Nigeria drops 'terrorism' charges against Biafra separatist
The Nigerian Court of Appeal on Oct. 13 dismissed all terrorism charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of separatist group the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Nigerian authorities have identified IPOB as a "terrorist organization," but international organizations including the Council on Foreign Relations disagree with the designation, and are urging the US not to adopt it.
Somalia: clan militia takes on al-Shabab
The jihadist group al-Shabab is facing a local clan-based rebellion in central Somalia—one the embattled Mogadishu government hopes might spread throughout its zones of control. As resistance to the insurgent group has grown, lawmakers and clan elders have been backing the self-organized militia in pitched battles against al-Shabab. The militia—known as Ma'awisley, a reference to the traditional sarong worn in Somalia's rural areas—is strongest in Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Galmudug regions of Hirshabelle and Central states. (TNH, VOA)
Burkina Faso coup a France-Russia pivot?
Army captain Ibrahim Traoré has been officially appointed president of Burkina Faso after ousting Paul-Henri Damiba, who had himself taken power in a January coup. A two-day standoff in Ouagadougou came to an end on Oct. 2 as religious and community leaders mediated Damiba's resignation. Damiba had promised to stem rising attacks by jihadist groups when he took charge, but violence only worsened under his watch and frustration mounted within the army. A militant attack in the north that left dozens dead last month—both soldiers and civilians—is thought to have exacerbated military schisms ahead of the coup. Tensions also built around Damiba's perceived closeness to France—the country's former colonial ruler—and reluctance to pivot towards Russia (as the junta in neighboring Mali has). Supporters of 34-year-old Traoré initially claimed Damiba was plotting a counter-coup to return to power from a French military base in the country. France denied the accusation, but the charge appeared to galvanize support for the new leader and led to protests outside the French embassy. Traoré has said he won't stay in power for long, but much remains uncertain—including whether there will be peace talks with the jihadists.
ICC war crimes trial for CAR militia leader opens
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a trial Sept. 26 against Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the Séléka rebel group, for crimes humanity and war crimes in violation of the Rome Statute. Said allegedly committed these crimes in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), in 2013. Said pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Eritrea in mass mobilization for Tigray offensive
More than a month after renewed clashes broke out in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, there are few signs of de-escalation. A new air-strike hit Tigray's capital of Mekelle on Sept. 23, while the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), accused Eritrea of launching a full-scale offensive in support of the Ethiopian government. There are reports that Eritrea (which has a historical enmity against the TPLF) is mobilizing army reservists, with notices handed out in Asmara, the capital. The return to combat came after a five-month truce that saw back-channel meetings between Mekelle and Addis Ababa but no formal talks. The risk that fresh fighting poses to civilians was underscored by UN investigators, who submitted their first report on the two-year conflict. The investigators accused Ethiopia's government of war crimes in Tigray, and of using starvation as a counterinsurgency tool. Tigrayan forces were also accused of serious human rights abuses.
South Sudan factionalism sparks new displacement
Four years ago this month, South Sudanese leaders signed a peace agreement that was supposed to end the country's devastating civil war. Today, thousands are again fleeing their homes as disagreements between military-political elites spark renewed violence. The latest clashes stem from internal tensions between factions of the SPLA-IO, the country's main opposition movement which is also a member of the transitional government. The conflict pits forces aligned to Simon Gatwech (a member of the Lou Nuer community) against fighters led by Johnson Olony (a prominent leader in the Shilluk community). Last week, Nuer fighters attacked a group of Shilluk at a displacement camp on Adidiang Island, near Malakal in Upper Nile state, causing hundreds of injuries and reported drownings. Tensions between Shilluk and Nuer also surfaced at the nearby Malakal Protection of Civilians site—which is guarded by UN peacekeepers. Elite power struggles have consistently undermined South Sudan's transition, which was recently extended by two years due to the slow implementation of the peace deal. Experts say the agreement may actually be doing more harm than good, though diplomats still consider it the only game in town.
Attacks, displacement in post-coup Burkina Faso
When mutinous soldiers ousted Burkina Faso's democratically elected president in late January, they vowed to do a better job of securing the Sahelian country from attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. But violence has only increased over the past months, draining public confidence in the junta, threatening coastal West African states, and worsening a humanitarian crisis that has now displaced almost two million people–around one in 10 Burkinabé.
Belated peace-building landmark in South Sudan
A graduation ceremony this week saw the first batch of fighters integrated into South Sudan's unified national army—a key part of the peace deal signed in 2018. More than 20,000 troops (including former rebels) were told by President Salva Kiir that they now represent the South Sudanese people (rather than rival military parties). Graduation was initially planned for 2019, but stalled along with much of the peace deal. Delays meant the post-war transition—due to end next year—was extended by the government on Aug. 4. Kiir said the two-year extension was necessary to avoid rushed elections and relapse into civil war. The president blamed funding gaps and climate disasters for the hold-up. Donors blamed the government. UN experts say the peace process has itself become a motor for violence, as factions vie to position themselves for the transition.
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