Africa
Mali

War crimes seen in Mali conflict

An Islamist armed group linked to al-Qaeda killed at least 32 civilians, including three children, and set fire to over 350 homes in central Mali in January, forcing about 2,000 villagers to flee, Human Rights Watch reports. Earlier in January, a Bambara ethnic militia formed to oppose the jihadists killed at least 13 civilians, including two children, abducted 24 other civilians, and looted property and livestock in central Mali. These attacks, which HRW said are apparent war crimes, occurred amid a cycle of reprisal killings and communal violence in central Mali, pitting the Dogon and Bambara against the Fulani. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Burkina Faso

Hundreds of civilians massacred in Burkina Faso

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso summarily executed more than 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in the northern villages of Nondin and Soro in February, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The report says the massacres are among the worst atrocities carried out during the country’s nearly 10-year internal conflict, and may amount to crimes against humanity. Survivors said they were accused by the military of being complicit with jihadists—which is a common and unfair charge that soldiers make against civilians living in areas where militants operate. Abuses like this have increased significantly under the current junta. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Sahel

Sahel juntas accused of mounting atrocities

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso and Mali are carrying out increased abuses against civilians as they expand their operations against jihadist groups. In Mali, Human Rights Watch has reported accounts of soldiers arresting and shooting dead dozens of people in January. The killings took place following door-to-door searches in the village of Ouro Fero. The report also accuses the army of carrying out drone strikes in February on a wedding celebration and on a burial in the same village, killing at least 14 people, including four children. Meanwhile, in Burkina Faso, a report from AP documented the killing of dozens of civilians by security forces in the central village of Zaongo back in November. Abuses like these have increased significantly under the juntas currently governing both countries. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Niger

US military kicked out of Niger

Niger’s junta revoked a security agreement with the US military shortly after a large American delegation visited the country. Junta officials said they were angered by the “condescending attitude” of the US diplomats, who wanted to convince Niger not to deepen ties with Russia and Iran, and to transition the country to civilian rule. The US has some 1,000 troops in Niger and a drone base near Agadez. It has used the base to surveil jihadist fighters but has not accompanied Nigerien forces on operations targeting militants. The junta’s decision is part of a broader pushback against Western militarization in the Sahel. French troops were told to leave Niger last year, having previously been booted out of military-ruled Burkina Faso and Mali, which are also facing jihadist insurgencies. (Map: PCL)

Africa
Chad

Political violence erupts in Chad

Violence erupted in Chad shortly after the country’s elections agency confirmed dates for a May presidential poll, which is supposed to restore democracy after three years of junta rule. The outbreak began with an armed attack on the headquarters of the National Security Agency, which the government blamed on followers of the Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF), the main opposition party in Chad. The PSF denied the charge. But the following day party leader Yaya Dillo—a vocal critic of ruler Gen. Mahamat Idriss DĂ©by—was killed alongside dozens of the others in a shoot-out with security forces at the PSF headquarters in the capital, N’Djamena. (Photo: Chadian gendarmerie in N’Djamena. Credit: Bagassi Koura/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Daouda Diallo

Frontline fighters (and martyrs) for free speech

In Burma, the mutilated body of independent journalist Myat Thu Tan was found at the military base where he had been detained, after the camp was overrun by rebels of the pro-democratic resistance. In Kazakhstan, detained activist Aqylbek Muratbai is fighting extradition to Uzbekistan, where he had been speaking out against bloody repression faced by his Karakalpak ethnic minority. And in Burkina Faso, human rights defender Daouda Dialloremains missing months after he was “disappeared,” presumably at the hands of the ruling military junta. Yet neither the mainstream media nor “progressives” in the West pay heed to these cases—while the reactionary and Kremlin-coopted Julian Assange is a cause cĂ©lèbre. In Episode 214 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg asks: Why is that? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: CISC via OHCR)

Africa
Wagner

Russia creates new Africa Corps

Following the death of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian ministries of defense and foreign affairs quickly moved to reassure African client states that business as usual would continue—meaning that Moscow’s unofficial boots on the ground would keep operating in these countries. Now reports indicate a transformation, with Wagner’s estimated force of 5,000 troops—deployed from the Sahel to Libya to Sudan—to be brought under Defense Ministry command as a new Africa Corps. (Photo: Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic. Credit: Corbeau News Centrafrique via Wikipedia)

Africa
Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso: drone strikes on civilian targets

Human Rights Watch released a report bringing attention to three military drone strikes conducted by Burkina Faso’s government, supposedly targeting Islamist fighters. The strikes took place between August and November 2023 and resulted in significant civilian casualties at crowded markets and a funeral, according to the report. A minimum of 60 civilians are found to have lost their lives, with numerous others injured. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Sahel

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a “sovereign decision” to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The statement charges that ECOWAS has “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and is now “under the influence of foreign powers.” All three countries are led by military juntas after undergoing coups d’etat, which resulted in their suspension from the bloc. All three countries have also moved closer under their respective military regimes to Russia, whose Wagner Group mercenary force is backing up a new Malian government offensive against Tuareg separatist rebels. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Planet Watch
climate

2023 hottest year on record —by ‘alarming’ margin

The year 2023 is officially the warmest on record—overtaking 2016, the previous warmest year, by an alarming margin. According to new data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, Earth was 1.48 degrees Celsius hotter last year compared with pre-industrial levels—dangerously close to the 1.5-degree threshold set by the Paris climate deal. 2023 also marked the first year in which each day was over one degree warmer than the pre-industrial average. Temperatures over 2023 likely exceeded those of any year over the past 100,000 years. This was partially due to the year’s El Niño climate phenomenon, but those impacts only began in June—and every subsequent month last year was the warmest on record for that particular month. September represented the largest climatological departure since record-keeping began over 170 years ago. (Image: blende12/Pixabay)

Africa
wagner group

‘Blood gold,’ diamonds behind Russian war effort

Gold-mining operations in Africa under the control of the paramilitary Wagner Group are funneling money to the Kremlin for the Russian war effort in Ukraine, according to a new report by watchdog organizations. “The Blood Gold Report,” prepared by the Consumer Choice Center and Democracy 21, finds that Wagner has laundered some $2.5 billion in proceeds from its African operations since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, helping Moscow to ride out international sanctions. In the Central African Republic, Wagner is said to have exclusive operational control over the country’s largest gold mine at Ndassima in return for its services in propping up the regime. The European Union meanwhile announced  sanctions on Russia’s state-owned diamond giant Alrosa and its CEO, citing their “long-standing partnership with the Russian Armed Forces.” (Photo of CAR army troops wearing the Wagner Group insignia via Corbeau News Centrafrique)

Africa
Daouda Diallo

Burkina Faso’s leading rights activist ‘disappeared’

Regional NGO alliance the People’s Coalition for the Sahel is demanding the immediate return alive of human rights defender Daouda Diallo, secretary general of Burkina Faso’s Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC). The CISC announced that Diallo was abducted on a Ouagadougou street by at least four unidentified men in civilian clothes. Diallo’s CISC has been raising the alarm about ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso under the military regimes that have been in power since a January 2022 coup. It is believed Diallo may have been “requisitioned” by the armed forces to participate in the very counterinsurgency campaign that his group has been protesting. (Image: CISC via OHCR)