- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Crises in Africa

Conflicts from Central Africa to the Horn are threatening stability in a huge swath of the continent, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in three new reports.

The foreign-policy experts see conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire), Uganda and Sudan as threats to that region, while a Sudanese claim on territory in Eritrea could add more tension to a border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The brutal rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda are a major threat to peace efforts in Sudan and Congo because they cross borders with impunity and commit atrocities in all three countries, the ICG said. The rebels are blamed for the kidnapping of 20,000 children who were used as sex slaves or conscripts for the 20-year-old uprising against the Ugandan government.

“Peace processes in Sudan and the Congo are being disrupted as the LRA crosses borders without response from the U.N. Security Council; mediation efforts have stalled; and the International Criminal Court arrest warrants have gone unexecuted,” the ICG said in its report “A Strategy for Ending Northern Uganda’s Crisis.”

The court has issued warrants for LRA leaders.

The report said the new government of national unity in Sudan is cooperating with Uganda to hunt down LRA rebels given sanctuary by the previous Sudanese regime.

However, “there are credible reports that elements of the Sudanese military intelligence still aid them,” the ICG said.

The report urged Uganda, Sudan and Congo to cooperate in the fight against the LRA and to increase military forces to pursue the rebels across borders. It also called on the United Nations to recognize the threat posed by the LRA and impose sanctions on any official giving support to the rebels.

In a report titled “Katanga: The Congo’s Forgotten Crisis,” the ICG warned that conflicts in Katanga province threaten elections scheduled for March.

“Katanga is the heartland of national politics and the nation’s potentially richest province, but it has been ignored by the international community,” said Jason Stearns, an ICG senior analyst.

“Elections alone will not solve the problems of Katanga — impunity, corruption and violence are tightly linked and need to be tackled together.”

He cited three conflicts in the province, which has rich deposits of copper and cobalt. Disputes between northerners and southerners, between Katanga natives and other Congolese who have migrated to the province, and between the native AI-Mai militias and the national army all “set the state for a tense election,” Mr. Stearns said.

He called on the United Nations to send more peacekeepers to the province and urged international donors to tie their financial aid to government reforms.

In a third report, “Sudan: Saving Peace in the East,” the ICG warned of “disastrous humanitarian consequences” if tensions in eastern Sudan “escalate into a full-scale war.”

The government, which includes members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, has been concentrating its efforts on the conflict in the western Darfur region, where Muslim militias have been massacring black African farmers.

“Eastern Sudan is a powder keg,” said ICG analyst Matt Bryden. “A greater conflict is inevitable unless the parties come together to address Darfur and the East in a comprehensive way which gives negotiations continuity and consistency.”

The ICG also urged Sudan to drop its claim on Eritrean lands.

“Its efforts to recover territory along the Eritrean border will be all the most dangerous because Eritrea and Ethiopia are on the verge of renewing hostilities,” the report said.

“If fighting does break out again between the two large neighbors, eastern Sudan, where the humanitarian situation is in some ways worse than Darfur’s, would face a disastrous flood of refugees.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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