Egypt: Mubarak Trial Begins in Cairo. The trial against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak began in Cairo in early August; Mubarak has been charged with ordering the killing of civilians during the protests that forced his ouster earlier this year. Mubarak is also being charged with corruption along with his two sons Gamal and Alaa. Former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six top police officers are also being charged with capital murder. Mubarak’s first few appearances have been chaotic, as Mubarak supporters clashed with anti-Mubarak protestors outside the courthouse and a barrage of defense attorneys flooded the courtroom, forcing the judge to disallow cameras in the courtroom so as to prevent any further grandstanding by Mubarak attorneys. Clashes in the courtroom also erupted between victims’ families and Mubarak supporters, as well as between opposing attorneys. However, the trial of Mubarak, as well as of his family members and other chief figures of the former regime, is a major step towards ensuring that the country’s few democratic institutions and processes are respected and strengthened. The use of the judiciary to accomplish justice in the most sensitive and volatile cases also sets an important example for other countries in the region experiencing similar political transitions.
Over 850 people were killed during the protests, mostly by the regime’s security forces. Mubarak has pledged his innocence in the killings; however, prosecutors have gathered over 1,000 witnesses in support of their case. Witness testimony began this month. Some senior officers, who had been called to testify after providing signed affidavits that Mubarak and el-Adly did indeed give orders to shoot and kill protestors, once on the stand, denied any such orders existed, prompting prosecutors to discredit their own witnesses and allege witness tampering by the defense. The trial is expected to possibly last several years. Meanwhile, Egypt’s new cabinet and military council have been working to draft new laws to govern the upcoming September elections, as well as to establish more transparent localized transitional governance.
Nigeria: United Nations Building in Abuja Bombed by Islamist Group, Killing 21 and Injuring Dozens. On August 26, the UN’s main building in Abuja was attacked by a suicide bomber, who drove through two security barriers before hitting the building and detonating a large explosive. Over 400 people of various nationalities work at the building. Twenty-one people were killed, and 76 injured after the bomb gutted the entire first floor of the compound and set parts of the building alight. Boko Haram, the main Islamist militant group in Nigeria—responsible for the killing and maiming of hundreds of people just this year alone—immediately claimed responsibility for the horrific attack. Although no arrests have been made, Nigerian security forces are currently investigating the incident, allegedly with the FBI’s assistance, and have recently intensified their crackdown in Islamist areas. This has led to increased ethnic tensions, particularly in Jos, the site of frequent inter-ethnic clashes between Christians and Muslims. Given the size and uncharacteristic nature of the UN bombing, some of the public has speculated on possible government involvement in the attack, with the motivation being political. Others have criticized the Nigerian police, which are known for their corruption, incompetency and brutality. Meanwhile, the government is investigating the possibility of increased links between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda.
Libya: Rebel Forces Take Tripoli. In late August, after some pockets of resistance retreated and/or were defeated, rebel forces were able to capture Tripoli. Gaddafi loyalists retreated southeast to the city of Bani Walid, a Gaddafi stronghold. After re-establishing security in the capital, rebel forces advanced on Bani Walid and are currently in negotiations with town leaders over the terms of surrender; the negotiations are being televised. It is unclear where Gaddafi is at the moment; however, some close family members have fled to Algeria, which has granted them entry on ‘humanitarian grounds.’ A large Gaddafi-loyalist military convey also fled across the border to Niger, where Tuareg tribesmen, loyal to Gaddafi, have lent his forces their support. It is unclear whether Gaddafi was travelling with the convoy, which was carrying large amounts of money and gold; however, former Libyan security chief and Gaddafi right hand man, Mansour Daw, was present in the convoy and is currently in the Niger city of Agadez, where the Niger government has granted him asylum, again on ‘humanitarian grounds’. US and Libya NTC officials have called upon the Niger government to find and arrest those senior officials subject to prosecution in Libya. NTC officials have warned other governments against harboring or supporting former regime members. The government of Burkino Faso has reportedly offered Gaddafi, his sons and other regime members safe haven. If not captured, Gaddafi and other regime loyalists may prove dangerous to the NTC, as they may invoke loyalist support in Tripoli as well as support from Tuareg rebels located near the border. When questioned why NATO did not attack the convoy, NATO officials stated that its mission was to protect civilians, not bomb those fleeing fighting.
Kenya: ICC Trial Begins for Post-Election Violence Accused. After the Kenyan government failed to prosecute government officials indicted by the ICC over their role in crimes against humanity committed during the 2008 post-election violence, Hague prosecutors publicly released the names of those indicted and ordered them to appear in front of the ICC. Those indicted thus far include former MP William Ruto—who was recently tried and acquitted on charges of corruption involving illegal land deals and who also faced additional accusations over corruption at Kenya’s education ministry, where millions of dollars have gone missing—Deputy PM and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta; Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kirimi Muthaura; Former Police Chief Mohammed Hussein Ali; Minister for Industrialization Henry Kosgey; and Radio Executive Joshua Arap Sang. This month, Ruto was finally sacked from his position as Education Minister. He and the other accused have been attending pre-trial hearings at The Hague since April. Earlier on, ICC judges warned the defendants against making provocative speeches, as evidence had emerged that some had planned to incite further violence to regain political leverage. The ICC promised that summonses would become arrest warrants if such was the case. Ruto, Sang and Kosgey’s trial began this month; the defendants have argued that the ICC lacks jurisdiction in their case because the defendants were not agents of the state at the time the offenses were committed; however, ICC prosecutors have demonstrated that the defendants were in fact agents of political and military institutions thus making the case admissible (the court had also ruled this previously). In their opening statements, ICC prosecutors stated how defendants paid various agents to incite and commit violence and how they formed an organized command structure to orchestrate atrocities. The trial continues this month.
Sudan and South Sudan: Violence Continues Amongst the Two States and Between Tribes; Sudan Outlaws Major Opposition Party and South Sudan Capital to be Moved. In South Sudan, deadly cattle raids continued this month in the state of Jonglei, where clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups have been ongoing for decades. Murle fighters attacked Nuer villages, killing more than 600 people, kidnapping over 200 children and stealing over 25,000 cattle. The raid was apparently committed in retaliation for a June attack by the Nuer that left over 400 Murle dead. Also, to avoid ethnic tensions, South Sudan announced this week that it would be moving to its capital from Juba further north to the remote area of Ramciel. Meanwhile, in the North, Sudanese forces clashed with SPLM-North forces in the Blue Nile State, an opposition strong hold. The North has accused the Southern government of supporting rebel militias in those areas, a claim the South denies. In response to the fighting, Khartoum has arrested hundreds of SPLM-North, Sudan’s main opposition political party; removed the Blue Nile State’s elected governor from his post; and seized control of the state’s capital Damazin. Khartoum has stripped SPLM-North of its legal status and stated any member engaged in political activities will be subject to arrest. Thousands of people have now fled the border states of Blue Nile and Kordofan due to heavy fighting.
Cote D’Ivoire: Former President Gbagbo Charged with Corruption. On August 19, Gbagbo and his wife were charged with economic crimes, armed robbery, looting and embezzlement. Authorities had charged 57 soldiers from Gbagbo's regime the week prior with crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to attacking state security and buying illegal arms. The former head of Gbagbo's party, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, and 11 others were also charged with attacking state security and backing the former president's refusal to concede the poll. Gbagbo was forcibly removed from power after the international community, which included the UN, decided to unilaterally declare Ouattara winner, despite evidence of electoral fraud and the fact that Gbagbo had been declared winner by the country’s Constitutional Council, the only body with authority to do so. Gbagbo and his wife have now been transferred from house arrest to jail. Meanwhile, in July, UN investigators uncovered evidence of Ouattara forces committing mass atrocities against Gbagbo supporters after Gbagbo’s arrest. Ouattara has yet to properly address these accusations and evidence.
Zimbabwe: Mugabe Reported to be Dying of Cancer. Wikileaks released a new set of documents last week, some of which indicate that Mugabe is suffering from cancer, diagnosed as early as 2006. The US Envoy in Zimbabwe stated in a cable that sources had indicated to him that Mugabe would die in a few years’ time and that his illness had already rendered him incompetent to rule. Cables also revealed divisions within ZANU-PF, as well as a growing impatience and anger at Mugabe’s continued rule. Government officials from various countries including Tanzania and South Africa also heavily criticized ZANU-PF for its failure to competently govern the country.
Somalia: UN Declares Famine in Additional Areas; 750,000 Face Starvation. As drought continues and more people flee, more areas of southern Somalia face the threat of famine and disease, despite international aid efforts. The UN stated that internal displacement, which had initially exacerbated the problem, was now decreasing, but rates of malnutrition and mortality are increasing, and the spread of disease is partly to blame as measles and cholera cases are being reported in refugee camps.
Cameroon: Biya Once Again Announces His Bid for the Presidency. Presidential elections are set to be held in October 9th, 2011. Biya, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, announced the decision despite widespread calls for him to step down. There are 21 presidential candidates on the ballot, including the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, John Fru Ndi, who has sharply criticized Biya’s bid for another seven year term. Mr. Paul Biya who is known to be one of the worst dictators on hearth changed the constitution in 2008 to eliminate term limits and allow himself to remain in power, despite widespread protests that were also fueled by rising food prices. Paul Biya regime has refused to establish an independent national body vested with the power to freely organize elections in Cameroon. Over 80% of Cameroon’s youth are unemployed. The protests were violently suppressed by security forces which killed an estimated 120 people. Biya and his regime have been accused, not only of brutality, but of widespread corruption, as well as electoral fraud.