Father of American citizen whose body was found in DRC with that of fellow UN peacemaker calls on US to honour their memory by ‘paying its UN dues’
Professor John Sharp said his son Michael was a “warm-hearted” man who would never have taken risks or been reckless. The 34-year-old from Indiana was found dead along with Zaida Catalan from Sweden. Their Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela and three motorbike drivers who were with them remain missing.
Part of the UN group of experts on Congo, Sharp and Catalan were investigating violence and alleged human rights violations by rebel militias when they were abducted on 12 March.
John Sharp said his family had last spoken to Michael just a few weeks before he went missing, as he was about to fly back to DRC after a trip home, to tell him he had become an uncle to a baby boy.
“We spoke to him at the time his younger sister had just given birth and as he was going back to the Congo from New York,” he said.
Sharp said his son, a Mennonite who embraced the “core conviction of peacemaking” that underpins his faith, would have taken all the necessary precautions in planning the fact-finding mission in and around Kananga, the country’s third largest city.
“Michael was meticulous, he followed protocol, he would have felt very responsible for the people working with him so he would have been doubly careful. Nothing about it would have been reckless.”
Sharp had been working in the country for five years and had joined the UN’s panel of experts following a stint with the Mennonite Central Committee in eastern Congo.
In his peace-building role for the religious organisation he became a leading expert on the armed group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.
Through church networks he built trust with commanders from the rebel group, negotiating the release of soldiers and offering them paths to repatriation and demobilisation.
Catalan, his colleague, had left a promising political career in Sweden to join the panel as a humanitarian expert.
Described by friends in Goma as having a “passionate commitment to the truth”, the 36-year-old had previously worked in Afghanistan and Palestine and had extensive experience of conflict resolution and working in hostile environments.
Sharp, a bible teacher in Kansas, admitted it had at times been hard accepting his son would always live in dangerous places, but added: “We always supported him in the choices he made and we were not about to say that because of our fears he should not fulfil his passion.”
Paying tribute to his son, he said: “He had a great sense of irony and humour, could be the centre of a party and was a great story-teller. We often marvelled at his intellectual capacity combined with a warm-hearted compassion.”
He warned that if provision were not made to continue the type of specialist work Michael and his colleagues undertook in the region “it would double the tragedy and the loss”.
“I just hope the tragedy of these deaths will not be compounded by a lack of resolve to continue the peace-building work that the UN has been doing there. Further, I would hope the US government would pay its UN dues so their work can continue.”
The Trump administration has vowed to “reduce or end funding for international organisations whose missions do not substantially advance US foreign policy interests”.
US cuts will fall hard on the DRC, adding pressure to President Joseph Kabila’s government, which is presiding over an an increasingly chaotic landscape. The DRC’s UN mission is among the leading recipients of foreign aid globally.
Parts of the country, particularly the east, have suffered insecurity for decades but violence in Kasai is a new expansion of tensions.
The conflict has escalated since last August, when security forces killed militia leader Kamwina Nsapu. Clashes between government groups and rebel forces have claimed 400 civilian lives and forced 434,000 people from their homes.
The mounting violence included the beheadings of more than 40 police officers whose bodies were found towards the end of last month. On Tuesday, 13 new mass graves were discovered in central Congo, bringing the total to 23.
It is believed the UN investigators planned to research the structural organisation of the relatively new militia group and investigate allegations about the use of child fighters.
They had met with local people, government and military officials in Kananga before heading south of the city on motorbikes as part of plans to meet the militia group. It was then, in Dibaya territory, they went missing.
After villagers discovered their bodies in shallow graves near a river, a government official reported: “The woman was beheaded.”
The UN has launched an inquiry into the killings as the search continues for the three other Congolese nationals.
The NGO community has been left shaken by the deaths. Michael Sharp’s friend Rachel Sweet, of the Congo Research Group, said the deaths were unprecedented.
She said sources in Kananga claimed it would be unusual for Kamwina-Nsapu to kidnap people in this way, adding that it is not yet clear who is responsible.
“We have no clear proof in any given direction so we must wait for answers from the investigations team,” she said.
She added: “Michael is someone who at this moment would remind us of peace and not vengeance as the solution. Both he and Zaida would be the first to situate their own deaths within the broader context of what is happening in Congo.
“They would want us to organise the same effort to understand the deaths of all the hundreds of Congolese who have been killed, even just in the past few weeks since their kidnapping.”
Angola – FAF, ANCAF Agree On Creation Of Football League
The meeting between the Angolan Football Federation (FAF) and the National Association of Angolan Football Clubs (ANCAF) was a historic moment for the future of Angolan football. The objective was to address the creation of a future club league, which would involve changing the current Basic Law of Sports. This change would require a strong collaboration between the FAF and ANCAF.
To achieve this goal, the participants agreed to form a technical group made up of members from both organizations. The group will be responsible for creating a schedule of consensual actions to present to the clubs. This schedule will help familiarize the clubs with the operating model of Girabola, which is the current top-tier league in Angola.
The creation of a future club league is an important step for the growth and development of Angolan football. The league will provide a platform for the country’s top clubs to compete against each other, and will raise the standard of play in the country. This, in turn, will help produce better players and improve the national team.
Moreover, the creation of a future club league will also help to increase the popularity of football in Angola. The league will attract fans and provide them with a platform to support their favorite teams. This will also help generate revenue for the clubs, which can be reinvested into the sport to improve facilities, infrastructure, and the quality of play.
The meeting between the FAF and ANCAF was a positive step forward for the future of Angolan football. The creation of a future club league is a major step in the development of the sport, and will help produce better players, attract fans, and generate revenue for the clubs. The technical group created by the FAF and ANCAF will play a key role in ensuring the success of this initiative, and the participants are confident that this will be a positive change for the sport in Angola.
East DR Congo – East African Community summit calls for immediate ceasefire
Regional heads of state from the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Rwanda have called for an immediate ceasefire amid growing tensions in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ceasefire call was issued in a communique at the end of the East African Community (EAC) summit in Burundi.
Secretary General of the EAC, Peter Mathuki, stated: “There must be an immediate ceasefire by all political parties. The withdrawal including all foreign armed groups and directed the chief of defense forces of all the partners states of East African Community to meet urgently within the next one week and set new timelines for the withdrawal and the commend appropriate deployment matrix in different parts of eastern DRC.” The calls follow international concern that the two countries could slide into all-out conflict, as they did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Last month, Rwanda fired on a Congolese military aircraft that it alleged violated its airspace. Mathuki stated: “The heads of state called upon parties to respect and implement all the summit’s decisions and agreed upon themselves that any again violation should be reported immediately and the summit now will take the charge of this process.”
Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 armed group for months, and powerful voices in the West have agreed. Rwanda denies backing the M23, which is one of dozens operating in mineral-rich eastern Congo, and accuses Congo of backing another rebel group.
The situation in the region has caused international concern and the call for an immediate ceasefire is a positive step towards peace and stability. It is essential that all parties involved follow through with the decisions made at the EAC summit and work towards finding a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
Equatorial Guinea – New minister appointed for mining and hydrocarbons
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has named Antonio Oburu Ondo as the new Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons as part of a cabinet reshuffle. Oburu Ondo, a former managing director of the country’s state-owned oil company GEPetrol, replaces Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima who moves to the Ministry of Economy and Planning. Obiang Lima had held the oil minister position for over a decade.
Oburu Ondo takes the helm at a difficult time for the country’s oil industry. Equatorial Guinea’s output has been in decline since the start of 2022 and fell to 60,000 barrels per day in December, according to Argus estimates. The decline has left Equatorial Guinea well below its 120,000 barrels per day production quota under the latest iteration of the Opec+ production restraint deal that came into effect in 2020.
In a recent briefing, Obiang Lima attributed the decline to a lack of funding, stating that banks and exploration companies are struggling to get approved for funding. He emphasized that for the country to continue producing, it needs to reinvest, which is the reason for their difficulties.
Oburu Ondo faces the task of attracting investment back to the upstream sector, given the gradual global shift towards cleaner forms of energy. However, he hopes that his experience and relationships built up over the years at GEPetrol will help him deliver and drive forward the country’s energy policy.
US Diplomat Decries Abandonment of Ambazonia, Urges Anglophone Support,
Tibor Nagy, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and long-term US diplomat, has recently expressed his concern over the abandonment of Ambazonia by England and Anglophone countries. In a tweet posted on a micro blogging platform, Nagy argued that if the situation in Ambazonia were reversed, and a majority Anglophone government was brutalizing a Francophone population, France would not hesitate to support the Francophones.
Ambazonia, also known as Southern Cameroon, is a region that has been facing a crisis for several years. The conflict in Ambazonia stems from the marginalization and neglect of the Anglophone minority by the Francophone majority in Cameroon. This has led to calls for independence from the Anglophone community, and the situation has escalated into a full-blown conflict, with reports of human rights violations and atrocities being committed by both sides.
Nagy, who has served as the US Ambassador to Guinea and Ethiopia, as well as a Professor Emeritus at Texas Tech University, believes that the lack of support from Anglophone countries for the Ambazonian people is a major problem. He argued that if the situation were reversed, and a Francophone country was brutalizing an Anglophone population, France would not sit idly by and watch. This, according to Nagy, is a clear indication of the double standards that exist in the international community when it comes to supporting marginalized communities.
Imagine if the factors in Southern Cameroon’s (#Ambazonia) crisis were reversed and a majority Anglophone government was brutalizing a Francophone population. Anyone doubt that France would be hyper-active in supporting Ambazonians? Too bad Anglophone countries don’t do same.
— Tibor Nagy (@TiborPNagyJr) January 26, 2023
Nagy’s tweet has sparked a heated debate on social media, with many people agreeing with his argument and others disagreeing. Some people have pointed out that the situation in Ambazonia is not as simple as Nagy has portrayed it, and that there are many complex factors involved that cannot be ignored.
Regardless of the differing opinions, Nagy’s tweet highlights the need for the international community to pay more attention to the crisis in Ambazonia and to provide more support for the Ambazonian people. The situation in Ambazonia is a clear example of how neglect and marginalization can escalate into a full-blown conflict, and it is the responsibility of the international community to prevent this from happening.
In conclusion, Nagy’s tweet serves as a wake-up call for Anglophone countries to pay more attention to the crisis in Ambazonia and to provide more support for the Ambazonian people. The international community must not sit idly by and watch as a marginalized community is brutalized, and it is time for Anglophone countries to take action and to support the Ambazonian people in their struggle for justice and equality.
Ambazonia – Cameroon’s denial of Canadian mediation criticized
Tibor Nagy, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and a long-term US diplomat, has expressed his disappointment at the government of Cameroon’s denial of authorizing Canadian mediation in the Ambazonia crisis. In a tweet, Nagy wrote that the denial shows a split in the Biya regime and indicates that both sides are positioning for a post-Biya government.
Nagy’s statement comes amid growing concerns about the ongoing conflict in the Ambazonia region of Cameroon, which has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, displacement, and political unrest. The conflict, which began in 2016, has been fueled by decades of marginalization and neglect of the English-speaking regions of the country by the predominantly French-speaking government in Yaoundé.
Imagine if the factors in Southern Cameroon's (#Ambazonia) crisis were reversed and a majority Anglophone government was brutalizing a Francophone population. Anyone doubt that France would be hyper-active in supporting Ambazonians? Too bad Anglophone countries don't do same.
— Tibor Nagy (@TiborPNagyJr) January 26, 2023
As a seasoned diplomat with years of experience in African affairs, Nagy is well-acquainted with the complexities of the Cameroonian conflict. His statement reflects the views of many observers who believe that the government’s denial of Canadian mediation is a disappointing and concerning development in the ongoing crisis.
The denial of Canadian mediation is particularly significant because it demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to engage in a constructive and meaningful dialogue with the people of Ambazonia. It also indicates that the government is not interested in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict and is instead opting for a more confrontational approach.
Nagy’s statement also highlights the importance of international pressure in bringing about change in Cameroon. He suggests that without significant pressure, the regime is unlikely to make any voluntary changes. This highlights the crucial role that international actors can play in promoting peace and stability in the region.
In conclusion, Nagy’s statement serves as a wake-up call for the international community to pay closer attention to the Ambazonia crisis and to take action to support the people of the region. As a former US diplomat, Nagy’s perspective carries weight and serves as a powerful reminder of the need for the international community to take a more proactive role in addressing the ongoing conflict in Cameroon.
Islamic State-affiliated ADF kills 15 in DR Congo
Bunia, DR Congo – A series of violent attacks on villages in eastern DR Congo, believed to be carried out by Islamic State-affiliated ADF rebels, have left at least 15 people dead, according to local officials. This latest round of violence comes just one week after a similar attack that resulted in the deaths of over 20 people.
“There were simultaneous attacks this Sunday between 4:00 and 5:00 am on three villages…,” said local official Dieudonne Malangai. “In Manyala village we found seven bodies… at Ofay, there were eight dead, including seven women,” Malangai reported to the press, and indicated that the final death toll might be higher. A humanitarian source confirmed seven fatalities in Manyala and “at least eight” in Ofay.
Despite the efforts of local security forces, these attacks have continued to occur on a regular basis in the region. Many local residents have grown increasingly frustrated and tired of the ongoing violence, with Malangai stating, “We are tired of giving the death toll day after day.”
ADF fighters have also been blamed for last week’s raids in the neighboring province of North Kivu, which cost at least 23 lives. In the same province, at least 14 people were killed in a bomb blast at a pentecostal church.
Islamic State portrays the ADF, which has its roots in Rwanda, as its central African incarnation. In an attempt to stem the violence, the government in May 2021 declared a state of alert in North Kivu and Ituri, replacing civil administrators with police and troops. However, despite these efforts, the attacks continue to occur with regularity, leaving local residents feeling vulnerable and unprotected.
In addition to the loss of life, the attacks have also had a devastating impact on the local economy, with many businesses and farms being destroyed. This, in turn, has led to widespread poverty and food insecurity in the region.
The ADF, which has been active in the region since the 1990s, is known for its brutality and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The group’s tactics have been widely condemned by the international community and human rights organizations, but the government’s efforts to combat the group have so far been ineffective.
The continued violence in eastern DR Congo is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for a sustainable solution to the ongoing conflict. The government must take immediate action to protect civilians and bring an end to the violence. The international community must also provide support to help stabilize the region and provide aid to those affected by the conflict. Only by working together can we hope to bring peace and stability to this troubled region.
Pope Francis to brings message of hope to war-torn DRC
Pope Francis is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where two of the world’s most neglected crises are ongoing.
Marie Louise Wambale, a conflict survivor from DRC, will be among the Congolese faithful chosen to meet Pope Francis in the capital, Kinshasa.
She hopes that the Pope could bring a message of hope at a time when the M23 rebels are posing their greatest threat to the country since 2012.
Wambale feels disappointed that the Pope could not visit the volatile east and live the suffering of people who have fled the war.
His long-awaited visit was postponed last year due to health reasons, but insecurity has increased since then, so the Pope is limiting his visit to Kinshasa.
The Vatican’s ambassador to DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, says that the security requirements to protect people at a papal mass would be hard in the east, where there is already danger.
An estimated two million Congolese are expected to attend the mass at Kinshasa airport on February 1, which will be the largest crowd event in DRC’s recent history.
Fighting in the eastern DRC has involved more than 120 armed groups and has increased since the resurgence of the M23. The rebels have captured land and have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.
The violence has displaced approximately half a million people and has triggered a diplomatic spat with Rwanda, which has been accused of backing the M23.
The region is also grappling with violence linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion at a church, which killed at least 14 people and injured dozens while they were praying.
In DRC, the Catholic church mediated rising tensions in 2016 and led to the 2018 elections. Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen, a peace-building expert and former adviser to the South Sudan Council of Churches, says that the church has enormous power and moral authority, and people in countries with entrenched problems need a message of eternal hope to lift them out of a generational sense of dread and anxiety.
Cameroon – Ambazonia Silent War May Escalate -JIHA
The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is one of Africa’s newest struggles for liberation. The crisis emerged from legal and education grievances in 2016 and rapidly escalated into a secessionist political conflict that is threatening the unity of the country, with the potential to degenerate into a complex emergency. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
In an exploratory, qualitative, analytical, and descriptive case study research tradition involving document/content analysis, the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework was applied to investigate the potential of the Anglophone crisis. The research found that 72.5% of the variables in all the complex emergencies fall within the relevant to extremely relevant ranking criteria. Furthermore, the establishment of a nexus between the Anglophone crisis and a natural hazard-induced disaster suggest an escalation of the crisis to an unbearable level.
The Anglophone crisis has been compounded by the high probability of a novel eruption at Mt. Cameroon coupled with the eminent threat of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This further heightens the potential for the crisis to cumulatively evolve into a CDE in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The existential challenges in providing humanitarian assistance in the conflict region are immense, and by applying the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework, this article concludes with an early warning for an impending CDE that could heighten humanitarian challenges unless there is foresight and goodwill by relevant actors to immediately commence a process of adequate contingency planning.
In conclusion, the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is a complex and rapidly evolving situation that has the potential to degenerate into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a CDE. It is important for relevant actors to take immediate action and begin adequate contingency planning to mitigate the potential humanitarian challenges that may arise.
President Biya’s incapacity at US Africa Leaders Summit raises concerns in Cameroon
Cameroon’s President, 89-year-old Paul Biya, recently attended the US Africa Leaders Summit, but it appears that he was completely unaware of his surroundings. This has raised concerns about his ability to effectively lead the country, particularly given the fact that he mostly lives in Switzerland.
Paul Biya has been the President of Cameroon since 1982, and before that, he served as the Prime Minister from 1975 to 1982. He has been in power for over four decades, and during this time, he has implemented a number of policies and initiatives that have helped to shape the country. However, despite his many achievements, there are now growing concerns about his ability to continue to lead Cameroon effectively.
One of the main concerns is that President Biya mostly lives in Switzerland, and it is thought that he spends very little time in Cameroon. This has led to criticism that he is not fully engaged with the country and its people, and that he is out of touch with the reality on the ground. Additionally, there are concerns that his advanced age means that he is no longer able to make important decisions and that he is unable to fully understand the complex issues facing Cameroon.
Paul Biya, who has been president for 40 years, went to the Africa’s leaders’ summit & not only could he not read his speech, he was farting, audibly! This is why we should vote Tinubu!💀 pic.twitter.com/LYjqe1V0Kn
— mazpa_md (@mazpa_md) January 21, 2023
Another major concern is that President Biya’s recent appearance at the US Africa Leaders Summit, where he appeared to be completely unaware of where he was, has raised serious doubts about his mental and physical capabilities. This has led to calls for him to step down, as many believe that he is no longer fit to lead the country.
Despite these concerns, it is worth noting that President Biya has a strong support base in Cameroon and that many people still have faith in his leadership. However, it is clear that there are now significant questions about his ability to continue to lead the country effectively, and it remains to be seen how this situation will play out in the coming months and years.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya’s recent attendance at the US Africa Leaders Summit where he seemed to be completely unaware of his surroundings, along with the fact that he mostly lives in Switzerland, has raised concerns about his ability to continue to lead the country effectively. There are calls for him to step down, as many believe that he is no longer fit to lead the country, but it remains to be seen how this situation will play out in the coming months and years.
Ambazonia agrees to negotiate with Cameroon, Younde Disagrees
Ambazonia, a separatist movement in southern Cameroon, has announced its acceptance of negotiations with Cameroon as part of a peace process. This development was made known in a statement posted online, which was well-received by the international community.
The United Nations was reportedly present during the four-month pre-talks held in Canada, which were aimed at laying the groundwork for the upcoming negotiations. Twitter user Mark Bareta wrote that it is time for all parties involved to unite around the peace process and move towards a resolution of the conflict.
#Ambazonia has formally accepted to enter into talks with Cameroun as disclosed in the statement below.This is a well crafted statement. It has now been disclosed that the @UN observed during the 4 months pretalks in Canada. Let’s now unite around this process and beat #Cameroon pic.twitter.com/WrH89BOIdM
— Mark Bareta (@MarkBareta) January 22, 2023
Additionally, religious leaders from southern Cameroon have publicly endorsed the peace process and the role of Foreign Policy Canada in championing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Cameroon and its president, Paul Biya, have reportedly declined to participate in the mediation process.
Religious leaders from Southern Cameroons have now publicly endorse the peaceful resolution of the conflict championed by @CanadaFP . Unfortunately for them the country #Cameroon and Biya they so much love has chickened out of the mediation. Ambazonia shall continue to stand tall pic.twitter.com/QIvFBsiAX4
— Mark Bareta (@MarkBareta) January 24, 2023
Despite this setback, Ambazonia is said to be continuing to stand strong and is committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict through the negotiation process. The international community is encouraged by this development and is hopeful that the talks will lead to a peaceful resolution for all parties involved.
This is a positive step forward in the long-standing conflict in southern Cameroon, and the world is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the negotiations. The role of religious leaders in endorsing peace and the involvement of the United Nations and Foreign Policy Canada in the peace process bode well for the future and offer hope for a resolution to the conflict.
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