A trial opened in Switzerland Dec. 3 for the first Liberian to face war crimes charges over atrocities during the country's brutal internal conflict in the 1990s. Former warlord Alieu Kosiah stands accused of murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers, and numerous other crimes during the first of Liberia's two civil wars, which together killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Kosiah, who had been living in Switzerland since 1999, was arrested in November 2014 for atrocities he allegedly committed as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO) between 1993 and 1995. A group of Liberian victims is being represented by the Swiss human rights group Civitas Maxima. The organization has worked with the Global Justice and Research Project in Liberia since 2012 to document crimes committed during the country's civil wars. The case is being heard by the Federal Criminal Court in the city of Bellinzona under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
Tensions have been growing in Ghana since late September, when militants of the Western Togoland Restoration Front erected armed roadblocks on arteries into the country's eastern Volta region, and declared the secession of the territory as the independent state of Western Togoland. Security forces shortly cleared the roadblocks. But some 60 members of the Homeland Study Group, a nonviolent civil organization calling for independence for Western Togoland, were immediately arrested in sweeps. They were later ordered released by a judge, but one of the detained reportedly died in police custody.
Ivory Coast has seen a wave of communal violence ahead of the Oct. 31 presidential elections, amid a civil disobedience campaign called by the opposition. In the coastal town of Dabou, some 50 kilometers west of the economic capital Abidjan, several have been killed and scores arrested over the past week. In the inland town of Bongouanou, the home of opposition candidate Pascal Affi N'Guessan was burned down during clashes. In nearby Kotobi, the the gendarmerie headquarters was ransacked. The violence has taken on an ethnic cast, with members of the Agni group in the country's east-central and coastal zones pitted against Dioula people from northern Ivory Coast, who back current President Alassane Ouattara. The opposition rejects Ouattara's quest for a third term as unconstitutional. (Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, BBC News, AP, The Africa Report, The Africa Report)
Protesters have continued to fill the streets of Lagos in defiance of a round-the-clock curfew imposed after the Oct. 20 Lekki Massacre, when soldiers and police fired on demonstrators who were occupying a toll bridge in the city's Lekki district. Authorities initially dismissed the massacre as "fake news," but now acknowledge that at least 38 were killed by security forces in Lagos that day. The massacre only succeeded in escalating what had been a largely peaceful protest campaign against police brutality into a general uprising. Several buildings were set on fire or ransacked, including banks, the TVC television headquarters, port facilities, and the palace of the Oba of Lagos, the traditional ruler of the city. Protests have also spread to Akure, the Ondo state capital, and other cities.
Weeks ahead of elections in Guinea, where Alpha Condé is running for a controversial third presidential term, Amnesty International has released a report documenting harsh repression of the political opposition by his security forces. The crackdown on protests has resulted in the deaths of at least 50 people in less than a year, Amnesty said in the report issued Oct. 1. Between October 2019 and February 2020 alone, more than 30 people were killed in protests against a constitutional change allowing Condé to seek a third term. Of these, 11 were shot and killed by bullets to the head, chest or abdomen. March 22, 2020, the day of the referendum on the constitutional change, was particularly deadly, with at least 12 demonstrators killed, nine of them by gunfire. The opposition boycotted the vote, but demonstrations against the referendum were banned by decree.
Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin, or JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces in northern Mali. The assault with two explosive-laden vehicles on a base in the Gossi area of Timbuktu region left one French soldier dead. (LWJ, July 30) But internecine fighting between jihadist factions has also started to take an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down in February, there have been repeated clashes between JNIM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS, or EIGS by its French rendering). The ISGS has also engaged another Qaeda-aligned faction active along the border with Burkina Faso, the Macina Liberation Front.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) issued a statement July 9 claiming its fighters killed 40 Nigerian soldiers in an ambush along the Damboa-Maiduguri highway in northern Borno state. The statement said ISWAP fighters captured five all-terrain vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and burned an armored vehicle during the attack, at the locality of Bulabulin. The Nigerian military confirmed the attack but said only two soldiers were killed.
In another sign of the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel reaching West Africa's littoral states, the armed forces of Ivory Coast announced on May 24 the completion of a joint operation with the military of neighboring inland Burkina Faso, to clear out a Qaedist camp that had been established on the border between the two countries. Some 1,000 Ivorian soldiers took part in the operation, in which eight militants were reported killed and 38 others detained—24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Ivory Coast. More are thought to have escaped on motorbikes through the bush of Comoé National Park, which lies along the northern border of Ivory Coast. The militants are said to be followers of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda's West African franchise. Automatic weapons, motorbikes and other equipment was seized in the raid outside Alidougou, a border town in southern Burkina Faso.