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Displaced South Sudanese women queue for water at the United Nations base where they have sought shelter in Malakal, South Sudan, Jan. 28, 2014. (Ilya Gridneff/AP/File)

Torn by war and potential famine, South Sudan needs US humanitarian surge

By Jeff MillingtonGuest blogger / 04.11.14

A version of this post appeared in Enough Said. The views expressed are the author's own.

Jeff Millington was one of the lead US diplomats in supporting the negotiations leading to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between northern and southern Sudan. He has remained engaged in issues related to South Sudan since his retirement from the Foreign Service.

The corruption and political avarice that have plagued South Sudan since independence have left many long-time supporters confused and disheartened. The moral clarity of the long struggle for independence has disappeared, particularly after December’s political implosion and outbreak of fighting and ethnic violence.

Nevertheless, despite our moral qualms, our responsibility to the people of South Sudan remains clear. Through no fault of their own, the people of South Sudan are now suffering terribly: an estimated 10,000 people have been killed and another one million forced from their homes. 

Most alarmingly, the UN now estimates that 3.7 million South Sudanese are at risk from famine. We cannot abandon them.

The United States has responded to the crisis with exceptional alacrity. Washington has made it clear that it will not permit a repeat of the Rwandan genocide and Special Envoy Donald Booth has worked tirelessly to shore up the regional peace process. Despite daunting challenges, some encouraging progress has been achieved and the January cease-fire agreement and Addis Ababa peace talks may yet serve as a basis for a permanent solution.

Nevertheless, the US administration’s concentration on the negotiations has led to a shift in our focus from South Sudan to Addis Ababa. Our embassy in Juba has been reduced drastically and our visibility among the South Sudanese has plummeted. This has left many inside the country feeling a sense of abandonment.

Without lessening our support for the peace process and the implementation of a viable, monitored cease-fire, there are two areas where the United States can be doing more to directly address the needs of the people of South Sudan.

Emergency Relief

The United States has taken the lead in marshaling the international response to the crisis and has itself provided over $130 million in additional emergency relief assistance since December. However, the administration has undercut this support by not allowing relief specialists from the Agency for International Development (UASID) to go to South Sudan to work with the emergency effort.

The administration pulled most official Americans from South Sudan in January and still imposes strict limits on people wanting to return. Their absence weakens the relief effort and exacerbates the suffering of those most affected by the recent fighting.

Given the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in South Sudan, the administration should review its current policies, retain prudent restrictions where needed, but allow American relief personnel to go back into South Sudan permanently were their presence is so desperately needed.

Expanding the political process

The administration has correctly identified policies by some in the Government of South Sudan to restrict political participation as an important contributor to the outbreak of violence. To address the issue, the administration advocates including representatives from civil society in the Addis Ababa talks and is working with AECOM and others to support the organizational development of civil society groups such as Citizens for Peace and Justice. These efforts make the government and the rebels uneasy, but they should continue.

In addition, the United States should more actively and visibly engage in long-term efforts to broaden the political process on the ground in South Sudan. In this effort, our greatest advantage is the hard-won credibility we have with the South Sudanese people and our image as a long-term friend and a staunch supporter of democracy.

We should capitalize on this good will by appointing a person of stature to coordinate a robust US government effort to promote political reform and expanded popular participation. The people of South Sudan need to see first-hand that we are engaged and supportive.

A two-pronged policy is needed. First, we should support an inclusive constitutional review process with a clear mandate to draft a new, post-independence constitution for South Sudan. If done correctly, the new constitution will specify the mechanisms and protections for an open, transparent political process. Second, we should actively promote an on-the-ground program to strengthen local political parties and participatory mechanisms.

Institution building

Strong grassroots organizations are key to transparency and popular participation. We have much experience within the government for local institution building. We also have willing partners in the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. These organizations have experience working in difficult, unstable situations and we should promote their involvement in South Sudan.

Assisting a broad swath of civil society organizations and nascent political forces should be a primary objective in our efforts, but we should also work closely with the leaders and rank-and-file of the SPLM. The SPLM led the long struggle for independence, but the transition from guerrilla group to political party has been difficult. We should be there to help them complete this journey.

The two recommendations I’ve made are intended to complement our support for the peace process. Most importantly, however, they put us once again side-by-side with the South Sudanese as they struggle to ensure their very existence.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame (c.), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (l.), and Rwanda's first lady Jeannette Kagame (r.), observe the arrival of the memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, held at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali, Rwanda Monday, April 7, 2014. (Ben Curtis/AP)

The mad, mad debate over Rwanda -- 20 years after the genocide

By Ken OpaloGuest blogger / 04.08.14

A version of this post appeared on An Africanist Perspective. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Caution: This is not an apology for President Kagame and his autocratic tendencies that have resulted in carnage and death in the DRC, Rwanda and elsewhere.

At a conference last year a US State Department official told a group of us that Rwanda was so polarizing that even at the consulate in Nairobi the DRC crowd did not get along well with the Rwanda crowd.

It is not surprising why that might have been the case, or why the present analysis on the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide remains polarized.

If one just looks at the improvements made in advancing human welfare since President Paul Kagame and the RPF took power it is hard not to arrive at the conclusion that ordinary Rwandese are unambiguously better off.

The country is the least corrupt in the region and has also been consistently ranked top in the ease of doing business.

But there is also the side of the Kigali government that most reasonable people love to hate: the murderous meddling in the DRC and the oppression and occasional murder of dissidents at home and abroad.

Those who admire what President Kagame has done tend to emphasize the former, while his critics tend to emphasize his autocratic tendencies which have made Rwanda the least democratic country in East Africa. Many wonder if the post-1994 achievements are sustainable enough to outlast President Kagame’s rule.

So is Mr. Kagame a state-builder or your run of the mill autocrat whose achievements will vanish as soon as he relinquishes power?

In my view, I think that Rwanda is the best success story of state-building in Africa in the last 20 years. I also think that this (state-building) should be the paramount consideration for those who care about the Rwandese people and want to help them achieve greater freedoms.

The fundamental problem in states like CAR, Sierra Leone or Liberia has never been the insufficiency of democracy. Rather, it has been the problem of statelessness.

The contrast between Rwanda and Burundi is instructive. See here and here. Despite the latter being the second most democratic state in the region, it has consistently performed the worst on nearly all human development indicators. Part of the reason for this is that Burundi remains a classic papier mache state confined to Bujumbura and its environs.

Maybe I am too risk averse. But I am scared stiff of anything that could lead to a recurrence of the horrors of the early 1990s -- stretching from the Mano River region to the Horn. As a result I am always skeptical of activism that takes state capacity (including coercive capacity) for granted.

With this in mind, the fight against autocratic rule in Rwanda should not come at the expense of the state-building achievements of the last 20 years.

The international community and those who genuinely care about Rwandese people should be careful not to turn Rwanda into “democratic” Burundi in the name of democracy promotion.

Interventions will have to be smart enough to push Kagame and the ruling elite in the right direction, but without gutting the foundations of political order in Rwanda.

Absent a strong state (even after Kagame), the security dilemmas that occasioned the 1994 “problem from hell” would ineluctably resurface.

Lastly, I think the level of discourse in the “Rwanda Debate” could be enhanced by the extension of the privilege of nuance to the case.

For example, if all we focused on were drones killing entire families at weddings in Yemen or the horror that is the South Side of Chicago we would probably get mad enough to ask for regime change in Washington.

But we don’t: people tolerate the “complications and nuance of American politics.”

The same applies to less developed countries. Politics is complicated, everywhere. And those who approach it with priors of good-or-bad dichotomies are bound to arrive at the wrong conclusions. One need not be a Kagame apologist to realize the need for a delicate balance in attempts to effect political change in Kigali.

Please notice that this is neither an apology nor an endorsement of autocracy in Rwanda. It is a word of caution regarding the choices outsiders make to accelerate political change in Rwanda.

Tyranny is not the panacea to underdevelopment. But neither is stateless democracy.

For background reading on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda see Samantha Power’sProblems From Hell; Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers; and Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families.

Local residents move around the streets as smoke rises from the nearby Giwa Military barracks following an attack by suspected Islamist militant in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March, 14. 2014, after the militants struck the northern city, attacking the main military barracks with gunfire and explosions. (AP)

Nigerian forces killed hundreds of unarmed in Giwa Barracks incident: Amnesty

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 04.05.14

A version of this post appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Amnesty International, the London-based non-governmental human rights organization, has issued a report, “Nigeria: More than 1,500 Killed in North-Eastern Nigeria in Early 2014.”

Of particular interest is its dissection of what happened on March 14 at Giwa Barracks, the largest military facility in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The report finds that Boko Haram staged a successful break into the detention center and that it released all of those being held. Boko Haram gave those freed the option of joining them or going home. Most chose the home option. Boko Haram then withdrew.

Shortly thereafter the security forces reoccupied the facility.

With the help of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a locally based vigilante group, the security forces then hunted down all of those who had escaped and murdered most of them. Amnesty estimates that over 600 people were killed.

Amnesty’s report, which is based on eye-witness accounts, also notes that many of the inmates were emaciated and without shoes. Many also had scars indicating abuse. All of the inmates were unarmed.

Earlier, I blogged that, according to the media, a senator from Maiduguri stated that 95 percent of those killed in the Giwa Barracks incident were “innocent,” that they were not part of Boko Haram.

He also seemed to imply that the security services took advantage the of jail break to murder practically all of the remaining inmates. Amnesty’s report seems to support this argument.

As Amnesty observes, the actions of the security forces are consistent with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, the Amnesty report is balanced. It also profiles the rampant human rights violations by Boko Haram.

From the perspective of the security forces, it is difficult to tell who is Boko Haram and who is not. Further, the security services appear to be poorly trained and likely are undisciplined and frightened. Nevertheless, government agencies are held to a higher standard than insurgencies.

The question now is: should a conversation begin about possible outsider intervention by an African multinational force into northeast Nigeria?

A Sudanese family takes shelter under their donkey cart at the Kalma refugee camp for internally displaced people, south of the Darfur town of Nyala, Sudan, March 9, 2014. Thousands have been recently displaced following looting and destruction of a number of villages in South Darfur. (Albert Gonzalez Farran/UNAMID/AP)

Janjaweed in Darfur burn, loot refugee camp next to UN peacekeeper compound

By Enough team staffGuest bloggers / 04.01.14

A version of this post appeared in Enough Said. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Confirming reports that first emerged from local sources and Radio Dabanga, new satellite imagery from March 26, 2014 shows more than 400 huts, tents, and temporary shelters burned by Sudanese government-backed Janjaweed forces in Khor Abeche.

The destruction at a South Darfur camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) is located near a peacekeeping base.

The images were captured by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) and analyzed by DigitalGlobe Intelligence Solutions.

The photos reveal that most of the destruction affected structures that were next to or adjacent to the peacekeeping compound used by the African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The compound itself was not damaged.

UNAMID has said it is protecting thousands of displaced civilians at several bases, including Khor Abeche, and the SSP image shows a large group of people towards the top middle area inside the UNAMID compound.

A UNAMID spokesman tells SSP that peacekeepers and IDPs at Khor Abeche were first alerted of a possible attack to the camp on March 21.

The population of the camp, about 3,000 people, took refuge at the UNAMID's base. The following day, while the peacekeepers protected those within the compound, about 300 heavily armed men set fire to the nearby IDP camp.

Eyewitnesses to the attack on Khor Abeche camp say the assailants burned to death a sheikh, injured many residents, kidnapped local leaders, and looted property and livestock while also destroying water wells, homes, and a hospital.

Despite the praise UNAMID has received for its efforts from the African Union, the deaths and injuries raise critical questions about the will and capacity of the peacekeeping force to deter such attacks and implement its civilian protection mandate outside its compound.

News reports indicate that the Sudanese government-supported Rapid Support Forces (RSF) -- also called the Rapid Response Forces (RRF) -- led the attack on Khor Abeche.

The group of 6,000 fighters is attacking civilians and torching homes throughout the area.

In North Darfur’s mountainous East Jebel Marra area, some areas have been both bombed and burned of late as Janjaweed ground attacks and Sudan Air Force (SAF) attacks escalate.

SAF air strikes and Janjaweed attacks have exacerbated conditions for 215,000 people who are newly displaced across Darfur since the beginning of the year, including almost 68,000 who are displaced in South Darfur’s violence.

Humanitarian organizations estimate that some 59,000 people are displaced from South Darfur’s Um Gunya area, in the wake of clashes between the RSF and the rebel Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLM-MM) group.

Civilians throughout areas beyond South Darfur are also fleeing waves of violence, including infighting among rebel forcespolitical power struggles, and inter-communal clashes in North Darfur.

Although not holding the government of Sudan responsible for the atrocities committed by the Janjaweed militia, the US Department of State condemned the attack in Khor Abeche and expressed concern at the escalating violence committed by Sudanese government-backed forces and rebel groups.

This report originally appeared on the Satellite Sentinel Project.

Al Shabab leader hits popular chord in call to oust Kenyans, Ethiopians

By Alex Dick-GodfreyGuest blogger / 03.31.14

A version of this post appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

In a recent article on the Daily Maverick, Simon Allison identifies the “surprisingly perceptive” core message of Al Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane’s recent propaganda audio message.

In his message, Mr. Godane urges his Somali comrades to throw out their Kenyan and Ethiopian occupiers. Mr. Allison notes that, although unsettling, Godane is, in certain respects, correct, and is tapping into widespread sentiments.

Despite operating in Somalia under the authority of an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to rid the country of Al Shabab, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops are, in fact, occupying Somalia. Their goals are not altruistic, and are largely informed by their own national security and political considerations.

Thus, instead of celebrating the foreign troops’ efforts to stem Al Shabab, Somalis are worried about the out-sized influence being wielded by foreign powers in their country.

Although troubled by these developments, the United States and its partners have other goals in the region that will prevent any significant intrusion into Kenyan or Ethiopian plans.

Godane’s message is particularly striking when considering the formation of federal states in Somalia. In the absence of strong leadership from the Somali Federal Government (SFG), Kenya and Ethiopia have assumed leadership positions as state builders and negotiators in southern Somalia.

In practice, this means that Kenya and Ethiopia have been able to influence the formation of new federal states, and create governments that will benefit their own national security concerns.

As an example of this influence, Kenya and Ethiopia had an important role in the creation of the Interim Juba Administration (IJA), a new federal state consisting of the Somali regions (Gedo, South Juba, and Middle Juba) bordering Kenya.

Effectively, the IJA acts as a buffer state between Kenya and the threat posed by Al Shabab in Somalia.

Ethiopia is involved as a negotiator for the creation of the IJA because it wants to maintain involvement and influence in the region as it deals with its own ethnic Somali population. 

Despite disagreements regarding the proposed make-up of this federal state from other regions and conferences in southern Somalia, the SFG has endorsed the IJA because it must maintain Ethiopian and Kenyan support as it battles Al Shabab.

This competition for influence over land in southern Somalia is not likely to lead to a sustainable governance model for Somalia moving forward, and is already causing regional strife.

Somalia would be wise to ensure that whatever governance plan or federal state organization is put in place is durable enough to last after the African Union forces have left, regardless of current security concerns.

Due to the African Union's recent successes against Al Shabab, various proxy states and vigorous counter terrorism operations by foreign forces seem likely to continue.

Unfortunately this also means that the pattern of Kenyan and Ethiopian meddling in Somalian political affairs is likely to continue.

Godane’s message is dangerous because it taps into that fact.

The US is interested in the long term stability of Somalia. But its immediate concern is to stabilize the Horn of Africa and exterminate Al Shabab. Therefore, despite feeding Al Shabab’s propaganda machine and potentially destabilizing Somalia in the future, the United States will likely turn a blind eye to Kenyan and Ethiopian influence in Somalia.

Mr. Dick-Godfrey is a program coordinator for the Council on Foreign Relations studies program.

Local residents move around the streets as smoke rises from the nearby Giwa Military barracks following an attack by suspected Islamist militants in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 14, 2014. (AP)

New Boko Haram videos urge 'brethren' to attack all over Nigeria

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 03.27.14

A version of this post appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On March 14 fighting broke out in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, including at the Giwa Barracks – the main military headquarters in Borno.

 “Boko Haram” claims it secured the release of two thousand detainees during the siege on the barracks. Abubakar Shekau has now released two new videos to claim responsibility for the attack. 

Mr. Shekau, the successor to Mohammed Yusuf who was killed by the police in 2009, is a leader of “Boko Haram,” the Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria. As reports of the videos makes their way into the Nigerian press, they raise many questions.

The Daily Trust, a leading newspaper published in the north, reports that the attackers had camera men who captured the Giwa Barracks raid on film in great detail.

The video apparently shows no resistance from the Nigerian security forces, but it also notes some 500 dead bodies were found in the aftermath of the fighting, though no casualties are shown in the video itself.

Whether the dead were killed by the security services, Boko Haram, or by both is an open question.

Leadership, an Abuja-based newspaper, quotes passages from Shekau’s video. In them he reiterates that Western education is forbidden, all universities should be closed, and he calls for girls to return to their homes. He says that in Islam “infidel” women may be enslaved, and that Boko Haram will begin selling infidel women in the market “in due course.” He repeats that Boko Haram will kill all Muslim clerics who oppose it.

But, Shekau reserves his most blood-curdling language for the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), the civilian vigilante groups that oppose Boko Haram: “I cannot be happy if I don’t personally put my knife on your necks and slit your throats.”

In what may be a new departure, Shekau calls on his “brethren” throughout the country to take up arms and attack. He specifically mentions Abuja, Lagos, and the South: “Even as an individual, take up your swords and slaughter anyone you come across in his sleep…take up knives and start slaughtering people. Just pick up your knife and break into homes and kill.”

What are we to make of this? The fighting at Giwa Barracks hardly appears to be the government victory that the security services have claimed. The video seems to indicate that Boko Haram fighters were able to penetrate and destroy much of Maiduguri’s most important military installation. An unknown number of detainees escaped, though how many were Boko Haram and how many were innocents remains unknown.

As for Shekau, Leadership’s evaluation is that: “Shekau’s video portrays him as a true lunatic.”

Perhaps, but Boko Haram seems to be remarkably successful. Perhaps most disturbing is Shekau’s call for Boko Haram to attack all over the country. Though, it remains to be seen whether Boko Haram has the influence and reach to operate outside parts of the north.

Nigeria: World of Boko Haram mirrors 'To Live and Die in LA'

By Jim SandersGuest blogger / 03.27.14

A version of this post appeared in Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.

 Northeastern Nigeria increasingly resembles the world depicted in the 1985 film, To Live and Die in LA.

Directed by William Friedkin, the story is about the pursuit of a counterfeiter by secret service agents. As the story unfolds, the differences between criminals and law enforcement personnel nearly disappear.

One reviewer observes that the criminals in the film appear to have more of an inner life than the law enforcers, whose actions are “endlessly self-consuming,” leading to “meaningless death and brutality.” A “contradictory moral universe” emerges -- “where the wrong people die and redemption is an illusion.”

So, too, in Maiduguri, Nigeria. 

According to IRIN, the UN humanitarian office news wire, the lines between soldiers and Boko Haram attackers are increasingly blurred. Soldiers sent to help civilians are accused of human rights violations, even torture. A New York Times report on the recent killings at Giwa Barracks on March 14, suggests that what occurred was a slaughter of the innocents; the majority of the 500 killed were “not proven insurgents.”

Nor does it seem likely that the increasingly horrific realities on the ground will change soon. IRIN notes the difficulty in gaining access to areas in need and states where “very few local NGOs or civil society organizations are responding to needs in the north.”

Such horror in Nigeria parallels that in Central African Republic.

Nihilism in the northeast looms as an outgrowth of corruption in the heart of Nigeria’s political system. Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi was “removed just as he was shifting his inquiry to where the money [an estimated missing $20 billion] has allegedly gone,” the Financial Times revealed last week.

Vested interests, it appears, moved to protect themselves from exposure.

A central theme in Friedkin’s film is that, “nothing can be relied upon in this world. Women turn out to be men, good guys behave like bad guys, people are not who they claim to be, partners betray each other, money could be real or fake, and death comes when you least expect it.”

These are conditions Nigerian writer Ben Okri may have anticipated when a character in his novel The Famished Road exclaims, “the sun bared the reality of our lives and everything was so harsh it was a mystery that we could understand and care for one another or for anything at all.”

The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), Joseph Kony is pictured Nov. 12, 2006 at Ri-Kwangba in southern Sudan. The White House announced March 23, 2014 the US military will support the African Union Regional Task Force that is currently pursuing Kony and the LRA by deploying at least four US military helicopters. (Stuart Price/AP/File)

White House sending Ospreys to hunt Joseph Kony and the LRA

By Emily BrandonGuest blogger / 03.26.14

A version of this post appeared on Enough Said. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On March 23, the Obama administration announced that it will bolster the counter-LRA mission by deploying at least four helicopters to help find Joseph Kony.

The helicopters, known as CV-22 Ospreys, will support the African Union Regional Task Force that is currently pursuing Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The high-speed, night-capable Ospreys, along with 150 Special Forces personnel to help fly and maintain the aircraft, will not fire on LRA locations but rather transport AU troops that are operating in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

President Barack Obama’s order to increase US Special Operations with the Osprey helicopters comes at a critical junction in the mission’s future and significantly helps boost the counter-LRA initiative.

Enough Project Field Researcher Kasper Agger said,

 "The Osprey helicopters are a critical new piece of the puzzle in the mission to end the LRA. US and their African partner forces will now be able to act swiftly to apprehend Kony that continue to terrorize civilians in remote corners of central Africa. The deployment confirms U.S. resolve to the mission and sends a strong signal about the Obama administration’s commitment to atrocity prevention."

The Enough Project, alongside NGO partners The Resolve and Invisible Children have advocated for the deployment of additional helicopters as a critical element in tracking Kony and pursuing his forces in the remote areas where the LRA operates.

In December 2013, this was a focus of an Enough Project op-ed by Kasper Agger and Sasha Lezhnev published in The Hill, in which the authors stressed that “two to three additional helicopters...would go a long way in restricting the LRA’s ability to move freely and significantly increase the chances of capturing Kony.”

In response to the announcement, Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst, Sasha Lezhnev said:

"The new U.S. helicopters are like a turbo boost for the mission to find Kony. They give the operation the ability to act much more quickly on intelligence. The forces will now be able to search in several places at once, and when there is a report of Kony's whereabouts, the Ospreys can get there quickly. The White House deserves praise for bolstering the LRA mission, as backing off would allow Kony to regroup and perpetrate mass atrocities once again."

In a Washington Post article, Amanda Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African affairs, said “[the helicopters] will make a significant difference in the ability to respond to leads” about Kony’s whereabouts. The approximately 300 US Special Operations troops in Uganda, are authorized to “provide information, advice and assistance,” and although they are combat-equipped, are prohibited from engaging LRA forces unless in self-defense.

The deployment of the Ospreys and the provision of forces strategically support counter-LRA efforts in four broad areas:

  • increasing civilian protection,
  • enhancing regional efforts to apprehend LRA top commanders, 
  • encouraging and facilitating LRA defections, and
  • providing humanitarian assistance.

According to Grant Harris, a special assistant to President Obama and Senior African Affairs Director for the National Security Council, US supported efforts have been successful in removing three of the LRA’s top five commanders from the battlefield since May 2012; this includes credible reports that commander Okot Odhiambo – who was the LRA’s second-in-command and an International Criminal Court indictee – was killed late last year.

Moreover, the US Department of State’s press release on March 24 emphasizes US progress and continued engagement stating that:

"U.S. military advisors have helped to airdrop more than one million leaflets encouraging defections at seventeen locations across LRA-affected areas of the CAR, the DRC, and South Sudan.  In early December 2013, 19 individuals, including nine Ugandan males, defected from the LRA in the CAR.  This was the largest LRA defection since 2008 and signals that ongoing efforts to promote defections are working."

Over the past three decades, Kony and members of the LRA have been murdering, raping, and kidnapping tens of thousands of innocent civilians across central Africa.

As of December 2013, UN OCHA estimated that over 300,000 people were displaced or living as refugees across CAR, DRC, and South Sudan as a result of the LRA threat.

In an effort to increase the protection of civilians affected by the LRA, the US government has undertaken numerous programs to enhance community-based protection, promote demobilization and reintegration efforts of LRA fighters, and the rehabilitation of child soldiers. For example, the recent USAID-funded Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities Program in LRA-affected areas of the Central African Republic  is assisting with community mapping, media training, and community radio activities

See also: Uganda: more US military assets in hunt for Kony, researcher Q&A - RFI

National Security Adviser Susan Rice, in this March 21 photo, met with Nigerian governors from Nigeria's north and Middle Belt at the White House March 18. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Boko Haram insurgency causes sparks at White House meeting: News report

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 03.25.14

This post first appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On March 18, governors from Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt met with US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and other US officials at the White House. 

The governors come from states where economic development is slow or non-existent and includes those where the radical, Islamist insurgency “Boko Haram” is active. 

Following the meeting, the White House issued a typically bland statement: “Rice and the governors discussed the need to bring an end to the violence and insurgency in northern Nigeria; create broad-based economic opportunity in the north and throughout Nigeria; protect and respect human rights; strengthen democratic governance; and ensure that the 2015 election in Nigeria are free and fair.”

The Guardian (Nigeria) published a read-out of the meeting on March 23 with a different flavor. It cites “authoritative sources,” who almost certainly were Nigerian. The Guardian states that Governors Murtala Nyako (Adamawa state), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano state -- the largest state in Nigeria by population), and Kashim Shettima (Borno state -- a major center of Boko Haram), perhaps among others, were highly critical of President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration.

The Guardian devotes the most space to Governor Nyako’s remarks. It reports that the governor accused federal security agencies of colluding with the backers of Boko Haram to perpetuate the conflict. He said the security services facilitated the flow of arms and information to Boko Haram.

The real kicker was his accusation that the motivation behind the collusion was to reduce the voting power of the North East in the upcoming 2015 national elections and (in the words of the Guardian) “to keep the region perpetually underdeveloped.”

Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States, also present, is reported by the Guardian to have strongly objected to Mr. Nyako’s attack on the president. 

The Guardian reports that the ambassador was supported by at least two other governors, both of whom are members of Mr. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party. (Nyako, Mr. Kwankwaso, and Mr. Shettima are members of the opposition party).

The Guardian is a leading Nigerian newspaper with a national circulation. Its report of the White House meeting is credible.

Given the horrific nature of Boko Haram violence, it might seem extraordinary that a governor would accuse the security services of collusion with it. However, many of my northern contacts say much the same thing as Nyako.

Similar accusations were made about security service collusion with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) before and after the 2007 elections. It was widely said that the security services wanted to keep the MEND insurgency going because it ensured a steady flow of federal funds into the security services -- from which they pocketed a percentage through various forms of corruption.

I have insufficient information to comment on the veracity of Governor Nyako’s accusations, any more than I was able to comment on alleged security service collusion with MEND.

However, that many Nigerians find such accusations credible, at the very least, is evidence of the profound lack of trust between the Abuja government and its citizens.

Local residents move around the streets as smoke rises from the nearby Giwa Military barracks following an alleged attack by suspected Islamist militants in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March, 14, 2014. Now, there is a report that the Nigerian military killed young men at the barracks and later announced it was an escape attempt by militants in custody. (AP)

Did Nigeria massacre innocents and call them 'Boko Haram'?

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 03.24.14

A version of this post appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On March 14, insurgents labeled “Boko Haram” attacked the Giwa Barracks, a major army facility in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri.

At the time, Nigerian military spokesmen said that a significant number of “Boko Haram” members were killed.

However, in a horrific article in the March 21 New York Times, Adam Nossiter reports that the victims of the killing spree outside the gates of the Giwa Barracks were young men who had previously been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in Giwa Barracks without charge. 

According to the Army story, “Boko Haram” allegedly managed to break into the heavily fortified military installation, release those imprisoned -- and then the attackers and the detained were killed as they fled. The military attacked with both aircraft and soldiers on the ground.

It should be noted that the military identifies the assailants as “Boko Haram,” but no spokesman for Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. It is also unclear how such a powerful facility could be breached so easily. 

Mr. Nossiter cites credible local non-governmental organizations who place the casualty numbers as high as one thousand. If that is correct, the March 14 death toll is the highest ever for a single day.

Nossiter also quotes the senator from Maiduguri, Ahmed Zanna: “When they [the detainees] went out of the barracks, that is when gunfire was opened on them. And that is how most of them died. Yes, they bombed the detainees.”

Nossiter also quotes the senator as saying “90 to 95 percent of the detainees were innocent people. They were just rounding up people. People were just rounded up and taken into custody.” He also said “they [the military] managed to eliminate those who were in detention. The whole episode is to kill the inmates. That’s all.”

In the past, Western media, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, has reported that the army detained large numbers of young men without charge at Giwa Barracks under horrific conditions. 

Because it is so difficult to tell who is “Boko Haram” and who is not, the military and security services appear to be highly indiscriminate in whom they arrest.

Such an atrocity as apparently took place at Giwa Barracks will undermine support for the Abuja government -- and perhaps for Nigeria’s so-called “democracy.” To me, it is noteworthy that Senator Zanna, likely an established member of the northern Nigerian establishment, has been so outspoken.

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