France in Africa
Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region.
The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying and subversion after the French military used a drone to film footage that Paris says shows Russian mercenaries burying bodies in a mass grave near a military base. The French government says the bodies were buried outside the base at Gossi, Tombouctou region, in a scheme to falsely accuse its departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. Video from the drone was released after pixelated images appeared on social media of corpses being buried in sand, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, immediately to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadist insurgents. The junta has acknowledged that 18 militants were killed in the operation. (The Guardian, AfricaNews, BBC News, Al Jazeera)
The European Union announced April 11 that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country's north had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country's ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group's arrival.
France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year's coup d'etat. The junta has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State—a nearly 70% increase from early 2020.
In Episode 110 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the current greenwashing of nuclear power, and hype about a supposedly "safe" new generation of reactors. Every stage of the nuclear cycle is ecocidal and genocidal. Uranium mining has poisoned the lands of indigenous peoples from Navajo Country to Saskatchewan to West Africa. The ongoing functioning of nuclear plants entails routine emissions of radioactive gases, factored in by the bureaucrats in determining "acceptable" levels of cancer. Disposal of the waste, and the retired reactor sites themselves, is a problem that inherently defies solution. These wastes will be deadly for exponentially longer into the future than biblical times stretch into the past. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, hyped as secure for hundreds of millennia, leaked plutonium after only 13 years. And finally there is the "sexiest" issue, the one that actually gets some media play, at least—the risk of accident. It is a mark of capitalism's depravity that even after the nightmares of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we periodically get media campaigns about an imminent "nuclear renaissance." Meanwhile, virtually ongoing smaller accidents go by with barely a media ripple. Nuclear versus fossil fuels is the false choice offered us by industry. The imperative is to get off the extraction economy and on to one based on sustainability and resource conservation.
At least 14 protesters were killed in Chad's Ouaddai province Jan. 28, climaxing several days of mounting violence and unrest. Protests broke out in provincial capital Abéché after the central government suspended the powers of Ouaddai's traditional sultan, Cherif Abdelhadi Mahdi. The appointed prefect of the province is to assume his traditional powers over the ethnic Ouaddai community. The traditional Ouaddai chieftain of the locality of Bani Halba has also had his powers dissolved by decree. The appointed replacements are apparently to be Arabs, exacerbating tensions between the Arab and ethnic Ouaddai communities. Local rights groups say some were killed by security forces in the preceding days' protests as well, and are demanding an investigation. The heretofore autonomous sultanate of Dar Ouaddai is a survival of the Wadai Empire, which ruled much of the region from the 15th century through the consolidation of French colonial rule in 1914. (TchadInfos, AlWihdaInfo, AFP)
Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the Tunis Court of First Instance on Dec. 21. Marzouki was convicted of "undermining the external security of the State," according to Tunisia's national press agency. Marzouki served as Tunisia's president from 2011 through 2014. Most recently, Marzouki has received attention for his criticism of Tunisia's current President Kaïs Saied.
Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are continuing to pursue a joint military offensive launched late last month against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group that is now said to be integrated into the Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The ironically named ADF has carried out a string of recent attacks in Uganda, and has for years been terrorizing the DRC's North Kivu province. The Ugandan and DRC militaries say they have captured some 35 fighters and "neutralized" four rebel camps in the province. The campaign has included air raids and artillery strikes. (AfricaNews, Al Jazeera)