Former Militia Leader Released on Bail in Nigeria

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

On Thursday, former militia leader, Mujahid Dokubo-Asari was freed on bail by a Nigerian court due to his health condition. Dokubo-Asari has been in detention since September 2005. He is on trial for treason. Dokubo-Asari belongs to the liaw ethnic group, which is the most populous group in the Niger Delta. Elders of the liaw group have unsuccessfully tried to have Dokubo-Asari released for the past two years. Moreover, the Supreme Court denied him bail last Friday because of national security fears.

Analysts believe that Dokubo-Asari was released as a result of a political deal between the Nigerian government and rebels in the southern Bayelsa state in the delta. Rebels in southern Nigeria have freed hostages, declared a truce, and are willing to communicate with the newly inaugurated President Umaru Yar’Adua. This truce will help to improve oil production in the region.

Powerful state figures have publicly approved the release of Dokubo-Asari. Emmanuel Diffa, a Liaw elder purports that the release is “good news for anyone with a business in the Niger Delta. It will pour cold water on the situation. Asari is key to bringing peace to the delta.” Asari has stated that he will help the Nigerian government as long as the army stops using violence. Government officials believe that Asari is a powerful voice to help persuade rebels to disarm. Nevertheless, Justice Peter Olayiwola has conditioned that Dukubo-Asari can not take part in any political rally or political activity upon release. Moreover, his movements will be monitored by security services.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Fight For Nigeria Oil to Continue – 15 June 2007

BBC – Hostages Released in Niger Delta – 12 June 2007

CNN – Nigerian oil delta militant freed on bail – June 2007

Peace Efforts in Congo

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Joseph Kabila met with South African President Thabo Mbeki this week to discuss business investments in the country. DR Congo, once known as Zaire, has had a long history of civil war and corruption fueled by the country’s vast mineral wealth. Mbeki played a leading role in the peace progress and ensuring a fair election after the former Congolese president Laurent Kabila was assassinated. Joseph Kabila, the son of Laurent Kabila won the historic election in late 2006.

The African nations have also recognized the progress of the DRC from 41 years of regional wars to swift political transition backed by the West. In an effort to encourage and reinforce the disarmament of the DRC, the three-day Disarmament Conference opened on Tuesday in DRC. The delegates of 20 African countries met to discuss issues of child soldiers, armed foreign rebels and unemployment.

Unfortunately Kabila’s visit to South Africa and the conference were marked by the murder of a Congolese journalist on Wednesday. Serge Maheshe, journalist for Radio Okapi, a UN sponsored radio station, was shot several times after visiting a friend’s house. Maheshe was traveling in a clearly marked UN van with 2 friends, who were not injured. The Reporter Without Borders media’s rights group condemned the “targeted murder” especially during a time when the government aspires peace and security.

The police have mounted an operation to hunt down the murders. Maheshe is the fourth media worker to be killed in the past two years. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – UN-backed radio journalist gunned down in DRCongo – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – DR Congo president to pay state visit to South Africa – 12 June 2007

Yahoo – African Disarmament conference opens in DR Congo – 12 June 2007

BBC – Country Profile: Democratic Republic of Congo – 05 June 2007

Continued Strike is Damaging South Africa

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

According to Jacob Zuma, the deputy leader of the governing ANC, South Africa’s public sector strike could have been avoided and is damaging the country’s image abroad.

One of the biggest strikes in South Africa increased Wednesday as hundreds of thousands more workers downed tools, bringing large parts of the country to a standstill.

Hospitals, schools and transports have met a huge disruption since the beginning of the strike, June 1. Most public schools have been closed since the beginning of the month and hospitals are only able to run a skeleton service with army medics. Bus and train services refuse collections as the unions staged massive marches through the center of the country’s main cities, such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

Despite optimism from President Thabo Mbeki the wage dispute could soon be resolved. The government has increased its offer from six to 7.25 percent but the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has vowed to pressure the government into raising their pay offer from the 7.25 percent. Workers, who wanted a 12 percent increase, say they will not go below 10 percent.

Zuma, a possible successor to President Thabo Mbeki, said negotiations since the start of the strike showed that a compromise between the government and unions was possible and should have been explored beforehand.

Zuma acknowledged that the strike damaged the country’s international reputation as it tries to cement its status as the continent’s economic powerhouse and ahead of the 2010 World Cup which is being held in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the government criticized the unions of failing to explain the details of the negotiations to their members and took out ads in newspapers to give information of how its offer included increases on housing and medical allowances.

For more information please visit:

BBC – Strike Escalates in South Africa – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – Strike Damaging South Africa, Says Zuma – 14 June 2007

Yahoo – South Africa Shutdown as Strike Intensifies – 13 June 2007

Sudan Approves Peacekeepers

By Impunity Watch Africa

Sudan approved a new plan for a joint African Union (AU) and UN peacekeeping force for Darfur on Tuesday following two days of high-level technical consultations.  Under this new plan, the AU will run the day-to-day operations, while the UN will have overall control of the 17,000 to 19,000 peacekeepers. In announcing the agreement, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit urged the UN Security Council to authorize deployment of the hybrid force as soon as possible.

Sudan has raised some concerns about exit strategy, and it was agreed that the operation will be periodically reviewed. However, it was not stated how often such reviews will take place.  There are also concerns over the use of non-African troops.  The head of Sudan’s delegation, Mutrif Siddig, stated that the parties had agreed that priority should be given to African troops, but if there are not enough they are willing to take troops from elsewhere.

The UN Security Council is being briefed today on the deal.  Some diplomats are fear that there are conditions attached to the deal and it will prove to be yet another pact aimed at resolving the Darfur conflict that will fail to come to fruition.    The US ambassador has said that if there are conditions attached, additional sanctions will become necessary.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Sudan Accepts Hybrid Peacekeeping Force in Darfur – 12 June 2007

Yahoo – UN Council hears hitches on Darfur force deal – June 2007

MSNBC – Sudan accepts joint peacekeepers in Darfur – June 2007

BBC – Sudan accepts joint Darfur force – 12 June 2007

Twelve Hostages Released in Nigeria

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

On June 11, twelve hostages were released in the Bayelsa state of Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta. According to the Nigerian government, three Americans, five Britons, two Indians, one Filipino and one South African were released. In addition, a local Nigerian who was captured during the raids was also released. Since January 2006, more than 200 oil workers have been kidnapped by armed militants and criminal gangs in the oil rich region. These militants want more of the oil revenues to be spent on developing infrastructure in local poverty stricken communities.

The hostages were released phsyically unharmed after the ransom was paid on their behalf by oil companies or state governments. Nevertheless, one hostage, South African Duplooy Smit, described the first three days as “hell.” Smit had been held hostage since May 25th 2007. He told to Reuters news agency that the rebels conducted a mock execution on him. Moreover, Smit feared the rebels because they “they were all high on local gin and marijuana, and carrying machine guns, so you never knew what would happen next.”

While the twelve hostages were released on “humanitarian grounds,” the militants indicated that they would continue the attacks in southern Nigeria. More than twenty-four foreigners are currently being held hostage in southern Nigeria. The main militant group, Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta has given President Yar’Adua one month to find a solution to the problems of poverty and under-development that plague the Niger Delta. However, the Movement for the Emancipation for the Niger Delta did not release any hostages on Monday.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Hostages Released in Niger Delta – 12 June 2007

CNN – Report: Hostages Let Go in Nigeria – 11 June 2007

BBC – Briton’s Nigeria kidnap confirmed – 03 June 2007

CNN – Nigeria gunmen seize six foreigners – 03 June 2007

BBC – Nigeria militants offer ceasefire – 02 June 2007

Reactions to Beginning of Charles Taylor Trial

By Impunity Watch Africa

Charles Taylor’s boycott and refusal to show at the first day of his trial in The Hague for war crimes that occurred in Sierra Leone has sparked much response and criticism from scholars and commentators.  Instead of attending the first day of his trial, Taylor sent a letter from his cell calling the court a “charade” and firing his counsel, apparently intending to represent himself.

The former founding Chief Prosecutor David Crane of the Special Court for Sierra Leone indicted Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former President, on March 3, 2003. The original indictment included seventeen counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, murder, pillage, enslavement, mutilation, and unlawful recruitment of child soldiers.   It was later changed to eleven to make for more concise charges.

Former Prosecutor David Crane attended the opening statements.  His response to Taylor’s boycott is that “Taylor and his counsel are predictably providing the histrionics that accompany the public disgrace of a bloody tyrant.”  He saw Taylor’s actions as no different from those of Milosevic or Hussein or any other former head of state on trial for war crimes.

With a three-week break before the trial begins, many are cautioning the court to ensure proper control over the proceedings in order to prevent a disaster.  The presiding judge in this case has started well, and was able to manage the defense counsel’s attempts to derail the opening statements and was able to get the proceedings back on track.  Corrine Dufka, a West African researcher for Human Rights Watch, noted that the judge has already started off well.  Unlike the Milosevic trial where the defense and prosecution were allowed to go on and on and there was a lack of management from the bench, here the judge has already instituted order and is working to ensure a fair trial.

The trial resumes in three weeks on June 25.

For more information, please see:

Jurist – An Empty Chair at The Hague: Trying Charles Taylor – 08 June 2007

World Politics Review –  Accountability in West Africa: Charles Taylor on Trial at The Hague – 07 June 2007

VOA – Charles Taylor Boycotts His War Crimes Trial in The Hague – 04 June 2007

Guardian – Liberia’s Taylor Snubs War Crimes Trial – June 2007

Kenyan Police Crackdown on Mungiki Sect

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

The Mungiki is an outlawed religious sect inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s against British colonial rule. Banned in 2002, the sect is accused of mutilating and beheading around 20 people during the recent months. Among the murdered was a constituent of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. According to Police Chief Albert Kimanthi, leaflets circulated in the Mathare slum, which is home to some 500,000 people, threatened that more beheadings were imminent unless residents and traders pay between $1 and $3 as protection fees.

President Kibaki warned that the government would not “allow criminals to get away with wanton acts of violence.” On Thursday May 31st, the government spokesperson announced that 2,464 members of the Mungiki sect were arrested.

During a police raid on Tuesday June 5th, in which 21 people were killed after a shootout, a BBC reporter and a reporter for Reuters news agency claim to have seen a woman holding her baby clubbed in the throat by an officer and nearly 40 women and children forced to lie face down in the mud.

Mungiki leaflets accuse Kibaki’s administration of failing to honor election pledges made in 2002 to create jobs and rewrite Kenya’s constitution. Even more leaflets claim that high-level government officials, lawmakers and over 16,000 member of Kenya’s security force are members of the sect.

Many fear the sect may disrupt the December election in which current President Kibaki is expected to seek his second term.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – Kenyan president vows crackdown on sect as killing rage – 01 June 2007

Yahoo – 2,464 sect suspects arrested in Kenya – 01 June 2007

BBC – Kenya police shoot sect suspects – 07 June 2007

“Ninja Rebels” to Disarm in Democratic Republic of Congo

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

In the Republic of Congo, Frederic Bistangou, also known as Pastor Ntumi, has agreed to destroy some of his arms in a ceremony. Bistangou is the leader of the “Ninja Rebels,” a renegrade group that named themselves after the famous Japanese warriors. These rebels were responsible for the five-year insurgency in south-eastern Republic of Congo that lasted until 2003. The intense fighting between the rebels and the government displaced thousands of civilians who resided in the southern Pool region. In March 2003, Pastor Ntumi agreed to end the insurgency and allowed for the government to maintain control over Pool region.

Pastor Ntumi now plans to play an active role in the peace and reconciliation efforts. Furthermore, Ntumi wants to transform the “Ninja Rebels” into a political party. In May 2007, there were a significant amount of negotiations between Pastor Ntumi and President Denis Sassou-Nguesso. Nguesso plans to keep 60 bodyguards while absorbing 250 rebels into the national army. The remaining rebels will enter a disarmament and reintegration program.

There will be a two day ceremony to mark the commencement of the disarmament process. This ceremony will take place in Kinkala, the provincial capital of the southern Pool region. The Pool region was once deemed the “breadbasket of the Congo,” but after the civil war, this area has suffered from poor infrastructure, poverty, and famine.

Analysts are skeptical of Ntumi’s power to influence the rebels to disarm. Historically, the Ninja fighters have shown a deep seeded mistrust of the government. In 2003, under the first peace deal, very few of the Ninjas accepted the government’s offer of amnesty in exchange for disarmament.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Country Profiles: Democratic Republic of Congo – June 2007

BBC – Congo’s Ninja Leader to Disarm – 06 June 2007

VOA – Congo Brazzaville’s Nguesso Names Ex-Rebel to Government – 23 May 2007

Increased Calls for Action in Sudan

By Impunity Watch Africa

On June 1 hundreds of women and children fled from Darfur to neighboring Central African Republic after planes and helicopters attacked their village.   The 1,500 refugees walked 125 miles in 10 days and told UN officials that janjaweed militia had attacked their town and that their homes had been bombarded with air attacks.    The UN and African Union peacekeepers have regularly reported Sudanese air force bombs, even though a UN resolution forbids such attacks.

This recent attack has fueled even more calls for action in Sudan.  The UK has stated that they will push for tougher UN sanctions against Sudan if its government does not support international efforts to end the conflict.  The US and Britain have been working on expanded UN sanctions resolution and a no-fly zone for weeks, but Russia and South Africa have questioned the timing and China continue to oppose further penalties.

At the G8 Summit in Germany France has begun pushing for an aid corridor from Chad into Sudan’s Darfur region as a humanitarian solution to the crisis.   Chad and Sudan, however, continue to be hostile to a corridor and a Western presence.  France would also like to create a contact group on Darfur, which would include the UN, AU, Sudan, Chad, and other African heads of state, and China.  France currently has 1,000 troops in Chad but would like to see additional European Union troops involved.

Today the UN and AU were close to a deal on sending 23,000 peacekeepers to Darfur.   Full deployment however is not expected until next year at the earliest.  Sudan has yet to approve the plan, and if they continue to refuse the US and Britain will push for increased sanctions.   Disputes over command and control over the hybrid force has held up the negotiations.  Both Sudan and the AU have objected to giving the UN total control.  AU and UN officials will explain the newest proposal to Sudan at a meeting June 11-12 where it is hoped that an agreement can be reached.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Africa Pushes Darfur Aid Corridor – 06 June 2007

Reuters – Plans Ready for UN Darfur Force but no Deployment – 06 June 2007

NY Times – Darfur Refugees Flee in 125-Mile Trek – June 2007

Yahoo – UK Says Sudan Faces Tough Action if no Darfur Progress – June 2007

Thoughts on Charles Taylor Trial

By Impunity Watch Africa

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor has gone on trial in The Hague for his alleged role in backing Sierra Leone’s brutal rebels.

People in Sierra Leone and Liberia share their thoughts (from BBC Online):

Saffie Kamara, Freetown:
“It does not make any difference to me where Charles Taylor is tried, as long as he answers for his alleged crimes.”

Deddeh Lavala, Monrovia:
“I want the trial to be free and fair so that if Taylor is guilty of what he is accused of doing, he will be convinced that he is guilty and face the consequences. But if he is not then surely the law should set him free. Witnesses being called must feel free to testify in the name of fairness.”

Alphanson Nimene, Monrovia:
“I am 100% convinced that the trial will be free and fair. The international community has all the resources available to do anything they like to Mr Taylor. Yet they have decided to bring him before an international court to set an example.”

Amalia Smart-Kamara, Freetown:
“I have come to the special court to listen to how the proceedings are going. I believe in justice and I am happy that Mr Taylor is facing justice. It is one of the happiest days in my life.”

Jerine Colendo, Monrovia:
“I feel bad that Charles Taylor as a former president has been taken to a foreign land for trial. Whenever his birthday comes, I think about him. But equally so, justice has to be done. He has to face justice and there is nothing that we, Liberians, can do about it.”

Ibrahim Khalil Sesay, Freetown:
“Members of my family were killed by rebels. Without him the rebels would not have been as strong. I did not have the chance to go to watch the trial, but the trial starting is good news for the people of Sierra Leone, both dead and living.”

Josephus Kennedy, Monrovia:
“Mr Taylor is not going to get a free and fair trial. One does not have to be a brain surgeon to establish this. The court has failed to be transparent. It whisked him off from Sierra Leone to The Hague without any reference to his lawyers. Mr Taylor’s resignation and exile was part of the peace accord.”

Alusine Fofana, Sierra Leone MP:
“Even though Charles Taylor did not appear, I feel happy that his trial has started. I feel good that the day of justice is here and he will answer to any part he played in the destruction of Sierra Leone.”

More Than 30 Foreigners Held Hostage in Nigeria

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

Presently, over thirty foreign expatriates are being held hostage for ransom in the southern region of Nigeria by various armed factions. In the past six months, more than 100 foreigns have been taken in the region. Several armed groups have taken hostages to gain economic and social attention for neglected communities. They commit kidnaps to obtain better jobs and social facilities for their communities. Nevertheless, most kidnappings are motivated by large ransoms by global corporate companies.

The latest kidnapping took place on Sunday in Ikot Abasi where bandits kidnapped six Russians who work for the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria (ALSCON) which is owned by the United Company RUSAL, the world’s largest aluminum producer. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamyin stated, “Our embassy will provide all necessary support for the representatives of RUSAL who plan to arrive in Nigeria in the near future and join the rescue effort.” Also on Sunday, the British Foreign Office has confirmed that a British citizen was kidnapped from the Schlumberger Anadrill Field Compound in Port Harcourt.

Today, Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and fifth largest exporter of crude oil to the United States. However, the violence and insecurity in the southern region of Nigeria poses threat to oil production and world sales. Thousands of workers have fled the country for fear of being held hostage. This in turn has cut Nigeria’s oil production by more than 25%.

Newly elected president, Umaru Yar’Adua has called for a cease fire in the southern oil-rich region. In response, the militant faction, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), claim that they will end tactics of violence if the government frees its jailed kinsmen. The rebel group has stated that they will suspend attacks on oil installations for one month. MEND hopes that the ceasefire will help “to ruminate on positive and realistic measures towards a just peace in the Delta”.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Briton’s Nigeria kidnap confirmed – 03 June 2007

CNN – Nigeria gunmen seize six foreigners – 03 June 2007

BBC – Nigeria militants offer ceasefire – 02 June 2007

Africa’s Reaction to Zimbabwe

By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch, Africa

Even as many continue to criticize the veteran president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and the declining state of the country, President Mugabe remains firm and defiant. During his meeting with the heads of state of Tanzania on Wednesday May 28th, Mugabe pushed aside the fact that the country has the fastest-shrinking economy and a massive food shortage. Instead he focused on his opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), accusing them of “terrorists” acts manifested by Britain and the West to destabilize the government.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, like many African leaders are reluctant to support Mugabe. Mugabe’s strategy to persuade neighboring African countries to side with him against white imperialism has succeeded in the past but it is unlikely to succeed now given the critical position of the country and its people.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, blames Mugabe for turning the once prosperous African nation and former British colony into the country with the world highest inflation rate. Blair recognizes that the solution to Zimbabwe must ultimately come from the nation itself and neighboring regions of Africa. Blair used his farewell tour of Africa to encourage and support the role of South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, as mediator between Mugabe and the MDC.

Although President Mbeki has been pushed by the West and Britain to take a stronger hand against Mugabe, Mbeki has refused. However, President Mbeki has warned that he will not allow the declining conditions of Zimbabwe to threaten South Africa’s opportunity to host the World Cup of 2010. According to the BBC new, some European nations have contemplated challenging South Africa’s appointment if the situation in Zimbabwe continues to spiral downward.

For more information please see:

Yahoo – Zimbabwe crisis needs African solution: Blair – 01 June 2007

Yahoo – Blair backs mediation on Zimbabwe crisis – 01 June 2007

BBC – Mugabe’s hold over African leaders – 28 March 2007

Opening Day in Charles Taylor Trial

By Impunity Watch Africa

The trial of Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former president, for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone began today in The Hague.  Taylor boycotted the first day of the trial, claiming he had lost faith in the UN-backed court.  In a letter read by the defense counsel, Taylor stated that he “cannot participate in a charade that does no justice to the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.”  Taylor also dismissed his defense attorney Karim Ahmad Khan from the case and is now seeking to represent himself.  Khan walked out despite an order by presiding Justice Julia Sebutinde to continue representing Taylor for the remainder of the opening arguments.  Taylor’s letter caused confusion in the court, and came as the prosecutor was making a four-hour opening statement.  Justice Sebutinde assigned another attorney to represent Taylor and directed Chief Prosecutor Stephen Rapp to begin his statement.

Taylor faces charges for numerous war crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2001 civil war including murder, rape, mutilation, and recruitment of child soldiers.  He was the first sitting president of Africa to be indicted by a foreign hybrid court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The case is to be handled exclusively by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague and is predicted to last until December 2008 with a judgment likely in mid-2009.

Taylor has pled not guilty to all 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.   Prosecutors claim in the indictment that Taylor supported the RUF rebels in order to gain control of Sierra Leone’s mineral wealth and destabilize the government, thereby increasing his regional influence.  Taylor’s defense does not dispute the horrors that occurred in Sierra Leone, but argue that Taylor did not give any orders to troops and did not supply any weapons to the rebels.

Civil society groups have launched a website designed to keep West Africans, particularly those from Liberia and Sierra Leone, informed on the trial.  The website, www.CharlesTaylorTrial.org, will provide daily updates with detailed information and expert analysis on the trial.  The hope is that this website will help keep the victims and those affected in Sierra Leone and Liberia informed, since the trial is being conducted in Europe and many Africans did not know that the trial was beginning, nor why it had been moved.

Amnesty International (AI) released a press statement cautioning the court to keep the trial accessible and known to the victims.  AI pleaded that the victims must observe the justice process and they should be able to see that the trial is “conducted fairly in accordance with international standards, respecting the presumption of innocence.”   Officials for Human Rights Watch, however, have stated that they see the trial as undoubtedly a step in the right direction for prosecuting former heads of state for serious human rights violations and other war crimes.

For more information, please see:

AllAfrica – Liberia: Taylor in the Dock Today! – 04 June 2007

AllAfrica – Website Launched to Cover Taylor Trial – 04 June 2007

Amnesty International – Press Release – 01 June 2007

HRW – Liberian Ex-President Goes on Trial – 30 May 2007

CNN – Taylor Boycotts ‘Charade’ Trial – June 2007

MSNBC – Liberia’s Taylor Goes on Trial Over War Crimes – June 2007

Niger’s Government Dissolves

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch, Africa

Niger is one of the five poorest countries in the world. It is situated in the southern region of the Sahara Desert. This arid nation has experienced a history of coups and elections since its independence from France in 1960. On Friday, June 1, 2007, Niger was once again without a government when Prime Minister Hama Amadou’s cabinet lost a no-confidence vote brought by parliamentary opposition. Sixty-two delegates in a 113-seat national assembly voted Amadou out of office. He was the leader of the ruling National Movement for a Society of Development (MNSD) since 1998.

The vote was prompted by a fraud case at the education ministry where two former ministers were involved in embezzling foreign funds that were intended for impoverished schools. Between 2002 and 2006, more than $9 million of European Union Aid was allegedly taken in the corrupt scandal.

While Amadou immediately resigned from his position on Friday, he was shocked that four groups allied to the MNSD voted against his government. He said, “After surviving four no-confidence votes, the government has fallen.” Moreover, he stated, “It’s a total surprise, given that the government has a big majority.”

President Tanja now has to pick a successor for the position of prime minister or dissolve parliament and call for new elections within 45 days. Opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou said, “We would like him to make the right choice in order to give Niger a prime minister who will promote good governance and fight corruption and the embezzlement of public goods.”

For more information, please see:

BBC – Niger Vote Dissolves Government – 01 June 2007

International Herald Tribune – Niger’s Government Dissolves After No Confidence Vote – June 2007

Yahoo – Niger Government Falls After Losing Confidence Vote – June 2007

No Changes in Somalia

By Myriam Clerge

Impunity Watch, Africa

“Once again Somalia has failed to emerge from the upheaval[s].” This thought sums up the present circumstances in Somalia. The country is still unable to feed its people and there continues to be war. The humanitarian crisis in Somalia has not reached this stage since clan warfare nearly 16 years ago. This time the war is between allies of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and Ethiopian forces- in support of the Transitional Federal Government.

Roughly 430,000 to 350,000 have fled from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, since the fighting began. According to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, one million Somalis are in need of aid and protection and 71 % of the population is malnourish.

To make matters worse, pirates have hindered the transport of food and aid to displaced Somalis. Earlier in the month, a ship carrying tons of UN relief refused to leave the port of Kenya because of piracy. On Tuesday, pirates released a vessel and its crew after the cargo owners agreed to pay the $100,000 ransom. The United Nations has appealed for international support to secure the waters off Somalia.

Besides humanitarian aid the United States objective is to prevent Somalia from becoming a safe haven to terrorist. Somalia has been without an affective government for 16 years. Although the Ethiopian forces overthrew the Union of Islamic Courts, the US is fearful extremist of the Islamic Court may harbour members of al-Qeada.

Ethiopia has vowed to retain troops in Somalia until African Union forces are at an effective level. Five Somali civilians died and three were injured yesterday after an attack on a convoy forced Ethiopian soldiers to open fire. As Islamists increasingly adopt guerrilla tactics, the likelihood the fighting will end soon seems daunting.

For more information please see:

BBC – Five Die in Somalia Convoy Attack – 30 May 2007

Yahoo – Somali Pirates Release Ship, Crew – 30 May 2007

BBC – Somalia – ‘A Depressing Prospect’ – 14 May 2007

BBC – Country profile: Somalia – 6 March 2007