Central African Republic Ex-PM, Touadera Ahead After Election

Touadera ahead after CAR's electionFormer Prime Minister of the Central African Republic, Faustin Touadera, has taken a surprise lead in early results from the CAR’s presidential election.

30 candidates contested the poll, which is likely to go to a run-off between the top two on January 31, but Mr Touadera was not seen as a favourite.

He was a Prime Minister in the government of ex-president, Francois Bozize, ousted in 2013 by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

Voting took place on December 30, with UN troops guarding polling stations.

30 candidates vied to replace interim leader, Catherine Samba-Panza in the former French colony.

The CAR has been torn by sectarian violence since the Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013.

A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, then took up arms against the Seleka.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries – yet it is rich in natural resources.

Elections also took place for the 149-seat National Assembly.

After seizing power, the Seleka rebels installed Michel Djotodia as the first Muslim leader of the majority Christian country.

But under pressure from regional leaders and former colonial power, France, Mr Djotodia stood down and was succeeded by Ms Samba-Panza.

Central African Republic Government Bans Text Messages

SMSThe government of Central African Republic has ordered the suspension of text messaging functionality by mobile phone operators, following calls for a nationwide civil disobedience campaign to protest against violence.

An organisation called Collectif Centrafrique Debout has been sending text messages since the weekend, asking people to stay at home starting Thursday following more inter-communal bloodshed in the capital Bangui.

According to Reuters, the government did not reveal the identity of those behind the campaign but in the mass messages, the organisation urged people to stay at home until there is complete disarmament, especially of the pk5 Muslim neighborhood.

A statement by the Communications Minister, Abdallah Assan Kadre, said: “on the instruction of the prime minister…in order to contribute to the restoration of security in the country, the use of SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended”.

It is unclear when the ban will be lifted.

Central African Republic has been gripped by ethnic and religious violence since northern Seleka rebels, who are mostly Muslim, seized power in the mainly Christian nation in 2013.

Network Africa: S.Sudan, CAR Search For Funds As Nigeria Searches For Missing Girls

Network AfricaNetwork Africa looks at how far things have gone concerning bringing back the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria, amidst claims by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, that the military had located the girls.

Demonstrators in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, however, have vowed to carry on with their protests.

South Sudan is relying heavily on the international community as more funds are also needed to save the people of Central African Republic.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says more assistance is needed in an overcrowded and flooded South Sudanese Refugee Camp where almost 100,000 people are sheltered in tents.

Illegal immigration is also on the rise, as migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa penetrate the United Kingdom in search of greener pastures at all cost.

We bring you interviews and reports.


Indian Consulate In Herat, Afghanistan Attacked

Afghanistan_2415914bThe Afghan city of Herat has witnessed another round of violence after heavily-armed gunmen launched a pre-dawn attack on the Indian Consulate.

Police say the attackers stormed nearby houses to fire on the compound with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

The gunmen were killed in a firefight with security forces that lasted several hours on Friday in Afghanistan’s third-largest city.

The attackers began their assault on the Indian consulate in Herat hours before dawn, firing guns and rocket propelled grenades from their vantage point in a neighbouring building.

Indian staff at the mission escaped soon after the shooting began at around 3 a.m. Police say Afghan security forces had killed the attackers, who were holed up in buildings overlooking the consulate.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and no one claimed responsibility, though suspicion would inevitably fall on the Taliban and other loosely associated groups.

The attack has underscored a worrying security picture for Afghanistan as it prepares to take over from foreign combat troops after more than 12 years of war against a Taliban insurgency, and hold a presidential election run-off in June.

The small consulate in Herat, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities, is guarded by a team of commandos from the indo-Tibetan border police, with Afghan security forces forming an outer ring.

The Herat mission was considered one of India’s safest in Afghanistan compared with Jalalabad in the East, which was attacked in 2013, and Kandahar in the South.

Afghanistan has seen a surge in attacks in recent weeks as foreign troops begin to withdraw from the country.

Thailand’s Coup Leaders Detain Former PM Yingluck

yingluck-shinawatraAs the army seeks to tighten its grip on power, Thailand’s ex-Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra and some members of her family have been detained.

Ms Yingluck and scores of politicians from the deposed government had been told to report to a Bangkok army base.

She was kept for several hours and then driven to an undisclosed location.

Army Chief General, Prayuth Chanocha also met key officials, telling them reform must come before any elections.

Senior government officials and the caretaker prime minister arrived at an army facility in Bangkok on Friday; after Thailand’s military leaders summoned them to a meeting.

Military leaders also summoned ousted Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, to the meeting; a day after Army Chief, Prayuth Chanocha seized power in a bloodless coup and said he wanted to restore order following months of turmoil.

Prayuth launched his coup after the various factions refused to give ground in a struggle for power between the royalist establishment and a populist government that had raised fears of serious violence and damaged Thailand’s economy.

Soldiers detained politicians from both sides when Prayuth announced the military takeover, which drew swift international condemnation, after talks he was presiding over broke down.

The U.S. Department of State Spokesperson, Jen Psaki, in his condemnation said: “At this point what we are doing is we are reviewing our military and other assistance to the government of Thailand. We’ve taken preliminary steps to suspend military engagement and assistance while we consider the facts on the ground.

“This is a standard part of the process that would take place. So right now there is a comprehensive review of that going on. The State Department and USAID provide approximately 10 million dollars annually in bilateral assistance to Thailand only a portion of which is assistance to the Thai government.”

The military censored the media, dispersed rival protesters in Bangkok and imposed a nationwide 10P.M. to 5A.M. curfew.

ICC Sentences Congo Warlord Germain Katanga

Germain KatangaIt’s judgment day for ex-Congolese militia leader, Germain Katanga, as the International Criminal Court has sentenced him to 12 years in prison for aiding and abetting war crimes.

Katanga who was found guilty in March is only the second person to be convicted by the Netherlands-based court.

He was behind the 2003 massacre of hundreds of villagers in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The fighting escalated into an inter-ethnic conflict that is estimated to have killed 50,000 people.

The Congolese warlord was sentenced on Friday after being convicted of being an accessory to war crimes including murder and pillage during an attack on a village more than a decade ago. But he was also cleared of a number of other charges.

The trial has been seen as a test of the ability of prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which had handed down only one conviction and one acquittal in 12 years, to bring solid cases.

Judges found that Katanga had made a significant contribution to a February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, in a diamond-rich region of north-east Congo, in particular by procuring guns to speed the massacre of some 200 ethnic Hema civilians.

Bogoro is a village in Ituri province which saw violent conflict between various ethnic groups between 1999 and 2003.

Much of the conflict centered on the province’s municipal capital, Bunia and original ICC documents said Katanga’s Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri (FRPI) was involved in fighting for control of the city in the spring of 2003.

Events in Bunia did not play a significant role in the ICC case.

Presiding judge, Bruno Cotte, said that during the trial that the timing of the attack on Bogoro and the methods used – encircling the village while its inhabitants were still asleep, the use of machetes to attack them, and shooting indiscriminately – led the chamber to find that combatants intended to target the civilian population.

The judge said attackers had fired indiscriminately as villagers sought shelter in the bush, adding that without a supply of weapons commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency.

The conviction, at the end of a 6-year trial, was controversial.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Christine Van Den Wyngaert, said that the decision to convict Katanga as an accessory, when he had originally been charged with playing an essential role in the attack, meant his trial was unfair.

Network Africa: Quest For Justice In C.A.R, S. Africa, As Nigerians Cry ‘Bring Back Our Girls

Chibok Girls NAThis edition of Network Africa focuses on ‘Bring Back Our Girls’, getting justice for Nigerians, conflict resolution and more brow raising details concerning the trial of the decade.

While protests continue both in Nigeria and many parts of the world, the dastardly Boko Haram group which is responsible for the abduction conveniently made a video which was released by the French news agency, the AFP, on Monday may 12.

The video supposedly showed images of the schoolgirls who were kidnapped by them.

The terror group claims many of the girls have been converted from Christianity to Islam while being held and all those in the footage could be seen wearing headscarves. The group’s leader said that it will release them in exchange for militant prisoners being freed.

Another issue generating a buzz is the death of Oluwatoba Falode; his grieving mother suspects foul play in the murder of her son, who was a 19 year old student in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

Her speculation contradicts the report of the Dubai Police, which recorded that the boy fell off the balcony of his 17th floor apartment in Manchester Towers, Dubai Marina.

Outside of Nigerian shores, the U.S President, Barack Obama, has imposed sanctions on Central African Republic’s former president, François Bozizé, and four other men linked to violence and human rights abuses in the country.

The country has been plagued by sectarian violence for a year after Seleka rebels, who are mostly Muslim, seized power, and “anti-Balaka” militias, mainly Christian, fought back.

Thousands have been killed and about a million people displaced. The Interim President, Catherine Samba Panza is, however, determined to bring a change to the conflict ridden country.

The trial of the decade continues, a judge in the trial of South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius has ordered that he should undergo a mental evaluation.

She took that step based on the fact that psychiatric evidence before the court could not replace “a proper enquiry” into his mental health. Network Africa speaks to a clinical psychologist to find out his view on the matter.

Band members of Basi Na Mizik rehearsed for an upcoming festival, an event that many hope will become an important fixture on the Congolese music calendar. Founders of Basi Na Mizik – which means “women in music” in the local Lingala language – hope to create a movement that will give Congolese female artistes more prominence in the industry.

France Underestimated C.A.R Hatred

France’s Ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, has reported back to the international body, on what he described as the hatred between Christian and Muslim communities in the Central African Republic.

He said communities on both sides want to kill each other, and calls to end the fighting are being ignored.

France already has 1,600 troops on the ground in the C.A.R. That is in addition to the 4,000 troops sent by the African Union.

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 people have died in the violence, which erupted when Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013, and installed Michel Djotodia as the country’s first Muslim leader.

Mr. Djotodia, however, stepped down on Friday, bowing to pressure from regional powers, after they decided he was not doing enough to end the crisis.

The UN warned earlier in the week that the Central African Republic was in a “mega-crisis” and that many in the population were living in fear because of religious and ethnic attacks.

France To Increase Forces In Central Africa With UN Backing

France will increase its force in Central African Republic to at least on 1,000 soldiers after a U.N. resolution expected next week, French officials said on Tuesday, warning of the risk of regional instability.

The nation of 4.6 million people has descended into violence and chaos since rebels, many from neighbouring Chad and Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March.

CAR’s Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, said on Monday Fabius told him France aimed to boost its number of soldiers in the country by 800 from about 400.

“We are going to reinforce our presence,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Culture radio. “We are waiting for a United Nations resolution that should come next week.”

“Until now, only Central Africans were threatened, but if the (power) vacuum and implosion sets in, it will threaten all countries in the region: Chad, Sudan, Congo and Cameroon.”

Asked about the figure of 800 additional troops, Fabius said the number “makes sense”, but did not elaborate further.

Separately, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio France would support a planned African-led force with “around one thousand” troops. He did not specify whether that was the size of the reinforcement or the total number.

He said the mission was likely to last about six months depending on the timetable set by the United Nations. He dismissed comparisons with France’s intervention Mali, where Paris deployed 4,000 troops in January to keep Islamist militants from taking the capital Bamako.

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said at the United Nations that the French troops in CAR would restore law and order until an African Union force of 3,600 troops – known as MISCA – was fully operational.

In addition to the French troops in the country, there is a 2,500-strong regional force deployed by the Economic Community of Central African States. The African Union is due to take charge of that force in December and boost its size.

The violence in the mineral-rich  country has increasingly pitted the mainly Muslim fighters of the Seleka rebels against Christian militias. Christians make up half the population and Muslims 15 percent.