For all the grim announcements of a "humanitarian disaster" sparked by the current re-eruption of the Congo war, there is an alarming paucity of clear reportage on who exactly is responsible for what violence. Most western media accounts are heavy on despair-inducing atrocity pornography and very light on actual facts. Within Central Africa, the Congolese media portray Rwandan aggression, while the Rwandan media accuse the Democratic Republic of Congo of sheltering Hutu militias bent on Rwanda's destabilization. And while western accounts emphasize endemic "festering hatreds" left by the 1994 Rwanda genocide (AP, Oct. 30), DRC diplomats accuse Western powers of backing Rwanda in a destabilization ploy against Kinshasa. Some examples...
A jury for the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Oct. 31 found Charles McArthur Emmanuel AKA Chuckie Taylor Jr., son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, guilty on charges of involvement in torture and other crimes in Liberia and Sierra Leone between 1999 and 2002. Emmanuel, a US citizen raised in Boston, had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was the first person indicted under a 1994 federal anti-torture law known as the "extraterritorial statute," which allows people living within the US to be charged for acts of torture abroad.
The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) found the government of Niger liable Oct. 27 for failing to aid a young woman who was held in slavery for ten years. The West African court ruled under a 2003 Niger law that made the ownership of slaves a criminal offense, and a provision of Niger's 1999 constitution which bans slavery. Niger's government will be required to pay $19,750 in restitution to Hadijatou Mani. Observers say the ECOWAS court's binding ruling will affect every ECOWAS member state may force a number of nations to consider the legality of slavery within their borders, as well as act to protect whose who may be illegally enslaved.
A woman was stoned to death for adultery Oct. 27 in an Islamist-controlled region of Somalia. Witnesses said the woman, identified as Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow, 23, had been raped, but sharia courts ruled she was guilty of adultery. She was buried up to her neck and stoned after a crowd of thousands gathered at a soccer field in the town of Kismayo. "Our sister Aisha asked the Islamic Sharia court in Kismayo to be charged and punished for the crime she committed," local leader Sheikh Hayakallah told the crowd. The port of Kismayo was seized in August by Shabab rebel leader Hassan Turki. (AFP, BBC, NYT, Oct. 28)
Five suicide car bombs hit targets in the autonomous Somali regions of Somaliland and Puntland Oct. 29, killing some 20 as well as the bombers. Three simultaneous blasts in Somaliland's capital Hargeysa targeted the presidential palace, an Ethiopian diplomatic compound and the offices of the UN Development Program. In Puntland's capital Bosasso, two offices of an Interior Ministry body tasked with combating terrorism were hit, although only the two bombers were killed. (AFP, Oct. 30)
Sudanese security forces are searching for nine Chinese oil workers kidnapped in Southern Kordofan on Oct. 19. The men were working for the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) at an oilfield run by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a consortium of four oil companies from China, India, Malaysia and Sudan. It produces more than 300,000 barrels of crude per day. The government initially blamed the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur rebel group. Chinese diplomats, however, said the captors were probably local tribesmen.
Renewed fighting between the Congolese army and forces loyal to a renegade general Laurent Nkunda has displaced more than 100,000 people in eastern Congo since August, according to UN officials, who describe the situation as "catastrophic." The fighting has mainly been in North Kivu province, where Nkunda and his the National Congress for the Defense of the People have established a virtual fiefdom, taking over villages and levying taxes. Nkunda says he is protecting the region's Tutsi minority from ethnic Hutu militias. In recent weeks, Nkunda he has vowed to "liberate" all of the Democratic Republic of Congo from the government of President Joseph Kabila. (WP, Oct. 16)
A coast guard patrol from the independent Somali region of Puntland on Oct. 14 freed the 11-man crew of a hijacked ship and captured the 10 pirates who seized the vessel last week. Puntland's special Rescue Commando Forces raided the Panama-flagged ship—the Wail—in the Gulf of Aden, Puntland Foreign Minister Ali Abdi Aware told CNN, adding that all of the rescued crew are now safe.