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—a 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—the 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)

North Africa
JNIM

Mali: now a three-way war —or 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
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)

North Africa
drone

Drone wars over Libya

With the forces of eastern strongman Khalifa Hifter stalled outside Tripoli in his drive to oust Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), both sides have been sniping at each other with drone strikes. Experts say that Haftar has procured Chinese-made Wing Loong drones from his main backer, the United Arab Emirates. The GNA, meanwhile, has turned to Ankara, its own increasingly open backer, which is believed to be supplying Turkish Bayraktar drones. Over 1,000 have been killed, close to 6,000 injured, and 120,000 displaced in the battle for Tripoli, which opened a year ago. (Photo of Wing Loong II drone via Xinhua)

Central Asia

Podcast: Legacy of Kazakh-Shoshone solidarity

In Episode 18 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg looks back at the Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement of the closing years of the Cold War, when the Western Shoshone people, whose traditional lands were being contaminated by the nuclear blasts at the US government's Nevada Test Site, made common cause with the Kazakh people of Central Asia who opposed Soviet nuclear testing at the Semipalatinsk site. Kazakh activists travelled to Nevada to join protests at the Test Site, while Western Shoshone leaders travelled to Kazakhstan to join protests at Semipalatinsk. This initiative eventually evolved into the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons, which as recently as 2016 held an International Conference on Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World in Astana, Kazakhstan, again attended by Western Shoshone leaders. The Nevada-Semipalatinsk movement provides an inspiring example of indigenous peoples and their supporters building solidarity across hostile international borders and superpower influence spheres. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: National Digital History of Kazakhstan. Banner from protest at Semipalatinsk declares solidarity with anti-nuclear protesters in Nevada.)

North Africa

Berber language rights at issue in Libya, Morocco

The Libyan Amazigh Supreme Council, representing the country's Berber ethnic minority, has decided to boycott the referendum on the country's newly released draft constitution, in protest of the lack of provisions for their language and cultural rights. Berbers want their language to be official in the Libyan constitution, given equal status with Arabic in administration and education. Meanwhile in Morocco, Berber leaders are protesting a move by the city of Agadir to remove street names in the Berber language, Tamazight. The Agadir city council voted to change Tamazight street names to the names of Palestinian cities, ostensibly as a show of support for Palestinians. Abdullah Badou, head of Morocco's Amazigh Network, said: "We do not have a problem with Palestine. Certainly, we support the Palestinians, but we do not agree with those who ignore the nature of the area and the history of Morocco." (Photo of Agadir port via Morocco World News)

North Africa

ICC takes Mali war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court announced that al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz was surrendered to the court's detention center in the Netherlands by Malian authorities. He is accused of crimes against humanity in Timbuktu  as de facto leader of the "Islamic police" force after the city was taken over by jihadists in 2012. He allegedly took part in the destruction of the mausoleums of Muslim saints. He is also accused  of participating in forced marriages involving Fulani women, which resulted in the reduction of women and girls to sexual slavery. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

North Africa

New Qaeda franchise escalates Mali insurgency

A new Qaeda-affiliated faction, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), is attempting to re-unify the fragmented jihadist insurgency in Mali's desert north.