Central African Republic
Deadly fighting involving armed groups allied to former President Bozizé broke out ahead of 27 Dec general elections; electoral results could spark escalation in Jan. After months of uncertainty over presidential candidacy of former President Bozizé, Constitutional Court 3 Dec rejected his application, citing international arrest warrant and UN sanctions against him; Bozizé’s party same day denounced court ruling. Coalition of six armed groups, all signatories to Feb 2019 peace agreement and including some supporting Bozizé, 15 Dec announced mobilisation against govt and electoral process; 18-19 Dec took over parts of Lobaye, Ouham, Ouham-Pendé, Nana Gribizi and Ombella M’Poko prefectures in west, centre and south, blocking main supply routes to Bangui, and clashing with army and UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) notably around cities of Bossombele (Ombella M’Poko), Bossemptele (Ouham-Pendé) and Bambari (Ouaka); death toll unknown; 1,500 civilians reportedly fled to neighbouring Cameroon 18-23 Dec. UN 18 Dec condemned violence and called on “all actors to urgently cease hostile actions”.
Govt next day said Bozizé was behind new armed coalition and accused him of “coup attempt”. At govt’s request, Russia and Rwanda 20-21 Dec deployed hundreds of troops notably around Lobaye’s capital Mbaiki. Unidentified assailants 25 Dec killed three MINUSCA troops in Dekoa town, Kémo prefecture (centre). On election day, suspected armed group members set election material on fire in Ouham-Pendé prefecture and fired shots in Ouaka, Haute-Kotto and Nana-Mambéré prefectures; also threatened voters and election officials across country. Unidentified assailants next day attacked public bus in Grimari city, Ouaka prefecture, reportedly killing several civilians including Médecins sans Frontières worker. Electoral commission 28 Dec said over 14% of polling stations were closed due to insecurity across country. Meanwhile, clashes between armed groups erupted in north east: ethnic Goula ex-Seleka group and ethnic Arab Missirias militia from neighbouring Sudan 1 Dec clashed in Boromata town, Vakaga prefecture, leaving 35 Arab Missirias and four Goula dead; army and MINUSCA immediately sent troops to patrol town.
Intercommunal violence flared up in several regions leaving dozens dead, while govt continued to repress opposition amid COVID-19 restrictions. Farmer-herder clashes 10 Dec killed at least 12 in Doulbarid locality, Ouaddai province (east). Land dispute between ethnic Bulala and Arab communities 12 Dec escalated into brawl in Achiguek village, Batha East province (centre), leaving at least 25 dead. Herder-farmer clashes overnight 13-14 Dec also reportedly left nine dead in Béré town, Tandjilé province (south); angry mob next day ransacked préfet’s residence and vandalised police vehicles in Béré, leaving another two dead. Meanwhile, President Déby’s constitutional revision suffered setback. Parliament 3 Dec adopted constitutional reform bill providing that head of Senate – and not VP, personally appointed by president, as favoured by Déby – would take over as interim president in case of presidential vacancy or inability; Déby 14 Dec passed text into law. Court 11 Dec acquitted and released human rights activist Alain Kemba Didah and two co-defendants of “public order offenses” and “acts of rebellion” including breaching COVID-19-related restrictions; trio was arrested late Nov after organising opposition’s “citizens’ forum” in capital N’Djamena. Govt 11 Dec suspended opposition Parti Réformiste for three months after party chairman Yacine Abdramane Sakine 7 Dec said military was “held hostage by a small minority […] to keep Déby’s corrupt regime in power”. Members of opposition party Les Transformateurs 12 and 23 Dec gathered in N’Djamena to call for greater political freedom; police used tear gas to disperse them, citing COVID-19 regulations, leaving at least three injured. Amid small rise in COVID-19 cases, Déby 31 Dec banned all movement in and out of N’Djamena (including through airport) and all but essential movements within city for one week.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In major show of force and after weeks of political tensions, President Tshisekedi announced end of ruling coalition; meanwhile armed group attacks continued in eastern provinces. President Tshisekedi 6 Dec announced end of ruling coalition with former President Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC), vowed to seek new majority in parliament. Brawl next day erupted in parliament between pro-Tshisekedi and pro-Kabila MPs who rejected move as unconstitutional, leaving three injured, while police used tear gas to disperse Tshisekedi’s supporters gathered outside parliament. MPs 10 Dec voted to remove Kabila’s ally Jeannine Mabunda as head of National Assembly, first indication that Tshisekedi has managed to shift balance of power in his favour in FCC-dominated assembly. Immediately after vote, Industry Minister and FCC member Julien Paluku defected to Tshisekedi, urged fellow FCC member, PM Ilunga Ilunkamba, to resign to avoid no-confidence vote. Tshisekedi 31 Dec tasked Senator and FCC defector Bahati Lukwebo with identifying new majority. Tshisekedi also pursued efforts to reinforce his grip on army and police, meeting with several senior security officials throughout month. Meanwhile, violence continued in east. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, suspected armed group Allied Democratic Forces 6-22 Dec killed at least 40 civilians in multiple attacks, including at least 21 night of 11-12 Dec in Bolema area, Rwenzori sector. Unidentified gunmen 6 Dec killed eight civilians in North Kivu’s capital Goma. In Ituri province’s Djugu territory, suspected armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) 7 Dec killed five civilians in Baijate village; CODECO 20 Dec clashed with armed forces in Muvramu village, leaving two civilians and one CODECO combatant dead; in joint attack, CODECO and Patriotic and Integrationist Front of Congo (FPIC) overnight 21-22 Dec killed three in Gbalana village. Elsewhere in Ituri, armed forces 16 Dec clashed with FPIC in Komanda town, Irumu territory, leaving eight militiamen and one soldier dead. In Tanganyika province, ethnic Twa militia 21 Dec killed one and injured several civilians in Kintu locality. UN Security Council 18 Dec renewed UN mission (MONUSCO) mandate for one year.
Violence erupted in disputed border area with Sudan, deadly fighting continued in Tigray region and intercommunal clashes killed hundreds in Benishangul-Gumuz region. Sudanese military early Dec reclaimed territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area on border between Ethiopia’s Amhara region and Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state. Ethiopian gunmen 15 Dec killed at least four Sudanese troops in Al-Fashqa. Border demarcation talks between Sudan and Ethiopia 22-23 Dec failed to yield agreement. In following days, Sudan allegedly made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Quraisha border regions, 31 Dec said its forces had taken control over all border territory it accuses Ethiopia of encroaching upon. Ethiopia 29 Dec warned Sudan of counter-offensive if it “does not stop expanding into Ethiopian territories”. Despite PM Abiy declaring victory in Nov, fighting continued between Tigray’s and federal govt’s forces. Tigray President and former ruling party Tigray People’s Liberation Front leader Debretsion Gebremichael 4 Dec again accused neighbouring Eritrea of supporting federal govt’s military offensive in Tigray (see Eritrea). UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet 9 Dec expressed concern over “ethnic profiling” and “hate speech” against ethnic Tigrayans in rest of country. Tigray’s transitional govt – established by federal parliament’s upper house in Nov – took office 13 Dec. In Benishangul-Gumuz region in north west, suspected members of armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) 8 Dec killed at least ten ethnic Amhara civilians in Metekel zone; attack by suspected ethnic Gumuz gunmen 23 Dec killed at least 207 mostly Amhara and Shinasha civilians and displaced more than 40,000 in Metekel. In Oromia region in centre, suspected OLA combatants mid-Dec killed at least 19 mostly ethnic Amhara civilians in Horo Guduru Wellega and West Wellega zones; local authorities 16 Dec claimed security operations had killed some 400 OLA combatants in recent weeks. Clashes in border area between Afar and Somali regions late Dec reportedly left several dozen dead. Electoral board 25 Dec scheduled legislative and regional elections for 5 June 2021; said it would announce poll date for Tigray later on.
Islamist insurgents moved closer to liquefied natural gas (LNG) site in far north, forcing international oil company to evacuate staff. In far north Cabo Delgado province, Islamist insurgents increasingly targeted strategic towns, moving toward Afungi peninsula where LNG project is located. In Palma district, Islamist insurgents 7 Dec attacked Mute town, 20km from LNG site, and clashed with security forces, reportedly killing soldier; insurgents next day moved to Ngueo town, 2km north of Mute, forcing unknown number of civilians to flee to Palma town; 29 Dec killed five in Olumbe and Monjane villages few kilometres away from LNG site, and two soldiers in ambush on Monjane-Patacua axis on edge of Afungi peninsula. Following attacks, French oil and gas company Total late Dec started to evacuate staff from LNG facility. In neighbouring Nangade district, insurgents 8 Dec ambushed vehicle near Pundanhar town on Palma-Nangade axis, killing civilian, kidnapping two others and temporarily closing route to Palma; 12 Dec killed at least 14 civilians in several villages. In Macomia district, insurgents 10 Dec kidnapped unspecified number of fishermen in Mucojo town, released them few days later; next day killed at least four in Chai area. Southern African Development Community (SADC) Defence and Security Troika 14 Dec met with President Nyusi and Tanzania’s President Magufuli in capital Maputo to discuss security situation in Cabo Delgado; extraordinary summit of SADC heads of state and govt scheduled for 21 Jan. Meanwhile, number two of opposition Renamo party’s armed dissident faction Renamo Military Junta (JMR), Joao Machava, 6 Dec demobilised in Mabote district, Inhambane province (south). JMR leader Mariano Nhongo 11 Dec accused security forces of kidnapping six of his family members in past few days in Gondola district, Manica province (west); 23 Dec announced unilateral ceasefire, promised to negotiate with govt. Elsewhere in Manica province, armed individuals dressed in police uniforms 13 Dec kidnapped former Renamo party MP Sofrimento Matequenha from his home in provincial capital Chimoio; police same day denied abduction; Matequenha’s body found 24 Dec in Pindanganga village, 60km north east of Chimoio.
Ahead of 27 Dec general elections, jihadists launched one of deadliest attacks on civilians in years, leaving dozens killed. In Diffa region (south east), Boko Haram (BH) faction led by Abubakar Shekau (JAS) 12 Dec launched one of deadliest attacks on local population in years in Toumour village, killing at least 27 civilians and wounding dozens more. Earlier in month in Diffa, BH splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) combatants 11 Dec stormed domicile of canton chief in Chetimari village, leaving civilian dead; suspected jihadists same day raided Kindjandi town, leaving civilian dead. Jihadists also maintained attacks against security forces in Tillabery region (south west). Notably, suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 1 Dec killed soldier near Banizoumbou village, Filingué department; suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) combatants 4 Dec killed two forest guards and wounded three soldiers near La Tapoa town, Say department; clashes between suspected jihadists and security forces 28 Dec left seven soldiers and 11 jihadists dead in Taroun area, Ouallam department. Also in Tillabery, security forces early Dec reportedly killed several Fulani civilians suspected of supporting jihadists in Abala area, Filingué department, and Banibangou area, Ouallam department, while residents in Mogodyougou town, Ouallam department, 8 Dec killed two suspected ISGS combatants. In neighbouring Dosso region, suspected ISGS combatants 3 Dec killed civilian in Rouda Peulh village, Dogon Doutchi department, sparking concerns over ISGS’s expansion southward from Tillabery region. Meanwhile, ahead of 27 Dec general elections, presidential candidates Salou Djibo and Seini Oumarou 16 Dec reiterated doubts over ruling-party candidate Mohamed Bazoum’s nationality, thereby questioning his eligibility. Opposition leader Hama Amadou – barred from running for president by Constitutional Court in Nov – 22 Dec called on supporters to vote for former President Mahamane Ousmane. Vote held 27 Dec without major incidents.
Military clashed with Ethiopian forces in disputed border region and reclaimed large swathes of territory. Sudan’s military early Dec reclaimed territory in disputed Al-Fashqa area on border between Sudan’s Al-Qadarif state and Ethiopia’s Amhara region. Ethiopian gunmen 15 Dec killed at least four Sudanese troops and wounded 20 in Al-Fashqa. Sudan subsequently deployed reinforcements and seized more land in area. Following unsuccessful talks 22-23 Dec between Sudan and Ethiopia to demarcate border, Sudan made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Qureisha border regions. Addis Ababa 29 Dec warned Sudan of counter-offensive if it “does not stop expanding into Ethiopian territories”. Khartoum 31 Dec said its forces had taken control over all border territory it accuses Ethiopia of encroaching upon. In Central and South Darfur states, clashes over gold mining territory between rival factions of holdout rebel group Sudan Liberation Movement/Army led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) and fighting with govt troops early Dec displaced over 27,000 and left two children dead. In South Darfur state, intercommunal clashes late Dec killed at least 25 in several areas. UN Security Council 22 Dec voted to end mandate of UN-AU mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on 31 Dec. On second anniversary of uprising that led to ouster of former President Bashir, thousands 19 Dec demonstrated in capital Khartoum and across country, demanding acceleration of democratic reforms. Also in Khartoum, thousands 29 Dec attended funeral of individual reportedly tortured to death mid-Dec while in paramilitary Rapid Support Forces custody. U.S. 14 Dec formally removed Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation. Ethiopia and Sudan 13 Dec agreed to resume negotiations on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Russia 1 Dec signed agreement with Sudan to establish naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast.