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.]
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.
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:
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
Gillian Gibbons, the British school-teacher sentenced to 15 days in prison in Sudan for naming a class teddy bear "Mohammed," has been transfered to a secret location after thousands of Sudanese—many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums—marched in Khartoum to demand her execution. Some burned pictures of Gibbons and chanted "Kill her! Kill her by firing squad!" (Canadian Press, GMA, Dec. 1)
Rebels in Chad have declared war on the former colonial power France. Mahamat Hassane Boulmaye, spokesman for the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), said in a statement: "The UFDD considers itself to be in a state of belligerence against the French army or any other foreign forces on national territory." He said the EU peacekeeping force to be stationed in Chad to help police neighboring Darfur is a "a hostile act," adding: "We will view the European soldiers as enemies, whether they are French or Austrian."
In a near-explicit threat, Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed Nov. 13 called on Mogadishu residents to help fight insurgents—or suffer in government crackdowns in the violence-torn capital. "My government is doing all it can to save the lives of the Somali people, but insurgents are responsible for the continued violence," Yusuf told a press conference in Nairobi. "People in neighborhoods must also fight the Shabab and chase them away. Otherwise they are the ones who suffer in crackdowns." The Shabab (Arabic for "Youth") insurgent movement continues to harass government and Ethiopian troops in Somalia's capital. "When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers," Yusuf warned.