The UN’s peacekeeping nightmare in Africa – BBC News

One of the key issues facing Antonio Guterres, the UN’s newly installed secretary-general, will be to address critical failures in African peacekeeping operations.

With this is mind, he will surely be asking himself whether the vast organisation he is now leading needs to chart a different course.

The UN spends close to $8bn (£6.5bn) every year on peacekeeping around the world, with the bulk going to missions in Africa.A new report by the Geneva-based research group Small Arms Survey has accused the UN’s mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) of lacking neutrality by giving arms to rebels in the town of Bentiu in 2013.

It blames Unmiss for underreporting arms confiscated from fleeing soldiers and handing over the weapons to soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) on more than one occasion.

The report also claims that shortly after this transfer of arms, the rebels went on to carry out a massacre of civilians.Failure to protectThe operations of the UN’s mission in South Sudan came into sharp focus after embarrassing revelations that its troops failed to protect civilians following clashes between government forces and former rebels in July 2016.A damning internal investigation found that its peacekeeping mission in the capital, Juba had failed to achieve one of its core mandates, namely “to protect civilians under threat of physical violence […] with specific protection for women and children”.

It described the troops’ response as chaotic and ineffective.

Eyewitnesses said women and girls were raped near UN compounds with no action from peacekeepers.

Not far away, foreign aid workers suffered similar sexual violence at their residence. Their case gained much international condemnation, but it is dwarfed by the scale of the atrocities South Sudanese civilians have long experienced.

In a recent report to the Security Council, the outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-moon offered little hope.

“There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan,” he said.

“[…] The secretariat will continue to make every effort to implement the mandated task of protecting civilians through the use of ‘all necessary means’.

“[But] it must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate reach, manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” his statement said.

In February, gunmen killed 30 internally displaced people and wounded more than 120 others within one of the UN’s designated Protection of Civilian compounds in the north-western South Sudanese town of Malakal.

The peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast is held up by UN figures as an example of success AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The irony of the facility failing to live up to its name was not lost on the mission’s critics.

The UN later accepted responsibility for its failure to prevent the bloodbath.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), the UN mission (Minusca) has also been accused of inaction when, for example, more than 75 people including civilians were killed in the north during an outbreak of violence in September 2016.

The rights group, Amnesty International, reflected on this case, saying Minusca was poorly trained and “lacks the resources it needs to adequately protect civilians.”

Jean-Serge Bokassa, the Interior Minister of CAR, accused the peacekeepers of colluding with armed militias.

“What is the role of the Pakistani contingent in Kaga-Bandoro?” he asked. “Their collusion with armed groups has gone too long.”

A week later, four people died in the capital Bangui during anti-UN protests.

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, similar disdain for the UN and its peacekeeping mission Monusco (which replaced the dysfunctional Monuc), has led to violent demonstrations and attacks by civilians in the past.

Most of the anti-UN protests have taken place in the eastern region of Kivu, where armed groups continue to commit massacres, especially in the Beni region.

Peacekeepers have often been referred to as tourists because they are associated with helicopters and 4×4 vehicles.

Charles Bambara, the spokesman for Monusco, says the task of the mission is so enormous that it’s easy to underestimate progress being made.

“This country was divided into three: one armed group was controlling Goma area, another one controlling Kisangani and another one controlling the capital city and the west of the country,” he says.

“So the aim when this mission was established was to reunite the country. This has now been done, with the support of the DRC armed forces. We need the support of the international community.

“This is a very difficult mission. There are probably 40 or 50 armed groups present in this country, which is as big as Western Europe, so we cannot be everywhere and that’s why we’re targeting these groups one after the other.”

One notorious and repeated blight on the UN peacekeeping scorecard has been that of the discipline – or the lack of it – of troops.

A UN inquiry has named 41 peacekeepers in relation to alleged sexual abuse and exploitation in the Central African Republic between 2014 and 2015.

Women and even minors were reportedly abused in exchange for food and clothing. The UN has taken very little action against the individual soldiers.

Prosecutors in Paris said this week that charges would not be brought against six French peacekeepers following a criminal investigation into similar allegations.

Each country is responsible for charging its implicated troops but guilty verdicts might not be in a nation’s best interests as that would taint its reputation in peacekeeping – although these track records are not officially considered when selecting which countries contribute to the missions.

The UN undersecretary for peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, recently denied there was a crisis in UN peacekeeping.

“Some operations are working very well. For instance, we are a few months away from an end to the operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia. Their success enables us to withdraw,” he said.

“However, some operations are working less well, frequently because of factors linked to the local political situation and local players, rather than to the shortcomings of our operations themselves.”


The take of an ex-UN insider

Keep reding at: The UN’s peacekeeping nightmare in Africa – BBC News

Why the Resilience of Islamist Militants Will Threaten Security Across Africa in 2017

The violence of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates threatens to spread far beyond Nigeria and Somalia.

On December 23 the Nigerian army achieved a significant milestone in its long war against Boko Haram, capturing what was described as the Islamist militant group’s last stronghold in the remote Sambisa Forest in the country’s northeast near the border with Cameroon. On Christmas Eve, President Muhammadu Buhari triumphantly tweeted that it was the “final crushing of the Boko Haram terrorists” who were “on the run and no longer have a place to hide.” The remarkable turnaround of the conflict in less than two years deserves to be applauded, but the latest victory is unlikely to put an end to terrorist attacks in Africa’s most populous country, much less extinguish the flame of militancy and violence that presents one of the biggest obstacles to the otherwise the buoyant economic prospects for the continent, with 2016’s moderate average growth expected to accelerate to 4.5 percent in 2017. Nigeria’s struggle against Boko Haram illustrates both the resilience of the threat and what might be done to counter it.

After years of ceding ground to Boko Haram, so much so that by 2014 the group had consolidated its hold over a territory larger than Belgium and proclaimed a self-styled “emirate,” the Nigerian armed forces adopted a new strategy and began fighting back. While the counterattack began in the waning days of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, things began to change after Buhari, a retired major-general, won a historic (and decisive) election victory over the incumbent in March 2015, in part by promising to defeat the militants.

Cashiering his predecessor’s military chiefs shortly after taking office, Buhari installed new commanders, including a chief of army staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, who is a native of Borno, the epicenter of the insurgency. He also moved command headquarters close to the fighting. Since then, in concert with a multinational force from neighboring countries, the Nigerian military has pursued an aggressive strategy, combining an intensive air campaign with a surge of troops on the ground, gradually pushing Boko Haram out of the towns it occupied and, increasingly, in remote hideouts like “Camp Zero,” the base that fell on December 23.

Along the way, as I had the opportunity to witness firsthand in November when I toured the battlefront, the Nigerian army also took on the task of not only providing security to the populations it liberated, but also, until aid groups and development organizations returned, providing humanitarian relief, medical assistance, and even education and livelihood training. For example, the civil-military operations carried out by the battalion I spent time with in Pulka, just a few kilometers from what were at the time Boko Haram positions in the Sambisa Forest, were critical to the wellbeing of the community and served to rally the population to support the government’s push against the militant group.

Notwithstanding the success of the military operations, Boko Haram remains a force to be reckoned with. In response to defeats, the militants shifted tactics, expanding their use of suicide bombings, most of which have targeted the civilian population. Just days before the capture of its forest bastion, Boko Haram staged a pair of attacks on a busy market in the town of Madagali that left 56 people dead and more than 120 wounded. Nor does its most recent setback seem to be having much effect on the terrorists’ operational tempo: two suicide bombers struck in northern Cameroon on Christmas Day and another attacked a busy cattle market in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, the next day. Moreover, Boko Haram’s elusive longtime leader Abubakar Shekau surfaced this week in a new video in which he claimed that he and his followers were “safe” and would continue their fight “to establish an Islamic Caliphate” separate from Nigeria. Alongside the strengths of Boko Haram, the Nigerian military faced its own frustration in its attempts to purchase aircraft and other military platforms from the United States; it recently turned to Russia and Pakistan to obtain warplanes after a proposal to buy American-made A-29 Super Tucano attack planes stalled.

Meanwhile, the schism within Boko Haram may be contributing to the intensification, rather than diminution, of violence as both factions try to outdo each other in staging attacks. In early 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and formally rebranded itself as the “Islamic State West Africa Province;” however, the group split between those loyal to Shekau and those now following Abu Musab al-Barnawi, whom ISIS appointed as the new “governor” (wali) of its “province” in August. Even if the group was weakened in Nigeria, militants still spilled into neighboring countries, causing Cameroon and Niger, for example, to rise in the 2016 edition of the Global Terrorism Index to 13th place and 16th place, respectively.

Resilience is a characteristic shared not only by ISIS-aligned groups in Africa like Boko Haram, but also al-Qaeda affiliates such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Despite being mauled by the French-led intervention in Mali in 2013, AQIM has bounced back to stage a series of deadly attacks in 2016, including hits on luxury hotels in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, countries that had not previously not been hit by terrorism.

In Somalia, despite punishing U.S. airstrikes, al-Shabab appears far from finished. Notwithstanding the presence of a 20,000-strong African Union force in the country to prop up the weak but internationally backed government, al-Shabab continues to be able to regularly seize control of towns like Mahadaay, a strategic crossroads the militants took over on December 19 after driving out regime soldiers. This came just days after the militants briefly overran El Wak, a town near the border with Kenya, a country that has repeatedly suffered attacks by al-Shabab in the last year.

The continuing threat posed by these varied militant groups is the result of their exploitation of local conflicts and social, economic, and political marginalization, as well as the fragile condition of many of the states affected. This weakness often manifests in a low capacity to resist militants overall and a tendency towards ham-fisted responses that aggravate grievances. In some cases, defeat spurs the extremists to adapt new strategies that result in renewed vigor—an example is the fragmentation of AQIM’s organization in the Sahel in the wake of the Mali intervention. The multiplication of factions along ethnic lines facilitated both the members’ blending into local populations and their making inroads among them; one splinter group, the ethnic-Fulani jihadist Macina Liberation Front, freed 93 suspected militants in a jailbreak in early December.

In other instances, the manifest failure to achieve political settlements propels the resurgence of otherwise weakened militant groups—in Somalia, the utter fiasco of the process for selecting a new government in Somalia, including the sale of electoral seats for up to $1.3 million and the recent postponement for the fourth time of the presidential vote, serves as an example. New instability, such as the crisis now underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo thanks to President Joseph Kabila’s decision to hold on to power despite his term of office expiring on December 19, presents armed movements with additional opportunities, underscored by the recent massacre of civilians in the country’s east.

Even where they do not pose an existential threat to the states affected, the various militant jihadists currently active across Africa can have a disproportionate impact on their fortunes. Counterinsurgency campaigns are expensive affairs that divert resources from the investments in infrastructure, education, and health, which Africa’s emerging economies need to make if they are position themselves to take advantage of the current growth opportunities. Ivory Coast may be Africa’s new economic powerhouse, with a diversified economy and growth in 2016 expected to hit 8.5 percent, the second-highest in the world, but more attacks such as the one in March by AQIM can still scare off foreign investors who are just beginning to discover its potential. The stakes are even higher for country like Nigeria: Africa’s biggest economy slipped into recession this year and continued insecurity—not just from Boko Haram, but also militant groups in the oil-producing southeast such as the Niger Delta Avengers —doesn’t help.


Why the Resilience of Islamist Militants Will Threaten Security Across Africa in 2017

Crisi in Repubblica Centrafricana: un fragile punto di svolta

centrafica-daniloamelotti-com-mappaINCORAGGIANTI SEGNALI DI CAMBIAMENTO – Se si volge lo sguardo all’indietro, all’inizio della più grave crisi mai avvenuta nella Repubblica Centrafricana dalla fine del dominio coloniale francese (1960), il peggio appare passato.

Floating along the Serengeti

Sullo stesso tono anche la conferenza per il Centrafrica tenutasi a Bruxelles lo scorso 17 novembre, in cui i rappresentanti di più di 80 paesi hanno a parole rinnovato il loro supporto finanziario alle autorità centrafricane impegnate nel restaurare la pace e la sicurezza del Paese, rinnovare il contratto sociale e rivitalizzare l’economia.



Obiettivi, quest’ultimi, contenuti nel Piano per il recupero nazionale e la costruzione della pace 2017-2021, documento strategico presentato ufficialmente a Bruxelles da parte del presidente Touadéra, con il benestare dell’Unione Europea, della Banca mondiale e delle Nazioni Unite. Fa pensare di essere sulla strada giusta – quella della buona politica basata sulla consultazione delle diverse parti sociali – il fatto che la formulazione di questo piano quinquennale, su cui l’attività del governo dovrebbe fondarsi, riposa sulla consultazione di ben 14 mila persone, coinvolte in incontri bilaterali tra governo e parti sociali, rappresentanti del settore privato, esperti tecnici e finanziari, e al livello popolare, con workshop e distribuzione di questionari in 16 prefetture del paese.


Questo approccio conferma le buoni   intenzioni che sono state alla base del Forum sulla riconciliazione nazionaleorganizzato nel maggio 2015 a Bangui, a cui presero parte più di 600 partecipanti in rappresentanza delle parti sociali, dei partiti politici, dei media, dell’associazionismo, delle religioni. Questo ottimismo è confermato dall’entusiastica accoglienza riservata al presidente Touadéra al suo rientro da Bruxelles il 22 novembre, che ha precisato «Non sono rientrato a casa con i contanti, ma con la promessa di riceverli».

LO STALLO DELLA POLITICA INTERNA – La crisi centrafricana è diventata una tragedia umanitaria per via dello scontro tra due gruppi armati, ex-Seleka e anti-Balaka, coalizioni multiformi e disomogenee.  Gli Ex-Seleka appartengono alla minoranza musulmana, sono originari delle regioni settentrionali del paese, molti provengono dal Chad e dal Sudan. Gli Anti-Balaka sono gruppi di autodifesa composti da individui di fede cristiana e animista, sorti spontaneamente in reazione alla presa del potere dei Seleka a Bangui nel marzo 2013 e alle violenze perpetrate sui civili. Questo scontro tra gruppi armati è divenuto violenza inter-comunitaria, alimentata dall’identificazione dei civili con le due parti in conflitto. Questa dimensione civile del conflitto ha causato un significativo ridimensionamento della minoranza musulmana attraverso la pulizia etnica e la rimozione forzata, centinaia di migliaia di sfollati e rifugiati, e migliaia di morti tra i civili.

Metà della popolazione centrafricana è ancora in uno stato di bisogno e di insufficienza alimentare, 385.000 sono gli sfollati interni e 466.000 sono i rifugiati nei paesi confinanti (Chad, Cameron, Repubblica Democratica del Congo e Congo). Nonostante siano in crescita i rientri degli sfollati interni (in ottobre 3500, nel 2016 circa 200000) è difficile prevedere quando e secondo quali modalità rifugiati e sfollati ritorneranno nelle loro case, anche alla luce della perenne minaccia che incombe sulla vita dei profughi residenti negli 89 siti per sfollati ad oggi presenti nel paese. L’uccisione di 37 civili, il ferimento di altri 56 e la fuga di migliaia di sfollati dal campo protetto dalle forze ONU nei dintorni della cittadina di Kaga Bandoro (nord-ovest del paese) lo scorso 12 ottobre, testimonia quanto vulnerabile sia la vita umana in Repubblica Centrafricana e quanto sia inefficace la protezione garantita dalla missione internazionale MINUSCA (ora unica forza internazionale rimasta a garantire la protezione dei civili a seguito della conclusione dell’operazione Sangaris alla fine dello scorso ottobre).


TOUADERA RISCHIA GROSSO – Al di là del favore guadagnato sul piano internazionale, la leadership interna di Touadéra corre seri pericoli di essere destabilizzata dalla frustrazione delle fazioni ex-Seleka che hanno richiesto di occupare posizioni governative, di essere reintegrati nelle forze di difesa e sicurezza nazionale e di implementare politiche più inclusive nei confronti della minoranza musulmana, come precondizione ai negoziati sul disarmo. I negoziati per il disarmo, la smobilitazione e la reintegrazione dei gruppi armati – considerati il nodo più difficile da sciogliere per un’evoluzione positiva della crisi – sono in una fase di stallo. Solo lo sblocco di questa situazione e il raggiungimento di un accordo tra le parti non renderà vani gli sforzi per risolvere questa crisi. La “luna di miele” del presidente Touadéra con il microcosmo politico di Bangui pare essersi conclusa. Malcontento nei suoi confronti è stato espresso anche da leader religiosi e organizzazioni civili. Da ultimo, nuove mire di potere vengono avanzate dal clan del ex-presidente Bozizè, nelle vesti del figlio Francis, che intende porre riparo al flop politico del padre alle presidenziali.

COSA FARE PER USCIRE DALLA CRISI – La crisi in corso, acuitasi a causa del conflitto, è precedente ad esso ed è multidimensionale (umanitaria, economico, politica, sociale, di sicurezza della vita umana). Ha radici profonde, difficili da estirpare: povertà estrema e sottosviluppo, sbilanciamento tra capitale e periferie del paese, svuotamento del sistema statale giudiziario, sanitario e scolastico, diffidenza ed esclusione della minoranza musulmana, mancanza di coesione sociale e forte tensione tra diversi gruppi sociali, economici, etnico e religiosi, cultura dell’impunità, potere corrotto e privo di legittimità popolare. Il nuovo corso politico cominciato nel 2016 si dimostrerà all’altezza solo se si interverrà sulle radici profonde della crisi. Questo significa offrire un’alternativa alla violenza, a cui la popolazione centrafricana ha fatto ricorso come ultima risorsa per sopravvivere a un drammatico status quo.


Crisi in Repubblica Centrafricana: un fragile punto di svolta

South Sudan Expels Second Aid Worker In A Week

South Sudan has over the past week ordered two senior employees of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to leave the country, without explanation, the aid organisation said Wednesday.

The expulsions follow the deportation of an American journalist from the war-torn country and come as alarm rises over spreading violence, with UN human rights experts warning “ethnic cleansing” was underway.

The NRC’s country director was asked to leave last Friday after being held by security services for more than a day, and its area manager for the northern Warrap state was told to leave on Tuesday.

“NRC has not received any formal explanation of the charges against these two individuals,” the organisation said in a statement.

“The order for a second senior staff member to leave is unacceptable,” said Jan Egeland, NRC’s Secretary General. “Without assurances from the authorities that we will be able to operate without interference, NRC may have to reassess our ability to deliver assistance at scale in South Sudan,” added Egeland.

The aid organisation has been present in South Sudan since 2004, and the first eight months of this year alone provided assistance to over 658,000 people across the country.

South Sudan on Thursday marks three years since civil war broke out, dashing hopes for the world’s youngest nation just two years after a hard-won independence from Sudan.

Internal rivalries erupted as President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup, leading to violence that has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2.5 million people displaced.

An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July, with violence spreading throughout the country and no prospects for peace in sight.UN human rights experts warned two weeks ago of a nation on the brink of catastrophe, saying “ethnic cleansing” was underway in several areas of the country as well as “mindboggling” levels of sexual violence.

The NRC estimates that over six million people – more than half the population – need humanitarian assistance.

Source: South Sudan Expels Second Aid Worker In A Week

Bandits abduct 35 women in Zamfara

Suspected armed bandits today abducted about 35 women working on a farm at Matankari village in Dansadau district of Maru local government area of Zamfara state.

Residents told Daily Trust that the armed bandits arrived at the farm in the forest on motorbikes carried the women and dashed in to the forest.

The incident came barely one month after 40 residents were abducted in Maru local government area of the state and released in a cows- for- persons swap deal with the state government.

The armed bandits are now in to kidnapping in Zamfara state and dozens of residents were abducted and millions of Naira paid in ransom to regain their freedom.

The abducted  women were threshing sorghum on a farm belonging to one Alhaji Adamu when the gunmen invaded the farmland and whisked them away. It was not clear whether they had demanded or would demand for ransom.

A resident Alhaji Mu’awuya told our reporter that after going deep inside the forest with the women the armed bandits decided to release the aged ones among them,  while the young ladies remained with them.

“One of my neighbours called Alhaji Garba Matankari whose aged mother was among the abducted  women but later released just left here I would have given him the phone for you to talk to him.” Alhaji Mu’a wuya said.

He further explained that the residents have mobilized and followed the armed bandits in search of the women adding that even those released by gunmen are still missing.

“My neighbour’s mother is at home now she is being treated after her feet became swollen because of the long distance trek inside the forest. The armed bandits were heard saying that they would descend on other villages around the area.” He added.

The spokesman of the state police command DSP Muhammad Shehu could not be reached for comments as at the time of filing this report.

Source: Bandits abduct 35 women in Zamfara

CIBSPOL Institut Pist.