Africa: Conflict and governance July 2023-

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Africa: Conflict and governance July 2021-29 June 2023
Africa Elections 2023:
All the upcoming votes

15 February
Why This is a Key Year for Democracy in Africa
19 elections are scheduled. Not all will be free or fair.
(Global Dispatches) 2024 is an important year for African democracy. At least 19 national elections are scheduled to take place this year. Not all of these elections will be free or fair — let alone competitive. Some of these elections will serve to ensconce leaders for life like Rwanda’s Paul Kagame. Others may serve to consolidate power following a coup. But genuine multi-party democracies like Ghana and South Africa are also headed to the polls in important elections.
Algeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Comoros, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, South Africa, Tunisia and Somaliland (not technically a country in the sense that it’s a UN member state, but quasi-independent, to be sure) are all scheduled to hold elections this year.

26 February
Why Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso Are Leaving ECOWASpodcast
This is a big deal–and not at all good for the prospects of democracy!
(Global Dispatches) On January 28th, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger jointly announced they were leaving the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. This is a regional economic and political union of most countries in West Africa. Citizens enjoy free movement across borders of ECOWAS member states and many of its members share the same currency. ECOWAS also seeks to uphold democratic norms, and each of these three countries are led by military juntas.
Now, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are setting up rival entity, called the Alliance of Sahel States.
… Moderan* explains what the move by Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso says about global trends around democratic backsliding and strongman politics.
I think, as you mentioned, this is a symptom of democratic backsliding in West Africa, but also more globally. And it’s also a symptom of the return of what I would call strongman politics — the notion that a good leader is very masculine, very aggressive, security-oriented, a kind of Putin, really. And it’s no wonder, I think, that countries in the Sahel, starting with Mali but increasingly Burkina Faso as well, are getting closer and closer to Russia — either to the Russian state as such or to private military companies like the Wagner Group.
*Ornella Moderan, a researcher and practitioner who’s been working in the Sahel and West Africa for nearly 15 years. She is currently a Research Fellow with the Netherlands-based Clingendael Institute.

5-8 February
ECOWAS holds emergency session over Senegal crisis and member exits
Political drama in four member states has led to questions about the broader role of the almost 50-year-old bloc.
(Al Jazeera) West African foreign ministers are holding emergency talks on Thursday in Nigeria’s capital Abuja to discuss the political crisis in Senegal and disputes with military rulers in three other member states.
The extraordinary session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) follows President Macky Sall’s sudden decision to delay elections in Senegal, just a week after Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger declared they were quitting the bloc.
The ECOWAS Mediation & Security Council said ministers would gather to “discuss current security and political issues in the region”.
West African bloc asks Senegal to reverse the presidential election delay that’s caused an uproar
(AP) — Authorities in Senegal should hold the presidential election this month as scheduled instead of delaying it by 10 months, West Africa’s regional bloc said Tuesday, as the United Nations human rights office expressed concern about the unprecedented decision in one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
President Macky Sall postponed the Feb. 25 vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies. Opposition leaders and candidates rejected the decision, calling it a “coup.”
Senegal parliament delays election until December after opposition lawmakers are blocked from voting
(AP) — Senegal’s parliament voted Monday to delay the West African nation’s presidential election until Dec. 15 in a chaotic voting process that took place after opposition lawmakers were forcefully removed from the chambers as they debated President Macky Sall’s earlier decision to delay the crucial election.
Security forces stormed the legislative building and forcefully removed several opposition lawmakers who were trying to block the voting process on the unprecedented delay of the presidential election initially scheduled for Feb. 25. The adopted bill extends Sall’s tenure — which was due to end on April 2 — until a new election.
Authorities on Monday restricted mobile internet access amid growing protests by opposition supporters against the delay.

28-29 January
ECOWAS chair Nigeria slams juntas’ move to quit bloc
(Reuters) – Nigeria on Monday said the “unelected” military authorities in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso were letting their people down with their joint decision to leave the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Nigeria, which is the current chair of the political and economic bloc, was commenting for the first time on the three junta-led countries’ Sunday announcement that they were immediately quitting the nearly 50-year-old regional alliance.
Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso quit ECOWAS, testing regional unity
– The decision is a blow to regional integration after the bloc suspended the three countries following military takeovers.
The juntas said in a joint statement that ECOWAS had drifted from the ideals of its “founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism,” and accused the bloc of failing to assist in their fight against Islamist insurgents and ending insecurity.

8 January
Ethiopia’s controversial quest for the sea
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
Many centuries ago, chroniclers conjured what was in antiquity called Ethiopia as a realm at the heart of global trade. … But modern-day Ethiopia is famously landlocked. Apart from a few decades in the 20th century when Ethiopia had annexed neighboring Eritrea, Africa’s second-most populous nation has never had a coastline.
…last week, in what was a geopolitical bombshell in the Horn of Africa…Alongside Muse Bihi Abdi, president of the self-declared breakaway Republic of Somaliland, [Ethiopian prime minister] Abiy announced that the two parties had reached a memorandum of understanding that would see Somaliland lease to Ethiopia some 12 miles of its coastline by the port of Berbera. In return, the autonomous entity that exists within the internationally recognized territory of Somalia may win something altogether more valuable: diplomatic recognition from Addis Ababa.

2023

27 December
DR Congo opposition plans election protest despite government ban
Five opposition candidates had announced their intention to march, calling the DRC election a fraud.
(Al Jazeera) … The commission has not disclosed how many of the approximately 44 million registered voters cast ballots, nor given any indication of what the latest given figure represents in relation to the total number of votes.
(The World) A main opposition candidate in DR Congo accused police of using live bullets to break up a protest on Wednesday in the capital, Kinshasa, as demonstrators demanded a re-do of last week’s presidential election. Holding up a bullet, Martin Fayulu told The Associated Press that it landed near him while he was barricaded inside his headquarters during a standoff with police. His claim could not be verified. Fayulu is one of five opposition candidates who called the protest. Some rights groups and international observers also have questioned the vote and alleged it was extended illegally. As of Tuesday evening, Félix Tshisekedi had nearly 79% of the vote, opposition leader and businessman Moise Katumbi had about 14% and Fayulu had about 4% of some 6 million counted votes. The final results are expected before the new year.
Why has Nigeria failed to deal with recurrent violence in Plateau state?
Hundreds of people have been killed and injured in attacks by armed groups.
The Nigerian government says at least 160 people were killed in attacks by armed groups on remote farming communities at the weekend.
It’s the worst violence in the central Plateau state in more than five years.
Political crisis in Nigerian oil capital sparks fears of more economic woes
Rivers State crisis has yet to be resolved fully despite alleged intervention by President Tinubu.

17 December
The Overlooked Crisis in Congo: ‘We Live in War’
Six million have died, and more than six million are displaced after decades of fighting and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, drawing in neighbors, mercenaries and militias. An upcoming election is inflaming tempers.
(NYT) …6.5 million people displaced by war in eastern Congo, where a conflict that has dragged on for nearly three decades, stoking a vast humanitarian crisis that by some estimates has claimed over six million lives, is now lurching into a volatile new phase.
Over 100 armed groups and several national armies are vying for supremacy across a region of lakes, mountains and rainforests slightly bigger than Florida. Meddlesome foreign powers covet its vast reserves of gold, oil and coltan, a mineral used to make cellphones and electric vehicles. Corruption is endemic. Massacres and rape are common.
For all that, aid groups struggle to draw attention to the suffering in a country of about 100 million people, even when the numbers affected dwarf those of other crises.
…this latest phase of the war, which began in earnest two years ago, is drawn in unusually clear lines.
On one side is the M23, a well-organized but ruthless rebel group that the United States and the United Nations say is backed by Rwanda, Congo’s eastern neighbor, which is one-hundredth the size of Congo. (Rwanda denies any link.) Since October, the M23 has seized the main roads into Goma, the regional capital, as well as the hilltops overlooking Saké, 10 miles to the west.
On the other side is Congo’s army, whose troops are notoriously ill disciplined. Even as fighting raged near Saké last week, drunken soldiers careened through its streets. But their strength is boosted by two new allies.
One is the Wazalendo, Swahili for patriots, a coalition of once-rival militias that the government cobbled together to repel M23, despite the fighters’ reputation for factionalism and brutality.
The second is a force of about 1,000 Romanian mercenaries, many formerly with the French Foreign Legion, deployed around Goma and Saké.
Amid all that, an election is taking place.
[Congo’s president, Felix] Tshisekedi, who is favored to win the presidential race, initially pushed for peace after his election in 2019, following a disputed vote. But that effort failed, and now he is aggressively stoking public hostility toward Rwanda, including personal attacks on its leader, President Paul Kagame. …
Congo’s agony started with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. After the slaughter, which took 800,000 lives, a flood of refugees crossed into Congo, bringing turmoil that eventually toppled its kleptocratic leader, Mobutu Sese Seko, and led to a ruinous civil war.
Three decades on, the genocide’s shadow lingers in Congo. Justifying his cross-border interventions, Mr. Kagame of Rwanda says he is still hunting the ethnic Hutu killers, hiding in Congo, who carried out the 1994 killings.

12 December
Nearly 50 million facing hunger in West, Central Africa as conflict spreads
(Reuters) – A record 49.5 million people are expected to go hungry in West and Central Africa next year due to a combination of conflict, climate change and high food prices, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

28 November
Dozens killed in attack by armed groups in Burkina Faso, UN says
At least 40 civilians were killed last weekend by al-Qaeda-linked rebels trying to take control of a besieged town in Burkina Faso’s hard-hit northern region, the United Nations’ rights office said. A large number of fighters tried to take control of Djibo near Mali’s border. The town, located 130 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, has been under blockade by rebels for more than a year, struggling to provide essential services to residents. The militants in the latest attack, which happened on Sunday, wounded 42 people and set fire to three camps for internally displaced people.

16 November
Disturbing videos emerge showing atrocities against African ethnic groups in Darfur
(CNN) Members of African ethnic groups in Sudan’s Darfur region appear to have been rounded up by members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces [RSF] and other Arab militias, according to videos and images verified and geolocated by CNN.
… The RSF has denied that “any incidents of ethnic cleansing or tribal conflict took place in the Ardmetta [Ardamata] area of El Geneina, West Darfur State.”
In a statement responding to questions from CNN last Wednesday, the RSF said it does not target civilians and that its forces are “fighting side-by-side with the people of Sudan to restore our country to its rightful path of civilian-led democratic rule.”
… Amid the most significant increase[s] in displacement in months, aid agencies operating in Chad say arrivals from Sudan have been describing a new surge in killings and fighting in West Darfur.
Ethnic-related killings have intensified since fighting broke out mid-April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF, according to witnesses and aid groups operating in the region.
In September, the United Nations’ human rights body (UNJHRO) said it had received reports of at least 13 mass graves in El Geneina believed to contain civilians from the ethnic Masalit tribe who were allegedly killed in attacks by the RSF and allied Arab militias.

4 November
(Foreign Affairs) Earlier this year, Michela Wrong, a journalist who has covered Africa for over two decades, warned that “not since 2012 has Africa’s Great Lakes region been on such a troubling trajectory.” The secret to M23’s success in sowing chaos in the region, she wrote, is the support of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. By helping to resurrect M23 and aiding its rebellion in eastern Congo, Kagame aims to “assert hegemonic dominance over Rwanda’s neighbors and guarantee access to the natural resources of a vast region.” With the spiraling insurgency threatening to destabilize the region, Wrong urged the West to stop dithering—or a wider conflagration could displace millions more.
The United Nations warned this week that conflict and violence have displaced a record 6.9 million people across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [A record 6.9 million people are internally displaced in DR Congo, says UN. Escalating violence has pushed the number of people internally displaced within the Democratic Republic of Congo to a record 6.9 million]
The majority of these people live in eastern Congo, where clashes with rebel groups have escalated—particularly with M23, a militia group that has managed to conquer large parts of the country since it launched an offensive in 2021.
7 million displaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo as M23 attacks continue
Mass displacement reaches record levels as M23, a proxy force backed by Rwanda, continues its offensive in the eastern provinces of the DRC in violation of a ceasefire

Kagame’s Revenge – Why Rwanda’s Leader Is Sowing Chaos in Congo
By Michela Wrong

30 October
UPDATE How Russian disinformation toppled government after government in Africa
This never-before-told tale reveals how covert online battles in the French-speaking Sahel region led to coups
… Pro-Russian fake news sites populated YouTube and pro-Russian groups abounded on Facebook. Local influencers used WhatsApp and Telegram groups to organize pro-Russian demonstrations and praise Russian President Vladimir Putin. Facebook fan pages even hailed the Wagner Group, the Russian paramilitary network run by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the late one-time Putin ally whose Internet Research Agency launched a disinformation campaign in the United States to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“In six months, Putin has cleaned up all the terrorists” in the region, one meme said in French, “while for 50 years under French influence, terrorists had been able to kill 100 people a day.”
… researchers say it’s no accident that Russia has been able to step into the vacuum left by political instability and anti-French sentiment in Africa.
Laessing, the Konrad Adenauer analyst, pointed out that pro-Russian social media figures widely supported the July coup in Niger, showing up at the capital brandishing Russian flags and spreading disinformation that the president had been ousted even before the coup happened. Niger’s new prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, broadcast his meeting with the Russian ambassador this month on state TV.
Laessing said Western governments have failed to appreciate the impact of Russia’s online strategy in Africa — which included both covert operations and more public ones, such as paying local influencers to fly to Russia. Small beleaguered states like Burkina Faso were completely outmatched. “This is about winning over people. If everyone thinks you’re a failure and Russia is the savior because of a storm of disinformation, then you need to do something,” he said.
But Laessing’s not quite certain what that is. He noted that revelations about French-run disinformation campaigns in the Sahel have turned the public even further against France.
“There’s a temptation to fight fire with fire, but I’m not sure it’s a good strategy,” Laessing said. “You end up getting accused of doing the same things the other side is doing.”

US to evict Gabon, Niger, Uganda and Central African Republic from trade program
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that he intends to end the participation of Gabon, Niger, Uganda and the Central African Republic in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade program.
Biden said he was taking the step because of “gross violations” of internationally recognized human rights by the Central African Republic and Uganda.
He also cited Niger and Gabon’s failure to establish or make continual progress toward the protection of political pluralism and the rule of law.

21 October
Spy vs. spy: How Israelis tried to stop Russia’s information war in Africa
This never-before-told tale reveals how covert online battles in the French-speaking Sahel region helped topple governments.
(WaPo exclusive) Israeli businessmen Royi Burstien and Lior Chorev … — one a veteran political operative and the other a former army intelligence officer — had been hired with the mission of keeping the government of President Roch Marc Kaboré of the West African nation of Burkina Faso in power.
… Three years later, the governments of five former French colonies, including Burkina Faso, have been toppled. The new leaders of two of those countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, are overtly pro-Russian; in a third, Niger, the prime minister installed after a July coup has met recently with the Russian ambassador. In Mali and the Central African Republic, French troops have been replaced with Wagner mercenaries.

5 October
Why Africans are losing faith in democracy
The alternatives will undoubtedly be worse
(Highlights) Our cover in Africa looks beyond the recent spate of coups to see what trends might be behind them. There is always a danger in generalising about such a large and diverse continent, but my colleagues in Africa found a widespread and worrying trend. Across much of the region there is growing disillusionment with democracy, while alternatives such as military rule are becoming more popular. This is happening not only in failing states, such as Mali, but also in South Africa, which was once a beacon of hope
The Economist Something has gone badly wrong in Africa. Sudan has collapsed into carnage, as two grasping warlords battle for control. Genocide has returned to Darfur: fighters loyal to one of those warlords are murdering every male they can find from one ethnic group, even shooting baby boys strapped to their mothers’ backs, as we report. In Ethiopia one civil war has barely ended and a new one is brewing. Across the Sahel, jihadists are terrorising millions and soldiers are seizing power, promising to restore calm but not actually doing so. You can now walk across nearly the widest part of Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, passing only through countries that have suffered coups in the past three years. But it would be unwise—you might well be kidnapped.
One reason coups have grown more common is that many Africans have lost faith in democracy. Afrobarometer, a pollster, found that the share who prefer democracy to any other form of government has fallen from 75% in 2012 to 66%. That may sound like a solid majority, but it includes many waverers. An alarming 53% said a coup would be legitimate if civilian leaders abuse their power, which they often do.

25 September
Wagner’s African Hosts Regret Letting Them In
Libyans, among others, are sick of the Russian mercenaries.
By Jack Detsch
(Foreign Policy) The United States has heard from multiple African countries that they regret giving access to the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group, current and former U.S. military and defense officials said, as the Biden administration tries to use the interregnum in the group’s control to halt its advance.

20 September
Notorious Russian general, master spy duo organise in Africa after Prigozhin’s demise
(France24) Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister, and Andrei Averyanov, a notorious general from the GRU military intelligence agency, touched down in Bamako, Mali, on Saturday, September 16. They were slated to meet political leaders from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, according to local media and various sources on Telegram.
The meeting in Mali was not coincidental: Yevkurov and Averyanov were scheduled to hold talks with representatives of the countries Prigozhin had last visited. Riley Moeder, an Africa specialist studying the role of Wagner’s mercenaries on the continent at the New Lines Institute, an American geopolitical research center, holds that Russia is playing on a sense of continuity: “Moscow wants to assure them that it remains committed to that region,” she says.

19 September
A Kremlin mouthpiece at the heart of Africa: how Afrique Média helps Putin court audiences in their own language
This Cameroon-based outlet reaches millions through linear TV and boasts over one million followers on their social channels
(Reuters Institute) In late July 2023, the Kremlin hosted the second-ever Russia-Africa summit. Leaders of several African nations travelled to Moscow to gather with Russian leaders, including Vladimir Putin.
The summit yielded mixed results when it came to fortifying Russo-African relations. Only 17 African heads of state attended, compared to the 43 who went to the summit in 2019, a poor showing the Kremlin attributed to the interference from Western countries. However, the summit cemented Moscow’s commitment in courting the Global South as it deals with sanctions and animosity from much of the West.
One of the people who was at the summit was the head of Afrique Média, Justin Tagouh, who was photographed shaking hands with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group who would be killed in late August in a plane crash.
While it is unclear where the Wagner Group stands with the Kremlin at this point, particularly after the death of Prigozhin, the presence of Afrique Média’s Tagouh at the summit is a reflection of the importance Russia places on media outlets to advance its agenda in the continent.

18 September
Libya was mired in chaos and corruption. For years, warnings the Derna dams may burst went unheeded
Emerging reports show that experts had warned that floods posed a significant danger to the two dams which burst in northeastern Libya following heavy rains from Mediterranean Storm Daniel. They had repeatedly called for immediate maintenance of the two structures, but successive governments had not responded to the warnings. On Friday, the country’s chief prosecutor ordered an investigation into the collapse of the dams. Thousands of people died, and thousands more remain missing, as the deluge uprooted apartment buildings and washed away roads and bridges.
For a divided Libya, disastrous floods have become a rallying cry for unity
For many Libyans, the collective grief over the more than 11,000 dead has morphed into a rallying cry for national unity in a country blighted by 12 years of conflict and division. In turn, the tragedy has ramped up pressure on the country’s leading politicians, viewed by some as the architects of the catastrophe.

16 September
Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso establish Sahel security alliance
The Sahel nations sign pact that will allow them to cooperate against threats of armed rebellion or external aggression.
(Al Jazeera) The charter, known as the Alliance of Sahel States, signed on Saturday binds the signatories to assist one another – including militarily – in the event of an attack on any one of them.
17 May
Sahel ‘at a crossroads’ as armed groups gain sway in Africa: UN
International community criticised after joint force battling armed groups left without sufficient funding and other needed support.

8 September
After Prigozhin’s Death, a High-Stakes Scramble for His Empire
A shadowy fight is playing out on three continents for control of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s sprawling interests as head of the Wagner mercenary group. The biggest prize: his lucrative operations in Africa.

1-5 September
The broader lessons of Gabon’s coup for democracy in Africa
Gabon’s elections last month attracted minimal global attention, but the military coup that followed has serious stakes for African democracy. Danielle Resnick discusses what makes Gabon’s coup different, rising public support for coups on the continent, and the need to tackle vulnerabilities in military-civilian relationships across the region.
Although Gabon is only the most recent francophone country in West and Central Africa to have experienced a coup, it would be overly simplistic to claim this phenomenon is distinctly tied to French colonial history. Undoubtedly, France’s long-time coddling of African autocrats under a policy known as Françafrique enabled French businesses to benefit from the political stability of supporting entrenched leaders, and France retains an important military training operation in Gabon. However, China has outranked France as Gabon’s biggest trading partner for more than a decade and even manages over half of Gabon’s commercial logging land. Moreover, recent foiled coup attempts have occurred in countries with very distinct colonial histories, including the one in Equatorial Guinea in 2017, Guinea Bissau in 2022, or in Gambia in 2022.
Instead, all of these settings are characterized by leaders who either have run their countries as personal fiefdoms or have been beset by the weak institutionalization of political parties — both ruling and opposition — that lack broad leadership structures and fail to provide much-needed public services. All have also held flawed elections that led to further disillusionment with the democratic process and its ability to improve citizens’ lives. Collectively, these dynamics foster popular grievances that can be leveraged by savvy military entrepreneurs who are either genuinely interested in improved governance or see an opportunity for personal advancement.
What’s Driving Africa’s Coups?
The factors that have contributed to instability in the region.
By FP Contributors
On Wednesday, Gabon became the eighth African country in three years to face a coup. As these coups have unfolded, Foreign Policy has sought to explain the factors, from the colonial era to the present day, that have contributed to instability in the region.
1 September
France’s Africa Allies are Dropping Like Flies
Another month, another coup in Francophone Africa.
(Bloomberg) After Niger in July, this time it was Gabon, whose President Ali Bongo found himself detained in the same presidential palace that Emmanuel Macron visited six months ago. It was the eighth military takeover in a former French colony in the past three years.
The spate of coups has been driven in part by rising anti-French sentiment — which in turn has been gleefully exploited by Russia — and frustration with the corruption and neglect of regimes that have long been allied with Paris, despite their democratic shortcomings.

31 August
Soldiers in Gabon say they’ve seized power and appointed the republican guard chief as head of state
(AP) — The coup leaders said in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee to lead the country.
Oligui is the cousin of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who earlier Wednesday had been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election in a victory that appeared to extend his family’s 55-year rule in the oil-rich nation. … Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability. Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, the group says.

27 August
ISIL doubled territory it controls in Mali in less than a year: UN
The stalled implementation of a peace deal and sustained attacks on communities have offered ISIL and an al-Qaeda affiliate also operating in the region a chance “to re-enact the 2012 scenario”, it said.
That is the year when a military coup took place in the West African country and rebels in the north formed “an Islamic state” two months later. The rebels were forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali in 2015 and remain active.
In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed ties to Russia’s military and its Wagner Group of mercenaries.

25-26 August
Charismatic leader is gone but Wagner will survive in Africa, analysts say
Yevgeny Prigozhin was the face of the group’s military operations as he crisscrossed between Ukraine and Africa, but his death will slow the Wagner machine in Africa.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, just left Mali where he filmed a video pledging to make “Africa even more free” before he perished in a plane crash in his home country.
His death has sparked concerns for some client governments in Africa who rely on his unique services.

What happens to the Wagner Group after Yevgeny Prigozhin plane crash?
(Reuters) … In Africa, Wagner may stay more or less intact under new management or be subsumed by another Russian mercenary group. But its ability to operate in places where Moscow may have no formal or legal presence makes it an invaluable tool of Kremlin foreign policy.
… After the June mutiny, Prigozhin intensified his efforts to bolster Wagner’s presence in Africa. In a video on Monday from an unnamed African country, he said: “The Wagner PMC makes Russia even greater on all continents, and Africa – more free”.
That push may not have been welcomed in Moscow and there have been reports of the Kremlin creating alternative companies to take over Wagner operations – though none appear capable of doing so yet.
In countries where Wagner operates through an official agreement with Moscow, analysts do not expect much to change – for now.
In Libya since 2019, as many as 2,000 Wagner guns-for-hire helped Haftar’s faction in his assault on Tripoli until a 2020 ceasefire and have guarded military and oil installations according to independent analysts and Human Rights Watch.
In CAR, President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s political adviser Fidele Gouandjika lamented Prigozhin’s death as “a great sadness” because his men “helped save democracy” in their role helping the government in its civil war.
But as Wagner was there through a state-level agreement with Russia, “nothing will affect the presence of these instructors” he said. Prigozhin is “a dead leader, we can replace him” Gouandjika added.
Still, the uncertainty created risks in Africa, said Burkina Faso political analyst Ousmane Pare.
“We can already imagine the operational difficulties the movement could now face, and it goes without saying that there will be repercussions for the African countries in which it is involved,” he said.

15th BRICS Summit hosted by South Africa 22 – 24 August 2023

How Russia is fighting for allies among the Brics countries using ‘memory diplomacy’
(The Conversation) Since the start of the Ukraine war, there have been numerous diplomatic visits by Russian officials to Africa and Latin America aiming at boosting Russia’s global influence.
In 2023 Russian officials visited Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Eswatini, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, South Africa and Sudan.
Some observers argue that we are witnessing the “return of the global Russia” through economic and political influence, and through its use of digital disinformation techniques to distribute narratives. In the 2010s, the expansion of Russia’s influence in Africa was the result of economic “opportunism”, but during the Ukraine war, it has become more strategic. There is evidence that in some African countries the influence of Russia continues to intensify.

22 August
Time’s up for France in Africa
While pulling out of the continent would, to some degree, diminish France’s global stature, the reality is that the country has other priorities that better reflect its vital interests.
Michael Shurkin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
I am a long-time watcher of France in Africa. I have published several, often-admiring papers on the subject, and frequently defend the country on social media. I have cheered French efforts to help the countries of the Sahel — most notably Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger — to defend themselves against jihadist insurgencies affiliated with Al Qa’eda or the Islamic State.
And yet, the only reasonable conclusion to draw now is that France should close its bases and go.
The problem, as has been made clear by recent events in Niger, is that whatever France does, good or bad, provokes an allergic reaction from populations long conditioned to be suspicious of French motives and assume the worst.

23-29 August
Zimbabwe opposition calls for re-run of elections and African mediation
(Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Tuesday called for last week’s elections to be re-run, saying the polls were riddled with flaws and calling on other African countries to help mediate in its impasse with the ruling party. But the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party did not say how it would seek to force the re-run, refusing to answer reporters’ questions about whether it would file a court case to try to overturn the disputed result.
Zimbabwe opposition alleges ‘blatant and gigantic fraud’ in election
Nelson Chamisa says opposition will challenge outcome as President Emmerson Mnangagwa denies any fraud.
(Al Jazeera) Late on Saturday, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced Mnangagwa, 80, won a second term with 52.6 percent of the ballots against 44 percent for his main challenger, Nelson Chamisa, 45, of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party.
Zimbabweans anxiously wait for election results as African observer missions note voter intimidation
(AP) Zimbabweans waited anxiously Friday for the outcome of general elections as dozens of armed police with water cannons guarded the national results center, the scene of deadly violence after the previous vote five years ago.
Voting extended after delays as Zimbabwe president known as ‘the crocodile’ seeks a second term
Zimbabweans vote but hopes of ending economic freefall look dim
16 August
Zimbabwe’s ‘White Gold’
Harare has Africa’s largest lithium reserves and Beijing is poised to benefit, despite an export ban.
(Foreign Policy) Zimbabwe’s Critical Minerals Law Favors China
The world’s clean-energy transition will be impossible without African minerals—and a degree of resource nationalism from African countries is benefiting China, which has for decades invested in the African green-energy market and accounts for 59 percent of the world’s lithium refining.

War crimes being committed in Darfur, says UK minister Andrew Mitchell
Africa minister says civilian death toll horrific and UK is to send evidence to UN
War crimes and atrocities against civilians are being committed in Darfur, western Sudan, the UK’s Africa minister Andrew Mitchell said on Tuesday, becoming one of the first western officials to identify that the fighting in Sudan has developed into more than a power struggle between two rival factions.
Mitchell said there was growing evidence of serious atrocities being committed, describing the civilian death toll as horrific in a statement released by the Foreign Office. “Reports of deliberate targeting and mass displacement of the Masalit community in Darfur are particularly shocking and abhorrent. Intentional directing of attacks at the civilian population is a war crime.”
He added the UK would do all it could to assemble credible evidence to present to the UN security council, the UN Human Rights Council and the international criminal court.
Wagner mercenary group to focus on Africa, Prigozhin says in new video
(WaPo) In his first video address since sending mercenary fighters toward Moscow during a short-lived mutiny in June, Wagner Group boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin indicated that his guns-for-hire group, once a key fighting force in Ukraine, is now focusing its operations on Africa.
… The long-term fate of the Wagner Group remains uncertain. In the wake of the mutiny, Putin acknowledged for the first time that the group was government-funded; whether Prigozhin has the means to keep it running without state support is an open question. Wagner’s longtime base in the Krasnodar region of Russia is in the process of shutting down, and many fighters are being let go.

18 August
Climate adaptation finance in Africa
Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Jamal Saghir
(Brookings) Climate change continues to cause devastation in Africa. The impacts of climate change in Africa are being further exacerbated by the impact of global shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, food and energy crisis, and the ongoing war in Ukraine. The financing needs to help Africa enhance its resilience and be better prepared for a rapidly changing climate are enormous.
A recent analysis by the Climate Policy Initiative and the Global Center for Adaptation shows that an annual average of $29.5 billion in climate finance was committed to Africa in the years 2019 and 2020. Further analysis of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) also indicates that the adaptation finance needs for the continent over the period 2020-30 are close to $580 billion. Unless adaptation finance increases substantially in Africa, a gap of $453 billion will accumulate over this decade.

14 August
Airstrike in Ethiopia’s Amhara region kills at least 26 people
Residents say attack on town square in Finote Selam targeted ethnic Fano militia but civilians were also hit
(The Guardian) Residents said the attack targeted members of the Fano ethnic militia who had gathered in the town centre, but added that several bystanders were also hit. Fano militia have seized control of several towns across Amhara, raising fears of another war in northern Ethiopia, just nine months after a ceasefire ended a brutal two-year conflict in the neighbouring Tigray region.
[30 May 2022
More than 4,000 arrested in Amhara as Ethiopia cracks down on militia
At least 19 journalists caught up in mass detentions after government moves against Fano, its former ally in Tigray conflict]

3 August
What Niger’s coup means for West Africa’s geopolitical contest
(Atlantic Council) First, there is a strong fear that the region may collapse now that the G5 Sahel—a regional group of countries promoting development and security—is led by four juntas. Among the five members, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad have recently experienced an undemocratic transition; Mauritania remains. Niger is the fifth country in West Africa to experience a coup d’état over the past three years.
Second, despite numerous African Union and ECOWAS sanctions over the past few years, the regional coup leaders seem to taunt the African organizations for whom this recent coup in Niger is an ultimate test of credibility.
Third, Nigeria—which chairs ECOWAS and shares a one-thousand-mile border with Niger—needs a win in this moment, as Tinubu just assumed presidential office a little over two months ago. …
For Paris, a lot is on the line. Its remaining influence in the Sahel is collapsing.
France’s vital interests in Africa have been hit.
The French government has seemed to run out of solutions to the region’s challenges. But critics are wondering why France thinks it needs to get things under control in Africa; even before the coup, those critics wondered why a military answer to the problems in the Sahel (an answer that has already failed) is still and exclusively on the table. And in finding new answers to this problem, it isn’t just about adjusting aid to the region: France needs to change its paradigm. A growing part of the French population, including experts in military and security circles, are aligned with these views and are requesting changes.

There are high expectations for Nigeria’s new president. Here’s how he can fulfill them.
(Atlantic Council) As the international order appears to be transitioning from US hegemony to a US-led multilateral system, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is settling in as the new president of Nigeria. Tinubu can take advantage of this moment and establish Africa’s most populous nation as an economic powerhouse—and an African superpower in partnership with the multilateral system to advance the continent’s geopolitical interests and development agenda.
Tinubu is inheriting a country burdened by concurrent security and economic challenges. Nigerians expect Tinubu to unify the country and address economic hardship caused in part by the removal of unsustainable subsidy regimes that constrain the government’s ability to finance growth and development. Tinubu has made initial efforts already.

28 July-1 August
Timeline: A history of ECOWAS military interventions in three decades
The West African bloc has a history of successful military interventions to restore constitutional order within the region.

25-31 July
Second Russia-Africa Summit Lays Bare Russia’s Waning Influence
Trade volumes between Russia and African nations have fallen since the last event in 2019, while the war in Ukraine and Wagner’s activities on the continent have strained political ties.
(Carnegie) The heightened interest in this year’s Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg last week is not hard to explain. The fallout from the fighting in Ukraine has had serious consequences for Africa, the most obvious being the disruption to grain exports via the Black Sea (before the war, fifteen African states received more than half of their grain imports from either Ukraine and/or Russia).
For his part, in his keynote speech to the Russia-Africa summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin not only promised free grain shipments to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea, but portrayed Russia as an ally of African nations and as a country that represents the interests of the Global South.
African leaders leave Russia summit without grain deal or a path to end the war in Ukraine
(AP) — African leaders have left two days of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin with little to show for their requests to resume a deal that kept grain flowing from Ukraine and to find a path to end the war there.
Putin in a press conference late Saturday following the Russia-Africa summit said Russia’s termination of the grain deal earlier this month caused a rise in grain prices that benefits Russian companies. He added that Moscow would share some of those revenues with the “poorest nations.”
That commitment, with no details, follows Putin’s promise to start shipping 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain for free to each of six African nations in the next three to four months — an amount dwarfed by the 725,000 tons shipped by the U.N. World Food Program to several hungry countries, African and otherwise, under the grain deal. Russia plans to send the free grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Eritrea and Central African Republic.
27-28 July
Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum
For peace, security and development

Russia is hosting a two-day summit with the African continent designed to portray Moscow as a great power despite crippling western sanctions and growing unease in the global south over the country’s destabilising war in Ukraine.
Africa, beware of Putin’s money promises
At the Russia-Africa Summit, the continent must resist Putin’s lies. Russia can no longer offer what Africa needs.
Tafi Mhaka, Al Jazeera columnist
… Russia accounts for just 1 percent of foreign direct investment into Africa. What’s more, Russia’s trade with Africa dwarfs in comparison to its peers, representing only 5 percent of the European Union’s total trade with Africa, and no more than 6 percent of China’s total.
And Africa imports five times more than it exports to Russia, a situation that has produced a $12bn trade imbalance. In October 2019, Russia pledged it would double its trade with Africa in five years but has failed to achieve its target.
Putin promises free grain to six African nations after collapse of Black Sea deal
President says Russia will replace blocked Ukrainian exports after it abandoned pact on passage of ships
(The Guardian) Speaking on the first day of a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg, the Russian president claimed his country would be able to replace Ukrainian grain exports blocked by Moscow’s decision to abandon the UN-brokered arrangement which had allowed the export of grain and other products from Ukraine through the Black Sea to markets, many of them in Africa
“In the coming months, we will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25,000-50,000 tonnes of grain free of charge,” Putin told attending African leaders on Thursday.
Russia is hosting a two-day summit with the African continent designed to portray Moscow as a great power despite crippling western sanctions and growing unease in the global south over the country’s destabilising war in Ukraine.
… Despite a flurry of Russian diplomatic efforts in Africa, there are clear signs that frustration on the continent is growing over Russia’s decision to withdraw from the deal, amid fears of a looming food supply crisis.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that just 17 African heads of state would be attending the summit, fewer than half of the 43 who came to the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019 hosted in Sochi. Asked about the low number of attenders, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, blamed the west for “putting pressure” on African countries “in order to prevent their active participation in the forum”.
Less likely to be discussed in public is the role of the Wagner mercenary group, which is most active in Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali and Sudan. The Kremlin has repeatedly pledged that it will not reduce Wagner’s activities in Africa after Yevgeny Prigozhin’s aborted rebellion last
African leaders seek grain commitments at Russia summit with Putin
(Reuters) – African leaders will look to Russian President Vladimir Putin for concrete promises on grain supplies at a summit starting on Thursday, with some also likely to seek clarity and assurances on the future of Wagner mercenaries in the continent.
Wheat prices up 20% since Putin quit Black Sea grain deal
Russia promises grain for Africa, yet to say when and how much
Africans expected to raise questions about Wagner mercenaries
Showcase event for Putin but fewer leaders than 4 years ago

26 July
It’s Time to Invoke The Responsibility to Protect in Sudan
Genocide looms
By Mark J. Wood, Refugees International
(Global Dispatches) When war broke out in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in April 2023, those of us who know the region well feared what would happen to the west, in Darfur. In 2003, former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called on the Janjaweed Arab militia to quell an uprising in Darfur. The systematic raping, pillaging, looting, and scorched-earth tactics of the Janjaweed led to the deaths of more than 300,000 people in what has been recognized as a genocide.
The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of today, which is battling the Sudanese Armed Forces for control of the country, traces its origins to the Janjaweed of 20 years ago. The rise of ethnically targeted violence in the region now threatens a recurrence of that dark chapter. Experts and organizations from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide are once again warning of genocide.
Yet the world’s response remains muted and lacks a clear strategy for Sudan.

25 July
Putin strikes Ukrainian ports — and endangers the world’s food supply
(WaPo editorial board) Russia is cynically trying to blame the West for weaponizing food supplies, but Moscow’s own guilt is evident in the explosions and fires that have devastated Ukrainian grain stores and facilities, the product of Russian drone and missile strikes. That stark fact should not be lost on African leaders headed for Moscow later this week for a two-day summit with Mr. Putin.

US sanctions Malian officials over alleged ties to Wagner Group
“These officials have made their people vulnerable to the Wagner Group’s destabilizing activities and human rights abuses while paving the way for the exploitation of their country’s sovereign resources to the benefit of the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said.

19 July
Putin to miss BRICS summit by mutual agreement, South Africa says
(Al Jazeera) Putin’s absence at the summit has been announced by the South African presidency, ending months of speculation.
Putin is sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.
South Africa faced a dilemma in hosting the summit because, as a member of the ICC which issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March for alleged war crimes, it would theoretically be required to arrest him if he were to attend.

18 July
What’s ahead for the Wagner Group in Africa and the Middle East?
(Brookings) Predictions of the end of the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa and the Middle East in the aftermath of its ill-fated rebellion in Russia are premature. More likely, Wagner’s Middle East and Africa operations will persist: They still serve multiple interests of the Russian state and can be separated from Wagner’s Ukraine and Russia operations. Already, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that Wagner’s operations in Africa will continue. But Wagner’s operations in Africa are likely to endure under a new leadership and structure.
Wagner’s footprint and Russian interests
Ukraine aside, the Wagner Group has sent mercenary deployments to Syria, Libya, Mozambique, Mali, the Central African Republic, and Sudan. Unconfirmed rumors have been swirling about Wagner’s presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. … Wagner’s operations in Africa remain highly valuable for Russia, which uses them for extending its strategic influence and access to important raw commodities.

12 July
Tripling Zambia’s copper production: A way out of the debt crisis
Gracelin Baskaran, Will Pearson
(Brookings) In the years leading up to the August 2021 election of Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, the government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) rolled out a series of fiscal policies that undermined the profitability of Zambian mining, a major obstacle for one of Africa’s leading copper and cobalt producers. … The election of Hichilema in 2021 marked the turnaround for Zambia’s mining sector. … Mining investment has followed. …
While these initial signals are indeed positive, significant new investment will still be needed for Zambia to meet its ambitious copper targets. Here are three recommendations to enable Zambia to rapidly work toward its goal of producing 3 million tonnes of copper per year:

Is Russia involved in Niger coup through Wagner Group?
Devesh Kumar
Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has celebrated the coup and blamed the situation in Niger on the legacy of colonialism
(Mint) The unrest in Niger is being watched closely by the world as the junta arrests senior politicians after overthrowing the democratically elected government. The development is a setback for the Western world and its crackdown on Islamist extremism in the region. This is the seventh military coup in West and Central Africa in the last three years. Notably, the Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin has celebrated the coup and blamed the situation in Niger on the legacy of colonialism, as per CNN.

26 June- 20 July
Russian War Report: Wagner is still in business in Africa
By Digital Forensic Research Lab
(Atlantic Council) On July 16, the Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel REVERSE SIDE OF THE MEDAL posted an advertisement offering Wagner’s services to African states. The post included an image from the Prigozhin-funded film, Granite, as well as an email address, seemingly for interested African countries to communicate with Wagner.
In French, the advertisement reads: “PMC Wagner offers its services to ensure the sovereignty of states and protect the people of African from militants and terrorists.” The fine print emphasizes that “various forms of cooperation are possible,” as long as the cooperation does not “contradict Russia’s interests.” Russia’s interests are not specified.
Wagner troops arrive in Central African Republic ahead of critical referendum
Alexander Ivanov, director of the Officer’s Union for International Security (COSI), released a statement on COSI’s Telegram channel regarding the recent arrival of dozens of Wagner operatives in Central African Republic. According to US authorities, COSI is a front company for the Wagner Group in Central African Republic. …
The arrival of dozens of troops from Russia’s Wagner in CAR comes at a critical time as the country prepares to hold a constitutional referendum on July 30 that would eliminate presidential term limits and allow President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to extend his term. The CAR government stated earlier this month that Wagner operatives will help in securing the referendum. This could be seen as a strong signal from Moscow to reiterate the strategic importance of its influence in CAR and reassure local partners of its continued support, while sending a message of continuity and strength to other countries in the region where Wagner operates.
After Failed Mutiny in Russia, U.S. Sanctions Wagner Funders as Fighters Remain in Africa & Syria
We speak with political scientist Kimberly Marten, who has been studying the Wagner Group for years and says that despite recent events, Russia’s war in Ukraine and its presence in other countries is unlikely to be affected.
(Democracy Now) AMY GOODMAN: Professor Marten, I wanted to ask you about the human toll. We’re talking about the money made from mining. But these very places that you’re talking about, that the world media rarely covers when it comes to the enormous death toll, we’re talking about the Central African Republic, we’re talking about Mali, we’re talking about Sudan. What is the role of the Wagner Group in these conflicts?
KIMBERLY MARTEN: So, we know in Sudan that when the original democracy movement had been starting there, when there was a series of coups that were going on in Sudan, we know that the Wagner Group was at least giving advisory assistance to the Sudanese military government to try to put down the protesters violently. It’s not clear that the Wagner Group, per se, has a security role right now that is significant in Sudan. We know that they’re still engaged, that Prigozhin’s interests are still engaged in gold mining in Sudan, but right now it’s not clear that there’s a continuing Wagner military presence in Sudan.
In both the Central African Republic and in Mali, we know that the Wagner Group has been credibly accused of engaging in real atrocities, in massacres of civilians, in torture and in rape, alongside the domestic security forces of both the Central African Republic and the Mali junta that is now in charge.
Jessica Brandt: What’s next for the Wagner group?
(Brookings) Many questions linger after Wagner Group mercenaries marched toward Moscow this weekend. When it comes to what it means for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing asymmetric assault on democratic governments and institutions, one stands out. That is, what is the fate of the Wagner Group, which for years has been an indispensable element of Putin’s toolkit — not just in Ukraine, but farther afield?
Wagner mercenaries have been operating in over a dozen countries in Africa — including the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, Mozambique — to prop up strongmen, put down local uprisings, and shape domestic politics through multiple, opaque avenues of influence, including digital propaganda campaigns. The goal of these activities is to expand the Kremlin’s sway on a continent where support for its policies remains relatively high.
It’s unlikely at this point that the group will be disbanded entirely, not least given the instrumental role it has played in helping the Kremlin achieve these foreign policy goals. In his address on Monday, Prigozhin gave no indication that Wagner was being dissolved. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also on Monday, told Kremlin media that Russia would continue to support the government of the Central African Republic. Observers will be watching for signals of what will happen to Prigozhin’s army next — and what impact those developments will have on the trajectory of the places it has been operating.
Wagner mercenaries will not be withdrawn from Africa, says Russia
Sergei Lavrov moves to reassure sub-Saharan allies after recent armed mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin
(The Guardian) In an interview with Russia Today, Lavrov pledged that “instructors” and “private military contractors” would remain in Central African Republic (CAR) and Mali, the two countries in sub-Saharan Africa where Wagner has the biggest presence.
Both are considered strategic prizes by the Kremlin, which sees them as a springboard to greater influence on the continent and a source of lucrative natural resources.
4 November
(Foreign Affairs)Earlier this year, Michela Wrong, a journalist who has covered Africa for over two decades, warned that “not since 2012 has Africa’s Great Lakes region been on such a troubling trajectory.” The secret to M23’s success in sowing chaos in the region, she wrote, is the support of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. By helping to resurrect M23 and aiding its rebellion in eastern Congo, Kagame aims to “assert hegemonic dominance over Rwanda’s neighbors and guarantee access to the natural resources of a vast region.” With the spiraling insurgency threatening to destabilize the region, Wrong urged the West to stop dithering—or a wider conflagration could displace millions more.
The United Nations warned this week that conflict and violence have displaced a record 6.9 million people across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The majority of these people live in eastern Congo, where clashes with rebel groups have escalated—particularly with M23, a militia group that has managed to conquer large parts of the country since it launched an offensive in 2021.
Kagame’s Revenge – Why Rwanda’s Leader Is Sowing Chaos in Congo
By Michela Wrong
(Foreign Affairs May/June 2023) The spiraling insurgency has brought Congo and Rwanda to the brink of all-out war. Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, who is campaigning for reelection in December, surprised many observers by sending military jets into Rwandan airspace in January, and he appears to have hired eastern European mercenaries to help his notoriously ill-disciplined army. For his part, Kagame has warned that his troops have deployed “massively” along Rwanda’s border with Congo in response to shelling by the FDLR and that he is willing to send them across if necessary. “Both men have painted themselves into a corner with all their public declarations,” Alexis Arieff, an Africa policy specialist at the Congressional Research Service, told me. “I’m not sure [they] wanted to find themselves where they are right now.”
The conflict is also pulling in a growing number of African states. Kenyan soldiers, part of a multinational force dispatched by the East African Community in response to an appeal for help from Tshisekedi, deployed around Goma late last year. Burundian troops joined the EAC force in March and were attacked almost immediately. South Sudanese and Ugandan soldiers are expected to deploy to eastern Congo as well, and Angola has said it will send 500 troops to help monitor a cease-fire that has been repeatedly violated. In theory, this international operation is a cheering example of “African solutions to African problems,” a favorite mantra of the African Union. But the incoming army commanders are fast encountering the problem that has long hampered the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, one of the oldest and largest in the world: the furious contempt of the very communities they are meant to protect.

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