A Look at Africa and its Wars: 12.04.06
Africa is home to several long-standing wars and conflicts, some of which have smoldered on for years, and now threaten to erupt into larger regional conflicts. Of particular concern is the arc of countries from Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) in north-central Africa through Sudan to the Horn of Africa nations of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. As with many of the world’s conflicts in the early years of the 21st Century, the long shadow of the Global War on Terror reaches into this bloody corner of this lost continent.
In the Sudan, warfare returned to the largely Black, Christian south for the first time since a peace agreement was implemented in 2005. The fighting took place between the former rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and a northern (meaning Arab Muslim) militia led by Major Gen Gabriel Tang. After the SPLA trounced the militia, Tang’s men took refuge in a Sudanese Army base at the Nile River port of Malakal. The following day, the Sudanese Army returned with heavy weapons (tanks and artillery), and retook the town, inflicting severe damage. Several hundred soldiers and civilians perished in the fighting.
With the ongoing war in Darfur, Sudan does not need a resurgence of the southern war.
'Hundreds killed' in Sudan battle—BBC, Nov. 30, 2006
And speaking of Darfur, the fighting there continues, as the Darfurian rebels attack the Sudanese Army and launch raids on the country’s oil supply. This war has already taken an estimated 400,000 lives. The UN seems helpless to act with any resolve; meanwhile Chad is increasing its aid to the Darfurians, even as Sudan aids Chadian rebels while setting the murderous Janjaweed militia upon refugee camps and towns on the Chad side of the desert border.
Sudan army suffers Darfur defeats—BBC, Oct. 17, 2006
On the positive side, the Sudan government and the Eastern Front rebel group (made up of rebels from the Beja and Rashidiya Arab groups) work to implement a new peace agreement signed in October. This agreement ended 12 years of rebellion in the Red Sea states near the border with Eritrea. Sudan accused Eritrea of aiding these rebel groups.
Sudan’s Interlocking Wars—BBC, May 10, 2006
Central African Republic:
The war in the Central African Republic (CAR), which began in 2003, grew to new levels this month, with increased rebel attacks and victories, which in turn prompted overt French military intervention. The CAR and Chad both blame Sudan for aiding rebels against their governments.
Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia:
Muslim Eritrea and mostly Christian Ethiopia are still facing off over their disputed border, over which they fought a very bloody and not very conclusive war (1998-2000). Rumors and preparations for renewed war deflect both nations from addressing their real issues of poverty and economic problems. They also appear to be waging a proxy war in Somalia, where Eritrea is believed to aid the United Islamic Courts (UIC) against the Baidoa government, which is supported by Ethiopia. The situation in Somalia remains tense and quite anarchic, as the Ethiopian government engages in direct talks with the UIC.
The Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia) and the North-Central region of Africa (Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan), are locked in bloody, interconnected wars which could easily escalate into a regional war to rival that Great Lakes War (Centered on the Congo, this war involved Chad, the CAR, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, and claimed several million lives). If Sudan is indeed aiding the rebels in Chad and the CAR, France may be drawn further into the looming Sudan-Chad/CAR conflict. If the Sudanese government continues to suffer major losses in Darfur, and/or its oil industry, (which provides the money for the military as well as money to help implement the peace deals in the South and East), the SPLA and the Eastern Front rebels may be encouraged to take up arms in a major rebellion. Add to this scenario the possibility that Ethiopia could be dragged further into the Somalia Civil War. This could tempt Eritrea to more aggressively aid the United Islamic Courts (UIC), prompting an Ethiopian military response along the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. Given the strong belief in Washington and other Western capitals that al-Qaida has found new bases and new support in the parts of Somalia controlled by the UIC, and the implied American support for Ethiopia’s involvement, things could become very interesting, very soon.