Africa
Rift Valley

African dissent from biodiversity protocol

The UN Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, concluded in Montreal with what is being hailed as a landmark agreement to address the current unprecedented loss of species, now termed the planet’s sixth mass extinction. The centerpiece of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, conceived as a match to the Paris Agreement on climate change, is the so-called “30×30” pledge—with countries committing to protect 30% of their territory for habitat preservation by 2030. The deal earmarks $30 billion per year to flow from wealthy countries to poor ones to assist in conservation programs. But the financial commitments are not binding, and were assailed by countries in the developing world as inadequate. After an all-night session, the gavel was brought down on the deal minutes after the delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo pressed outstanding criticisms. This was decried by the DRC, Uganda and other African delegations. A representative from Cameroon protested: “What we saw was a force of hand.” (Photo of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley via Pixabay)

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wagner group

African intrigues over Wagner Group

Burkina Faso’s ruling military authorities summoned Ghana’s ambassador over accusations that they have hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to help fight jihadists. Speaking alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “Today, Russian mercenaries are on our northern border. Burkina Faso has now entered into an arrangement to go along with Mali in employing the Wagner forces there.” Calling the mercenaries’ presence “distressing,” Akufo-Addo also alleged that Burkina Faso had offered Wagner control of a gold mine as payment. Meanwhile, a Russian national said to be closely linked to the Wagner Group was injured in an apparent assassination attempt in the Central African Republic. Wagner Group’s parent company Concord named French agents as behind the attack. Burkina Faso, Mali and the CAR alike have recently broken long-standing security ties with France, their former colonial ruler—with Russian mercenaries moving in as French soldiers go home. (Photo of CAR army troops wearing the Wagner Group insignia via Corbeau News Centrafrique)

Africa
DRC

Massacre claim overshadows DRC peace talks

A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel movements opened in Kenya. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23 rebels, has also been invited to this round—but not the M23 themselves. And the talks are overshadowed by accusations of a massacre of 50 civilians by the M23 in the town of Kishishe, Noth Kivu province. In a statement, the M23 rejected the claims and accused the DRC government of preparing a “genocide” against Congolese Tutsi. The M23 meanwhile continue their advance on the provincial capital of Goma. (Map: CIA)

Africa
DRC

East African troops deploy against M23 in Congo

Kenya is set to deploy a battalion of soldiers to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a regional military response to advancing M23 rebels. Kenya will command the new East African force, which will include troops from Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda. A notable absentee from this intervention will be Rwanda: Congo accuses Kigali of supporting M23, and tensions are soaring. In the past weeks, M23 has dramatically expanded the territory it controls, forcing UN peacekeepers to abandon a strategic base at Rumangabo, and closing in on the key city of Goma. In a region with a history of foreign meddling—in which more than 120 rebel groups operate—the East African deployment is distrusted. Both Burundi and Uganda already have troops inside Congo pursuing their own interests. (Map: CIA)

Africa
Central African Republic

ICC war crimes trial for CAR militia leader opens

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a trial against Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the Séléka rebel group, for crimes humanity and war crimes in violation of the Rome Statute. Said allegedly committed these crimes in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), in 2013. The Séléka carried out widespread reprisals against supporters of ousted president François Bozizé after taking the capital that year. Said pleaded not guilty to all charges. The CAR is also to carry out its own war crimes trials related to the internal conflict. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Africa
Kivu

Mounting crisis, resource sale in DRC’s east

Two people were killed and several others injured when UN peacekeepers opened fire during an incident in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The incident, in Kasindi, North Kivu province, appears to have started in a confrontation between soldiers of the peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, and Congolese troops. It followed several days of anti-MONUSCO protests, in which some 20 people were killed, including three peacekeepers. Demonstrators attacked MONUSCO bases in Goma and other eastern cities, calling on the mission to leave the country, as it has failed to protect civilians amid a resurgence of fighting between security forces and the M23 rebels. The North Kivu violence comes just as the DRC government is auctioning off vast amounts of land in the country’s east in a push to become “the new destination for oil investments”—to the alarm of the country’s environmentalists. (Photo: Sylvain Liechti via UN News)

Africa

Tentative peace talks for Ambazonia

After three years of conflict, a tentative peace process is underway between the Cameroon government and rebels demanding independence for the country’s western anglophone regions. Cameroon is majority francophone, and its Northwest and Southwest regions complain that they have been deliberately marginalized by the central government in Yaounde. What began as a protest movement calling for federalism degenerated into fighting and a demand for full independence after the government clamped down on the movement. The conflict has since killed more than 3,000 people, and forced over 900,000 from their homes. The security forces have been accused of widespread human right abuses—as have, to a lesser extent, the rebel forces fighting for an independent “Ambazonia.” (Map: TNH)

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
Africa mining

Artisanal gold miners massacred in DRC

At least 35 people were killed when armed men raided a gold mining camp in Ituri province, in the conflicted northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Local authorities at the rural commune of Mungwalu blamed the attack on the CODECO rebel militia. A four-month-old baby was among the dead. The militiamen also looted and torched homes at Camp Blanquette, and seized quantities of extracted gold. Informal mines in the eastern DRC provide much of the country’s output of gold, cobalt and other minerals used in the global electronics industry. The minerals, extracted under dangerous and oppressive conditions, continue to be a goad to internal warfare by rival armed factions. (Photo via Africa Up Close)

Africa
Central African Republic

Russian mercenaries accused in CAR atrocities

Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, “appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019,” Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. The United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed last month in the CAR’s northeast, with reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. HRW documents other such claims. Last July , apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, also in the CAR’s conflicted north. HRW is calling upon the CAR’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to “investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution.” (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

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
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)