Human rights advocates are demanding an investigation following a Nigerian army raid on a Shi'ite sect in which hundreds of followers were reportedly killed in Zaria, a city in north-central Kaduna state. Details of the Dec. 12 raid are still sketchy, with the three attacked areas of the city still sealed off by security forces. A local journalist said he counted more than 800 bodies brought to the city morgue. A spokesman for the sect, Ibrahim Musa, said that as many as 1,000 of its members had been killed, and accused the army of covering up the death toll, saying that soldiers had been taking the bodies of the dead to an "unknown destination." The army has only confirmed it had arrested Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, and his wife. More have reportedly been killed as follwers of the sect have attempted to protest in defiance of the curfew since the massacre.
Last month, the New York Times reported that China is to establish its first overseas military base as part of "a sweeping plan to reorganize its military into a more agile force capable of projecting power abroad." The base, in the Horn of Africa mini-state of Djibouti, will be used for policing the Gulf of Aden against piracy. The US also has 4,000 troops stationed at Djibouti's Camp Lemonnier—from which it conducts drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. Former colonial master France as well as Japan and other nations also station forces in Djibouti. (The Hill, Dec. 10) Now reports are mounting that China is seeking a second base in Africa—this time in Nambia, which currently hosts no foreign military forces.
Armed assailants seized the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, Nov. 20, taking some 170 hostages and sparking a confrontation with security troops and US and French special forces in which at least 27 people are dead. A group calling itself al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility jointly with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Mourabitoun is said to be the new outfit of Algerian Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar—who was twice reported killed, once in a Chadian military operation in Mali in 2013 and then earlir this year in a US air-strike in Libya. In a statement posted on Twitter on June 19, just after the Libyan air-strike, the group said he was "still alive and well and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies." (SMH, CNN, DNA)
At least 32 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a Nov. 17 blast at a crowded vegetable market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola, capital of war-torn Adamawa state. Yola was also the scene of an Oct. 24 mosque bombing that left 27 dead. These are but the latest in a relentless campaign of terror attacks by Boko Haram that has left over 1,600 dead in Nigeria and neighboring Chad and Cameroon over the past four months. (Al Jazeera, Nov. 17) The new attack comes just as a Nigerian online activist has won acclaim in his country for calling out Facebook's double standards on which terrorist attacks warrant attention. Activst Jafaar Jafaar in a popular post noted the prodigious attention Facebook is devoting the Paris terrorist attacks that have left 130 dead—with a "Safety Check" feature for residents of the city, and a campaign by users to superimpose the French tricolor over their profile pictures. Jafaar especially made note of the January attack at the town of Baga, in Nigeria's northeastern Borno state, in which an estimated 2,000 were killed—eliciting no such response from Facebook. (News24, Nigeria, Nov. 17)
The leader of last month's attempted military coup in Burkina Faso, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, was charged Oct. 16 with crimes against humanity. Prosecutor Col. Sita Sangare, Burkina Faso's director of military justice, said that he has charged 23 people so far with charges ranging from murder and concealing the bodies of the dead to threatening state security and fraud. The prosecutors are also looking to charge Diendere's wife for her part in the events. During the military coup attempt at least 11 people were killed and more than 250 injured. The coup started when Diendere took the president and his cabinet hostage right before elections last month. The election has been rescheduled for Nov. 29.
Five Ethiopian bloggers on Oct. 16 were acquitted of terrorism charges relating to publications on their Zone9 website. The publications, critical of the government, landed nine bloggers in court, with one charged in absentia, in April 2014, for violation of Ethiopia's broad anti-terrorism law. In July five bloggers were unexpectedly released after being cleared by the court. In the new decision, the court announced that documents provided by prosecutors were insufficient to prove terrorism, leading to the release of four bloggers. Although cleared of terrorism charges, one blogger remains detained on charges of inciting violence. The releases come as a surprise for a nation ranked as one of the world's least free.
South Sudan's fragile peace deal is in jeopardy as opposition leader Lam Akol today joined with 18 political parties to bring a legal challenge against President Salva Kiir's order to expand the number of states in the country from 10 to 28. "That order actually violates the constitution and it also contravenes the peace agreement," he said, refering to the pact that Kiir and the head of the armed opposition, Riek Machar, signed in August. "Our people are yearning for peace, so nobody should tamper with this peace agreement." he said. The leadership of rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) also said the plan threatens to unravel the peace agreement. (Sudan Tribune, VOA, Oct. 15; Al Jazeera, Aug. 29) Not surprisingly, control of oil seems the critical issue here. A commentary for Kenya's The East African (online at AllAfrica) charges that Kiir "has basically deprived rebel leader Riek Machar of all the oil resources he was to preside over in the transitional government by unilaterally creating 18 new states. The increase of the states...through a presidential decree has placed areas with the highest concentration of oil resources in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile in the hands of President Kiir's Dinka community. This has created tension between the Nuer, Shiluk and Dinka in Unity and Upper Nile States, with the first two communities accusing President Kiir of carving out the oil-rich areas for his community."
President Barack Obama formally notified Congress Oct. 14 that 90 US troops have been mobilized to Cameroon—the first contingent of a 300-strong force to assist in the struggle against Boko Haram. The force will conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but will not participate in ground combat operations (except in self-defense). Unarmed surveillance drones will also be deployed. The Pentagon said the move came at the invitation of Cameroon's government, which has been headed by strongman Paul Biya since 1982. Cameroon is part in a joint regional task force to fight Boko Haram along with Chad, Niger and Benin. (Foreign Policy, VOA, BBC News, AP, Oct. 14)