Media Monitoring - OSESG-GL, 25 AUGUST 2015
The Lord's Resistance Army is alive and well
By Dorothy Horsfield
25 August 2015 - At Canberra’s UNHCR Donor Briefing, there is a map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on the large screen behind the Congolese social activist Sister Angelique Namaika (pictured, left).
Dozens of small red marks are clustered on it, like flames, indicators of recent attacks by one of the world’s oldest guerrilla armies.
For almost twenty years, across the settlements and subsistence farms of Central Africa the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has preyed upon civilian populations with exceptional cruelty, emerging from the bush in small units to commit unspeakable atrocities.
Like Nigeria’s Boko Haram, its tactics have focused on the destruction of local villages, abducting and raping woman and young girls, sexual slavery, mutilation and the grooming of child soldiers.
For many outsiders, the LRA’s endurance has proved difficult to understand. For Sister Angelique, there can only be a negotiated solution to the ongoing war through the bringing together of representatives of the fragmented and traumatised peoples across the region.
Others have pointed out that there is no longer the political will or the consensus about what exactly can or should be achieved by such an initiative. Moreover, there is the common assumption, especially outside the region, that the worst of the emergency has passed; the LRA has been decimated and scattered, its leader, Joseph Kony, in hiding and probably ineffectual.
As Sister Angelique insists, the latter assumption is much mistaken. Beyond the enclaves of Internally Displaced People who are protected by UN peacekeepers, she says, there is no security. Families have been broken apart, community connections are being lost, so that to risk returning to one’s village for a funeral or a wedding is impossible. Recent history has shown that the army’s sexual violence and other forms of brutality is now more widespread than ever, reaching across porous borders from the DRC into the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Initially made up primarily of the Acholi people of northern Uganda, the LRA emerged in the late 1980s as an armed reaction to what was seen as political and economic discrimination by the Baganda-dominated central government. Though small in number, it rapidly acquired a cult-like dimension under Kony’s charismatic leadership. A self-proclaimed visionary, Kony appeared to convince his followers that his instructions came to him directly from the Lord himself.
Even during that first decade, the LRA targeted its own Acholi villagers, as well as the Ugandan National Army. In March 2014 a United States Congressional Report estimated that the result was that 20,000 children were abducted and almost the entire northern population of two million Acholis was displaced in what the LRA described as a campaign of tribal ‘purification’.
In 2008, the failure of the Juba negotiations between the Uganda government and the LRA to create a peaceful settlement was marked by a swift resort to a military offensive aimed at Kony and his leadership group. The government also offered immunity from prosecution for defectors, an initiative that was at least partially successful.
With financial and logistical support from the Bush Administration, Operation Lightning Strike was a combined effort of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces and Congolese ground forces. It was poorly coordinated, with disastrous consequences. The LRA responded with massive reprisals against civilians, then reputedly under Kony’s guidance formed into small groups and disappeared like shadows into the bush. Last year’s Congressional Report described its current area of activity as vast and characterised by extremely minimal government influence and a limited humanitarian presence.
These days more emphasis is placed on Kony’s highly-sophisticated understanding of the stratagems of guerrilla warfare and his creation of a culture of terror, than on his alleged heavenly guidance It is also said that the LRA is now in ‘survival mode’. In other words, its reduced membership has devolved into dispersed cohorts of men sustained by a warrior culture of sadistic violence, and whose political demands and economic agenda are singularly vague.
Recent reports have also suggested a new dimension of criminality with their involvement in elephant poaching and ivory trading. Above all, as with all highly-effective guerrilla armies, the question remains whether the LRA is experiencing a brief hiatus before its resurgence in the face of the weakening of international and regional efforts to contain it.
Speaking at the UNHCR Donor Briefing, Sister Angelique denies there are any conclusive reasons for yielding to pessimism about her country’s future. She describes her community of women and children in her home region of Dungu as ‘a village of hope’. Trauma takes a long time to heal, she says, so we needed activities that give these women a sense of self-worth and a means to make a living.
Since 2008, they have established a bakery, sewing training, a market garden and a school for the children. And the challenges? To obtain funds for a school house, an orphanage, a clinic and for clean drinking water. Nevertheless, with the courage of the women, she says, look at what has already been achieved.
New Burundian Government Retains Key Ministers
25 August 2015 - Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza Monday announced a new government following his re-election to a controversial third term. Observers note several key ministers from the ruling CNDD-FDD party have been retained.
They include Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe, who told VOA recently Nkurunziza is ready to form a more inclusive unity government.
Innocent Muhozi, general manager of the banned independent Renaissance Radio and Television Network of Burundi, said the return of Alain Guillaume Bunyoni as Public Security minister suggests Nkurunziza wants to continue the crackdown on his critics.
“This new government, for me, is not a surprise because it includes the main figures of the former government, including the foreign affairs minister, the defense minister, and the finance minister. Then, there’s also the comeback of the former security minister, Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who in the Hutu days was seen as one of the main figures of the ruling party and the government. So, it seems that it is a government of non-inclusion, but may be willing to fight against those they will have to confront,” he said.
The new government includes Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye as Defense Minister, Madame Aimee Laurentine Kanyana as Justice Minister, Tabu Abdallah Manirakiza as Finance Minister and Pascal Barandagiye as Interior Minister.
At his inauguration earlier this month, Nkurunziza promised a more inclusive government of national unity. He also said he would welcome a review of Article 129 of the constitution, which excludes parties with less than five percent of the vote from being part of a national unity government.
Muhozi said there is nothing inclusive about the new government. Instead, he said, the new government has become more repressive.
“I don’t see anything inclusive in this new government. As has been said by many observers, if you look at what is going on every day, people are arrested, people are tortured, people are disappearing and many people believe the police or the intelligence agency are responsible for those things. It is quite clear that what is going on is just a continuation of what has been going on,” Muhozi said.
Muhozi said it would be impossible to have a government of national unity at the moment in Burundi.
Burundi holds village-based elections amid violence
Bujumbura, 24 August 2015 - At least 3.8 million Burundian citizens are Monday going to the polls in village-based elections, the last elections that are concluding the country's 2015 controversial electoral process amid mounting violence in the east African nation.
At least 2,847 chiefs of villages and neighborhoods are to be elected countrywide in the village-based elections that are concluding the country's electoral race whose first elections took place on June 29 with legislative and communal polls.
The spokesman at the Burundian home affairs ministry has invited all Burundian citizens to respond to the elections.
"We take this opportunity to invite all citizens to massively participate in the village-based (elections). All of us Burundians from villages and neighborhoods are appealed to go and elect village leaders, that is, five persons per village or neighborhood that includes the village chief," said Therence Ntahiraja, spokesman at the country's home affairs ministry.
According to Ntahiraja, village or neighborhood chiefs are elected as independent candidates and not as part of their political parties.
According to him, those elections are important for the development of the smallest administration entity.
"Those (village or neighborhood) leaders are very important because they are the ones through whom citizens channel their issues to be taken to the zonal, communal or provincial level because the village or the neighborhood is the root of the administration," said Ntahiraja.
He called on all Burundian citizens to do all they can to support their friends in their native villages so that elections are carried out even better that before.
Meanwhile, the village-based elections are taking place while violence is mounting in the east African nation.
The latest violence case is the assassination on Saturday night of Pontien Barutwanayo, administrator of Isale Commune in Bujumbura Rural Province.
The opposition boycotted the country's 2015 electoral race, arguing that conditions were not met for credible and inclusive elections due to the third term bid of Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza that they said was a violation of the national Constitution and the 2000 Arusha Agreement.
Burundi: Tensions grow with government of Rwanda as more arrests are reported
By Elsa Buchanan
Source: International Business Times
24 August 2015 - Public tensions between the governments of Burundi and Rwanda have risen after it emerged that many Rwandan nationals are being held by Burundian security agencies. On Saturday 22 August, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo posted a message on Twitter in which she said Rwanda's government had "raised the issue with [the] Burundi Government in many ways", including via its ambassador to Rwanda, Rwanda's embassy in Bujumbura and Burundi's foreign minister.
The minister's tweet came as more than 30 Rwandans travelling to Bujumbura were "disembarked on several occasions, arrested and taken to unknown destinations", according to the New Times. Earlier this month, two Rwandans were held in Bujumbura, Burundi, on allegations of espionage.
Joseph Mbonyinshuti and Aimé Nkundabatware were held at a facility in Kirundo Province for about a week before being transferred to Bujumbura and handed over to the crime investigations department. Rwanda's ambassador to Burundi, Amadin Rugira, insisted the charges were "fake".
In a later tweet, however, Mushikiwabo said that Burundi "has complex difficulties" and that there was "no need to add Rwanda". The minister added that "Burundians are welcome to Rwanda any time". More than 72,000 Burundian refugees currently live in Rwanda.
Widespread use of torture: Amnesty
The news comes as Amnesty International published a damning report on Monday 24 August, in which it reported that Burundi security forces used iron bars and acid to force confessions and crush opposition during President Pierre Nkurunziza's successful bid for a third term in office.
The report also accuses both the police and National Intelligence Service (SNR) of carrying out "torture and other ill-treatment" since 26 April 2015 against people suspected of participating in protests against Nkurunziza's controversial bid.
The findings echo similar testimonies gathered by IBTimes UK, including one in which a man said he police officers tortured him with tear gas until he choked.
Analysts: Burundi Crisis Not Over
Source: Associated Press
21 August 2015 - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a third term last Thursday, as critics continue to accuse him of hijacking democracy by breaking terms limits in the nation's constitution.
In taking the oath of office, Nkurunziza swore to uphold the constitution and defend the best interests of the Burundian nation. But the United States said it was an inauguration without a government that represents the population’s many political voices, and won’t resolve the political and security crisis in Burundi.
John Mbaku, professor of economics at Weber State University in Utah, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of many books on democracy and political transition in Africa, says Nkurunziza's inauguration for a third term leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
If he wants to rehabilitate himself, Mbaku says, there are a few steps he ought to take.
“Number one, he has to form a government of national unity — some government that represents all the factions within the country, not just members of his political party and ethnic group," he said. "The second thing he has to do is stop demonizing the opposition using his born-again status to condemn anybody who opposes him.”
Stephanie Schwartz, a consultant with the U.S. Institute for Peace, says “an inauguration doesn’t mean that the crisis is over."
"The state of affairs in term has not changed. They have been moving toward some sort of mediation process in July, but that has not really gone anywhere," she said. "This crisis will not be resolved without some sort of political dialogue.”
Without peace, says Mbaku, Nkurunziza will not be able to move the country forward, and therefore “needs to figure out a way to put together a constitution that’s relevant to the country’s history, realities and problems so they would have within the country a set of laws and institutions that can help the people of Burundi live together peacefully.”
He also needs to provide an environment that is conducive to investment, not only from outside entities but from local people so they can develop the country, Mbaku says.
Burundi has been plagued by violence since Nkurunziza announced his candidacy for a third term that many in Burundi and elsewhere insist is illegal. Burundi's constitutional court ruled he was eligible because he was first elected by parliament, not voters, in 2005.
The U.N. refugee agency says about 180,000 have recently fled the country. Nkurunziza has pleaded for their return. But Schwartz says it won’t be easy because migrant repatriation transcends humanitarian and logistical issues.
"Conflict at the local level in Burundi before the crisis has always been about issues between returnees and those who stayed," she said. "That’s still going to be a serious issue for Burundi as it continues to look to the future.”
A report published by Amnesty International accuses Burundian security agencies of detaining and torturing anti-government protesters.
Mbaku says one way to stop the violence in Burundi is for this president to assume this term in power is an interim government that will reconstruct the state and provide institutions that can move the country forward.
“If he genuinely does it, I think the inte