Posted: 4 May 2023
Sudan: Conflict breaks out between the SAF and RSF
Fighting erupted in Sudan on 15 April between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), aligned with the de facto ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, popularly known as Hemedti. In the week following the outbreak of hostilities, political violence in Sudan reached levels over four times higher than the weekly average for the past year. Since fighting broke out, over 50% of battles were fought in Khartoum, with clashes outside the capital centered in urban areas along major roadways, especially east-west corridors from the state of Kassala to West Darfur. In the second week of fighting, battles between the RSF and SAF broke out for the first time in South Kordofan and West Kordofan states. Violence also escalated towards the end of the month in El Geneina, West Darfur state. Battles between the SAF and RSF have constituted 80% of all political violence events recorded in Sudan since 15 April and over 700 fatalities have been reported, with many civilians caught in the crossfire amid intense urban fighting (for more on the conflict in Sudan, see Fact Sheet: Conflict Surges in Sudan). The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) cited that the fighting has displaced over 300,000 individuals since 15 April, with more than 60,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.1IOM, ‘Sudan – Situation Report (2),’ 28 April 2023
Ethiopia: Demonstrations break out in Amhara over federal government plans to re-absorb regional forces
On 6 April, the federal government announced a plan to reintegrate regional special forces into the Ethiopian National Defense Force, federal police, or state police, triggering demonstrations in the Amhara region. While Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claims the integration will create stability, critics view the move as a way to shrink the power of individual regions.2Al Jazeera, ‘Ethiopia to integrate regional forces into central army, police,’ 7 April 2023 Demonstrators opposed the plan due to deteriorating trust in the federal government and concerns over potential attacks.3Voice of America, ‘Amhara gunfire over military merger,’ 10 April 2023 They also called for the release of detainees and the government to stop “the abuse against Amharas.”4Alemnew Mekonen, Azeb Tadesse, and Mantegafetot Sileshi, ‘Asking the government to stop the abuse of the Amharic people,’ Deutsche Welle Amharic, 3 April 2023 Demonstrations in Amhara reached their highest levels in over a year and contributed to a more than doubling of demonstrations across Ethiopia compared to the monthly average over the preceding year. The unrest in Amhara indicates the growing political divisions in Amhara between the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) and the Amhara PP and Oromia PP (for more details, see EPO Weekly: 26 March-1 April 2022). This discontent with the ruling PP has grown amid ongoing attacks against ethnic Amhara civilians in the Oromia region, frequent road closures, and the demolition of houses (for more details on the trends of violence against civilians in Oromia region, see EPO Monthly: June 2022; on the recent closure of roads, see EPO Weekly: 11-17 February 2023).
Togo: A rare JNIM attack in Tone prefecture, amid an increasingly deadly Islamist insurgency
On 20 April, al-Qaeda-affiliated Jamaa Nusra al-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) attacked civilians in the Tone prefecture, reportedly killing six people. The attack marks a rare incursion into Tone, which only accounts for 10% of political violence in Togo over the past year. Until now, political violence by JNIM has been concentrated in the Kpendjal prefecture, which accounts for nearly 70% of political violence in the past year. To date, 2023 has been particularly deadly. From January to April, ACLED records 74 reported fatalities, only four fatalities less than the total in 2022. JNIM operations in Togo began to increase in May 2022, when around 60 JNIM fighters attacked the Kpinkankandi military base in Kpendjal prefecture. While JNIM has been active in the littoral states for several years, JNIM expanded its operations into Benin and Togo in 2022, with violent events spiking in July. In a rare interview, President Faure Gnassingbé recognized this escalation of violence and claimed that around 40 soldiers and 100 civilians had been killed by Islamist armed groups in northern Togo.5Africa News, ‘Togo president Faure Gnassingbe says 140 people killed in jihadist ‘war’,’ 30 April 2023
Eswatini: Ongoing targeting of political party supporters
An armed group dressed in military uniforms, suspected to be military forces, attacked a former Swaziland Liberation Movement supporter in the vicinity of Mangwaneni after he attended a commemoration of the 12 April 1973 Decree banning political parties in Eswatini. The gunmen subjected the victim to physical abuse while questioning him about the location of political leaders and their firearms.6Colani Khulekani Maseko, ‘Tortured PUDEMO member Brian Sihlongonyane: I won’t dump struggle for democracy, it’s part of the journey to freedom.’ Swaziland News, 16 April 2023. On 12 April, to commemorate the ban, political activists submitted a petition at the United Nations office in Mbabane to urge intervention by the UN and persuade the government to end civilian targeting.7Sicelo Maziya, ‘Ex-SWALIMO member Brian Sihlongonyane alleges I was kidnapped, tortured, dumped in forest,’ Times of Swaziland, 15 April 2023. Since the implementation of the 12 April 1973 Decree, political parties have been officially prohibited, and political gatherings require government approval.8UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Swaziland: Civil society contributions to the Universal Periodic Review – Civil and Political Rights Cluster,’ 2010 Violence escalated in 2022 and peaked in November following increased violence by a militant pro-democracy group called the Swaziland International Solidarity Forces, reprisals by state security forces, and violence carried out by unidentified armed groups. ACLED also records several civilian targeting events in the first quarter of 2023. Police and military forces are the most common aggressors in violence targeting civilians the preceding year, comprising nearly a third of civilian targeting events. After state security forces, the second most common violent actor includes unidentified armed groups, often with suspected links to political leaders or militant pro-democracy groups, and spontaneous rioters involved in mob violence, accounting for 25% and 29%, respectively.
Chad: Cross-border violence from the Central African Republic
Last month, a Kodo militia – a Chadian armed group based in the Central African Republic (CAR) – crossed the border into the Monts de Lam department and attacked the civilians in the Danda area. The incursion by the Kodo militia initially targeted civilians, but led to clashes against local Fulani militiamen and the gendarmerie, resulting in over 20 reported fatalities. According to the governor of Monts de Lam, the Kodo militia crossed into Chad in order to instigate communal conflicts.9Djimet Wiche Wahili, Tchad : le récit du gouverneur du Logone Oriental sur les violences dans le département des Monts de Lam,’ Alwihda Info, 19 April 2023 The attack comes amid wider concerns about spillovers from the conflict in CAR. In February 2023, United States intelligence services warned Chadian authorities that the Wagner Group – the Russian private military company protecting the CAR government from rebel attacks – was attempting to destabilize the country by training militias near the CAR-Chad border.10Benoit Faucon, ‘U.S. Intelligence Points to Wagner Plot Against Key Western Ally in Africa,’ Wall Street Journal, 23 February 2023 Several incidents of cross-border violence have occurred since October last year, when the Chadian military forces clashed with an unknown Chadian armed group, Wagner Group mercenaries, and CAR military forces in Lac Wey, Logone Occidental region.