North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, January 29, 2012

From Nigeria to Egypt to Somalia ...

Nigeria, Libya, South Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia - each of these countries across North Africa made the news this past week for a variety of reasons.

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Nigeria - The onslaught of the Boko Haram in northern Nigeria escalated this week with the group’s deadliest ever strike on Jan. 20 in Nigeria’s second largest city of Kano. There, a coordinated set of gun and bomb attacks killed at least 185 people. Heavily criticized amid the escalating violence, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan urged the Boko Haram to enter dialogue, challenging the violent Islamist sect to identify themselves and state clearly their demands as a basis for talks, while acknowledging that military confrontation alone will not end their insurgency. At the presidential villa in the capital Abuja, President Jonathan said, “If they clearly identify themselves now and say this is the reason why we are resisting, this is the reason why we are confronting government or this is the reason why we destroy some innocent people and their properties ... then there will be a basis for dialogue.”

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Nigeria with the city of Kano as the site of the latest violence, and the district of Sokoto to the northwest now under threat. In the farther northeast, the town of Maiduguri is considered a stronghold of Boko Haram.

In another report, Boko Haram spokesman Abul Qaqa told journalists Sunday by telephone in the northeastern city of Maiduguri that Jonathan’s call for talks was “not sincere.” Moreover, the spokesman declared that if captured members of the group were not released, it “will launch attacks in Sokoto (another Northern Nigerian city) similar to the big Kano attacks.”

And from Reuters, "Islamist sect Boko Haram, whose attacks have killed hundreds in Nigeria, will continue its campaign until the country is ruled by sharia law, a senior member was quoted as saying by British newspaper, The Guardian. The same Abu Qaga told the Guardian, "We will consider negotiation only when we have brought the government to their knees, ... Once we see that things are being done according to the dictates of Allah, and our members are released (from prison), we will only put aside our arms - but we will not lay them down. You don't put down your arms in Islam, you only put them aside."

Boko Haram fighters. From a Cameroonian blogsite, a breakdown of boko haram is instructive: “The ideology and philosophy of the movement can best be understood by explicating the two words- “Boko” and “Haram”. In Hausa language, the word “boko” is an equivocal term which means either “Western” or foreign; while the word “haram” is an Arabic derivative meaning “forbidden”. Piecing the two words together, ‘boko haram’ means to forbid everything Western and Western education. The intent is to replace modern state formation with the traditional Islamic state, because Western values run contrary to Islamic values. (Teatree - it is a strange bit of logic that Western values are to be rejected while Western armaments are embraced)

Libya From Nigeria northeast to Libya, the hopes that the ouster of Gaddafi would lead to a clear improvement in governance was dealt a blow when Gaddafi loyalists retook Bani Walid. According to a Christian Science Monitor article, hundreds of well-equipped and highly trained remnants of Qaddafi forces raised the green flag over buildings in the western city late Monday after hours of clashes, said Mubarak al-Fatamni, the head of Bani Walid local council.

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Bani Walid once again under Gaddafi loyalist control

The retaking of this former Gaddafi stronghold comes as Libya's new leaders struggle to unify the oil-rich North African nation three months after the former dictator was captured and killed. There are new reports of torture in various prisons around the country, themselves held by a variety of militia's more or less acting on their own.

Bani Walid showing the scars of the recent fight, with apparently more to come.

South Sudan Moving Southeast from Libya, the world's newest country, South Sudan, is facing enormous difficulties. Once of the latest issues is a dispute with the Republic of Sudan over the transport fees in sending its oil north through pipelines for export. With the Republic of Sudan making demands that South Sudan considers unacceptable, it is mulling cutting off oil supplies altogether as a way to raise the stakes.

Ripe for disagreement or mutual benefit: Oil, transit, South Sudan, and the Republic of Sudan

The South Sudanese government has apparently decided to shut down oil flow north, in hopes of pressuring the Republic of Sudan to give better terms for the use of the pipelines.

The Republic of Sudan, meanwhile, is facing its own crisis with Chinese oil workers kidnapped by internal rebels. (What was first reported as five, the number was raised to 29, and the latest is approximately 70.) The men were working Saturday when they were abducted in the southern Kordofan province, the epicenter of Sudan's oil industry and next to Darfur where ethnic African rebels are fighting the Arab-dominated government.

"We are doing our best efforts to find them," Chinese Ambassador to Sudan Li Chengwen told The Associated Press. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping and the circumstances of their capture remain unclear. The rebels, along with many international rights activists, accuse China of indirectly funding Khartoum's war effort in Darfur through massive investment in Sudan's oil industry.

Chinese oil workers in the Republic of Sudan

Egypt North from South Sudan to Egypt, the disquieting results of the "Arab Spring" came in the form of Islamists filling the first round of parliamentary positions. From the New York Times, Islamists,propelled largely by the Muslim Brotherhood, won the overwhelming majority of seats in Egypt's parliament, which held its first session Jan. 23 and is set to elect a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution. The "mainstream" Brotherhood won about 47 percent of the seats, and an alliance of ultraconservative Islamists known as the Salafis gained another 25 percent."

For most of its 84-year history, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and most organized political group, had been banned from political participation, but that changed last spring with the revolt that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

The young leaders who began the revolt won only a few percent of the seats in parliament.

Protests over Egypt's interim army rulers continue, and no one really knows what the future holds for an eventual new government - Islamic rule clashing with secular and modern values seems most likely.

Kenya South from Egypt to Kenya. A Christian Science Monitor article reports, "The International Criminal Court in The Hague has sent a signal that there are consequences for political leaders who use violence to achieve political goals by confirming charges of crimes against humanity against four prominent Kenyans. Whether this changes the political landscape, ends the culture of impunity, or prevents future violence in Kenya, is a matter for Kenyans themselves to decide."

The article continues, "In its decision, announced from the Hague today, the ICC confirmed charges of crimes against humanity first laid in Dec. 2010 against four men for their alleged role in organizing mass violence following the 2007 presidential elections. The charged are former Higher Education Minister William Ruto, former Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, former civil service chief Francis Muthaura, and radio talk show host Joshua arap Sang. The four men are accused of organizing mass violence following the disputed presidential elections of 2007, in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Senior leaders of both main parties, the president’s Party of National Unity and the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, are accused of stirring up ethnic violence for political advantage and retribution. At least 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced from their homes.

Two of the accused, Mr. Ruto and Mr. Kenyatta, have declared their intentions to run for president in the 2013 elections, and the newly written Kenyan constitution is ambiguous on whether those facing criminal charges can run for public office. “The constitution does not forbid a person from running for office who is faced with criminal charges,” said Comfort Ero, who heads an International Crisis Group based in Nairobi. But the constitution does say that a president who faces criminal charges is vulnerable to impeachment, and in that spirit, Ruto and Kenyatta could possibly be tossed out of office with a two-thirds vote of parliament. The question is more a political and moral one than it is a legal one,” she adds. “How will Kenyans react to this decision? How will they feel about a candidate, knowing that he faces such charges? Is this the sort of person they want to have in office?”

A combination photograph shows Kenya's finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta (L) addressing a news conference in his office in the capital Nairobi in a file photo, and former Kenyan cabinet minister William Ruto, both running for the Kenyan presidency.

South Sudan, Republic of Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia

Ethiopia. Back north to Ethiopia. Here, the Africa Union is meeting in a brand new headquarters. It was built as a gift by China - illustrating the ties China is building in various African nations.

Not bad, hopefully the new building will house strong, ethical institutions and allow similar decision making in Africa to grow.

Somalia The last of the brief country highlights. A US special forces raid freed two aid workers unharmed who had been held for nearly three months. Jessica Buchanan, 32, and Poul Hagen Thisted, 60 were abducted on Oct. 25 in Galkayo, while visiting a de-mining project there, according to their employer, the Copenhagen-based Danish Refugee Council.

Somalia, splintered now for decades, has Kenyan troops pushing from the southwest, and Africa Union forces supporting a weak central government, against the main Islamist group, Al Shaabab, in control of most everywhere else. Famine and lack of security go hand in hand in this stricken land.

So this long blog post covers thousands of miles and a reminder of how big and varied is just the north half of the African continent.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Just watched a documentary Saturday night on Sudan... which led to a discussion about Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast. We're circling the continent, in conversation at least, right now.