9 January 2013

Africa: News Round Up

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN
Fleeing conflict (file photo).

In the DRC, M23 rebels have declared a unilateral ceasefire ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government, the BBC reports.

The rebels told a news conference in the Ugandan capital Kampala that they hoped the government would follow suit.

An attempt last month to negotiate an end to the nine-month rebellion in the east of the country failed.

Up to 800,000 people have been displaced since the rebels took up arms against the Kinshasa government in May.

"We've been for peace... today we're declaring that we're in a ceasefire," M23 spokesman Francois Rucogoza told the news conference in Kampala.

"Even if the government refuses to sign a ceasefire agreement we'll continue with the negotiations," he added.

M23 has accused the government of President Joseph Kabila of failing to honour an earlier peace deal to integrate rebels into the army.

The rebels made rapid gains late last year. They seized the main city in the region, Goma, in November, but withdrew under international pressure.

The group was founded by Bosco Ntaganda, was an officer in the Rwandan army before he left to join a rebel movement in DR Congo.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court. Prosecutors accuse him of using child soldiers and the UN says he controls several mines in the east of the country.

The government in Kinshasa has had little control over the east since the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

Elsewhere in the DRC The UN peacekeeping department has asked the Security Council to back the use of surveillance drones for the first time in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Aljazeera reports.

The UN wants to use the drones to monitor the vast eastern DRC border, where Rwanda has been accused of helping rebels fighting the government. Rwanda denies the charge.

The introduction of drones would be a major shift in UN peacekeeping operations, but Rwanda opposes their use in the DRC and other countries are also suspicious.

Herve Ladsous, the UN peacekeeping chief, said he had asked the Security Council for the means to strengthen its DRC operation.

"So more helicopters, perhaps some with night vision, river capacities and then this question of aerial surveillance equipment - drones," he told the AFP news agency. "I explained to the Security Council how necessary we think this is."

DRC is already the UN's biggest peacekeeping mission, with more than 17,000 troops. But the forces are spread thin in the huge country and the UN is under orders to cut costs.

Western countries have backed the UN plan. "The UN needs additional modern resources - in particular drones - to be better informed, more reactive," France's UN mission said in a Twitter statement.

The Congo government is in favour of the move, but Rwanda, which is now one of the African members of the 15-nation Security Council, is opposed to it.

"We as Rwanda bordering on the Congo, we are maybe not in a comfortable position to talk about it because people may perceive it otherwise," said Eugene Richard Gasana, Rwanda's UN ambassador.

"But member states have legitimate questions on legal issues, financial issues on implementation of this."

"It might have a precedence on other countries. We owe them a kind of explanation.

"It is about human beings, it is not about Star Wars. We need this new technology, but at which cost."

UN officials say that drones could also be valuable in South Sudan and Sudan, huge countries where peacekeeping missions are spread thin.

In Kenya, three senior officers were sent home on Tuesday as investigations into the "fake" policeman saga started, the Daily Nation reports.

The National Police Service Commission also ordered a headcount of all officers countrywide.

Those suspended were Rift Valley PPO John M'Mbijiwe, Gilgil-based Anti-Stock Theft Unit commandant Remi Ngungi and Njoro OCPD Peter Njeru Nthiga.

The decision to send them home came as more details emerged about police impostor Joshua Karianjahi Waiganjo and his role in the ill-fated Baragoi operation in which over 40 police officers were killed.

NPSC chairman Johnston Kavuludi said that a team they had set up will unearth the truth of the matter.

"The committee has a wide mandate and would seek to establish whether Mr Waiganjo was a police officer or a police reservist and who recruited him, who gave orders and instructions, and what facilities, including transport, equipment and firearms, he was issued with," he said.

The committee was mandated to dig deeper and establish if Mr Waiganjo's case was an isolated one or there were other persons masquerading as police officers.

Members of the investigation team are former CID training school commandant Mary Awuor, former Administration Police commandant Major (Rtd) Shadrack Muiu and Mr Kimaiyo.

All are commissioners with the police governing body, but the committee would also include representatives from the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Law Society of Kenya and the Attorney-General's office.

Else where in Kenya Aljazeera reports that at least eight people have been killed in the latest tribal violence in Kenya's Tana Delta.

Wednesday's fighting took place in the village of Nduru, near the country's southeastern coast.

Fighting over land and water between the Pokomo and Orma communities in the area has been ongoing for the past few months.

More than forty people were killed in December in the same region.

Mwai Kibaki, the country's president, has ordered a judicial commission to review options on how to stop the violence.

In South Sudan, the UN has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces, where the government is fighting rebels, the BBC reports.

The UN said as many as 700,000 people were affected in the region, with many surviving on roots and leaves.

Senior UN humanitarian official John Ging said "a lack of political will" from both Khartoum and the rebels were to blame.

Mr Ging said humanitarian organisations were deeply frustrated as they were ready to deploy with large stocks of food and medicine.

He also appealed to the Security Council for help.

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, agreed that both warring parties were to blame, but said the government in Khartoum bore the greater responsibility.

Since South Sudan's independence, tension between the new neighbours has been strained, with rebellions breaking out on either side of the border and a dispute over oil which escalated to the brink of war last April.

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