Africa: News from Micronations and Separatist Movements

Morocco Pulls out of U.N. Peacekeeping in Protest over Ban’s Western Sahara Remarks

The Kingdom of Morocco announced on March 15th that it was reducing its contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony which Morocco now illegally occupies.  The cuts would be in personnel and in monetary contributions, and the kingdom also threatened to pull all 2,300 of its troops currently serving in U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world.  This follows a wave of official Moroccan anger over comments made by the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, last month, during a visit to a Sahrawi refugee camp just over the border in Algeria.  Ban expressed sympathy for the Sahrawi refugees and those living under illegal occupation in Western Sahara and also met with the president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (S.A.D.R.), which controls only a sliver of Western Sahara territory.

Toubou, Tuareg Delegates to Libyan Constitution Panel Demand Language, Other Rights.

In Oman, delegates to Libya’s Constitutional Drafting Assembly (C.D.A.) from the southern Toubou and Tuareg ethnic groups said on March 20th that they would suspend their boycott of the proceedings if their communities were offered certain constitutional concessions.  The delegates are asking for official status for the Toubou and Tuareg languages.  Tuareg is closely related to the Berber, or Amazigh, language, spoken by many in northwestern Libya.  They would also like guaranteed legislative and cabinet seats and the designation of Libya in the constitution as a “North African” country rather than an “Arab” one.  Actually, few Arabs live in Libya: most of the country’s Arabic-speaking majority are ethnically Berber, often called “Arabized Berbers,” though a more generous definition of “Arab” is anyone who speaks Arabic.  But all such niceties are mostly academic at this point while Libya’s territory is divided among two rival governments, plus large areas ruled by the Islamic State terrorist group (a.k.a.ISIS).

South Sudan Foreign Minister Sacked after Calling Abyei “Sudanese.”

The ministry of foreign affairs for the Republic of South Sudan was forced on March 22nd to retract statements made that implied that residents of the disputed oil-rich Abyei district, on the border with the Republic of Sudan, were not South Sudanese.  Days later, he was fired by President Salva Kiir.  A statement signed by the foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin had said, in response to criticism of South Sudan’s human-rights record, that the Abyei resident Luka Biong, whom the South Sudanese government was persecuting for his criticism of a planned redrawing of South Sudanese internal boundaries, was a “foreign” Sudanese.  Abyei has a mixed Arab and Dinka ethnic population, and it has never been permanently settled whether the square-shaped territory would be part of Sudan proper or of South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2012.  Sudan now administers the territory.  “The statement was issued by the government of South Sudan, not the ministry of foreign affairs,” said Mawein Makol, a foreign-ministry spokesperson.  “There was a mistake in the statement and the minister of foreign affairs signed the cover of the statement without realizing the mistake but it has been corrected now.”  The minister clarified that the official South Sudanese position is that Abyei is under “joint sovereignty” and that its population is “South Sudanese.”

Puntland Troops Kill Scores of Shabaab Militants; Mogadishu Rejects Blame for Influx.

The armed forces of Somalia’s de facto independent Puntland State killed scores of jihadist militants on March 16th and 17th in their new offensive against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab in their territory, according to government sources.  Al-Shabaab retaliated over the night of March 18th and 19th with a raid on a security checkpoint in Bossaso, Puntland’s main port city, killing one and wounding a security officer and a civilian.  Around the same time, in the village of Suuj, four militants were killed and four captured in fighting reported by Puntland authorities.  On March 20th the military reported the deaths of 42 al-Shabaab fighters, and by the next day, in Mogadishu, Puntland’s information minister, Mohamud Hassan Soadde, was tallying 70 dead jihadists and 30 captured ones.  Many of the captured were taken in Garacad, a town in Puntland liberated from the militants.  But this all came amid accusations by Puntland officials that the internationally recognized Federal Government of Somalia (F.G.S.) in Mogadishu is behind the flow of al-Shabaab militants northward into Puntland.  On the first day of fighting, Kenya’s government reported that Puntland forces had killed 30 militants.  Puntland’s president, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, said that these successes demonstrated that his statelet could contain al-Shabaab without the assistance of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), led by Kenya and Ethiopia in cooperation with the F.G.S.  Nonetheless, Amisom troops were reported to be on their way.  The deputy prime minister of the F.G.S., Mohamed Omar Arte, said that al-Shabaab’s move into Puntland was in the first instance a sign of desperation, affirming Somalia’s success in ousting them from Somalia proper.  After the accusations on March 16th about Mogadishu being responsible for al-Shabaab being in Puntland in the first place, Arte said the Puntland government’s comments were inaccurate and “unfortunate.”
Captured al-Shabaab militants in Garacad

Djibouti Accepts Blame for Naval Skirmish That Killed Somaliland Patrolman

The Republic of Djibouti apologized on March 19th to a lethal exchange of gunfire on March 14th between the Djiboutian coast guard and that of the de facto independent but unrecognized Republic of Somaliland.  Djibouti’s minister of fisheries, Mohamed Somali, and Somaliland’s naval commander, Abdurrahman Shir, addressed a joint press conference in which the Djiboutian offered apologies on behalf of his government and offered compensation, acknowledging that it was Djiboutian vessels that had inadvertently strayed into Somaliland territorial waters.  Although Djibouti does not formally recognize Somaliland, in most respects it treats it as a state independent of the internationally recognized Federal Republic of Somalia and its capital in Mogadishu.  In the incident, one Somaliland coast guard was killed and two were injured when they moved in to rescue two fishing vessels taken into custody by the Djiboutian patrol.  The incident occurred off the coast of the town of Zeila, in Somaliland’s Awdal state.  Djibouti quietly runs a puppet state, the Saylac and Lughaye State of Somalia—nominally a pro-Mogadishu unionist entity—that controls some territory in Awdal.

Nigerian Army Chief Says Abia Massacre Being Probed, Claims Constitutional Immunity

A top military official in Nigeria said on March 17th that the army was investigating an alleged massacre of civilians in Abia State during February 9th protests (reported at the time in this blog) demanding independence for Biafra.  Speaking in Enugu, the notional Biafran capital, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, said that whenever there was loss of life there would be an investigation.  But he added, with chilling candor, that if anyone breaks the law, “there will be need for use of fire; in that regards, the issue of human rights does not apply.  So, if you apply all the rules of engagement and you have course to open fire, you are protected by the constitution.”  The group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB), for its part, on March 18th rejected the Buratai investigation, saying it “is fundamentally riddled with conflict of interest and lacks the moral compass to conduct quality investigation in a case of this magnitude.”  It referred to the army’s actions in Abia as “genocidal.”

Kanu and Co-Defendants Challenge Detention, Citing “Strange Procedure”

In the midst of his treason trial in Abuja, the Biafran independence leader Nnamdi Kanu and two co-defendants challenged their detention at Nigeria’s court of appeal, calling it a “strange procedure.”  The federal government urged the court to throw the appeal out.  The two others are David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu.  Their regular trial has been suspended pending an appeals-court decision.  In other developments, Asari Dokubo, a former militant from the Niger Delta, called on Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, to free Kanu, who heads the organization Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB).

Former U.S. Congressman, Biafra Mercy-Flight Pilot Backs Vote on Biafran Independence.

A prominent American ally of the Biafran cause explicitly called in March for an internationally guaranteed referendum on Biafra’s independence from Nigeria.  Robert K. Dornan, a former United States congressman who represented Orange County, California, for the Republican Party, flew food-relief missions to Biafra during 1967-70 Biafra War, when he was in the Air Force reserve.  “I was there piloting a dozen mercy flights to help feed starving Biafran children,” Dornan said in a recent statement submitted to the Organization of Emerging African States (O.E.A.S.).  “It was an experience that stayed with me always.”  He added,  “No one wants to see another Biafran war.  …  The timid leadership in the United States and the European Union has sadly neglected and sidestepped the Biafra issue.  …  The Biafrans have known suffering and death and as a responsible witness to that holocaust, and as a Christian man of honor I add my voice to those calling for an internationally recognized referendum on the future of Biafra.”

Coca-Cola Denies Responsibility for Cans Sporting Biafra Independence Messages

The circulation on social media of Coke cans bearing the customized word Biafrans and the name of the jailed independence leader Nnamdi Kanu has prompted Coca-Cola to explain to media that it was making sure that no unauthorized customized cans were being produced—which still leaves unexplained the extent to which Coke or its factories might be involved in the labels.  Biafran media have jumped on the story, claiming it points to the corporation’s support the cause of independence from Nigeria.

Biafra Youth Leader Claims Fulani Herders Who Attack Igbos Linked to Boko Haram.

The deputy president of the Biafra Nations Youth League (B.N.Y.L.) said on March 18th warned herders from Nigeria’s northern and predominantly-Muslim Fulani ethnic group to halt their attacks on Igbos.  The ancient enmities are involved are over grazing lands, but the B.N.Y.L. leader, Ebuta Takon, linked the Fulani to Boko Haram, the jihadist terrorist group which operates in northeastern Nigeria.  “Boko Haram,” Takon said, “are now using the Fulani herdsmen to unleash attacks on our own people in our own soil.  We know they are behind some of the gas explosions in most part of South East and South-South.  It is evidence in what happened in Owerri sometime last year where a cripple [sic] was seen trying to set a fuel tanker that fell close to the Catholic Church ablaze, and the government has refused to link this attack to the Islamist expansionists.  We understand their game and we will make sure that they don’t succeed.”  He added: “Only an independent Biafran State will end these provocative attacks by Fulani herdsmen.”  Meanwhile, the organization Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) urged Igbo people to boycott Fulani cattle products and rely more on the Igbo-based cattle industry.

Nigerian Chiefs Cite Rapes, Beatings, Detentions amid “Annexations” by Cameroon

More details are emerging about the bizarre developments in Nigeria’s Akwa Ibom state, just across the Cross River (Oyono River) estuary from southwestern Cameroon, where the chiefs of 16 villages on mangrove islands in the Mbo local government area signed papers ceding their communities to the Republic of Cameroon (as reported recently in this blog).  Now it seems, according to a Nigerian National Boundary Commission (N.B.C.) fact-finding mission to Mbo, the Nigerian chiefs in question also accepted Cameroonian citizenship and are being used in a tax-collection (extortion) scheme.  “The Cameroon gendarmes have placed taxes on all the communities,” said Chief Nyong Etim Efa, of the village of Abana.  “In Abana, we are required to pay N500,000 per month.  The last time they came to collect the money and found out that I didn’t convene a meeting to raise the tax, they raped my wife, beat me up, and later detained me in their cell.  For our youths who tried to resist them, they cut their fishing nets into pieces and seized their outboard engines.  We are traumatised by repeated molestations from the Cameroon gendarmes.  We are seriously considering taking up citizenship in Cameroon since our Nigerian government cannot protect us.”  It remains unclear to what extent these “annexations” are being orchestrated by the Cameroonian central government in Yaoundé.  Other affected villages include Akpakanya, Akwa Ine Nsikak, Atabong, Ine Akpak, Ine Atayo, Ine Ebighi Edu, Ine Ekea, Ine Etakisib, Ine Inua Abasi, Ibekwe Ine Odiong, Ine Okobedi, Ine Usuk, Inua Mba, and Itung Ibekwe.

Phony “Human Rights Group” Exonerates Nigerian Army of Ogoni Massacre

A group called Citizen Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), referred to in Nigeria’s compliant media as “a human rights group,” held a press conference in Abuja, the capital, on March 21st to announce that after an investigation it has concluded that the federal military’s incursion into Ogoni territory in south-central Nigeria a month earlier, in which (as reported at the time in this blog) dozens were reported killed, was not what it seemed and that the Nigerian military had done nothing wrong.  The only problem with this “finding” by a “human rights group” is that it is very difficult to find evidence for the existence of “CASER” other than this one press conference—the main thrust of which was to exonerate the Nigerian military.  “We have called this press conference to denounce certain notions that are inimical to national interest,” said “CASER’’’s “executive director,” one Frank Tietie, namely “the notion that the Nigerian military causes problem [sic], kills and maims innocent Nigerians, which is so untrue.”  Rather, Tietie said, “We found out that what happened on Feb. 22 in an Ogoni community called Yeghe was actually an encounter between certain cultists, who were followers of one Solomon Ndigbara, who actually engaged the army in a shootout”—referring to the former Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) rebel leader known by his nickname “General Osama Bin Laden,” whom the military manhunt had unsuccessfully targeted.  Tietie said the video evidence showed that only three people died in the conflict, not 45 at the military’s hands, as claimed by others.  This kind of “oversight” is what counts as justice and checks and balances in Muhammadu Buhari’s Nigeria.

Cabinda Separatists Claim to Have Killed 30 Angolan Soldiers in March So Far

Militants fighting for the oil-rich coastal exclave of Cabinda to secede from the Republic of Angola have killed about 30 Angolan soldiers so far this month, according to rebel reports.  The claims, by the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), could not be verified.  The death toll takes into account a March 13th attack which killed more than 10 and one on March 16th in Buco-Zau that killed 20.  FLEC has been fighting for independence since the colonial ruler,Portugal, abandoned Angola to civil war in 1975.

Chagossians in Seychelles Plan to Sue British Government over Expulsions

Members of the British Indian Ocean Territory’s native Chagossian nation living in exile in the Seychelles announced on March 16th plans to bring legal proceedings against the United Kingdom for their expulsion from the Chagos Islands in the 1960s and ’70s to make way for what is now a United States and NATO military base in Diego Garcia, the largest island.  Pierre Prosper, chairman of the local Seychellois Chagossian diaspora group, told the Seychelles News Agency that his community would be holding meetings to decide how to proceed.  Of the 2,000 or so Chagossians dispersed worldwide, about half live in England, many are in Mauritius(which claims the archipelago), and the Seychelles are home to about 250 deportees and their descendants.

Chris Roth

Chris Roth is a social-cultural and linguistic anthropologist with an interest in the symbolic politics of nationalism and ethnicity. He has worked extensively with indigenous groups in northern British Columbia and southeast Alaska and is the author of an ethnography of the Tsimshian Nation. He has also done research with and about New Age and paranormal subcultures in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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