Africa Theater

Angola: drought threatens traditional pastoralists

Millions of people in southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought continues to ravage the region, Amnesty International said July 22. The organization highlighted how the creation of commercial cattle ranches on communal lands has driven pastoralist communities from their territories since the end of the civil war in 2002. This shift has left huge sections of the population food-insecure, and especially vulnerable as the acute drought persists for over three years. As food and water grow increasingly scarce, thousands have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring Namibia.

South Africa's eruption: not just about Zuma

The violence and looting that left at least 117 people dead in South Africa may have diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the main hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst seen since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a Delta-driven COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the July 7 imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, who had refused to appear before a corruption inquiry into the "state capture" allegations that blighted his rule. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses and deepen poverty in one of the world's most unequal countries. As one bystander in Johannesburg told a television crew: "The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry."

Foreign troops deploy in Mozambique

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Last week, Rwanda began deploying a 1,000-strong police and military force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive in the coming days. Some reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique's army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado's worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted—68,000 since late March—and close to a million are now facing severe hunger.

Ethiopia: fears of Tigray conflict spread

The war in Ethiopia's Tigray region appears to have entered a dangerous new phase, as Addis Ababa reneged on a unilateral ceasefire July 14. Ethnic militias are now mobilizing from across Ethiopia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed started to pulled federal troops out of the northern region last month amid a string of battlefield losses to the rebel Tigray Defense Forces (TDF). But he reversed course as the TDF launched a fresh offensive to recapture western lands annexed by neighboring Amhara region during the eight-month conflict. Amhara officials assert that the lands belong to their region, and are calling up a militia force, risking a widening ethnic conflict. Also entering the fray are forces from Oromia (Abiy's home region), Sidama, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples (SNNP) region. Escalation now seems inevitable in a war that has already left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

Sudan militia leader to face war crimes trial

Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision on July 9, unanimously confirming charges against Sudanese militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman. Consequently, Abd-Al-Rahman, who is also known as Ali Kushayb, was committed to trial before an ICC trial chamber. Abd-Al-Rahman was a top commander of the Janjaweed militia, and one of the most senior leaders in the tribal hierarchy in Wadi Salih locality, Central Darfur state. He is also a leader of the Popular Defense Forces, the more regularized successor to the Janjaweed. He is alleged to have led pro-government campaigns against Darfur rebel groups, ultimately displacing 40,000 and murdering 300 civilians.

Ethiopia: ceasefire over humanitarian concerns

Ethiopia's federal government announced a ceasefire in Tigray region on July 2. The Ethiopian National Defense Force and the federally-recognized Provisional Tigray Administration left Tigray's capital Mekelle as part of the ceasefire, pausing eight months of war. The Tigray Defense Force, loyal to the ousted regional government and now in rebellion, has not agreed to the government's ceasefire. Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political & Peacebuilding Affairs, said "we urge the TDF to endorse the ceasefire immediately and completely."

Uprising and repression in Eswatini

The government of Eswatini, Africa's last absolute monarchy, has launched what Amnesty International calls a "ruthless crackdown" in response to pro-democracy protests, with dozens killed and many others tortured, detained or abducted. At least 150 protesters have been hospitalized for injuries, including gunshot wounds sustained from live ammunition fired by the police. The military has also been deployed to the streets. Protests broke out last month, following the mysterious death of a 25-year-old law student, Thabani Nkomonye, in May, allegedly at the hands of the police. His body was found on a field in Nhlambeni, outside the city of Manzini. In late June, these protests grew into daily marches in several cities and towns around the kingdom. While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were instances in which businesses linked to the monarchy were looted and torched. The protests have waned since the wave of repression was unleashed, but the opposition People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) pledges to carry on the struggle.

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said on June 10 there would be a "profound transformation" of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. The details of the plan will be finalized by the end of June, he added. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane's 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable.

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