Mali

ICC convicts Mali militant of war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Jue 26 convicted al-Qaeda-linked militant leader al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz ag-Mohamed ag-Mahmoud of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in terrorizing the civilian population of the Malian city of Timbuktu. The charges against al-Hassan stem from his time as de facto leader of the Islamic Police, an unofficial enforcement body established by armed Islamist groups when they controlled the city between 2012 and 2013. The group patrolled the city day and night, imposing harsh new rules that severely restricted daily life. The force imposed extreme punishments, including flogging and amputation, for such perceived violations of Islamic law as extramarital relations, alcohol consumption, and smoking. The Court found that al-Hassan played a "key role" in the Islamic Police throughout the period of control of Timbuktu by Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). 

War crimes seen in Mali conflict

An Islamist armed group linked to al-Qaeda killed at least 32 civilians, including three children, and set fire to over 350 homes in central Mali in January, forcing about 2,000 villagers to flee, Human Rights Watch reported May 8. Earlier in January, a Bambara ethnic militia formed to oppose the jihadists killed at least 13 civilians, including two children, abducted 24 other civilians, and looted property and livestock in central Mali. These attacks violate international law and are apparent war crimes.

Sahel juntas accused of mounting atrocities

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso and Mali are carrying out increased abuses against civilians as they expand their operations against jihadist groups. In Mali, Human Rights Watch has reported accounts of soldiers arresting and shooting dead dozens of people in January. The killings took place following door-to-door searches in the village of Ouro Fero. The report also accuses the army of carrying out drone strikes in February on a wedding celebration and on a burial in the same village, killing at least 14 people, including four children. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, a report from AP documented the killing of dozens of civilians by security forces in the central village of Zaongo back in November. Survivors described seeing soldiers wearing military uniforms flying towards the village in a helicopter. Abuses like these have increased significantly under the juntas currently governing both countries, although they also occurred under previous regimes. Research clearly shows that rights abuses by security forces create grievances that drive people to join jihadist groups.

Russia creates new Africa Corps

Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow's unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now  reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner's estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (The Conversation)

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Jan. 28, issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a "sovereign decision" to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The three countries accused the bloc of failing to support their fight against "terrorism and insecurity," and imposing "llegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions." The statement also charged that ECOWAS has "drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," and is now "under the influence of foreign powers." (BBC News, Al Jazeera)  This appears to be largely a veiled reference to France, with which all three countries have reduced or severed ties, although de facto bloc leader Nigeria is closer to the Anglo-American camp.

'Blood gold,' diamonds behind Russian war effort

Gold-mining operations in Africa under the control of the paramilitary Wagner Group are funneling money to the Kremlin for the Russian war effort in Ukraine, according to a new report by watchdog organizations. "The Blood Gold Report," prepared by the Consumer Choice Center and Democracy 21, finds that Wagner has laundered some $2.5 billion in proceeds from its African operations since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, helping Moscow to ride out international sanctions.

Mali junta advances on Tuareg rebel zone

Mali's army is advancing in a large column toward the strongholds of a coalition of Tuareg armed groups in the country's north, signalling an intensification of the conflict that erupted in August. Fighting has been reported close to the town of Anefis, which is around 110 kilometers from Kidal, the main base of the rebels. The former separatist groups signed a peace agreement with Malian authorities in 2015, but relations soured under the current junta-led government, which views armed-group control over northern territory as undermining state sovereignty. Tensions escalated after the junta demanded the withdrawal of a UN peacekeeping mission, and its forces started taking over Blue Helmet bases in northern areas claimed as autonomous territory by the Tuareg coalition. The military convoy is now reportedly seeking to take over former peacekeeper camps in Kidal, Aguelhok, and Tessalit, risking further fighting.

Mali: Tuareg rebels call for 'fall of the junta'

The ruling military junta in Mali announced Sept. 25 the indefinite postponement of presidential elections that had been scheduled for February 2024. The announcement comes as one of the Tuareg rebel groups in the country's north, which have observed a ceasefire since 2015, called for renewed armed struggle to remove the junta from power. Fahad Ag Almahmoud, a leader of the Tuareg armed group GATIA, said in a statement: "We are in a war that the junta in Bamako wants. We will continue this war until all of Mali that has been taken hostage by the five colonels is liberated."

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