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Soldiers stand guard as interim Central African Republic's President Michel Djotodia attends a ceremony in Bangui, November 30, 2013. (Joe Penney/REUTERS)

Central African Republic: Why the world has taken so long to help

By Lesley Anne WarnerGuest blogger / 12.03.13

A version of this post originally appeared on the author's blog, Lesley on Africa. The views expressed are the author's own.

Stability is not a term one would use to describe the Central African Republic (CAR), and particularly not in light of the recent conflict which has engulfed the country.

Last December, the Séléka rebel coalition challenged then-President François Bozizé's grasp on power and eventually ousted him in March 2013. At first, the international response to the humanitarian and human rights crises that have ensued was muted. Eventually, over the summer, the African Union launched an International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA), with an authorized force strength of 3,600, to help protect civilians and provide security throughout the country.

MISCA, which may not be operational until 2014, replaced the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic (MICOPAX) in August 2013, which had been in CAR since July 2008 with 400 soldiers.

Former colonial power France, which abstained from preventing Mr. Bozizé's collapse earlier this year, has 400 soldiers in the capital city of Bangui to protect their interests, and is in the process of deploying 1,000 more.

Finally, the UN Security Council is also considering authorizing a peacekeeping mission for CAR, but it would not be able to deploy for at least two to three months - even with a speedy UNSC Resolution. Therefore, the French and AU forces would have to act as a stopgap measure until the UN would be able to put boots on the ground.

The question is, after this crisis has been unfolding for almost a year, why is an international response only coming together now?

Here are some possible reasons: 

First, perhaps the international community was inundated by the response to the crises in Mali. Note that France's OpérationServal commenced in January, accelerating the deployment timelines for the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) from September to mid-January. The Séléka rebel coalition that eventually toppled Bozizé commenced their rebellion around mid-December 2012, agreed to a ceasefire in mid-January 2013, and entered Bangui to overthrow Bozizé for failing to adhere to the terms of the ceasefire at the end of March 2013.

If you think about it, the time period between the initiation of the Séléka rebellion and the current rumblings of an international response has been more or less dominated by the French intervention in Mali, the AFISMA deployment, transition to the UN's Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and Mali's presidential and legislative elections. And now that Mali is in a better pace than it was last year at this time, the international community now has the bandwidth to turn to the next pressing crisis on the continent - the Central African Republic.

Second, perhaps the humanitarian toll has risen too high. Approximately one-tenth of the country's population, or 460,000 people, have become internally displaced fleeing the communal violence between Christians and Muslims (15 percent of the population), and over 220,000 people have become refugees in neighboring countries. 

Recent Human Rights Watch reports have documented the destruction of over 1,000 homes between March and June 2013. (See satellite images of 'what war crimes look like from space').

Third, people are starting to say the "T-word." As the Central African Republic continues to spiral into anarchy, there is speculation that terrorist groups, like Nigeria's Boko Haram, could set up shop in the country. Although such reports are unconfirmed, the mere presence of an unstable territory may make it an attractive safe haven for terrorist or criminal actors with regional or even global agendas.

Fourth, people have also started using the "G-word." Whether genocide is -- or is not -- occurring in a given conflict, using the "G-word" is supposed to trigger an obligatory international response.

My personal view is that the term genocide tends to be overused, and as a result, genocide has been conflated with "mass killing," and more generally with  "human rights abuses" or "crimes against humanity," thus distancing it from its true meaning. Therefore, whether or not genocide is actually occurring in the Central African Republic, any response would have to be measured against the international community's failure to respond to allegations of genocide in places like Syria and Sudan's Nuba Mountains.

To sum up: the true reason for the recent focus on the conflict in the Central African Republic, albeit belated, may be a combination of two or more of the aforementioned factors.

Now, as with regional and international attempts to respond to previous crises in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), we shall see if the international community can put its money and military might where its mouth is.

Gallup: 14 of the 15 most 'optimistic' countries are in Africa. Why?

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 11.25.13

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

Joshua Keating has written a brief, thought-provoking article in Slate titled “The Optimistic Continent.” He notes that the World Economic Forum’s Survey on the Global Agenda identifies Africa as the world’s most optimistic region regarding the ability of institutions (public and private) to respond to “global challenges.” 

He also cites a Gallup survey that shows that fourteen of the fifteen most optimistic countries in the world were in Africa with respect to respondents’ future lives in comparison with their current ones.

The same survey also shows that Africans are more optimistic than Europeans or Americans that their children will be better off than themselves.

For Mr. Keating, African optimism is credible because of the improved living standards – in some countries. But he also observes that not only is inequality growing within countries, it is increasing between countries.

Keating’s short article raises two big questions: Why are Europeans and Americans increasingly pessimistic about the future? And why are the peoples of the world’s poorest and most challenged continent so optimistic?

The first question may be easier to answer. Europe and North American are still recovering from the “Great Recession” of 2008. In those countries, unemployment is high, job opportunities seem to be shrinking, and middle and working-class incomes are stagnating or declining. Add to those realities the political paralysis in Washington and the seemingly lackluster political leadership elsewhere in the developed world.

And then there is the challenge of China, sometimes seen in the West as an evolving rival, a challenge I think that is over-stated.

African optimism is harder to explain. Optimists downplay internal conflicts, but they have not gone away: northern Nigeria, Mali, eastern Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia are current examples.

The statistical underpinnings of an alleged African economic boom have been seriously called into question by Morten Jerven in his book Poor Numbers.

Most big African cities show almost grotesque inequalities of wealth, and not only are some countries much more successful than others (e.g., Ghana, Botswana, South Africa), but even within countries certain regions are more successful than others (e.g., the Lagos-Ibadan corridor in Nigeria or Katanga in the Congo).

But the “Africa Rising” narrative has been embraced by African opinion leaders, by African governments, and by many investment houses based in the developed world. For much of the media, that narrative is not to be questioned. 

That surely has some impact on popular perceptions, which is what the World Economic Forum and Gallup are measuring.

The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony answers journalists' questions following a meeting with UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland at Ri-Kwangba in southern Sudan, Nov. 12, 2006. The spokesman for Uganda's military said Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 that he's pessimistic that reported contact with rebel leader and accused war criminal Joseph Kony will bear fruit. (Stuart Price/AP/File)

Even if Joseph Kony doesn't surrender, opportunity is knocking

By Paul RonanGuest blogger / 11.23.13

A version of this post originally appeared on The Resolve blog site. The views expressed are the author's own. 

Yesterday I wrote about the backstory on Kony’s “surrender talks” and why claims by Central African authorities that Kony has told them he’s interested in surrendering most likely aren’t true (of course, I hope I’m wrong). But that doesn’t mean international policymakers should just shrug their shoulders and turn away. After all, it has been confirmed that CAR transitional president Michael Djotodia is in contact with an LRA group, just not Kony’s.

Getting the facts

The first step UN and AU officials should take is to independently verify exactly what’s going on near Nzako, the small mining town in eastern CAR where Otto Ladeere’s LRA group has made contact with Central African leaders. For several months they’ve been too dependent on unreliable reports from Mr. Djotodia and his LRA point person, General Demane, as well as some scattered information from local civil society leaders.

The UN mission in CAR, BINUCA, sent a team to Nzako on Sept. 24, but they were only on the ground for a few hours and never left the airstrip.

Together with AU officials, BINUCA should immediately send a fact-finding team to Nzako that can find out more about the Ladeere’s group and their intentions.

Over the long-term, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon needs to ensure BINUCA has the staff capacity to fulfill its new mandate to get out into the field and investigate activities by the LRA and other armed groups.

Engaging with Djotodia and Central African authorities

Central African authorities may have mixed motivations for engaging with the LRA group (Djotodia is desperate for credibility and Gen. Demane reportedly wants a piece of the US-offered $5 million reward for Kony), but nonetheless their willingness to engage the LRA could be constructive.

However, they’ve made some serious errors so far, most notably giving food and supplies to Ladeere’s group without getting any concrete steps towards defection in return, such as the release of women and children. They’ve even reportedly forced local civilians to supply and transport food to the LRA, at great risk to their safety.

Fortunately, UN and AU officials have developed a standard set of principles for how to encourage defections from the LRA that can help guide Central African authorities. The lead UN and AU officials on LRA issues, Abou Moussa and Amb. Francisco Madeira, briefed Djotodia on some of these principles in Bangui on Oct. 31, which was a good first step.

But BINUCA needs to be more proactive and consistent in engaging Central African authorities to get their agreement to abide by the principles, a move which would have future value even if Ladeere’s group never defects. They should also send a team to Nzako to hear the views of local leaders and ensure everybody there is also on the same page.

Making sure LRA members know they can come home

There’s been a surge of “Come Home” messages targeting LRA groups in the past two years, delivered by leaflets, by FM and shortwave radio, and even by helicopter loudspeakers. These messages have helped encourage dozens of LRA fighters and abductees to defect, weakening the group's capacity to commit atrocities in the process.

However, many LRA groups have moved into a mineral-rich, highly unstable swath of territory in CAR’s Haut Kotto and Mbomou provinces that lies outside the area where most Come Home messages are delivered.

It’s also outside the official area of operation for AU Regional Task Force (AU RTF) forces pursuing Kony, and it’s no coincidence that a vast majority of the most violent LRA attacks in the past two years have occurred there.

Improving stability and security in CAR is necessary to fully expand Come Home messages to the LRA’s new safe haven. But as soon as possible, defections experts from the US government, NGOs, and the UN should work with BINUCA and Central African authorities to expand leaflet distribution, play FM radio messages, and conduct helicopter speaker missions in this LRA safe haven.

BINUCA should also consider setting up a "safe reporting site" for LRA defectors in Nzako, based on the model developed by US military advisers in other areas of CAR. More creative ideas – such as sending a delegation of northern Ugandan civil society leaders to Nzako to try to meet with Ladeere’s group – should also be considered.

The risks of inaction

Inaction by international policymakers not only risks wasting an opportunity to encourage peaceful LRA defections, it risks putting civilians in greater danger of LRA attacks. Central African authorities have reportedly told Ladeere’s LRA group they’ll be safe as long as they are negotiating, while AU RTF forces have made clear that the group is fair game for attack until they actually move to surrender.

If the LRA was told it would be safe but then was attacked, it would most likely retaliate against civilians in the area. This possibility also highlights the importance of ensuring that the new AU peacekeeping force in CAR has a mandate to protect civilians from the LRA and cooperate closely with the AU RTF.

The people of Nzako are certainly afraid of renewed LRA violence, especially with the memory of the group’s massive raids on the town in 2010 and 2011 still fresh. The LRA abducted dozens of people during these attacks, one of whom now serves as the LRA’s interpreter with Central African authorities.

The people of Nzako have suffered enough: it would be a shame if the international community left them at the mercy of LRA rebels once again.

The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony answers journalists' questions following a meeting with UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland at Ri-Kwangba in southern Sudan, Nov. 12, 2006. The spokesman for Uganda's military said Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 that he's pessimistic that reported contact with rebel leader and accused war criminal Joseph Kony will bear fruit. (Stuart Price/AP/File)

The real backstory on Joseph Kony's 'surrender talks'

By Paul RonanGuest blogger / 11.22.13

A version of this post originally appeared on The Resolve blog site. The views expressed are the author's own. 

This week numerous media outlets have reported that LRA leader Joseph Kony is in “surrender talks” with authorities in Central African Republic.

These reports, which stem from misinterpretation of a briefing by the UN SRSG Abou Moussa and AU LRA envoy Francisco Madeira to the UN Security Council yesterday, are almost certainly false.

Here’s more of the real story, based on interviews I conducted in Bangui in late October 2013 and insight from other LRA experts, particularly @lediocakaj.

Kony and Djotodia: Pen Pals?

In August, an LRA group acting under the command Maj. Otto Ladeere delivered two letters to community members near the town of Nzako, in CAR’s Haut Kotto Mbomou province. One was addressed to CAR’s transitional president, Michael Djotodia, and the other to local authorities in Nzako.

In the letters and subsequent follow-up, the LRA group claimed that they wanted to lay down their arms and settle in CAR, and that other LRA commanders, including Mr. Kony, were interested in doing the same.

However, there was – and remains – no evidence that the LRA’s letter was actually authorized by Kony or represents his desire to defect (more on that below).

Mr. Djotodia received the LRA’s letter, and promptly sent a response back to the LRA group. Though the exact contents have not been released publicly, it reportedly encouraged the LRA to defect and expressed the CAR authorities’ willingness to facilitate the process.

Djotodia designated General Demane [see note at the bottom], a close ally, to spearhead these efforts. Meanwhile, local authorities in Nzako designated an elder community leader to serve as an interlocutor with the LRA. He reportedly stays with the LRA group periodically and has visited their camp, but little is known of his background or involvement.

In September, following the delivery of Djotodia’s letter to Ladeere’s group, contact between the LRA and CAR authorities intensified. CAR authorities communicated to the UN peace-building mission in CAR (BINUCA) that the LRA group was planning to surrender in Nzako on September 24.

BINUCA and the US government sent a joint mission to Nzako that day, but no LRA members materialized. However, over the next few days a civil society delegation traveled to Banale, a small mining community east of Nzako that lies closer to the LRA camp. They brought with them rope, tarps, and food, which were likely procured by Gen. Demane on the LRA’s request.

On Oct. 8, Nzako authorities and Seleka troops under Demane traveled to meet with the LRA. There they reportedly conducted a ritual ceremony with the LRA to cement their “friendship” in which two sheep were sacrificed. Another local delegation visited the LRA camp near Banale on Oct. 15, delivering more food (mostly cassava and groundnuts) and medicine to the group.

In the following days, the LRA groups reportedly moved further west, crossing the Mbari River and settling approximately 12 miles east of Nzako. On Oct. 24, CAR authorities again communicated that LRA members planned to defect in Nzako.

Though none showed up that day, five LRA representatives reportedly travelled to Nzako the next day and spent several days meeting with local authorities and community leaders before returning to the bush, reportedly with plans to return with a larger group to defect.

However, Nov. 3, another planned date for the LRA to come out, came and passed with no new defections. What will happen next remains unclear, especially as the LRA group reportedly has told local community members that unless international aid groups provided them with more supplies, they will go back into the bush.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Nzako report that Seleka troops have forced community members to procure food and deliver it to the LRA, effectively putting civilian lives at risk to feed a dangerous rebel group.

Mr. Moussa and Mr. Madeira, the leading UN and AU diplomats on LRA issues, were in Bangui in late October to meet with authorities in CAR, including Djotodia. One of the key issues on the agenda was discussing how to respond to the LRA group’s contact with CAR authorities, with Moussa and Madeira cautioning Djotodia against providing further material support to the LRA.

It was based on these meetings that they briefed the UN Security Council and inadvertently set off a media firestorm.

A genuine defection opportunity, or a ruse?

Djotodia and CAR authorities would be well served to be more skeptical of the LRA group’s expressed desire to defect. The LRA has exploited negotiations processes for their own benefit in the past, most recently during the Juba peace talks from 2006-2008, which has many parallels in the current situation in Nzako.

As they did in Juba, the LRA is greatly exaggerating the size of their group, telling CAR authorities it ranges between 1,000-2,000 (and even more) when Cakaj’s most recent estimate of the LRA’s size places it between 500- 600. This exaggeration could be a tactic to acquire additional food supplies that can be sent to other groups or used once the LRA abandons the negotiations, a ruse the LRA utilized effectively during the Juba talks.

The timing of the LRA’s outreach is also reminiscent of the Juba talks. The LRA’s agreement to start peace talks in 2006 occurred after they had fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a result of increasing military pressure and a hostile political environment in their former strongholds in South Sudan.

Similarly, the LRA has faced a surge of military pressure so far this year. A March raid on LRA camps in Kafia Kingi by Ugandan troops operating under the AU Regional Task Force (RTF) disrupted one of Kony’s favorite safe havens, and in recent months Uganda troops have resumed operations in CAR that had been suspended following the March coup in Bangui.

In September, AU RTF troops from South Sudan and DR Congo destroyed two major LRA camps in Congolese territory that had served as rear supply bases for senior LRA commanders operating in CAR.

Research released for Resolve this summer by Cakaj highlights some of Ladeere’s history and provides some additional insight into the LRA’s possible motivations. Ladeere was once one of Kony’s trusted bodyguards, and later promoted to command the Independent Battalion, one of Kony’s security units.

In early 2013, Ladeere was reportedly given command of one of Kony’s satellite groups operating in either the Sudanese-controlled Kafia Kingi enclave or across the border in northeastern CAR.

Though it’s unclear exactly when Ladeere’s group traveled southwest from there towards Nzako, Kony’s group left Kafia Kingi in March 2013 just before a Ugandan military raid on his camp.

Ladeere’s group may have fled towards Nzako immediately after that, and may have been responsible for a series of a brutal attacks on Central African communities that lie between Kafia Kingi and Nzako in May and June 2013.

Unfortunate blow-up

Though the intentions of Ladeere’s group remain unclear, what is clear is that reports of Kony surrendering, or even participating in negotiations to surrender, are dramatically exaggerated. It’s possible that Ladeere is acting independently and is simply using Kony’s name to legitimize his actions. Even if he is acting on Kony’s orders, history should warn Djotodia and the CAR authorities against taking the group’s stated intention of defecting at face value.

Note on General Demane: He served with Djotodia in the Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement (UFDR), one of the groups that comprised the Seleka force that overthrew the CAR government in March 2013. He reportedly commands Seleka troops operating in Nzako and nearby towns such as Bria, which dot a sparsely populated landscape rich in diamonds, gold, and uranium. As a former field commander with the UFDR, Demane is likely very familiar with the LRA, which clashed with UFDR forces in 2010 and 2011.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives to attend Mashujaa (Heroes) Day at the Nyayo National Stadium in capital Nairobi October 20, 2013. (Noor Khamis/Reuters)

Kenya's diplomatic delusion gets deeper

By Ken OpaloGuest blogger / 11.21.13

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

So far the International Criminal Court question has been the singular preoccupation of the Kenyatta administration. It appears that the Kenyan government is willing to pull out all the stops to halt the cases against the president and his deputy.

Sadly, instead of a sober approach to the process of doing so, Nairobi has chosen to antagonize both the Hague court and the West.

As I have argued before, Kenya has leverage vis-a-vis the West (security in the Horn and Somalia in particular; its status as host to regional diplomatic and aid efforts; and role as the biggest economy and potential gateway to the region) that it can use in a smart way to get concessions from Washington, London and Paris on key issues. Rather than wish for a restructured P5 (click here), Nairobi should think of how to get its way with the current one.

Instead of the misguided chest-thumping about hollow sovereignty in a Chinese built conference hall in Addis under the banner of an organization partly funded by the EU, Nairobi could have chosen a different path.

Writing in the Daily Nation, Paul Mwangi, in a nutshell describes what is wrong with Kenya’s current approach to international diplomacy (Must read, more here):

The reality is that gone are the days when we were the “island of peace” in an unpredictable and violent part of the world. Over time, the world around us has changed, but we are yet to wake up and smell the coffee. Ethiopia is no longer in civil war and is quickly becoming a better investment opportunity for manufacturers both due to the low price of its electricity and the size of its population, about 90 million people. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Tanzania is no longer socialist and is now the darling of America. Apart from its own vast mineral, oil and gas deposits, Tanzania is the new gateway to the DRC and is receiving mammoth investment from both China and America. 

China is building what is being called a “mega port” for Tanzania at Bagamoyo, which is more than 30 times the size of Mombasa, as part of a $10 billion investment package for Tanzania. When completed, it is bound to take away all central Africa business from Mombasa port, which will be left to serve only Kenya and Uganda.

Let us stop comparing ourselves with other countries. The painful truth is that Kenya is not Syria. In the Middle East, Syria is the only foothold for China and Russia. The rest of the countries are either fundamentalist or pro-Western. In Africa, China and Russia are spoilt for even better choices.

They will only go so far to help us out [Indeed some have started asking if the Afro-Chinese engagement has peaked].

The complete lack of tact that Mr. Mwangi points out will no doubt be on display this afternoon as the National Assembly debates Kenya-UK relations (Recently Kenyan MPs allied to the president have chosen to prove their loyalty by taking extreme positions on the ICC issue).

This comes in the wake of the UK’s support of an amendment of the ICC statutes to allow Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy to attend their trials via video-link; and stated opposition to granting sitting presidents full immunity from any prosecution under international law while in office as has been demanded by Kenya.

The hurdle remains high for the Kenyan (AU) amendment proposals to the Assembly of Member States, especially after it emerged that 9 African states may not be illegible to vote on account of not having paid their dues.

According to a recent poll, 67% of Kenyans are of the opinion that President Kenyatta should attend trial at the Hague in person to clear his name.

Yes, Boko Haram killings and kidnappings continue to rise in Nigeria

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 11.20.13

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

The jihadi insurgency called Boko Haram appears to have reduced its operations in urban areas. This follows the massive deployment of security forces in northeastern Nigeria in line with the Abuja government’s June proclamation of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa.

According to the media, life has almost returned to normal in some parts of Maiduguri. However, the Nigerian security services claimed in October that they thwarted a possible terrorist attack in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. 

Despite this relative calm in urban areas, Boko Haram killings and kidnappings have not diminished. Recent analysis of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker indicates that they have in fact increased.

Fighting has instead shifted to rural areas. The media reports Boko Haram efforts to cut off access on the road between Kano and Maiduguri by targeting truck drivers, whom they behead using chain saws.

There are also media reports of Boko Haram carrying out forced conversions to Islam in rural areas, with the alternative being death.

This pivot to the countryside follows a familiar pattern. When the Nigerian army crushed the “Nigerian Taleban” in 1993, operatives melted into the countryside. In 2009, when the security forces murdered Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf and some 800 of his followers in Maiduguri, the movement went underground and regrouped under the current leader, Abubakar Shekau.

While the relationship between the “Nigerian Taleban” and “Boko Haram” is murky, both are violent jihadi movements that seek to impose a strict sharia regime on northern Nigeria and perhaps the rest of the country, as well.

So long as northern Nigeria remains alienated from the government in Abuja and profoundly impoverished, with the worst social statistics in the country, jihadi insurrections are likely to be reoccurring.

Africa's ill-advised crusade against 'race hunting' tools of the West

By Ken OpaloGuest blogger / 11.19.13

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

The UN Security Council has rejected Kenya’s (and the African Union’s) request for a one year deferral of the [International Criminal Court] case against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy at the Hague.

The two stand accused of crimes against humanity committed following the disputed elections in 2007. More than 1300 people died, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.

The US, UK, France, Australia, Guatemala, Luxembourg, South Korea and Argentina abstained to stop the deferral request. China, Russia, Togo, Morocco, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Rwanda voted for a deferral.

African leaders have in the last two years been on an ill-advised crusade against the ICC, terming it a “race hunting” tool of “declining” Western powers.

Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Ruto are innocent until proven otherwise, but their attempts to make their personal cases at the ICC a regional struggle of Africans against imagined neo-colonialists bent on usurping African sovereignty is a little misguided.

The Kenyan case is different (Kenya is not Sudan or the DRC) and ought to have attracted special consideration from the court (see closing remarks below).

However, despite its faults the ICC is all the continent has in the quest to hold its leaders accountable. I reiterate, murderous dictators in Africa and elsewhere should never be allowed to have internal affairs.

Here is the government’s total freak- out response following the UNSC vote, with some comments from yours truly.

STATEMENT FROM THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY IN KENYA

Kenya takes note of the outcome of the United Nations Security Council meeting on peace and security in Africa, and specifically on the subject of the request for deferral of the Kenya ICC cases. Kenya wishes to thank China and Azerbaijan who, during their stewardship of the Security Council, have been professional and sensitive to the African Union agenda.

Wow, this is how bad things have become. That Kenya finds friends in states like Azerbaijan. Yes, this is the place in which the president recently announced the election results even before the polls opened. These are our new committed friends. We are going places. 

Kenya wishes to thank the seven members of the Security Council who voted for a deferral and is particularly grateful to Rwanda, Togo and Morocco – the three African members on the Security Council – for their exemplary leadership.

Again, the only country we should be associated with on this list is perhaps Rwanda. I wish we could do what they have done with their streets, and corruption, and ease of doing business. But by all means we should not borrow their human rights record. Oh, and please let’s stay away from their variety of democracy.

This result was not unexpected considering that consistently some of the members of the Security Council, who hold veto powers, had shown contempt for the African position. The same members and five others chose to abstain, showing clear cowardice in the face of a critical African matter, and a lack of appreciation of peace and security issues they purport to advocate.

Letting the trial go on does not threaten peace and stability in Kenya. This is an empty argument. There will not be any spontaneous violence. Furthermore, the president is not the operational commander of the KDF. He is the Commander in Chief. He gets to issue orders from some room somewhere. Orders can be issued from anywhere. And remind me again how this trial impacts security ALL OVER AFRICA, other than by raising the cost of genocidal activities by African presidents?

Oh, and did I mention that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is almost entirely paid for by the European Union?

Inevitably, it must be appreciated that the outcome of this vote demonstrates that the Security Council does not serve the interests of a majority of its members and is clearly in need of urgent reform. It cannot be that a few countries take decisions that go against reason and wisdom in a matter so important to nearly one billion Africans.

One billion Africans. Really? I had no idea our president was this important of a man. One billion Africans. Many of whom starve to death; or die of treatable illnesses; or never make it to their first or fifth birthday because their leaders steal all the money meant for medicine. These Africans? Why should their names be invoked to protect the same leaders that have confined them to degrading penury for the last half century? Why, I ask? 

Also, the claim that Africa is united against the ICC is false. We all know about the divisions that stalled the silly idea of a mass walkout from the ICC by African states.

The African Union, in one voice, took the unprecedented step of making a simple request to the Security Council, bearing in mind the security and stability it seeks to achieve on the continent. But the Security Council has failed to do this and humiliated the continent and its leadership.

Ahh. Now the truth comes out. It is not about the one billion Africans after all. This is about the humiliation of the African leadership. It is about protecting the sovereignty of a few inept rulers. Forget the one billion Africans. It is about their big men rulers who steal tax money and stash it away in bank accounts in the same Western countries they like to call names.

The Security Council has failed the African continent, which will have to make its own judgment in the coming days and weeks about how it wishes to engage with the Security Council, which obviously does not believe the voices of more than one quarter of its members is significant enough to warrant its serious and purposive attention.

The Security Council has failed African leaders. Not the African people en masse. Africans want to have elections without having to worry that voting one way or the other will result in their houses being torched or their mothers, sisters and brothers murdered or raped. They also want freedom from ignorance, disease and material want. Is that too much to ask?

The African Union’s request to the Security Council included its key resolutions at the Special Summit on the ICC. The important one for the Security Council to note was the one that categorically says that no sitting Heads of State or Government may appear before the ICC. Kenya regrets failure of important members of the UN Security Council to have due consideration of Kenya’s critical role in stabilizing the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions, and their reckless abdication of global leadership.

Wait, are these important global leaders in the UNSC the same ones President Kenyatta termed as “declining powers”? What makes them important now? 

Just for the record, I am part of the 67 percent of Kenyans who in a recent poll were in favor of the president attending court at the Hague. Having both the president and his deputy on trial will serve a great symbolic task of demystifying the Kenyan political leadership. The demonstration effect to all politicians, voters and criminal gangs alike will be clear: You cannot kill innocent civilians and get away with it.

In my view, the best case scenario is having both men attend trial and then get a not guilty verdict.

Kenyans are nowhere near ready to discuss frankly what happened in 2007-08 or the deeper issues of ethnicity and economic disparities that often mirror ethnic lines and how to deal with these issues at the national level.

A forced conversation, especially one that has a foreign touch in the form of a court verdict, may result in unpleasant consequences. This would be a less than ideal outcome, but one that would not necessarily be catastrophic for the country.

The constitution is clear on succession should either one or both leaders be found guilty and jailed.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives for the extraordinary session of the African Union's Assembly of Heads of State and Government on the case of African Relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC), in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, October 12, 2013. (Tiksa Negeri/REUTERS)

Zimbabwe: Mr. Mugabe's seven steps to successful election rigging

By Jenai CoxGuest blogger / 11.15.13

A version of this post originally appeared on the Freedom at Issue blog. The view expressed are the author's own. 

 More than 100 days after he stole his latest reelection, it is safe to say that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has gotten away with the crime. Other leaders in the region may be studying his methods, which makes it all the more important for democracy advocates to do the same.

In 2008, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party essentially lost at the ballot box, and remained in power only by pursuing a campaign of political violence that caused his main presidential challenger to withdraw from the runoff vote. Moreover, amid international pressure and economic collapse, he was forced to accept a power-sharing agreement. But this year Mugabe was able to engineer a win that did not trigger the same international criticism. Both the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) deemed the July 31elections to be “generally” credible, finding that any irregularities would not have changed the outcome: a supermajority in Parliament for ZANU-PF and an overwhelming presidential victory for Mugabe.

In devising an election strategy for 2013, Mugabe had to account for greater outside scrutiny, as the violence of 2008 had put Zimbabwe permanently on SADC’s agenda. The updated election playbook also had to take into consideration the increased use of technology in Zimbabwe. Over the past five years, access to mobile phones has grown dramatically. According to the International Telecommunication Union, Zimbabwe now has an estimated mobile subscription rate of 97 percent. These new factors meant that Mugabe had to work harder and with more cunning. He could no longer use blatant election-day fraud or brute force to win.

Step one: Begin the rigging process well in advance.
In order to avoid any violence or overt manipulation on election day, Mugabe began his rigging activities well before an official poll date was even confirmed. The first voter registration drive kicked off in May 2013, focusing mainly on ZANU-PF strongholds in the north. This allowed the party to get a head start in the process. Less than two weeks after the Constitutional Court’s ruling on an application to set an election date, Mugabe unilaterally announced that the vote would be held on July 31. Critics of the move argued not only that it violated the 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA), which required the president to consult all parties when determining an election date, but also that the date itself contradicted provisions in the new constitution and reduced the number of days available for voter registration.

Step two: Allow superficial democratic reforms, but keep big-ticket items off the negotiating table.
While the stated goals of the GPA were broad, its primary purpose—in the aftermath of the 2008 political violence—was to clearly outline the legal and institutional reforms necessary for the country to hold free, fair, and credible elections. Among the GPA’s 25 articles were provisions calling for a new constitution, depoliticization of state institutions and the security sector, liberalization of the media sector, and prosecution of the perpetrators of politically motivated violence. The pact gave rise to a multiparty Government of National Unity (GNU), but after five years of power sharing, it had failed to implement almost all of the required reforms. The only task accomplished was the passage of a more progressive constitution and bill of rights. Mugabe interpreted the conclusion of the constitutional ratification process as marking the expiration of the GNU, meaning elections had to be held immediately, even though the basic electoral reforms prescribed under the new constitution had not yet been enacted. The absence of such reforms aided Mugabe in his efforts to manipulate the election process.

Step three: Take control of the state media.
Lack of media reforms prior to the elections had a significant impact on news coverage of the process. On election day itself, the media were highly polarized along party lines and generally biased in their reporting. According to the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, news outlets carried stories on all parties, but 90 percent of the coverage of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was negative. It is noteworthy, if not surprising, that the biggest perpetrator of hate speech during the election period was Mugabe himself.

Step four: Stack the courts with supporters who will uphold your constitutionally questionable decisions.
Manipulation of the judicial system started early in the election process. In May 2013, following a court application in which an activist affiliated with ZANU-PF sought to “compel” Mugabe to set an election date, the Constitutional Court ruled that elections must be held by July 31. Despite domestic and regional pressure, the court ruled against postponing the vote by two weeks, declaring that election preparations were already under way. The Constitutional Court’s decision clearly violated the constitution, reinforcing the perception that it is a Mugabe puppet.

Step five: Seize control of the election machinery and make sure that your rigged triumph is plausible.
Determined to avoid another period of power sharing, Mugabe made a concerted effort to rig a margin of victory that would be plausible (something short of 99 percent), but also large enough to negate the need for a runoff vote. The incumbent president ultimately won 61 percent of the ballots, according to official results. He argued that he was able to obtain more votes than in 2008 because of a renewed effort to attract support through his indigenous and black empowerment programs. However, Mugabe also benefited from his heavy influence over the voter registration process. The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Judge Rita Makarau, was a former ZANU-PF lawmaker, while the registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede, had been leading the registrar’s office for more than three decades.

Step six: Avoid the use of violence at all costs.
Demonstrating that he had learned the greatest lesson from 2008, Mugabe this time restrained party members and supporters, including youth militias, and prevented a repeat of the 2008 electoral violence. Only a handful of reports of politically motivated violence emerged on election day, and none garnered any significant international attention. Both SADC and AU observer missions were quick to declare the July 31 election peaceful, and therefore credible. Nevertheless, members of civil society and the opposition were subject to intimidation, arrest, and other forms of persecution throughout the election process. In the run-up to the constitutional referendum earlier in the year, nearly a dozen civil society organizations had their offices raided by state security personnel, and many prominent civil society leaders and human rights defenders were arrested on spurious charges.

Step seven: Declare that the people have spoken, and do not look back.
On August 22, Mugabe was sworn in for his sixth term as president with the same pomp and circumstance as in his first inauguration 33 years ago. The ceremony, held at the National Sport Stadium, was attended by foreign dignitaries and a crowd of 60,000. The event was initially delayed by a court petition filed by his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, over allegations of widespread electoral fraud. But the Constitutional Court dismissed the case, declaring that the election was free, fair, and credible. Once the ruling was announced, Mugabe never looked back. Immediately after his inauguration, he appointed a new cabinet and began phasing out officials who were brought in by the MDC under the power-sharing government. Mugabe was also quick to place blame for Zimbabwe’s economic crisis on continued sanctions by the United States and Europe.

Having successfully overcome the electoral hurdle, Mugabe will face few checks on his power. The GNU’s failure to repeal restrictive laws—including the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Criminal Reform and Codification Act, and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)—means that the government will remain empowered to severely limit citizens’ fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and assembly. It also means that further declines in political rights and civil liberties will most likely occur, resulting in the reemergence of a pre-2008 environment.

At the regional level, emulation of the Zimbabwean model is a growing concern. Over the next year a total of six countries in SADC will hold elections. Several of the votes are expected to be very contentious, and the incumbents up for reelection may use Mugabe’s playbook in order to secure a win, risking similarly disastrous results for democracy and human rights.

Is South Africa part of Africa? Jacob Zuma is not always sure

By John CampbellGuest blogger / 11.14.13

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

An off-hand comment made by President Jacob Zuma this month implied that South Africa is fundamentally different from the rest of Africa.

His comments have resulted in renewed debate about the extent to which South Africa is “African.” Some examples of the debate can be found here

According to a recording of the event analyzed by “Africa Check,” President Zuma said: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg. This is Johannesburg. It is not some national road in Malawi. No.”

Multi-racial, multi-ethnic South Africa is both a developed and developing country. Economically, it is far more developed than any of the other large African states. It's white, “coloured,” and “Indian” minorities together make up about 20 percent of the population. Whites still dominate the modern economy. The country’s apartheid history is unique, but the racial segregation upon which it was based was common throughout sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial period.

Certainly under apartheid, and to a certain extent even now, whites and some “coloureds” saw South Africa as a European outpost.

During the apartheid era, school textbooks often portrayed the Europeans and the “Bantu” tribes as arriving at about the same time, altogether ignoring the indigenous peoples already there.

Geography has also played a role in fostering the sense of the “apartness” of South Africa. The Kalahari Desert cuts off South Africa from the rest of the continent similar to the way the Sahara Desert separates sub-Saharan Africa from the North African littoral.

In both cases, however, there has always been more movement across these ostensible barriers than is often recognized.

Many intellectuals and opinion leaders insist that South Africa is, indeed, a part of Africa and that the country’s alleged “apartness” is a holdover of an apartheid mentality.

That may account for some of the strong reaction to President Zuma’s apparently off-hand comments.

Congolese M23 rebels walk inside an enclosure after surrendering to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district, 293 miles west from Uganda capital Kampala November 8, 2013. (James Akena/Reuters)

Despite M23 defeat, no peace deal in Congo

By Jason StearnsGuest blogger / 11.13.13

A version of this post originally appeared on Congo Siasa blog. The views expressed are the author's own. 

On Nov. 11 the peace talks in Kampala seemed to (again) be on the verge of success. The M23 and the Congolese government delegations were on their way to State House, and international envoys said both sides had agreed on the eleven articles of the agreement.

At the last minute, however, the deal fell apart -- over the simple issue of a title.

The Congolese refuse to sign an "agreement" (accord) and merely want to issue a "declaration" to conclude the talks.

The M23 and the Ugandan mediation, meanwhile, are pushing for a formal, binding agreement.

The Congolese -- blamed by Uganda mediators for the failure, and who in their turn blame [Ugandan president Yoweri] Museveni -- don't see why they should sign a binding agreement with an organization that no longer exists. "No country in history has signed an agreement with a movement that has declared its own dissolution," said the Congolese information minister.

The Congolese delegation is under pressure from a Congolese public that never liked the Kampala talks and is all the more opposed now that the M23 has been militarily defeated. Meanwhile, the M23 leadership, who have little to gain personally by signing a deal, as they are unlikely to receive any high-ranking positions, don't want to hand the Congolese a diplomatic victory on top of a military one.

They seemed to be backed in this position by the Ugandan facilitation, who, after all, has most of their military leaders in custody. 

The Ugandans immediately blamed the Congolese, saying they had been given a long time to study the agreement and refused even to enter the room with the M23.

The Ugandans later made a semi-veiled threat, saying the M23 "can still regroup," something that would only be possible with Ugandan complicity, as the M23 rebels are now largely in the custody of their army.

Why is a deal still important? For several reasons.

First, there could be over 2,500 M23 soldiers still at large: some 390 have turned themselves over to the Congolese army, around 150 surrendered to the UN mission, over 600 are in Rwanda since Bosco Ntaganda's defection last April, and the Ugandans claim (although it begs credulity) that there are 1,700 on their soil.

The peace deal would have given amnesty for crimes of insurrection and could have paved the way for the rank-and-file, at least, to come back home and enter demobilization or army integration.Now they are sitting around, an accident waiting to happen. This was the argument that Martin Kobler, the head of the UN mission, made yesterday.

Secondly, a peace deal would clearly state that there will be no amnesty for war crimes or crimes against humanity, at least theoretically preventing the Congolese from striking any deals with commanders with blood on their hands (although those deals are fairly unlikely now).

Finally, a peace deal would allow for the diplomatic process to continue. It would allow President Museveni's role -- as controversial as it has been -- to be officially recognized, and bring the Kampala talks to a close.

It would also allow for Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda to put the M23 behind them and move forward on substantive issues of regional integration and dealing with other armed groups, such as the FDLR and ADF-Nalu. And it would marginalize the top M23 leadership, like Sultani Makenga and Innocent Kaina.

For now, however, a peace deal seems a long way off. The international envoys have left Kampala, a war of blame has started between Kampala and Kinshasa, and only a small skeleton crew remains at the negotiation table. 

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