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What will the status of refugees in an East African Federation Be?

David Kigozi, Senior Program Officer, International Refugee RIghts Initiative

Published in the EACSOF Newsletter

The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Dr. Richard Sezibera, is reported to have said recently that the issuance of East African passports will kick off in November 2015. This is aimed at facilitating trade and movement of persons in the region. “Physical borders are being removed for regional integration but for some people it was still stuck in their minds,” the Secretary General was quoted as saying.

At the level of the African Union, there is also a renewed call for African countries to further open their borders. At the highest levels this year, there have been statements and commitments to speed up mobility and integration on the continent. Some of these have echoed the contents of a vision document issued in 2014, to “[i]ntroduce an African Passport, issued by Member States, capitalising on the global migration towards e-passports, and with the abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018.”

Read the full article here.

Between Hope and Skepticism: Congolese Await the Trial of Ntaganda

The following blog was originally posted on the International Justice Monitor website.

By Olivia Bueno

(2 September 2015) Today, September 2, the trial of Bosco Ntaganda began at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. This will be an important trial for the court in many ways and will be followed with particular interest both in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and in the rest of the sub-region because of the high profile nature of the perpetrator and because of the extent to which his story highlights regional engagement in the DRC.

Born in Rwanda, Ntaganda fled to the DRC as a teenager. He served as chief of military operations for the Union des Patriotes Congolais (UPC), the rebel group lead by Thomas Lubanga, from 2002 to 2005. Later he went on to fight with a number of other rebel groups including the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) and the March 23 Movement (M23), before becoming a general in Congo’s national army following the peace deal signed between the Congolese government and the CNDP.

Read the full blog here.


New efforts to ensure justice for Chebeya in Senegal

Posted on August 25, 2015 by Olivia Bueno

Five years after the death of Congolese human rights activist, Floribert Chebeya and the disappearance of his colleague Fidèle Bazana shook the Congolese human rights community, the fight for justice continues. Although eight people have been found in connection with the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), activists argue that the truth is still not known and the fact that the alleged architect of the crime, General John Numbi, the then chief of police, has not been charged. Now, there is new hope that the full story will come to light.

Lawyers for the families of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana, supported by the international human rights organization the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) lodged a complaint before the Senegalese justice against Paul Mwilambwe, one of those found guilty in absentia in the Chebeya case in the DRC.

Chebeya, executive director of the NGO la Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), was found dead in his car on 2 June 2010 and Fidèle Bazana, his close collaborator remains missing. The day before, the two human rights defenders were called to the Directorate of National Police to meet Inspector General John Numbi. The case sparked intense international pressure and the Congolese government was obliged to open an investigation which led to the dismissal of Numbi.

Read the full blog.


Reconsidering Lubanga’s Sentence: Views from Ituri

Posted on August 24, 2015 by Olivia Bueno

The following blog was originally posted on the International Justice Monitor website.

On August 21, 2015, the International Criminal Court (ICC) heard arguments about whether or not to release Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be convicted by the court. As required under Article 110 of the Rome Statute, the ICC will review Lubanga’s sentence now that two-thirds of it has been served. The prospect of Lubanga’s release has been met with reactions ranging from despair and frustration to satisfaction, depending on who you ask.

As this is the first hearing of its kind at the ICC, it is difficult to predict what the ICC will decide. Among the key issues informing the decision will be whether or not Lubanga has demonstrated good behavior, whether he has expressed remorse or taken action on behalf of victims, as well as the likely impact of his release on the community. (For a fuller discussion of the legal issues involved, see “Will ICC Judges Grant Lubanga Early Release?”.)

Read the full blog.


#R2P10: The Burundi crisis and the risk of regionalisation

Posted on June 4, 2015 by Lucy Hovil

The following blog was originally posted on the ICRtoP website.

Much hope was pinned to the summit of East African Community (EAC) heads of state on 31 May in Dar es Salaam to discuss the situation in Burundi that has evolved since President Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third term. The potential impact of this meeting was lessened by the fact that Nkurunziza, not surprisingly, did not attend: the last time he left the country, there was an attempted coup.

Previous experience in the region has shown that the destiny of each of the region’s countries is deeply intertwined with that of its neighbours. The approach of the EAC is an important example of the role that regional institutions can play in implementing the responsibility to protect. As noted by the Secretary-General noted in his 2011 report on The Role of Regional and Sub-Regional arrangements in Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, those that “are closer to the events on the ground may have access to more detailed information, may have a more nuanced understanding of the history and culture, may be more directly affected by the consequences of action taken or not taken, and may be critical to the implementation of decisions” at the global level.

Read the full blog.


Burundi: no business as usual

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Lucy Hovil

If ever evidence was needed to show that the transition from conflict to sustainable peace is a long, hard road, recent events in Burundi have demonstrated it.

The announcement on 23 April 2015 by President Nkurunziza that he would run for a third term sparked fierce opposition. Although Burundi’s constitution contains a two term limit, Nkurunziza argues, and the Constitutional Court agreed (albeit reportedly under pressure) that his first term does not count because he was appointed by parliament rather than in a general election. Serious protests then rocked the capital Bujumbura, with increasing reports of violence between government forces and protesters. Such reports would have been worrying in any country, but were particularly concerning in Burundi, a country with a long history of mass violence that has been negotiating a protracted and painful transition to peace since the signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in August 2000.

Read the full blog.


“Suicidal for the nation”: an interview with a Burundian politician in hiding

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Lucy Hovil

This blog first appeared on African Arguments: read original blog here.

Recent events in Burundi have brought the small nation to international attention, even if action remains wanting. The announcement on 23 April by President Nkurunziza that he would run for a third term has sparked fierce opposition. Although Burundi’s constitution contains a two term limit, Nkurunziza argues, and the Constitutional Court agreed (albeit reportedly under pressure) that his first term does not count because he was appointed by parliament rather than in a general election. Serious protests have rocked the capital Bujumbura, where there are increasing reports of violence between government forces and protesters. Such reports would be worrying in any country. But they are particularly concerning in Burundi, a country with a long history of mass violence that has been negotiating a protracted and painful transition to peace since the signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in August 2000. With opponents claiming that Nkurunziza is undermining the Arusha Agreement, the next few weeks are likely to be decisive in determining whether the country will remain on the trajectory towards peace or return to conflict.

Read the full blog.


The government of Sudan, the bombing of civilians, and the silence of the international community

Posted on April 21, 2015 by Lucy Hovil

The following blog was originally posted on the IntLawGrrls website.

The recent elections in Sudan call into question the legitimacy of the government soon to be re-elected. Even if the elections had been free and fair (which they have not), the government’s legitimacy would be challenged unequivocally by the fact that the very same government currently being re-elected into power is authorising the continual and systematic bombardment of civilians who are technically part of its polity.

On average, the Sudanese government has dropped three bombs a day on rebel held territory in its Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States since April 2012. The impact of this bombing campaign on those living in the area has been devastating. Not only do the bombs often kill or maim civilians, but they also coincide disproportionately with planting and harvesting cycles, as well as market days, suggesting a deliberate strategy to decimate livelihoods. Yet despite the disruption to the local economy, the government of Sudan refuses to allow humanitarian access to these areas, citing fears that aid would be used to support rebel fighters.

Read the full blog.


Ongwen and the ICC: talking justice in Uganda

Posted on February 10, 2015 by Lucy Hovil

The following blog was originally posted on the African Arguments website.

The relationship between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and African civil society is certainly an interesting one. On the one hand, the proliferation of conflict on the continent has led to an ever increasing deficit in justice, and the ICC is seen by some as a crucial component in filling this hole. On the other, many actors have expressed concern about the prominence accorded to the ICC: some have accused it of being another form of neo-colonial domination; others have expressed concern about its detrimental impact on domestic peace processes or wider justice efforts, especially in the context of inadequate understanding of local contexts; while others have criticised it for failing to protect those who collaborate with it or address the needs of victim communities.

Meanwhile, the water around those with legitimate concerns and critiques has become increasingly muddied by attacks on the court by those in positions of power who see rubbishing accountability as key to their survival. While these differences of opinion have sometimes led to constructive debate, with local and international civil society genuinely seeking to find the right paths forward, they have also – possibly more frequently – led to an acrimonious stand-off. Too often, raising concerns about how the ICC is doing its job has been equated with favouring impunity.

Read the full blog.