Africa Theater

Counter-revolution in Burkina Faso

Gen. Gilbert Diendere, a longtime right-hand man to ousted president Blaise Compaore and head of his presidential guard, seized power from Burkina Faso's transitional government on Sept. 17—sparking street protests in the capital Ouagadougou in which three were killed. The following day, the new junta—calling itself the National Council for Democracy—released interim president Michel Kafando, in a bid to quell protests. But prime minister Isaac Zida remains in custody. The US and France have condemned the coup, but both have critical security interests in the country, and have worked closely with Gen. Diendere for years. Burkina Faso serves as a rear base for regional counterterrorism operations and contributes troops to both the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali and the US-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership. (CSM, BBC News, Sept. 18; Afrique Jet, Sept. 17)

Boko Haram kills hundreds in Cameroon: report

A report (PDFreleased Sept. 16 by Amnesty International (AI) details the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon, resulting in the killing of some 400 civilians since January 2014. The report details the extensive human rights violation, including shootings and suicide bombings, which have largely targeted civilians. Boko Haram has reportedly recruited child soldiers and destroyed private and religious property. The report states that it appears that the acts of terror are a part of a "systematic...attack against the civilian population across north east Nigeria and the Far North of Cameroon." The report also discusses the response by security forces, which AI labeled as "heavy-handed," as security forces have arrested and detained more than 1,000 civilians. The poor conditions of the detention facilities have led to overcrowding and, in some cases, death.

Chad president accused of war crimes

The Extraordinary African Chambers on Sept. 3 confirmed that war crime accusations have been filed against Chad's President Idriss Deby. The special tribunal in Senegal is overseeing the case against the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré (BBC profile), who was accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. A Senegalese lawyer, Mbaye Jacques Ndiaye, filed the charges against Deby to hold him responsible for the role he played in perpetuating the alleged crimes of his predecessor while he served as Habré's army chief.

Burundi rights activist latest injured in attacks

A Burundi human rights activist, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, was shot and severely wounded by motorcyclists while in his vehicle on Aug. 3. Mbonimpa is the head of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH) and he was a very vocal opponent of President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term. Mbonimpa's shooting comes just one day after Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana and his bodyguards were killed in a drive-by shooting. [Nshimirimana was a security advisor and close ally of President Nkurunziza.]

More Boko Haram terror in Cameroon, Nigeria

Presumed Boko Haram militants killed more than 20 people in a double suicide attack in northern Cameroon on July 22—executed by two teenage girls, both under the age of 15. The attacks targeted a market and an adjoining neighborhood in Maroua, capital of the Far Northern Region. (See map) That same day, 42 lost their lives in a series of blasts at two bus stations in Gombe, northeast Nigeria. A new five-nation force—from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin—is due for deployment to fight Boko Haram by month's end. Boko Harams has been calling itself Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) since affiliating with the ISIS franchise earlier this year. (The Guardian, July 23; Long War Journal, July 22)

North Cameroon bans burqas after suicide blasts

After suicide bombings July 11 in Fotokol by two women wearing burqas, Northern Cameroon this week banned women from wearing burqas and face-covering veils [hijab]. The suicide bombers smuggled the bombs into public areas by hiding them under their veils. The attack, initiated by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, killed at least 14 people. As part of the ban, it was also decided by government officials that Muslims are not permitted to meet in large groups without permission. The governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, plans to increase security and further investigate the unexpected bombings. Some have protested the new ban, arguing that wearing a burqa is not a choice and that it is necessary to wear for religious reasons. However, government officials plan to keep the ban in effect as long as necessary to prevent further attacks.

Boko Haram war spills into Chad

Authorities in Chad announced the arrest of a key Boko Haram leader and two henchmen in the capital N'Djamena on June 28. The militant leader, named as Mahamat Moustapha AKA Baana Fanay, is accused coordinating trafficking of weapons between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Chadian security forces have arrested 74 accused militants since June 15 terror attacks in N'Djamena that killed 38 people and injured 100 others. But the day after the arrest ot Baana Fanay, two new suicide bombings in N'Djamena kiilled at least 11, including five police officers. The blasts were in residential neighborhoods, but at least one was apparently set off as police raided a suspected Boko Haram safe-house. (News Agency of Nigeria, June 30; AP, Al Jazeera, June 29)

Ivory Coast fights Ansar Dine along Mali border

Ivory Coast reinforced security along its northern frontier after a series of attacks by Islamist militias on towns just across the border in Mali. Troops from Ivory Coast are also reported to have crossed the border to assist Malian forces in driving out the rebels. Gunmen attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a border town in Mali's southern region of Sikasso, on June 28. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of militants ransacked a police station in the nearby town of Misseni. Ansar Dine is named as the group behind the attacks, and this appears to represent the first extension of its reach into Mali's south from its territory in the northern deserts. (Reuters, AFP, AFP, July 1)

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