Africa
somali

Al-Shabab’s Ethiopia front collapses

A large-scale incursion by the Somali jihadist group al-Shabab into eastern Ethiopia has been defeated. The government claims to have killed more than 800 militants in heavy fighting that began at the end of July. The attempt to open a new front in Ethiopia was not only a military defeat for al-Shabab, but also a political failure. Although some of al-Shabab’s leaders are from the area, ideologically the Somali region is known for its religious tolerance. Local community and religious leaders rallied to oppose the group, and have pledged to resist future infiltration. (Map: Hiiraan Online)

Africa
OLA

Massacres escalate in Ethiopia’s Oromia state

More than 200 civilians were killed at the village of Tole Kebele in the West Wollega zone of Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state. The massacre, which targeted members of the Amhara ethnicity, is being blamed by authorities on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Amhara militias in the region have been cooperating with the official security forces in counterinsurgency operations against the OLA, resulting in reprisal attacks on villages. However, OLA commander Kumsa Dirriba denies that his forces carry out attacks on civilians, claiming that the national army is “solely responsible” for the killings of Amhara civilians in Oromia. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, the dynamic is spreading into neighboring Gambella regional state, which has seen heavy fighting between the army and joint rebel forces of the OLA and Gambella Liberation Front (GLF), with dozens of civilians among the slain over the past days. (Photo: Ethiopia Insight)

Africa
Somalia

US troops ‘back’ to Somalia —but did they ever leave?

The Pentagon announced that a “small, persistent US military presence” of around 500 troops is to return to Somalia, to assist ongoing operations against the Shabaab insurgents. Media commentators widely portrayed this as a policy reversal, with some incorrectly stating that Present Trump “brought the troops home” from Somalia in 2020. However, the Pentagon press release implicitly acknowledges that the so-called “withdrawal” had been largely a fiction: “The existing model of US assistance moving into and out of the country as needed…is inefficient.” The troops were never “brought home”; they were redeployed to neighboring Djibouti and Kenya, and sent back in to Somalia as mandated by contingency. Even if the announcement doesn’t mean very much, it is being met with some trepidation by rights advocates. Human Rights Watch warned against “repeating past laws of war violations.” (Photo: Patrick Crosley/USMC via CommonDreams)

Africa
Somalia

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that “government-controlled” Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the “recognized” Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite fo everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
tigray

Ethiopia: security threats thwart Tigray relief

Security threats are preventing aid groups from bringing relief supplies into Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, even as the government has declared a unilateral truce following 17 months of conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Federal authorities promised to facilitate aid access into Tigray, having imposed a months-long blockade that has left a population of six million people bereft of basic health supplies and facing extreme food shortages. But passage for aid convoys is currently constrained by insecurity along the only overland corridor open to relief groups. That route runs through the neighboring Afar region, where local militias have been supporting the federal government’s cause. Ongoing clashes between Tigrayan forces and Afar militia could derail the truce. (Photo: TNH)

Africa
Ethiopia

‘Emergency’ ends in Ethiopia — but not the war

Ethiopia’s parliament voted for an early end to a six-month state of emergency, citing the government’s improved military position. The measure—introduced as Tigrayan rebel forces threatened Addis Ababa in November—gave the government power to detain citizens without charge, and thousands of Tigrayan civilians were rounded up. Tigrayan forces have since withdrawn to their stronghold in the country’s north. Before doing so, they committed atrocities in the contested Amhara region, according to a report by Amnesty International. Government forces and their Eritrean allies are also accused of widespread abuses. Both sides are under international pressure to find a political solution to the war—with the release of detainees held under the state of emergency seen as an important step to dialogue. But fighting continues in Tigray, and the humanitarian situation remains dire. (Map via EthioVisit)

Africa
ethiopia

‘Crimes against humanity’ seen in Tigray conflict

A joint investigation by the independent Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In its report, the Joint Investigation Team details violations and abuses including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement of civilians. (Map: Political Geography Now)

Africa
ASWJ

Somalia: Sufi militia takes up arms against regime

Fighting in Somalia’s central Galmudug state has killed 120 people and displaced 100,000 in recent days. Two hospitals were shelled, presumably by government forces, in the town of Guri-El, causing aid groups to suspend operations in the area. The conflict pits government forces against the regional militia group Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ)–former allies in the fight against the jihadist al-Shaabab insurgency. A moderate Sufi sect, ASWJ has been fighting the Shaabab since 2008, and forged a pact with the government two years later. But Mogadishu is now denying the group’s bid for a regional power-sharing deal, and demanding that the militia be integrated into the national armed forces. (Photo via Strategic Intelligence)

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)

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)

Africa
Djibouti

Djibouti: Horn of Africa’s next domino?

At least three people are dead following an outbreak of inter-communal violence in Djibouti. Fighting erupted in several areas between members of the Afar ethnic group, which straddles Djibouti’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, the country’s other main ethnicity, which is a sub-group of the Somali people and straddles the borders with Ethiopia and Somalia. Issa protesters blocked the rail line and road connecting Djibouti’s port to Ethiopia, a key artery for the landlocked Horn of Africa giant. The violence came in response to a deadly attack on Somali Issa civilians four days earlier within Ethiopia. Fighters from Ethiopia’s Afar region raided the town of Gedamaytu (also known as Gabraiisa) in neighboring Somali region, reportedly killing hundreds of residents. The two regions have long been at odds over three contested kebeles (districts) on their shared border, which are predominately inhabited by Issa but located within the regional boundaries of Afar. (Map: ISS Africa)

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)