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)

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)

Africa
fact

Chad: president killed as rebels advance

President Idriss Déby of Chad died following injuries sustained in fighting against rebels in the country’s north, authorities announced. The president’s son, Gen. Mahamat Kaka, is said to be serving as interim president. Déby had just been declared provisional winner of another presidential term, with nearly 80% of the vote. He had been in power for three decades. The rebel Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT) invaded the country from its bases across the border in Libya, in an attempt to disrupt the elections. Both sides are claiming victory after clashes in the northern region of Kanem, and FACT says that its forces are advancing on the capital, N’Djamena. (Image via Twitter)

Africa
Coalition for the Sahel

Outrage over French air-strike in Mali

A French airstrike killed 19 civilians attending a wedding celebration in a remote Malian village, according to an investigation by the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA. The report based its findings on hundreds of interviews, satellite images, and evidence gathered from a trip to Bounti, the village hit by the January strike. The French defense ministry rejected the report, maintaining the casualties were Islamist militants. French troops were hailed as heroes by many Malians when they drove out militant groups from the country’s desert north in 2013. But criticism has grown as a 5,000-strong regional counterinsurgency force—called Operation Barkhane—has failed to prevent militants from regrouping and expanding across West Africa’s Sahel. Despite recent battlefield gains, the operation is drawing increasing comparisons to the US war in Afghanistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Africa
JCET

US, Portugal send special forces to Mozambique

A week after the US State Department added the Islamist insurgents in northern Mozambique to its list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” the Pentagon is now preparing to send a team of military advisors into the conflict zone. The US Embassy in Maputo announced that the two-month Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) program will see US Special Forces troops instructing Mozambican marines. This follows an announcement by Portugal, the former colonial power in Mozambique, that it is dispatching an elite military unit to help fight the insurgents, known locally as the Shabaab. Lisbon is also petitioning the European Union to send a military mission to the region to back up the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces. (Photo: US Embassy in Mozambique)

Africa
lake victora

Pipeline project threatens Lake Victoria

More than 260 organizations issued an open letter to banks and financial institutions involved in the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would carry oil from fields in western Uganda to a port on the northern coast of Tanzania, passing near critical wetlands in the Lake Victoria basin. The human rights and environmental organizations say the line’s construction poses “unacceptable” risks to communities in the immediate 1,445-kilometer (898-mile) path of the project and beyond. They are calling on banks not to fund the $3.5 billion project, and asking government leaders to shift funding from infrastructure for fossil fuels to renewable energy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Mongabay)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)

Africa
Somaliland

Russia seeks naval base in Sudan —and Somaliland?

Just after Russia finalized plans to establish a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, Moscow’s UN ambassador for the first time weighed in diplomatically on the dispute between Somalia and the separatist enclave of Somaliland, urging both sides to find a compromise solution. The move sparked speculation within the region that Russia is seeking a second naval facility at Somaliland’s port of Berbera, on the Gulf of Aden which guards the southern mouth of the Red Sea. This would allow Russia to establish a counter-presence to US, French and Chinese bases in Djibouti, just across the land border to the northwest, as well as Turkish military forces in Somalia proper to the south. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)

Africa
Central African Republic

Franco-Russian game in Central African Republic?

French and Russian military networks are backing rival forces to influence upcoming elections in Central African Republic according to a new report by The Sentry, a Washington-based NGO co-founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney. France used to call the shots in CAR, its former colony, but President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has allied himself to Russia and availed himself of the Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary organization linked to Vladimir Putin. The Sentry claims France now supports a rebel coalition that opposes Touadéra—who is standing for a second term in December—though the French foreign ministry denies the accusation. All of this spells bad news for ordinary Central Africans, who have suffered under rebel groups for years. More than one in four are currently internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Africa
Wakashio

Mauritians take to street over oil spill

Thousands of people demonstrated in Mauritius over the government’s handling of a shipwreck that spilled 1,000 tons of oil into the seas around the island nation. In what appears to be a toll of the incident, several dolphins and whales have beached close to where the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio freighter ran aground and broke up. Social media is awash with photos of the stranded dying animals, including mothers and calves—while the minister of marine resources dismissed the beachings as a “sad coincidence.” Disaffection has swelled in the aftermath of the spill. Protesters in the streets of the capital, Port Louis, wielded an inflatable dolphin with “INACTION” written on it. (Photo: Greenpeace Africa via Mongabay)

North Africa
JNIM

Mali: now a three-way war —or four?

Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces. But internecine fighting between jihadist factions also takes an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down this year, there have been repeated clashes between JINM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Amid all this, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), seeking self-rule for the Tuareg people in the desert north, maintains a precarious independence from both the jihadist and government forces. In a statement, the MNLA accused the government of fomenting conflict in the region as a strategy to avoid ceding autonomy to the Tuaregs, as mandated by a 2015 peace accord. The statement warned that the MNLA will not surrender its arms until terms of the accord are instated. (Photo of JNIM militants via Long War Journal)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François Bozizé has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. Bozizé is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.” He is accused of having backed a brutal rebel movement after his ouster in 2013, fueling a civil war that has left millions displaced. However, authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant, and Bozizé has been openly working for a political comeback since returning to the country last year. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)