Africa
ethiopia

Eritrean troops returning to Tigray

Eritrean troops have re-entered the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray—a region they had largely vacated in June under military pressure from the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The new Eritrean deployment, in support of the Ethiopian government, is reportedly to the contested western part of Tigray—a target for the TPLF. The United States has demanded the withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopia and imposed sanctions on Eritrea’s top general, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for “despicable acts” of rights violations. While much of Tigray has been declared “fully” accessible for aid deliveries, fighting in Afar province—a key supply route—between the government and TPLF has blocked aid getting into Tigray itself. Since July, only some 320 trucks have entered the region, a fraction of the cargo required to meet the humanitarian needs of at least 5.2 million people, according to the UN relief agency, OCHA. (Map: Political Geography Now)

Central America
salvador

El Salvador: government deal with maras revealed

Details of an investigation into negotiations between the government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and violent gangs, which involved trading fewer murders and electoral support for improved prison conditions, were revealed by El Faro, an online news site. The talks were carried out by a special unit created by attorney general Raúl Melara, who was ousted in May. Officials apparently conducted discussions with Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios, and Barrio 18 Sureños, which the government considers terrorist groups. El Faro published audio files and text messages documenting what took place over at least a year beginning in 2019. Gang violence has been a main driver of migration from El Salvador. The US State Department recently accused several Bukele officials of corruption, which has cooled efforts to engage bilaterally on migration strategy. (Map: University of Texas)

Africa
Ethiopia

Ethiopia: conflict widens on multiple fronts

Despite hopes for a ceasefire in Tigray region last month, the Ethiopian conflict is expanding. The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the main rebel group in the country’s largest region, Oromia, warns that it is close to cutting off a major highway to Kenya—a move that could disrupt trade with the largest economy in East Africa. Having announced a pact with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the OLA claims it is advancing on the western and southern fronts of Oromia region, and holds parts of the southern Borena zone bordering Kenya. Meanwhile, as the humanitarian crisis deepens and Tigrayan rebels push on into Amhara and Afar regions, there has been a relaunch of diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting. Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok—rebuffed once by Addis Ababa—said he is still willing to mediate. Sudan, however, has its own dispute with Ethiopia over the contested al-Fashaga border region—an issue Khartoum reiterated is non-negotiable. (Map via Wikipedia)

The Caribbean
haiti-quake-rubble

Haiti: gang warfare hinders earthquake recovery

More than 500,000 are in need of emergency assistance in Haiti’s southern peninsula, where a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 12,200. Aid and medical efforts are hampered by debris-strewn roads, rain from Tropical Storm Grace, a shortage of working hospitals, and gang violence. A hospital in Port-au-Prince was closed by a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping of two doctorsViolent gangs patrol many of the country’s transport routes. The southern peninsula has yet to recover from Hurricane Matthew, which killed hundreds in 2016. Prime Minister Ariel Henryhas promised to speed up aid efforts—more than 30,000 families are displaced, and there are fears of cholera due to lack of safe water, sanitation, and shelter. (Photo: Evens Mary/The New Humanitarian)

Africa
cabo delgado

Rwanda’s quick win in Mozambique: how real?

Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of Mocímboa da Praia from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn’t address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict. (Map via Moscow Times)

Africa

Pre-emptive repression in South Sudan

Two prominent activists in South Sudan—Augustino Ting Mayai of the local Sudd Institute and Kuel Aguer Kuel, former governor of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State—were arrested for calling for a peaceful uprising to end the country’s state of “political bankruptcy.” They were part of a coalition of civil society groups that declared South Sudan has “had enough” of a decade of failed leadership, marked by civil war and widespread hunger. The coalition called for the resignation of both President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar, arch-rivals now uneasy bedfellows in a unity government. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
iswap

ISIS franchise takes insurgency to Cameroon

The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise has usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed this week in a raid on an army post near the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has “regained strength following internal restructuring,” according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP. (Photo: ISS Africa)

Iraq
mosul

ISIS regroups amid slow rebuilding in Iraq

A suicide bomb killed at least 30 in Baghdad, exploding in a busy market as people prepared for the Eid al-Adha holiday. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly four years after the liberation of Mosul, remnants of the militant organization are regrouping to stage scattered attacks across the country. And Iraq has yet to recover from the fight against ISIS. In a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mosul residents offer sobering testimony on the challenge of trying to restart their lives despite a failure to rebuild much of the city’s devastated homes, infrastructure, and economy. There are still around 1.2 million Iraqis displaced across the country, including 257,000 in Nineveh province, where Mosul sits. Aid groups warn that these people are being exposed to new risks as camps close, leaving some with nowhere to go. (Photo: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC via ReliefWeb)

Africa
south africa riot

South Africa’s eruption: not just about Zuma

Violence and looting that left some 120 dead in South Africa diminished after thousands of troops were deployed onto the streets of the hotspot provinces. But the unrest was the worst since the end of apartheid, and has disrupted a stuttering vaccination program amid a COVID-19 third wave that is straining health services. Protests erupted after the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, who refused to appear before a corruption inquiry. However, the unrest reflects broader frustrations, as pandemic restrictions result in job losses, deepening poverty in one of the world’s most unequal countries. One bystander in Johannesburg told a TV crew: “The matter is not about Zuma. People are hungry.” (Photo: MwanzoTV)

Africa
cabo delgado

Foreign troops deploy in Mozambique

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Rwanda is deploying a 1,000-strong force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive. Reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique’s army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado’s worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted, and close to a million are now facing severe hunger. (Map via Moscow Times)

Africa
Ethiopia

Ethiopia: fears of Tigray conflict spread

The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region appears to have entered a dangerous new phase, as Addis Ababa reneged on a unilateral ceasefire. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had pulled federal troops out of the northern region amid a string of battlefield losses to the rebel Tigray Defense Forces (TDF). But he reversed course as the TDF launched a fresh offensive to recapture western lands annexed by neighboring Amhara region during the eight-month conflict. Amhara officials assert that the lands belong to their region, and are calling up a militia force, risking a widening ethnic conflict. Also entering the fray are forces from Oromia (Abiy’s home region), Sidama, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples (SNNP) region. Escalation now seems inevitable in a war that has already left hundreds of thousands facing famine. (Map via EthioVisit)

Africa
Sahel

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said there would be a “profound transformation” of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane’s 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable. (Map: Wikivoyage)