French forces out of Burkina Faso, into Ivory Coast
France has officially ended its operations in Burkina Faso on Feb. 20, a month after the ruling junta there terminated a military accord that allowed the former colonial power to fight jihadists. French forces remain in the greater region, however. The move came as French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited Côte d'Ivoire, pledging to boost military support as jihadist attacks hit coastal West African states. (TNH)
Podcast: West Africa's forgotten wars
In Episode 161 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of the under-reported conflicts in West Africa, where government forces and allied paramilitary groups battle multiple jihadist insurgencies affiliated either with ISIS or al-Qaeda on a franchise model. Horrific massacres have been committed by both sides, but the Western media have only recently started to take note because of the geopolitical angle that has emerged: both Mali and Burkina Faso have cut long-standing security ties with France, the former colonial power, and brought in mercenaries from Russia's Wagner Group. In both countries, the pastoralist Fulani people have been stigmatized as "terrorists" and targeted for extra-judicial execution and even massacre—a potentially pre-genocidal situation. But government air-strikes on Fulani communities in Nigeria have received no coverage in the Western media, because of the lack of any geopolitical rivalry there; Nigeria remains firmly in the Anglo-American camp. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso: report
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.
African intrigues over Wagner Group
Burkina Faso's ruling military authorities on Dec. 16 summoned Ghana's ambassador over accusations that they have hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help fight jihadists. Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo said: "Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there." Calling the mercenaries' presence "distressing," Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner control of a gold mine as payment.
'War footing,' paramilitary drive in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso's new military government said Oct. 26 that the country is on a "war footing," and launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the overstretched army fight jihadist insurgents. The recruits receive two weeks of basic training and then join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a village-based militia network. Created in 2020, the VDP was supposed to represent each "region, ethnicity, political opinion, and religious denomination." But the reality is few recruits have been drawn from the pastoralist Fulani, and the ethnicity—accused by some in the security forces of siding with the jihadists—has been targeted in extra-judicial killings.
Podcast: climate change and the global struggle II
In Episode 147 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the recent statement from the UN Environment Program that "only a root-and-branch transformation of our economies and societies can save us from accelerating climate disaster." Studies from similarly prestigious global bodies have raised the prospect of imminent human extinction. An International Energy Agency report released last year warned that new fossil fuel exploration needed to halt by 2022 in order to keep warming within the limits set by the 2015 Paris Agreement. Adoption of new technologies and emissions standards does mean that CO2 emissions from energy generation (at least) are likely to peak by 2025. But the IEA finds that this would still lead to global temperatures rising by 2.5 C above pre-industrial levels by century's end—exceeding the Paris Agreement limits, with catastrophic climate impacts. And the catastrophic impacts, already felt in places like (just for example) Chad and Cameroon, win but scarce media coverage. Climate-related conflict has already escalated to genocide in Darfur, and possibly in Syria. The oil companies, meanwhile, are constitutionally incapable of writing off the "stranded assets" of vast hydrocarbon investments. Climate protests in Europe—at oil terminals and car shows (as well as, less appropriately, museums)—do win some attention. But the ongoing resistance to still-expanding oil mega-projects in places like Uganda and Tanzania are comparatively invisible to the outside world. The dire warnings from the UN and IEA raise the imperative for a globalized resistance with an explicitly anti-capitalist politics. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Burkina Faso coup a France-Russia pivot?
Army captain Ibrahim Traoré has been officially appointed president of Burkina Faso after ousting Paul-Henri Damiba, who had himself taken power in a January coup. A two-day standoff in Ouagadougou came to an end on Oct. 2 as religious and community leaders mediated Damiba's resignation. Damiba had promised to stem rising attacks by jihadist groups when he took charge, but violence only worsened under his watch and frustration mounted within the army. A militant attack in the north that left dozens dead last month—both soldiers and civilians—is thought to have exacerbated military schisms ahead of the coup. Tensions also built around Damiba's perceived closeness to France—the country's former colonial ruler—and reluctance to pivot towards Russia (as the junta in neighboring Mali has). Supporters of 34-year-old Traoré initially claimed Damiba was plotting a counter-coup to return to power from a French military base in the country. France denied the accusation, but the charge appeared to galvanize support for the new leader and led to protests outside the French embassy. Traoré has said he won't stay in power for long, but much remains uncertain—including whether there will be peace talks with the jihadists.
Attacks, displacement in post-coup Burkina Faso
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.
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