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)

Africa
Sahel

Mounting massacres across Africa’s Sahel nations

The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. Attacks on civilians and security forces alike have left hundreds dead this month. In Niger, peasants were gunned down while working their fields in Banibangou village—an attack attributed to a local ISIS franchise. In Mali, ongoing deadly attacks have caused a massive population exodus in several regions of the country, including Menaka, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu and Sikasso. “Violence is spreading so rapidly across Mali that it threatens the very survival of the state,” said UN human rights expert Alioune Tine after a visit to the country. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Africa
iswap

ISIS franchise takes insurgency to Cameroon

The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise has usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed this week in a raid on an army post near the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has “regained strength following internal restructuring,” according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP. (Photo: ISS Africa)

Africa
Sahel

France announces Sahel drawdown

France is to reduce its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel—a seven-year deployment that has failed to stem the violence, and which has proved increasingly unpopular both in the region and domestically. President Emmanuel Macron said there would be a “profound transformation” of its Operation Barkhane, with France relying more on special forces, air power, and cooperation with allies. France has suffered a recent setback in the Sahel with the death of its close ally, Chadian leader Idriss Déby, and an increasingly complicated relationship with Mali—the focus of Barkhane’s 5,100-strong intervention. Earlier this month, Paris suspended joint military operations with Malian forces after a second coup. Macron has also refused to support moves by some Sahelian countries to open negotiations with jihadists, and has suggested that African partners have not pulled their weight in the counter-insurgency fight—a conflict widely seen as militarily unwinnable. (Map: Wikivoyage)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government—and is also being aggressively backed by Russia. (Photo via ISS Africa)

Africa
Liberia

Liberian warlord goes on trial in Switzerland

A trial opened in Switzerland for the first Liberian to face war crimes charges over atrocities during the country’s brutal internal conflict in the 1990s. Former warlord Alieu Kosiah stands accused of murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers, and numerous other crimes during the first of Liberia’s two civil wars, which together killed some 250,000 people between 1989 and 2003. Kosiah, who had been living in Switzerland since 1999, was arrested in November 2014 for atrocities he allegedly committed as a commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia (ULIMO) between 1993 and 1995. A group of Liberian victims is being represented by the Swiss human rights group Civitas Maxima. The case is being heard under the principle of universal jurisdiction. (Photo: IRIN via JusticeInfo)

Africa
togaland

Ghana: repression in Western Togoland

Tensions have been growing in Ghana since late September, when militants of the Western Togoland Restoration Front erected armed roadblocks on arteries into the country’s eastern Volta region, and declared the secession of the territory as the independent state of Western Togoland. Security forces shortly cleared the roadblocks. But some 60 members of the Homeland Study Group, a nonviolent civil organization calling for independence for Western Togoland, were immediately arrested in sweeps. They were later ordered released by a judge, but one of the detained reportedly died in police custody. (Photo: ISS Africa)

Africa
ivory coast

Ivory Coast: violence mounts ahead of election

Ivory Coast has seen a wave of communal violence ahead of presidential elections, amid a civil disobedience campaign called by the opposition. In the coastal town of Dabou, some 50 kilometers west of the economic capital Abidjan, several have been killed and scores arrested over the past week. In the inland town of Bongouanou, the home of opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan was burned down during clashes. In nearby Kotobi, the the gendarmerie headquarters was ransacked. The violence has taken on an ethnic cast, with members of the local Agni group in the country’s east-central and coastal zones pitted against Dioula people from northern Ivory Coast, who back current President Alassane Ouattara. The opposition rejects Ouattara’s quest for a third term as unconstitutional. (Photo: CIA)

Africa
#EndSARS

Anti-police uprising rocks Nigeria

Protesters continue to fill the streets of Lagos in defiance of a round-the-clock curfew imposed after the Lekki Massacre, when soldiers and police fired on demonstrators who were occupying a toll bridge. Authorities initially dismissed the massacre as “fake news,” but now acknowledge that at least 38 were killed by security forces. The massacre only succeeded in escalating what had been a peaceful protest campaign against police brutality into a general uprising. Several buildings were set on fire or ransacked, including banks, the television headquarters, port facilities, and the palace of the Oba of Lagos, the traditional ruler of the city. Protests have also spread to Akure and other cities. President Muhammadu Buhari appeared on TV to appeal for “understanding and calm,” but also admonished the international community to “know all the facts” before condemning his government. Nigerian netizens are dismissing his address as “12 minutes of nonsense.” (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Africa
Guinea

Guinea: violence mounts ahead of election

Weeks ahead of elections in Guinea, where Alpha Condé is running for a controversial third presidential term, Amnesty International released a report documenting harsh repression of the political opposition by his security forces. The crackdown on protests has claimed at least 50 lives in less than a year, Amnesty said. The protest wave was unleashed when Condé proposed a constitutional change allowing him to seek a third term. This was approved by referendum in March amid an atmosphere of terror, and a boycott by the opposition. According to a second report, issued by Human Rights Watch, the violence has taken on an ethnic dimension. Victims and witnesses told HRW that armed gangs of Guerzé, a group seen as sympathetic to the opposition, are facing off with equally well-armed ethnic Konianké and Malinké, largely considered ruling-party supporters. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

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)

Africa
ISIS Nigeria

ISIS franchise claims attack on Nigerian military

The self-proclaimed Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) issued a statement claiming its fighters killed 40 Nigerian soldiers in an ambush along the Damboa-Maiduguri highway in northern Borno state. The statement said ISWAP fighters captured five all-terrain vehicles, weapons and ammunition, and burned an armored vehicle during the attack. The Nigerian military confirmed the attack but said only two soldiers were killed. Boko Haram has now split into two factions. One, under longtime leader Abubakar Shekau, is notorious for suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2015, but ISIS only recognizes the rival faction, which calls itself ISWAP. (Photo: Sahara Reporters)