- Title: VARIOUS: AFRICA YEARENDER/. REVIEW OF THE YEAR: Top African news stories of 2007
- Date: 29th December 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF AFRICAN UNION PEACEKEEPERS DURING MEMORIAL SERVICE
- Embargoed: 13th January 2008 12:00
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6I9J2S8ZCIM1IP7D0L5841ZUU
- Story Text: For many Ivorians, 2007 will be remembered as a year of peace. In March, the government and rebels signed an agreement to end all hostilities and reunite Ivory Coast.
"The country is in the process of being reunified. The war is over. Dear friends, dear compatriots, the war is over. The war is over," Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo announced.
A failed coup by Guillaume Soro and his New Forces movement in 2002 had divided the country in two. The government and rebels each controlled one half. The Zone of Confidence, a 600 kilometre buffer patrolled by international peacekeepers was later set up in the middle to keep the warring sides away from each other.
Under the peace agreement former rebel leader Guillaume Soro became President Laurent Gbagbo's prime minister. They are currently still involved in negotiations but are already putting some of the peace plan into action.
In the former rebel stronghold of Bouake the two men symbolically set fire to this pile of weapons. Government troops and rebels are to start disarming by the end of the year and the country plans to hold elections by mid 2008.
In Uganda, the Lords Resistance Army or LRA made a milestone visit to the north of the country. Many here couldn't believe that the rebels notorious for brutal night attacks were here in broad daylight, and this time to ask for forgiveness.
"Killings happened, mistakes were made but I beg you not to look at the past, let us correct the mistakes we made so that nothing like that ever happens again," the head of the LRA delegation, Martin Ojul said.
Since 1986 the LRA, led by Joseph Kony have killed, raped, maimed and abducted thousands in northern Uganda in order to overthrow president Yoweri Museveni's government. About 2 million had to flee their homes to live in camps protected by Uganda's army.
Forgiving the LRA seems impossible, especially for its victims. There are mixed feelings about the issue in northern Uganda with some proposing traditional courts or Mato'oput to deal with them.
"I know that if we punish them it will only lead us into a vicious cycle of violence and tomorrow the LRA will want to retaliate. So its better to use our own system to sort out the problems that we have. If our leaders sit down then they can agree on some form of compensation as done traditionally and definitely there will be peace," Charles Oryema, a northern Uganda resident said.
"If possible I want Kony to get arrested together with his commanders, because these people committed many atrocities. After this is done we can go home knowing that nothing will happen to us. But now even if we go back with home our children they can be abducted and killed, it means we have not gone back home as we shall still keep suffering," Hellen Orach, another resident said.
The LRA have been negotiating peace with the government for over a year now and even came to Kampala this year. However, analysts say the talks may be at risk because of internal wrangles in the group and reports that Kony assassinated his deputy Vincent Otti who was a key negotiator in the process.
Clashes broke out in north Kivu in the east of the DRC between rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda, who until then had been integrated in the army, and the government.
"The solution is reintegration in the army. I will not allow anyone, individual or community to have their own militia. They're saying "my community is threatened so I need a militia", so how many militias would we need? 250, because we have 250 tribes. Our position is very firm. Either you re-integrate the national army, or you demobilize," said the President of D.R. Congo, Joseph Kabila.
Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his Eastern Congo Tutsi people.
He accuses president Kabila of supporting the FDLR Rwandan Hutus who had been hiding in the DRC since executing Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Another reason for the power struggle is that North Kivu is rich in diamonds and coltan.
The fighting is ongoing and humanitarian organizations estimate that thousands have fled as a result.
Somalia's capital Mogadishu experienced the worst fighting this year since its last stable government was overthrown in 1991.
Government troops backed by Ethiopian forces regularly battled Islamist-led insurgents. The Islamists had previously ruled the country but were ousted by a United States and Ethiopian backed offensive. The United nations says nearly half a million people have fled Mogadishu since the violence began in February.
The African Union had promised Somalia 8,000 peacekeepers but only 1,600 troops from Uganda and about 200 from Burundi are in the country. They have also become targets.
African Union Peacekeepers were also under attack in Sudan's Darfur region. Ten AU soldiers were killed during this incident in the town of Haskanita. Since 2003 there has been fighting in the region between Sudan's government and rebels.
It started after the state mobilized tribal militias to suppress a revolt by mostly non-arab fighters. The rebels accuse the Khartoum based government of marginalizing Darfur's people. International experts estimate that so far about 200,000 have been killed here and around 2 million displaced.
A force of 26,000 AU and UN peacekeepers is expected in Darfur by early next year. While the administration met with rebels to negotiate peace in Darfur, the Sudan's People Liberation Movement former rebels who now govern the south walked out of a coalition government.
They blame the north for not honouring the agreement they signed in 2005 to end 20 years of war between the north and south. Yesterday, they officially returned to the unity government after lengthy negotiations with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
To get away from the trouble at home many Zimbaweans risked their lives this year. Analysts estimate that as many as 5,000 Zimbabweans enter South Africa illegally everyday.
"Okay why are you crossing to South Africa?" a Reuters reporter asked.
"I want to go and look for a job in South Africa," an unidentified Zimbabwean man answered.
"Tell me about the situation, what's happening in Zimbabwe at the moment?" the Reuters reporter asked.
"In Zimbabwe things are becoming so tough, especially for the food," the unidentified Zimbabwean man replied.
By September 2007 Zimbabwe's inflation rate had reached 8,000 percent.
In order to control the sky rocketing prices of goods and services, the government ordered companies to cut them in half. The result was a severe food shortage, many shops couldn't afford to stock up and operate at a loss.
Unemployment is at its highest here and people often go hungry.
Critics blame president Robert Mugabe for the country's troubles. In the year 2,000, he kicked out white commercial farmers who grew enough food to feed the country. The black farmers who replaced them aren't producing enough.
Meanwhile the country is shackled by economic sanctions.
And finally, the past 12 months may have been collectively called 2007 by the rest of Africa and the world, but according to Ethiopia's calendar the year 2,000 only began this September. For many, the celebrations that took place in Ethiopia as the country ushered in the new millennium, are some of the most memorable moments of 2007.
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