South Sudan military warns it will retaliate against rebel group


August 25, 20202 Minutes

South Sudan’s military said on Monday it will retaliate against the attacks by the militia group, the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by renegade general Thomas Cirilo which previously opted out of the 2018 revitalized peace deal.

Lul Ruai Koang, military spokesperson warned that they are ready to retaliate against NAS in case of continued attacks on their positions and on civilians.

“South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) reaffirms commitment to the Rome declaration, but reserves the right to respond with deadly force in self-defense and that of civilians and their properties,” Koang said in a statement issued in Juba.

NAS refused to sign the revitalized peace deal to end the more than five years of conflict, since the outbreak in December 2013, as it called for renegotiation of the peace pact to include a federal system of governance.

This came following last week’s deadly ambush by the rebel group on the convoy of James Wani Igga, second vice president, which left six of his bodyguards killed.

NAS, a rebel group fighting against the government in Central and Western Equatoria State recently claimed responsibility for the attack that took place at Lobonok, which is the home area of the second VP located on the outskirts of the capital.

Koang also blamed NAS for the Aug. 7 attack on a local gold mine, which left nine civilians killed.

He called on the ceasefire monitors to investigate violations.

The government on Jan. 13 inked a peace deal dubbed the “Rome Declaration” in Rome, with the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA), a coalition of opposition groups that did not sign the 2018 peace agreement.

NAS is part of SSOMA but its persistent attacks on government troops have meant violation of the Cessation of Hostilities under the Rome Declaration.

The revitalized peace deal was inked in Ethiopia in September 2018 between the government and the main opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)-In-Opposition led by now First Vice President Riek Machar.

Under the ten-point statement dubbed the Rome declaration, the parties reaffirmed their commitment to cease hostilities and continue to dialogue.

Communique of the 941st meeting of the PSC held on 19 August 2020 on the situation in Mali


August 25, 20209 Minutes

Adopted by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), at its 941st meeting held on 19 August 2020, on the situation in Mali,

The Peace and Security Council

Taking note of the opening remarks made by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Djibouti to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC, on stand-by, for the month of August 2020, Ambassador Mohamed Idriss Farah, as well as the briefing made by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, the remarks by the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma and the remarks made by the AU High Representative for Mali and Sahel, H.E. President Pierre Buyoya; also taking note of the statements made by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mali to the African Union, H.E. Ambassador Fafre Camara and the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Niger to the African Union, in its capacity as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), H.E. Ambassador Zakariaou Maiga;

Taking further note of the Statement of the Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, of 19 August 2020, condemning the unconstitutional change of government in Mali and calling for the immediate release of the detained President of the Republic of Mali, H.E. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, as well as the Prime Minister, H.E. Boubou Cissé and other Members of the Government of Mali; also taking note of the Statement issued by the Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, on the situation in the Republic of Mali, of 18 August 2020, in which he strongly condemned the forced detention of the President of Mali, the Prime Minister, and other members of the Malian Government and called for their immediate release;

Recalling its previous communiques and press statements on the situation in Mali and in the Sahel region, in particular communiques [PSC/PR//COMM. (CMXXXIV)]; [PSC/PR/COMM. (CMXX)] [PSC/PR/COMM.(DCCCLXIII)]; [PSC/PR/COMM.(DCCCXXXIX)], [PSC/PR/COMM.(DCCLIX)] and [PSC/PR/COMM.(DCLXXIX)] adopted during its 934th, 920th, 863rd, 839th, 759th and 679th meetings held, respectively, on 29 June 2020; 21 April 2020, 25 July 2019, 9 April 2019, 23 March 2018 and 13 April 2017;

Reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the AU to respect the sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of Mali, as well as AU’s solidarity with the people and Government of Mali;

Deeply concerned about the evolving situation in Mali, which culminated in the unconstitutional change of the elected Government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, on 18 August 2020, in violation of the Constitution of Mali, the AU Constitutive Act and the African Charter on Elections, Democracy and Governance;

Reaffirming the imperative for the conduct of credible elections in Member States as the only source of legitimate state authority, to fully comply with AU instruments, particularly the African Charter on Elections, Democracy and Governance;

Mindful of the need for Malian stakeholders to uphold their commitment towards the full implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Mali emanating from the Algiers process, which is a viable framework for comprehensively addressing the plethora of socio-economic, governance, security and political challenges facing the country.

Acting under Article 7 of its Protocol, the Peace and Security Council,

1. Strongly condemns the unconstitutional change of Government in Mali, which took place on 18 August 2020, which further complicates the situation on the ground, particularly the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Mali emanating from the Algiers process, signed in 2015, as well as the current efforts in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime in the country;

2. Decides to immediately suspend the participation of the Republic of Mali in the activities of the AU until the restoration of normal constitutional order in the country, in line with the relevant AU instruments, particularly the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the 2000 Lomé Declaration on Unconstitutional Changes of Governments and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, as well as the Ezulwini Framework for the Enhancement of the Implementation of AU Measures in Situations of Unconstitutional Changes of Government (2009);

3. Underscores the urgent need for a rapid resolution of the current crisis based on respect for constitutional order and reflecting the aspirations of the people of Mali, within the framework of the relevant AU instruments; in this context, appeals to the Malian people to remain calm and to work together to resolve the crisis in their country;

4. Demands the Malian defence and security forces to respect the country’s Constitution, uphold their professionalism, stick to their constitutional mandate and to unconditionally return to the barracks, as well as to refrain from interfering in the country’s political processes; also demands the unconditional release of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister H.E. Boubou Cissé; further demands the defence and security forces to ensure creation of a conducive environment for an unimpeded return to civilian rule;

5. Encourages all Malian political actors to embrace dialogue and reconciliation, within the framework of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Mali, as the only viable approach for addressing the current challenges facing the country; also encourages them to continue to devote their efforts and goodwill in expediting the implementation of the provisions of the Agreement, in order to reach a lasting solution to the crisis prevailing in the country;

6. Commends and fully supports the ECOWAS for the sustained efforts being deployed in Mali, with a view to assisting the Malian stakeholders to find a consensual, peaceful and lasting solution to the current crisis in the country; and looks forward to the outcome of the Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government scheduled for 20 August 2020;

7. Encourages the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to continue supporting the Malian stakeholders, including in the implementation of the 2015 Agreement; also calls on partners to continue providing support to Mali;

8. Underscores the imperative for Africa Centres for Decease Control and Prevention to continue deploying its efforts in the fight against the novel corona Virus Disease pandemic, and in this context calls on it to take the necessary steps to ensure enhanced support to Mali to enable the country to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its population;

9. Requests the Chairperson of the Commission, working in close collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission, to deploy all necessary efforts in assisting the Malian political actors and stakeholders to expedite the process of restoring normal constitutional order in their country;

10. Also requests the Chairperson of the Commission to provide an update to Council, on the evolution of the situation in Mali, by 17 September 2020; and

11. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Religious Hate Crimes, Racist Discourse Rising amid COVID-19, Secretary-General Warns in Observance Message, Urging Greater Inclusion, Respect for Diversity


August 25, 20201 Minutes

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, observed on 22 August:

The right to freedom of religion or belief is firmly trenched in international human rights law and is a cornerstone for inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies.

Yet, across the world, we continue to witness deep-seated discrimination against religious minorities, attacks on people and religious sites, and hate crimes and atrocity crimes targeting populations simply because of their religion or belief. While societies have shown resilience and strength in the face of COVID-19, the pandemic has also been accompanied by a surge in stigma and racist discourse vilifying communities, spreading vile stereotypes and assigning blame.

As we commemorate the victims, we must do more to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination by promoting inclusion and respect for diversity. We must also ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable.

States have the primary responsibility to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief. I have also made this a priority through initiatives such as a Call to Action for Human Rights, a Strategy on Hate Speech and a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.

This extraordinary moment calls on all of us to work together as one human family to defeat a disease and put an end to hate and discrimination.

Mali coup: Military junta seeks transitional president


August 24, 20206 Minutes

Coup leaders in Mali say they are talking to opposition parties about appointing a transitional president, who could be civilian or military.

They arrested Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on Tuesday and forced him to resign, sparking global condemnation.

West African leaders have called for him to be reinstated and the UN says all those detained should be freed.

Mali has several jihadi groups in its northern deserts and there are fears they could take advantage of the coup.

They did so following the previous military takeover in 2012.

The coup leaders have promised to respect international agreements on fighting jihadists. Thousands of French, African and UN troops are based in the country to tackle the militants.

The opposition coalition, which had been campaigning for Mr Keïta to resign, has called for a rally on Friday to celebrate his departure.

In another development, an opposition leader kidnapped by militants in March ahead of disputed elections has written letters to his family, says the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is the first contact they have had since Soumaïla Cissé was seized in a case that shocked the country, reports the AFP news agency.

On Thursday, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said it would send envoys to ensure the return of constitutional order.

It also called for an “immediate build-up” of the Ecowas Standby Force, a multidisciplinary force of military, civilian and police personnel, which has intervened in previous crises in the region but always in far smaller countries than Mali.

There is an increased military presence outside government ministries in the capital, Bamako, but shops and businesses have reopened.

Mr Keïta won a second term in elections in 2018, but since June has faced huge street protests over corruption, mismanagement of the economy and disputed legislative elections.

There has also been anger among troops about pay and the conflict with jihadists, which has seen scores of soldiers killed in the past year.

What did the military leaders say?

“We are going to set in place a transitional council, with a transitional president who is going to be either military or civilian,” junta spokesman Col Ismaël Wagué told TV channel France 24.

“We are in contact with civil society, opposition parties, the majority, everyone, to try to set the transition in place.”

The transition will happen “as quick as possible”, he added. The junta has previously promised elections in a “reasonable time”. It also announced that Mali’s borders would reopen, from midnight on Friday.

What have world leaders said?

West African leaders called for Mr Keïta to be reinstated.

“Mali is in a critical situation, with serious risks that a collapse of the state and institutions leads to reversals in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, with every consequence for all our community,” the 15-member Ecowas said at the end of a video summit on Thursday.

The African Union earlier suspended Mali, saying military coups were “something of the past which we cannot accept anymore”.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that France and Germany condemned the coup and wanted the quickest possible transition to civilian rule.

France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, has several thousand troops based in Mali fighting Islamist militant groups and its Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted that this operation would continue.

Where is Mr Keïta now?

The United Nations mission in Mali says its human rights team has visited him, and other officials detained by the leaders of this week’s coup.

It says they are still being held at the Kati military camp outside the capital Bamako, where the coup began, but gave no further details.

The military says two detainees have been released – the finance minister and the former president’s private secretary – but that 17 prisoners are still being held.

Who are the coup leaders?

Col Assimi Goita, 37, has presented himself as leader of the new military junta, which is calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP).

Col Goita was the head of Mali’s special forces and led the operations against the 2015 jihadist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

He has reportedly received military training from France, Germany and the US, and took part in the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Other members of the junta include Col Malick Diaw, CNSP vice-president, and Col Wagué, the air force deputy chief of staff.

What does the opposition say?

One of the parties in the M5 opposition coalition, CMAS, said it would support the coup leader in “developing a roadmap” towards new elections and called for rallies on Friday “to celebrate the Malian people’s victory”.

After meeting the coup leaders, the head of Mali’s opposition M5 movement, conservative Imam Mahmoud Dicko, announced he would be withdrawing from politics. No reasons were given.

Mr Dicko was one of the key figures in the huge street protests calling for Mr Keïta to resign.