|Africa News Digest
Anti-Government Chad Rebels Repulsed from Capital
Feb. 4 (EIRNS)Chad Interior Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir told Radio France Internationale that the anti-government rebels left the capital city, N'Djamena, overnight. The Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) rebels admitted they were out of N'Djamena, but said: "We decided to retreat to give the population a chance to get out," according to rebel spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah.
A coup attempt began on Jan. 28 when rebels entered Chad from the Darfur region of Sudan (an area not effectively controlled by the Sudan government), according to press accounts, with an estimated 300-vehicle convoy of armed pickup trucks. The invasion began the same day that the EU peacekeeping force (which is going to be mainly French) was given its final approval. Chad's President, Idriss Déby Itno, said Chad would pursue the rebels across the border if necessary.
The rebels entered the capital on Feb. 1, and took positions around the government headquarters.
On Feb. 3, Déby brought out tanks and helicopters in N'Djamena, to use against the rebels' pick-up trucks and light weapons, and regained parts of the capital. A spokesman for the rebel movement, the UFDD, today accused France of buying time for Déby, allowing him to counterattack, according to Le Journal du Dimanche online.
France has 1,100 troops in Chad, and condemned the rebel action, but Defense Minister Hervé Morin said that France is staying neutral. Only a small number of extra French troops were sent to facilitate the evacuation foreign nationals. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in discussions with Déby, offered to give him and his family asylum in France.
These developments further destabilize one of the most volatile regions of Africa. Sudan, at the end of December, saw one of its southern neighbors, Kenya, being wracked by violence. Now, the government of Chad, its neighbor to the west, is reported to be on the verge of collapse, with serious implications for the crisis in the Darfur region. Many people from Darfur have fled to eastern Chad. Since the latest fighting started, the anti-Déby rebels in Chad have criticized Déby for not supporting the Darfur rebels.
The African Union was meeting in Addis Abeba while the Chad developments were taking place. Its new head, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, said the AU would not recognize the rebels should they seize power, indicating their fear of the implications for the region, if the change in governmentsomething nobody in the region wantsis allowed to be consolidated.
Kenya Violence Continues; Talks Tentatively Set
Feb. 1 (EIRNS)Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported today that Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) have agreed to a four-point agenda for talks. The day before, after opposition parliamentarian David Too was shot and killed, talks had been postponed. Meanwhile, violence continues.
On Jan. 28, the head of the Catholic Church in Kenya, John Cardinal Njue, and other religious leaders in Nairobi, said that the violence is no longer a protest over disputed Presidential election results, nor is it spontaneous, but rather it is being planned and executed by organized gangs, according to the East African Standard of Jan. 27.
The death rate is soaring, and cities and towns in the Rift Valley province are burning, as the violence escalated in the wake of a Jan. 24 meeting between Kibaki and Odinga, organized by Kofi Annan.
The destabilization is being reported simplistically in the Western press as originating from ethnic conflicts. On Jan. 24, Human Rights Watch accused Odinga-allied forces of planning and organizing attacks on Kibaki supporters, many of whom are from the Kikuyu ethnic groupas is Kibakiafter contested elections Dec. 27. After the talks mediated by Annan, Odinga's ODM agreed to call off the protests. But violence against Kikuyus continued.
Now, Kikuyu revenge attacks are being reported. ODM leaders on Jan. 26 accused the government of using outlawed Mungiki sect members to escalate the crisis, and said that they were being protected by police. Odinga described those behind the killings as marauding gangs who were killing members of the Luo community. The ODM wants the government to stop using the Army to contain the new clashes, according to The Nation.
On Jan. 29, a newly elected ODM member of parliament, Melitus Mugabe Were, was dragged out of his car and shot. ODM spokesman Tony Gachoka asserted that Were may have been targeted by political foes. "We want no stone unturned in the investigation, but we suspect foul play." The government has made no comment.
Riots broke out across Kenya in response to the murder. More than 900 people have been killed since the Dec. 27 election. Today, two Kenyan military helicopters used rubber bullets to disperse a mob of Kikuyus who were threatening revenge attacks against Luo refugees 37 miles from Nairobi. This indicates that somebody in President Kibaki's Kikuyu-dominated party wants to rein in the violence.
Yesterday, during a visit to Kenya, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, the British minister for Africa, Asia, and the UN, said that "what is alarming about the last few days is that there are evidently hidden hands organizing [the violence] now." He didn't speculate as to any bodies that these invisible hands might be attached to.