The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded April 28 in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn't invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn't attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The list of participants was initially unclear and analysts seemed confused by the meeting's strategy as rebels arrived in dribs and drabs.
In Episode 120 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg invites the enmity of his comrades on the left with a long-overdue deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, genocide-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In relentless sycophantic interviews, Chomsky inevitably opposes a no-fly zone for Ukraine, war crimes charges against Putin, or even sanctions against Russia, on the grounds that such moves would lead to nuclear war. He offers no acknowledgment of how capitulating to Putin's nuclear threats incentivizes such threats, and the stockpiling of the missiles and warheads to back them up. This is part of a long pattern with Chomsky. He has repeatedly engaged in ugly and baseless "false flag" theorizing about the Syria chemical attacks, leading activists in the Arab world to accuse him of "regime whitewashing." He similarly abetted Bosnia genocide revisionism and (especially through his collaborations with the late Edward Herman) denial of the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia. All this can be traced to the analytical and ultimately moral and intellectual distortions of the so-called "Chomsky rule"—the notion that we are only allowed to criticize crimes committed by "our" side. An illustrative irony is that Chomsky will cynically exploit the suffering of the Palestinians to distract from and relativize the oppression of Uyghurs in China, yet his stance on Palestine is actually timid and cowardly—clinging to a "two-state solution," and opposing BDS as a form of pressure on Israel. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Thousands have been displaced after new fighting broke out between M23 rebels and the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province. A UN helicopter was shot down March 29 (for which both sides blamed each other), and the fighting has sparked regional tensions as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels (a charge Kigali denies). M23 was responsible for the last major rebellion in eastern DRC, seizing large chunks of territory in 2012 and 2013 before a joint UN-government offensive forced its fighters into Uganda and Rwanda. Efforts to demobilize the group stalled and a cluster of combatants resettled in DRC in late 2016. Fresh skirmishes were reported in November, though the strength of the group remains unclear, as are its objectives. M23 is but one of over 100 armed groups active in eastern DRC.
A new memorandum of understanding allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru was signed on Sept. 24. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center. In the deal announced Oct. 6, Australia and the PNG finalized a Regional Resettlement Arrangement in which detainees on Manus Island will either be transfered to Nauru or allowed to remain in Papua New Guinea with a "migration pathway" allowing eventual legal residency.
Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of Mocímboa da Praia on Aug. 9 from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab (see list of alternative names)—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn't address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict.
At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti on Aug. 1. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti's borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country's other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti's port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Militia fighters from Ethiopia's Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Garowe Online, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, ReliefWeb)
Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Last week, Rwanda began deploying a 1,000-strong police and military force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive in the coming days. Some reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique's army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado's worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted—68,000 since late March—and close to a million are now facing severe hunger.
The Biden administration on March 10 designated two alleged affiliates of the Islamic State, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, as "Foreign Terrorist Organizations." The State Department named as FTOs the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in DR Congo and Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique. The Department also designated the respective leaders of those organizations, Seka Musa Baluku and Abu Yasir Hassan, as "Specially Designated Terrorists." The designations freeze all US property and assets in the names of these groups and leaders, and prohibit US citizens from doing business with them. Additionally, the Department stated that "it is a crime to knowingly provide material support or resources" to the groups, or "to attempt or conspire to do so."