21 February 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Kenya Chief Justice Willy Mutunga says he has been threatened with "dire consequences" if the courts barred presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta from contesting next month's election, BBC reports.

Mr Mutunga said he had received a "poison-pen letter" from an outlawed group "extolling" violence.

Mr Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition said it condemned any threats to the judiciary.

His candidacy has been controversial because he has been charged with crimes against humanity.

The case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) stems from allegations that Mr Kenyatta fuelled violence that followed the disputed 2007 presidential election.

Mr Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are due to be tried at The Hague about a month after the 4 March election.

Pressure groups asked Kenya's High Court to disqualify them from contesting the election because of the ICC case.

But the High Court refused, in a ruling on Friday.

It did not have the power to annul Mr Kenyatta's candidacy, the court said.

In a related story the Kenya government's top security organ National Security Advisory Council (NSAC) is meeting to deliberate on Chief Justice Willy Mutunga's assertions that his life is in danger.

On Wednesday, Mr Kimemia summoned the NSAC to a meeting after Chief Justice Willy Mutunga claimed he had been threatened by the outlawed group Mungiki.

In an interview with the Nation, a few minutes before the meeting, Mr Kimemia said threats to a CJ at this time when campaign temperatures are high cannot be ignored.

"We want to ascertain who is behind all these as such claims cannot be left hanging. They are people who are keen on derailing the country," said Mr Kimemia.

"The meeting wants to get to the root cause of the matter raised by the CJ."

Civil Society groups had moved to court to challenge the eligibility of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto's joint presidential ticket given the ICC charges.

In Cameroon, French military and intelligence officers have entered northern part of the country in search of a family of seven French tourists kidnapped Tuesday from a national park, CNN reports.

The Paris-based private network BFMTV did not cite its source; it posted a team of journalists Wednesday in Paris at the French Foreign Ministry Crisis Center, which is handling the country's response to the crisis.

BFMTV, citing the French Defense Ministry, said gendarmes had been sent to the site in northern Cameroon where the abduction occurred to investigate.

But a Cameroonian official said Wednesday that he believed the family had been taken across the border into neighboring Nigeria within hours of their abduction.

Joseph Dion Ngute, the Foreign Ministry official in charge of ties with Commonwealth nations, said Tuesday's incident marked the first time foreigners in Cameroon had been taken captive by suspected Islamic militants of Nigeria's Boko Haram movement.

The family was kidnapped from Waza National Park, a thickly forested area of northern Cameroon popular among tourists and located near the border with Nigeria. The incident has raised fears of Westerners being targeted by Islamist militant groups in Africa in the wake of France's military intervention in Mali.

But French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that he didn't believe the seizure was linked to his government's intervention in Mali, where French troops have joined government forces to battle Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda.

"I am aware of the presence of Boko Haram in that part of Cameroon, and that's worrying enough," Hollande said.

Concerns about border security in northern Cameroon grew early last year, when Sudanese poachers on horseback invaded the Bouba Ndjida Park and killed more than 300 elephants for their ivory. Afterward, the government temporarily replaced park guards with a special anti-terrorist squad of the military.

In a statement, Cameroon's Ministry of External Relations said Wednesday that security has been tightened to guarantee the safety of expatriates and tourists, especially in volatile regions.

Abductions are common in Cameroon, especially in natural resource-rich regions.

In South Sudan, Amnesty International said on Wednesday the government has detained scores of opposition figures without issuing arrest warrants or giving them access to lawyers since unrest broke out in a northwestern town in December, Reuters reports.

South Sudan has struggled to establish the rule of law since it split from Sudan in July in 2011 following a long civil war that left the new country awash with weapons.

Human rights groups regularly accuse its army, an assortment of poorly-trained former guerrilla fighters known as the SPLA, of abuses against civilians, which the government routinely denies.

Ten people were killed in the town of Wau in December when security forces opened fire on a protest against the relocation of a local council headquarters. At least 13 others were killed during unrest that followed the shooting.

Since the violence, the government of Bahr El Ghazal state has detained 100 people, among them opposition figures, civil society activists, journalists and security officers, Amnesty International said in a report.

"Arrests of perceived opponents of the government continue to be carried out," the group said.

"While some of these arrests appear to have a legitimate basis, evidence gathered by Amnesty International shows that many of the arrests were arbitrary and contravene provisions in national and international law," it said.

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