At least 38 were killed and many wounded in attacks on two ethnic Dogon villages in the Mopti region of central Mali—seemingly the latest in escalating reprisals pitting the Dogon and Fulani peoples against each other. The attacks targeted Dogon villages near the border with Burkina Faso. The following day, presumed jihadist fighters killed 17 civilians in a night-time raid on a village in the north of Burkina Faso. Authorities say a “massive” military operation is underway to hunt down the perpetrators of the attack. Although there was again no claim of responsibility, both the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara are active in the area. (Photo of Fulani herders in Mali from KaTeznik/Wikimedia Commons via Defense Post)
Attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced since January in Burkina Faso, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise. Homegrown militant groups, as well as extremists linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, have been operating in the country’s north since 2016, but have expanded to new fronts. As the state struggles to contain the insurgencies, a growing number of “self-defense” militias have mobilized, escalating ethnic tensions in a country once considered a beacon of coexistence and tolerance in West Africa. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on the government of Sudan to protect its people's rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the face of mounting violence. Anti-government protests have swept across Sudan for weeks. Over 800 have been arrested, including "journalists, opposition leaders, protestors and representatives of civil society." The government has confirmed 24 deaths but other reports place the number at double that. There have also been reports of security forces following protesters into hospitals and firing tear-gas and live ammunition inside. (Photo via Sudan Tribune)
A village of semi-nomadic Fulani herders was attacked in Mali New Years Day, with at least 33 residents slain and several homes set aflame. Survivors said the attackers were traditional Dogon hunters, known as dozos. The army was rushed to Koulogon village in central Mopti region to control the situation. But the perpetrators may have been assisted by the armed forces. Dogon residents of the area have formed a self-defense militia, known as Dana Amassagou, to prevent incursions by jihadists from Mali's conflicted north into the country's central region. The militia is said to have received weapons and training from the official armed forces. However, driven by conflicts over access to land and shrinking water resources, the militia has apparently been attacking local Fulani villages. Hundreds were killed in clashes between Dogon and Fulani last year, and a Senegalese rapid reaction force under UN command was deployed to Mopti in response to the violence. (Photo of Fulani elder via IRIN)
Protests have been mounting across Sudan in response to the nation’s acute economic crisis. Inflation reached 70% in November and many have been forced to spend significant portions of their income on bread, leading to local media designating the demonstrations as "bread protests." Protesters have repeatedly called for President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1993, to step down. The protests have been organized by professional organizations and trade unions as well as Sudan's principal opposition group, the Umma Party. Sudan's government has shut off internet access to prevent the protesters from organizing via social media. According to Amnesty International, at least 37 protesters have been killed so far as Sudanese authorities attempt to quell the demonstrations by releasing tear-gas and firing live ammunition. (Photo via Middle East Eye)
Seeking to legitimize his regime now that he’s reconquered most of Syria (with massive Russian military help), Bashar Assad has just welcomed the first Arab League leader to Damascus since the war began in 2011—none other than President Omar Bashir of Sudan, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. The Assad regime’s official news agency SANA said the two dictators discussed the “situations and crises faced by many Arab countries,” stressing the need to build “new principles for inter-Arab relations based on the respect of the sovereignty of countries and non-interference in internal affairs.” The Assad regime is itself now credibly accused of genocide, with a mass extermination of detainees amply documented, not to mention serial use of chemical weapons and massive bombardment of civilian populations. Assad and his generals may yet face war crimes charges before the ICC. (Photos: Pinterest, BashirWatch)
The Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda's branch in West Africa and the Sahel, claimed its forces were responsible for a suicide bombing in the northern Malian city of Gao. The suicide truck-bomb detonated in a residential area of Gao, killing three (not counting the attacker) and wounding another 30. The JNIM statement claimed the target was a base of "Crusader invaders" from the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada. However, all of those killed were civilians and local Malians. Four of the wounded were foreign employees of the United Nation's Mine Action Service, working to remove landmines in the area. A video later released by JNIM confirmed that the mine dismantling headquarters in Gao was the intended target. The video stated that "this operation demonstrates that the mujahideen are continuing upon their covenant, which they had made to their lord, until they achieve one of the two good ends, victory or martyrdom." (Image via Long War Journal)
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his bitter rival and former vice president Riek Machar, now leader of the SPLM-IO rebels, met in the Sudanese capital Khartoum to sign a "permanent" ceasefire agreement, pledging to form an inclusive transitional government. The parties agreed to open humanitarian corridors, release detainees, withdraw troops and militarily disengage. The transitional government is to form a national army and security forces not linked to tribalism. However, the challenges for the 36-month transition period are great. Millions in South Sudan are on the brink of famine, and more than 2.5 million have fled the country. Hundreds of thousands more—mostly members of minority ethnic groups—are internally displaced, with many sheltering in camps administered by the United Nations. Previous efforts at a negotiated peace have broken down. (Photo: Sudan Tribune)
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)
Sudanese authorities carried out mass arrests and confiscated newspapers as protests exploded over rising bread prices and severe economic austerity. One student was killed amid demonstrations in Geneina, capital of West Darfur state. Protests were also reported from the cities of Nyala, al-Damazin and the capital Khartoum. The unrest broke out as bakeries doubled the price of bread following a government decision to increase the price of flour nearly fourfold. The decision was part of a package of austerity measures issued under the country's 2018 budget, seeking to address the spiralling inflation rate.
Authorities in Mauritania ordered the country's five privately owned news stations off the air. The move is the latest sign of a crackdown on the independent press following a controversial referendum called by President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in August. The opposition-boycotted vote abolished Mauritania's Senate after it blocked an expansion of presidential powers.
The International Criminal Court found that a former Malian jihadist militant is liable for 2.7 million euros in reparations for overseeing the destruction of Muslim shrines in Timbuktu. In its order, the ICC stressed the importance of cultural heritage, calling the destruction of the shrines "an irreplaceable loss that negates humanity."