Presumed Boko Haram militants killed more than 20 people in a double suicide attack in northern Cameroon on July 22—executed by two teenage girls, both under the age of 15. The attacks targeted a market and an adjoining neighborhood in Maroua, capital of the Far Northern Region. (See map) That same day, 42 lost their lives in a series of blasts at two bus stations in Gombe, northeast Nigeria. A new five-nation force—from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin—is due for deployment to fight Boko Haram by month's end. Boko Harams has been calling itself Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) since affiliating with the ISIS franchise earlier this year. (The Guardian, July 23; Long War Journal, July 22)
After suicide bombings July 11 in Fotokol by two women wearing burqas, Northern Cameroon this week banned women from wearing burqas and face-covering veils [hijab]. The suicide bombers smuggled the bombs into public areas by hiding them under their veils. The attack, initiated by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, killed at least 14 people. As part of the ban, it was also decided by government officials that Muslims are not permitted to meet in large groups without permission. The governor of Cameroon's Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, plans to increase security and further investigate the unexpected bombings. Some have protested the new ban, arguing that wearing a burqa is not a choice and that it is necessary to wear for religious reasons. However, government officials plan to keep the ban in effect as long as necessary to prevent further attacks.
Authorities in Chad announced the arrest of a key Boko Haram leader and two henchmen in the capital N'Djamena on June 28. The militant leader, named as Mahamat Moustapha AKA Baana Fanay, is accused coordinating trafficking of weapons between Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. Chadian security forces have arrested 74 accused militants since June 15 terror attacks in N'Djamena that killed 38 people and injured 100 others. But the day after the arrest ot Baana Fanay, two new suicide bombings in N'Djamena kiilled at least 11, including five police officers. The blasts were in residential neighborhoods, but at least one was apparently set off as police raided a suspected Boko Haram safe-house. (News Agency of Nigeria, June 30; AP, Al Jazeera, June 29)
Ivory Coast reinforced security along its northern frontier after a series of attacks by Islamist militias on towns just across the border in Mali. Troops from Ivory Coast are also reported to have crossed the border to assist Malian forces in driving out the rebels. Gunmen attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a border town in Mali's southern region of Sikasso, on June 28. The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of militants ransacked a police station in the nearby town of Misseni. Ansar Dine is named as the group behind the attacks, and this appears to represent the first extension of its reach into Mali's south from its territory in the northern deserts. (Reuters, AFP, AFP, July 1)
Amnesty International urged Cameroon on June 19 to end the six-month detention of 84 children being held after raids on Koranic schools. AI reports that some of the children were as young as five years old. The children remained detained in a children's center in Maroua even after being charged with no crimes. The government charged the teachers of the Koranic schools of running terrorist training camps for the Nigeria-based group Boko Haram. The raids were part of the Cameroon government's on-going battle against the terrorist group. Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa, stated: "Detaining young children will do nothing to protect Cameroonians living under the threat of Boko Haram." AI has urged Cameroon to immediately release any children under the age of 15 to their parents and ensure a fair trial for any other's associated with the raid.
UK-based advocacy group Survival International says it has received reports that violent conflict between Ethiopian soldiers and Hamar pastoralists left dozens dead last month. The Hamar are one of several tribal peoples of the Lower Omo Valley who are subject to the government's policy of "villagization." They are being forcibly relocated to government-created villages along new roads through the region, while their ancestral grazing lands are sold off to investors for commercial plantations. These land-grabs have already led to starvation in parts of the Lower Omo Valley. Tensions have been rising as a result of these evictions and, at the end of May, Hamar were reportedly attacked by soldiers with rifles and mortars. Survival says a "news blackout" imposed by the government makes it impossible to know the exact number of casualties, but one observer referred to what took place as a "massacre." The incident follows a pattern of abuses in the Lower Omo, including beatings, rape and arbitrary arrest. One displaced Hamar told Survival, "The government told us that if we don't give in to them we will be slaughtered in public like goats." (Survival International, June 5)
Around 8,000 Nigerian civilians have been killed since 2011 as a result of abuses by military forces, Amnesty International (AI) reported June 3. The report attributes civilian deaths to torture, starvation, suffocation and executions by military forces at detention camps. AI's secretary general Salil Shetty said, "[t]he previous Nigerian administration's utterly callous 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' attitude when it comes to the hundreds of stories of death coming out of the military detention centers beggars belief." AI says the military's actions at the detention camps are part of a "witch hunt" in an effort to locate members of Boko Haram. AI called for President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate any possible crimes against humanity committed at the camps and to bring justice to the victims.
A BBC News account today notes an action by a group of elderly women in a village in northern Uganda that made local headlines in April. When officials backed up by soldiers and police were sent to Apaa village to begin a land demarcation project, the women stripped naked in front of them while chating "Lobowa, lobowa!"—"our land" in the Luo language. Women appearing naked is a traditional form of shaming and dishonoring. The conflict affects several villages in Uganda's northern Amuru district, where residents were forcibly relocated to government camps (ostensibly for their protection) during the 18-year war with the Lord's Resistance Army. Now that they are returning, they find that Uganda's Wildlife Authority seeks to demarcate 827 square kilometers of their traditional lands as a game reserve to be leased to a private investor—said to be a South African businessman. At Apaa village alone, some 21,000 residents who cannot prove official title to their lands stand to be evicted.