West Africa

AQIM claims Burkina Faso attack

Jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel in the central Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, setting cars ablaze and firing randomly, leaving 28 dead on Jan. 15.  All but five of those killed were foreigners. The siege ended with a joint operation by Burkinabe and French commandos, in which at least four assailants were killed—including both Arabs and Black Africans. French special forces are stationed outside Ouagadougou as part of ongoing counter-terrorist operation in the Sahel. In an online statement entitled "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts," al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the attack was carried out by "mujahideen brothers" of its West African franchise, al-Mourabitoun. The statement boasted of "many dead Crusaders," although the victims appear to have been entirely civilians. (BBC News, DW, RFI, AP, NYT)

Crimes against humanity charges in Burkina Faso

The leader of last month's attempted military coup in Burkina Faso, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, was charged Oct. 16 with crimes against humanity. Prosecutor Col. Sita Sangare, Burkina Faso's director of military justice, said that he has charged 23 people  so far with charges ranging from murder and concealing the bodies of the dead to threatening state security and fraud. The prosecutors are also looking to charge Diendere's wife for her part in the events. During the military coup attempt at least 11 people were killed and more than 250 injured. The coup started when Diendere took the president and his cabinet hostage right before elections last month. The election has been rescheduled for Nov. 29.

Burkina Faso coup leader to face military justice

The interim government of Burkina Faso on Oct. 1 apprehended the leader of the week-long military coup in September, announcing that he will face military justice. Gilbert Diendere  was a general in the national army and the alleged leader of the the group known as the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP). Diendere is associated with another two other coups in the West-African nation, one in 1987 that retains significance for the ideology of the RSP. The 1987 coup marked the start of the 27-year rule of Blaise Compaore. Diendere was Compaore's former chief of staff. The first meeting of the reinstated interim government of Burkina Faso disbanded the RSP and dismissed the ex-minister of security. RSP forces are refusing to disarm. The RSP is incentivized by a recent modification to the electoral code that banned former members of the ruling party from running for political office. The interim government submitted a proposal before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria 10 days ago. ECOWAS is working with the UN to stabilize the transition government  before elections on October 11.

Burkina Faso: counter-revolution collapses

Burkina Faso's interim President Michel Kafando was formally reinstated Sept. 23, a week after he was ousted in a coup led by the presidential guard. The ceremony took place in the capital, Ouagadougou, in the presence of several West African leaders who helped mediate an end to the crisis. Coup leader Gen Gilbert Diendere admitted to local media that it had been "the biggest mistake... We knew the people were not in favour of it. That is why we have given up." (BBC News, Sept. 23) Among those involved in brokering a return to civilian rule was the Mogho Naba, traditional monarch of the Mossi ethnic group, whose kingdom dates to the 12th century. Baongo II has been king since 1982. The Mossi continue to have limited autonomy, although the authority of the Mogho Naba was significantly curtailed during the presidency of anti-imperialist revolutionary Thomas Sankara prior to his death in October 1987. (BBC News, Sept. 23) The Mogho Naba (also rendered Moro Naaba) is signatory to a manifesto issued by civil groups after last year's popular uprising calling for widespread social reforms with an emphasis on women's rights and reproductive freedom—including access to birth control and an end to child marriage. (Amnesty International, Sept. 24)

Counter-revolution in Burkina Faso

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a longtime right-hand man to ousted president Blaise Compaore and head of his presidential guard, seized power from Burkina Faso's transitional government on Sept. 17—sparking street protests in the capital Ouagadougou in which three were killed. The following day, the new junta—calling itself the National Council for Democracy—released interim president Michel Kafando, in a bid to quell protests. But prime minister Isaac Zida remains in custody. The US and France have condemned the coup, but both have critical security interests in the country, and have worked closely with Gen. Diendere for years. Burkina Faso serves as a rear base for regional counterterrorism operations and contributes troops to both the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali and the US-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. (CSM, BBC News, Sept. 18; Afrique Jet, Sept. 17)

Ivory Coast fights Ansar Dine along Mali border

Ivory Coast reinforced security along its northern frontier after a series of attacks by Islamist militias on towns just across the border in Mali. Troops from Ivory Coast are also reported to have crossed the border to assist Malian forces in driving out the rebels. Gunmen attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a border town in Mali's southern region of Sikasso, on June 28. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of militants ransacked a police station in the nearby town of Misseni. Ansar Dine is named as the group behind the attacks, and this appears to represent the first extension of its reach into Mali's south from its territory in the northern deserts. (Reuters, AFP, AFP, July 1)

Gullah nation hit hard by Charleston massacre

In the wake of last week's massacre at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church, there have been a few rare media mentions of the Gullah people of the Sea Islands, a barrier chain that stretches from South Carolina to Florida. Queen Quet Marquetta Goodwine, head of state of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, spoke to the Charleston City Paper after the massacre, saying that many members of Mother Emanuel are Gullah—as were some of the nine shooting victims. The church had once hosted a traditional Gullah libation ceremony to honor the people's ancestors. "Mother Emanuel has embraced me as a mother for many, many years on my journeys to Charleston," Queen Quet said, but added that after the bloodshed, "It will be difficult for me to re-enter those doors." She said she counted massacre victim Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a state senator, as a friend. WJCL of Savannah, Ga., also noted that the Gullah Geechee Commission of Johns Island, SC, expressed shock at the massacre and offered condolences to the survivors.

More ICC trials for Ivory Coast political figures

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Dec. 11 confirmed four charges of crimes against humanity against Charles Blé Goudé, and committed the ally of former President Laurent Gbagbo to trial at The Hague. Blé Goudé is accused of working with Gbagbo to orchestrate a wave of post-election violence between December 2010 and April 2011. Both Goude and Gbagbo are in ICC custody, and the prosecutor's office will seek to join Gbagbo's trial with Goudé's. The charges were a result of a five-month post-election crisis in which Gbagbo refused to step down after internationally recognized results of the November 2010 election proclaimed the current president, Alassane Ouattara, the winner. At least 3,000 people were killed and 150 women raped during the crisis. Much of the violence was carried out along ethnic, political and religious lines. Goude is allegedly responsible for murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence and other inhuman acts.

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