Violence in Central and Western Africa

TW: ethnic and regional conflict, civil war, proxy war

I mentioned in one of my summaries of the year that regional conflicts have played a large role in much of Africa over the course of the prior year. 2013 seems to be shaping up to be the year when many of those conflicts turn into full scale civil wars or similar national emergencies.

In Mali, the de facto independent state in the islamist-controlled and predominantly ethnically Tuareg North is now advancing towards the South (sorry the best sources on this are exclusively in French). The neighboring country of Guinea has pledged total support for the official government that only operates in the South, perhaps signalling a willingness to assist in the developing civil war. Burkina Faso and Algeria, which also shared borders with Mali, have also shown interest in the conflict, and might intervene (although their statements so far have suggested that they both prefer to push negotiations rather than participate in armed conflict). Whether Guinea is motivated by the largely untapped mineral wealth of Mali, a desire to contain the islamist pseudo-government, or both, remains unclear but all of those issues will likely complicate how neighboring states and international bodies respond to this conflict. (EDIT: Breaking news – France is now intervening with bombings of Konna to stall islamist progress beyond that city.)

The Central African Republic (CAR) has neither newly discovered mineral resources nor specifically islamist rebels, so the developing civil war has developed without the assurances or interest seen in the case of Mali. This isolation has led to both more cautious rebels and a more cautious government as both are essentially in this on their own. Still, without the same glut of resources, both sides are less likely to accept the offers of the other, so we’ve gotten to the point were thousands of civilians are fleeing and both the rebels and the government seem likely to reengage each other.

(In recent months the Séléka rebels have steadily advanced towards the CAR capital of Bangui. Originally from here.)

In Nigeria, the conflict has regional dimensions like those in Mali and the CAR, but the recent developments seem to only complicate that. Earlier this week, gunmen from the islamist group Boko Haram opened fire on fellow Muslims praying. The sources I can find don’t elaborate on the motives behind the attack, but it’s interesting to note that Boko Haram attacked state institutions about one year ago in the same city, Kano, where the attack this Monday occurred. It seems that the local Muslim population didn’t respond to the all out war the Boko Haram waged on the police and military, and therefore the Boko Haram have expanded their targets to include Muslims they deem too pacifistic. The obvious comparison might be the Shining Path in Peru, who grew tired of their fellow peasants failing to support their revolution and began to target them as well.

In any case, these are all troubling implications for the coming year in several of the evolving conflicts in Africa.

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One thought on “Violence in Central and Western Africa

  1. […] sort of a hierarchy is developing in Western Africa in the wake of the French intervention in Mali (which was simultaneous with a US-backed raid in Somalia, it should be noted). To summarize – […]

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