Report sheds light on Wagner Group crimes in Africa
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) issued a new report Aug. 30 on the Wagner Group's activities in the Central African Republic and Mali, and it makes for chilling reading. The Russian mercenary group has targeted civilians in more than half of its operations in CAR (where it began operating in 2018) and over 70% in Mali (where it arrived last year). Its CAR deployment was initially limited to training the national armed forces, but it took on a direct combat role in late 2020 as rebels threatened the capital. It won praise for helping the state capture major towns, but abuses have now angered large parts of the civilian population. In jihadist-hit Mali, the mercenaries have also been involved in a number of high-profile abuses—mostly notably in the central town of Moura, where hundreds of non-combatants were massacred earlier this year.
Senegal: peace process with Casamance rebels
The concluding of a peace agreement between Senegal and separatist rebels in Casamance is being hailed by the government as "an important step" toward ending the 40-year conflict in the southern region. The deal was signed Aug. 5 in neighboring Guinea-Bissau by a delegate from President Macky Sall's administration and Cesar Atoute Badiate, leader of the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), which has waged an insurgency since 1982. The long-simmering conflict was re-ignited in January 2021 when the Senegalese army launched a major offensive against the rebels. The Casamance rebels, accused of trafficking in timber and cannabis, have often taken refuge in Guinea-Bissau or Gambia. But Seydi Gassama, director of Amnesty International Senegal, noted that the MFDC is now but one of several rebel factions. "The negotiations must expand to include these factions so that a peace deal can be quickly signed with all the factions and peace can be established throughout all of Casamance," Gassama said. (North Africa Post, VOA)
Al-Shabab's Ethiopia front collapses
A large-scale incursion by the Somali jihadist group al-Shabab into eastern Ethiopia has been defeated. The government claims to have killed more than 800 militants in heavy fighting that began at the end of July. The attempt to open a new front in Ethiopia was not only a military defeat for al-Shabab, but also a political failure. Although some of al-Shabab's leaders are from the area, ideologically the Somali region of Ethiopia is known for its religious tolerance. Local community and religious leaders rallied to oppose the group, and have pledged to resist future infiltration.
Econo-protests rock Sierra Leone
Authorities in Sierra Leone imposed a nationwide curfew on Aug. 10, amid anti-government protests, in which a still undetermined number of people have been killed, apparently including at least four police officers. In the capital Freetown, protesters barricaded the streets and clashed with security forces, enraged at a 40% spike in the cost of living. A key demand is the resignation of President Julius Maada Bio, who is on a month-long vacation with his family in London—a trip apparently paid for with misappropriated public funds.
Mounting crisis, resource sale in DRC's east
Two people were killed and several others injured when UN peacekeepers opened fire during an incident in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 31. The incident, in Kasindi, North Kivu province, appears to have started in a confrontation between soldiers of the peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, and Congolese troops. It followed several days of anti-MONUSCO protests, in which some 20 people were killed, including three peacekeepers. Demonstrators attacked MONUSCO bases in Goma and other eastern cities, calling on the mission to leave the country, as it has failed to protect civilians amid a resurgence of fighting between security forces and the M23 rebels. (UN News, TNH, VOA)
Mozambique insurgency spreading —again
It's been a year since forces from Rwanda and a southern African regional bloc deployed to Mozambique's northernmost Cabo Delgado province to battle a jihadist insurgency. Yet attacks are rising again, with more people displaced last month (over 60,000) than at any time this year. Foreign troops helped capture major towns from the insurgents—known locally as al-Shabab—allowing some displaced people to return home. But scattered fighters regrouped and are now spreading their attacks to southern parts of the province previously untouched by conflict. The new incursions have led to reports of beheadings and sparked security fears in Pemba, the provincial capital and a hub for aid operations. Humanitarian groups are calling for increased funds, with around 800,000 people uprooted since the start of the insurgency in late 2017. The militants are affiliated to the so-called Islamic State, but a mix of local issues is driving the war.
Sudan: regime spurring ethnic violence?
Fighting between Hausa and Berta tribespeople broke out in Sudan's Blue Nile state last week, leaving dozens dead. The clashes, centered on the localities of Gaissan, Roseiris and Wad Al-Mahi, apparently began in a land dispute. Tensions were elevated following calls to recognize a chiefdom for the Hausa people, who originate from Nigeria but have been settling lands in the region for generations. Authorities have imposed a curfew and mobilized the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to the state, ostensibly to restore calm. But the Forces for Freedom & Changes (FFC) opposition coalition accused the military of instigating the conflict by encouraging Hausa demands to establish a chiefdom in territory traditionally inhabited by the Hamaj, a clan of the Berta people. Before a 2020 peace deal, many Hausa served in paramilitary forces to help the regime fight the SPLM-N rebels. "The…FFC hold the coup authority fully responsible for the successive renewal of these events in most parts of the country," the opposition group said in a statement. (Sudan Tribune)
Tentative peace talks for Ambazonia
After three years of conflict, a tentative peace process is underway between the Cameroon government and scessionist rebels demanding independence for the country's two western anglophone regions. Cameroon is a majority francophone country, and its Northwest and Southwest regions complain that they have been deliberately marginalized by the central government in Yaounde. What began as a protest movement in 2016, calling for federalism, degenerated into fighting and a demand for full independence after the government clamped down on the movement.
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