When mutinous soldiers ousted Burkina Faso's democratically elected president in late January, they vowed to do a better job of securing the Sahelian country from attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. But violence has only increased over the past months, draining public confidence in the junta, threatening coastal West African states, and worsening a humanitarian crisis that has now displaced almost two million people–around one in 10 Burkinabé.
The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on July 20 released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former Afghan National Defense & Security Forces (ANDSF) soldiers, officials from the previous government, ISIL-KP members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders.
The US Department of Defense on June 24 announced the release of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national, who had been held for 15 years without charge at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Gul was incarcerated at Guantánamo in 2007 on accusations of being a member of al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an insurgent group that fought against the US in Afghanistan. HIA signed a peace agreement with the US-backed Afghan government in 2016.
Scores of Malians demonstrated June 21 in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three nearby villages over the past days. The massacres in Diallassagou, Dianweli and Deguessagou localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. (Africa News, Africa News, TRT, AFP, El Pais)
At least eight Togolese soldiers were killed in an assault on a military base in the north of the West African country May 11—apparently marking the first fatal attack in Togo by the jihadist rebel militias waging an insurgency across the wider region. Some 60 gunmen on motorcycles attacked the base at Kpinkankandi, in Kpendjal prefecture, near the border with Burkina Faso. According to locals, the battle over the base raged most of the night before the assailants retreated. No group has claimed responsibility for the raid, but suspicion has fallen on the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM), a Qaeda-aligned faction active in Burkina Faso.
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
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 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.