Almas Elman, a prominent Somali rights activist, was killed in Mogadishu, struck by a bullet while riding in a car. She was apparently heading to the airport after attending a meeting at the Elman Peace Centre, which was founded by her mother Fartuun Adan in 1990. Elman came from a long line of activists. She was the sister of aid worker Ilwad Elman who was recently short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her father was the respected Somali activist Elman Ali Ahmed, who was himself assassinated in Mogadishu in 1996. In recent years, the Elman Peace Centre has documented rights abuses in Somalia by government troops, Islamist insurgents, Ethiopian occupation forces, rival clan militias, (Photo: RTN-TV via OkayAfrica)
Nearly 70 people have been killed in Ethiopia’s central Oromia region following a week of unrest and ethnic violence. The eruption began after Jawar Mohammed, prominent advocate for the Oromo people, posted on social media about an imminent attempt on his life by security forces. Supporters surrounded his house and police retreated, but violence quickly spread. The army has now been deployed to put down the protests. Illegal sales of traditional Oromo lands to facilitate urban expansion on the outskirts of Addis Ababa has long been a grievance of the Oromo people. But anger has been unleashed on ethnic minorities in Oromia. In Sebeta, a town within the Oromia Special Zone surrounding the capital, eight members of Gamos people were killed, apparently by a mob of Oromo youth. Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as Muslims have also been targeted, with both churches and mosques attacked. (Photo of gathering outside Jawar Mohammed’s home via Twitter)
Dozens of members of Ethiopia’s National Movement of Amhara (NaMa) have been arrested since the ethnic-based opposition party apparently attempted to seize power in Amhara state in a regional coup. In the uprising, the regional president and three officials were killed in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar. The army chief of staff was also killed by his own bodyguards in the national capital, Addis Ababa. NaMa has denied any link to the violence, and says 250 of its followers have been detained in the sweeps. NaMa has quickly come to challenge Amhara regional state’s ruling Amhara Democratic Party, which is aligned with the national ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The Amhara people are growing increasingly restive under the rule of the EPRDF, which they perceive as dominated by the Tigray people. (Photo via Twitter)
More than 60 were killed in US air-strikes that targeted "a known al-Shabaab encampment" near southern Somalia's Gandarshe town. US Africa Command asserted that no civilians were killed and that the strikes were launched to "prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks." These were the deadliest air attacks in Somalia since November 2017 when the US said it killed 100 militants. The targeting of Shabaab increased after March 2017, when the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the US military to use force against the insurgent army. The US military has now struck Shabaab targets 45 times in 2018, compared with 31 times last year. The US has a huge military base in neighboring Djibouti, from where it launches air-raids on the militants. (Image: Lockheed Martin)
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)
Following peace talks hosted by Eritrea, the government of Ethiopia announced a peace deal with the Oromo Liberation Front rebels. The deal guarantees rebel leaders the right to participate in Ethiopia's political process in exchange for laying down arms. The OLF has long been backed by Eritrea, and the pact comes one month after a formal end was declared to the two-decade state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, with Ethiopia ceding its claim to the contested border town of Badme. This points to a softening of positions under Ethiopia's new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The Badme deal was also said to have been quietly brokered by the United Arab Emirates, which has emerged as politically isolated Eritrea's most significant foreign patron, part of an apparent design to encircle Yemen. (Photo: Yassin Juma)
In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean. (Map via CIMSEC)
A crisis over the Yemeni island of Socotra was resolved as the United Arab Emirates agreed to withdraw and turn control over to Saudi forces, which will in turn restore full Yemeni rule. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique flora and fauna, hailed as the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean." Emirati forces seized Socotra at the start of the month, and raised their flag over the airport and other strategic points—sparking angry protests from residents. Socotra's governor condemned the move as an "occupation" and "a flagrant violation of Yemeni sovereignty." Even after the de-escalation, suspicions remain. Yemen's ambassador to UNESCO, Ahmad al-Sayyad, accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of "a hidden inclination to divide Yemen." (Map via University of Texas)
The United Arab Emirates announced that it is ending its military training program in Somalia, as the governments of Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu trade charges back and forth. Tensions between the two governments have been on the rise over Emirati plans to build a military base in Somaliland, the self-declared republic that is effectively independent from Mogadishu. The UAE has trained hundreds of troops since 2014 for the weak and fractious Mogadishu government. But Mogadishu sees establishment of a foreign base at Somaliland's port of Berbera as a move toward recognition of the breakaway republic, calling it a "clear violation of international law." (Map: Somalia Country Profile)
Oromo activists in Ethiopia launched a "fuel blockade," occupying roadways to halt shipment of oil through the country. The action was called following a massacre at the village of Moyale, near the Kenyan border. Troops gunned down nine unarmed residents, apparently mistaking them for militants of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Nearly 5,000 have fled across the border to Kenya—some having directly run from gunfire. Ethiopia last year imposed a state of emergency in response to mounting Oromo protests. Roadblocks are reported from several points around the country, so far without violence. (Photo via UNPO)
The unrecognized but de facto independent republic of Somaliland made rare headlines when its parliament voted to instate criminal penalties for rape—actually a groundbreaking move in the region. The "official" government of Somalia still has no law against rape. And while Somaliland just elected a new president by popular vote, Somalila's president was chosen by parliament. Regular elections are impossible in Somalia due to the fact that the government has no effective control of its own territory—despite military support of an Ethiopia-led "peacekeeping" force.
The US military plans to station ground troops in Libya to help local forces fight the ISIS faction there, and also seeks greater scope to target insurgents in Somalia.