AROUND AFRICA: Congo Violence, Mali Mutiny, Sahel Food Crisis (UPDATE-Mali-2)
Congo Election Violence
A United Nations report say security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) committed numerous human rights violations – including murders, shooting into crowds and arbitrary arrests – during contentious national elections late last year.
Investigators at the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC found at least 33 people were killed in the nation’s capital, Kinshasa, by security forces during November and December, the Associated Press reported. At least 83 other people were wounded and more than 250 were detained.
President Joseph Kabila won election Nov. 28 for a second-five year term with a reported 49 percent of the vote. But foreign observers, including the European Union and the United States said voting was marred by violence and intimidation.
The human rights abuses were attributed to elements of Kabila’s Republican Guard and the National Congolese police with armed forces troops involved to a lesser extent, Reuters reported.
The DRC – the second largest and fourth most populous country in Africa – has been wracked by civil war, invading armies and militias – including the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army – as well as a refugee crisis for decades. But is has some of the world’s largest copper and cobalt deposits – as well as gold, diamonds and oil.
Mali Soldiers and Rebels
Updates with White House condemnation of coup violence
The North African nation of Mali has been battling an uprising by Tuareg tribesman for months and now the army is up in arms over poor equipment, supplies and compensation for the families of slain soldiers.
As soldiers fired their guns into the air Wednesday (March 21) in Bamako — the land-locked desert nation’s capital– and seized the government’s radio and TV broadcasting center, the question arose: Is it a coup, a mutiny or simply a protest?
The answer is now apparent: It’s a coup. On Thursday leaders of the rebellious soldiers announced on state television that they were ending “the incompetent rule” of President Amadou Toumani Toure and suspending Mali’s constitution to protest the poorly led campaign against the Tuareg rebels, the Voice of America reports.
In Washington, the White House issued a statement strongly condemning the coup’s violence and calling for “the immediate restoration of constitutional rule in Mali, including full civilian authority over the armed forces …” The statement added that the U.S. stood by Toure’s “legitimately elected government.”
Soldiers in a base outside the capital. and at another one closer to the fighting with the Tuaregs, began their protest complaining about the government’s inept response to the Tuareg rebellion that has seen several northen towns fall to the nomadic tribesmen and many soldiers killed or captured
Previously, according to the Associated Press, a Twitter message from Malian President Toumani Toure proclaimed: “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.” Now Toure’s whereabouts are unknown and several cabinet ministers have been arrested, according to reports out of Bamako.
The Tuaregs have sought an independent state in northern Mali for decades but the latest uprising was spurred by the recent return of heavily-armed Tuareg fighters from Libya where they served as mercenaries for Muammar Gaddafi before the Libyan strongman was deposed and killed.
Many Malian soldiers have been killed in the fighting for which they claim they are poorly armed and equipped. The Tuaregs have seized several northern towns.
Early reports Wednesday (March 21) said the Army revolt was merely recruits venting their frustration for how the Tuareg conflict was being handled but by late in the day parts of the capital were under the muntineers’ control and Toure was holed up in his presidential palace guarded by his elite Red Berets, according to the AFP news agency.
Meanwhile the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is calling on the Tuareg group known as the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad to halt their attacks and take the Malian government up on its offer of peace talks, the AP reported.
Chad: Sahel Hunger Crisis
In another Northern African desert country, children are starting to die from malnutrition as a hunger crisis looms across the Sahel, the arid borderland that stretches across the continent south of the Sahara.
The international relief agency, Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger), says malnutrition has soared in western Chad.
Aid agencies like Action Against Hunger have been warning for months that the Sahel faces a food crisis because of drought, poor harvests and population dislocated by the war in Libya and the Tuareg revolt in Mali.
The United Nations estimates the crisis could affect at least 15 million people across Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkino Faso, Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania.
All maps, CIA World Factbook