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Masalit Attacks and Katiba of Macina Attacks and Xenophobia Toward Lesotho Nationals in South Africa

April 21-27, 2022 | Issue 5 - AFRICOM

Ashliyn Burgos, Francesca Fiore, Isaac Clemons, Matthias Conti, Natalie Weidenbach, AFRICOM

Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff


El-Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan[1]



Date: April 24, 2022

Location: Kreinik, El-Geneina, West Darfur, Sudan

Parties involved: Arab militias; Masalit communities; El-Geneina aid organizations; non-state armed groups (NSAGs)

The event: On Sunday morning, a local Sudanese aid group accused Arab militias of attacking communities of Masalit, an ethnic group based in Darfur and Chad, in the town of Kreinik, located approximately 30km east of West Darfur’s capital, El-Geneina. The attackers then moved to El-Geneina and opened fire on a local hospital. At least 168 were killed in the armed clashes.[2]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Further attacks against local communities in and around El-Geneina are very likely over the coming weeks. As inter-communal violence upscales, insecurity for aid workers operating in El-Geneina will almost certainly increase. This has a roughly even chance to prompt aid organizations to leave the region. Attacks in these areas are likely to disrupt the deployment of services and weaken access to assistance across West Darfur. This is very likely to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and increase food and health insecurity for communities across the region.

  • The deteriorating security landscape in West Darfur will very likely impact the socio-economic development of the region. This is likely to be a risk exacerbated by the militias’ attacks, driving people away from their lands and livelihoods. This will almost certainly increase competition over land and resources, very likely worsening drivers of instability, including growing support for local NSAGs.


Date: April 24, 2022

Location: Sevare, Mali; Niono, Mali; Bapho, Mali

Parties involved: Malian Armed Forces; Katiba of Macina; Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JSIM); Al-Qaeda; UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA); French Armed Forces

The event: On Sunday, three simultaneous attacks occurred on three camps of the Malian Armed Forces. Suicide vehicles packed with explosives targeted bases at Sevare, Niono, and Bapho within minutes of each other. Six soldiers were killed and at least 20 injured as a result. Katiba of Macina, affiliated to JSIM, an Al-Qaeda linked alliance, and a part of the biggest jihadist network in the Sahel, announced that they were responsible for the attacks. For the last decade, Mali has experienced a resurgence of jihadist insurgency, and public anger towards the failure to mitigate attacks allowed for a military takeover in August 2020.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • There is a roughly even chance JSIM coordinated Katiba of Macina’s attacks, as they have previously, likely indicating these attacks were part of a greater JSIM strategic plan for Mali. It is very likely attacks will occur in other areas, such as the north desert, also exploited by Al-Qaeda linked insurgents, likely increasing the instability Mali has experienced since the coup. JSIM will likely exploit the gap in security as the Milian Armed Forces recover, decreasing protection for citizens.

  • Al-Qaeda is likely linked to the planning for these attacks, increasing their authority over groups operating in the region, which likely strengthens their presence in the Sahel. The fragility of Mali’s current government likely creates an opportunity for Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups to challenge the government and implement an Islamist caliphate. This is likely to threaten vulnerable states bordering Mali, such as Burkina Faso, and there is a roughly even chance it could succumb to similar pressure.

  • Malian Armed Forces are likely weakened by these attacks, likely reducing their ability to retaliate in the immediate aftermath and increasing their need for protective measures/recovery support. MINUSMA will likely increase troops deployed to Mali, which will likely extend the UN's peace mission in Mali. Increased international military presence, including the UN or France, has a roughly even chance of interfering with the authority of the Malian Armed Forces, who have been in command since the coup in August 2020.


Date: April 25, 2022

Location: Chicken Farm informal settlement, Soweto, South Africa

Parties involved: Lesotho nationals; South African citizens; South Africa’s Police Minister Bheki Cele; Detectives from Soweto Township

The event: South Africa’s Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the family of a man killed during a clash between Lesotho nationals living in Soweto, South Africa, and South African citizens last week. The chief promised to find and punish those responsible and assigned 12 detectives to the case. The clash was caused by South African citizens’ frustration at the theft of electrical cables by Lesotho nationals. It follows deadly xenophobic mob violence earlier this month and a history of tensions between immigrants and South Africans.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The government's attempt to restore the community’s faith in law and order is likely to alleviate tensions between immigrants and South Africans because the scale of the problem is larger than this one altercation. The root causes of poor economic and social issues are unlikely to be addressed because the police plan on limiting their activity to finding and arresting the perpetrator. Instead, heavy police response is likely to be interpreted as a crackdown against the entire community for the actions of one individual, which is likely to inspire continued frustration against a system that is perceived as persecutory, as the system disproportionately punishes immigrants.

  • Having a high-ranking officer take time to address community concerns is likely to improve the public's image of the South African police. Positive public sentiment towards the police is likely to bolster officers' perception of themselves and their importance in local communities. This perception is likely to increase cooperation between South African citizens and the police, which contributes to a system that doesn’t treat immigrants fairly. The cooperation is likely to give xenophobic local militias an opportunity to be violent toward immigrants.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1] El Geneina Landscape View by UNAMID, licensed under Creative Commons

[2] At least 168 killed in violence in Sudan’s Darfur: Aid group, Al Jazeera, April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/24/more-than-100-killed-in-violence-in-sudans-darfur-aid-group

[3] Several soldiers killed, dozens injured in attacks in Mali, France24, April 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20220424-several-soldiers-killed-dozens-injured-in-attacks-in-mali

[4] S Africa’s Cele visits community after migrants, residents clash, Al Jazeera, April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/22/police-minister-visits-sa-community-as-immigrants-residents-clas

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