Cape Town — Eleven African nations are highlighted in a major annual report on human rights as places where violations of citizens’ rights were accompanied by insurgencies, domestic conflict or inter-communal violence in 2019.
The nations named in the 2020 World Report of the New-York based rights group, Human Rights Watch, range from Nigeria in the west, through Central Africa and the Great Lakes region to Somalia in the east, and from Mozambique in the south to Libya in the north.
The fighting which the report describes ranges from long-running conflicts such as those in northern Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo to relatively new clashes such as the ethnically-based violence in Ethiopia and the insurgency in northern Mozambique.
Edited excerpts from the Human Rights Watch report, published in Johannesburg on Wednesday, follow.
The full report assesses progress on human rights issues in 90 countries, including 30 from Africa.
The countries covered below are, in sequence from the top: the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique and Libya.
Central African Republic
A Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation was signed between the government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups in Bangui in February. The deal was the sixth signed since the crisis started in late 2012 and represents the greatest effort by both international and national actors to include all relevant parties to date.
Despite the peace deal, armed groups committed serious human rights abuses against civilians country-wide in 2019, with more than 70 percent of the country remaining under their control. Fighting between predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, anti-balaka militias, and other armed groups forced thousands to flee their homes as fighters killed civilians and looted and burned properties. The most serious incident occurred on May 21, when fighters of rebel group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, killed 46 civilians in coordinated attacks in Ouham-Pendé province.
In January, fighting broke out between UN peacekeepers and fighters from the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), when UPC fighters killed two policemen in Bambari ahead of a visit by the country’s president. The fighting resulted in a UN attack on a large UPC base at Bokolobo, 60 kilometers south of Bambari, and left several people dead and wounded.
In April, UPC also attacked several villages between Kouango and Mobaye, in Ouaka and Basse-Kotto provinces, leading to the displacement of at least several thousand civilians. Clashes between UPC members and self-defense groups at Zangba, Basse-Kotto province, between April 17 and 23, left dozens dead.
On April 28, violence erupted in Amo village in Kemo province, when a local militia attacked members of the minority Peuhl community, killing seven people, including two children and forcing scores of civilians to flee the area. The attack was in response to a Peuhl attack on a local resident the same day.
The most serious incident since the signing of the peace agreement occurred on May 21 when fighters from the armed group 3R killed at least 46 civilians in three attacks in the villages of Bohong, Koundjili, and Lemouna, in Ouham Pendé province. The 3R commander, Gen. Sidiki Abass (also known as Bi Sidi Souley-Mane), was appointed military adviser to the prime minister in March by presidential decree, but resigned from the post in September. 3R also looted properties in Bohong.
Violence erupted in the capital Bangui in July, when clashes between traders and self-defense groups in PK5 neighborhood killed at least 11 civilians.
In some areas, there were reports of spontaneous voluntary returns of internally displaced persons; however, fighting and attacks by armed groups continued to force tens of thousands of people to flee their homes throughout 2019.
Fighting between the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC) and the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) in Birao in September caused the displacement of around 14,000 civilians.
The total number of internally displaced persons in the country, based on UN figures, reached over 600,000, and the total number of refugees was 600,000.
Conditions for internally displaced people and refugees, most of whom stay in camps, remained harsh, with little to no access to humanitarian assistance.
About 2.6 million people, out of a population of 4.6 million, needed humanitarian assistance, but the humanitarian response plan remained underfunded, with a budget gap of around US$206 million in September.
Armed groups and government forces committed widespread human rights abuses across Cameroon throughout 2019. Freedoms of expression, association, and assembly continued to be curtailed after President Paul Biya, 86, won his seventh term in October 2018, in elections marred by low voter turnout and allegations of fraud. The government denied a Human Rights Watch researcher entry to the country in April.
The Islamist armed group Boko Haram carried out over 100 attacks in the Far North region since January 2019 killing more than 100 civilians. The conflict between government forces and Boko Haram has killed thousands of Cameroonians and displaced over 270,000 since 2014, leading to the rise of self-defense vigilante groups.
In Anglophone regions, violence intensified as government forces conducted large-scale security operations and armed separatists carried out increasingly sophisticated attacks. Over 3,000 civilians and hundreds of security forces personnel have been killed in the Anglophone regions since 2016, when the crisis started.
The unrest in these regions led to the displacement of over half-a-million people. In August, 10 leaders of a separatist group, the Ambazonia Interim Government, were sentenced to life by a military court, following a trial that raised concerns of due process and violations of fair trial rights.
Government forces and armed separatists have killed, violently assaulted, or kidnapped people with disabilities as they struggled to flee attacks, or because they were left behind.
Cameroonian authorities cracked down on the political opposition, violently broke up peaceful protests, and arrested hundreds of opposition party leaders, members, and supporters.
Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have been engulfed in crisis since late 2016, when English-speaking lawyers, students, and teachers began protesting what they saw as their under-representation in, and cultural marginalization by, the central government.
The response of government security forces has included killing civilians, torching villages, and using torture and incommunicado detention. Armed separatists have also killed, tortured, and kidnapped dozens of civilians, including teachers, students, and government officials…
Responding to increasing attacks by armed separatist groups, security forces killed scores of people, burned hundreds of homes and other property in villages and cities across the North-West and South-West regions, and tortured suspected separatists in detention.
On February 6, security forces, including soldiers of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), stormed the market in Bole Bakundu village, South-West region, killing up to 10 men. On April 4, Cameroonian soldiers, gendarmes, and BIR members carried out a deadly attack on the North-West region village of Meluf, killing five civilian males, including one with a mental disability, and wounding one woman. The forces also forcibly entered at least 80 homes in Meluf, looted some, and burned down seven.
On May 15, Air Force and BIR soldiers attacked Mankon, Bamenda, North-West region, burning over 70 homes and killing a man. On July 10, Air Force soldiers went back to Mankon and killed two men. On September 24, BIR soldiers attacked a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Royal Palace in Bafut, shot and wounded one man, and looted the palace museum, taking several precious artifacts…
Armed separatist groups have killed, tortured, assaulted, and kidnapped dozens of people, including students, teachers, clergy, and administrative and traditional authorities.
On February 16, a group of armed separatists abducted 170 students, mostly girls under 18, a teacher, and two guards from a boarding school in Kumbo, North-West region. They were all released the following day amid rumors of ransoms being paid. The school remained closed at time of writing.
Human Rights Watch authenticated a video showing armed separatists in mid- May torturing a man in an abandoned school in Bali village, North-West region.
The school has been closed since mid-2017 due to violence and the separatists’ enforced boycott of education. Armed separatists have used schools as bases, deploying fighters and weapons and holding people hostage in and near them.
On June 18, separatists kidnapped at least 40 people, including women and children, beat and robbed them in Bafut, North-West region. They were released the following day.
Despite claims by federal authorities of increased security measures, an atmosphere of insecurity persisted across Nigeria in 2019. In May, President Muhammadu Buhari began his second four year term following general elections marred by political violence which killed at least 11 people.
The northeast Boko Haram conflict entered its tenth year, with renewed fighting between security forces and Boko Haram factions killing an estimated 640 civilians in 2019 alone.
An estimated 27,000 people, including 37 aid workers, have been killed since the onset of the conflict in 2009, according to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)…
Boko Haram killed at least 405 children and abducted at least 105 during 2018 and the group continued lethal attacks on civilians including suicide bombings and abductions. In January, at least 60 people were killed when Boko Haram fighters overran Rann, Borno state.
In February, just days before national elections, eight people were killed in a suicide bomb attack by suspected insurgents in Borno capital city, Maiduguri.
Kashim Shettim, then-governor of the state survived an attack that killed at least three people while on a campaign tour to Gamboru Ngala, near the Cameroon border. A similar attack in September on the new state governor, Babagana Umaru Zulim killed four in Konduga, near Maiduguri. In June, triple suicide bombings in the same town killed some 30 and injured another 40. In July, at least 65 people were killed after Boko Haram fighters opened fire on a group of men attending a funeral in Nganzai, Borno state.
In July, Boko Haram fighters killed one and abducted six staff of the international aid group, Action Against Hunger. One of the abducted workers remained missing at time of writing.
Boko Haram maintained control of some villages near Lake Chad, northern Borno State. The splinter faction of the group known as the Islamic West Africa Province (ISWAP) overran dozens of army bases, killing dozens of soldiers since January…
Clashes between herders and farming communities continued in the Middle Belt, while other parts of the country faced general insecurity, including banditry and kidnappings for ransom. In February, clashes and reprisal attacks between the Fulani and Adara communities in Kajuru, Kaduna state killed more than 130 people.
In July, the federal government buckled under the weight of heavy widespread criticism and suspended the Ruga Settlements program under which special grazing zones and settlements were established for herdsmen across the country. Critics cited, among other flaws, lack of consultation with communities in proposed grazing zones.
In Zamfara state, incessant banditry attacks and kidnappings persisted despite the deployment of military troops in 2018 to tackle insecurity in the state. According to credible media reports, over 200 people were killed in the state by suspected bandits in the first 100 days of 2019.
The Abuja-Kaduna highway, a major route out of Abuja to the northwest of the country became notorious for bandit attacks and kidnappings. The inspector general of police, Mohammed Adamu said in April that 1,071 people were killed in criminal attacks and 685 kidnapped across the country in the first quarter of 2019 alone.
Mali’s human rights situation deteriorated in 2019 as hundreds of civilians were killed in numerous incidents by ethnic self-defense groups, most for their perceived support of Islamist groups, and attacks by armed Islamists intensified in northern and central parts of the country. These groups, allied to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, targeted Malian security services, peacekeepers, international forces, and increasingly, civilians. Malian security forces subjected numerous suspects to severe mistreatment and several died in custody or were forcibly disappeared.
The worsening security situation in the country provoked a political crisis and led to delays in the constitutional review process and parliamentary elections. The peace process envisioned to end the 2012-2013 crisis in the north made scant progress, including on disarmament and the restoration of state authority.
Over 85,000 civilians fled their homes as a result of violence in 2019.
Humanitarian agencies were attacked, largely by bandits, undermining their ability to deliver aid. Rampant banditry continued to undermine livelihoods, and protests against the government over corruption continued.
Little progress was made toward providing justice for victims of abuses, and rule-of-law institutions remained weak. A new justice minister improved detention conditions and pledged to prioritize the fight against impunity. The military justice system made some progress in investigating dozens of past extrajudicial killings by their forces.
Atrocities against civilians and the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, garnered significant attention from Mali’s international partners, notably the United Nations, France, Germany, the European Union, and the United States.
These actors regularly denounced atrocities through public statements but were inconsistent in their calls for accountability.
During 2019, at least 400 civilians were killed in incidents of communal violence in central and northern Mali. The violence pitted ethnically aligned self-defense groups against mainly ethnic Peuhl or Fulani communities accused of supporting Islamist armed groups.
The most lethal attacks in central Mali were perpetrated by Dogon militiamen including the worst single atrocity in Mali’s recent history as at least 150 civilians were massacred on March 23 in Ogossagou village; a January 1 attack on Koulogon village killed 37 civilians, and June attacks in Bologo and Saran villages left over 20 dead. After the Ogossagou massacre, the government pledged but failed to disarm and dissolve the implicated militia. Peuhl militiamen were implicated in the June 9 massacre of 35 Dogon civilians in Sobane-da village.
Scores of farmers, herders and traders were killed by different ethnic militias in reprisal killings as they tended their fields or animals and went to market, pro- voking widespread displacement and a hunger crisis.
Attacks by armed Islamists allied to Al-Qaeda, and to a lesser extent the Islamist State affiliate in the Sahel, killed over 150 civilians, as well as scores of government forces and at least 16 United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peacekeepers, including the January 20 attack on the Aguelhok UN base that killed 11 Chadian peacekeepers.
Armed Islamists massacred numerous civilians, including in Menaka region and at least 38 in Yoro and Gangafani II villages near the Burkina Faso border. In several instances, they removed men from public transportation vehicles and killed them, including around the towns of Sévaré and Bandiagara.
Over 50 civilians were killed by improvised explosive devices planted on road- ways, especially in central Mali. On September 3, an explosion killed 14 bus pas- sengers near Dallah, and a June attack near Yoro killed 11. Armed Islamists planted explosives in the bodies of security force members, and in February a civilian’s body, which exploded during his burial, killing 17.
Armed Islamists continued to threaten, and sometimes kill local leaders deemed government collaborators and beat those engaged in cultural practices they had forbidden. They also imposed their version of Sharia (Islamic law) via courts that did not adhere to fair trial standards.
Since late 2018, numerous men detained by the security forces during counter-terrorism operations were subjected to enforced disappearance, five were allegedly executed or died in custody, and dozens more were subjected to severe mistreatment in detention. Numerous men accused of terrorism-related offenses were detained by the national intelligence agency in unauthorized detention facilities and without respect for due process.
Military investigations into the alleged extrajudicial killing of almost 50 suspects in Diourra, Boulikessi and Nantaka in 2018 progressed but at time of writing no soldier had been prosecuted.
Progress in the professionalization of the security forces was evident in the in- creased presence of military police responsible for ensuring discipline during military operations and increased patrols to protect civilians.
Ongoing armed conflict, insecurity, lack of state protection, and recurring humanitarian crises exposed Somali civilians to serious abuse.
There are an estimated 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs), many living unassisted and vulnerable to abuse.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) recorded a total of 1,1154 civilian casualties by mid-November. Sixty-seven percent of this figure is due to indiscriminate and targeted attacks, the majority improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attacks, by the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab.
Inter-clan and intra-security force violence, often over control of land and revenge killings, led to civilian deaths, injuries, and displacement, as did sporadic military operations, including airstrikes, against Al-Shabab by Somali government forces, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, and other foreign forces.
Somali government forces responded to a handful of largely peaceful demonstrations with lethal force. In May, security forces killed at least one child as students peacefully protested in Beletweyn, following a government decision to postpone exams.
In December 2018, during the run-up to regional presidential elections in Baidoa, Ethiopian forces arrested Mukhtar Robow, a former Al-Shabab leader who ran for the regional presidency, sparking protests. Security forces, notably police forces, responded with lethal force, killing at least 15 protesters and injuring many others between December 13 and 15, according to the UN. Amnesty International documented the killing of a member of parliament and a child on December 14. Dozens were arbitrarily arrested, reportedly including children.
Dozens of government and security officials as well as former electoral delegates and clan elders who had been involved in the 2016 electoral process, were assassinated; Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for some of the killings.
Al-Shabab executed after unfair trials individuals it accused of working or spying for the government and foreign forces, with media reporting an uptick in execu- tions mid-year; and extorted “taxes” through threats.
Al-Shabab conducted targeted and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombings, and shelling, as well as assassinations, particularly in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle, which resulted in over 750 civilian deaths and injuries, accord- ing to the UN.
All Somali parties to the conflict committed serious abuses against children, including killings, maiming, and the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
In 2018, the UN documented more cases of children recruited and used as soldiers in Somalia than in any other country in the world. This trend continued in 2019 as Al-Shabab pursued an aggressive child recruitment campaign with retaliation against communities refusing to hand over children.
Internally displaced women and girls remain at particular risk of sexual and gen- der-based violence by armed men and civilians.
The UN documented over 100 incidents of sexual violence against girls. The cases of two girls who were gang raped by civilians and died received significant public attention. Aisha Ilyas Adan, 12, went missing on February 24, and her body was discovered the next day near her home in North Galkayo, Puntland.
Human rights reforms implemented by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during his first year in office were threatened in 2019 by communal, including ethnic, conflict and breakdowns in law and order.
The June 22 assassinations of several high-level government officials, which the government linked to an alleged coup attempt in the Amhara region–as well as political unrest and communal violence in the capital, Addis Ababa, and Oromia following an incident with a popular Oromo activist and media owner, Jawar Mohammed–highlighted increasing tensions ahead of Ethiopia’s scheduled 2020 national elections….
Longstanding grievances over access to land and complex questions of identity and demarcation of internal borders on occasion led to abuses, including open conflict between ethnic groups, killings, and large-scale internal displacement.
The number of people internally displaced by conflict remained high; according to the International Organization for Migration, 1.6 million people were internally displaced as of July, 66.4 percent due to conflict. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that ethnic clashes in Oromia, Amhara, Somali, and SNNPR regions led to 522,000 new displacements in the first half of 2019.
Between March and May, the government returned approximately 1.5 million internally displaced people to their home areas, many still unsafe, including by restricting delivery of humanitarian assistance and demolishing camps in areas of displacement. Those that returned often faced secondary displacement due to ongoing insecurity and a lack of humanitarian assistance in areas of return.
Democratic Republic of Congo
More than 130 armed groups were active in eastern Congo’s North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, attacking civilians. The groups included the largely Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and allied Congolese Nyatura groups, the largely Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renové (NDC-R), the Mazembe and Yakatumba Mai Mai groups, and several Burundian armed groups. Many of their commanders have been implicated in war crimes, including ethnic massacres, rape, forced recruitment of children, and pillage.
According to the Kivu Security Tracker, which documents violence in eastern Congo, assailants, including state security forces, killed at least 720 civilians and abducted or kidnapped for ransom more than 1,275 others in North Kivu and South Kivu in 2019. Beni territory, North Kivu province, remained an epicenter of violence, with about 253 civilians killed in more than 100 attacks by various armed groups, including the ADF. At least 257 civilians were kidnapped in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, often by armed groups.
The Fizi and Uvira highlands in South Kivu saw fighting between the mainly ethnic Banyamulenge Ngumino armed group and allied self-defense groups, and Mai Mai groups, comprising fighters from the Bafuliro, Banyindu, and Babembe communities, with civilians often caught in the middle. Clashes between armed groups in the South Kivu highlands surged in February, displacing an estimated 200,000 people over the following months.
In early June, violence resurfaced in parts of northeastern Congo’s Ituri province, where armed assailants launched deadly attacks on villages, killing over 200 civilians and displacing an estimated 300,000 people. At least 28 displaced people were killed in Ituri in September.
Following months of protests, Sudan’s president for 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted in April and replaced by a military council. Following negotiations between the military leaders and opposition groups, a transitional government led by a “sovereign council” composed of military and civilian members replaced the military council in August.
The periods of protests both before and after al-Bashir’s ouster was marked by serious human rights violations against protesters, starting December 2018.
Government security forces routinely used live ammunition against unarmed protesters, detained activists and political opponents, censored media and blocked access to the internet. After April 11, Rapid Support Forces (RSF)–the paramilitary force known for attacks on civilians in Darfur since 2013–continued the crackdowns. The bloodiest was their attack on the protesters’ sit-in in Khartoum on June 3.
Conflicts in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile continued at low levels, and restrictions on humanitarian aid access persisted. In Darfur, government forces attacked villages in Jebel Mara. The African Union/United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) temporarily halted withdrawal plans in June, in view of national political changes and news that the RSF occupied bases the mission handed over to the government. In May, the ruling military council issued a decree stating that all UNAMID bases be handed over to the RSF, in contravention of United Nations rules and procedures.
Sudanese took to the streets in towns across the country in December to protest price hikes and demanded President Omar al-Bashir step down. Government security forces responded with lethal violence, shooting live ammunition at unarmed protesters, beating and arresting hundreds and killing scores of people between December and April. Security forces chased protesters into hospitals and shot tear gas into operating rooms, impeding the provision of medical care to wounded protesters. At least one doctor was killed and several others arrested for providing medical services…
On June 3, government forces led by the RSF shot live bullets at protesters, beat them with sticks and batons, rounded up hundreds and subjected them to various forms of humiliation, including beating, rape and sexual assaults. They also attacked hospitals and clinics and prevented wounded protesters from receiving needed medical help. An estimated 120 were killed and hundreds wounded; some bodies were dumped into the river Nile and an unknown number of people were reported missing…
On June 30, the anniversary of al-Bashir’s assumption of power, RSF soldiers opened fire on protesters calling for justice for June 3 victims, as they crossed a bridge linking Khartoum and Omdurman, killing eight. Another three bodies were found the next day in Omdurman covered with banners used in protests, with blood stains on their bodies and a megaphone near where the bodies were found. The father of one victim said he believed his son died from torture.
On July 29, RSF soldiers shot at high school students in al-Obeid, North Kordofan protesting price hikes and poor transportation services killing five of them, ac- cording to media reports. On August 1, RSF soldiers reportedly killed four more protesters in Omdurman.
In 2019, fighting between the two main warring parties declined following the signing of the “revitalized” peace agreement in September 2018. However, amid delays implementing the peace deal, sporadic fighting continued between the army and rebel groups that were not part of the agreement.
Armed actors committed serious abuses including indiscriminate attacks against civilians including aid workers, unlawful killings, beatings, arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence, looting and destruction of property. Some of the abuses may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. All sides restricted access to United Nations, ceasefire monitors, and aid workers.
Since the conflict started in December 2013, more than 4 million people have fled their homes, with 2.1 million taking refuge in neighboring countries. Close to 200,000 people are living in six UN “protection of civilians” sites across the country. Seven million people require humanitarian assistance, most of whom faced acute food shortages.
Sporadic fighting continued in parts of central and eastern Equatoria between the government’s army, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in- Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) under Dr. Machar and non-signatories to the September 2018 peace agreement, notably the National Salvation Front, NAS.
During counter-insurgency operations in Yei River state in December and January 2019, government forces attacked villages, killed, raped, and destroyed and looted property. NAS soldiers were also responsible for unlawful attacks on aid workers and civilians and restricted the movement of the general populace.
The UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) documented at least 104 civilian killings, 187 abductions, and 35 others wounded in the 30 attacks between September 2018 and April in Central Equatoria by various armed groups.
People with disabilities and older people were at heightened risk during attacks and faced challenges accessing humanitarian assistance. The 2019 Security Council, in a resolution renewing UNMISS’ mandate, expressed for the first time “serious concern about the dire situation of persons with disabilities in South Sudan,” including abandonment, violence, and lack of access to basic services…
Government forces and rebel groups continued to forcibly recruit children. The UN secretary-general’s 2019 report on children in armed conflict documented how 25 children in 2018 were forced into armed groups, with 7 killed or maimed and 7 raped. Meanwhile authorities released over 950 children from an armed group in Yambio between February 2018 and August 2018. In February 2019, 119 children were released from an armed group.
In August, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and the leader of the country’s main opposition party Renamo, Ossufo Momade, signed a new peace agreement pledging to end years of violence and pave the way for elections in October. A month later, the country received Pope Francis, whose presence was aimed at strengthening the peace agreement. Despite the deal, the election campaign was marred by political violence targeting mainly opposition supporters.
During 2019, the spate of attacks by a suspected Islamist armed group increased in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Soldiers deployed to the region to fight the armed groups were implicated in acts of intimidation, arbitrarily arrests, and ill-treatment of detainees. Journalists and activists continued to face intimidation and harassment, and there has been lack of accountability for past crimes.
The country’s sixth general election was marred by violence and politically moti- vated attacks. In October, an election observer, Anastancio Matavele was shot dead in broad daylight allegedly by five members of the police elite force. The in- cident happened a week before election day, in Gaza province, where Human Rights Watch had documented serious abuses and incidents of violence since the start of the election campaign on August 31, including violations of the right to peaceful assembly and arbitrary arrests of opposition candidates.
In its assessment of the election, the Electoral Commission expressed concern over “growing cases of destruction of propaganda material, violation of freedom of assembly and physical attacks,” and that in two weeks of campaigning, 14 people died and 29 people were detained.
Also, vehicles moving around in Manica and Sofala provinces, near Gorongosa, were attacked on different occasions by armed men believed to be part of a dis- sident group of Renamo guerrillas who rejected the August peace agreement.
The leader of the group claimed responsibility for two of the attacks, and threat- ened to continue if the election campaign was not suspended.
Attacks by a suspected Islamist armed group, locally known as both Al-Sunna wa Jama’a and Al-Shabab, continued in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, with armed groups changing their tactics. In addition to beheading people and burn- ing houses, the group became implicated in kidnapping of women, as well as at- tacks on public transport and killing of military personnel.
The extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for at least two of the attacks; how- ever, the extent of ISIS involvement, if any, is unclear. The attacks began in Octo- ber 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia district, then spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade. The violence also affected the electoral process, with government im- posing restrictions to campaign parades in northern Cabo Delgado.
Governance in Libya remained divided between two feuding entities: the internationally recognized and Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA); and their rivals in eastern Libya, the Interim Government, which is supported by the Libyan House of Representatives (HOR) and by the armed group known as the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Intermittent armed conflicts in most parts of the country since the end of the 2011 revolution that ousted Moammar Gaddafi have displaced more than 300,000 civilians.
Armed groups based in the west of the country and linked with the GNA fought off attempts by Gen. Khalifa Hiftar, the LNA commander, and his allies in the west, to capture the capital Tripoli, beginning in April and continuing at time of writing. The violence, which included attacks on civilian homes and infrastruc- ture, killed more than 200 civilians as of early November.
Armed groups, some of them affiliated with the GNA or the Interim Government, carried out extrajudicial executions and abducted, tortured, and disappeared people.
Clashes among armed groups in western Libya in January, Hiftar’s assault on Tripoli in April, and intermittent fighting in the south deepened the political impasse and derailed the United Nations-brokered political process. Talks between the main conflict parties, Khalifa Hiftar, and Fayez Serraj, GNA prime minister, collapsed when Hiftar launched his offensive on Tripoli on April 4.
General Hiftar launched his attack to conquer Tripoli on April 4, supported by LNA units and armed groups, including the al-Kani militia from Tarhouna, his main ally in the west, against the GNA and affiliated armed groups from western Libya. As of November, the fighting, which is concentrated in the southern suburbs of Tripoli, had killed over 200 civilians, injured over 300, and displaced over 120,000. According to the United Nations Children’ Fund, as of June, 21 schools were being used as shelters for displaced persons in and around Tripoli.
The violence had led to the suspension of school for 122,088 children.
In July, an airstrike by the LNA on Tajoura Migrant Detention Centre east of Tripoli, resulted in the deaths of at least 44 migrants and more than 130 injured after two missiles landed in a hangar filled with detainees. The LNA initially claimed it had been targeting a weapons depot belonging to a Tripoli-based militia within the same compound as the migrant prison, but later denied involvement.
Since the start of the fighting, the GNA failed to evacuate detention centers under its authority that are in proximity to the front lines and allegedly in proximity to where weapons were stocked, including Tajoura…
The LNA, or forces that support them, conducted air strikes in October that resulted in civilian casualties that appeared to be unlawful. On October 6, the LNA struck an equestrian club in Tripoli, injuring six children and killing several horses. The UN’s investigation found there were no military assets or military infrastructure at the site. On October 14, an LNA airstrike apparently targeting a military compound killed three girls and wounded their mother and another sister in their home. According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the fighting killed seven children within a span of two weeks in October.
As of July, the World Health Organization reported a total of 37 attacks on medical facilities during the Tripoli clashes, which killed 11 health workers and injured 33 health workers and patients.
The LNA struck Mitiga airport, currently the only functioning airport in Tripoli, on multiple occasions since the beginning of the war, claiming the airport was being used by the GNA-linked groups to import weapons. On September 1, an LNA aerial attack on Mitiga resulted in the injury of two crew members of a commercial airline. As of November, Mitiga was still shut and all flights were diverted to Misrata airport, 200 kilometers to the east.
In eastern Libya, the LNA in February took control of Derna, a city it had besieged for three years purportedly to drive out militants who were controlling the city.
Residents reported that LNA-linked groups arbitrary detained and ill-treated residents and deliberately damaged homes, including by arson. According to local authorities who fled Derna after the LNA takeover, hundreds of Derna residents remained displaced, fearing reprisals if they returned.
On July 17, a member of the House of Representatives, Seham Sergewa, was abducted from her home in the eastern city of Benghazi and disappeared.
Relatives and Benghazi residents with knowledge of the incident blamed an armed group with links to the LNA. Her husband was shot and injured during the incident and the family home looted and torched, according to relatives. Sergewa had publicly opposed the military assault by the LNA on the capital. At time of writing, there was no information on her whereabouts.
Three UN staff members were killed and two more injured on August 10, after a car exploded next to their convoy in Benghazi. As of November, the perpetrators remained unidentified.
In the south, clashes between LNA and a GNA-affiliated armed group known as the South Protection Force centered in Murzuq escalated in August, killing more than 100 people. On August 4 alone, more than 40 people were killed, including civilians, and more than 50 injured after the LNA reportedly conducted several airstrikes on a residential area in Murzuq. The LNA is trying to expel GNA-affiliates to expand its control in the south.
While the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) no longer controls territory in Libya, its fighters carried out attacks in the eastern city of Derna and the south- ern city of Sebha, mostly against LNA fighters.
In September, the United States military said it conducted airstrikes on four different days within 10 days against ISIS targets in southern Libya, killing a total of 43 alleged militants. These strikes, the first conducted by the US military in 2019, were carried out by drones. The US said no civilians were killed in the strikes; this information could not be independently verified.