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African Diplomacy

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Uganda may stop mediating in Congo over U.N. accusations

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Uganda said on Monday it would stop mediating in the conflict between the Democratic Republic of Congo and M23 rebels if the U.N. Security Council endorsed accusations that Uganda was supporting the rebels.

A report by a U.N. panel of experts leaked to Reuters last week accused Uganda and Rwanda of providing support to M23, whose insurgency has displaced half a million people in North Kivu province, which borders both countries.

The report, written for the U.N. Security Council's Congo sanctions committee, said Uganda had allowed M23's political branch to operate from Kampala in addition to providing M23 with troops, weapons, technical help, political advice and facilitation of external relations.

"We have contacted the U.N. via our diplomats in New York because we want to know whether what the media wrote about is true," junior foreign minister Asuman Kiyingi told Reuters.

"If the U.N. confirms its experts wrote these outrageous falsehoods, then we'll withdraw from our mediation role in the conflict between Congo and the M23 rebels."

Kiyingi said the allegations were already undermining the perception of Uganda as a neutral mediator.

Analysts say Uganda and Rwanda have maintained extensive commercial and military networks in Congo's mineral-rich east since the two countries sent troops into Congo twice in the 1990s and 2000s.

The Ugandan government has already denied it supports M23, calling the allegations "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish."

Congo has demanded sanctions on Ugandan and Rwandese officials funneling support to M23. The U.N. Security Council on Friday adopted a statement expressing an intention to impose sanctions on M23's leaders and those who violate a U.N. arms embargo on Congo.

Uganda has been spearheading faltering efforts by a regional body, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), to put together a 4,000-strong force to neutralize M23 and police the border between Congo and Rwanda.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told reporters at the United Nations in New York on Monday that no countries bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo would be contributing troops to such a force.

"There is a military assessment team that is meeting in Goma so we have to wait for their recommendations," Ladsous said. "It is still being worked upon but we expect some results in the next few days."

"Of course the devil is in the details and we would have to look very closely at the composition of that force, at its command and control mechanisms, how to coordinate with (U.N. peacekeepers) and agree on very specific objectives," he said.

M23 said this month that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was trying to engage it in direct talks with Congo, although Congo has denied that and said it had not dropped its refusal to negotiate with the insurgents.

Kiyingi said Uganda would stop its mediation role even if the United Nations did not endorse the accusations but still imposed sanctions on M23 leaders.

"We cannot try to bring two parties to the table to talk when one is under sanctions and the other is not," he said.


Ivory Coast Tightens Security After Overnight Attacks

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Ivory Coast's government said it is reinforcing security after thwarting what authorities said appeared to have been coordinated attacks, Sunday night and early Monday, on military and police installations and a power plant in and around the commercial capital, Abidjan.

Unidentified gunmen clashed with Ivorian security forces late Sunday night in the southeastern town of Bouana, just 60 kilometers outside Abidjan, as they tried to steal weapons from police and military stations. A few hours later, gunmen dressed in military uniforms briefly seized control of the Azito electricity plant in Abidjan, damaging one of its turbines.

Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi went on state television Monday night to reassure the population. The situation, he said, is now "under control."

He said they took nine individuals into custody in connection with the attacks: two civilian policemen, two military policemen, three sailors and two civilians. He said they wore military uniforms and were able to disarm the security forces standing guard at these facilities who mistook them for friends. He said the search continues and the government will be reinforcing security at "strategic sites."

There are several theories as to who and what are behind the wave of often deadly attacks that began in August.

Some said failed disarmament following two civil wars and ten years of de-facto division have fed criminality. Others point to discontented members of the security forces, in particular the new and still relatively disorganized national army that includes former rebel fighters who fought on behalf of current president Alassane Ouattara in last year's conflict.

The government blames the violence on loyalists of former president Laurent Gbagbo who lost a November 2010 presidential election but refused to step down, reigniting a civil war that killed 3,000 people.

Mr. Gbagbo's political party, now the lead opposition party, the Ivorian Popular Front, or FPI, says the government is using the violence as a pretext to mount a witch hunt against its opponents.

The party's number two, Laurent Akoun, is currently serving a six-month prison sentence for "disruption of public order" for reportedly calling for civil unrest during a public meeting.

The party's interim Secretary-General, Dr. Kodjo Richard, said arrests of its members are aimed at intimidating and weakening the party.

He said the FPI is a political party, not a military force. He said they have always sought power through democratic means. He said what is going on in the country, the attacks on the military, have nothing to do with them.

However, several elite members of the Gbagbo camp fled into neighboring countries after the conflict, primarily to Ghana. Those pro-Gbagbo exiles are accused of hiring mercenaries, funding deadly cross-border raids against civilians in western Ivory Coast and masterminding a plot to overthrow the Ouattara government.

Ivory Coast only recently re-opened its land border with Ghana after shutting it down for two weeks following raids that it said had been launched from Ghanian soil.

Analysts said it is unlikely that diehard Gbagbo supporters, in exile currently, have the means to actually topple the Ouattara government by force.

However, analysts also said that the ongoing attacks, as well as subsequent accusations and government crackdowns, are undermining efforts to repair years of division.

Dialogue between the government and the opposition has repeatedly stalled out. So far, only members of the Gbagbo camp have been arrested and charged for war crimes and abuses reportedly committed by both sides during the conflict. The Ouattara government is repeatedly accused of "victor's justice."

The United Nations special envoy to Ivory Coast on human rights, Doudou Diene, said an end to impunity, as well as support for political diversity, are fundamental to restoring security.

He said Ivory Coast has already lived the consequences of its deep political divisions. He said political parties must be able to express themselves within a legal, democratic framework to avoid being tempted to resort to other, less than legal, means.


French president Hollande arrives in Senegal, 5 yrs after predecessor’s controversial speech

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French President Francois Hollande will attempt to make right France's relationship with Africa on his first visit to the continent on Friday, beginning with a stop in Senegal, the seat of France's former colonial empire.

It is here five years ago that Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, said the African man had "not yet entered history," in a speech that was viewed as deeply insulting to many on the continent.

The 58-year-old Hollande, who defeated Sarkozy in May, vowed on the eve of his departure "to write a new page in France's relations with Africa." However, he also said in the interview broadcast on French television and radio that he "is not coming to make a speech which will erase a precedent."

Analysts say he chose Senegal for his first visit to the continent due to the country's democratic credentials, and also because Senegal is expected to play a central role in the planned military intervention in neighboring Mali to flush out the Islamic extremists controlling north Mali. For the Senegalese though, what is front and center is the memory of Sarkozy's 2007 speech.

Africans were seething for weeks after the speech in which he said: "The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has not fully entered into history ... They have never really launched themselves into the future," Sarkozy said. "The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures."

People attending his remarks, which were delivered at Dakar's largest public university, were so insulted that some walked out in a huff.

"Sarkozy came with contempt and with scorn. Hollande is coming to clean up," says Yero Dia, a political analyst who is a frequent commentator on TV debate shows in Senegal. "But for me it's not about Sarkozy, nor about Hollande. It's about us, Africans. It's like the horse and the rider. Whether it's Mitterand, or Chirac, or Sarkozy or Hollande, what remains constant is the system. ... and nothing will change until Africans stop behaving like the horse and letting France be their rider."

Senegal was once the seat of the French empire in West Africa. The country won its independence from France in 1960, but maintains close ties with France.

Hollande will be in Dakar all day on Friday, where he will meet newly elected President Macky Sall, as well as deliver a speech at the National Assembly. In a departure from his predecessor, he will also visit Goree Island, off the coast of the capital, where slaves were boarded onto ships and sent to America. The visit to the slave museum is a symbolic gesture, underscoring Hollande's understanding of the difficult history that Africans have endured.

He is set to leave Friday night for Congo, where he will attend the Francophonie summit in the capital, Kinshasa.

On newsstands throughout Dakar, Senegal's lively independent press reminded Hollande of his predecessor's gaffe. "Be Frank with Us Hollande!" read the headline in Le Quotidien, a play on words because the term "franc" in French, meaning "frank," sounds like the president's first name, Francois. Walfadjiri, another newspaper, calls for "A new page."

The Washington Post

Rwanda: Gabon President Visits

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Odimba and the First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba are expected in Rwanda today for a two-day official visit aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries, particularly in the areas of trade and commerce.

Gabon wants to look closely at Rwanda's experience with the introduction of bilingualism Rwanda held a trade fair in Gabon last year, and the national carrier, Rwandair flies to Libreville four times a week. Later in the day, President Bongo will be hosted to a state banquette by President Kagame, and the two Heads of State are expected to hold talks at Village Urugwiro tomorrow.

Earlier this week, Gabon, announced plans to include English among its official languages to help build a more competitive workforce.

Rwanda, made English one of its official languages, alongside Kinyarwanda and French, and has since made it the official language of instruction in schools.

"Gabon wants to look closely at Rwanda's experience with the introduction of bilingualism," said Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nzesai, an aide to the Gabonese President. "Rwanda used to be a French-speaking country and part of the Francophonie (French-speaking international community)."


Mozambique and Seychelles suppress entry visas

According to a press release from the Mozambican Foreign Ministry, the agreement is intended to promote trade and economic development and facilitate the circulation of citizens between the two countries.

The agreement was signed at the Mozambican embassy in the United Nations by Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi and his Seychelles counterpart, Jean-Paul Adam.

Mozambique and Seychelles are both members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and this agreement is the latest step in the SADC drive to ensure visa-free travel between all members of the regional bloc.

Now the only SADC members with which Mozambique does not yet have a visa waiver agreement are Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar (which is still suspended from SADC, following the 2009 coup d'etat).

The Zimbabwean