- Title: VARIOUS: YEARENDER 2008 CONFLICT: Conflict in Africa dominates headlines in 2008.
- Date: 31st December 2008
- Summary: FAMILIES AND CHILDREN RUNNING ALONG ROAD
- Embargoed: 15th January 2009 12:00
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVA2OG1D650WRPCRIJX2P5P4M7Y7
- Story Text: Africa seemed to dominate world news in 2008 and though there were several positive developments, many of the major stories revolved around the various conflicts raging across the continent.
These images shocked the world. Neighborhoods attacked and set alight by South Africans, targeting foreigners -- immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Somalia and Nigeria -- whom locals accused of stealing jobs and increasing crime levels.
42 people were killed, women were raped and many others seriously injured. 16,000 people were forced out of their homes and into temporary shelters. Others chose to leave the country altogether.
Immigrants make up a tenth of South Africa's 50 million people.
Zimbabweans are the most out of this number because of the economic crisis back home. Some South Africans say immigrants settle for little pay and ruin the job market for locals.
"Our country is taking food to your country and you are not bringing anything to us. You are also being chased away from your country, and we are also chasing you away so, the only thing you can do is cool down and work well with us," said this unidentified Johannesburg resident.
South Africa's government denied that the attacks were driven by xenophobia or the fear of foreigners. However it is not the first time that non-South Africans have been targeted here. From 2006, 40 Somalis have also been killed in Cape Town.
South Africa is currently trying to repair its tarnished image as it prepares to host the 2010 World Cup.
The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to make news this year as various factions battled for its control. Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda is a Congolese Tutsi who says he is protecting his community from Rwandan Hutu militias in the DRC.
Congo accuses Rwanda of backing Nkunda and Rwanda accuses Congo of supporting the Hutu rebels. A recent UN report says that both countries are guilty. This year Nkunda came close to taking the regional capital -- Goma.
"We'll be ready to only fight, and we will fight them because we have to fight for our freedom. And we will be over Goma, not only for Goma but over Goma," said Nkunda.
Over a million people have been displaced and despite having the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world, the troops' mandate doesn't allow them to interfere in the fighting. Peace talks have stalled and the troubles here look set to continue in 2009.
About 10,000 people have been killed in Somalia since Islamists began attacking Ethiopian-backed government troops in 2007. This year Somalia's former president Abdullahi Yusuf admitted that the insurgents have taken over most of the country and his government may soon collapse.
Yusuf resigned on Monday (December 29) ending a deadlock at the top of the interim government and paving the way for a new administration in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
The weak Western-backed interim government headed by Yusuf has failed to bring order and security to a country that has been torn by violence since a dictator was ousted in 1991.
Ethiopia also announced that it would withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end of the year. Though the African Union also has soldiers here, they are too few to make a difference. In Somalia's waters pirates continue to take advantage of the lawlessness to hijack foreign ships and demand million dollar ransoms.
Because of the ongoing conflict in western Darfur, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been asked to issue a warrant for the arrest and trial of Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir.
"Everybody everywhere knows that this is a plot against Sudan and they are targeting the Sudanese people and the resources our country has, and the stability in Sudan, but we don't care about all this and we are not worried because we read the Quran and God says that when people decide to come against you, if you have faith and believe, you should not fear anyone else but God," Bashir told supporters at a rally in Darfur.
Over 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003 when the government mobilised militias to suppress local rebel groups. Another two and a half million have been displaced, some into neighboring Chad.
Civilians here say that the militia attacking people in Darfur also cross the border to attack them.
"A plane came and bombed the town. Then Janjaweed rode in on their camels and the military came in vehicles and started shooting in the town.
Some people were killed, others were injured, but we were able to get out," said Ashua Osman Yusuf, a refugee.
The ICC has also issued an arrest warrant for Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. Kony refuses to sign a peace agreement with Uganda's government until the warrant is withdrawn. As a result Uganda, the DR Congo and southern Sudan have launched a military offensive against the LRA. But some rebels decided to leave the group this year, return home and seek traditional justice or Mato O'put.
This particular ritual is mandatory and prepares the rebels to face their victims. It also symbolises a fresh start. Opiyo Makasi was abducted when he was just 12 and served for 20 years.
"I have nothing much to say this day but I urge you brothers of mine, that we should embrace stepping on the egg and the stick, because this is another way of forgiveness. This will be an eye opener. Please my brothers and sisters, let us unite and forget the past," said Makasi.
But some people here say that taking the rebels back isn't easy.
"People accept to forgive them but sometimes their actions, when they come back into the community are bad. They misbehave, they steal, get drunk and fight, some will even tell you: 'Do you know me? do you know how many people I have killed? I can kill you.' It can make people regret why they forgive them," said Pamela Achieng, a Gulu resident.
Burundi's government and its remnant rebel group the FNL, signed a peace agreement towards the end of the year after violating a deal they had made in 2006.
The fighting started in 1993 after Burundi's Hutu president was killed by soldiers from the minority Tutsi community. The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) is one of two rebel groups that rose up against the army in a war that killed up to 300,000 people.
The leader of the other rebel group, the FDD (Forces pour la DÃ©fense de la Democratie) (Forces for the Defence of Democracy) was elected President in Burundi's last election; now, the FNL is set to join the government too.
It is a long-awaited and final step in the country's peace process, and as the year comes to a close, people here hope that Burundi's decades of conflict will finally become history.
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