North Africa
western sahara

Polisario declares end to Western Sahara truce

The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario’s armed wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)

North Africa

Algeria: Berbers boycott constitution vote

Amid low turn-out and a boycott in regions of the country, Algerians approved a new constitution pushed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a referendum. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria’s war for independence from France in 1954, with the government adopting the slogan “November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change.” The preamble to the new charter actually invokes last year’s Hirak or “revolution of smiles” protest movement, and the reform was clearly intended as a response to the movement’s demands. But in the northeastern Kabylie region, heartland of the country’s Amazigh (Berber) people and a bastion of support for the Hirak, demonstrators blocked polling stations to enforce a boycott. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region. (Map: Kabyle.com)

North Africa

Libya: will ceasefire really be ‘permanent’?

Libya’s warring factions¬†signed a “permanent ceasefire” agreement, raising hopes of progress toward ending the conflict and chaos that has gripped the country since Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and killed during a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. The internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern forces led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar have been fighting for control of Libya since April 2019‚ÄĒeach backed by a bevy of militias in a war that has seen international powers join the fray and an arms embargoroutinely violated. While violence has subsided in the capital city of Tripoli in recent months, countrywide peace efforts have until now gone nowhere. Acting UN head of mission Stephanie Williams hailed the agreement, hammered out during talks in Geneva, as “an important turning point,” but some have expressed doubts that it can be implemented on the ground. Under its terms, all foreign fighters must leave within three months, and a new joint police force will aim to secure the peace. The ceasefire is to start immediately. (Map: CIA)

North Africa
tripoli

Libya: Tripoli protests met with repression

At least six protesters were abducted and several others wounded when armed men fired into the crowd to disperse a demonstration in the Libyan capital. The gunmen, who used truck-mounted heavy machine-guns as well as small arms, apparently belonged to a militia under the informal command of the Interior Ministry. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord suspended Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga while an investigation is underway. Protests have continued to fill Tripoli’s Martyrs¬†Square, and have spread to other cities controlled by the GNA, including Misrata and al-Zawyia. Demonstrators are denouncing official corruption and calling for the provision of essential services such as electricity. They are also demanding an end to impunity for lawless militias and a transition to full democracy. (Photo:¬†Libya Observer)

North Africa
Libya Refinery

Russian mercenaries occupy Libyan oil terminals

Libya’s eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, his long siege of Tripoli broken by the city’s defenders in June, continues to hold the country’s principal oil terminals, and has established effective control over the Petroleum Facilities Guard. The UN this week brokered a ceasefire between Haftar and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, seeking to re-open exports from the terminals. Haftar agreed to the ceasefire after the US threatened sanctions against him. Russia, in turn, is apparently backing Haftar, sending arms and mercenaries to help his forces secure the terminals. Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group is especially said to be present at Es-Sider terminal, outside the port city of Ras Lanuf. (Photo via¬†Libyan Express)

North Africa
Drareni

Algeria: dissident journalist gets three years in prison

An Algerian court¬†sentenced journalist Khaled Drareni to three years in prison for speaking out against the government. Drareni, who is well known in Algeria and has a twitter account¬†of some 150,000 followers, reported widely for Casbah Tribune news website¬†on the Hirak¬†protest movement against the rule of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. At trial, prosecutors used as evidence a Facebook post Drareni shared, calling for a general strike. The court found him guilty of “endangering national unity” and “inciting” unlawful gatherings. Drareni’s attorneys issued a statement declaring, “All he did was give information, in words and images. He did nothing more than his work as a journalist.”¬†(Image: RSF)

North Africa
JNIM

Mali: now a three-way war ‚ÄĒor 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)

North Africa
haftar

Libya: Haftar’s forces retreat from Tripoli

Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) regained full control of Tripoli with the recapture of the city’s airport‚ÄĒthe last pocket held by the eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces had been besieging the capital since April 2019. Haftar’s forces fled east toward Tarhouna and Bani Walid, their last remaining strongholds in the west, with the GNA forces in pursuit. The GNA advance, dubbed Operation Volcano of Rage, follows reports last month that mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, who had been fighting for Haftar, were being evacuated from Libya. This suggests that Russian support for Haftar may have been sacrificed in Moscow’s new rapprochement with Turkey, the main foreign sponsor of the GNA. (Photo:¬†Libya Observer)

North Africa
Intikane

Deadly attack on Niger refugee camp

More than a thousand people are on the run following a brutal attack on a camp for refugees and displaced persons in western Niger. Three were killed and several others wounded as over 50 gunmen on motorbikes swarmed into the camp at Intikane village, near the Malian border. The camp housed some 20,000 refugees from Mali and an additional 15,000 internally displaced persons from within Niger, including many ethnic Tuaregs, who have fled fighting in their own communities. In addition to killing three, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water pumping station and pipes. Although no group has been named in the attack, numerous armed factions with links to either al-Qaeda or ISIS have been mounting an insurgency across the Sahel over the past years, despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops in a multinational military campaign to suppress them. (Photo: UNHCR via Flickr)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)

North Africa
hirak

Algeria’s ‘Hirak’ movement pledges to continue fight

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune held an official commemoration of the “February 22 Revolution,” marking the first day of the nationwide protests last year that finally ousted his long-ruling predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Tebboune, who came to¬†power in a December special election, declared the day a special holiday to honor what is being called the “Smile Revolution” to emphasize its nonviolent ethic. But the day before the official commemoration, protesters mobilized in their thousands for the 53rd straight week of Friday marches, dismissing the December elections as controlled and saying that the old regime still remains in place. They are calling the movement by its original name of the “Hirak,” or “people’s mobilization.” Adopting a new slogan in response to the official commemoration, protesters vowed to “disqualify the system’s agenda of self-renewal, and to lay the foundations for a new republic.” Another popular slogan was “We’re not going to stop.”¬†(Photo:¬†AfricaNews)

North Africa
Sudan rebels

Internationalization of Libya war

A senior UN official charged at a press conference in Munich that numerous countries are violating the Libya arms embargo and must be held accountable. UN Deputy Special Representative to Libya Stephanie Williams said that “the arms embargo has become a joke.” The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar, has been fighting with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) for control of Tripoli since April of last year. Russia, Egypt and the UAE are supporting the LNA, while Turkey supports the GNA. Foreign powers are violating the arms embargo “by land, sea and air,” Williams said. A UN report also accuses Haftar of bringing in Sudanese rebels from Darfur to fight for the LNA, while Turkey is accused of importing Syrian rebels to fight for the GNA. (Photo: Libya Observer)