Understanding the Socio-Economic and Structural Factors Influencing Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea has two forms of piracy, which have a different relationship with socio-economic drivers. On the one hand subsistence pirates – local people, whether fishers or traders who turn to piracy to supplement their income with small-scale and localised attacks or offer protection to more sophisticated pirates. While poverty and grievances can influence the prevalence of subsistence piracy, neither are sufficient explanations of the drivers for piracy. In this new report, RHIPTO analyses the socio-economic and structural factors behind piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and propose some recommendations. Watch the webinar here
Le Monde and RHIPTO collaborated to produce a map on gold and armed groups in West Africa
Le Monde published a full page map featuring RHIPTO in their prestiguous weekly Geopolitical page. The large format map shows the florishing gold business in West Africa, a region that today has become the third most important gold basin of the world, with Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso leading the gold production. Alongside the big mining corporation, large portions of the gold available in the Sahel is extracted by small scale artisanal miners, providing armed groups and Jihadist groups operating in the region both a source of revenue through taxation and smuggling of gold (see also how armed groups revenue from gold is generated), and a ground for recruitement
The map, published on the print version of the newspaper, is also available in web format
Illicit Flows Fuelling Conflict in the Tri-Border
The tri-border area between Libya, Sudan and Chad sits on the periphery of all three countries both geographically and politically. While far from the control of capitals, these areas are not ungoverned. At least in Libya and Sudan, strongmen have taken control of these areas, capitalising on the presence of gold and the flow of people and other commodities to enrich themselves and bolster their power. But their power is not absolute.
This new report from RHIPTO was presented to a UK government audience on Monday 19 July. A pilot project for the XCEPT research programme, the report brings together research conducted between September 2020 and June 2021 on conflict dynamics in the Chad-Sudan-Libya tri-border area, and the influence on revenues from artisanal gold mining and migration flows.
Money laundering and environmental crime worth up to 281 billion USD
Efforts to detect, pursue and disrupt enviro crimes have not been proportionate to the sector worth up to 281 billion USD/year says the Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) in a new report released today with contributions from RHIPTO. FATF President Marcus Pleyer addressed the G7 with a message on tackling environmental crime. The report cited numbers from RHIPTO's World atlas of Illicit Flows and included RHIPTO-UNODC graphics on the nature of money laundering in environmental crimes.
Risk of major regional conflict in Tigray and Al Fashqa with Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia
Since November 2020, Ethiopian armed forces have been clashing with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in northern Ethiopia. Eritrean forces have also become actively involved. At least 62,500 people have fled across the border into Sudan, and Tigrayans elsewhere in Ethiopia are being persecuted. The heavy involvement of Eritrean troops in Tigray, long denied by the Ethiopian government, has transformed Tigray from an internal conflict to a regional problem. Sudanese troops are currently staging on the border in the Al Fashqa area. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) project, further south on the Sudan/Ethiopia border in Benshangul-Gumaz province has also created conflict between the two countries, The border conflict with Sudan, and the reported use of Somali troops by Eritrea will only escalate the war.
Islamic State on the rise in Mozambique
Islamic State has claimed an Islamist extremist group in northern Mozambique as belonging to their organization since 2019, extending the territory of Islamic State Central African Province (ISCAP) from DRC to the East African coast. Attacks have centred on key towns in the northeast, especially port towns, including crossing the border into Tanzania, which has its own Islamist problem on Zanzibar. The territory controlled by ASWJ/ISCAP is also a hub for heroin trafficking, the movement of other drugs, smuggling of timber, ivory and people. With control over key landing points and stretches of road into Tanzania, there is potential to tax or charge protection fees to convoys. However, the high levels of violence and the decentralised structure creates a challenge to capitalising on these revenue sources.
Rwanda and Russia step up support in CAR against Chad and Sudanese supported rebel groups
Elections were held in CAR on 27 December 2020, with Faustin-Archage Touadera re-elected. Armed groups (3R, MPC, UPC, FPRC and two anti-Balaka) on 19 December 2020 united under the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), and many attacks before and after the election are attributed to the group. CPC brings together both anti-balaka and ex-Seleka groups. This has led to substantial strengthening of Russian support to Touadera through use of the Wagner group to secure control of gold mine areas in the west and central parts of CAR, with Sudanese supported fighters in the NE, and Chad-supported fighters in the NW.
Nagorno-Karabakh peace agreement: Frozen conflict or stepping stone to Turkish Caspian corridor?
Armenia is on the retreat in Nagorno-Karabakh and are suffering massive losses of troops, civilians and armour. The over 2,000 Syrian fighters, alongside the use of drones and other western warfare technology have inflicted far more significant losses to the Armenian army than in previous conflicts. As a result, with great pain, Armenia conceded to a Russian brokered peace agreement allegedly freezing the conflict from midnight 9 November 2020. Russia will deploy 1,960 peacekeepers.
Covid-19 in Sahel: Threat finance drops by 40-70% and raises importance and fighting over of gold by Jihadists in Burkina Faso
Incomes from smuggling of drugs, cigarettes, migrants and other products across the Trans-Sahara have declined by 64% due to COVID-19 restrictions since March 2020, and more so since 2017 and some migrants were simply abandoned en route in the desert. Transport of cocaine arriving from Latin America via Guinea Bissau has apparently increased again along the westernmost routes and also directly to Albania and the Balkans, Hashish continues to be transported directly from Morocco to Europe by fastboats and fishing vessels to Spain, Portugal, as well as to Albania and even France and Italy. The decline in incomes to armed groups are likely across all “business” sectors in the range of at least 40-70% compared to the situation in 2016 and has resulted in more kidnap for ransom negotiations. On the other hand, local gold prices in the Sahel has increased by 18% since Covid began and by 41% since 2016, increasing its importance to jihadists groups in the Sahel substantially.
Over two thousand Turkey-imported foreign fighters from Syria and drones push back Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh
The fighting in Nagorno Karabakh continues into its second month, with at least 1,000-2,000 dead. Attempts at cease fires have failed. The conflict is deeply embedded in regional rivalry, particularly between Turkey and Russia. Azerbaijan, bolstered by Turkish support and greater military capabilities, is on the offensive. Despite the heavy use of UAVs and artillery, a significant part of the ground fighting is done by foreign fighters recruited by Turkey in Syria. At least 2,000 fighters were brought to Azerbaijan before the fighting started. The first 150 in July were jihadists, whereas the majority came from the Turkish supported Syria National Army umbrella organisation, centred in Afrin, with mostly Turkmen and Arabs.
Turkey upscales support to Azerbaijan with foreign fighters and drones in Nagorno-Karabahk
Turkey will continue to upscale its military support to Azerbaijan and take Nagorno-Karabakh back to Azerbaijan, likely driving out the Armenian population from the region, France, US (engaged with elections) and Russia will protest, while China and UK (Brexit and Covid-19) may remain passive. This will likely lead to the fall of Nagorno-Karabakh back to Azerbaijani control and strengthen Turkey’s military and political power in the region, alongside further acceptance of foreign fighter presence in Azerbaijan, but with significant cost of human lives especially of Armenians. This will provide a major opening for Turkey to raise its political, military and economic power into Central Asia, with rising occurrence, arming and training of Jihadists, that will subsequently destabilize the region including Caucasus, and at worst, the entire belt into Central Asia.
Urgent need for new UN force in Northern Burkina Faso to contain Jihadists groups to prevent further instability across the Sahel
The current situation in Mali must not solely address the future for Mali and the coup makers (CNSP) in response to ECOWAS concerns, but also address the security challenges facing Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and the rising threat to Benin, Togo and Cote D’Ivoire. A new localized peacekeeping operation in northern Burkina Faso could help prevent a surge in JNIM and IS from accessing the gold mines and extorting artisanal miners. The mission should have stronger air support as done in MONUSCO and MINUSCA. Given the near six fold increase (compared to 2018) in civilian casualties in Burkina Faso, such a peacekeeping mission, could help prevent the rise of a new “Syria situation” with AQ or Islamic State gaining regional control.