African dissent from biodiversity protocol
The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal, with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet's sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called "30x30" pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.
Massacre claim overshadows DRC peace talks
A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo government and rebel movements opened Nov. 30. But the M23 armed group—which has seized large chunks of territory in recent months—was not invited. A government spokesperson said the insurgents must vacate occupied areas before they can join the talks. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue, being held in Kenya under the auspices of the East African Community. Those attending have been told to cease hostilities and join a new program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate combatants into society. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23, has also been invited to this round of talks.
East African troops deploy against M23 in Congo
Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling—in which more than 120 rebel groups operate—the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own interests. It remains unclear how the new East African force will be funded; how it will coordinate with UN peacekeepers (in which Kenya also has a contingent); and what its exit strategy will be. Some are urgently calling for regional dialogue as the solution to Congo's instability, fearing the military option will only make matters worse.
Nigeria drops 'terrorism' charges against Biafra separatist
The Nigerian Court of Appeal on Oct. 13 dismissed all terrorism charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of separatist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Nigerian authorities have identified IPOB as a "terrorist organization," but international organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations disagree with the designation, and are urging the US not to adopt it.
Tanzania: troops fire on Maasai herders
Tanzanian security forces on June 10 fired on Maasai herders in a dispute over seizure of traditional grazing lands for a new game reserve. The trouble started when hundreds of troops of the Field Force Unit arrived in Wasso village of Loliondo division, in northern Ngorongoro district, to demarcate a 1,500 square-kilometer area for the new reserve. Maasai gathered to protest, and were met with bullets. Some 30 were reportedly shot, and two killed. Video footage shared on social media shows residents running from live fire. Other images show some Maasai with gunshot wounds. Afterwards, troops went house-to-house in local villages, beating and arresting those they believed took part in the protests, or distributed images of the violence. Thousands of Maasai have fled their homes into the bush following the raids.
US troops 'back' to Somalia —but did they ever leave?
The Pentagon announced May 16 that a "small, persistent US military presence" of around 500 troops is to return to Somalia, to assist ongoing operations against the Shabaab insurgents. Media commentators widely portrayed this as a policy reversal, with some incorrectly stating that Present Trump "brought the troops home" from Somalia in 2020. However, the Pentagon press release implicitly acknowledges that the so-called "withdrawal" had been largely a fiction: "This decision was based on a request from [Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] and included advice from senior commanders and, of course, concern for the safety of our troops who have incurred additional risk by deploying in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis for the past 16 months."
Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Confused DRC peace dialogue in Kenya
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.
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