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Fighting terrorism in Africa at the expense of human rights violations

The fight against the growing terrorism that affects countries in Africa, such as Mozambique, is resulting in human rights violations, namely by the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, denounced the interim director general of the organization Human Rights Watch, Tirana Hassan.

While acknowledging the terrorism that “has plagued certain countries in Africa”, such as Mozambique and the Sahel region, the official stressed that violence is not limited to insurgent groups, and that the organization has recorded human rights violations in operations to combat terrorism.

Hassan warned of “gross violations of human rights, including killings of insurgents and deaths of civilians, mass and arbitrary arrests, all under the guise of counterterrorism”.

“We have seen it in Mali, for example, where the Wagner Group entered as a private militia to play a role in counterterrorism operations,” she said, in an interview with the Lusa agency, arguing that abuses “need to be curbed immediately throughout the continent”.

According to Human Rights Watch’s annual report, published today, Malian soldiers and allied foreign security forces are responsible for hundreds of unlawful killings of suspects and civilians, mainly during counterterrorism operations in the Mopti and Ségou regions.

“In March, Malian and allied security forces allegedly summarily executed more than 300 men in custody, including suspected Islamist fighters, in Moura, in central Mali,” he described, referring to other incidents involving the death of more than a hundred men and the rape of women.

The Russian private military company Wagner, owned by an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has a presence in several African countries, including the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mali and Burkina Faso.

The group was sanctioned in 2021 by the European Union and the United Kingdom for fomenting violence, looting natural resources and intimidating civilians, resorting to “torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions”, in countries where it is present, such as Libya, Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.

The Russian mercenaries were recruited by African leaders to relieve France’s Barkhane operation, which pulled out of Africa in November after nine years of fighting Islamic fundamentalist groups linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State group.

These groups are responsible for attacks in several countries in the Sahel region, North Africa, and are gradually expanding their activities to the Gulf of Guinea.

For five years now, armed insurgents have also been active in northern Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado province, where some attacks have been claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.

The insurgency has already made at least one million people displaced and around 4,000 dead, which has led to a military response since July 2021 with support from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

On Tuesday, the Armed Forces of South Africa announced the opening of an investigation into the alleged involvement of soldiers from the SADC regional military force in Mozambique (SAMIM) in a video that shows troops burning bodies in that territory.

The video, released on social media, shows soldiers allegedly from the South African army and other unknown elements throwing corpses into a burning pile of rubble, according to military authorities in Pretoria.

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