Over the last three weeks, heightened militant activity has underpinned large numbers of reported fatalities in Western Africa and Eastern Africa. The Libyan conflict and a dramatic escalation of violence in Sudan’s West Darfur dominated violence in Northern Africa. Meanwhile, recent militant campaigns of violence against civilian populations continued in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Western Africa, Burkina Faso continued to bear the brunt of an ongoing Islamic militant insurgency, whilst there was also an upswing in violence in Mali. Soum province in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region was the site of intense clashes between militants and state forces. In one of the region’s deadliest attacks, 80 militants and seven soldiers were reportedly killed during an unsuccessful assault by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants on a military base in Arbinda town. As militants retreated, they attacked an IDP camp, reportedly killing 35 people, mostly women. A further 29 combatants were killed in other clashes across Soum province.
In Mali, French and Burkinabe military forces launched several aerial operations against ISGS and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) targets in Gao, Segou and Mopti regions. In one such attack, French forces reportedly killed 40 militants. Meanwhile, 27 Dan Na Ambassagou militiamen were reportedly killed in clashes with suspected JNIM militants in the Mopti region.
In Nigeria, clashes were reported between Boko Haram and Nigerian state forces in the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Activity centred on Borno state, but 30 Boko Haram-ISIS affiliate fighters were reportedly killed when they clashed with Nigerian forces during an unsuccessful attack on the Yobe state capital of Damaturu. Nigerian forces also launched several air strikes on Boko Haram facilities and camps in Borno state. Boko Haram militants reportedly killed 23 civilians in targeted attacks, including the execution of 11 reportedly Christian captives.
In Eastern Africa, Kenya and Somalia were both hit by significant attacks involving Al Shabaab. In Somalia, state and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) forces were involved in dozens of clashes with Al Shabaab forces, centred in the southern administrative regions of Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba, Bay and Banadir. The violence reached its zenith on December 28, when Al Shabaab carried out a suicide bombing in Mogadishu. 81 people were reportedly killed and more than a hundred injured in the attack, making it the third deadliest to hit Somalia, following attacks in October 2011 and 2017.
In Kenya, Al Shabaab launched several attacks on civilian targets, reportedly killing 12 people and kidnapping several others. Meanwhile, four Al Shabaab militants were reportedly killed in a clash with Kenyan military forces.
In Libya, there was a re-intensification of fighting in late December between the Khalifa Haftar-led Libyan Nation Army (LNA) and Government of National Accord (GNA) forces. The fighting occurred in the midst of a significant campaign of airstrikes directed at GNA targets, which continued into the first week of January. At least 30 cadets were reportedly killed in one such pro-Haftar/United Arab Emirati (UAE) airstrike on a military academy in Tripoli. The increased activity comes as the GNA triggered an agreement with Turkey, allowing for the deployment of Turkish military forces (The Guardian, 20 December 2019). Whilst the exact involvement of Turkish forces in the conflict remains unclear, their passage into the Libyan conflict was confirmed by Turkish parliamentary approval on January 2 (New York Times, 2 January 2020).
The security situation in Sudan’s West Darfur has dramatically worsened with the deadliest violence to hit Sudan since June, when the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fired on peaceful protesters in Khartoum (for more, see this ACLED report). The violence, involving Masalit Darfuris and Arab-identifying Maaliya pastoralists, hit the state capital of El Geniena and its surrounding IDP camps and villages. Beginning on 29 December, 65 people were reportedly killed in numerous attacks on Masalit IDP camps and villages, as well as clashes between the groups. The RSF was reportedly involved in supporting Maaliya militias. Differing reports estimate that between 30,000 and 47,000 people have been displaced in the violence (UN OCHA, 2 January 2020; Radio Darbanga, 5 January 2020).
Finally, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) mandate was extended by another year on December 19 (UN, 19 December 2019). The extended mandate came with a reduction to MONUSCO’s deployment ceiling, amid continued targeting of civilians by militant forces in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. In North Kivu, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) continued a campaign of targeted attacks on civilians. Two such attacks, on December 15 and December 29, resulted in the reported deaths of 12 and 18 civilians respectively. In Ituri, the Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) clashed with military forces, whilst also targeting civilian targets, reportedly killing 24 civilians in attacks on December 20.