Also today: Clashes in Mogadishu kill many; Democratic Republic of Congo; Sudanese imply Darfur peacekeepers arming militants; Head of UN General Assembly on Swiss no-visa list.
Nigerian authorities to charge 49 over latest mass murders in Jos
The chaos is so complete, it’s hard to count the dead. But Nigerian police say they’ll charge 49 people with murder after communal violence killed some 109 men, women and children near the central city of Jos. Most of those facing charges are Muslims who shot, hacked and burned to death what are thought to be mostly rural Christians living in hamlets near the city. Police have arrested about 200 people over the bloodshed. Early reports put the death toll at more than 500, but nobody really knows the final tally. The violence followed sectarian killings in and around Jos in January that left more than 300 dead, most of whom were believed to be Muslims. So the latest bout of murder is considered to be revenge killing. But others say the underlying causes aren’t religious, but stem from social, economic and political grievances.
Photo: A woman cries during a funeral of victims killed in religious attacks in the Dogo Nahawa village, about 15 km (9 miles) to the capital city of Jos in central Nigeria, March 8, 2010. Soldiers patrolled the central Nigerian city of Jos on Monday and aid workers tried to assess the death toll after attacks on outlying communities in which several hundred people were feared to have been killed. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Clashes in Mogadishu kill many
Somali government forces and radical Islamist al-Shabaab militants clashed in northern Mogadishu, killing 17 people and wounding 65, some of whom aren’t likely to survive. The rebels have stepped up attacks in the city in recent weeks and government forces have responded with shelling. Al-Shabaab also beheaded two employees of a telecoms firm in the capital, accusing them of spying for the government. Not long ago, the militants claimed they’d joined al-Qaeda in its global jihad, putting more pressure on the Western-backed government that controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu. The government says it’ll soon launch a major offensive to take back parts of the country controlled by al-Shabaab, but it’s very weak and largely disorganised, leaving many doubting the claim. Meanwhile, a leaked UN report indicates up to half the food aid in Somalia is diverted to corrupt contractors, local UN workers and Islamist militants. That adds to the pain of the half of Somalia’s 8 million people who can’t feed themselves. That some local UN workers take a cut in the profits from illegal food sales, shows just how anarchic the country really is. But that particular problem may soon be diminished, after al-Shabaab told the UN’s World Food Programme to leave the country, because aid is crippling the ability of the nation’s farmers to sell their produce at a fair price.
Rights group says rebels integrated into DRC army gain even more mining riches
Democratic Republic of Congo
Former insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo have gained far more control over the nation’s mines by serving in the army than they did as rebels, according to rights group Global Witness. The integration of some ex-rebels into the military has led to claims that some of in the army are illegally taxing civilian miners, as gangs of renegade troops, bandits and Rwandan proxy forces fight over some of the world’s most valuable mineral resources. The UN has some 20,000 peacekeepers in the chaotic country, trying to end much more than a decade of fighting exacerbated by the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The army’s also been accused of murdering civilians during joint offensives with UN troops. That ugly reality may degenerate further after the UN said it would pull some peacekeepers out of the DRC, in what many see as a move to appease local politicians ahead of a national election. But any significant withdrawal is likely to be slow, despite the UN peacekeeping mandate ending in May.
Sudanese imply Darfur peacekeepers arming militants
Sudan’s government called in the acting head of international peacekeepers in Darfur after rebels made off with some of their vehicles and equipment. The Sudanese basically accused the force of voluntarily handing over its weapons to the militants, after a contingent of troops was ambushed. That’s a step up from earlier charges that the peacekeepers assist the rebels with food and fuel. That angers the UN and its African Union allies, who together make up the UNAMID peacekeeping mission. They told the Sudanese their men were bushwhacked when they went to investigate reports of heavy fighting in central Darfur. Recently, one major rebel group claimed that government forces were attacking in strength, backed by helicopters and Russian-made jets, shortly after President Omar al-Bashir made peace with another group and said the war in the country’s western province was over. That’s pretty typical of Bashir’s forked-tongue diplomacy. He’s wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur, where the UN estimates some 300,000 people have died in fighting in the last seven years.
Head of UN General Assembly on Swiss no-visa list
Call it ironic. Libya says a former foreign minister, Ali Abdussalam Treki, who is currently president of the UN General Assembly, is among some 180 Libyans barred from much of Europe because of a diplomatic row between Libya and Switzerland. Switzerland stopped the Libyans from obtaining visas after Tripoli arrested two of its nationals, in what’s seen as a tit-for-tat revenge for the Swiss detaining and then releasing a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for allegedly assaulting two “servants”. That upshot is that the Libyans are effectively banned from the whole Schengen area, a borderless travel zone that incorporates 25 European countries. Libya wants the dispute resolved by the arbitration of a neutral country. It’s already released one of the Swiss businessmen, but tempers are still high. Oh, and by the way, Treki told the 64th session of the UN General Assembly he’s not in favour of the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality, despite a UN resolution calling for this.