A human rights group in Burkina Faso on Jan. 3 reported that 28 people were found shot dead in the town of Nouna, in apparently ethnically targeted killings at the hands of a volunteer militia group. The Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC) said the killings were perpetrated by members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). The VDP allegedly killed 21, including children, on Dec. 30, in a part of Nouna mostly inhabited by the minority Fula community. The report stated that the VDP appears to have targeted "resourceful" or "influential" people in the community. The report further found that similar extrajudicial executions were carried out by the VDP in the same community on Dec. 15, 18 and 22.
In Episode 156 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses Peter Lamborn Wilson's last book, Peacock Angel: The Esoteric Tradition of the Yezidis. One of the persecuted minorities of Iraq, the Yezidis are related to the indigenous Gnostics of the Middle East such as the Mandeans. But Wilson interprets the "esoteric" tradition of the Yezidis as an antinomian form of Adawiyya sufism with roots in pre-Islamic "paganism." Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, the divine being revered by the Yezidis as Lord of This World, is foremost among a pantheon that ultimately traces back to the Indo-European gods. Wilson conceives this as a conscious resistance to authoritarianism, orthodoxy and monotheism—which has won the Yezidis harsh persecution over the centuries. They were targeted for genocide along with the Armenians by Ottoman authorities in World War I—and more recently at the hands of ISIS. They are still fighting for cultural survival and facing the threat of extinction today. Weinberg elaborates on the paradox of militant mysticism and what it means for the contemporary world, with examples of "heretical" Gnostic sects from the Balkan labyrinth. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In the midst of the political crisis gripping Peru, reactionary elements in the country's Congress have launched an initiative to repeal the 2006 law establishing reserves to protect isolated indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. AIDESEP, Peru's trans-Amazonian indigenous alliance, is calling Law Project 3518/2022-CR the "Law of PIACI Genocide"—a reference to the Spanish acronym for Indigenous Peoples in Isolation or Initial Contact. The AIDESEP statement also charges that the congressional Commission on Decentralization & Regionalization submitted the bill on Dec. 14 without first seeking clearance from the Commission on Andean & Amazonian Peoples, which holds first authority in the matter.
The Russian State Duma on Dec. 13 passed the first reading a bill concerning the use of Russian criminal law in territories of Ukraine that Russia now occupies. The bill includes a provision stipulating that a deed considered criminal under either Russian or Ukrainian law is not to be qualified as a crime if it "aimed to protect interests of the Russian Federation." Saying that passage of the bill would constitute "impunity made law," Amnesty International warned: "Russian servicepeople should remember that even if this unprecedented bill is eventually passed, it will not override international law and will not protect war criminals from eventually facing trials abroad under universal jurisdiction."
Among the long list of ostensibly local conflicts that have broken out in South Sudan since a national peace deal was inked in 2018, analysts say the current violence involving Nuer and Shilluk militias in Upper Nile state ranks with the deadliest. Thousands of people have been uprooted since mid-November and there are concerns of an imminent attack on Kodok—a town hosting more than 10,000 displaced Shilluk. The UN's peacekeeping mission has been encouraged to step up protection duties, but Nuer forces have reportedly encircled Kodok and cut off escape routes, including to the nearby UN protection camp in Malakal. Though clashes are occurring along communal lines, they were triggered by internal tensions within a splinter group of the country's main opposition movement, the SPLA-IO. Simon Gatwech (a Lou Nuer) and Johnson Olony (a prominent Shilluk) defected from the group last year before turning on each other. President Salva Kiir has said he "cannot stop" the fighting, though observers say his regime benefits from pitting the feuding factions against each other.
At least 30 people were killed and dozens injured in armed clashes between members of the Hamar and Misseriya pastoralist groups in Sudan's West Kordofan state, local leaders reported Dec. 12. A Hamar militia that had been organized to protect against cattle rustlers was apparently ambushed by Misseriya gunmen in the locality of Abu Zabad, setting off the violence. Hamar leaders charge that state authorities and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are protecting Misseriya bands that raid their lands with impunity. (Sudan Tribune, Dabanga) Six were also killed in a clash in September between the two groups in a dispute over the demarcation line between their territories. (Dabanga)
A month after the two parties signed a ceasefire agreement, the truce between Ethiopia's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is holding. But while aid flows into Tigray are scaling up, deliveries still aren't matching needs. The World Food Program said Nov. 25 that while road corridors into Tigray have reopened, access to some areas within the region remains off limits. Essential services, including banking and the internet, remain switched off, with no date set for restoring them. And while plans are proceeding for the disarmament of TPLF fighters, that process is complicated by Eritrean and Amhara forces, which were allies to the government during the conflict—and are reportedly still carrying out attacks on civilians in Tigray, including killings, kidnapping and looting.
A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo government and rebel movements opened Nov. 30. But the M23 armed group—which has seized large chunks of territory in recent months—was not invited. A government spokesperson said the insurgents must vacate occupied areas before they can join the talks. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue, being held in Kenya under the auspices of the East African Community. Those attending have been told to cease hostilities and join a new program to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate combatants into society. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23, has also been invited to this round of talks.