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)

Africa
Mali

‘False flag’ plot behind Mali mass grave?

The junta in Mali is accusing France of spying 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, with text accusing France of atrocities in Mali. France claims the bodies were brought to Gossi from Hombori, a town to the south, where Malian troops and Russian mercenaries have been carrying out an operation against jihadi insurgents. The junta acknowledges that numerous militants were killed in the operation. (Map: PCL)

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
Mali

Russian mercenaries accused in Mali massacre

Malian armed forces and associated foreign soldiers are believed to have summarily executed an estimated 300 civilian men in a town they occupied in late March, Human Rights Watch says in a new report, calling it “worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.” The men were detained at a marketplace in the central town of Moura, Mopti region, during a military raid. Army troops and foreign soldiers—identified by several sources as Russians—are said by witnesses and survivors to have broken the detainees up into small groups and marched them to an area outside town before putting them to death. The Malian regime is battling an insurgency by jihadist militants linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda with the help of private military contractors from Russia’s Wagner Group. (Map: PCL)

Africa
fact

Inauspicious start for Chad peace talks

Chad’s junta opened delayed peace talks with rebel and opposition groups in Qatar. But things got off to a bad start when one of the main rebel outfits–the Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT)–walked out amid confusion over Doha’s role as a mediator. Chad was plunged into uncertainty last April when long-time ruler Idriss Déby was killed while commanding troops combating a FACT offensive. Power was then seized by Déby’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, who outlined a transition plan. The Doha talks are considered a precursor to a national dialogue that the younger Déby is organizing before planned elections. But after decades of rebellion and repression, things are unlikely to proceed smoothly. Just last month a phone conversation surfaced in which Timan Erdimi, head of the Union of Resistance Forces (UFR), one of the rebel groups present in Doha, discussed plans to oust Déby using the Kremlin-linked mercenary Wagner Group. (Image via Twitter)

Africa
mali-hunger-displacement

Mali: crisis deepens as foreign forces withdraw

France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year’s coup d’etat. The junta has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State—a nearly 70% increase from early 2020. (Photo of Mali displaced persons camp: The New Humanitarian)

Planet Watch
nuclear power

Podcast: Nuclear power? No thanks!

In Episode 110 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the current greenwashing of nuclear power, and hype about a supposedly “safe” new generation of reactors. Every stage of the nuclear cycle is ecocidal and genocidal. Uranium mining has poisoned the lands of indigenous peoples from Navajo Country to Saskatchewan to West Africa. The ongoing functioning of nuclear plants entails routine emissions of radioactive gases, factored in by the bureaucrats in determining “acceptable” levels of cancer. Disposal of the waste, and the retired reactor sites themselves, is a problem that inherently defies solution. They will be deadly for exponentially longer into the future than biblical times stretch into the past. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, hyped as secure for hundreds of millennia, leaked plutonium after only 13 years. And finally there is the “sexiest” issue, the one that actually gets some media play, at least—the risk of accident. It is a mark of capitalism’s depravity that even after the nightmares of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we periodically get media campaigns about an imminent “nuclear renaissance.” Nuclear versus fossil fuels is the false choice offered us by industry. The imperative is to get off the extraction economy and on to one based on sustainability and resource conservation. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Ouaddai

Chad: protests over Ouaddai sultanate autonomy

At least 14 protesters were killed in Chad’s Ouaddai province, climaxing several days of mounting violence and unrest. Protests broke out in provincial capital Abéché after the central government suspended the powers of Ouaddai’s traditional sultan, Cherif Abdelhadi Mahdi. The appointed prefect of the province is to assume his traditional powers over the ethnic Ouaddai community. The traditional Ouaddai chieftain of the locality of Bani Halba has also had his powers dissolved by decree. The appointed replacements are apparently to be Arabs, exacerbating tensions between the Arab and ethnic Ouaddai communities. Local rights groups say several more were killed by security forces in the days of protest, and are demanding an investigation. The heretofore autonomous sultanate of Dar Ouaddai is a survival of the Wadai Empire, which ruled much of the region from the 15th century through the consolidation of French colonial rule in 1914. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
cameroon

Water scarcity sparks clashes in Cameroon’s North

The UN Refugee Agency reports that “intercommunal clashes” in Cameroon’s Far North region have displaced thousands inside the country and forced more than 30,000 people to flee to neighboring Chad. At least 22 have been killed and 30 others injured. The fighting began in the border village of Ouloumsa following a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources. Violence then spread to neighboring villages. Ten villages have been burned to the ground. The violence also reached Kousseri, Cameroon’s northern commercial hub, where the cattle market was destroyed and thousands forced to flee. (Photo: Aristophane Ngargoune/UNHCR)

Africa
jihadis

Russian mercenaries to Mali?

France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa’s Sahel nations, criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali’s transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its “firm opposition” to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (Photo: FIDES)

Afghanistan
ground zero

Podcast: 9-11 and the GWOT at 20

In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush’s Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: CounterVortex)

Africa
Sahel

Mounting massacres across Africa’s Sahel nations

The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. Attacks on civilians and security forces alike have left hundreds dead this month. In Niger, peasants were gunned down while working their fields in Banibangou village—an attack attributed to a local ISIS franchise. In Mali, ongoing deadly attacks have caused a massive population exodus in several regions of the country, including Menaka, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu and Sikasso. “Violence is spreading so rapidly across Mali that it threatens the very survival of the state,” said UN human rights expert Alioune Tine after a visit to the country. (Map: Wikivoyage)