Wednesday, 15 June 2016

ETHIOPIA | ERITREA: From jaw-jaw to war-war


Over the weekend there were disturbing reports of fresh fighting in the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia which ended with a peace treaty some 16 years ago. Ugandan security officials say they have been busy in the last few days rounding up military personnel they accuse of plotting to oust President Yoweri Museveni. Finally, a couple of media and courtroom-related spats: firstly there are reports about the considerable wealth of Nigeria's former President Goodluck Jonathan and his oil minister Diezani Allison-Madueke; secondly, a Liberia Grand Jury has issued an indictment against Andrew Groves, the chief executive officer of Sable Mining.

ETHIOPIA | ERITREA: From jaw-jaw to war-war
As fears mount that the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia could be about to restart, most accounts of the latest clashes on 12 June say they happened in the area between Zalambessa in Ethiopia and Tsorona in Eritrea. Local people have been telling journalists that they could hear shelling in the area for most of 12 June into the morning of the next day and some accounts speak of Ethiopian military vehicles having been spotted. Within hours of the first reports emerging, both governments put forward their versions.  

Asmara went first, claiming that Tsorona came under attack from Ethiopian troops. The area saw some of the heaviest fighting during the 1998-2000 war in which 70,000 lost their lives. Within hours on 13 June, Getachew Reda, Ethiopia's Communications Minister, accused Eritrea of launching an unprovoked attack and said Ethiopian troops counter-attacked. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's office called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and respect the peace treaty. This latest clash follows a rare public condemnation by the UN of Eritrea for human rights abuses linked to its compulsory national service regime. One of the reasons for national service, insists the Eritrean government, is a continuing threat from Addis Ababa.

UGANDA: Crackdown amid coup claims
Security officials in Kampala have been rounding up military officers they suspect of plotting against President Yoweri Museveni, according to a statement from army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda on 12 June. Ankunda linked the plotters, said to be in both the army and the air force, to Michael Kabaziguruka, an opposition politician who backs Kizza Besigye, who was defeated in this year's presidential elections and was recently detained on a charge of treason.

Once Museveni's personal doctor and a former officer, Besigye has retained strong links to Uganda's military. News of the arrests coincides with a call by Amnesty International for the Uganda Police Force to investigate complaints that it has been harassing 31 local and international human rights organisations based in Uganda.

NIGERIA: Foreign press wades in and woes multiply
The aftermath of former President Goodluck Jonathan's first public speech after conceding defeat in last year's national elections has seen him dragged into what could become an ugly war in the foreign media. Britain's biggest-selling daily newspaper, The Sun, reported on 14 June that Jonathan has just bought a house in the exclusive St George's Hill area of Weybridge, Surrey, just outside London.
Although The Sun is 'sure he gained his wealth legitimately', it invited him to explain how he was able to pay for a mansion which could have cost up to £15 million. The report comes close on the heels of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera satellite channel's report that Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has seized a home worth US$18 million belonging to Diezani Allison-Madueke, Jonathan's oil minister. She called the report a 'propaganda attack' and 'journalistic brigandage' and denied any wrongdoing. She is under investigation by the British authorities for corruption and malfeasance. The Al Jazeera programme broadcast photographs of some of what it claimed was Allison-Madueke's collection of gold jewellery, furniture and a bulletproof gym. 

None of this appears to be related to an opinion piece by President Muhammadu Buhari explaining Nigeria's multiplying woes to an international investor audience. However, the timing of the three stories is curious, to say the least. It may also be a sign that the government's defenders are finally going over to the offensive.

LIBERIA: Sable Mining rejects state indictment
Andrew Groves, CEO of Sable Mining, is decrying an indictment in a corruption case by a Grand Jury in Liberia. This latest move was linked to a political effort to block some candidates who had been intending to stand for senior posts in national elections due next year, according to Groves, who denies the bribery claim.

It follows earlier indictments of some of the country's top officials for alleged malfeasance in the award of an iron ore concession to Sable. The affair was reported at length by Africa Confidential and the London-based anti-corruption lobby, Global Witness.

Last month the Grand Jury indicted: Varney Sherman, chairman of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's Unity Party; Alex Tyler, Speaker of parliament; and Ernest C. B. Jones, deputy minister of Lands, Mines and Energy. The indictment states that Tyler was paid $75,000 to amend the mining concession law. Both Sherman and Jones were planning to launch their political campaigns in the coming weeks, said Groves. 

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