Seven Killed in Sudan as Protesters Rally on Uprising Anniversary

Seven protesters were shot to death in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.   

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannons in the afternoon as they tried to prevent swelling numbers of protesters from marching toward the presidential palace, witnesses said.  

They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be at least in the tens of thousands, the largest for months. In Omdurman, witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum, though some later made it across.  

The protests in the capital and other cities marked the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.   

Last October, the military led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies demanding the army quit politics. 

Some of Thursday’s protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the military’s economic holdings. 

In the evening, protesters in Bahri and Khartoum said they were starting sit-ins against Thursday’s deaths, one of the highest single-day tolls to date.   

June 30 also marks the day Bashir took power in a coup in 1989.   

“Either we get to the presidential palace and remove Burhan or we won’t return home,” said a 21-year-old female student protesting in Bahri.   

It was the first time in months of protests that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to weaken the protest movement.   

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.   

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut, and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri, another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.   

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot to death a child in Bahri during neighborhood protests that have been taking place daily.  

Thursday’s seven deaths, five in Omdurman, one in Khartoum and another child in Bahri brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 110. There were many injuries and attempts by security forces to storm hospitals in Khartoum where the injured were being treated, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said. 

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities. 

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. 

“Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.   

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis, though they are yet to appoint a prime minister. International financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen after the coup and an economic crisis has deepened. 

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.   

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African Union have so far yielded little progress. 

 

your ad here

Landmines Add to Drought Woes of Ethiopian Herders

The battles between Ethiopian government-aligned troops and Tigrayan forces may have stopped, but herders in western Afar region are left fighting for survival.

The record drought in the Horn of Africa that has killed millions of livestock has been made worse by landmines left by combatants.

Herder Hassen Arebti Hassen’s 4-year-old daughter was injured by a landmine, and the weapons are also killing his animals.

He said landmines are everywhere, and many animals have stepped on them and died.

Landmines and other explosives are so common in the area that some locals use the wood from their crates as building materials.

Nine-year-old Ali Omer said his 10-year-old friend was killed by a landmine while they were herding goats together.

“We were just there to take care of the goats, but my friend died,” he said.

Omer said his friend was playing, throwing stones at the landmine, but then he picked it up and threw it to the ground.

Omer was also injured.

His father, Oumer Hadeto, said landmines make them all afraid to collect water, despite the drought.

Hadeto said the community doesn’t know what to do, and he has to spend a lot of money to buy food for his family and animals. The landmines need to be removed, he added.

After speaking with locals, VOA was unable to establish which side in the conflict was responsible for laying the mines.

Bekele Gonfa, executive director of a nonprofit in Addis Ababa that supports landmine victims, said people in mined areas of Ethiopia, like Chifra, need help.

“Number one is the medical treatment. And then, they’re provided with psychosocial support, which includes counseling. Particularly, that’s what the organization is basically engaged in. The public and the community [have] to be given risk education in order to really keep themselves away from the mines,” Gonfa said.

But with the ongoing drought, people in Chifra have little choice but to risk landmines if they want to find food for their animals and collect water for their survival.

your ad here

Beijing Seeks Mediator Role in Turbulent Horn of Africa 

China is offering to help “silence the guns in the Horn of Africa,” an ambitious undertaking given the multiple conflicts in the region, and an indication that Beijing may be moving away from its traditional “non-interference” stance towards more active diplomatic engagement.

China’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, made the offer last week at a peace conference organized by Chinese officials in Addis Ababa. The Chinese government has historically avoided getting involved in foreign disputes, but some observers see the event as evidence that Beijing seeks to rival the U.S. as an international conflict mediator. Others saw it more as a pragmatic move by a major investor in the region to keep its interests safe.

The conference itself did not get into specific proposals for resolving several ongoing security crises, but the Chinese envoy said Beijing wants to become more involved.

“This is the first time for China to play a role in the area of security,” said Xue, who was appointed to his position earlier this year, adding that Beijing wants a more important role “not only in trade and investments but also in the area of peace and development.”

China has some 400 construction and manufacturing projects worth over $4 billion in Ethiopia alone, according to the United States Institute of Peace. However, Ethiopia has been mired in vicious ethnic conflict since 2020, with the federal government in Addis Ababa fighting rebel forces in the northern Tigray region.

Peace talks are set to begin soon, but there’s disagreement between the warring factions over who should serve as mediator, the African Union or Kenya.

“As Africa’s largest single-country trade partner, China acknowledges the economic necessity of stability in regional anchor countries such as Ethiopia,” Fonteh Akum, executive director of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, told VOA.

Much of the rest of the region is also in crisis. Northern neighbor Eritrea has been murkily involved in the war in Tigray, while Ethiopia’s eastern neighbor, Somalia, has been ravaged by conflict and Islamist insurgency for decades. To the west, South Sudan is navigating a tenuous peace after years of civil war, while Sudan recently underwent a military coup. Just this week, the Sudanese and Ethiopian armies clashed over a disputed border region.

So China has its work cut out for it, and it’s not the first country to try. Washington’s own Horn of Africa envoy, David Satterfield, stayed only three months in the job before quitting earlier this year. President Joe Biden’s envoy before him, Jeffrey Feltman, lasted less than a year.

The joint statement released at the end of China’s peace conference — which was attended by foreign ministry officials from regional countries and during which no specific conflict was even discussed — was extremely vague. It said only that all parties had agreed to “maintain peace and stability.”

“I think despite the holding of this peace forum it’s not clear what they can offer in terms of mediation to the federal government and the other Ethiopian conflict actors,” said William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst at International Crisis Group.

“It isn’t clear that there’s the political commitment from Beijing, or the understanding of the political complexities, or the diplomatic capacity to really get involved in talks,” he told VOA.

Washington has placed sanctions on Ethiopia, much to the annoyance of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has also described China as Addis Ababa’s “most reliable friend.” China’s ambassador to the United Nations spoke out against imposing sanctions at the U.N. Security Council last year.

“There’s concern in Addis about so-called Western meddling and the U.S. pushing its agenda onto Ethiopia’s civil war,” Davison said. “So it wouldn’t be a surprise if Ethiopia preferred the far more non-interfering approach of China in the context of peace talks.”

Adhere Cavince, an independent Kenyan international relations analyst, concurred, saying some Western interventions in the Ethiopian conflict had “not been very kindly received.”

“The U.S. responded with sanctions, with conditions, with threats … and this is quite different from what the Chinese are saying,” he told VOA, referring to the fact that China is focused on development rather than human rights concerns.

The Chinese Communist Party has always maintained that stability is necessary for development and the Horn region is a key part of its global infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

China has funded railways and highways in Kenya, built the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, and constructed a railway from landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti — where it also has set up its first overseas military base. It will be looking to protect this strategic base as well as shipping lanes and its own nationals working in the region.

“From an economic perspective, stability in the region will help China to move deeper in eastern Africa, which is a center point of its BRI in Africa,” said Christian Géraud Neema Byamungu, an analyst at the China-Global South Project.

Whether they can do it by offering economic integration and development projects, Neema Byamungu said, is another question.

“The conflicts in the region are not only economically rooted, they’re also socially and culturally rooted … and this is one of the areas where China lacks experience,” he told VOA.

Still, it seems China wants to send a message to Washington that it, too, can help foster stability abroad. Mediation with Chinese characteristics might look quite different however, with a focus not on human rights and democratization but economic development.

A recent column on Africa in China’s state-affiliated Global Times newspaper suggests as much, positing that as a good thing.

“Although some Western countries like the US also offer mediation in the region, China has an advantage compared to them, which is that China never takes sides or interferes with regional countries domestic affairs,” it read.

But analysts don’t think this will necessarily play in China’s favor, particularly in Ethiopia.

“Its neutrality wasn’t well received by the Tigray people,” who didn’t have a representative present at the peace conference, noted Neema Byamungu.

Davison said as China has always supported the government of the day, “it’s unlikely that the other actors, most notably the Tigray regional leadership, would be interested in China playing a mediating role.”

But for Cavince, “the Horn of Africa countries are simply welcoming of what the Chinese are proposing on the basis of the fact that it is not confrontational, it is not forceful, it is based on mutual consent.”

“Whether China is going to be successful in its mediation efforts in Africa is a question whose time hasn’t come, it lies in the future,” he said.

your ad here

International Commission Calls on Ethiopia to End Violations on Its Territory

A U.N. investigative panel is calling on the government of Ethiopia to end conflict-related rights violations on its territory and bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice. The commission has submitted its first report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The three-member International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia reports that violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law continue and appear to be committed with impunity.

Commission chair Kaari Betty Murungi said the panel is alarmed by ongoing atrocities against civilians, including events reported in the Oromia region. This is a reference to the recent killings of an estimated 250 people, mostly from the Amhara ethnic group, allegedly by the rebel Oromo Liberation Army.

“Any spread of violence against civilians, fueled either by hate speech or incitement to ethnic-based or gender-based violence, are early warning indicators and a precursor for further atrocity crimes,” Murungi said. “These and the protracted humanitarian crisis including blockades to food and medical aid, supplies and services pose grave risk to the Ethiopian civilian population and to people in the region.”

The commission was established last December at a special session on the human rights situation in Ethiopia since Nov. 3, 2020. That was when the government’s military offensive in Tigray began in response to attacks by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ethiopia has rejected as unwarranted the adoption of the resolution that established the commission.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Zenebe Kebede Korcho, however, has told the council his government will cooperate with the commission despite ongoing reservations. He said discussions have begun.

“The country is now turning a page,” Korcho said. “The government of Ethiopia has decided to seek peaceful end to the conflict. An inclusive national dialogue is launched to address political problems across the country. The government has taken numerous confidence-building measures.”

The ambassador said his government has declared an indefinite humanitarian truce in northern Ethiopia. As a result, he noted humanitarian assistance is reaching all those in need.

The commission said it has begun its work and welcomes the cooperation of the Ethiopian government. The commission adds it believes it can contribute to furthering accountability for the many violations that have occurred since the start of the conflict in Tigray and that are still ongoing.

your ad here

Maasai in Tanzania Move to New Homes Amid Eviction Effort

Tanzanian authorities say violent clashes on June 10 between police and ethnic Maasai people they were trying to evict from a conservation area left one officer dead and scores of Maasai shot and wounded. While rights groups have condemned Tanzanian authorities for what they call unlawful evictions, some Maasai families say they had no choice but to move from their ancestral home to a reservation 600 kilometers away.

Saiboku Laizer, 63, has found a new home in eastern Tanzania’s Handeni township.

It’s about 600 kilometers south of his ancestral land in the Ngorongoro Conservation area.

Laizer has three wives and 20 children. In this new environment, he is worried about the fate of their long-preserved traditions, including living in a traditional Maasai bomas (huts).

Laizer said that in Ngorongoro, the laws were strict, and people were instructed about what to do with their land, so they had much time to invest in their traditions. But for now, he added, the traditions of living in bomas and living with many cattle may suffer.

He is among the Maasai who have left their land after a government eviction that has sparked protests and a violent police crackdown.

Government officials say the Maasai are being asked to voluntarily leave their homes, located in parts of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

They also say the goal of the eviction is to protect a conservation area from a growing Maasai population and their cattle.

But activists say they are being forced out to make way for trophy hunting and conservation zones. Onesmo Ole Ngurumwa, the executive director of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, said they have been advising citizens to sit together with the government and write down their recommendations, and they have done that.

The challenge comes on the government’s side, he said.  The government, he said, didn’t seem want or to pay attention to any recommendations. Instead, he said, it simply continued with the strategies it has already planned.

About 27 Maasai families already have shifted from Ngorongoro to Msomera village, where the government provides those evicted with a house and land where they can let their cattle graze.

Msomera Village chairperson Martin Oleikayo said the president’s plan to move Maasai from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is for the benefit of all the country, adding that the revenue collected from tourism activities from the conservation area benefits all citizens.

Meanwhile, Laizer is adjusting to a new life and a new home. But he is worried about those more than 300 families that remain in the area, who are reluctant to leave the only home they have ever known.

your ad here

UN: Well-Armed M23 Rebels Resurgent in DRC

The top U.N. official for the Democratic Republic of the Congo said Wednesday that the resurgent M23 rebel group in the country’s east is well-armed and equipped, posing a growing threat to civilians.

“During the most recent hostilities, the M23 has conducted itself increasingly as a conventional army, rather than an armed group,” said Bintou Keita, head of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUSCO.

“The M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated, specifically in terms of long-range fire capacities — mortars, machine guns, as well as precision fire against aircraft,” she said in remarks to the Security Council.

The M23 was defeated by Congo’s army (FARDC) and special MONUSCO forces in 2013. But in November 2021, its forces began to reemerge.

Congolese officials blame neighboring Rwanda, saying it supports the group, which claims to be protecting the Tutsi minority in eastern DRC. Rwanda’s government is Tutsi-led but denies any link to the rebel group.

At the Security Council, Congolese Ambassador Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja called for the M23’s unconditional withdrawal from the DRC. He also urged strong condemnation of those who support the group “beginning with the state of Rwanda and its president.”

“This is an unfounded accusation,” Rwanda’s envoy Claver Gatete responded.

MONUSCO has more than 16,000 troops and police in Congo’s east. But Keita warned they may soon be outgunned by the rebels.

“Should the M23 continue its well-coordinated attacks against FARDC and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the mission may find itself confronted by a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities,” she said.

The United Nations has called on the group to cease all hostilities and disarm.

In the past three months, the U.N. has recorded nearly 1,000 civilian deaths and scores of injuries in the provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri because of attacks by armed groups and their clashes with security forces.

The militants seek to control lucrative trade in sought-after minerals, including gold, tungsten, copper and cobalt, which are abundant in the east.

As Congolese security forces and U.N. peacekeepers have redeployed to respond to the M23 threat, Keita said, other armed groups have exploited the security vacuum, including the Allied Democratic Forces and the Coopérative pour le développement du Congo-Zaire (CODECO).

Civilians suffering

The U.N. has chronicled abuses including looting, rape and murder. Displacements have soared in the east, with 700,000 people forced from their homes since the beginning of 2022.

“Just imagine — mothers are cooking dust, soil, to feed their children instead of boiling corn or soya,” said Julienne Lusenge of the Ituri-based women’s NGO Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development.

Speaking to council members via video, Lusenge read the horrifying testimony of one woman who was kidnapped by CODECO militants when she went to pay a ransom for a captive relative.

“It was a trap. They brought me there, they tied me up, they beat me, they undressed me. They slit the throat of a Nande man, they pulled out his entrails and asked me to cook them,” Lusenge said, reading the woman’s statement. “They then fed all of the prisoners human flesh.”

The woman’s ordeal did not end there.

“Late at night, we went to another camp. I was raped all night long, and I was subjected to other physical abuse,” she said.

Released by CODECO a few days later, the woman was then taken by another group in a different village as she made her way home. She was held as a sex slave for several days and again was asked to cook and eat human flesh. When she finally arrived home, she discovered the relative whose release she had been trying to secure had already been murdered.

Regional stabilization force 

The resurgence of the M23 has led to a deterioration in relations between the DRC and Rwanda.

On May 27, the Congolese government declared M23 a terrorist movement, accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels and suspended RwandAir flights to the DRC.

At an African Union summit the next day, Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the AU, met with the two presidents and offered Angolan President João Lourenço, chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, to mediate between them.

Last week, East African leaders agreed to deploy a regional security force to help restore order in the eastern Congo and ease tensions. Kenya is slated to lead the force, the size of which has not been announced.

The U.N.’s Keita told reporters she has been told the force’s headquarters will be deployed by the end of July, and troops will follow in August.

“I would urge East Africa Community leaders to prioritize dialogue-based approaches to the crisis,” U.S. envoy Richard Mills told the council. “The United States insists that the deployment of any additional force in eastern DRC must be closely coordinated with MONUSCO, and it must be conducted in conformity with the parties’ respective commitments under international law, including international humanitarian law.”

He said it must also be done in line with existing Security Council sanctions resolutions, and the council should be formally notified before it is deployed.

your ad here