The CSS Blog Network

Bemba: Condemned for Commanding a Rebellion

Rebel camp in Northern Central Republic, courtesy hdptcar/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 23 March 2016.

On Monday 21 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) found former Congolese vice-president and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the charges emanate from crimes committed in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003, his guilty verdict affects not one, but two African countries.

First, in CAR where the ICC found that troops belonging to Bemba’s rebel group Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo (MLC – the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) committed the international crimes of rape, murder and pillaging at his behest. Second, the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Bemba’s arrest and elimination from the political scene in 2008 significantly changed the political landscape.

In late 2002, Bemba – then MLC leader – sent his troops to assist CAR’s president at the time Ange-Félix Patassé. Patassé was attempting to quell armed attacks from François Bozizé, the man who would eventually overthrow him. At this point Bemba had been relying heavily on Patassé; using Bangui as his rear logistics base during his rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila. Responding to Patassé’s call for help was in many ways a survival strategy for Bemba. Despite these efforts, Bozizé ousted Patassé in March 2003.

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The Syrian Opposition Meeting in Cairo: One Small Step

Free Syrian Army rebels take up positions along an embankment on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Maraat al-Numan, Syria. Image: FreedomHouse/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Middle East Institute on 31 January, 2015.

Around 100 Syrian opposition figures recently concluded a conference in Cairo. The meeting was noteworthy for two reasons. It signaled Cairo’s cautious but unmistakable entry into the Syrian minefield, and it marks the still-fragmented opposition’s first careful steps in the direction of a compromise with the Assad regime.

President Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi’s government is determined to rehabilitate Egypt’s pan-Arab image and to restore an Egyptian role in Arab affairs—in Syria and elsewhere. “Egypt,” explains one close observer of the diplomatic efforts on Syria, “is trying to replace Istanbul as the capital of the opposition.”[i] » More

Is Cantonment the Key to Success in Mali’s Negotiations?

Image: Magharebia/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 21 July 2014.

Peace talks between the government of Mali and northern rebel groups started in Algiers last week. If they are to succeed, the focus should be on effectively initiating the ‘cantonment’ of armed groups, a military process that involves removing them from the conflict zone and restricting their movements. » More

Conflict in the Central African Republic: It’s Not Just about Religion

 Refugees in the Central African Republic

Photo: SSgt Ryan Crane/Wikimedia Commons.

The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has left humanitarian organisations, international peacekeepers and observers frantically searching for solutions to stop the conflict. Now, to make matters worse,the Afghan Taliban and the notorious al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – which, together with its allies, occupied northern Mali in 2012 – have denounced what it describes as the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Muslims in the CAR. AQIM also issued a warning against France for its alleged complicity in the violence, saying the ‘supposed peacekeepers’ have launched a ‘crusade against Islam’ and that France will be punished for doing so. Given that ordinary Muslims in the CAR are clearly being targeted and tens of thousands of Muslims are fleeing the country, should this threat be taken seriously?

David Zounmenou, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) believes that AQIM is still smarting after its defeat against France in Mali last year and that their warnings are not to be taken lightly. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also met last week to discuss the situation in the CAR and has pleaded for dialogue and national reconciliation – another sign that the crisis has now taken a decidedly religious turn. Yet, Zounmenou strongly warns against casting the conflict in the CAR in the same mould as other crises in Africa that are rooted in conflict between locals and radical Islamist groups, such as in Mali or Somalia. » More

New Displacements as Philippines Nears Final Peace Deal

Philippine Marines Corporal. Photo: Lcpl Cory Yenter/Wikimedia Commons.

More than 10,000 people fled their homes this week in Mindanao, southern Philippines, as government forces launched a major offensive against Muslim splinter groups opposed to a final peace deal to end decades of insurgency in the island. The country’s capacity to respond to emergencies has been stretched by a series of deadly disasters.

President Benigno Aquino said the offensive was a calculated response against members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who had been harassing civilians and troops in the towns of Datu Piang and Pikit, in Maguindanao Province.

Gun battles and heavy exchanges of mortar fire have left at least 37 rebels and one soldier dead since 27 January, and the military said at least three civilians were hurt by an improvised bomb attack near a market, in which seven troops were also injured.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the capital, Manila, said it had requested assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide tents for some 4,200 people in 10 evacuation centres. Another 4,565 people are staying with friends and relatives. » More

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