Egypt Independent: World-Main news http://www.egyptindependent.com//enhome_channel/World/rss.xml en Liberia struggles with violence along insecure Ivory Coast border http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2450715 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2015/05/24/501010/liberia_05-24-15.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>In February last year a gang of men with machetes ambushed two villages in western Ivory Coast, disembowelling a soldier and pulling out most of his organs before slaying three of his colleagues.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The attack marked the brutal resumption of a campaign of violence blamed on militants crossing from Liberia that has displaced thousands and claimed dozens of lives in the border area.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Experts have warned that the violence could intensify in the months ahead of presidential elections due to take place in Ivory Coast in October.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The crisis was ignited by former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo&#39;s refusal to accept election defeat to Alassane Ouattara in 2010, leading to a four-month conflict that claimed some 3,000 lives.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thousands of Gbagbo&#39;s supporters fled the far west, which was hit particularly hard, across the 700-km (435-mile) border into neighboring Liberia when he was captured in April 2011.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Observers say the pro-Gbagbo political elites, now mostly in Ghana or elsewhere in west Africa, are funding incursions into western Ivory Coast by Liberian mercenaries and Ivorians recruited in Liberia&#39;s refugee camps.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The cross-border violence saw a significant spike in 2012 that saw more than 40 people killed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the worst incident, seven United Nations troops from Niger, 10 civilians and at least one Ivorian soldier were killed while patrolling villages south of the town of Tai.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thirteen Liberian nationals were jailed for life but critics dismissed the trial as a witch hunt against the Krahn -- the ethnicity of former president Samuel Doe who was assassinated in 1990, sparking 14 years of civil war.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oldman James, a Liberian living in Zwedru, a provincial capital near the border, claims to have taken part in the ambush but says he has never been pursued.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Harassed, killed and raped&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;To be frank with you there are so many reasons why we took part in these attacks,&quot; the 32-year-old, using an assumed name to protect his identity, told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;First and foremost, our brothers and sisters from the other side of the river were being harassed, killed and raped by Alassane forces. We could not sit and watch this go on.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He added that he had also been motivated by money, although he did not say who had paid him to take part.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN Panel of Experts on Liberia voiced concerns in November last year that Liberian refugee camps were operating as &quot;safe havens and convenient recruiting and staging grounds for cross-border attacks&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Meanwhile British charity Conciliation Resources, which has been working in the region since 2007, said in a recent report there was &quot;real concern&quot; that plans for UN troop withdrawals on both sides would create a security vacuum.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The region risks a &quot;spike in violence&quot; ahead of the election, the charity said, describing communities on the border as living &quot;in a persistent state of fear, especially at night, as rumors of attacks keep increasing&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An attack on Ivorian troops in January by 20 armed men which left two soldiers dead in the border town of Grabo underlined that the violence shows no sign of abating.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Jobless ex-combatants</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Accusations of the involvement of Gbagbo supporters were dismissed as &quot;baseless&quot; by Pascal Affi N&#39;Guessan, the president of the former president&#39;s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It would surprise me if FPI leaders, who have enough problems getting by themselves, have been able to finance attacks. These comments are insulting, contrary to the philosophy of the FPI,&quot; he told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But UN investigators say Ivorian and Liberian insurgents have consistently named high-ranking members of the former Gbagbo regime as being politically or financially involved in the militant activity.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN views the unrest in the wider context of a regional issue arising from Liberia&#39;s two civil wars, which left thousands of former combatants jobless in the mineral-rich forests at its borders.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Many scrape a living on illegal gold mining and drugs and weapons trafficking, launching cross-border attacks to protect their own interests as much as at the behest of foreign powers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Underlining the scope of the problem, around 50 Liberian former combatants led a series of ambushes on rangers in Sierra Leone&#39;s gold-rich Gola Forest in 2013, armed with shotguns and assault rifles.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Meanwhile violence that left at least 55 wounded in the southern Guinean city of N&#39;Zerekore last year was blamed on former rebels who have flooded into the city from Liberia and Sierra Leone.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Peter Solo, a senior local government official in Liberia&#39;s southeastern Grand Gedeh County, describes the Ivorian border, formed mainly by the Cavalla River, as &quot;completely porous&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He rejects evidence that attacks in Ivory Coast are being launched from across the border, however, and told AFP there had been &quot;no direct threat from Liberia&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An officer at a border checkpoint said any solution to the unrest would have to involve Ivory Coast giving assurances to the ex-Gbagbo loyalists that they could return without fear of recriminations.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Village chiefs from both sides have been in talks but the process has been criticized by Liberian security officials for excluding border agents on the ground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;When they get through drinking their wine and champagne, they come and ask us how the situation is,&quot; a Liberian security source told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;That is not the way to solve the problem. Those who are actively working in the field should be involved.&quot;</div> Sun, 24 May 2015 12:13:00 +0000 AFP 2450715 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2015/05/24/501010/liberia_05-24-15.jpg Liberia struggles with violence along insecure Ivory Coast border http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2450716 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2015/05/24/501010/liberia_05-24-15.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>In February last year a gang of men with machetes ambushed two villages in western Ivory Coast, disembowelling a soldier and pulling out most of his organs before slaying three of his colleagues.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The attack marked the brutal resumption of a campaign of violence blamed on militants crossing from Liberia that has displaced thousands and claimed dozens of lives in the border area.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Experts have warned that the violence could intensify in the months ahead of presidential elections due to take place in Ivory Coast in October.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The crisis was ignited by former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo&#39;s refusal to accept election defeat to Alassane Ouattara in 2010, leading to a four-month conflict that claimed some 3,000 lives.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thousands of Gbagbo&#39;s supporters fled the far west, which was hit particularly hard, across the 700-km (435-mile) border into neighboring Liberia when he was captured in April 2011.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Observers say the pro-Gbagbo political elites, now mostly in Ghana or elsewhere in west Africa, are funding incursions into western Ivory Coast by Liberian mercenaries and Ivorians recruited in Liberia&#39;s refugee camps.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The cross-border violence saw a significant spike in 2012 that saw more than 40 people killed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the worst incident, seven United Nations troops from Niger, 10 civilians and at least one Ivorian soldier were killed while patrolling villages south of the town of Tai.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thirteen Liberian nationals were jailed for life but critics dismissed the trial as a witch hunt against the Krahn -- the ethnicity of former president Samuel Doe who was assassinated in 1990, sparking 14 years of civil war.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oldman James, a Liberian living in Zwedru, a provincial capital near the border, claims to have taken part in the ambush but says he has never been pursued.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Harassed, killed and raped&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;To be frank with you there are so many reasons why we took part in these attacks,&quot; the 32-year-old, using an assumed name to protect his identity, told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;First and foremost, our brothers and sisters from the other side of the river were being harassed, killed and raped by Alassane forces. We could not sit and watch this go on.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He added that he had also been motivated by money, although he did not say who had paid him to take part.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN Panel of Experts on Liberia voiced concerns in November last year that Liberian refugee camps were operating as &quot;safe havens and convenient recruiting and staging grounds for cross-border attacks&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Meanwhile British charity Conciliation Resources, which has been working in the region since 2007, said in a recent report there was &quot;real concern&quot; that plans for UN troop withdrawals on both sides would create a security vacuum.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The region risks a &quot;spike in violence&quot; ahead of the election, the charity said, describing communities on the border as living &quot;in a persistent state of fear, especially at night, as rumors of attacks keep increasing&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An attack on Ivorian troops in January by 20 armed men which left two soldiers dead in the border town of Grabo underlined that the violence shows no sign of abating.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Jobless ex-combatants</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Accusations of the involvement of Gbagbo supporters were dismissed as &quot;baseless&quot; by Pascal Affi N&#39;Guessan, the president of the former president&#39;s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It would surprise me if FPI leaders, who have enough problems getting by themselves, have been able to finance attacks. These comments are insulting, contrary to the philosophy of the FPI,&quot; he told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But UN investigators say Ivorian and Liberian insurgents have consistently named high-ranking members of the former Gbagbo regime as being politically or financially involved in the militant activity.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN views the unrest in the wider context of a regional issue arising from Liberia&#39;s two civil wars, which left thousands of former combatants jobless in the mineral-rich forests at its borders.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Many scrape a living on illegal gold mining and drugs and weapons trafficking, launching cross-border attacks to protect their own interests as much as at the behest of foreign powers.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Underlining the scope of the problem, around 50 Liberian former combatants led a series of ambushes on rangers in Sierra Leone&#39;s gold-rich Gola Forest in 2013, armed with shotguns and assault rifles.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Meanwhile violence that left at least 55 wounded in the southern Guinean city of N&#39;Zerekore last year was blamed on former rebels who have flooded into the city from Liberia and Sierra Leone.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Peter Solo, a senior local government official in Liberia&#39;s southeastern Grand Gedeh County, describes the Ivorian border, formed mainly by the Cavalla River, as &quot;completely porous&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He rejects evidence that attacks in Ivory Coast are being launched from across the border, however, and told AFP there had been &quot;no direct threat from Liberia&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An officer at a border checkpoint said any solution to the unrest would have to involve Ivory Coast giving assurances to the ex-Gbagbo loyalists that they could return without fear of recriminations.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Village chiefs from both sides have been in talks but the process has been criticized by Liberian security officials for excluding border agents on the ground.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;When they get through drinking their wine and champagne, they come and ask us how the situation is,&quot; a Liberian security source told AFP.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;That is not the way to solve the problem. Those who are actively working in the field should be involved.&quot;</div> Sun, 24 May 2015 11:52:00 +0000 AFP 2450716 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2015/05/24/501010/liberia_05-24-15.jpg Burundi activists suspend govt talks as opposition figure killed http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2450685 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2015/05/24/501010/burundi_05-24-15.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Activists in Burundi behind weeks of protests against against President Pierre Nkurunziza&#39;s controversial bid to seek a third term said Sunday they were suspending talks with the government after the murder of an opposition figure.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Condemning &quot;an awful act&quot;, activists said in a statement they were &quot;suspending participation in dialogue with the government&quot; after Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD), a small Burundian opposition party, was shot dead on Saturday.</div> Sun, 24 May 2015 08:42:00 +0000 AFP 2450685 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2015/05/24/501010/burundi_05-24-15.jpg War pushes South Sudan's economy to the brink http://www.egyptindependent.com//node/2450684 <img src="http://www.egyptindependent.com///sites/default/files/imagecache/media_thumbnail/photo/2015/05/24/501010/ssudan_05-24-15.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Soaring inflation and a likely currency collapse are adding to South Sudan&#39;s woes after 17 months of civil war characterized by brutal attacks on civilians.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The latest battles between government and rebel forces have centered on the country&#39;s last remaining functional oil fields.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oil dollars once accounted for over 90 percent of government revenue in the four-year old nation, which contains sub-Saharan Africa&#39;s third largest reserves -- making it one of the world&#39;s most oil-dependent economies.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Now, with the UN reporting over half of the country&#39;s 12 million people needing assistance and some areas on the brink of famine, South Sudan is also one of the most aid-dependent states.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fighting broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Amid reports of massacres, rape and the systematic destruction of towns, international sanctions have been repeatedly threatened.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Government forces last month attacked rebel positions in the northern state of Unity, where oil production halted last year, as well as in the eastern state of Jonglei.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last week rebels launched a major counter-attack, including an assault on Malakal, capital of northeastern Upper Nile state and the gateway to the country&#39;s last operating oil fields.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Now rebels say they are trying to capture Palouch, the processing point for all remaining oil production where crude is pumped northwards to Sudan. Its loss would be a crippling blow to an already struggling economy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Fear of &#39;regional war&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Palouch is the chokepoint of South Sudan&#39;s entire economy,&quot; said Luke Patey, author of &quot;The New Kings of Crude,&quot; a book on oil in Sudan and South Sudan.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If it was taken and production shut down, the rebels would be emboldened to either seek an outright military victory or use oil as leverage to negotiate a larger role in a future government.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>State television this week broadcast footage of fighting in Melut, some 35 km (20 miles) west of Palouch, showing intense battles as tanks backed by helicopter gunships -- believed to be from Uganda, which is a staunch ally of Kiir -- pounded rebels in the town.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Oil production has slumped by some 40 percent from around 240,000 barrels per day (bpd) before fighting began.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Officially, production is 165,000 bpd, although analysts suggest it could be as low as 130,000 bpd, although it continues to the main source of foreign income -- either as direct revenue or from loans based on future production.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Without the fields, South Sudan would lose its only significant source of income to fund its war.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Patey, who also works for the Danish Institute for International Studies, warned that the fall of Palouch could &quot;escalate a wider regional war&quot; drawing in Sudan -- which relies on pipeline transfer fees charged on southern oil for foreign exchange -- and Uganda, which has already sent troops to back Kiir.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Even ordinary South Sudanese living far from the frontlines are suffering from the war.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lauren Odeil, who heads a family of eight, says a 50-kilogram (110-lb) bag of flour has more than tripled in price this year, along with staples like beans, rice and cooking oil.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If the situation continues like this there are many people who will not eat,&quot; said Odeil, who works for an international aid organization.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As food prices soar, queues at stores are growing, with fuel shortages creating long lines of vehicles at filling stations. Public transport is limited.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The rise in prices is pushing our people to the edge,&quot; opposition leader Lam Akol said. &quot;People cannot anymore afford to buy the most basic food items and other daily needs.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On the black market South Sudan&#39;s pound is worth less than a fifth of the official government rate of three pounds to the dollar. Black marketeers trade it at 16 to one.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;People have doubled their prices, there is no control system as the dollar rate increases,&quot; said Wani Saki Michael, 27, who said he now eats just one meal a day.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Runaway inflation&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We are now suffering from runaway inflation... this wide gap between the two exchange rates has turned the dollar from means of exchange into a commodity,&quot; Akol said, claiming that some officials were exploiting the contrasting rates to pocket the difference.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ateny Wek Ateny, a presidential spokesman, said criticism of the government spending 40 percent of the budget on defense was &quot;uncalled for,&quot; and rejected Akol&#39;s warning.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;They should realize that the country is in war, and it has coincided with the global drop in the price of the oil,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The economy is not collapsing. These are the wishes of a hyena -- if Lam Akol is wishing for the collapse of South Sudan economy he will have to wait for a very long time,&quot; said Ateny.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Certainly, not everyone is suffering. The war economy in Juba has seen some actors reap healthy earnings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There is always a need for certain goods,&quot; said a Lebanese businessman specializing in &quot;logistics&quot; who declined to be named.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sitting at a rooftop bar in an upmarket Juba hotel sipping a cocktail made with imported vodka, the businessman looked out over the city, a mix of tower blocks and thatch huts. &quot;Profits are good,&quot; he said.</div> Sun, 24 May 2015 08:39:00 +0000 AFP 2450684 at http://www.egyptindependent.com sites/default/files/photo/2015/05/24/501010/ssudan_05-24-15.jpg