Artisanal gold miners massacred in DRC
At least 35 people were killed May 10 when armed men raided an artisanal gold mining camp in Ituri province, in the conflicted northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local authorities at the rural commune of Mungwalu in Ituri's Djugu territory blamed the attack on the CODECO rebel militia. A four-month-old baby was among the dead. The militiamen also looted and torched homes at Camp Blanquette, and seized quantities of extracted gold. (AfricaNews) Informal mines in the eastern DRC provide much of the country's output of gold, cobalt and other minerals used in the global electronics industry.
Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Russian mercenaries accused in CAR atrocities
Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, "appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019," Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. On April 15, the United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed in the CAR's northeast, with initial reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. In the attacks three days earlier, up to 15 civilians were killed at the villages of Gordil and Ndah, some 1,000 kilometers northeast of the capital Bangui. Local officials and aid workers told AFP the attacks were carried out by elements of the "FACA [Central African Armed Forces] and their allies"—the term used by both the authorities and the UN for Russian mercenaries. HRW documents other such claims. On July 21, 2021, apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, some 300 kilometers north of the capital. HRW is calling upon the CAR's Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to "investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution."
Confused DRC peace dialogue in Kenya
The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded April 28 in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn't invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn't attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The list of participants was initially unclear and analysts seemed confused by the meeting's strategy as rebels arrived in dribs and drabs.
French forces out of Mali, into Niger
Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region.
'False flag' plot behind Mali mass grave?
The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying and subversion after the French military used a drone to film footage that Paris says shows Russian mercenaries burying bodies in a mass grave near a military base. The French government says the bodies were buried outside the base at Gossi, Tombouctou region, in a scheme to falsely accuse its departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. Video from the drone was released after pixelated images appeared on social media of corpses being buried in sand, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, immediately to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadist insurgents. The junta has acknowledged that 18 militants were killed in the operation. (The Guardian, AfricaNews, BBC News, Al Jazeera)
CAR war crimes trial delayed —again
A court created seven years ago to prosecute war crimes in the Central African Republic was due to open its first trial this month. But a no-show by defense lawyers means victims' associations and others pushing for justice will have to wait a little longer. The Bangui-based Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a hybrid tribunal composed of national and international jurists tasked with prosecuting war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. It took time to become operational because of staff recruitment challenges, insecurity, and limited resources. Arrest warrants have also not been executed, and the government has released high-profile suspects without SCC authorization. Its inaugural trial—set to resume in April—concerns three members of the 3R rebel group accused of involvement in a 2019 massacre. Rebel groups remain active across the CAR, which has one of the highest per capita humanitarian caseloads in the world.
Sudan: 150 killed in new Darfur massacre
At least 150 were killed April 24 as paramilitary troops attacked a village in Sudan's conflicted Darfur region. Fighters from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), many riding motorbikes or driving vehicles mounted with machine-guns, swept in on the village of Kereinik, torching houses and shops and firing on residents. More than 80,000 families fled their homes to seek refuge at the army headquarters in the village center. Hostilities between the Arab-dominated RSF and Masalit villagers began days earlier, after two Arab herders were reportedly killed by former rebel fighters. The fighting has since spread to the nearby town of Geneina, capital of West Darfur state. Sudan's central government is said to be sending in military reinforcements and warplanes to contain the situation. (NYT, Dabanga, Sudan Tribune, NRC)
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