Africa
Sahel

Sahel states defect from ECOWAS

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a “sovereign decision” to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The statement charges¬†that ECOWAS has “drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and is now “under the influence of foreign powers.”¬†All three countries are led by military juntas after undergoing coups d’etat, which resulted in their suspension from the bloc.¬†All three countries have also moved closer under their respective military regimes to Russia, whose Wagner Group mercenary force¬†is¬†backing up a new Malian government offensive against Tuareg separatist rebels.¬†(Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
Azawad

Mali: junta forces advance on Tuareg rebel zone

Mali’s army is advancing in a large column toward the strongholds of a coalition of Tuareg armed groups in the country’s north, signalling an intensification of the conflict that erupted in August. Fighting has been reported close to the town of Anefis, which is around 110 kilometers from Kidal, the main base of the rebels. The former separatist groups signed a peace agreement with Malian authorities in 2015, but relations soured under the current junta-led government, which views armed-group control over northern territory as undermining state sovereignty. Tensions escalated after the junta demanded the withdrawal of a UN peacekeeping mission, and its forces started taking over Blue Helmet bases in northern areas claimed as autonomous territory by the Tuareg coalition. The military convoy is now reportedly seeking to take over former peacekeeper camps in Kidal, Aguelhok, and Tessalit, risking further fighting.¬†(Map of Azawad, the claimed Tuareg homeland, via Twitter)

Africa
Mali

Mali: Tuareg rebels call for ‘fall of the junta’

The ruling military junta in Mali announced the indefinite postponement of presidential elections that had been scheduled for February 2024. The announcement comes as one of the Tuareg rebel groups in the country’s north, which have observed a ceasefire since 2015, called for renewed armed struggle to remove the junta from power. Fahad Ag Almahmoud, a leader of the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group (GATIA), said in a statement: “We are in a war that the junta in Bamako wants. We will continue this war until all of Mali that has been taken hostage by the five colonels is liberated.”¬†(Map: PCL)

Planet Watch
uranium

Podcast: Niger, Siberia and the global uranium wars

The Tuaregs of Niger and Buryat of Siberia, like the Navajo of the US Southwest, have had their territories usurped and destroyed by uranium mining for the nuclear-industrial complex, and it makes little difference from their perspective whether the extractivist bosses were French, Russian or American. While the Great Powers wage a neo-colonial game for control of this strategic resource, the indigenous peoples on the ground pay with their lands and lives‚ÄĒand are fighting back for autonomy¬†or outright independence, and ecological and cultural survival. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 192 of the CounterVortex podcast. (Photo: Russian uranium mine in Buryatia, via Moscow Times)

Africa
Mali

Mali: air-strikes on Tuareg rebels reported

Mali‚Äôs military reportedly carried out air-strikes¬†against Tuareg militants in the desert north‚ÄĒan 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)

Africa
Niger

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‚ÄĒwith 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‚ÄĒprobably 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)

Africa
MINUSMA

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)

Africa
Mali

Mali massacre: jihadism or ethnic war?

Scores of Malians demonstrated in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three villages over the past days. The massacres in the localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. Fulani were also targeted in an April 2022 massacre attributed to Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. (Map: PCL)Afri

Africa
EUTM

EU ends Mali training as junta turns to Russia

The European Union announced¬†that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country’s north¬†had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country’s ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group’s arrival. (Photo of Malian troops with EU advisors via EUTM Mali)

Africa
mali-hunger-displacement

Mali: crisis deepens as foreign forces withdraw

France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year’s coup d’etat. The junta¬†has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State‚ÄĒa nearly 70% increase from early 2020.¬†(Photo of Mali¬†displaced¬†persons camp:¬†The New Humanitarian)

Planet Watch
nuclear power

Podcast: Nuclear power? No thanks!

In Episode 110 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the current greenwashing of nuclear power, and hype about a supposedly “safe” new generation of reactors. Every stage of the nuclear cycle is ecocidal and genocidal. Uranium mining has poisoned the lands of indigenous peoples from Navajo Country to Saskatchewan to West Africa. The ongoing functioning of nuclear plants entails routine emissions of radioactive gases, factored in by the bureaucrats in determining “acceptable” levels of cancer. Disposal of the waste, and the retired reactor sites themselves, is a problem that inherently defies solution. They will be deadly for exponentially longer into the future than biblical times stretch into the past. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, hyped as secure for hundreds of millennia, leaked plutonium after only 13 years.¬†And finally there is the “sexiest” issue, the one that actually gets some media play, at least‚ÄĒthe risk of accident. It is a mark of capitalism’s depravity that even after the nightmares of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we periodically get media campaigns about an imminent “nuclear renaissance.” Nuclear versus fossil fuels is the false choice offered us by industry. The imperative is to get off the extraction economy and on to one based on sustainability and resource conservation.¬†Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
jihadis

Russian mercenaries to Mali?

France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa’s Sahel nations, criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali’s transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed¬†its “firm opposition” to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (Photo: FIDES)