AS MOZAMBICANS went to the polls, elsewhere in Africa politics was nasty and bloody. In a week marked by violence, rebels killed 26 people with machetes in an attack in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and went on a rape rampage.
In northern Mali, at least seven people were killed Thursday in clashes between rival armed Tuareg groups and their allies in northern Mali, several sources told AFP.
And in South Sudan, a UN official warned that end of the rainy season could re-ignite fierce fighting, swelling the numbers of the almost two million civilians who have fled the violence amid fears of a famine that could become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Against a background of a continuing deadly march of Ebola in West Africa, where the death toll pushed past 4,500 there was nothing that a normal – though now contested – election in Mozambique could do to remove the sense of a continent in crisis.
In DRC, as the massacres in Beni happened, authorities in the capital Kinshasa demanded the recall Thursday of the top UN human rights official in the country.
The Beni killings also called into question claims by the authorities that Ugandan rebels of the ADF-NALU, who have been terrorising the east of Congo for the last two decades, were all but defeated.
The Congolese government—which has been fighting the rebels alongside a contingent of UN peacekeepers—declared the UN’s top human rights official Scott Campbell “persona non grata”, after a UN report published Wednesday denounced rights violations by the police.
The bloody attack happened in the Ngadai area on the northern edge of Beni, a town of half a million people mostly from the Nande ethnic group, which is a major hub for wood destined for Uganda.
The rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda have committed numerous atrocities since they were chased into neighbouring Congo by the Ugandan army in the 1990s.
Lieutenant Colonel Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the DRC army in strife-torn North Kivu province, said that “26 people were killed with knives and machetes. I confirm that it was a terrorist attack by the ADF.”
Eric Katasomia, a journalist with Radio Television Rwanzururu (RTR), told AFP that he saw 24 bodies being taken away from the scene, among them several children and a soldier.
‘50 women raped’
The Congolese army, supported by UN peacekeepers from the MONUSCO stabilisation mission had dealt the rebels a series of severe blows earlier this year.
But the rebels have begun to recover, attacking isolated villages again, according to an NGO in Beni, a day’s drive from the regional capital Goma.
Nine people, including children, were killed at Oicha near Beni in an attack blamed on the ADF-NAL on October 10.
A UN source deplored Thursday the “return of atrocities against civilians, which as well as the latest killings was accompanied by the rape of more than 50 women in North Kivu and in neighbouring Orientale Province” in one week.
The source also condemned the “lack of attention” which the UN’s military force has given to the problem.
Since the death at the end of August of General Lucien Bahuma, who commanded the Congolese army in the region, “nothing has been done against the ADF-NALU”, an expert on the area, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
Led by Jamil Mukulu, a Christian who converted to Islam, the ADF-NALU has hidden out in the Ruwenzori mountains along the border with Uganda for nearly two decades.
After the rain, war
In neighbouring South Sudan, meanwhile, a senior UN official said the senior official who asked not to be named said; “The rainy season is ending and this could be the signal for a further surge in fighting.”
“The race for the control of the oil fields will surge,” he warned.
The official voiced disappointment after a new round of peace talks brokered by Ethiopia were put on hold on Sunday.
The talks, which have been repeatedly interrupted since they began in January, aim to find a lasting solution to the conflict that broke out on December 15 between factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president Riek Machar.
UN camps set up in South Sudan are filled with more than 100,000 civilians who have fled the violence amid fears of a famine.
Thousands of people have been killed and almost two million have fled more than nine months of fighting between government troops, mutinous soldiers and ragtag militia forces divided along tribal lines.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon organised a high-level meeting on South Sudan on the sidelines of the General Assembly last month, but Kiir failed to turn up.
The UN Security Council has threatened to slap sanctions on South Sudan leaders who are deemed as failing to support peace efforts in the country.
Bloody contest in the desert
In northern Mali, where nearly a dozen UN peacekeepers have been killed in recent months, an African military source from the MINUSMA UN mission in the country said “there were at least seven dead on both sides and several injured,” in the Thursday.
A health worker in N’Tilit said they had initially counted seven dead.
The fighting took place around 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Gao, the main town in northern Mali, and lasted more than six hours, according to the source.
The fighters were reportedly from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and a rival movement known by its French acronym GATIA.
The GATIA fighters drove the MNLA away and took over the town of N’Tilit, the military source said.
The MNLA is one of six northern armed groups taking part in peace talks, which started last July, with the Malian government in neighbouring Algeria.
The GATIA, created in August, was seeking to control a territorial base in order to join the negotiations, according to the military source.