Conflict, coups rising at alarming rate across Africa: International Rescue Committee

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Conflict, coups and poverty are rising at alarming rates in Africa, where the number of armed groups have more than doubled over the past decade, the International Rescue Committee said.

Eight of the top 10 countries listed on the IRC’s annual emergency watchlist are in Africa, it said in a report published on Thursday. The list is topped by Sudan and includes Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and three countries where military takeovers have taken place in recent years: Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

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“The headlines today are rightly dominated by the crisis in Gaza, where Israel’s war against Hamas makes it the most dangerous place in the world to be a civilian,” the IRC said. “The ranking of occupied Palestinian territory as second in the watchlist reflects that. But the watchlist is a vital reminder that other parts of the world are on fire as well, for structural reasons relating to conflict, climate and economy.”

Countries across Africa are being destabilized by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of Russia’s war with Ukraine on global food prices, and global warming that’s causing floods and drought across the continent. There have been nine coups in sub-Saharan Africa in the past three years, creating a belt of military-run countries that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

A protracted war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, along with growing tensions between rival armed groups in South Sudan, which is preparing for elections in 2024, catapulted the neighboring countries to the top of the IRC’s watchlist.

“We have seen mass displacement, mass killings, we have seen humanitarian access become extremely difficult for aid workers,” Joyce Mogane, deputy regional director for the IRC, said of Sudan in a briefing with reporters before the report’s release. “If you look at the situation in Sudan coupled with the one in South Sudan, the region is becoming extremely vulnerable.”

The role of regional or global powers fueling conflict is growing, while those involved in the violence are increasingly restricting humanitarian access and targeting humanitarian personnel without legal consequences, the IRC said.

There’s an increasing trend among crisis countries of armed conflict and climate change “increasingly converging in the same places at the same time,” it said.

“The percentage of conflicts taking place in climate-vulnerable countries increased from 44 percent to 67 percent over the past three decades,” the IRC said. The countries on the watchlist contribute less than 2 percent of global carbon emissions, it said.

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