Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bloody Africa - 2015 more of the same

The first two months of 2015 saw about 8 300 people die as a result of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, with just five countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Somalia and Niger – accounting for roughly 90% of these deaths. The figures are extrapolated from the Armed Conflict Location and EventData (ACLED) project, which has tracked political violence in Africa since 1997. The 8 300 deaths in the first two months of 2015 compare with 6 300 deaths during the same period last year – a year in which 35 000 people died in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. So far 40% (or 3 400) of conflict deaths in the region have been those of civilians targeted by armed groups.

Most violence was concentrated in West Africa, where conflict between armed forces and Islamist group Boko Haram, and Boko Haram attacks on civilians, accounted for the majority of conflict deaths. Boko Haram, which is said to have at least 15 000 members, largely draws its support from uneducated, unemployed and socio-economically disadvantaged Nigerian Northerners who are fed up with corruption, heavy-handed state security forces and neglect of the North. Conflict centred on Boko Haram activity which claimed roughly 5 700 lives in the country and that of its neighbours, Cameroon and Niger. (During the same period in 2014, 770 people were killed in Boko Haram-related violence.) The group is also reported to have gone on the offensive in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger, where a total of 930 and 500 deaths occurred in the first two months of this year.

In Sudan, the government is embroiled in war on two fronts: against rebels in Darfur, and against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. These conflicts claimed 700 lives so far this year. The issues underlying the conflicts are similar to Nigeria’s: local grievance as a result of political and socio-economic marginalisation and the inequitable distribution of resources in the country. Persistent conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel movements in Darfur first flared up in 2003, when the Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Army took up arms in protest at the region’s marginalisation. The government responded by unleashing Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, which targeted non-Arab Darfuris in a campaign of genocide, as it was referred to. Since then 400 000 people are thought to have died, and nearly 3-million displaced. Government attacks against rebels are said to have escalated: by early January, an estimated 115 villages had been evacuated or razed, with about 88 000 people displaced. About 277 people have been killed in battles between government forces, their allied militia and rebels since the beginning of 2015.

Conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan broke out soon after the secession of South Sudan in 2011. The SPLM-N in the two states had fought in the country’s independence war, but were separated from their southern neighbours in the final settlement. They soon began agitating for political autonomy, political reform and a more equitable distribution of Sudan’s oil riches. The rebel movement subsequently banded together with the armed opposition in Darfur under the banner of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), formed with the aim of unseating Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. 255 were killed in battles between rebel forces and government so far this year.

In Somalia, 627 people have died in political conflict in the first two months of this year. The country has been fractured by violence since 1991, when then-president Siad Barre was pushed out of office. Clan warlords stepped up to fill the power vacuum left in his wake, leading to violent competition that effectively destroyed the state. While clan conflict continues to contribute to the country’s death toll, it is Islamist group al-Shabaab that constitutes the primary source of conflict in the country. Violence related to the group claimed 380 of the 627 lives lost through conflict in the Horn of Africa country in the first two months of 2015. These were largely battle-related, setting the group against national security forces and troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

No comments: