Nigeria – 25 killed by Boko Haram in Borno State

Reuters

At least 25 people were killed by suspected Boko Haram Islamist militants in raids on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning on three communities in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, military and police sources said.

Fighters in pick-up trucks attacked the town of Dille and two smaller communities in the Askira/Uba area in Borno state about 250 km (160 miles) south of Maiduguri the capital of Borno state and the epicentre of the insurgency.

Vigilantes resisted the attack on Dille that came around 1 p.m. local time (1200 GMT), the sources said.

A police source who declined to be named said the attacks on the smaller nearby communities came early on Tuesday.

Boko Haram has been trying to carve out an Islamist state in the northeast of Nigeria for the last six years. It controlled large swathes of territory in three states last year before being pushed out of the major towns it controlled.

The militants have dispersed into various pockets across Borno state, notably along the Niger border near Damasak, Lake Chad, the Sambisa forest reserve and around the Mandara mountain range that borders Cameroon.

Borno state governor Kashim Shettima said this month that seven local government areas out of 27 were “largely inaccessible because these lunatics called Boko Haram still move up and down the areas”.

On Tuesday, the European Union said that about 800 people are reported to have been killed in the countries around Lake Chad. Nigeria and its neighbours, increasingly targeted by the insurgents, are setting up new headquarters for their multi-national joint taskforce in Chad’s N’Djamena.

A Reuters tally showed that more than 600 people had been killed in Nigeria alone since President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration at the end of May, when he promised to make getting rid of Boko Haram his top priority.

What did Obama visit mean to Kenya?

Daily Nation

What does Obama’s visit mean to Kenya?

It is tragic that so many are prepared to view international relations through the prism of ethnic rivalries, which have been so destructive to our body politic.

US President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at Safaricom Sports Gymnasium, Kasarani Stadium  in Nairobi on July 26, 2015.  PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

US President Barack Obama gestures during his speech at Safaricom Sports Gymnasium, Kasarani Stadium in Nairobi on July 26, 2015. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

When I suggested in January this year that the time was opportune for US President Barack Obama to visit Kenya, many wrote to me, saying “we don’t need him, we are just fine.”

Now that the visit has come to pass, it is worth reflecting on what it actually means for Kenya. Why do some remain so negative? Some told me the US “had let Kenya down” and had sacrificed the Kenyan president to the International Criminal Court to face charges for crimes against humanity.

For that reason, they were prepared to sacrifice whatever benefits a closer relationship with the US would bring. It is tragic that so many are prepared to view international relations through the prism of ethnic rivalries, which have been so destructive to our body politic.

This leads us to the current agenda behind President Obama’s visit. Kenya occupies a unique place in geo-politics as well as international business. It is not lost on the US administration that Kenya is in many ways, a battle ground, a contested arena.

Kenya is not only a hub that attracts foreign investments from the West, from southern Africa, and now increasingly from the East, criminal gangs, drug traffickers, and all manner of terrorists have also found Kenya to be a soft spot and an entry route to Western targets.

For that reason, the West ignores Kenya at its peril. With the escalation in terrorism, in particular the fragile situation in Somalia, the US realises more than ever before the viability of Kenya as a partner.

The reality is that even though President Obama might not have much faith in Kenya’s ability and willingness to fight vices such as corruption and even though the country is not exactly a top priority destination for US investments, the US administration itself recognises that it is in its interest to keep relations with strategic partners cordial.

In this context, the visit must be seen as designed to affirm America’s commitment to fight radicalisation and international terrorism.

I suggest that it is also not inconceivable that Mr Obama harbours a wish to return in triumph to his fatherland. Not just as an ordinary citizen in search of his roots and dreams, but as the US president, with all the clout that brings with it.

He is human. Like every other smart leader, he wants to lay the groundwork for his legacy. Some of the biggest challenges in US internal affairs are now behind him. Public health care, rapprochement with Cuba, and a nuclear deal with Iran. Instability in the Middle East and the Gulf remains a sticking point, but the world does not depend on one man.

Mr Obama has the luxury of what remains of his second term to formulate a lasting legacy. It is reasonable to assume that he recognises that his Africa credentials have so far been found wanting and that it is time to rectify this state of affairs. And why not do it with utmost symbolism?

More importantly, however, is the fundamental question: what does an Obama visit mean to Kenya, beyond the pomp and show? Much depends on how Kenyan entrepreneurs create partnerships with the investors who accompanied Mr Obama and whether Kenya finally learns to market itself on the global scene.

Prof Kamoche is the director of the Africa Research Group at the University of Nottingham.kkamoche@yahoo.com.

South Sudanese presidency has reservations over IGAD peace plan

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – The spokesperson for the South Sudanese presidency has expressed reservations over a proposal by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to demilitarise the capital, Juba and give the armed opposition faction an upper hand in power sharing arrangement in the conflict-affected regions.

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South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny (AFP)

“We have accepted the 33 percent for the SPLM in opposition in central government but we have refused it in Upper Nile,” Ateny Wek Ateny, told reporters in reaction IGAD’s proposal Monday.

“We cannot accept to give Upper Nile special consideration because if you do that, it could create an environment whereby that can threaten the sovereignty of South Sudan,” he added.

The latest proposal from the IGAD-Plus, a team which comprises of special envoys from China, the Troika nations, European Union and five other African countries, creates the position of first vice president to be occupied by the armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.

But Ateny said President Salva Kiir had reservations on this particular clause within the proposal, citing issues regarding the two armies.

“And the issue of disarmament in Juba and that of two armies for more than 10 months will be very difficult,” stressed the spokesperson.

In the latest document the power sharing in the national executive would be 53% of ministerial positions for the government, 33% for the opposition faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), 7% for former detainees and 7% for other political parties.

In the oil-rich greater Upper Nile region, the SPLM-IO would have 53% in the three states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, while the government would take 33% and 14% divided between former detainees and other political parties. No power sharing in the seven states of greater Bahr el Ghazal and greater Equatoria regions as government would take 100% in the two regions.

On security arrangements, it proposed a period of 18 months of the 30-month long transitional period to complete integration process of the two rival armies. The national capital, Juba, will be demilitarized, according to the IGAD-Plus proposal, and to be known as a Special Arrangement Area (SAA). Foreign forces from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), IGAD and African Union (AU) would take over the security of the capital until the end of the two and a half years of transitional period.

While the South Sudanese government is yet to officially respond to the proposal, which was released Friday last week. The government and the rebels have until 5 August to discuss the document and return to Addis Ababa, the venue of the ongoing peace talks.

The mediators have set 17 August as the deadline for both parties to reach an agreement.

Talks between the warring factions collapsed on 6 March when the two principal leaders could not agree on almost all the outstanding issues on governance, security arrangements, reforms, power sharing and accountability and justice, reparation and reconciliation.

(ST)

Obama says African leaders should not be presidents for life

BBC

US President Barack Obama has ended his visit to Africa by warning the continent will not advance if its leaders refuse to step down when their terms end.

“Nobody should be president for life,” Mr Obama said.

He was speaking at the African Union’s headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, the first time a sitting US president has addressed the body.

Earlier in the trip, Mr Obama visited Kenya, the homeland of his late father.

“I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they have got a lot of money,” he told the 54-member AU, an apparent criticism of African leaders who have done just that.

Calling on the AU to ensure leaders respect their constitutions and step down when their term ends, Mr Obama specifically mentioned Burundi, whose president Pierre Nkurunziza has controversially been re-elected for a third term.

“Sometimes you will hear leaders say ‘I’m the only person who can hold this nation together.’ If that’s true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.”

He said democracy was about more than just holding elections: “When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs or activists are threatened as governments crackdown on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance.”

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa on July 28, 2015
Mr Obama’s address ends his visit to Africa

And he joked about his own chances of another term in office, which he is constitutionally barred from seeking.

“I actually think I’m a pretty good president,” he said. “I think if I ran, I could win. But I can’t!”

He also called for an end to the “cancer of corruption”, saying it was the key to unlocking Africa’s economic potential.

The money could be used to create jobs and build schools and hospitals, Mr Obama said.

Treatment of women

The rapid economic growth in Africa was changing “old stereotypes” of a continent hit by war and poverty, he said.

But unemployment needed to be urgently tackled on a continent whose one billion people will double in a few decades, Mr Obama said.

“We need only look to the Middle East and North Africa to see that large numbers of young people with no jobs and stifled voices can fuel instability and disorder,” he added.

In echoes of his speech in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Mr Obama condemned the repression of women, saying the “single best indicator of whether a nation will succeed is how it treats its women”.

His address to the AU marks the end of his five-day visit to Africa.

The trip has focussed heavily on trade and security, but he also found time in Kenya to meet relatives of his father, including his half-sister Auma.

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Nigeria-Chad – 16 killed during Boko Haram attack on Lake Chad villages

Reuters

At least 16 killed in Boko Haram raids on Lake Chad villages

N’DJAMENA At least 13 suspected Boko Haram militants and three civilians were killed in separate attacks over the weekend after the insurgents raided several remote localities around Lake Chad, Chadian security sources said on Monday.

The insurgents are also suspected of kidnapping some 30 people in Katikine village, near the lake.

The hostages were taken onboard four speedboats to an unknown destination, one of the security source said, asking not to be named.

Boko Haram, which calls itself the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) since pledging allegiance to the militant group that controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, is fighting to establish an emirate in northeast Nigeria.

The group has stepped up attacks in countries around the lake in recent months in response to a regional offensive by Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger to subdue the six-year-old insurgency.

“Medi was attacked by men on motorised boats,” the security source said. “The army returned fire and killed 13 assailants. Some soldiers were wounded.”

“The same day, three people in Blarigi village had their throats slit by suspected Boko Haram fighters,” he said, adding that some 2,000 inhabitants of Fitine island on the lake were forced to flee following attacks which razed the village.

South Sudan – in dependence gone wrong

Al Jazeera

South Sudan: independence movement gone wrong.

Can the international community help the newest African country move toward reconciliation?

Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, writes Maru [AP]
Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, writes Maru [AP]
Mehari Taddele MaruMehari Taddele Maru is a specialist in international human rights and humanitarian law, an international consultant on African Union affairs, and an expert in Public Administration and Management.

Four years after ending its armed struggle with Sudan and declaring its independence, South Sudan remains embroiled in internal crisis with no end in sight.

Despite the tremendous support, close scrutiny, and high hopes of the international community, the new nation is presently conflicting with that same community’s ideas on how to resolve and recover from the crisis.

South Sudan even recently went so far as to expel the highest ranking official of the UN in their country, Toby Lanzer. It also refused to heed the call by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to immediately reverse its decision to expel the official.

In March of this year, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) decided to impose sanctions on officials hindering the mediation process in support of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – Plus mediation on South Sudan. 

The UNSC also recently imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on six leaders of the warring parties in South Sudan. In addition to these sanctions, there has also been an increasing call for an arms embargo on the warring parties.

The father of independence

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the father of independent South Sudan, failed to mature into the democratic government and professional army needed to lead the country.

SPLM/A was confronted with two cardinal failings that were more challenging than fighting South Sudan’s “external” enemies – Khartoum and attaining independence.

South Sudan: Political or personal?

There is an absence of a commonly shared vision within the SPLM/A about the future of South Sudan; there is also the unfortunate use of politics and public power as a racket for private wealth accumulation.

Immediately after the independence of South Sudan, finger pointing started within the leadership, which resulted in a major rift. In the aftermath of this rift, two major warring groups emerged: a government led by President Salva Kirr and a rebel group led by former Vice President Riek Machar.

Since the Juba violence on December, 15 2013, despite tireless efforts by the IGAD-led mediation, the crisis in South Sudan has continued unabated for more than a year and half.

While several rounds of mediation have led to the signing of an agreement to cease hostilities, the fighting continues between President Kirr’s forces and those aligned with Machar. Currently, the violence appears to persist along ethnic lines and has fuelled a vicious cycle of reprisal attacks against civilians.

Consolidating power

The governmental money and privately accumulated wealth generated by this war and the resulting conflicts has been used to exacerbate the tenuous political situation in South Sudan and has been used in a desperate attempt to consolidate power. While this greed-driven power-grab was underway, mediation to reunite the SPLM party began and later culminated in the signing of the Arusha agreement – which never managed to take off.

By bestowing a common voice, spoilers within and without South Sudan should be effectively tamed by a unified, credible, and clear message from the international community.

Despite high hopes for the agreement’s success, bridging the divide between the SPLM factions proved impossible. Historically, many African left-leaning liberation movements have ruptured beyond repair and it seems inevitable that SPLM will follow suit.

That being said, under the IGAD-led mediation, the two warring parties have come to agreement on many issues. However, the major sticking points of power sharing, oil-revenue allocation, and the question of federalism and re-integration of the parties’ armies remain unresolved. Without compromise on these vital points, an agreement will never be signed. 

But why is it so difficult for the two leaders to agree on these issues specifically? The answer lies in the very nature of the leadership of warring parties and their fellowship.

The two groups are locked in a binary equation of choosing to either rule the country or make war, and both are tending towards war.

Despite mounting pressure from interests in both the West and the East, Kirr and Machar have refused to abandon their presidential ambitions. Both leaders seem to be trapped within ethnic boundaries, and are beholden to the interests of their political bases – which are populated by divided and proud ethnic communities. 

Political suicide

For the rebel leader Machar, any concession to President Kirr or his supporters would be politically suicidal. His Nuer supporting community would simply refuse anything less than the total abdication of Kirr’s powers as president and the dissolution of his supporters’ claims to governmental positions. 

Similarly, President Kirr’s newly appointed ministers would not allow any power sharing that could eventually displace them by bringing the dismissed ministers and former leaders of the SPLM/A back into power. So, he too is a prisoner of a self-serving cabinet of his own making.

Simply put, both Machar and Kirr are more puppets than leaders.

Indicative of the need for more international weight to force the warring parties and other external influencers to stop the war in South Sudan and establish a government of national unity, the IGAD-led mediation for South Sudan has now been transformed into the IGAD-Plus mediation.


RELATED: South Sudan is becoming a failed state


This transformation includes the five heavy weight members of African Union Peace and Security Council (Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Chad, and Rwanda), the UN, the EU, the Troika (US, UK, and Norway), and China. Although technically “new to the scene”, all of these actors have been following the devolving situation in South Sudan closely. 

The question is, will this added “Plus” bring something of new value to the negotiating table? 

While it remains to be seen in practise, the new impetus from the “Plus” should be to unify the parallel mediation processes – such as the Arusha process – and to quell the detractors. By bestowing a common voice, spoilers within and without South Sudan should be effectively tamed by a unified, credible, and clear message from the international community. 

Mehari Taddele Maru is a specialist in international human rights and humanitarian law, an international consultant on African Union affairs, and an expert in public administration and management.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

South Africa – ANC lekgotla bemoans economy and mining retrenchments

Mail and Guardian

At its mid-year lekgotla, the ruling party expressed concern about the retrenchment policies of mining companies and their impact on the economy.

Gwede Mantashe. (Oupa Nkosi, MG)

The ANC has bemoaned the sluggish state of the South African economy and has admitted to incapacity within the state and the ripple effect it is having on the economy.

In its three-day mid-year lekgotla, the ruling party paid significant focus on the economy at a time when mining companies have threatened mass retrenchment.

“Lekgotla noted that the economy is growing at a disappointingly low rate,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.

He said the party was concerned with how mining companies deal with challenges in the economy.

“It is concerning that their response has been the cutting of jobs; which instead of resolving the challenges is deepening the crisis. Those companies that have already announced possible retrenchments are called upon to review their plans and avoid massive job losses [that] would lead us further into crisis,” Mantashe said.

Last Friday, Anglo American and Lonmin announced their plans to retrench a combined 12 000 staff as a result of falling metals prices in a weak global economy.

Anglo chief executive Mark Cutifani reportedly said the company, pressured by a drop in iron ore prices, is aiming to save around $300-million by cutting 6 000 staff.

Mining reaction
Lonmin, which is the world’s third-largest platinum producer, said it would shed 6 000 jobs in South Africa due to falling prices and high costs.

Mantashe said there was a “degree of arrogance” in how mining companies reacted to a weakened economy.

He said it could not be that mining companies use retrenchments as a way to mitigate against the cyclical nature of commodity prices.

“We have to all our apply our minds to get a solution and not look to one solution [of] cutting jobs,” he said.  Mantashe said mining companies should review their plans to retrench workers, saying retrenchments was not a viable solution.

The department of mineral resources has been directed to engage with mining houses in an attempt to avert mass job losses.

“It doesn’t matter what the state does. If the private sector is not co-operating the state will not succeed,” Mantashe said.

He said the state and the private sector don’t see eye to eye on the dire unemployment rate in South Africa.

“The private sector will only realise the dangers of high unemployment when that high unemployment translates to disruptions,” Mantashe said.

Troubled parastatals
On the troubled state of South Africa’s state-owned entities (SOE’s), Mantashe was reluctant to talk about the specifics.

He would not say what was particularly noted about rail agency Prasa and the leadership tussle that has plagued that organisation.

“Lekgotla made a call to government to urgently attend to all apparent crisis points within the SOEs,” is all that the ANC statement offered.

Mantashe said this was regardless of whether it was power utility Eskom or Prasa.

The ANC lekgotla, which is made up of the ANC’s national executive committee, leaders of the SACP and Cosatu as well as ministers and deputy ministers, spoke at length regarding the state’s incapacity to effectively deliver services.

“We considered the capacity of the state to drive our programme of fundamental transformation; particularly given the volume of work that is still driven by consultants,” Mantashe said.

He said the ANC agreed that building capacity needed constant focus.

“Should we fail to build this capacity, we will continue to complain about lack of implementation,” Mantashe noted.


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