Africa Theater

Marabout wars in West Africa?

Hundreds of thousands of mourners have gathered at the holy city of Touba to pay last respects to Senegal's late spiritual leader, Serigne Saliou Mbacke, who died at the age of 92 on Dec. 28. Saliou was the last surviving son of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, 19th-century founder of the Mouride sufi order, and had been "caliph" since 1990. About a tenth of Senegal's 11 million citizens are said to be Mourides, including President Abdoulaye Wade, who declared three days of national mourning. Mouhamadou Lamine Bara Mbacke, a grandson of Ahmadou Bamba, is to become the sixth caliph. (Press Association, Dec. 31; Reuters, Dec. 30; BBC, Dec. 29) Gambian President Yahya Jammeh also expressed sadness at the passing of the caliph, calling it a "great loss" for both Senegal and Gambia. (Afriquenligne, Dec. 31) However, Gambia is being accused in the assassination a week earlier of another prominent Senegalese marabout, or holy man, with intrigues over armed separatist movements in the background...

Mungiki vs. "Taliban" in Kenya's "Kosovo"

Kenyan police sealed Nairobi and broke up protests with water cannons and baton charges Jan. 3, barring supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga from holding a planned rally in Nairobi's Uhuru Park. Odinga made his own accusations of "genocide" against supporters of President Mwai Kibaki. Attorney General Amos Wako called for an independent investigation into the contested vote. (BBC, Bloomberg, Jan. 3) Three people were reported dead, a church and two petrol stations set ablaze, and five cars torched. (Daily Nation, Nairobi, Jan. 3) Reuters reports from the ethnically-mixed, impoverished Nairobi district of Mathare which residents have renamed "Kosovo"—violently contested by Kikuyu gangs such as the Mungiki and a Luo militia calling itself the "Taliban." (Reuters, Jan. 3)

Genocide in Kenya?

President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's ODM party of unleashing "genocide" in Kenya Jan. 2, as the death toll from violence since the disputed Dec. 27 election passed 300. "It is becoming clear that these well-organized acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections," read the statement from Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana.

UN probes corruption in Haiti, Congo peacekeeping missions

United Nations spokesperson Michele Montas confirmed on Dec. 18 that the organization was investigating allegations of fraud and mismanagement totaling more than $610 million in procurement for peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Haiti. The cases are "under consideration in the internal justice system in accordance with established procedures," according to Montas, and "are being accorded the highest priority." (AFP, Dec. 18) [Montas is a Haitian journalist and the widow of murdered Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique. The 9,200-member United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is already under investigation because of allegations of sexual abuse of women and minors by its soldiers and officers.]

DRC government loses ground in Kivu war

Democratic Republic of Congo Armed Forces (FARDC) troops clashed again Dec. 13 with forces loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda in the Gungu heights of North Kivu province. Earlier in the week, Nkunda's fighters forced back government troops and reclaimed positions they had held three months ago. The FARDC pulled back to the town of Sake, about 30 kilometers northwest of the UN-defended provincial capital of Goma—leading many local residents to flee the area, fearing reprisals by the rebels.

ICC issues another report on Darfur impunity

More than nine months and countless African lives ago, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued what critics dismissed as toothless "pseudo-indictments" against two men identified as masterminds of the Darfur genocide—Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman (nom de guerre Ali Kushayb) and Sudan's ironically named "Humanitarian Affairs Minister" Ahmed Harun. Then, in a fairly obvious charade, the Khartoum regime announced it was putting Ali Kushayb on trial itself. A few months later, the Bush administration announced it was placing sanctions on Harun—but also on Khalil Ibrahim, one of the guerilla leaders resisting the genocide! Now, predictably, Kushayb has been freed by Khartoum for supposed "lack of evidence," while Harun continues on in his Orwellian position. The ICC issues a new report protesting Sudan's failure to turn over the two suspects—leaving rights groups to wonder if the charade will not continue interminably, as Darfurians continue to die. From Human Rights First, Dec. 6:

Imprisoned Eritrean honored by Reporters Without Borders

An imprisoned Eritrean has been named "Journalist of the Year 2007" by Reporters Without Borders. Seyoum Tsehaye has not been allowed a visit from his family or attorney during his six years in prison, the group says. He is one of 15 journalists being held in secret locations since 2001 when all non-government media groups were ordered closed. Eritrea was ranked bottom on overall press freedom this year by RWB—behind North Korea and Turkmenistan. The report said four journalists have died in Eritrean prisons in recent years.


Issouf ag-Maha on Music, Culture and the Guerilla Struggle in Niger

by Bill Weinberg

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