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)
Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court acquitted former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, his former youth minister. Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were accused of four counts of crimes against humanity related to violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced. Gbagbo was arrested in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara. He was the first former head of state to face trial at the ICC. The Chamber ordered both accused to be immediately released. "The acquittal of Gbagbo and Blé Goudé will be seen as a crushing disappointment to victims of post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire," said Amnesty International in a statement. (Photo: ICC)
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)
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)
The "King of the Afro-Bolivians," Julio I, is said to be South America's last reigning monarch, although he lives as a peasant cocalero in the Yungas region on the Andean slopes north of La Paz. The descendants of slaves brought in by the Spanish to work haciendas and silver mines, the Afro-Bolivians today have constitutionally protected autonomy. They have joined with their indigenous Aymara neighbors to demand greater rights for the coca-producing high jungle zone. Julio, of Kikongo royal blood, was crowned in a ceremony recognized by the Bolivian state in 2007. Last month marked 10 years of his official reign. (Photo: Casa Real Afroboliviana)
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled in favor of Ghana in a lengthy maritime dispute with Ivory Coast. The case, which was brought to the international body by Ghana in 2014, was an attempt to clarify the boundary between the two countries, as both countries were vying for control of offshore oil leases in the contested area.
The International Organization for Migration reports that its staff have documented "slave markets" on North African migrant routes, preying on young African men bound for Libya.
New "draconian" anti-terrorism laws could "restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal," according to a report by Amnesty International.
Some 1,400 African migrants—including whole families and asylum-seekers—were rounded up by riot police in a series of raids in Algiers, and apparently face summary deportation.
Gunmen from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack on a beach resort in Ivory Coast that killed 14 civilians and two soldiers.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb issued a statement saying the Ouagadougou attack was carried out by "mujahideen brothers" of its West African franchise, al-Mourabitoun.
The leader of last month's attempted military coup in Burkina Faso, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, was charged with crimes against humanity for the slaying of anti-coup protesters.