Pete’s Africa Round-Up

14.05.12

Categorie: Africa, Africa Round-Up, Congo, Pete Doerrie |
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Tuareg rebels. Flickr photo via Magharebia.

Tuareg rebels. Flickr photo via Magharebia.

by PETER DOERRIE

Congo

A large-scale mutiny-come-rebellion rocks the eastern part of the Democratic Replublic of Congo since Easter. Never the most peaceful of places, the situation in the Kivu provinces bordering Rwanda escalated, when army general Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda decided to defect from his position.

Ntaganda is searched for by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. (The ICC recently sentenced Ntaganda’s former superior Thomas Lubanga in a related case.) A military commander of a powerful rebel group, the CNDP, Ntaganda protected himself from prosecution by leading an internal coup against CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda and bringing the CNDP into the fold of the government. This deal — in which Rwanda played an important part — gave Ntaganda the highest army command in the Kivus and didn’t touch the CNDP structures, which persisted in parrallel to the normal chain of command.

But Ntaganda seemed to have worried that the government would bow to international pressure demanding his arrest. The resulting mutiny, which saw thousands of people flee into refugee camps and neighboring countries, first seemed like a dud when several important CNDP commanders did not follow Ntaganda’s orders and others were isolated quickly by loyalist forces. Then the situation reversed with the mutineers taking over several important towns in the region, just to be expelled from them by units being flown in from other countries.

Ntaganda and several of his commanders are now said to be in hiding in some of the Congo’s most inaccessible areas. The government has officially declared the mutiny to be over, but as long as the man himself is not accounted for, nothing should be taken for granted. There is talk of a new rebellion, build on the old CNDP structures, forming itself. This would be a bad development for the East Congo, which has taken baby steps into the direction of more security lately.

Guinea-Bissau

In a country where not a single president so far managed to complete his constitutional term, a coup interrupted presidential elections between the first and the second round. While this may not sound like the most interesting of developments, all Western governments would be well advised to finally start paying attention to the mess that this West African country presents.

While Guinea-Bissau is said to be a stunningly beautiful place, few people get to enjoy the country’s nature, as its islands and shoreline are primarily used by South American drug cartels to fly in cocaine shipments. The army is deeply complicit in this trade, facilitating the movement of the contraband to neighboring countries and on via Egypt and Turkey to Europe.

The current prime minister and most presumed next president has pledged to curb the budget and power of the army, a threat that the generals answered by shelling his house, taking him prisoner and announcing an “interim” government for a year.

ECOWAS, a regional organization, reacted promptly and threatened military intervention to restore the constitutional order. Talks are ongoing, but so far little indicates that Guinea-Bissau will be able to leave its troublesome past behind.

Mauritania

Again, a country few people have heard about, if they were not watching the rally Paris-Dakar before it moved to South America. This is particular astonishing, because Mauritania has seen large-scale regular protests for over a year now. The protests have flared up in the wake of the wider Arab Spring, but are also driven by factors unique to Mauritania, like the persistence of slavery and racial tensions.

The main reason for protest is — like in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — the man ruling the country: President Mohamen Ould Abdel Asiz, who took power in a military coup and since went through the motions of getting himself “democratically” elected.

Protests have increasingly gained traction since a middle-aged businessman immolated himself in protest in front of the presidential palace in Nouakchott in February 2011. Now thousands of people from a wide range of protest movements stage weekly protests in the capital, with tactics varying from running battles with riot police to peaceful occupations and sit-ins on public places.

Mali

Around two thirds of Mali’s vast territory is currently outside the control of the government. A mixture of secessionist Tuareg rebels, Salafist groups and criminal gangs has chased the army from a sparsely populated area the size of France. Little reliable information is emerging from there and what is known doesn’t sound good: Salafist fighters from Pakistan are said to be arriving to support the local movements and looting, abductions and rape has escalated.

The rest of the country, its southern part, is nominally still under the government’s control. The only problem: there is no real government at the moment. After a coup d’etat in March, a counter-coup attempt last month and threats by ECOWAS to intervene militarily, an uncertain situation has evolved in the capital of Bamako. The military junta which chased president Touré from power just one month before elections formally transferred power to a civilian interim government. But military officers occupy several important ministerial posts in this government and junta leader Capt. Sanogo continues to retain control of the army. He has also made it clear that after the term of the interim president ends, he will be back in power.

The resulting overall situation seems to be pretty dire: A military intervention against rebels in the North would likely make only matters worse. These rebels are so divided that negotiating a peaceful settlement will be extremely hard though and this is even assuming that a government in Bamako exists who has the legitimacy to negotiate and is not to busy consolidating its own power.

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One Response to “Pete’s Africa Round-Up”

  1. [...] Ntaganda is searched for by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. (The ICC recently sentenced Ntaganda’s former superior Thomas Lubanga in a related case.) A military commander of a powerful rebel group, the CNDP, Ntaganda protected himself from prosecution by leading an internal coup against CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda and bringing the CNDP into the fold of the government. This deal — in which Rwanda played an important part — gave Ntaganda the highest army command in the Kivus and didn’t touch the CNDP structures, which persisted in parrallel to the normal chain of command. […] [...]

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