On December 18, five female aid workers were killed as they were administering polio vaccinations. The following day another polio supervisor was killed along with her driver in north-western town of Peshawar.
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.
Yesterday, 23 May, the third international gathering of the Nobel Women’s Initiative opened its gates in Quebec, Canada. This year it carries the title Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. For three days, over 120 civil society activists, corporate and security sector leaders, military and peacekeeping personnel, academics from around the world, and numerous Nobel Peace Laureates are convening to discuss strategies for tackling sexual violence in conflict.
Sexual violence in times of war or turmoil is not at all a new phenomenon. Rape has shadowed war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the past four decades, however, the scale of sexual violence has come to reach almost surreal proportions. While “traditional” warfare was, in the past, characterized by a clash of armed forces, wars have developed more and more into internal armed conflicts. The targets are increasingly often civilians, turning rape and sexual attack into useful forms of war and a core military strategy in conflicts around the world, from Sudan to Burma to Colombia.
Rape is the most intrusive of traumatic events. Sexual violence is as damaging as a bullet. It destroys not only the body of the victim, but the basic social fabric of the community. Where sexual violence has been a way of war, it destroys the way of life. Rape shatters traditions that anchor community values, disrupting their transmission to future generations. Children accustomed to rape and violence grow into adults who accept them as the norm.
Promising news from Uganda: the parliament has adjourned without debating a controversial bill that would have mandated life prison for homosexual acts and the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ cases. The move to wipe the draft laws from the agenda came amid mounting pressure from governments and citizens around the world. Bills not completed in the old parliament must be resubmitted to be considered. The fight isn’t over yet, but last week’s developments may prove to be a critical milestone for gay rights in Africa.
We have offered regular coverage of this issue:
You Can Run – Or You Can Hide recounts the assassination of gay rights campaigner David Kato Kisule and how homophobia in Uganda has grown even stronger in the wake of the murder.
Many western media outlets and human rights groups have failed to provide a proper context for understanding this new wave of homophobia. Gay Rights (and Wrongs) in Africa analyzes the complex cultural and political factors that underpin anti-gay fervor.
The people of Iran will vote for a new president on Friday, 12 June.
The race is tight. Two of the candidates have good chances of winning. Former Prime Minister Mousavi relies on a broad base of supporters, but polls show that the incumbent Ahmadinejad is the leader in Iran’s presidential elections.
According to this insightful article by ISN correspondent Kamal Nazer Yasin, the developments in Iran in the next few days will be critical. Today, the police have forbidden further displays of political loyalty in the streets. With several million people having experienced the joys of freedom in the streets of Tehran and other cities, it will be interesting to see how the government can contain popular anger once Ahmadinejad is announced the winner.
Kamal Nazer Yasin is the pseudonym of the Iran correspondent for ISN Security Watch. With deep knowledge of the Iranian political environment and 50 Security Watch articles under his name, Yasin has provided the ISN with extensive coverage of Iranian politics and its regional implications.