South Sudan's rival leaders have finally agreed to form a transitional government of national unity, officially putting an end to more than six years of war that has left millions displaced and an estimated 400,000 dead. The breakthrough came on Feb. 20, when President Salva Kiir met rebel leader Riek Machar in the capital Juba, and agreed to appoint Machar as his deputy in a new three-year coalition government—part of a long-delayed power-sharing deal. Kiir and Machar, who leads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO), first signed the deal in September 2018, but were unable to finalize terms and missed two previous deadlines—May 2019 and November 2019. The new pact comes just as a third 100-day extension, brokered last year by Uganda, was about to run out.
The French-backed military campaign against Islamist militants in Niger is claiming victories against the insurgency that has mounted in the country since 2015. Niger's Defense Ministry said in a statement Feb. 20 that over the past month, "120 terrorists have been neutralized," a presumed euphemism for killed. The statement said there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops, and that vehicles and bomb-making equipment had been seized. The operation has centered on the Tillabéri region near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, where a state of emergency has been in place for two years.
At least 22 people were killed in an attack in Cameroon's Northwest region on Feb. 14, a UN official said—the latest incident in a wave of violence to shake the country's restive English-speaking regions. The attack in Ntumbo village left 14 children dead—including nine under the age of five—according to the official. Opposition groups said the army was responsible, but the military blamed the explosion of fuel containers during a gunfight with separatists. Some 8,000 people have fled anglophone areas in recent weeks for Nigeria, following rising violence involving the army and separatist groups, who called for a boycott of parliamentary and municipal elections earlier this month.
Traditional rulers in Nigeria's strife-torn north are warning that vigilante militias now forming to fight Boko Haram are a sign of a generalized social breakdown in the region. The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, told a public meeting in Kaduna that the new paramilitaries could themselves metamorphose into terror groups. "Governors must see that they do more to address insecurity, just imagine that there are over 50,000 orphans. They will be worse than Boko Haram if allowed to grow without proper care," he said. Abubakar is chair of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, but a youth-led Coalition of Northern Groups has emerged outside control of the traditional rulers, and launched a paramilitary network called Shege Ka Fasa to defend against the Islamist militias. (Sahara Reporters, Feb. 8)
Cameroon's two western regions saw a dramatic surge in political violence ahead of parliamentary and municipal elections held Feb. 9. Amnesty International has accused the army of dozens of killings, the burning of villages, and the displacement of thousands of people in operations over the past weeks against the separatist movement in Northwest and Southwest regions. (See map) The anglophone militants demanding independence from the rest of francophone Cameroon vowed to disrupt the polls and also stepped up their attacks. They ordered the closure of schools and markets in the western regions, and told people to stay indoors between Feb. 7-12. The crisis has shuttered more than 40% of the health centers in the two regions, and more than 600,000 children are out of school. At least 3,000 civilians have died since the conflict began in 2016, and 730,000 people have been displaced.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is voicing alarm over the worsening situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's eastern Beni Territory, North Kivu province, where violence has forced more than a hundred thousand civilians from their homes over the past two months. Attacks by armed groups since December on a number of towns and villages in the Watalinga Chiefdom, near the border with Uganda, have displaced residents to the town of Nobili and surrounding areas. Many were displaced previously and had only just returned to their villages in November last year, after fleeing violence in April. They remain in dire need of assistance. Violence in the region have been rising since the launch of a government-led military operation in December against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Civilians, including those displaced in November and December, are among those targeted by armed groups, including the ADF. An estimated 252 civilians are reported to have been killed in Beni Territory since December. Many people told UNHCR staff that they now live in fear, after witnessing killings, sexual violence and abductions at home and during flight. (Reliefweb)
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is boosting its response in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province, where a recent escalation of violence has forced thousands to flee for their lives. At least 100,000 people are now displaced throughout the province. There has been a dramatic increase of brutal attacks by armed groups, with recent weeks being the most volatile period since the outbreak began in October 2017. Bands of gunmen have been targeting local villages and terrorizing the populace. Those fleeing report random killings, maiming and torture, torched homes and shops, and crops burned in the fields. There have been reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children.
Amnesty International on Feb. 3 urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. African Mining Indaba, a conference centered on promoting the industry on the continent, is set to run this week, but several civil organizations, including Amnesty, are holding their own conference for the eleventh time to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the mining industry in Africa. Amnesty director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said in statement: "From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa's Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively."