France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa's Sahel nations, has criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali's transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its "firm opposition" to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (TNH)
The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise appears to have usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed July 26 in a raid on an army post a few kilometres from the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has "regained strength following internal restructuring," according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP.
Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government. The $80 million operation, dubbed "Project Opus," included a shipment of aircraft from South Africa. It also included plans to form a hit squad to hunt down and kill Libyan commanders opposed to Haftar. The accusation exposes Prince to possible UN sanctions, including a travel ban. Prince did not cooperate with the UN investigation, and his lawyer declined to comment to the Times. (Al Jazeera, Daily Sabah)
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.