Categories
Security Conflict

LRA Commander, Caesar Achellam, “Captured” – Some (Mostly Skeptical) Thoughts

Ugandan army in Soroti, Uganda, April 2011
In what has generally been reported as a “major coup” for African Union forces – and by extension the KONY2012 faithful – a senior LRA commander, Caesar Achellam was detained over the weekend while crossing the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

While the Ugandan army (the UPDF) were quick to exclaim that they had captured a “big fish” and many reported that Achellam’s arrest marked a huge victory in the hunt for Kony, there are good reasons to be skeptical of these claims.

Who is Caesar Achellam?

Achellam is a senior commander in the LRA. He was, at least as of 2008, a Major General. It was reported that he was close to Vincent Otti, the LRA’s second in command who was executed in 2008, on orders from Kony, for having been too deeply involved in efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict. Many of those who were close to Otti feared for their lives and Achellam apparently sought to surrender himself. While it is unclear how, he clearly regained the trust of Kony, rising to a prominent position in the LRA. Some say that, at the time of his “capture”, he was the fourth most senior commander in the LRA, perhaps even the LRA’s most senior strategist. Despite his seniority, however, Achellam is not amongst those LRA combatants indicted by the ICC.

Categories
Government Human Rights Conflict

ICC’s Ocampo Seeks New Charges in DRC

Luis Moreno-Ocampo in the DRC
Bulengo IDP Camp: North Kivu, DRC: A woman shields herself from the mid-day sun with an umbrella in Bulengo IDP camp, near Goma, DRC. (Photo: IRIN-News/flickr)

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, has asked judges to issue new charges against two alleged warlords in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. While experts welcome the idea that rebel militia commanders should be held to account, they are still debating how much of a contribution justice mechanisms can make to protracted peace efforts in the region.

On May 14, the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, requested additional charges against Bosco Ntaganda relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of murder, persecution and sexual slavery carried out between September 2002 and September 2003 in the Ituri region of eastern DRC.

Ntaganda, the military commander of the National Congress for Defence of the People or CNDP, was first charged by the ICC in 2006 for using child soldiers under the age of 15 to fight, but he has remained at large since the charges were made public in April 2008.

Categories
Religion Human Rights Conflict

Christianity’s Via Dolorosa

Protesters on Qasr el-Nil Bridge, chanting for national unity between Muslims and Christians
Protesters in Egypt chanting for national unity between Muslims and Christians (Photo: Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي/flickr)

BRUSSELS – Recently, the human-rights activist, former Dutch politician, and Somali exile Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote about a global war on Christians in Muslim countries. She discussed at length the appalling phenomenon of violent intolerance towards Christian communities, and cast blame on the international community and prominent NGOs for failing to address this problem.

In almost every part of the world, reports emerge on a daily basis of Christian communities falling victim to harassment and persecution. In Nigeria, on February 26, three Christians were killed and dozens wounded after a car bomb exploded close to a church in the northern town of Jos. At least 500 people have died during the last year in attacks attributed to the violent Islamist group Boko Haram, which has called for all Christians to leave northern Nigeria.

In East African states such as Sudan, Christians have been given an April 8 deadline to leave the north. The ultimatum will affect up to 700,000 Christians who were born in South Sudan before it became independent last year. In Eritrea, it is reported that 2,000-3,000 Christians are in detention, and that many have been tortured.

Categories
Development Humanitarian Issues Conflict

Swiss Humanitarian Aid: Sharing Responsibility

Workshop on making metal silos for grain storage, Kenya. Image from cimmyt/Flickr.

Drought forces thousands of people to cross the border from Somalia to Kenya every day. Violence erupts in a refugee camp in Ethiopia due to insufficient shelter. Rebel groups evict people from their homes. Insufficient water supply causes death and illness. Children turn to painting to depict the trauma caused by the massacres which they have witnessed.

The Annual Conference of the Humanitarian Aid held in Basel on 23 March 2012 addressed these issues under the motto “sharing responsibility” and explored how Switzerland can help to relieve people from such suffering.

Categories
Social Media Human Rights Conflict

Kony 2012 – How 100 Million Clicks Went to Waste

Image from invisible.tumblr.com

The Kony 2012 video produced by Invisible Children has attracted somewhere between 80 and 100 million views by now. No matter what your position on the campaign is, it is undeniable that it managed to tap a huge reservoir of public attention. The viral campaign and reactions to the video quickly spilled over from internet blogs to the classic medias, with basically all big newspapers, TV stations and radio stations running a story on Kony 2012 at least once. And that’s when it all went wrong.

The simplified and – as many rightly point out – to some extent even dangerous message of the video was answered with a global smear campaign that started picking apart not only Kony 2012 but also Invisible Children’s organizational structures and accounting practices. In the end, Kony 2012 has left behind only losers. The current victims of the LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan remain largely ignored, the formerly war affected communities in northern Uganda feel deeply offended by the video, the work of Invisible Children has been discredited, its co-founder and Kony 2012 producer Jason Russel had a mental breakdown in public, and a huge potential of public awareness that could have really made a difference in Central Africa has been squandered.