US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic "African Lion" exercises which this year also involve troops from Tunisia and Senegal. The games are taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara." (The Defense Post, Africa News, June 15)
A settlement of semi-nomadic Fulani herders was attacked in Mali Jan. 1, with at least 33 residents slain and several homes set aflame. Survivors said the attackers were traditional Dogon hunters, known as dozos. The army was rushed to Koulogon village in central Mopti region to control the situation following the massacre. But the perpetrators may have actually been assisted by the armed forces. Dogon residents of the area have formed a self-defense militia, known as Dana Amassagou (which translates roughly as "hunters in God's hands"), to prevent incursions by jihadists from Mali's conflicted north into the country's central region. The militia is said to have received weapons and training from the official armed forces. However, driven by conflicts over access to land and shrinking water resources, the militia has apparently been attacking local Fulani villages. Hundreds are said to have been killed in clashes between Dogon and Fulani over the past year. A Senegalese rapid reaction force under UN command was deployed to Mopti last year in response to the mounting violence. (All India Radio, Middle East Online, Jan. 2; Al Jazeera, BBC News, Jan. 1; IRIN, Sept. 4)
Among the coca-growing peasants of Bolivia's Yungas region (the country's prime legal cultivation zone) is a substantial Afro-Bolivian population—descendants of slaves who were brought in by the Spanish colonialists to work in the silver mines and haciendas centuries ago. Some have inter-married with the indigenous Aymara people of the Yungas, forming a distinctive Afro-Aymara culture. The Guardian on Dec. 6 notes the 10th anniversary of the coronation of the "King of the Afro-Bolivians," Julio I—said to be South America's last reigning monarch, although he lives as a cocalero and grocery-shop keeper in the little village of Mururata. His dominion—recognized by the Bolivian government—extends to a few dozen rural villages as well as some city dwellers that together make up the 25,000-strong Afro-Bolivian community.
The International Organization for Migration reports that its staff have documented shocking conditions on North African migrant routes—including what they describe as "slave markets" faced by hundreds of young African men bound for Libya. Staff with the IOM's office in Niger, reported on the rescue of a Senegalese migrant (referred to as "SC" to protect his identity), who was returning to his home after being held captive for months. According to SC's testimony, while trying to travel north through the Sahara, he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he paid a trafficker 200,000 CFA (about $320) to arrange trasnport north to Libya. But when the pick-up truck reached Sabha in southwestern Libya, the driver insisted that he hadn't been paid by the trafficker, and brought the migrants to an area where SC witnessed a slave market taking place. "Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans, with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them," IOM staff reported.
Anti-terrorism laws that were passed by Senegal's National Assembly in October, are "draconian" and could "restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal," according to a report (PDF) released April 3 by Amnesty International. The laws in question were passed as part of the government's efforts to deal with the rise of terrorism in the region, including Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Recognizing the country's need to address terrorism, AI claims the vagueness of the laws are problematic, as violations such as "insults" and affronts to "morality" could be interpreted in a way that suppresses dissident opinions. Other provisions of the new laws criticized by AI include those designed to prevent "defamation of the President of the Republic," "the dissemination of false news," and acts likely to "cause serious political unrest."
A court in Senegal convicted former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré of crimes against humanity committed during his rule from 1982 to 1990, and sentenced him to life imprisonment on May 30. He was found guilty of sex slavery, rape and the ordered killings of an estimated 40,000 people. The trial marks the first time a court with backing from the African Union has tried a former ruler for human rights violations, and also the first time a former African head of state was found guilty by an another African country. Habré has 15 days to appeal the sentence. Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, who initiated the trial, stated: "This verdict sends a powerful message that the days when tyrants could brutalize their people, pillage their treasury and escape abroad to a life of luxury are coming to an end. Today will be carved into history as the day that a band of unrelenting survivors brought their dictator to justice."
The Extraordinary African Chambers on Sept. 3 confirmed that war crime accusations have been filed against Chad's President Idriss Deby. The special tribunal in Senegal is overseeing the case against the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré (BBC profile), who was accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. A Senegalese lawyer, Mbaye Jacques Ndiaye, filed the charges against Deby to hold him responsible for the role he played in perpetuating the alleged crimes of his predecessor while he served as Habré's army chief.
Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)