Monitor February 2024

Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA) is a non-partisan civil society organisation that provides continental leadership in matters pertaining to the prevention of mass atrocities within Africa. Our strategies and approaches are grounded in the realisation that atrocities can be prevented through various interventions, including, but not limited to, early warning mechanisms, diplomatic efforts, use of social media and new technologies, litigation, and advocacy campaigns.

This newsletter builds on our team’s continuous monitoring of the region to identify deteriorating situations where atrocities may be committed and track ongoing situations of atrocities to detect increasing tendencies or opportunities for improvement.

This month’s newsletter covers:

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ethiopia
  • Nigeria
  • Sudan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The security situation in eastern Congo has deteriorated significantly. In the east, heavy clashes with M23 were reported in the last week of January and in February, the group detonated explosives in Sake. Sake is less than 30 km from Goma and is considered the “last line of defence” before reaching the regional capital. At least 100,000 people have been newly displaced and healthcare centres in the safe areas were overwhelmed with many wounded and others seeking protection from the fighting. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) conducted attacks near Beni as well as in Ituri province. At least 97,000 new displacements were recorded in Ituri during December.

Violence has also been expanding in the country’s west. January marked the fourth consecutive month of increasing violence between the Teke and Yaka communities. The Mobondo militia, which claims to represent the Yaka community, has been increasingly overtaking territory in Kwamouth and Bandandu since 2023. The conflict began mid-2022 when the Teke customary chiefs informed the Yaka population of a tax increase which reignited old grievances, soon Yaka farmers began inciting others to refuse the payment of taxes and Taka villagers were forced to flee their homes. At least 160,000 civilians have fled their homes since the fighting began. The Congolese military launched a pacification operation in 2023 against the Mobondo militia and on 7 January 2024 they closed off the primary road connecting the province to Kinshasa. Amidst the alarming situation in the east, the escalating violence in the Kwamouth has received little attention from the international community. However, the UN group of experts on the DRC has confirmed that hundreds of civilians have died on both sides, and hundreds of villages, schools and medical facilities have been destroyed. This is a worrying indication that violence may further increase across the country.

General elections took place in December 2023. The weeks prior to the election were highly chaotic, ACLED reported a 54% increase in violence targeting civilians during the month of December when compared to November. The electoral process was marred by allegations of fraud and logistical setbacks. A local observer mission reported at least 5,402 incidents at polling stations and voting extended well past the anticipated end on 20 December and in some places up to 27 December. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) is not seen as a credible institution, and the widespread irregularities made it difficult to validate the institution’s results.

Tshisekedi was declared the winner with over 70% of the votes in an election with 40% of voter turnout. The runner-up Moise Katumbi, who received only 18% of votes, and other opposition politicians, rejected the results and called for a re-run. Protests took place throughout the country as opposition challenged the results, some turned violent. At least 34 people were killed and 59 wounded in election related protests, according to the United Nations.

International Response:

International response to the security situation has shifted with deployment of a new peacekeeping force in DRC. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) was deployed on 15 December 2023 to support the DRC government in fighting groups operating in the east. SAMIDRC is expected to take a more active stand and in cooperation with the Congolese army to neutralise the main rebel groups, than the previous United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) which sought to maintain some positioning as neutral, or at least independent, arbiters.

MONUSCO and EACRF are on their way out. The UN Security Council approved withdrawing MONUSCO forces in December after over two decades of UN peacekeeping in the country. The UN peacekeeping force currently has over 13,000 troops in the country and the withdrawal is expected to be finalised before the end of 2024, with the first 2,000 troops expected to leave by May.

The EACRF completed its withdrawal by the end of 2023. The force experienced tensions with its host country from the start in part related to the force’s mandate. The mission made limited progress in controlling armed forces in eastern Congo and faced distrust from the local population sceptical as a result of a long history of foreign meddling in the resource-rich east. Civilians have been protesting the failure of both peacekeeping operations to protect them from violence and rebel attacks. Over 40 people were killed in an anti-UN demonstration in September 2023.

Although the EACRF is leaving, troops from one of its members, Burundi, will remain. Burundi’s interest is in part related to the presence of Burundian Red-Tabara. This presence, which Burundi claims is supported by the government of Rwanda, may serve as a justification for increased Burundian military presence in DRC following the EAC withdrawal.


Ethiopia has been grappling with a precarious internal state of affairs and strained regional relations. In January, Ethiopia grew increasingly at odds with its neighbours. After creating concern across the region with comments about its need to access the sea, Ethiopia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Somaliland on January 1 to enable access to the sea through Somaliland’s ports. Ethiopia, being a landlocked country, claims that access to the sea is essential for its development. The agreement gave Ethiopia access to 21kms of sea coast in exchange for military support to Somaliland. This move is seen as illegal by the government of Somalia, which has failed to recognize Somaliland’s 1991 declaration of independence. Neither the United Nations nor any other international organisation formally recognises Somaliland, although it exercises de facto control over its own territory. Thus, the MOU has sparked conflict with Somalia, which has threatened to go to war in order to stop Ethiopia from recognising Somaliland and moving forward with the MoU. Such a conflict would exacerbate the state of insecurity in the region. Somalia has grappled with Al-Shabaab militia, in a war against terrorism that involved Kenya with support from the United States, who claimed that Ethiopia’s recognition of Somaliland poses a threat to counter terrorism efforts.

These recent developments reignited longstanding tensions between the Ethiopian and Somali nations. These also build on regional disputes with countries downstream on the Nile, such as Egypt and Sudan, over the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD), an infrastructure project that has created worries about the future of the regional water supply. Despite four rounds of talks in the second half of 2023, Egypt withdrew in December citing a lack of technical and legal compromise.

A Somalia-Ethiopia conflict could exacerbate dire human rights abuses in both countries. Ethiopia’s ambition to be a regional political and economic hegemon is pursued to the detriment of its people. Somalia and Ethiopia share a border and both are members of both IGAD and the AU which may limit their ability to mediate. The question of legality and legitimacy will be at the centre of the battle. It is also seen as a move to garner support from countries like Russia and China that he has been courting in the recent past.

The state of human rights in the country and region.

On an internal level, numerous unresolved conflicts persist, on 29 January one of the deadliest episodes in the Amhara conflict between Fano militia group and the Federal Government took place when after hours of fighting ENDF troops killed around 50 civilians in Merawi. Fighting between Fano and the Ethiopian Government began in April 2023, right on the heels of the Tigray conflict, which formally ended in November 2022 after the signing of the an accord between TPLF and the Ethiopian Federal Government. The Cessation of Hostilities agreement brought an end to full scale fighting and lifted the year-long blockade on Tigray. However, the implementation has been slow,      in January 2024, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Tigray region protested throughout Tigray requesting to be able to return to their homes and the implementation of the Peace agreement.      Terrible abuses against Tigrayans persist, especially in western Tigray. Ethiopia has also had to grapple with the involvement of Eritrea and its troops committing large-scale atrocities.

Ethiopia’s ongoing internal conflicts continue to create a hostile environment for human rights defenders (HRD), internally displaced persons and civilians, a      February 2024 report by the Ethiopia Human Rights Defenders Centre (EHRDC) shows an alarming increase of attacks against HRD in 2023 with at least 50 people targeted and the use of the state of emergency of August 2023 as a tool to arbitrarily detain dozens.

International Response:

IGAD leaders held talks during the 42nd Extraordinary Assembly of IGAD Heads of State in Uganda on January 18 calling for de-escalation of tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia. The heads of state called for constructive dialogue and termed the situation deeply concerning. Somalia rejected discussions with Ethiopia to try and defuse the growing diplomatic crisis.  On 29 January 2024, upon the request of Somalia the UN Security Council members convened for closed consultations to consider the situation between Ethiopia and Somalia under the topic “Peace and security in Africa”.


Nigeria has a longstanding history of insecurity, and despite each administration prioritising this issue, there seems to be little tangible improvement. During the Christmas holiday, at least 140 Nigerian Christians lost their lives in attacks on 26 villages in Plateau State, with some local news sources indicating nearly 200 casualties. The assaults were reportedly led by suspected extremists among Fulani Muslim herders targeting Christian farming communities. The Christmas attack was the deadliest attack that took place in Plateau State since 2018. However, inter communal violence has continued, armed men entered villages indiscriminately shooting at people killing at least 30, including women and children, and set houses on fire in Mangu and Barkin Ladi local government areas (Plateau State) on 23-24 January. Clashes between Fulani herdsmen and Christians over resource, especially land, allocation have increased due to growing desertification in the north, a product of climate change.

According to coalition reports, since the start of President Tinubu’s administration on May 29, 2023 at least 2,423 people have lost their lives in mass atrocity incidents, and 1,872 individuals have been abducted. However, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu argues that the insecurity challenge is not a failure of the security forces to protect but rather a lack of a legitimate government. He asserted that the prevailing insecurities result from collusion between certain senior politicians and armed groups. Emphasizing that Nigeria has not had a legitimate government since 2007, he pointed out that lack of legitimacy erodes trust in the administration and makes it harder to mobilize security responses.

A coalition of 48 civil society organisations called on President Tinubu to safeguard the lives of civilians and urged the Nigerian federal government to declare a state of emergency in response to the kidnapping, terrorism, and other security issues afflicting the nation. The coalition expressed alarm about the increase in abductions, highlighting that within the first two weeks of January 2024, there were at least 230 incidents, many involving multiple victims.

In one example, on 2 January 2024, on the outskirts of Abuja, the capital city, a father and his six daughters were abducted, sparking an unusual public outcry. A crowdfunding campaign to secure their release, supported by a former minister, took an unfortunate turn when the kidnappers not only killed one of the girls but also demanded additional funds. Tinubu’s wife publicly expressed sorrow over the “devastating loss.” In a recent incident in the southeast, 45 people were kidnapped and remain missing, yet only a few leaders have even addressed the issue, evidence of an inadequate political response. President Tinubu’s security plan continues to raise concerns as it closely resembles that of his predecessor. 

In Borno state, in the northeast, one of the most perilous regions in the country, a gun battle between suspected Islamist insurgents and the police resulted in the death of at least four officers, according to a police spokesperson.  Islamist insurgency is one of the many security challenges affecting security across the country. Boko Haram and its splinter group, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), have been conducting an insurgency in the northeastern region for over a decade.

A Reuters report shed light on the pattern of lethal aerial assaults by the Nigerian military. Over 2,600 people have been killed in airstrikes outside the country’s northeastern conflict zone, in operations addressing other security concerns.

International Responses:

On 17 January 2024, senior U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland held discussions with Nigerian National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu on promoting accountability and transparency in investigating and responding to security operations in Nigeria. They also agreed on the importance of protecting civilians, safeguarding human rights, and promoting accountability and transparency following security operations.


In the past few months, Sudan experienced a significant shift in the previously somewhat stable front lines. Towards the end of 2023, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) launched offensives in previously calm territories, gaining control of almost all of Darfur and parts of Khartoum and El Gezira State, pushing the frontline south by about 150 km with the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) experiencing a number of defeats, including the devastating loss of Wad Medani, capital of Gezira State and home to large numbers of displaced persons from Khartoum.

Civilians and humanitarian workers continue to suffer, RSF and their allied militia conducted ethnically motivated killings in West Darfur, and assaulted and unlawfully detained  Massalit civilians in El Geneina, in November 2023. There were reportedly over 700 fatalities in December throughout the country, with Khartoum and El Gezira bearing the brunt of it. RSF’s territorial gains sparked fresh fears for civilians who were reportedly trapped in the newly captured areas. The capture of Wad Madani put civilians, including almost three million children, further at risk as the city served as a hub for humanitarian operations, and forced IDPs to once again flee in search of safety. RSF’s swift takeover of Wad Madani sent shock waves throughout the country,casting doubt on the capacity of SAF. However, at the end of January, fierce clashes were reported in Khartoum Bahri and Omdurman with SAF reportedly making some advances. The Sudanese army and allied groups are relying on young men with little to no military training and further pushing increased recruitment.

More than 10.6 million people are displaced by conflict in Sudan, nine million inside the country according to new data from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). 25 million are in need of aid and humanitarian organisations are warning of a hunger catastrophe as so far the UN has only been able to reach 4 million people.  Medical facilities have been targeted, and more than 80% are reported to be no longer functional. There have been over 60 reported attacks on healthcare centres since the start of the war, with Khartoum and Darfur seeing the worst of them. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) suspended operations in El Gezira where they claim their facilities were looted by the belligerents. The suspension risks further exacerbating the humanitarian situation, depriving millions in need of aid and leading to new waves of displacement, warned the IRC.

International Response:

It had appeared that both Burhan and Hemedti agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting under IGAD auspices to negotiate a cease-fire, however the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is under the control of SAF officially rejected the final statement of IGAD’s extraordinary summit on Sudan on 9 December 2023. Sudan further boycotted of the following IGAD Summit held in Kampala on 18th January 2024, and finally withdrew their membership from the regional body, alleging violations of their sovereignty. Former Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok also tried to get the warring parties together and on 25 December he called for a meeting between Burhan and Hemedti to discuss halting the conflict, but there was no response.

On 4 December 2023, US Congressmen, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) led a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking additional information about US strategies for atrocity prevention and justice in Sudan.

The three members of the UN Human Rights Council, Independent International Fact-Finding Mission for Sudan were appointed in December, the mission is scheduled to update the Council during their fifty-sixth session, in June-July 2024.

Both the US and EU adopted sanctions. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned several additional individuals in December for their role in undermining the peace, security, and stability of Sudan. Those sanctioned include Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein (Taha), Salah Abdallah Mohamed Salah (Salah Gosh), and Mohamed Etta Elmoula Abbas (Elmoula) all of whom played key roles during Bashir’s regime. The European Council adopted restrictive measures against six entities in January. Two of the sanctioned companies, Defence Industries System and SMT Engineering, were involved in the manufacture of weapons and vehicles for the SAF. The SAF-controlled Zadna International Company for Investment Limited was also sanctioned and three companies involved in procuring military equipment for the RSF: Al Junaid Multi Activities Co Ltd, Tradive General Trading and GSK Advance Company Ltd.

The United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) strongly condemned a series of armed attacks that took place on 27 January 2024 in the Abyei Area, which resulted in civilian casualties as well as the death of a United Nations peacekeeper from Ghana. According to AP, the attack left at least 52 people dead, including a UN peacekeeper, and 64 wounded.