The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn’t invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn’t attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The talks followed an East African Community summit in which heads of state agreed to set up a regional military force to fight rebels unwilling to lay down their arms. A UN peacekeeping mission operates in the DRC but is making drawdown plans. The Ugandan army is also intervening in the country, while martial law has been declared in the volatile eastern provinces for a year. Rebel attacks and abuses by soldiers continue, and nearly three million people were displaced last year alone. (Image: Pixabay)
In Episode 120 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg invites the enmity of his comrades on the left with a long-overdue deconstruction of the increasingly sinister, genocide-abetting politics of Noam Chomsky. In relentless sycophantic interviews, Chomsky inevitably opposes a no-fly zone for Ukraine, war crimes charges against Putin, or even sanctions against Russia, on the basis that such moves would lead to nuclear war. He offers no acknowledgment of how capitulating to Putin’s nuclear threats incentivizes such threats, and the stockpiling of missiles and warheads to back them up. This is part of a long pattern with Chomsky. He has repeatedly engaged in baseless “false flag” theorizing about the Syria chemical attacks, leading activists in the Arab world to accuse him of “regime whitewashing.” He similarly abetted Bosnia genocide revisionism, and denial of the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia. All this can be traced to the analytical and ultimately moral distortions of the so-called “Chomsky rule“—the notion that we are only allowed to criticize crimes committed by “our” side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via social media)
Thousands have been displaced after new fighting broke out between M23 rebels and the army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province. A UN helicopter was shot down (for which both sides blamed each other), and the fighting has sparked regional tensions as Kinshasa accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels (a charge Kigali denies). M23 was responsible for the last major rebellion in eastern DRC, seizing large chunks of territory 10 years ago before a joint UN-government offensive forced its fighters into Uganda and Rwanda. Efforts to demobilize the group stalled and a cluster of combatants have re-entered the DRC. The strength of the group remains unclear, as are its objectives. M23 is but one of over 100 armed groups active in eastern DRC. (Photo: Guy Hubbard/UNICEF)
A new memorandum of understanding was signed allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center, which was found to be illegal by the PNG Supreme Court in 2016. Most of those held there are now to be transferred to Nauru. Both the Manus Island and Nauru facilities have been criticized by rights groups as “Australia’s Guantánamo.” (Photo of Nauru facility via Wikipedia)
Rwandan and Mozambican troops retook the port city of Mocímboa da Praia from Islamist militants—their last stronghold in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The 1,000 Rwandan troops, who arrived in the country last month to help the government battle a four-year insurgency, have proved their effectiveness in a series of skirmishes. They are also being joined by units from regional neighbors Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. But analysts are warning that the insurgents—known colloquially as al-Shabab—are choosing not to stand their ground, preferring to retreat into the countryside. Military force doesn’t address the drivers of the conflict, nor does it prevent ill-disciplined Mozambican troops—who often struggle to distinguish between insurgent and civilian—from stoking further tensions through abuses of the populace. More than 3,000 people have been killed and 820,000 displaced by the conflict. (Map via Moscow Times)
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)
Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi is usually wary of foreign military intervention. But the grim situation in Cabo Delgado seems to have forced his hand. Rwanda is deploying a 1,000-strong force to the insurgency-hit northern province. And troops from the Southern African Development Community regional bloc are also set to arrive. Reports suggest the Rwandans will set up around the Afungi peninsula, where a multi-billion dollar gas project is located. Their battlefield enemy—known locally as al-Shabab—is formidable and entrenched, as Mozambique’s army and its mercenary allies know well. Lost in the military chatter is much mention of Cabo Delgado’s worsening humanitarian crisis: More than 700,000 people have been uprooted, and close to a million are now facing severe hunger. (Map via Moscow Times)
The Biden administration on March 10 designated two alleged affiliates of the Islamic State, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” The State Department named as FTOs the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in DR Congo and… Read moreAfrican ISIS franchises make US ‘terrorist list’
Twelve rangers were among 17 people killed in an attack by gunmen within Virunga National Park, the critical highland gorilla preserve on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Park administrators said rangers came under “a ferociously violent and sustained ambush” as they were coming to the aid of a civilian vehicle being waylaid by armed men outside a village. The gunmen are believed to belong to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), one of several armed factions that have for years been using the park as a staging ground, and are linked to poaching and illegal logging operations. (Photo: Virunga National Park)
The government of Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. According to a joint statement, around 4,700 are currently being held in detention centers in Libya and urgently need to be transferred to safety. Under the agreement, refugees and asylum-seekers currently being held in Libya will be transferred to Rwanda on a “voluntary” basis. Evacuees will then either be resettled to third countries, be returned to countries where asylum had previously been granted, be returned to their home countries if it is safe to do so, or be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)
The Democratic Republic of Congo recruited former M23 rebel fighters to protect President Joseph Kabila after protests broke out last December over his refusal to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two terms, Human Rights Watch reports. During the protests, at least 62 people were killed and hundreds arrested. The crisis de-escalated when Kabila agreed to hold elections by the end of 2017, and not run again. But the elections were never held, and have now been scheduled for the end of 2018—prompting renewed protests.
Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, a wanted militia leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, turned himself in to UN peacekeeping forces after six years on the run. He will be transferred to DRC authorities to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Sheka is a former commander of the Mai-Mai, a paramilitary network established by the DRC government to fight Rwanda's proxy forces in the 1990s.