Africa
FNL

Olive branch as Burundi war spreads to DRC?

Burundi’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye announced 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, 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 disputed elections triggered 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. (Image: Wikipedia)

Africa
congo

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 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 talks followed an East African Community summit in which heads of state agreed to set up a regional military force to fight rebels unwilling to lay down their arms. A UN peacekeeping mission operates in the DRC but is making drawdown plans. The Ugandan army is also intervening in the country, while martial law has been declared in the volatile eastern provinces for a year. Rebel attacks and abuses by soldiers continue, and nearly three million people were displaced last year alone. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
niger

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. (Map: PCL)

Southeast Asia
detention

Malaysia: calls to end mass detention of refugees

Rights groups in Malaysia are calling for the release of thousands of detained refugees and asylum-seekers, after a deadly incident in the northern state of Penang. Six Rohingya refugees were struck by vehicles and killed when hundreds fled a detention center after breaking through barriers and attempted to escape across an adjacent highway. “There is no discernible reason as to why so many of them were cramped into a makeshift depot in the first place,” stated advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty. Malaysia has long been a destinationfor Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma, but the government has cracked down on asylum-seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Hasnoor Hussain/TNH)

Africa
Central African Republic

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. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Greater Middle East
Manjorah

Middle East: ‘peak wheat’ fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon’s government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it’s a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. The food crisis is deepened by a decades-worst regional drought impacting YemenSyria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Iran. A new assessment on Iran from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) documents water shortages, disappearing wetlands and emptying villages, making the impacts “impossible to ignore.” (Photo of IDP camp in Yemen: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam)

Africa
EUTM

EU ends Mali training as junta turns to Russia

The European Union announced that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country’s north had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country’s ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group’s arrival. (Photo of Malian troops with EU advisors via EUTM Mali)

Africa
kivu

DR Congo: M23 rebels stage bloody comeback

Thousands have been displaced after new fighting broke out between M23 rebels and the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province. A UN helicopter was shot down (for which both sides blamed each other), and the fighting has sparked regional tensions as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels (a charge Kigali denies). M23 was responsible for the last major rebellion in eastern DRC, seizing large chunks of territory 10 years ago before a joint UN-government offensive forced its fighters into Uganda and Rwanda. Efforts to demobilize the group stalled and a cluster of combatants have re-entered the DRC. The strength of the group remains unclear, as are its objectives. M23 is but one of over 100 armed groups active in eastern DRC. (Photo: Guy Hubbard/UNICEF)

Africa

South Sudan headed ‘back to war’

South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar warned that the country is heading “back to war” following attacks on his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) by government forces under President Salva Kiir. The warring parties signed a 2018 peace agreement that led to a unity government two years later. But key parts of the deal have not been implemented, and violence has flared in the countryside. Machar’s party has suspended its participation in peace deal monitoring mechanisms after claiming that his house had been surrounded by government forces. As tensions build, humanitarian needs are deepening: more than 70% of South Sudan’s population are expected to face extreme hunger this year, while funding constraints and attacks on aid convoys continue to complicate relief efforts. (Photo: Sam Mednick/TNH)

Africa
tigray

Ethiopia: security threats thwart Tigray relief

Security threats are preventing aid groups from bringing relief supplies into Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, even as the government has declared a unilateral truce following 17 months of conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Federal authorities promised to facilitate aid access into Tigray, having imposed a months-long blockade that has left a population of six million people bereft of basic health supplies and facing extreme food shortages. But passage for aid convoys is currently constrained by insecurity along the only overland corridor open to relief groups. That route runs through the neighboring Afar region, where local militias have been supporting the federal government’s cause. Ongoing clashes between Tigrayan forces and Afar militia could derail the truce. (Photo: TNH)

Greater Middle East
yemen

‘Disappointing’ aid for hunger-stricken Yemen

As the country heads into an eighth year of war, Yemen is considered one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises: debilitated basic services, a collapsed economy, an estimated 20.7 million people (more than two thirds of the population) in need—all amid escalating conflict involving numerous different actors. Yet in the UN’s emergency appeal for $4.3 billion in aid for Yemen, donor states coughed up less than a third of that request, with pledges amounting to $1.3 billion. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia—top donors to Yemen in previous years—pledged nothing, while Kuwait pledged a surprisingly low $10 million. The UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, called the result “a disappointment.” The outcome is in stark contrast to Ukraine’s pledging conference just two weeks prior, considered the “fastest and most generous” response ever to a flash appeal. As the world’s attention is fixated on Ukraine, aid workers worry that it could draw resources away from other crises, such as Yemen. (Photo: OCHA)

Planet Watch

Ukraine war’s fallout on global wheat supplies

One knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine has been a jump in the global price of wheat—to its highest level since 2008. Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world wheat supply, and Ukraine’s most productive regions lie in the path of the conflict. If Ukrainian wheat is taken off the market, or ports are badly damaged, prices could possibly double. That would especially hurt the Middle East and North Africa—but also places as far afield as Bangladesh and Nigeria, which are major importers of Russian and Ukrainian wheat. The real test for the world supply will be the next harvest in four months’ time. If Western sanctions target Russian production—or Moscow responds to pressure by squeezing supplies—then shortages could really bite, potentially worsening global huger. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)