Africa Theater

South Sudan: fighting, flooding, aid suspension

Close to 80,000 people have been displaced in Tambura County, in South Sudan's Western Equatoria, as a result of fighting between government forces and the opposition SPLA-IO–even though both sides are supposed to be forming a new unified army. A delay to security sector reform continues to set back implementation of a 2018 peace agreement. The Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies has warned that South Sudan's "militarized political culture" could see tensions "boiling over"—threatening the national unity government. Faction fighting within SPLA-IO has added to the insecurity. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme is suspending aid to more than 100,000 displaced people in Wau, Juba, and Bor beginning in October—part of a three-month "prioritization exercise" driven by a finance crunch. The fall in funding is despite the country experiencing the highest rate of food insecurity since independence in 2011, with more than 60% of South Sudanese going hungry. Months of flooding has added to that toll.

Eritrean troops returning to Tigray

Eritrean troops have re-entered the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray—a region they had largely vacated in June under military pressure from the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The new Eritrean deployment, in support of the Ethiopian government, is reportedly to the contested western part of Tigray, around the towns of Adi Goshu and Humera—a target for the TPLF. The United States has demanded the withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopia and on Aug. 23 imposed sanctions on Eritrea's top general, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for "despicable acts" of rights violations. While much of Tigray has been declared "fully" accessible for aid deliveries, fighting in Afar province—a key supply route—between the government and TPLF has blocked aid getting into Tigray itself. Since July 15, only some 320 trucks have entered the region, a fraction of the cargo required to meet the humanitarian needs of at least 5.2 million people, according to the UN relief agency, OCHA.

Ethiopia: conflict widens on multiple fronts

Despite hopes for a ceasefire in Tigray region last month, the Ethiopian conflict is expanding. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the main rebel group in the country's largest region, Oromia, warned on Aug. 14 that it is close to cutting off a major highway to Kenya—a move that could disrupt trade with the largest economy in East Africa. Having announced a pact with the government's arch-adversary, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the OLA claims it is advancing on the western and southern fronts of Oromia region, and holds parts of the southern Borena zone bordering Kenya. Meanwhile, as the humanitarian crisis deepens and Tigrayan rebels push on into Amhara and Afar regions, there has been a relaunch of diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting. US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Ethiopia last weekend, and Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok—rebuffed once by Addis Ababa—said he is still willing to mediate. Sudan, however, has its own dispute with Ethiopia over the contested al-Fashaga border region—an issue Khartoum reiterated is non-negotiable.

Mounting massacres across Africa's Sahel nations

The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. At least 80 people were killed in an ambush in Burkina Faso on Aug. 18. The target was a  convoy near the town of Arbinda, but scores of civilians were slain along with 17 soldiers and members of a pro-government militia. On Aug. 4, presumed militants killed 30 civilians, soldiers and militiamen in an attack near the town of Markoye. The assailants first attacked civilian villagers, and then fired on soldiers responding to the raid. State media reported that government troops killed 16 of the attackers. (The Hill, Al Jazeera, AP, France24, Reuters)

Sectarian massacre in Nigeria's Plateau state

Nigerian authorities imposed a curfew in Jos, capital of north-central Plateau state, after at least 20 Muslim travelers passing through the city were massacred by a presumed Christian militia Aug. 14. The Muslims, mostly of the Fulani ethnicity, were in a convoy of vehicles, returning to their homes in Ondo and Ekiti states from a celebration in neighboring Bauchi state marking the start of Muharram, the Islamic new year. In Jos, the convoy was caught in a traffic jam, and the vehicles set upon by militiamen—the occupants slain with machetes, daggers and other weapons. The assailants were apparently Christians of the Irigwe ethnicity. Northern and central Nigeria have for years seen growing violence between Muslim semi-nomadic herders and Christian farmers over control of land and water.

Rwanda's quick win in Mozambique: how real?

Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of Mocímboa da Praia on Aug. 9 from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab (see list of alternative names)—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn't address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict.

Pre-emptive repression in South Sudan

Two prominent activists in South Sudan—Augustino Ting Mayai of the local Sudd Institute and Kuel Aguer Kuel, former governor of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State—were arrested Aug. 2 for calling for a peaceful uprising to end the country's state of "political bankruptcy." They were part of a coalition of civil society groups that declared South Sudan has "had enough" of a decade of failed leadership, marked by civil war and widespread hunger. The coalition called for the resignation of both President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, arch-rivals now uneasy bedfellows in a unity government.

Djibouti: Horn of Africa's next domino?

At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti on Aug. 1. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti's borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country's other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti's port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Militia fighters from Ethiopia's Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Garowe Online, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, ReliefWeb)

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