Ethiopia in Crisis

By: Brianna Sclafani

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

ETHIOPIA — A year-long civil war between the Ethiopian Government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and soldiers of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has recently intensified. The Tigray conflict can be traced back through generations in Ethiopia, but the recent conflict began in the fall of 2020.  When elections were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, TPLF held regional parliamentary elections in defiance of Abiy’s orders. “Abiy called the vote illegal, and lawmakers cut funding to TPLF leadership”. Tension escalated between the government and Tigray leaders until reaching a breaking point in November of 2020. Abiy, assisted by troops from the neighboring country of Eritrea, ordered a military assault on the group in response to an attack on a federal army base. Millions have been affected by the civil war, and experts are worried that the spreading conflict in Ethiopia could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.

Civilians walk next to an abandoned tank in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights led a joint investigation into alleged violations of international human rights in Tigray. The report highlighted the widespread use of sexual violence, torture, and unlawful attacks on civilians committed by parties on all sides of the conflict. October 23, 2021, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights released a statement reflecting its deep concern “about the escalation of the conflict in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia and its impact on the civilian population”.  The commission urged the federal government “to restore and facilitate the speedy and unhindered access of humanitarian aid and relief” to the millions of civilians affected by this war.

Now more than a year later since the original developments, Tigray forces, supported by other rebel groups in Ethiopia, have their eyes on the capital city of Addis Ababa. Current reports are conflicted as to how close the rebels are to the capital city, however, a new state of emergency has been declared by the government. While the state of emergency was apparently instated due to an abundance of caution, it allows for the conscription of any citizen over the age of 18 who owns a firearm. The armed forces have also asked veterans to rejoin the military. In a recent speech and multiple Facebook posts, Abiy pledged to keep fighting the rebels. The Nobel Peace laureate has found himself suspended from Facebook for these posts which violated the companies’ policies on incitement and support of violence. U.S President Joe Biden, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the U.N. Security Council, the African Union, Kenya, and Uganda have all called for a ceasefire. In a conflict that has already killed thousands, and displaced millions, it remains unclear how many more civilians will be affected by the crisis.

For further information, please see:

Anadolu Agency – Germany calls for immediate end to hostilities in Ethiopia – 4 Nov. 2021

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights – Press Statement On The Recent Airstrikes In The Tigray Region Of The Federal Democratic Republic Of Ethiopia – 23 Oct. 2021

CNN – Ethiopia is at war with itself. Here’s what you need to know about the conflict – 5 Nov. 2021

CNN – Ethiopia’s leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokeswoman doesn’t think it was incitement to violence – 10 Nov. 2021

NPR – Rebels are closing in on Ethiopia’s capital. Its collapse could bring regional chaos – 9 Nov. 2021

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Tigray Report – 3 Nov. 2021

Reuters – Ethiopians denounce U.S. at rally to back military campaign – 8 Nov. 2021

Leader of West African Terrorist Group is Dead

By Alexis Eka

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

On Thursday, October 16, 2021, the head of Nigeria’s armed forces, Military Commander and Chief of Defense, General Lucky Irabor announced that a key figure in the West African terrorist group, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, had passed away. Al-Barnawi was said to be the son of Boko Haram’s late founder Mohammed Yusuf.

Islamic State West Africa Provenience (“ISWAP”) has been regarded as the most prominent jihadist group in Nigeria since the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau that occurred earlier this year. After Shekau’s father died in law enforcement’s custody, Shekau was appointed the group’s new leader. And after, Shekau’s death, Barnawi was said to be the leader of the ISWAP. 

ISWAP is a splinter of Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has killed several thousands of people, kidnapped students, and added to the increasing homeless population in Nigeria. ISWAP has been fighting against the Nigerian armed forces for about 12 years. ISWAP has primarily focused on its attacks on the Nigerian military as opposed to Boko Haram who has terrorized several other groups. However, in Nigeria, the ISWAP insurgency group is still referred to as the “Mamman Nur Faction,” a term coined by West Africans explaining that they are still under the control of Boko Haram.

The two militant groups have been at conflict with each other for several years, until ISWAP became Boko Haram’s successor. The conflict between Boko Haram and ISWAP and the insurgents in Nigeria’s armed forces has spread to neighboring countries, Cameroon and Chad, and has left about 300,000 people dead and millions of Nigerian citizens injured.

Ibrahim Awami, an individual who was kidnapped by ISWAP in 2016 and forced to join the ISWAP insurgency, said that “the death of Shekau will not be the end of insurgency in the Northeastern region.” Awami escaped from the ISWAP insurgency less than a month ago and indicated that there are several Shekaus that are still seeking to abduct other west Africans and enlist them into the ISWAP insurgency. ISWAP stated that often, there are fights that break out for power between the ISWAP members, sometimes resulting in their deaths.

For more information, please see:

AP News – Nigerian Military says Leader of IS-Linked Group is Dead – 14 Oct. 2021. 

BBC News – Nigeria Says ISWAP Leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi is Dead – 14 Oct. 2021.

New York Times – Leader of West African Terrorist group is Dead, Nigerian Army Says – 14 Oct. 2021. 

Reuters – Nigerian General Says Leader of Islamic State West Africa is Dead – 14 Oct. 2021.

Police Drags Woman to Court for Publication of False Kidnapping and Fake Pregnancy News

By: Spencer Kwabena Boateng Mensah

 Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

TAKORADI, Ghana – On September 27, 2021, the police in Takoradi sent Josephine Panyin Mensah, 27, to court with charges of deceiving a public officer and publication of false news with intent to cause fear and panic.

The first charge was her acting, “with intent to evade the requirement of the Law, [because] she made statement to Public Officer and the general public that she was pregnant and kidnapped which she well knew at the time of making it to be false.”

Josephine Panyin Mensah reappears and is being accompanied to the police by some residents. Photo Courtesy of Citi Newsroom.

Her second charge was for “publication of statement which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the general public or to disturb the public peace knowing or having reason to believe that the statement is false.”

Prosecutor Superintendent, Emmanuel Basintale told the court that the accused confessed faking her pregnancy and kidnapping to cover her alleged miscarriage in May 2021.

Husband of accused, Michael Simons reported to the police that his pregnant wife disappeared after she left her mother’s home in the early morning for a walk on September 16.

According to the police, her mother Agnes Essel also received a call from an unknown caller the same day but she could only hear distressed voice of her daughter crying that she had been kidnapped. The accused was found after five days later at a church in a town nearby and was immediately taken to a hospital where she told of her alleged ordeal of being the sole survival among 12 other unknown kidnapped women.

The police say that she told them “she gave birth to a baby girl and afterwards fell unconscious [for] the second time and had no idea how she [survived].”

But doctors from two hospitals could not find any trace of postpartum sign or marks of violence within the last six days of her disappearance.   

The police investigations proved that there was no prenatal records nor diagnosis of pregnancy at the accused’s original hospital. “Accused claimed she has been wearing a pregnancy prosthesis…but threw same into the bush while trekking.”

The prosecutor added that “accused also admitted that the [number] through which she spoke to her mother was her old sim card which she discarded afterwards.”

The accused pleaded guilty and has been bailed since her first appearance in court and the case has been adjourned to be reconvened on October 14, 2021.

Ghana has recorded several kidnapping and killing cases in recent times. One of the prominent cases is the kidnapping of three girls in Takoradi which particularly caused severe tension between the police and public in 2019.

For further information, please see:

Adom Online – Abesim Murder: Residents Accuse Suspect of Killing More People – 28 Aug. 2021

Citinewsroom – Takoradi Woman Pleads not Guilty in Court for Fake Pregnancy and Kidnapping – 27 Sept. 2021.

Ghana Web – Decomposed Bodies of 3 Kidnapped Takoradi Girls Found – 2 Aug. 2019.

Modern Ghana – We May Drag Fake Takoradi Pregnant Woman to Court – ACP Kwesi Ofori – 27 Sept. 2021


ISIS-backed Group Deploys Children to Fight the Mozambique Government

By Ryan Ockenden

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

CABO DELGADO, Mozambique – Across northern Mozambique, Al-Shabab – an ISIS-backed militant group – is kidnapping boys as young as twelve years old and training them to fight and raid their very own villages. Mothers and fathers are beaten and brutalized to relinquish their children, consistently offering themselves up to be taken instead. Once in Al-Shabab’s possession, the boys are trained in weaponry usage, given Islamic classes, and even told to pick a wife amongst the young girls that have also been kidnapped.

Since 2017, Al-Shabab has been terrorizing the gas-rich northern regions of Mozambique, raiding villages and towns to build their caliphate. As the caliphate grows larger, the organization has grown bolder. Their attacks on villages routinely leave dozens dead and thousands displaced. An attack earlier this year occurred on a multi-billion-dollar gas project, prompting a large military intervention from neighboring nations such as Rwanda, Botswana, and South Africa.

Military support from South Africa deployed to the Cabo Delgado region to fight against Al-Shabab, and unfortunately, the kidnapped children that have been forced to join. Photo Courtesy of Alfredo Zuniga from Barron’s.

In 2004, Mozambique ratified the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the involvement of children in armed conflict, which prohibits non-state armed groups, like Al-Shabab, from recruiting, let alone kidnapping, children. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights have asserted that, in general, nation parties to the African Charter, which Mozambique is, bear the primary responsibility for protecting and promoting human rights, punishing perpetrators, and passing legislation to help rectify human rights abuses.

The Prime Minister of Mozambique, Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, announced this week that the nation needs $300 million to reconstruct the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado region. While it is absolutely important to secure funding for post-conflict reconstruction, the conflict is not even over. Young boys continue to be kidnapped and trained to fight against the government. Young girls continue to be kidnapped to be child-brides. Innocent families continue to be displaced, left homeless and separated from one another.

It is important for the Mozambique government to create a plan for reconstruction, but they will not reach the reconstruction phase if they cannot put a stop to Al-Shabab’s continued assault on the nation. Before they can rebuild for their people, they must save their people.

For further information, please see:

ACHPR – Press release on the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers – 13 Feb. 2019

All Africa – Mozambique: Al-Shabaab Deploying Child Soldiers in Mozambique, Says HRW – 1 Oct. 2021

Human Rights Watch – Mozambique ISIS-Linked Group Using Child Soldiers – 29 Sept. 2021

Yahoo News – Mozambique Insurgents Train Child Soldiers: HRW – 29 Sept. 2021

Achimota School Appeals Judgment that Greenlights Wearing Dreadlocks in School

By: Spencer Kwabena Boateng Mensah

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

ACCRA, Ghana – On May 31, 2021, an Accra High Court ordered against the senior high school’s regulation that demanded Tyron Marhguy and Oheneba Nkrabea, two Rastafarians by religion, to cut their dreadlocks before being admitted into the school. 

Teroe Marhguy grants interview to multiple media persons after High Court ruling in favor of his son, Tyrone Marhguy who is behind his father taking selfies in the midst of crowded Rastafarians. Photo Courtesy of My Joy Online.

Achimota School and the Attorney General are in the Court of Appeals challenging a judgment by the Human Rights Division of the High Court which declared that wearing dreadlocks in the school is lawful.

In its judgment, the court stated that “[i]n the absence of such compelling justification grounded on the public good of the school as a whole in the face of constitutionally guaranteed rights, I am unable to tip the balance in favor of the implementation of the rule of the Respondents to restrict the Fundamental Human Rights of the Applicant to practise and manifest his religious belief.”

The court further declared that the failure or refusal of the school to admit the applicant on the basis of his Rastafarian religion inclination, beliefs, and culture characterized by his keeping of rasta is a violation of his right to education guaranteed under Ghana’s Constitution.

After admitting the students in their dreadlocks however, the school and the Attorney General have filed an appeal seeking the decision of the High Court to be set aside.

According to them, the High Court erred in declaring that the school’s uniformity regulation which required the students to cut their dreadlocks interferes with his expression of religion.

Achimota School admission forms specify that admission is conditioned on “good academic work, good conduct and strict observation of all school rules and regulations.” The rules among others require all boys in the school to “keep their hair low.”

The judgment divided the public into two sides; while others praised the applicant for setting a precedent, others were concerned that the judgment will open a flood gate of non-compliance of schools’ rules and regulations.    

Reacting to the appeal, father of Tyron, Tereo Marhguy told local news sources that the decision of the school to appeal is motivated by what the school’s alumni want. “If [the school] had filed the appeal shortly after the ruling, it would have made sense,” he stated and added that it was actually because his son was nominated to represent the school for the annual National Science and Maths Quiz.

Ghana’s Constitution advocates for freedom of religion and right to education as fundamental human rights; and the people of Ghana are keenly waiting for a decision from the Court of Appeals on the case – which was filed on September 13, 2021. 

For further information, please see:

Citi Newsroom – Achimota School, AG appeal court ruling on rastafarian student Tyrone Marhguy – 13 Sept. 2021.

Hen Ara Ghana – Achimota vs Rasta students verdict: People are doing Facebook argument – Kwaku Azar – 6 June 2021.

Pulse Ghana – Achimota School’s appeal against my son ill-motivated – Rasta student’s dad – 15 Sept. 2021.