Wagner Group named in massacres on Sudan-CAR borderlands
Russian mercenaries are accused of carrying out a series of deadly attacks on artisanal miners in the lawless border zone between Sudan and the Central African Republic, in an apparent effort to establish dominance over outlaw gold mining operations with allied paramilitary factions. Dozens of local miners are said to have been killed in at least three major attacks on their encampments this year, allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.
Massacres escalate in Ethiopia's Oromia state
More than 200 civilians were killed June 18 at the village of Tole Kebele in the West Wollega zone of Ethiopia's Oromia regional state. The massacre, which targeted members of the Amhara ethnicity, is being blamed by authorities on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Amhara militias in the region have been cooperating with the official security forces in counterinsurgency operations against the OLA, resulting in reprisal attacks on villages. However, OLA commander Kumsa Dirriba denies that his forces carry out attacks on civilians, claiming that the national army is "solely responsible" for the killings of Amhara civilians in Oromia. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, the dynamic is spreading into neighboring Gambella regional state, which has seen heavy fighting in recent days between the army and joint rebel forces of the OLA and Gambella Liberation Front (GLF), with dozens of civilians among the slain. (Addis Standard, NYT, BBC News, Ethiopia Insight, Ethiopia Insight)
Mali massacre: jihadism or ethnic war?
Scores of Malians demonstrated June 21 in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three nearby villages over the past days. The massacres in Diallassagou, Dianweli and Deguessagou localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. (Africa News, Africa News, TRT, AFP, El Pais)
Tanzania: troops fire on Maasai herders
Tanzanian security forces on June 10 fired on Maasai herders in a dispute over seizure of traditional grazing lands for a new game reserve. The trouble started when hundreds of troops of the Field Force Unit arrived in Wasso village of Loliondo division, in northern Ngorongoro district, to demarcate a 1,500 square-kilometer area for the new reserve. Maasai gathered to protest, and were met with bullets. Some 30 were reportedly shot, and two killed. Video footage shared on social media shows residents running from live fire. Other images show some Maasai with gunshot wounds. Afterwards, troops went house-to-house in local villages, beating and arresting those they believed took part in the protests, or distributed images of the violence. Thousands of Maasai have fled their homes into the bush following the raids.
Sahel: deadly violence in mining sector
At least two were killed May 24 as security forces clashed with protesting gold miners at Burkina Faso's western Houndé commune, Tuy province. The protesters were demanding the release of 12 of their comrades who had been arrested a week earlier, when informal miners angered by government moves to expel their camps overran and ransacked the facilities of Houndé Gold Operation, a subsidiary of the UK-based multinational Endeavour Mining. (AfricaNews, AFP) Rescue workers meanwhile recovered the bodies of four miners who had gone missing after floodwaters submerged a zinc mine operated by Canada's Trevali Mining at Perkoa, in nearby Sanguié province. (CNN, BBC News Gahuza)
US troops 'back' to Somalia —but did they ever leave?
The Pentagon announced May 16 that a "small, persistent US military presence" of around 500 troops is to return to Somalia, to assist ongoing operations against the Shabaab insurgents. Media commentators widely portrayed this as a policy reversal, with some incorrectly stating that Present Trump "brought the troops home" from Somalia in 2020. However, the Pentagon press release implicitly acknowledges that the so-called "withdrawal" had been largely a fiction: "This decision was based on a request from [Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] and included advice from senior commanders and, of course, concern for the safety of our troops who have incurred additional risk by deploying in and out of Somalia on an episodic basis for the past 16 months."
Olive branch as Burundi war spreads to DRC?
Burundi's President Évariste Ndayishimiye announced May 11 that he is prepared to negotiate with the country's two main rebel groups, should they reach out to his government. But it's unclear if the rebels will do that, especially given ongoing operations against them. The National Liberation Forces (FNL) and the Resistance Movement for Rule of Law in Burundi (RED-Tabara) both have bases in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter, the stronger of the two, has conducted a string of attacks in Burundi since 2015—the year then-president Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed third term, triggering waves of political violence. Reports suggest significant numbers of Burundian troops have crossed into the DRC in recent months to track down RED-Tabara fighters. The group is one of a number of foreign rebel movements in DRC, where nearly three million people were displaced last year. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians, meanwhile, are still living in refugee camps, afraid to return to a country where the killing and torture of ruling party opponents is rife.
West Africa jihadist insurgency reaches Togo
At least eight Togolese soldiers were killed in an assault on a military base in the north of the West African country May 11—apparently marking the first fatal attack in Togo by the jihadist rebel militias waging an insurgency across the wider region. Some 60 gunmen on motorcycles attacked the base at Kpinkankandi, in Kpendjal prefecture, near the border with Burkina Faso. According to locals, the battle over the base raged most of the night before the assailants retreated. No group has claimed responsibility for the raid, but suspicion has fallen on the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM), a Qaeda-aligned faction active in Burkina Faso.
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