Sahel

UN warns of renewed Darfur conflict

The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, on Feb. 5 called for an end to conflict in Darfur between the Sudanese government and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid which may have led to violations of international law. Tens of thousands of civilians have reportedly fled the Jebel Marra area in the past two weeks, with 21,338 fleeing to North Darfur state and 15,000 fleeing to Central Darfur state. (The Jebel Marra straddles the states of North, South and Central Darfur.) Nononsi also stated there have been an unspecified number of civilian casualties and destruction of property. The UN is urging that all parties protect unarmed civilians and respect international law and human rights. Nononsi also urged Sudan to provide access to UN-African Union Mission (UNAMID) in Darfur to areas affected by conflict.

AQIM claims Burkina Faso attack

Jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel in the central Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, setting cars ablaze and firing randomly, leaving 28 dead on Jan. 15.  All but five of those killed were foreigners. The siege ended with a joint operation by Burkinabe and French commandos, in which at least four assailants were killed—including both Arabs and Black Africans. French special forces are stationed outside Ouagadougou as part of ongoing counter-terrorist operation in the Sahel. In an online statement entitled "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts," al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the attack was carried out by "mujahideen brothers" of its West African franchise, al-Mourabitoun. The statement boasted of "many dead Crusaders," although the victims appear to have been entirely civilians. (BBC News, DW, RFI, AP, NYT)

Mali: who is behind Bamako attack?

Armed assailants seized the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 20, taking some 170 hostages and sparking a confrontation with security troops and US and French special forces in which at least 27 people are dead. A group calling itself al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility jointly with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Mourabitoun is said to be the new outfit of Algerian Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar—who was twice reported killed, once in a Chadian military operation in Mali in 2013 and then earlir this year in a US air-strike in Libya. In a statement posted on Twitter on June 19, just after the Libyan air-strike, the group said he was "still alive and well and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies." (SMHCNN, DNA)

US troops mobilized to Cameroon

President Barack Obama formally notified Congress Oct. 14 that 90 US troops have been mobilized to Cameroon—the first contingent of a 300-strong force to assist in the struggle against Boko Haram. The force will conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but will not participate in ground combat operations (except in self-defense). Unarmed surveillance drones will also be deployed. The Pentagon said the move came at the invitation of Cameroon's government, which has been headed by strongman Paul Biya since 1982. Cameroon is part in a joint regional task force to fight Boko Haram along with Chad, Niger and Benin. (Foreign Policy, VOA, BBC News, AP, Oct. 14)

Chad, Cameroon terror attacks target refugees

At least five suicide bombers on Oct. 10 targeted a village in Chad that is home to thousands of Nigerians who have fled Boko Haram violence, killing at least 36 people and wounding about 50 others in co-ordinated attacks. Authorities blamed Boko Haram for staging the attacks in the village of Baga Sola, near the Nigerian border. Nearly half of the dead resulted when two female suicide bombers hit the village market when it was at its busiest. The following day, two female suicide bombers carried out the attacks in the Cameroon village of Kangaleri, again targeting a market district and killing nine. Both western Chad and northern Cameroon hosts thousands of Nigerian refugees. Another 1.5 million are internally displaced within Nigeria. (AFP, CBC, Sahara ReportersAnadolu Agency)

Burkina Faso coup leader to face military justice

The interim government of Burkina Faso on Oct. 1 apprehended the leader of the week-long military coup in September, announcing that he will face military justice. Gilbert Diendere  was a general in the national army and the alleged leader of the the group known as the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP). Diendere is associated with another two other coups in the West-African nation, one in 1987 that retains significance for the ideology of the RSP. The 1987 coup marked the start of the 27-year rule of Blaise Compaore. Diendere was Compaore's former chief of staff. The first meeting of the reinstated interim government of Burkina Faso disbanded the RSP and dismissed the ex-minister of security. RSP forces are refusing to disarm. The RSP is incentivized by a recent modification to the electoral code that banned former members of the ruling party from running for political office. The interim government submitted a proposal before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria 10 days ago. ECOWAS is working with the UN to stabilize the transition government  before elections on October 11.

Jihadist militant sent to ICC in Timbuktu attacks

Ahmad al-Mahdi al-Faqi AKA Abu Tourab, a former member of militant group Ansar Dine, was turned over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague by authorities in Niger Sept. 26, accused of war crimes allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, including destruction of religious and historical monuments. He is charged in the destruction of nine mausoleums and a mosque in the historic city in 2012, when an alliance of jihadist militias including Ansar Dine was in control of northern Mali. The entire city of Timbuktu, known as the "City of 333 Saints," is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site. El-Boukhari Ben Essayouti, head of the Timbuktu Cultural Mission, said that al-Mahdi was but one militant who took part in the destruction, and called for his accomplices to be similarly brought to justice. (AFP, BBC News, APICC press release, Sept. 26)

Burkina Faso: counter-revolution collapses

Burkina Faso's interim President Michel Kafando was formally reinstated Sept. 23, a week after he was ousted in a coup led by the presidential guard. The ceremony took place in the capital, Ouagadougou, in the presence of several West African leaders who helped mediate an end to the crisis. Coup leader Gen Gilbert Diendere admitted to local media that it had been "the biggest mistake... We knew the people were not in favour of it. That is why we have given up." (BBC News, Sept. 23) Among those involved in brokering a return to civilian rule was the Mogho Naba, traditional monarch of the Mossi ethnic group, whose kingdom dates to the 12th century. Baongo II has been king since 1982. The Mossi continue to have limited autonomy, although the authority of the Mogho Naba was significantly curtailed during the presidency of anti-imperialist revolutionary Thomas Sankara prior to his death in October 1987. (BBC News, Sept. 23) The Mogho Naba (also rendered Moro Naaba) is signatory to a manifesto issued by civil groups after last year's popular uprising calling for widespread social reforms with an emphasis on women's rights and reproductive freedom—including access to birth control and an end to child marriage. (Amnesty International, Sept. 24)

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