Key developments in Africa in the week of April 21st include the deterioration of the security situation in the Soum province of Burkina Faso; the United States airstrikes on Islamic State targets in northern Somalia amid reduced overall activity in the country; the continued unrest in Zamfara and Borno states in Nigeria; and the continuing popular agitation in Tunisia, Sudan and Benin.
In Burkina Faso, the situation is deteriorating quickly in the Soum province (Sahel region). The pace of attacks by militants of the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and/or Islamic State (Greater Sahara) (ISGS) rose in April, with 12 out of 18 reported attacks targeted at civilians. Last week, the militants assassinated a priest as well as four members of the Foulse community in the Boukouma and Liki areas of Arbinda department. Police forces evacuated Arbinda town as they lacked the means to face the rising insecurity in the area, whilst the Burkinabe Northern Security Forces (GFSN) launched vast operations in the nearby Tongomayel area. The GFSN clashed with JNIM and/or ISGS militants in Filio on April 23rd and subsequently conducted massive summary executions (around 70 people in the span of one day) between Bouloboye, Koubo and Filio. In one instance, they reportedly arrested 40 people between Koubo and Debel-Filio: a majority were found executed by headshot the following the day. The operation was described as a major success by the security forces. Meanwhile, the arrest of 20 suspected Burkina Islamists in Togo early April highlights key risks that the insurgency expands southwards.
In Somalia, the overall conflict activity – in both the number of events and fatalities – reached a year-low last week. However, al Shabaab continues to conduct daily attacks on Somali or AMISOM forces, primarily in Bay, Lower and Middle Shabelle regions. High-impact engagements by the militants have become increasingly rare, instead opting for hit-and-run style attacks by way of IEDs or other explosive devices. Airstrikes by the United States (US) forces have continued to target rural al Shabaab positions in the south, striking targets along the Mogadishu-Afgooye near Janale and near Jamaame in Lower Juba. Notably, two US airstrikes have targeted Islamic State (IS) positions in the Bari region since mid-April – the first air engagements of the group since August 2018 – highlighting a possible emerging focus on IS targets in the north.
In Nigeria, military offensives against Boko Haram and communal militias in Zamfara State continue. Despite stiff military pushback in the Sambisa Forest areas surrounding Lake Chad in recent weeks, Boko Haram’s Barnawi faction has made inroads in Biu Local Government Area last week, following a successful attack on a military barracks on April 26th. Though unable to overtake the territory, the Islamic State affiliate was able to acquire a large cache of weapons before fleeing. In Zamfara state, the Nigerian air forces have launched repeated air raids on hideouts of “bandits” including armed pastoralists around Gusau, Zurmi, Maradun and Anka LGAs in April. This followed large-scale attacks carried out by the bandits on civilians and military forces over February and March, which have left nearly 400 people killed. Last week, the Nigerian forces carried out additional clearing operations around Anka, Gusau and the Sububu forest, leaving around 16 bandits killed. The extent of the progress made against the bandits in the military operations launched a year ago in Zamfara – and the ability of the Nigerian government to curb intercommunal violence in the country more generally – remains uncertain.
Lastly, popular agitation continues in Sudan, Tunisia and Benin.
In Sudan, demonstrations continue nationwide amid tense post-Bashir power negotiations between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Freedom and Change/Sudanese Professional Association leadership. The military and civilian leadership are searching for an agreement on the form and composition of an interim government, comprising of a proposed 15-member joint civilian-military council. Last week, “Save the Revolution” protesters travelled from several northern and central cities to join the ongoing three-week demonstration in Khartoum to call for a regime change, with crowds estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The protests combined with the pressure from the civilian leadership led to the resignation of three members of the TMC last week over accusations that they were “Islamists” – heralding a significant shift in the Sudanese politics.
To year’s date, Tunisia’s number of events is the highest on the continent. The recent ballooning of activity in the country stems from a series of daily nation-wide protests against the government of Youssef Chahed over the rising cost of living and the rampant unemployment. Nearly 250 protests and riots were reported nationwide over April 1st-27th, a significant increase compared to February and March 2019. Most of the protesters are labour groups denouncing issues such as the fuel price hikes, the deterioration of public infrastructure and services including in the health and education sectors, as well as the lack of employment opportunities, including among graduates. Additionally, clashes between the military and AQIM-affiliated Uqba in Nafi militia rose in April in the mountainous areas of the Le Kef and Kasserine governorates. The militants laid several IED attacks against the security forces, to which the security forces responded by launching large operations. Last week, a soldier was killed when a landmine exploded on a military vehicle on Mount Chaambi in Kasserine, while an AQIM fighter died in a security operation in Le Kef.
Lastly, tensions rose last week in Benin ahead of the holding of the legislative elections on April 28th. Market women protested in Porto Novo to call for the inclusion of the main opposition Democratic Renewal Party (PRD) in the elections but were dispersed by police. A day before the vote, on April 27th, riots erupted against the elections in Save (Collines department) and Tchaourou (Borgou), whilst election material belonging to the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA) was destroyed in several localities of Borgou and Oueme departments. Tens of thousands of supporters of opposition parties took the streets on several occasions between early March and early April to protest their exclusion in the April legislative elections. The announcement of the results amid low voter turnout next week could lead to further protests.
© 2019 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.
30 April 2019