August 2011 IIJD Newsletter Update

Somalia: Al Shabaab Abandons Mogadishu while Over 29,000 Somali Children Declared Dead due to Famine: Last week, Al Shabaab reneged on its decision to allow unrestricted access to aid organizations in order to distribute food to Somalia’s growingly desperate population. The group continues to claim that the famine has been fabricated by the international community. However, thousands of more Somalis have fled across the border and into government-controlled areas of Mogadishu in search of assistance. The UN estimates that over 29,000 children have died as a result of malnutrition since the start of the crisis and that number continues to rise as families make long and treacherous treks to the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders. This week Al Shabaab withdrew from the capital Mogadishu after failed attempts to attack IDP camps and AU forces. It is believed that Al Shabaab was forced to retreat due to lack of supplies (including food) and reduced funding from Arab and Eritrean sources as well as from taxes on the population; however, the government has warned against civilians returning to newly abandoned areas out of fear of booby-traps and possible suicide bombings. AU peacekeepers also stated that they would be cautious in retaking these areas in the event of traps.

Eritrea: UN Report Accuses Eritrean Government of Plotting to Bomb AU Conference in Addis Ababa Last January. The UN’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that it had uncovered substantial evidence that the Eritrean government had arranged and funded a plot to bomb the AU Summit in Ethiopia’s capital last January. The plot specifically involved bombing the AU’s headquarters, directly targeting African leaders while on break. It also involved attacking Addis’s largest market to kill as many civilians as possible, as well as bombing the Sheraton hotel, where dignitaries would be staying. Eritrean intelligence allegedly trained and funded anti-Ethiopian government group the Oromo Liberation Front (OLM) to carry out the attack, whose purpose was to debilitate the Ethiopian economy and government by creating a climate of fear throughout Ethiopia and diminishing AU trust in the Ethiopian government. The Eritrean has denied the allegations; however, it has long been accused of funding militants throughout East Africa, including Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab. Eritrea is already under a UN arms embargo, which it is repeatedly accused of violating. It now faces additional sanctions. To offset the increased isolation, Eritrea recently moved to rejoin East African economic group IGAD. Eritrea left IGAD in 2007 after it backed Ethiopian military intervention in Somalia to oust the Islamist government.

Ethiopia: Investigative News Reports Reveals Ethiopian Government Withholding Aid to Opposition Supporting Villages. BBC News recently completed an undercover investigation into the Ethiopian government’s purposeful withholding of development aid to supporters of political opposition groups. BBC journalists found whole villages in which people were starving due to insufficient agricultural production and the government’s subsequent refusal to provide assistance. Village leaders reported that they were essentially being punished by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (who has ruled Ethiopia since 1991) for not voting for his party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The BBC found villages in several areas that were suffering, although surrounding villages (which supported Zenawi’s regime) were well-fed and prosperous. This has led to serious accusations that the Ethiopian government is utilizing aid as a political tool, with the provision of aid contingent upon village support of Zenawi’s party. The report also uncovered evidence of mass detentions and rape and murder by government forces of village members believed to be supporters of militant opposition group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Villagers claim that both donors and humanitarian organizations have neglected their claims, dismissing them as isolated incidents.

Nigeria: UK Court Declares Jurisdiction over Oil Spill Case against Royal Dutch Shell Oil in Ogoniland Region of Nigeria. The British Court ruled that the Nigerian community can claim compensation for Shell’s two major disastrous oil spills that occurred in the Ogoniland region in 2008 and 2009 and destroyed parts of the Bodo’s fishing communities. Shell has already claimed responsibility for the spills, which experts have claimed to be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill; however, it has done nothing to clean the oil which continues to engulf large and small waterways and farmlands. The UK court’s decision will allow complainants to potentially seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. UNEP is set to release its report on the environmental damage to Ogoniland, which it claims is substantial. It is estimated that over 13 million barrels of oil have been spilt in the region over the past several decades, twice as much as the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The UN estimates that it could take up to 30 years to clean the oil.

South Sudan: South Sudan Admitted to African Union. Upon obtaining independence in July, South Sudan has now been admitted to the AU as its 54th member state. The AU will now assist in settling long-standing disputes between Sudan and the South Sudanese, which includes rows over territory and oil resources. The AU recently deployed a peacekeeping force to Abyei, a disputed area that came under heavy attack by Sudanese government forces. An additional dispute over monetary holdings occurred this past month, when the Sudanese government, in violation of the terms outlined in the peace agreement, announced its decision to launch a new currency, shortly after South Sudan launched its currency. South Sudanese leaders complained that the move would devastate its economy by making its Sudanese monetary holdings worthless. Sudan has stated that it will allow a period to exchange currencies.

Other Developments…

Sudan: Five UN Peacekeeping Troops Killed by Mine in Abyei; Sudanese Government Prevents Medical Evacuation. At least five Ethiopian peacekeepers were killed and seven others injured when a landmine exploded while they were on patrol in Mabok, southeast Abyei town. Two died immediately, but three died while the UN was trying to negotiate a medical airlift. UN Peacekeeping Chief Alain Le Roy stated that the UN spent three hours trying to persuade the government to allow the evacuation. The three soldiers were dead by the time the airlift was permitted. Le Roy also stated that the Sudanese government threatened to shoot down the helicopter if the UN attempted to airlift the soldiers without its permission.

Malawi: Malawi Gripped by Violent Protests over High Food and Fuel Costs. Last month, nation-wide protests were staged by hundreds of Malawi citizens angered over high unemployment, the high cost of living and the government’s suppression of civil liberties. At least 18 people were killed and several dozen people injured when protests turned violent after government forces attempted to break up the demonstrations. Rioting ensued as groups of angry men began looting and attacking various locations, including the offices of President Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party. Police have been criticized for using brutal tactics against both protestors and journalists. Both the UK and US governments have condemned the government’s crackdown and have decided to suspend aid to the government. Presidential elections are to be held in 2014; Mutharika cannot run as this is his final term.

Swaziland: Swaziland Receives Short-Term Bailout from South African Government Amidst a Growing Political and Economic Crisis. The South African government recently agreed to provide the Swaziland government a $355 million loan to help bail it out of a fiscal crisis caused mostly by an inept and gluttonous dictator and corrupt governance. The government, which is essentially bankrupt, is unable to pay civil servants, who staged a rare protest last week. It is also running out of anti-retroviral drugs for its HIV positive population, which is the highest in the world. Meanwhile the king and his 13 wives continue to live exorbitantly lavish lifestyles at the cost of the state. The South African government stated that to qualify for the loan, Swaziland would have to adopt democratic government reforms set out by the IMF, which will oversee the loan.

Niger: Government Prevents Coup Last Month. Ten people were arrested for an alleged coup attempt against new Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. Several soldiers including a major and lieutenant allegedly plotted to assassinate Issoufou. Authorities are searching for an additional suspect.

Cape Verde: Presidential Elections to Be Held this Month. Two-term President Pedro Pires will step down. His party, the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde, faces a split vote however, as its candidate Manuel Inocencio Sousa faces another party member, Aristides Lima, for the presidency. Lima will run as an independent. The two will face the main opposition party, the Movement for Democracy, whose candidate is former foreign minister and law professor Jose Carlos Fonseca. Some have predicted that the election will end with a run-off.

Libya: Top Rebel Commander Killed by Allied Rebel Faction.  Abdel Fattah Younes, a former close ally of Gaddafi who defected to the rebels, was killed by rebel militiamen who had been sent to escort him to another location. Younes was deeply distrusted by some rebel leaders who believed he was still in contact with Gaddafi. It is believed that Younes had been recalled for suspicion that he was working with Gaddafi forces and that he had been executed for treason. Others have tried to blame the murder on Gaddafi loyalists believed to have infiltrated rebel forces.