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Vol 61 No 2

Published 23rd January 2020

Security flashpoints and migration in Africa



Five sprawling conflicts and crises – in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan – have forced over 10 million people to flee their homes. Of the over 70 million displaced people across the world, according to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over a third are in Africa.

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2020

Somalia, where the start of the conflict dates back to the 1991 overthrow of the Siad Barre regime and multiple foreign interventions, has the highest number of displaced people in Africa. Initially fuelled by clan rivalries, Al Shabaab's Islamist insurgency has extended the conflict in high population areas and in neighbouring Kenya.

To the north in Ethiopia, the drivers of the communal conflicts are more complex still, as the local agencies try to cope with over 2 million internally displaced people. Fluctuating reports about the numbers affected show the volatility in the Oromo region and the Ogaden, which borders Somalia. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's liberalisation moves, such as the freeing of political prisoners and allowing exiles to return, have been accompanied by a growth of ethno-nationalism. Seeing their interests threatened, local potentates are using militias to counter opponents.

South Sudan's people are scattered within its borders and in large parts of Uganda as they flee civil war perpetuated by rival and equally ruthless military leaders mobilising on primarily ethnic grounds. Congo-Kinshasa's history of national political competition backed by neighbouring states seeking part of the country's resource patrimony has displaced over 3 million and caused nearly a further 900,000 to leave the nation.

There is a growing focus on west Africa, where the authorities in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and Nigeria suffer from rampaging Islamist militias. A deepening crisis has pitted secessionists in western Cameroon against President Paul Biya's dysfunctional regime, putting Nigeria at the centre of a threatening system of conflicts. It was 50 years ago this month that Nigeria ended its first civil war.


See lead article, Multilateralism falters as crises multiply

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