Featured on both wanted posters and campaign posters in Pakistan, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is not alone. The founder of a group linked to the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba and now also the front of the Milli Muslim League party bears a striking resemblance to other rebels and terrorists turned politicians. Yet we have little systematic understanding of those candidates, or organizations, using armed and electoral strategies.
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.
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
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
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