Jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel in the central Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, setting cars ablaze and firing randomly, leaving 28 dead on Jan. 15. All but five of those killed were foreigners. The siege ended with a joint operation by Burkinabe and French commandos, in which at least four assailants were killed—including both Arabs and Black Africans. French special forces are stationed outside Ouagadougou as part of ongoing counter-terrorist operation in the Sahel. In an online statement entitled "A Message Signed with Blood and Body Parts," al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the attack was carried out by "mujahideen brothers" of its West African franchise, al-Mourabitoun. The statement boasted of "many dead Crusaders," although the victims appear to have been entirely civilians. (BBC News, DW, RFI, AP, NYT)
A sharia high court in Nigeria on Jan. 6 sentenced cleric Abdulaziz Dauda and nine others to death by hanging for committing blasphemy against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The prosecution claimed that Duada, a preacher also known as Abdul Inyass, stated that the Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the founder of a rival sect, enjoyed a larger following in the region than Muhammad. The prosecution further asserted that Dauda and his disciples incited people to religious violence. The trial took place behind closed doors to avoid public protest.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) formally closed Dec. 31 after issuing 45 judgments. The ICTR, established in 1994, was the first international tribunal to deliver verdicts against those guilty of committing genocide. Within its 21 years, the ICTR sentenced 61 to terms of up to life imprisonment for their roles in the Rwanda massacres. There were 14 acquittals, and 10 accused were transferred to national courts. An International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals has been established and eight fugitives remain at large.
Approximately six million Rwandans on Dec. 19 approved a referendum by a vote of 98% to amend Article 101 of the Rwanda constitution which states the president may only serve two seven-year terms. The referendum will allow President Paul Kagame (official profile) to serve another seven-year term beginning in 2017 and then two more five-year terms. Kagame has served as president since 2003. Last month, the Rwandan Senate unanimously approved the referendum following approval from Rwanda's lower house of parliament in October. Also in October, Rwanda's Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the referendum, but this did not stop the vote from moving ahead.
The Hague Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 18 that Royal Dutch Shell can be sued in a Dutch court for their involvement in oil spills in Nigeria. The ruling stems from a suit brought by four Nigerian farmers that claimed Shell and its Nigerian subsidiaries were responsible for oil leaks leading to their lands being damaged. In a statement explaining their reasoning for their decision, the Court of Appeals said, "It cannot be established in advance that the parent company is not liable for possible negligence of the Nigerian operating company."
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)