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Security Brief: AFRICOM Week of November 8, 2021

Week of Monday, November 8, 2021 | Issue 45

Deepika Uppala and Zach Pittman, AFRICOM Team


Tigray War Territory in July 2021[1]


Date: November 8, 2021

Location: Tshanzu and Runyoni, Democratic Republic of Congo

Parties involved: Congolese Military; Lieutenant Colonel Luanzo; Rwanda; Uganda; Unknown rebel group

The event: On November 7, the Tshanzu and Runyoni towns in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were seized overnight by rebels. Officials have not yet confirmed who is responsible, but the regional military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Luanzo, stated it was likely the M23 rebel group. The Lieutenant Colonel conducted counter operations against the armed group and claimed that the group came from Rwanda. United Nations (UN) investigators in the past have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the rebel group M23. Rwanda and Uganda both denied the allegations.[2] Uganda temporarily shelters thousands of Congolese citizens who fled DRC due to past fighting in Rutshuru village and the recent attacks in Tshanzu and Runyoni.[3] The terrain is mixed with plains, hills, and mountains; Tshanzu village is about 4 to 5.3 miles (6.4 to 8.6 kilometers) from the Rwandan border.[4]

The implications:

  • The influx of Congolese migrants into Uganda has almost certainly led to diplomatic tensions between DRC and Uganda. If DRC is unable to secure its Eastern border region from rebel groups, Uganda will likely intervene militarily. It is unlikely that DRC will be able to control the rebel attacks without Rwandan assistance if they are crossing from Rwanda. However, a collaboration between DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda is unlikely due to strained political relationships.

  • Disputes between DRC forces and Rwandan Defense Forces regarding the group’s origins will likely continue. The accusation made by Lieutenant Colonel Luanzo that the rebel group came from Rwanda is unlikely to lead to armed conflict among the nations due to the lack of evidence behind the claim.

  • The region’s terrain between the villages near the Rwandan border is very likely the reason why rebel groups can travel freely. It is very likely that the short distance explains how the rebels can move quickly into the region without detection.

Date: November 11, 2021

Location: Khartoum, Sudan

Parties involved: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan; Sudanese security forces; Anti-coup protesters

The event: Since the military coup in October 2021, the Sudanese coup leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has dissolved the country’s transitional government, arresting political leaders and reappointing himself as the head of the new ruling council on November 11.[5] The military has been cracking down violently on pro-democracy demonstrators, wounding more than 300 people and killing 14.[6]

The implications:

  • Al-Burhan’s reappointment of himself as the head of the ruling council and the restrictions on citizens’ protests likely suggests the military’s unwillingness to transition to a civilian government in the near future. Going back on his 2019 promise to allow a democratic transition will likely affect the security of the country, as it will likely incite increasing conflicts between supporters of the pro-military and pro-civilian rule, as well as with the government forces.

  • The continued military rule will likely affect the country’s economy by diverting money from essential needs like social infrastructure and healthcare into military spending. This will likely lead to a lack of healthcare, high unemployment rates, and a decrease in national revenue that will almost certainly result in poorer living conditions. The divide between pro-military and pro-civilian rule supporters and the potential onset of poverty will likely lead to an increased social divide and ethnic polarization which will almost certainly generate more clashes.

Date: November 13, 2021

Location: Amhara, Ethiopia

Parties involved: Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF); Ethiopian civilians; Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF); Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC); Ethiopian government; Oromo forces

The event: On November 13, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported that interviews of 128 individuals confirmed the infliction of violence on civilians in Amhara due to fighting between the Tigrayan and Ethiopian forces. The EHRC also confirmed the deaths of at least 184 civilians. While the Human Rights Watch reported that Ethiopia’s siege of Tigray has created a lack of proper medical care and services, Amnesty International has reported about violence inflicted upon women in Amhara by the Tigrayan forces.[7] In response to Tigrayan and Oromo forces advancing towards Addis Ababa since November 4, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency and called on all citizens to take up arms against rebels and join the military.[8]

The implications:

  • As the conflict escalates in Ethiopia, both sides will likely continue to commit crimes and human rights abuses on civilians supporting or residing in regions of opposition forces. Ethiopia’s siege on Tigray likely gives them control over food availability, healthcare, and other critical aids, which will almost certainly continue until the conflict diminishes. The Tigrayan forces will likely increase violence on civilians in the regions they take over in retaliation.

  • The escalation of violence will almost certainly lead to the mass migration of Ethiopian civilians to the neighboring States of Eritrea or Sudan. The influx of refugees will likely create conflicts between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan over depleting food and health resources in these countries. This will likely create tensions in bilateral relations. Ethnic and cultural differences between locals and migrants will almost certainly lead to clashes, almost certainly affecting the stability of the region.

  • With the increasing Ethiopia-Tigray conflict and advancing TPLF forces towards Addis Ababa, it is very likely that the Ethiopian government has manipulated records of violence in the Amhara region to create an alternative narrative about the Tigrayan forces and evoke the sympathy of citizens. This likely follows Ethiopia’s call to its citizens to defend the capital against TPLF and Oromo fighters in an environment of decreasing trust towards Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. If citizens accept the Ethiopian government’s narrative, it is likely that the number of civilians joining the Ethiopian military to fight the TPLF will increase, and will very likely change the conflict into a civil war.

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[1] “Tigray War Territory in July 2021” by Ue3lman licensed under Wikimedia Commons

[2] Gunmen Seize Villages in DRC Near Uganda Rwanda Borders, Al Jazeera, November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/8/gunmen-seize-villages-in-drc-near-uganda-rwanda-borders

[3] Over 5000 Congolese Flee to Uganda After Fresh Domestic Fighting, CGTN, November 2021, https://africa.cgtn.com/2021/11/09/over-5000-congolese-flee-to-uganda-after-fresh-domestic-fighting/

[4] Democratic Republic of the Congo, Britannica, April 2021, https://www.britannica.com/place/Democratic-Republic-of-the-Congo/Plant-and-animal-life

[5] Sudanese coup leader tightens grip by re-appointing himself head of council, The Guardian, November 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/11/sudanese-coup-leader-tightens-grip-by-re-appointing-himself-head-of-council

[6] Sudan security forces fire tear gas at anti-coup protesters, Al Jazeera, November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/7/sudan-anti-coup-civil-disobedience-strikes

[7] Tigray rebels killed dozens of civilians: Ethiopia rights body, Al Jazeera, November 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/13/tigray-rebels-killed-scores-of-civilians-ethiopia-rights-body

[8] After Year of Fighting, Tigrayan Forces Say They Are Advancing on Addis Ababa, Voa News, November 2021, https://www.voanews.com/a/tigrayan-forces-say-they-are-advancing-on-addis-ababa-/6299496.html

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