The Andes

Colombia: most dangerous country for ecologists

Colombia recorded the world’s highest number of killings of environmental defenders in 2022, with 60 individuals murdered, according to a report by activist group Global Witness. The organization, which has been documenting environmental defender deaths since 2012, found that the number of environmental defenders slain in Colombia nearly doubled in 2022, compared to the previous year. These killings have pushed Colombia’s environmental defender death toll to 382 since 2012. (Map: PCL)


Mali: air-strikes on Tuareg rebels reported

Mali’s military reportedly carried out air-strikes against Tuareg militants in the desert north—an escalation that risks opening up another conflict front in the country, which is already embroiled in a long counterinsurgency war with jihadist rebels. The accusation was made by the Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015. The government claims to have struck jihadist positions in the Kidal region, but the CMA rebels charge that they were targeted. Two weeks earlier, the CMA also accused Malian forces and Russian Wagner Groupmercenaries of attacking its followers in the Timbuktu region. (Map: PCL)


Gabon coup: another blow to Françafrique

A group of soldiers in Gabon seized control of the country and canceled the results of its presidential election—just after incumbent President Ali Bongo, heir to a corrupt dynasty closely aligned with France, was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. In scenes reminiscent of those in Niger after the recent coup there, crowds have poured into the streets of Gabon’s capital Libreville, expressing their support for the new junta—and animosity for both the ousted Bongo dynasty and France. The coup appears to mean a further reduction for the French influence sphere in Africa, known as Françafrique. Over the past three years, coups have ousted French-aligned regimes in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger. Russia appears eager to step into the erstwhile role of France in providing military assistance to these countries. The day after the Gabon putsch, a Russian delegation met with Burkina Faso’s interim regime to discuss stepped-up security cooperation. (Map: PCL)

North Africa

Libya: new inter-factional clashes shake Tripoli

Months of relative peace in Libya’s capital were shattered as clashes erupted between two militia factions aligned with the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU). The fighting began when the Special Deterrence Force, which controls the city’s airport, seized 444 Brigade commander Mahmoud Hamza as he attempted to fly out. Calm was restored two days later when the SDF turned Hamza over to a “neutral security party.” By then, some 25 had been killed, over 100 injured, and hundreds of families displaced as fighting tore through their neighborhoods. The SDF is said to be a “former” Islamist militia now integrated into the GNU’s “official” security forces. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)


Podcast: flashpoint Niger

In Episode 186 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the coup d’etat in Niger, which now threatens to plunge West Africa into regional war—with potential for escalation involving the Great Powers. Lines are drawn, with the Western-backed ECOWAS demanding the junta cede power, and Russian-backed Mali and Burkina Faso backing the junta up. Pro-junta demonstrators in Niger’s capital, Niamey, wave the Russian flag—probably to express displeasure at US and French neo-colonialism. The Wagner Group, which already has troops in Mali and Burkina Faso, has expressed its support for the junta, and offered fighters to help stabilize the regime. Elements of the tankie pseudo-left in the West are similarly rallying around the junta. Amid this, leaders of the Tuareg resistance in Niger have returned to arms to resist the new regime, and the country’s mine workers union is also demanding a return to democratic rule. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: PCL)


Ethiopia: Amhara militia in new clashes with army

Ethiopia’s government declared a state of emergency in Amhara state over ongoing clashes between the federal army and local Amhara Fano militiamen. The Ethiopian army and the Fano militia were allies in the two-year war in the northern Tigray region. Their relationship later deteriorated, in part over recent efforts by federal authorities to disband regional paramilitary groups. (Photo via Facebook)


Military coup d’etat consolidated in Niger

Niger’s national broadcaster identified Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani as president of the country’s new military government following a coup that deposed elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The country’s new ruling junta, called the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland, was formed out of Niger’s presidential guard, which carried out the coup. The AU, EU, US and Russia have all condemned the coup as unconstitutional. However, Wagner Group commander Yevgeni Prigozhin lauded the coup as part of “the struggle of the people of Niger [against] their colonizers,” and and offered his fighters’ services to bring order. Pro-coup protesters in Niger have been photographed with Russian flags. (Map: PCL)


Fulani pitted against rebels in Cameroon conflict

Amnesty International urged Cameroon’s authorities to investigate human rights violations committed in the country’s conflicted Anglophone regions, the North-West and South-West. According to a new report, armed separatists and the military alike are responsible for killings, torture, rape and destruction of property. In the North-West in particular, long-standing conflicts between Mbororo Fulani herders and sedentary farmers have been fuelling armed violence. As the situation has deteriorated over the past years, militias, mainly composed of Mbororo Fulani and supported or tolerated by the authorities, have committed atrocities against civil populations. The official security forces have responded to this situation with further rights violations. (Photo: Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Azov Battalion

Russia opens criminal trial of Azov Battalion troops

A Russian court has begun hearing the case against 24 Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Battalion, seized in May 2022 during the battle for the city of Mariupol. The battalion members—including eight women—face charges of involvement with a “terrorist organization,” and participating in activities to “overthrow” Russian authorities. The Russian Supreme Court designated Azov a “terrorist organization” in August 2022, and Russian prosecutors first filed charges against the Azov fighters this May. The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, asserts that the trial has no legal basis, citing international law and military immunity. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “Combatant immunity bars the prosecution of combatants for mere participation in hostilities.” (Photo of Azov Battalion fighters: Carl RidderstrĂĄle/Wikimedia Commons)


Mali junta kicks out UN peacekeepers

Mali’s ruling junta has requested immediate withdrawal of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSMA, citing a “crisis of confidence” and failure to deal with security challenges. The junta, in power since 2020, has sidelined various regional and international partners while forging close ties to the Russian mercenary Wagner Group. Military officials resent MINUSMA’s human rights investigations, and have severely curtailed its access and mobility. The latest move comes after the UN released a report on a massacre by Malian troops and their mercenary allies in the town of Moura. (Photo: MINUSMA)


Wagner forces halt march on Moscow

Troops from the Wagner Group mercenary force abruptly reversed course after advancing through southern Russia toward Moscow, bringing an apparent end to what appeared to be an attempted coup d’Ă©tat. This came hours after President Vladimir Putin accused Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin of treason and vowed swift and harsh action, comparing the uprising to the 1917 Revolution. Wagner forces had reportedly seized control of Russia’s Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, which houses nuclear weapons. Belarusian authorities claim their country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko facilitated negotiations between the parties, allowing Wagner to call off the march on Moscow in exchange for the dropping of treason charges against Prigozhin. (Photo: Wagner Group/Telegram via Jurist)

Moisés Gandhi

Protest paramilitary attacks on Zapatistas

An international mobilization was held, with small protests in cities across the world, in response to a call for support by the Zapatista rebel movement in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas. According to the statement, the Zapatista base community of MoisĂ©s Gandhi is coming under renewed attack by the local paramilitary group ORCAO. In a May armed incursion at the community, a resident was struck by a bullet and gravely injured. Several families were displaced as ORCAO gunmen briefly occupied parts of the community. The statement charges: “Chiapas is on the verge of civil war, with paramilitaries and hired killers from various cartels fighting for the plaza [zone of territorial control]…with the active or passive complicity of the governments of [Chiapas governor] Rutilio EscandĂłn Cadenas and [Mexican president] AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador.” (Photo: Chiapas Support Committee)