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.
Somalia: US raids on ISIS stronghold
A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 26. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, officials said. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia (ISS) in the Iskushuban area of the Cal Miskaad mountains, in the northern autonomous region of Puntland. (Defense Post, Military.com, LWJ)
Massacres mount in eastern DRC
Militants from the ISIS-aligned Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed at least 15 people, more than haf of them women, in attacks on the villages of Manyala and Ofay in Ituri province of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local authorities reported Jan. 30. On Jan. 23, presumed ADF fighters massacred at least 20 people at a bar where local residents were drinking beer in Makugwe village, in the Beni region of neighboring North Kivu province. On Jan. 16, presumed ADF fighters killed some 20 Christian worshippers in a bomb attack on a church in Kasindi village, North Kivu. (MTT, VOA, Defense Post, BBC News)
Ethiopia: violence ebbs in Tigray, flares in Oromia
The war in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region has cooled down since the signing of a peace deal in November. But a separate conflict is intensifying further south, in Oromia, where civilians are suffering as anti-government rebels step up attacks. Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) guerillas were previously confined to the fringes of western and southern Oromia, Ethiopia's largest region. But analysts say the Tigray war created a security vacuum that has helped the OLA expand its long-running insurgency. The security situation is now "fast deteriorating," the UN's aid coordination agency, OCHA, warned in a report last month. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been uprooted and essential services are not functioning in some conflict-affected areas.
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 dissent from biodiversity protocol
The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded Dec. 19 in Montreal, with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet's sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called "30x30" pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030.
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.
Thousands flee worsening South Sudan clashes
Among the long list of ostensibly local conflicts that have broken out in South Sudan since a national peace deal was inked in 2018, analysts say the current violence involving Nuer and Shilluk militias in Upper Nile state ranks with the deadliest. Thousands of people have been uprooted since mid-November and there are concerns of an imminent attack on Kodok—a town hosting more than 10,000 displaced Shilluk. The UN's peacekeeping mission has been encouraged to step up protection duties, but Nuer forces have reportedly encircled Kodok and cut off escape routes, including to the nearby UN protection camp in Malakal. Though clashes are occurring along communal lines, they were triggered by internal tensions within a splinter group of the country's main opposition movement, the SPLA-IO. Simon Gatwech (a Lou Nuer) and Johnson Olony (a prominent Shilluk) defected from the group last year before turning on each other. President Salva Kiir has said he "cannot stop" the fighting, though observers say his regime benefits from pitting the feuding factions against each other.
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