Also today: Somali government allies itself to moderate militia group for big push; Car bombs rock Niger Delta, threaten amnesty; Minor Darfur rebel peace talks hamper major rebel peace talks; Sudan’s authorities hassle journalists despite lifting censorship.
Egyptian women gain rights victory, but no cigar
Egypt’s supreme constitutional court ruled women will be able serve on the state council, a court that tries cases involving the government. But it won’t be plain sailing from here on in as the state council’s general assembly said during earlier attempts to install women that the working environment and toilets were inappropriate. It seems the sexism isn’t coming from the state council judges so much, as from conservative rank-and-file members who hold the balance of power. Sounds like this could go on for as long as attempts to allow women into Augusta in the US, the home of the golfing Masters. The supreme constitutional court’s verdict is considered a victory for women’s rights. But the fight has only just begun. Photo: Reuters.
Somali government allies itself to moderate militia group for big push
Somalia’s government says it’ll ally itself with the moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca militia to take back parts of the country held by the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab. Whether the additional firepower will be enough to pull off a long-promised government offensive remains to be seen, but it’s likely that the allies will get slaughtered unless they get help from the international community. Both parties have already called for funds. The Sufi Muslim Ahlu Sunna has been fighting both al-Shabaab and the less well-known Hizbul Islam group in central Somalia. They especially don’t like al-Shabaab’s brutal brand of Islam, including the beheading of “apostate” clerics and bans on celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Maybe it’s time for the world to stump up as well.
Car bombs rock Niger Delta, threaten amnesty
Hours after two car bombs went off in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s acting President Goodluck Jonathan said the government would rekindle an amnesty programme that saw thousands of rebels hand in their arms last year in return for promised education, jobs and more social investment in the region. The amnesty went pear-shaped after Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua took ill and government bureaucracy started to hiccup. Several armed groups agreed to the amnesty, but some leaders of the main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, rejected the government’s offer. In January, one Mend leader announced that a temporary ceasefire was over. The bombs went off in the oil city of Warri after Mend issued an earlier bomb threat. Not good news.
Minor Darfur rebel peace talks hamper major rebel peace talks
A band of minor Darfur rebel groups that came together under the name of the Liberation and Justice Movement to hold peace talks with Sudan’s government, has thrown a spanner in the works of a preliminary peace deal struck weeks ago between Khartoum and Darfur’s main Justice and Equality Movement rebel group. JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said Khartoum’s plans to sign a similar deal with LJM would undermine JEM’s role as sole negotiator for Darfur’s rebels. It’s now stalled talks on Ibrahim getting a post in national government, integrating JEM’s fighters into the Sudanese army, and returning millions of people displaced by the conflict to their homes. There’s never a dull moment in Sudan ahead of the nation’s first multi-party elections in 24 years. But it’s excitement that teeters on a return to multiple civil wars.
Sudan’s authorities hassle journalists despite lifting censorship
Reuters reports Sudan’s National Press Council summoned the editors of two newspapers ahead of the country’s first multi-party polls in 24 years, saying they insulted President Omar Hassan al-Bashir by reporting that Bashir had killed 10,000 people in Darfur. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has charged Bashir with war crimes in Darfur, and the irony is that long ago Bashir told two live press conferences broadcast to nine countries that the death toll in Darfur was 10,000 and not the UN’s estimate of 300,000 dead. The papers could now suffer temporary closure, which could kill the corporate advertising they rely on for revenue. One of the papers is politically aligned with the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which is fighting to secede from the rest of Sudan. So, the crackdown on free speech is really a no-brainer. One of the papers said Bashir should hand himself over to the International Criminal Court. Late last year Bashir ordered an immediate end to state censorship of the media ahead of the elections. Nobody believed him. The National Press Council investigations are ongoing.