Africa
Ethiopia

Ethiopia: violence ebbs in Tigray, flares in Oromia

The war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has cooled down since the signing of a peace deal in November. But a separate conflict is intensifying further south, in Oromia, where civilians are suffering as anti-government rebels step up attacks. Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) guerillas were previously confined to the fringes of western and southern Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region. But analysts say the Tigray war created a security vacuum that has helped the OLA expand its long-running insurgency. The security situation is now “fast deteriorating,” the UN’s aid coordination agency, OCHA, warned in a report last month. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been uprooted and essential services are not functioning in some conflict-affected areas. (Map via EthioVisit)

Africa
ethiopia

Ethiopia: continued fighting hinders Tigray aid

A month after the two parties signed a ceasefire agreement, the truce between Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is holding. But while aid flows into Tigray are scaling up, deliveries still aren’t matching needs. The World Food Program reports that while corridors into Tigray have reopened, access to some areas in the region remains off limits. Essential services, including banking and the internet, remain switched off, with no date set for restoring them. And while plans are proceeding for the disarmament of TPLF fighters, that process is complicated by Eritrean and Amhara forces, which were allies to the government during the conflict—and are reportedly still carrying out attacks on civilians in Tigray, including killings, kidnapping and looting. (Map: Political Geography Now)

Africa
Somalia

Somalia: clan militia takes on al-Shabab

The jihadist group al-Shabab is facing a local clan-based rebellion in central Somalia—one the embattled Mogadishu government hopes might spread throughout its zones of control. As resistance to the insurgent group has grown, lawmakers and clan elders have been backing the self-organized militia in pitched battles against al-Shabab. The militia—known as Ma’awisley, a reference to the traditional sarong worn in Somalia’s rural areas—is strongest in Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Galmudug regions of Hirshabelle and Central states. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
ethiopia

Eritrea in mass mobilization for Tigray offensive

More than a month after renewed clashes broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, there are few signs of de-escalation. New air-strikes hit Tigray’s capital of Mekelle, while the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accused Eritrea of launching a full-scale offensive in support of the Ethiopian government. There are reports that Eritrea (which has a historical enmity against the TPLF) is mobilizing army reservists, with notices handed out in Asmara, the capital. The return to combat came after a five-month truce that saw back-channel meetings between Mekelle and Addis Ababa but no formal talks. The risk that fresh fighting poses to civilians was underscored by UN investigators, who submitted their first report on the two-year conflict, accusing Ethiopia’s government of war crimes in Tigray, and of using starvation as a counterinsurgency tool. (Map: Political Geography Now)

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)