Soldiers killed seven youths over the last few days. The incident occurred in Vavoua, some 450 kilometers away from Abidjan. As a young man tried to avoid a roadblock of the national army — which many Ivorians accuse of leveraging illegal taxes and tolls at such roadblocks — he was chased by soldiers and beaten to death. The next day, some hundred local youths marched towards an army camp, armed with clubs and rifles. In what authorities described as “losing control,” some of the soldiers started shooting and killed six further young men.
Roadblocks and illegal taxing has been a problem in Côte d’Ivoire for years now, as the split between a rebel-controlled north and a government-dominated south has limited the capacity of authorities to effectively police the behaviour of the security forces. It will be interesting to observe if president Ouattara will be able to wrest these long-held benefits from them, after he has leaned heavily on former rebel forces to oust rival Laurent Gbagbo.
As fuel prices skyrocketed after a cut in subsidies, Lagos and other cities were hit by huge protests. At least one protester died after being shot by police, but in most cases the marches remained peaceful. The price of petrol more than doubled at the pump after the government phased out a $8-billion subsidy at the beginning of this year. Despite being one of the world’s largest crude oil producers for many years now, Nigeria still has to import refined petroleum products, as it only has very limited refining capacities inside the country.
Meanwhile, the north of the country saw some of the worst violence ever over Christmas, when the terror group Boko Haram bombed churches and attacked security forces, leaving scores of people dead. President Goodluck Jonathan reacted by declaring an indefinite state of emergency in the northern states, while several Christian groups threatened to retaliate against future attacks. Despite heavy-handed efforts of the security services over the last few years, Boko Haram has been able to constantly launch more sophisticated attacks. While a new security doctrine now came into effect, which “puts security of Nigerians first,” it can be doubted that the authorities will be able to reduce the threat posed by religious extremism if they do not tackle the underlying grievances of the mostly young men who sympathize and fight for Boko Haram.
The European Commission has asked its military planning committee to draw up plans to include military action on land against Somali pirates. Currently, the European navy mission ATALANTA is carrying out patrol duties and operations against suspected pirate vessels in front of the Somali coast, together with the navies of a handful of other countries. So far, these efforts have been met with relatively little success, while costing around €8 million per year. It remains unclear though, how military interventions on Somali soil against assets and infrastructure used by pirates would look like. Such interventions would likely expose European military personnel to a far greater risk than current operations and would also include the danger of harming civilians and their property in a country which has been ravaged by civil war for more than 20 years now.
Interethnic strife has griped parts of South Sudan, where armed Luo Nuer militias attacked refugees of the Murle ethnic group and killed possibly hundreds of people, before the national army and U.N. peacekeepers were able to evacuate the civilians. The clashes come after a long-running dispute between the two groups who accuse each other of conducting cattle raids. While this is only the latest incidence in a long chain of violent events in South Sudan — some also involving its northern neighbour and namesake — it further showcases the limited capacity of the young nation to provide security for its people.