During the past two weeks in Africa, dozens of civilians were killed in militant attacks within the central Sahel; pro-Palestinian demonstrations were reported across multiple countries; and Al Shabaab launched numerous explosive attacks on state forces in both Kenya and Somalia.
In Nigeria, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram Jamatu Ahli is-Sunnah lid-Dawatai wal-Jihad (JAS) faction of Boko Haram, was reportedly killed after detonating a suicide vest in the Sambisa Forest. His reported death followed a successful operation by rival Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters to take the JAS forest stronghold. Whilst sources suggest that he is likely to be dead, conflicting accounts have reported that he may have been killed by gunshot rather than a suicide vest (HumAngle, 21 May 2021). Since taking over leadership of Boko Haram in 2009, Shekau has been falsely reported as dead on multiple occasions (HumAngle, 20 May 2021).
In the central Sahel, dozens of civilians were killed during attacks perpetrated by both Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) militants. Suspected ISWAP Greater Sahara militants launched multiple attacks on civilians in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, as well as Tillaberi in Niger. More than a dozen civilians were killed during one attack on the village of Adjarara in the Sahel region. The attacks followed several days of Burkinabe military airstrikes targeting ISWAP Greater Sahara positions in the region. Deadly clashes between militants and Burkinabe army and Volunteer for Defense of Homeland (VDP) forces were also reported. Meanwhile, suspected Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) militants, and associated Katiba Macina fighters, launched attacks in the Center-North, Sahel, Boucle du Mouhoun, Cascades, East, and North regions of Burkina Faso. In the Malian region of Gao, 16 civilians were killed when suspected JNIM militants detonated an explosive device near the village of Tidjalalene.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, military forces (FARDC) continued to launch operations against armed groups in Ituri and North Kivu. The FARDC regained control of numerous villages, across the territories of Djugu and Irumu, previously controlled the Patriotic Force and Integrationist of Congo (FPIC)/Patriotic Resistance Front of Ituri (FRPI), and Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO). Meanwhile, clashes between Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants and the FARDC were reported in North Kivu and Ituri. Despite FARDC operations, more than a dozen civilians were killed during multiple days of ADF attacks in the Mambasa territory of Ituri.
In the Central African Republic (CAR), civilians were the target of violence perpetrated by both rebel and government-aligned forces, amid ongoing fighting between Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) militants and state forces, supported by Wagner Group. CPC-affiliated fighters launched attacks on civilian populations in the Haute-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou, Nana-Grebizi, and Nana-Mambere prefectures. Meanwhile, the government-aligned Wagner Group was implicated in attacks in the Haute Kotto, and Nana-Mambere prefectures.
In Sudan, two people were killed when state forces opened fire on demonstrators commemorating the June 2019 Khartoum massacre. Meanwhile, Sudanese forces seized control of multiple locations from Ethiopian militias in the contested borderlands of Gedaref state. Military build-ups continue to be reported in the area, with Ethiopian soldiers and militia members reportedly arriving from Bahir Dar and Gondar (Sudan Tribune, 22 May 2021).
In Ethiopia, conflicts across the country continued to provoke active state military engagement, with state forces engaging in clashes with armed groups in the Oromia, Benishangul/Gumuz, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) regions. In Oromia, a local journalist was killed by suspected Shane splinter faction of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shane) and Abbaa Torbee militants. Both groups have denied involvement in the attack (Committee to Protect Journalists, 21 May 2021). OLF-Shane fighters were also implicated in violence in the Guji, Horo Gudru Wellega and West Wellega zones of Oromia. Attacks by unidentified militants were also reported in the West Gujji zone, leaving three civilians dead and thousands displaced. In Benishangul/Gumuz, militants from the Gumuz Liberation front attacked a convoy of military trucks, leaving more than a dozen soldiers dead. Meanwhile, clashes between state forces and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)-affiliated militias continued to be reported in Tigray.
In Somalia and Kenya, Al Shabaab militants launched multiple explosive attacks on state forces, including attacks in the Somali regions of Mudug, Banadir, Bay, Middle Shabelle, and Lower Shabelle. In the Waaberi district of Mogadishu, a suicide bombing left at least seven people dead, including the Waaberi police station commander and the deputy of Weliyow Adde police division. A separate attack in Mogadishu’s Daynile district left four dead, including the Garasbaley district commissioner. In Kenya, at least 11 police officers were killed during two separate remote attacks by Al Shabaab militants in Baure town in Lamu East county and near Darkale Township in Mandera.
Finally, civil society activists led pro-Palestinian demonstrations in cities across the Muslim-majority countries of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Somalia and Tunisia following the outbreak of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Further demonstrations were also reported in Kenya and South Africa.
A separate, weekly discussion of the ongoing conflict in Mozambique can be found in the Cabo Ligado project.