A May 4 report from Amnesty International finds that a militia funded and backed by Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Unity is responsible for a litany of crimes, including unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labor, and the interception and return of migrants and refugees to the country's notoriously harsh detention centers. Created by government decree in January 2021, the Stability Support Authority (SSA) is commanded by one of the most powerful militia leaders in Tripoli, Abdel Ghani al-Kikli AKA "Gheniwa," who was appointed despite a well-documented history of crimes and serious human rights violations committed by forces under his command.
Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, "appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019," Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. On April 15, the United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed in the CAR's northeast, with initial reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. In the attacks three days earlier, up to 15 civilians were killed at the villages of Gordil and Ndah, some 1,000 kilometers northeast of the capital Bangui. Local officials and aid workers told AFP the attacks were carried out by elements of the "FACA [Central African Armed Forces] and their allies"—the term used by both the authorities and the UN for Russian mercenaries. HRW documents other such claims. On July 21, 2021, apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, some 300 kilometers north of the capital. HRW is calling upon the CAR's Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to "investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution."
The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying and subversion after the French military used a drone to film footage that Paris says shows Russian mercenaries burying bodies in a mass grave near a military base. The French government says the bodies were buried outside the base at Gossi, Tombouctou region, in a scheme to falsely accuse its departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. Video from the drone was released after pixelated images appeared on social media of corpses being buried in sand, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, immediately to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadist insurgents. The junta has acknowledged that 18 militants were killed in the operation. (The Guardian, AfricaNews, BBC News, Al Jazeera)
A court created seven years ago to prosecute war crimes in the Central African Republic was due to open its first trial this month. But a no-show by defense lawyers means victims' associations and others pushing for justice will have to wait a little longer. The Bangui-based Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a hybrid tribunal composed of national and international jurists tasked with prosecuting war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. It took time to become operational because of staff recruitment challenges, insecurity, and limited resources. Arrest warrants have also not been executed, and the government has released high-profile suspects without SCC authorization. Its inaugural trial—set to resume in April—concerns three members of the 3R rebel group accused of involvement in a 2019 massacre. Rebel groups remain active across the CAR, which has one of the highest per capita humanitarian caseloads in the world.
At least 150 were killed April 24 as paramilitary troops attacked a village in Sudan's conflicted Darfur region. Fighters from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), many riding motorbikes or driving vehicles mounted with machine-guns, swept in on the village of Kereinik, torching houses and shops and firing on residents. More than 80,000 families fled their homes to seek refuge at the army headquarters in the village center. Hostilities between the Arab-dominated RSF and Masalit villagers began days earlier, after two Arab herders were reportedly killed by former rebel fighters. The fighting has since spread to the nearby town of Geneina, capital of West Darfur state. Sudan's central government is said to be sending in military reinforcements and warplanes to contain the situation. (NYT, Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, NRC)
The European Union announced April 11 that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country's north had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country's ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group's arrival.
Malian armed forces and associated foreign soldiers are believed to have summarily executed an estimated 300 civilian men in a town they occupied in late March, Human Rights Watch says in a new report April 5, calling it "worst single atrocity reported in Mali's decade-long armed conflict." The men were detained at a marketplace in the central town of Moura, Mopti region, during a military operation that began March 27. Army troops and foreign soldiers—identified by several sources as Russians—are said by witnesses and survivors to have broken the detainees up into small groups and marched them to an area outside town before putting them to death.
Chad's junta on March 13 opened delayed peace talks with rebel and opposition groups in Qatar. But things got off to a bad start when one of the main rebel outfits–the Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT)–walked out amid confusion over Doha's role as a mediator. Chad was plunged into uncertainty last April when long-time ruler Idriss Déby was killed while commanding troops combating a FACT offensive. Power was then seized by Déby's 38-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, who outlined an 18-month transition. The Doha talks are considered a precursor to a national dialogue that the younger Déby is organizing before planned elections. But in a country that has experienced decades of rebellion and state repression, things are unlikely to proceed smoothly. Just last month a phone conversation surfaced in which Timan Erdimi—head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), one of the rebel groups present in Doha—discussed plans to oust Déby using the Kremlin-linked mercenary Wagner Group. (The New Humanitarian)