Illustration by Ben Beechener
France withdraws from Mali
After nearly 10 years of military presence in Mali, French President Emmanuel Macron has finally ordered his troop to return home. Sent in 2013 under François Hollande to help the local authorities fight Islamic terrorism, the French grew increasingly unpopular in their former colony, as the number of terrorist attacks has increased during their stay. Their presence has been felt by many to be a neo-colonial occupation, especially after France’s recent failure to accept the decision of the Malian government to renege an agreement to hold elections this February. It is therefore under mounting pressure that Macron ordered the withdrawal. However, as the French retract, some in neighbouring countries fear that the region will be destabilised further.
Suicide bombing in central Somalia
On Saturday 19th February a suicide bomber attack killed at least 14 people in Mogadishu, Somalia. The bomber detonated in a restaurant filled with politicians, government officials, and civilians. Al-Shabab, a group linked to Al-Queda, has claimed responsibility for the attack, their second this month. These attacks threaten to disrupt the current election process, already a year overdue and due to end on the 25th of February. For years, Al-Shabab has been trying to topple the central government and attacks like these serve to weaken it.
Russia-Ukraine: tensions rise and call for calm
Throughout this week US intelligence services claimed to have foiled a Russian plot to undertake a false flag operation. Such operations involve a military blaming another for events they have brought about so as to create a legitimate pretext for war. On Thursday evening, two explosions in the Donbas region of Ukraine pulled tensions to a height unreached until now. Western leaders are worried that this is the false-flag claim they fear, with Putin looking to orient blame towards Ukrainian fighters. Approaching the heel of this week, rhetoric has been ramped up with Biden concretely suggesting that Russia will invade Ukraine. Johnson has also said that Putin is readying his troops for the largest European war since 1945.
This rhetoric has been met with disdain from groups including Stop the War coalition who have accused the British government of “talking up the threat of war continually, to the point where the Ukraine government has asked it to stop”. The UK government has been called upon to contribute towards a diplomatic settlement being pursued by other countries including France and Germany. Putin and Macron held an emergency phone call on the weekend in an attempt to de-escalate tensions. Putin blamed escalation on “Ukrainian provocations”, but added that it is still important to intensify efforts to find a diplomatic solution.
Mudslide in Brazil kills over 100 people
Mudslides in Petropolis, a city north of Rio de Janeiro, have caused the death of over 100 people. 200 remain missing and 400 remain without a shelter. The mudslide was induced by the most intense storm in a decade, which brought heavy rain and strong winds. Adverse weather conditions are also making the search for victims difficult for emergency services.
Climate scientists believe that the strength of the storm was likely caused by La Niña – the cyclical cooling of the Pacific Ocean – and by the effects of climate change. The region has recently seen a surge in such catastrophes, with torrential rains, floods and landslides killing at least 28 more people in southeastern Brazil in the last month.
State of emergency lifted in Ethiopia
On Tuesday 15th February, Ethiopia’s government voted to bring an early end to the 6-month long state of emergency imposed in November. This was instituted in the context of an enduring civil war between Tigrayan rebels and central government forces that has been ongoing since 2019. The state of emergency allowed the government to implement special measures, such as roadblocks, curfews, and military takeovers. This weeks revision has come as tensions seem to be in a period of detente and state security has strengthened.