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Year in Review: Toppled regimes, suffering civilians

Hoping to escape Taliban rule, Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

Year in Review: Toppled regimes, suffering civilians

As 2021 draws to a close, here’s a look back at some of the global stories that held our attention this year, from Ethiopia’s ongoing conflict to the fall of Afghanistan.

Taliban takeover

After capturing the capital of Afghanistan’s southern province of Nimruz in early August, the Taliban swiftly seized control of more provincial capitals in less than two weeks. The takeover shocked U.S. troops who had planned for a Sept. 11 withdrawal and rushed to exit as the insurgents drew closer to the national capital of Kabul. Other foreigners, Christians, and Afghans who had worked with foreign troops scrambled to leave before the Taliban’s rule began. Despite an initial mass effort by several countries to help evacuate people, several aid groups warned that civilians who supported foreign troops remained stranded and at risk of the Taliban targeting them. Human Rights Watch confirmed in a report last month that the insurgents have executed more than 100 former police and intelligence officers in four provinces in retaliatory attacks.

Ethiopia’s creeping war

The conflict that began in Ethiopia’s semi-autonomous Tigray region escalated over the past year, with the war now threatening the nation’s capital city. In November 2020, the Ethiopian federal government—with support from Eritrean forces—launched an offensive against the regional People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) following months of rising political tensions. The conflict has ballooned since then to include troops from Ethiopia’s Amhara and Oromia regions. The war has killed thousands and left as many as 400,000 in famine-like conditions. Rights groups have accused both sides of crimes against humanity. At the end of October, Tigray forces announced they were drawing closer to the capital of Addis Ababa. But they announced their withdrawal back into Tigray this month amid other proposals as they suffered military losses.

Haiti’s multiple strikes

In October, a notorious Haitian gang known as 400 Mawozo kidnapped 16 Americans and one Canadian with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. The gang released some of the captives, and the rest managed to escape this month. Kidnappings for ransom rose this year. Gangs in Haiti now control several roads, forcing people to take detours or stay home.

The missionary abduction came amid other political and natural disasters. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake centered in the Les Cayes region killed more than 2,000 people and injured over 12,000 others. Tropical Depression Grace brought up to 10 inches of rain days later.

One month earlier, a group of gunmen stormed into the private residence of President Jovenel Moïse. The 53-year-old leader died in the assassination, which was later blamed on retired Colombian gunmen. Authorities are still investigating who ordered the hit.

A tale of many coups

Sudan faced a military takeover this year, days before the top Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan was expected to hand over leadership of the sovereign council to a civilian. Burhan and other senior generals helped protesters topple longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019, but activists blamed the military for clinging to power with its October coup. Sudanese doctors said authorities have killed at least 41 people since anti-coup protests began. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok returned to office under a deal with the top military generals, but activists denounced it as an attempt to legitimize the coup.

Malian Col. Assimi Goïta staged a coup in May and is now facing pressure to abide by a promise to hold elections. In September, military officers in Guinea led by 41-year-old Col. Mamady Doumbouya toppled longtime President Alpha Condé. Doumbouya was sworn in as interim president on Oct. 1 without a clear transition timeline. And back in March, the government of Niger thwarted a military attempt to seize the presidential palace two days before the swearing-in of President Mohamed Bazoum.

Africa brief

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas celebration! Despite all the heart-wrenching news we hear from around the world, this season particularly reminds us of our role as hearers and sharers of the hope and joy of Christmas. I’ll leave you with a popular carol by a Nigerian church in the Yoruba language called, “E lu agogo” (“Ring the Bell”).

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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