City Press – On New UN Sex Abuse in DRC, While MONUSCO Lists 5 Accused, UNHQ Won’t Answer – 28 April 2017

International Business Times – DRC: Five UN peacekeepers suspended over fresh sexual abuse claims – 28 April 2017

PBS Newshour – UN peacekeepers accused of thousands of cases of abuse, AP finds – 12 April 2017

 

Conservationist Kuki Gallmann Shot at Her Kenyan Conservatory

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

NAIROBI, Kenya– Kuki Gallmann, renowned author and conservationist has been shot at her conservatory in Kenya.  Gallmann is 73 years old and owns the Laikipia Nature Conservatory.  There is currently conflict between landowners, like Gallmann, and cattle herders in the Laikipia area.  Gallmann owned a luxury safari lodge which was burned to the ground last month.  It is suspected that the cattle herders may have been behind the arson.

Kuki Gallmann

Author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

Currently it is unclear exactly who shot Gallmann, but those that were with her at the time claim it was a group of armed men without cattle.  Gallmann is not the only one who has been shot.  A British rancher, Tristan Voorspuy, was shot dead while inspecting his ranch in the same area.  Gallmann has also been shot before in 2009.

Gallmann and others fear that Northern Kenyan is become a land of lawlessness.  There are many who have nothing to lose and simply run around the country doing whatever they can to support themselves.  Sometimes that means targeting individuals like Gallmann.

The widespread drought that is happening in East Africa is only complicating matters.  Gallmann’s daughter said that she and her mother often will let herders graze on their land.  However, recently due to the drought, there have been many more herders than usual.  Some cattle, Gallmann’s daughter believes, actually belongs to wealthy owners rather than locals just seeking a place for their cattle graze.  This has cause conflict between Gallmann and some of the herders.

Gallmann is currently recovering in ICU at a Nairobi hospital after a seven hour surgery to do repairs on her abdomen.  She is expected to make a full recovery.

For further information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Kuki Gallmann shot and wounded at Kenya conservation park – 23 April 2017

CBS News – Kuki Gallmann, “I Dreamed of Africa” author, shot at Kenyan ranch, officials say – 23 April 2017

Huffington Post – Activist Kuki Gallmann Shot At Her Kenyan Ranch – 23 April 2017

The New York Times – ‘I Dreamed of Africa’ Author and Conservationist is Shot in Kenya – 23 April 2017

53 Charged After Celebrating Gay Wedding in Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

LAGOS, Nigeria– 53 men have been arrested in the Nigerian state of Kaduna after celebrating a gay wedding.  The group was charged with conspiracy, unlawful association, and unlawful society.  Currently homosexual acts are illegal in Nigeria.  If caught for performing homosexual acts one can face up to 14 years in prison.

KENYA-NIGERIA-HOMOSEXUALITY-RIGHTS-DEMO

Kenyan gay and lesbian organizations demonstrate outside the Nigerian High Commission in Nairobi on February 7, 2014. (Photo Courtesy of NBC News)

Upon being charged the group plead not guilty to the charges of conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and unlawful society.  The groups defense lawyer, Yunusa Umar, claims that the group was illegally detained for 24 hours.  He also said that most of the group is students.  Gay rights group claim that the group was celebrating a birthday rather than a wedding.  Maria Sjodin, deputy executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, said she believes the gay wedding story is just an “excuse” and part of the police’s attempt to “crackdown on an emerging LGBTQ movement” in Nigeria.

Homosexual acts were made illegal in Nigeria in 2014.  The creation of this law came from the two conservative parts of the country: evangelical Christianity in the South and Islam in the North.  Human Rights Watch and other rights group claim that the law was also created to legitimize abuse in the LGBT community.  “Extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence” are common against people suspected of homosexual activities, Human Rights Watch said in a 2016 report.  The country also bans gay marriage.

Currently the group is out of jail on bail pending a hearing on May 8th.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Nigeria ‘gay wedding’ bust leads to charges – 20 April 2017

Deutsche Welle – Nigeria arrests 53 over Gay Wedding – 20 April 2017

The Journal – Nigeria charges 53 men with conspiracy to organise a gay wedding – 20 April 2017

NBC News – 53 Arrested in Nigeria for Celebrating Gay Wedding, Police Say – 20 April 2017

 

U.S. Troops Deployed to Somalia to Fight Al Shabaab

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

MOGADISHU, Somalia– For the first time since 1994, U.S. troops are being deployed to Somalia to help fight Al Shabab.  In 1993 during the Battle of Mogadishu 18 U.S. Special Forces personnel were killed and the U.S. withdrew troops fully in 1994.  After the incident the U.S. has been involved in the country’s affairs, but hasn’t had troops in the country.

FILE - African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers from Burundi patrol after fighting between insurgents and government soldiers on the outskirts of Mogadishu, May 22, 2012.

AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) peacekeepers march near the outskirts of Mogadishu. (Photo Courtesy of VOA)

The U.S. deployment of troops to Somalia shows how the fight against Al Shabab has intensified.  Currently AMISOM peacekeepers are doing the best they can to fight the terrorist group, but U.S. troops will be able to train more peacekeepers and give training guidance.  Al Shabab is an affiliate of Al Qaeda and has a strong presence in much of the rural part of Somalia.  The group has staged terrorist attacks in the capital city of Mogadishu.

The U.S. troops will be deployed until September and will work alongside forces from the United Kingdom and Turkey to train AMISOM forces.  A spokeswoman for the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, the division deployed to Somalia, says the command will be working “inside Somalia’s borders” at the invitation of its government.  Other details were not made clear.

The U.S. intervention comes at a time when Somalia is also dealing with a record drought and humanitarian crisis.  Thousands are starving in Africa because of the drought and humanitarian assistance is needed from Somalia to Zimbabwe.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – US Troops to help Somalia Fight Al Shabab – 14 April 2017

CNN – U.S. Sending Dozens More Troops to Somalia – 14 April 2017

Military Times – The Pentagon sends dozens of troops to Somalia as fight with al Shabab intenstifies – 14 April 2017

VOA – Dozens More U.S. Troops Deployed to Somalia – 14 April 2017

Zambia Opposition Leader Charged in Convoy Clash

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LUSAKA, Zambia–Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has been charged with treason after interfering with the presidential motorcade.  Hichilema was traveling in a convoy near the President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.  Hichilema’s motorcade refused to move for President Lungu’s convoy and President Lungu’s convoy subsequently tried to overtake Hichilema’s motorcade.  Zambian police claim that Hichilema endangered the life of the President by refusing to pull over.

Zambia opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

In Zambia, treason is a severe offense and the accused cannot be released on bail.  The charge also carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.  Police chief Kakoma Kanjanga made a statement regarding Hichilema’s arrest.  “It has been established that the opposition leader disobeyed police orders to clear the way, thereby putting the life of the head of state in danger.  We have today jointly charged and arrested Mr Hichilema and five others with treason.”  Kanjanga continued by stating “I wish to reiterate that the actions by the opposition leader were unreasonable, reckless and criminal. Therefore members of the public are being warned that as police we are not going to watch such kind of behavior by any person, irrespective of their status,” he added.

Hichilema narrowly lost the Zambian presidency to President Lungu last year.  Many in Hichilema’s party, the United Party for National Development (UPND), do not see Lungu as the legitimate president of Zambia.  Tensions are rising between parties as the details of Hichilema’s arrest are reported.  Armed police raided Hichilema’s home during the night of Tuesday April 11th.  Hichilema was subsequently arrested and detained.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – Zambian opposition chief gets treason charge for blocking presidential convoy – 12 April 2017

Al Jazeera – UPND Leader Hakainde Hichilema Charged with Treason – 13 April 2017

BBC Africa – Zambia Police Hichilema over motorcade clash – 12 April 2017 

Bloomberg Politics – Zambian Police Charge Opposition Leader Hichilema With Treason – 12 April 2017

Anti Zuma Protests Take Place in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa– 60,000 protesters marched in anti-Zuma protests on Friday April 7th after Zuma reshuffled his cabinet positions leading to yet another crisis during his presidency.  Protests took place across the country, but many were held in the country’s capitals Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town.

Protesters outside union building in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

The protests were triggered when President Zuma fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday.  This has not only caused distress among the public but also in the African National Congress party (ANC).  The ANC is calling on Zuma to step down as his leadership is continuing to affect the nation.  The firing of Finance Minister Gordhan caused S&P Global Rankings to downgrade South Africa to “junk”.  Other reasons were cited for the downgrade as well.

Although President Zuma is not set to leave office until 2019 protesters are still persistent.  Ailing anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu even made an appearance at protests, his foundations twitter posted “We will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us.”  Protests across the country carried on relatively peacefully on Friday, with a few clashes between police and protesters in Johannesburg.  Citizens continue to be frustrated with the Zuma administration and the civil disobedience will most likely throughout Zuma’s tenure as president.

For more information, please see: 

ABC News – South Africans protest Zuma as country downgraded to junk – 7 April 2017

BBC News – Anti-Zuma protests take place across South Africa – 7 April 2017

The Globe and the Mail – Thousands of anti-Zuma protesters march across South Africa – 7 April 2017

Reuters – Skirmishes in Johannesburg as South Africans protest against Zuma – 7 April 2017

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect: Atrocity Alert

Atrocity Alert, No. 50, 12 April 2017

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Atrocity Alert

 

Atrocity Alert is a weekly publication by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect highlighting and updating situations where populations are at risk of, or are enduring, mass atrocity crimes.

 

South Sudan

Despite the growing risk of famine, South Sudan continues to experience a rise in targeted ethnic attacks conducted by the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and pro-government militias. On 3 April, during an SPLA offensive to force rebels out of the town of Pajok, Eastern Equatoria state, the SPLA allegedly killed at least 17 people. As a result, 6,000 civilians, mainly women and children, fled to Uganda between 3 and 7 April. According to the UN Refugee Agency, those who fled testified that during recent assaults pro-government forces have slit people’s throats and shot civilians trying to escape. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) attempted to follow up on these reports, but was denied access to the Pajok area. On 8 April the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan “demanded that all parties to the conflict uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians.”

On 10 April the SPLA and government-aligned ethnic Dinka militia groups attacked residents in the town of Wau, targeting members of the Lou and Fertit ethnic groups. UNMISS reported that at least 16 civilians were killed. Approximately 8,000 civilians were displaced by fighting, while a local resident described how “armed militias are moving from house to house,” and described the military operation as “an ethnic crackdown.”

A year and a half after the 2015 peace agreement brought a formal end to the conflict in South Sudan, civilians continue to be targeted because of their ethnic identity and perceived political loyalties. Despite increased armed violence, the UN Security Council has still not imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan.

 

Photo credit: UNMISS

Photo credit: International Organization for Migration

Populations at Risk: South Sudan

 

Burundi

On 5 April a disturbing video surfaced of the Imbonerakure, the paramilitary youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, the Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD). The video, of an Imbonerakure gathering in Ntega, Kirundo province, shows rows of young men singing lyrics threatening to “impregnate the opposition so that they give birth to Imbonerakure.”

The UN has previously documented Imbonerakure perpetrating rape and other forms of sexual violence against female supporters of opposition parties, as well as women and girls attempting to flee the country. Despite initially denouncing the video as fake, the CNDD-FDD eventually verified the video’s authenticity, but declared the song to be inconsistent “with the morals or ideology” of the ruling party.

The emergence of the video comes amidst a new wave of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and the torture of opposition members in Burundi. The Imbonerakure, who often work in collaboration with the intelligence services and the national police, have previously been deployed to intimidate and terrorize sections of the civilian population presumed to be supporting the opposition.

The CNDD-FDD should immediately disband the Imbonerakure. The government should collaborate with the UN, African Union and other international partners to help end the political conflict in Burundi. All allegations of serious human rights violations in Burundi, including sexual violence and rape, should be subject to independent investigation and the perpetrators held accountable.

 

Populations at Risk: Burundi

 

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Situation in Congo Worsens as Aids Workers and Police Killed

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo– Violence has increased in the Kasai region of the Congo as more than 40 police officers were decapitated.  The police officers are said to have been fighting with regional militia known as Kamuina Nsapu.  The Kamuina Nsapu are also said to be responsible for the recent deaths of an American and Swedish aid worker.

UN vehicle in Tshimbulu, Kasai province, 20 March 2017
The United Nations Mission in Kasai. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

The situation in the Congo has worsened since the beginning of the year with violence escalating to include the death of two humanitarian aid workers: American Michael Sharp and Swede Zaida Catalan.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke after the two aids workers death “Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people. We will honor their memory by continuing to support the invaluable work of the Group of Experts and the whole UN family in the DRC.”

The United Nations has continued its work in the country despite the increase in violence and has helped to uncover ten mass graves and seven other mass burial sites.  Since last October over 400 have been killed in the country and over 200,000 displaced.  This has only contributed to the many other humanitarian crisis’ that the United Nations is dealing with in Africa and around the world.  The United Nations has said that as of this year they are dealing with the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.

For more information, please see: 

ABC News – Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 police: Officials- 25 March 2017

BBC Africa – Militia fighters decapitate 40 police officers in DR Congo – 25 March 2017

New York Times – Congolese Militia Beheads Dozens of Police Officers – 25 March 2017

Washington Post – Congolese rebels behead 42 police officers in dramatic escalation of conflict – 26 March 2017 

 

Cameroon Forcing Refugees to Return to Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

YAOUNDE, Cameroon– Word is spreading that Cameroon is returning refugees to Nigeria despite the fact the country is still facing conflict with Boko Haram.  UNHCR and other international organizations that work to protect refugees are deeply concerned by Cameroon’s actions.  According to reports 2600 refugees have been forcefully returned to Nigeria from Cameroon.

Refugees at a camp in Cameroon. (Photo Courtesy of UNHCR)

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch detailed a specific situation where Cameroon soliders forced refugees out of the country.  “UNHCR teams have heard and documented accounts about Cameroonian troops returning refugees against their will – without allowing them time to collect their belongings. In one incident on March 4, some 26 men, and 27 women and children, were sent back from the Cameroonian border town of Amtide, in Kolofata district, where they had sought refuge, according to UNHCR monitoring teams in the border regions.”  UNHCR has acknowledged Cameroon’s generosity in accepting 85,000 refugees but is calling upon Cameroon to be responsible for its obligations under international law.

Boko Haram has killed 15,000 and displaced 2 million in Nigeria.  While a regional coalition has been able to push back Boko Haram they have been successful in being more active in the the Lake Chad area.  Boko Haram is also not only an issue for Nigeria, but Cameroon.  200,000 Cameroonian’s have left their homes because they fear Boko Haram’s violence may spread.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Boko Haram crisis: Cameroon ‘forcing Nigeria refugees home’ – 21 March 2017

news 24 – Cameroon expelled 2 600 Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram: UN – 21 March 2017

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Cameroon forcing thousands of refugees to return to Boko Haram-hit Nigeria – UN – 21 March 2017

UNHCR – UNHCR concerned about return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon – 21 March 2017

Lagos Settlement Destroyed Despite Court Order

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LAGOS, Nigeria– A fishing community was demolished on March 17th, despite a court order not to do so. Residents of the Nigerian town of  Otodo-Gbame are in turmoil after a settlement was destroyed despite a court order that halted eviction of the settlement.  300,000 people are facing eviction across Nigeria in order to pave the way for development projects.

Residents after the demolition of the settlement. (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Residents are in shock after the demolition, claiming that they received no notice from the government about the demolition of the settlement.  Amnesty International has condemned the forced evictions that are happening in order to clear the settlement.  In a statement Amnesty International said residents “are being forcibly evicted and their homes destroyed by bulldozers as security services used tear gas and live bullets to clear the area.”  Amnesty International is also calling on the state to provide emergency services to the residents that have been displaced by the demolition.  “The Lagos State Government should ensure that the families who have been rendered homeless this morning are given emergency relief including adequate shelter, water, food and any medical care they may require,” Amnesty International Nigerian Researcher Morayo Adebayo said.

30,000 people were already evicted by last November as Nigeria began to make way for development projects. Nigeria’s High Court in January ruled that the demolition of the settlement should be stopped so many residents remained in the area and also decided to rebuild their homes if they had already been demolished.  Many human rights advocates are calling for the evictions and demolitions to be stopped.  Advocates are saying that the destruction of property without the consent of the residents is a gross human rights violation.

For more information, please see: 

Al Jazeera – Police displace thousands in Nigeria’s Otodo-Gbame slum – 17 March 2017

BBC Africa – Lagos Settlement Demolished Despite Court Order – 17 March 2017

Channels Television – Residents Cry Out Over Demolition of Settlement in Lagos – 18 March 2017

Premium Times – Lagos govt ignores court order, commences fresh demolition of Otodo-Gbame, residents say – 17 March 2017

 

8 Dead as a Result of Stampede for Food in Zambia

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

LUSAKA, Zambia– 8 are dead after a stampede in Zambia.  The stampede happened as people were trying to receive food aid in the capital city of Lusaka.  A church called the Church of Christ was handing out food aid at the Olympic Development Centre to about 35,000 people when the stampede happened.  Many of the people the church hoped to serve are residents of Lusaka’s slums.

Police spokeswomen Esther Katongo. (Photo Courtesy of ZNBC)

Police spokeswomen Esther Katongo confirmed that eight were dead.  Six of the victims were female, one male, and one male juvenile.  Five died at the scene while the three other succumbed to their injuries at the hospitals that they were rushed to.  After the chaos police ordered the church to halt the handouts of food, but some still stayed hoping to still get food.  An official statement reads “The victims are among the 35,000 which the group called Lesedi seven, had invited for prayers at OYDC. The group had also organized food hampers to distribute to people. This Lesedi seven is a grouping under Church of Christ.”

Zambia like many other countries near the horn of Africa is experiencing an extreme drought that is crippling resources.  Food prices have also risen which has made food unaffordable for many.  Zambian police are inquiring into all eight deaths as well as the other twenty or so people that were injured.  Despite the chaos Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja has said he has had a hard time convincing people to go home.  Many families are so desperate for the food they will risk their lives to get it.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – Zambia: 8 dead, 28 Injured in stampede for free Church food – 6 March 2017

Al Jazeera – Zambians seeking food aid killed in stampede – 6 March 2017

Stuff – 8 die in as crowd stampedes to get food handouts in Zambia – 6 March 2017

ZNBC – 8 die in stampede – 6 March 2017

Drought Worsens as 100 Die in One Region of Somalia

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

MOGADISHU, Somalia– The drought has worsened in Somalia leading to 110 deaths in the South Western Bay region, according to Somalia’s Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Haire.  The drought is caused in part by the El Nino weather pattern, and is wrecking havoc on an already struggling country.  Somalia has experienced low rain fall totals for the last two years.   While over a hundred have died, many thousands are still in need of food aid.

People travel long distances to reach this river near Dhudo, in northern Somalia, because it still has water.

Many travel long distances to this river that still has water.  (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared the drought a national disaster last week, hoping to show the rest of the world how bad the drought truly is.  Food is unavailable because of the drought and domestic livestock are also dying.  Thousands travel miles to the capital of Mogadishu for food aid, or to rivers that still have water.  Some of the water that remains is not clean, which puts citizens at risk for diseases like cholera.

United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq said that the drought has the potential to develop into a full blown famine.  de Clercq is scheduled to visit Somalia to discuss the humanitarian situation in the country.  Somalia is one of four countries, along with Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen that is in desperate need of humanitarian aid.  With limited resources Somalia will get more aid to help fight this drought, but it will most likely not be enough to save everyone.  Somalia is no stranger to drought and has lost over 400,000 citizens in droughts that happened in 2010 and 1992.

For more information, please see: 

AOL – Somalia Drought Threatens Thousands – 5 March 2017

BBC Africa – Somalia Drought: More than 100 Die from hunger in One Region – 4 March 2017

CNN – Somalia Drought: At least 110 Die as fears of famine grow – 4 March 2017

NBC – Somalia: 110 Dead From Hunger in Past 48 Hours of Drought – 5 March 2017 

South African Court Declares ICC Withdrawal Unconstitutional

By Samantha Netzband

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

CAPE TOWN, South Africa– The North Gauteng High Court in South Africa has declared that South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court unconstitutional.  The court’s reasoning behind this decision is that because the parliament was not consulted in making the withdrawal, the withdrawal is unconstitutional.  The court has ordered that President Jacob Zuma and the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs revoke their notice of withdrawal.

A picture of the ICC logo on a glass wall.

The ICC. (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

This ruling comes at an interesting time in the international community.  The Gambia, which is under new leadership, just recently revoked its own withdrawal notice.  After the ruling in South Africa there is now only one African nation who wishes to withdrawal, the country of Burundi.  Many in South Africa are excited about the ruling, mainly because of South Africa’s human rights focused foreign policy.  South Africa has worked to keep good human rights record since the end of apartheid.

While this ruling is welcome by many the government can appeal the ruling to a higher court, which they most likely will.  The government is still reeling after the visit of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s in 2015.  While the Sudanese President was visiting Johannesburg for an African Union summit the South African government openly ignored an ICC arrest warrant for al-Bashir.  The Sudanese President is wanted for alleged war crimes.

For now members of the international community are happy with this victory that will help save the International Criminal Court.  Until the government appeals South Africa will not be able to withdrawal from the court.

For more information, please see: 

Arab News – South African Court rules ICC Withdrawal Unconstitutional – 23 February 2017

BBC Africa – South Africa’s Decision to leave ICC ruled ‘invalid’ – 22 February 2017

Daily Maverick – Hasty, irrational and unconstitutional: High Court’s damning verdict on SA’s ICC withdrawal – 24 February 2017

Human Rights Watch – South Africa High Court Rejects ICC Withdrawal – 22 February 2017

The Gambia Rejoins the ICC

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

BANJUL, The Gambia–The Gambia has committed to rejoining the International Criminal Court.  The country formally recanted its original withdrawal from the International Criminal Court in a letter to the United Nations on February 10, 2017.  This decision comes after the inauguration of newly elected President Adama Barrow.

Judges at the International Criminal Court.  (Photo Courtesy of ENCA)

The Gambia’s recant of withdrawal leaves two African countries as outliers who are still pursuing withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.  Burundi and South Africa are still hoping to withdrawal from the court.  Both countries have unique reasons why they are trying to withdraw from the court, but one critique of the court has been that only African leaders have been held accountable through the courts justice mechanisms.  However, many of the individuals who have been held accountable were self referrals to the court from their country of origin.

The Gambia’s withdrawal has quelled concerns regarding the uncertainty of the International Criminal Court.  While there has been criticism of the courts jurisdiction, overall the court is the only of its kind that holds people accountable for international crimes.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres applauded the Gambia’s decision to stay: ‘‘The Secretary-General welcomes that The Gambia will remain a State Party to the International Criminal Court’s founding instrument, and remains confident that States Parties will continue to further strengthen the Court through a constructive dialogue.’‘  Clément Capo-Chichi, the Africa Coordinator for the Coalition for the ICC (CICC), a global NGO network, said the “decision to reverse withdrawal from the ICC is a crucial development for victims of grave crimes and the rule of law”.  For now the Gambia has helped quell fears of a collapse of the International Criminal Court, but whether or not this stability will continue remains to be seen.

For more information, please see: 

Africa News – ICC exit: UN chief hails The Gambia’s decision to stay – 17 February 2017

ENCA – Gambia to stay in ICC – 17 February 2017

Human Rights Watch – Gambia Rejoins ICC – 17 February 2017

News Ghana – Gov’t of Gambia to Rescind Decision to Live ICC – 17 February 2017