Chadian forces drive Boko Haram from Nigerian town

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: Chad ‘captures Nigerian town from militants’

Soldiers of the Chadian army at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon - January 2015Earlier this month, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria

Chad’s army has driven Boko Haram militants out of Malumfatori town in north-eastern Nigeria, a senior official from Niger has told the BBC.

The reported capture of the town, which lies near the borders of Chad and Niger, follows two days of fighting.

Both ground and air forces are reported to have been used in the assault.

Niger officials said Chadian ground forces moved into the town after crossing Lake Chad. It is not known if the operation was approved by Nigeria.

Refugee who fled from Boko HaramHundreds of thousands have been displaced because of the Boko Haram insurgency

Boko Haram insurgents have carried out a number of cross-border attacks on Nigeria’s neighbours in recent months, attacking villages and military bases.

The Islamist group has seized dozens of people and taken them back to north-east Nigeria, where it controls a swathe of territory.

Action plan

The Nigerian authorities say they are doing all they can to tackle the militants but neighbours, including Niger and Cameroon, have said more must be done.

Chad has already sent troops to Cameroon to help it counter Boko Haram incursions and last week Nigeria said the Chadian army would be fighting on its territory.

However, it was not immediately clear if the authorities in Abuja had prior knowledge of, or any role in, the operation in Malumfatori.

People who fled the area told the BBC they had seen military planes bombing the town, which is on the shores of Lake Chad.

Armoured vehicle of Boko Haram captured by Nigerian troopsThe Nigerian army has recently captured military vehicles used by Boko Haram

Some of those who left the town during the fighting are reported to have crossed into Niger.

Meanwhile, reports from the area say fighting has now spread to a nearby town, Abadam.

Nigerian officials have made little public comment. They said they were investigating the reports of fighting in the north-east.

Aviation Minister Osita Chidoka told the BBC that Nigeria “has to redefine its fault lines in fighting” Boko Haram.

He said tackling the group required not just military action but also “improving the capacity of the Nigerian state” in areas such as the judiciary, prison system and law enforcement agencies.

“A lot will be done about Boko Haram beyond fighting them in the north-east part of the country,” he said.

African Union heads of state are due to discuss the crisis over Boko Haram at their summit beginning on Friday.

Ghanaian President John Mahama has said the leaders must produce a “specific plan of action” to “deal permanently” with Boko Haram.

Thousands have died and many more have been displaced because of the group’s six-year insurgency.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – has also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Has abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Has launched attacks on Cameroon

South Africa – Police Minister says criticism of Dramat suspension is racist

If you have no real answer – accuse critics of racism.  That seems to be one of the stock defences of the ANC for its ministers increasingly questionable actions and suspensions. The government is becoming a farce. KS

Mail and Guardian

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko has insisted he was right in suspending Hawks boss Anwa Dramat – and any objection to his decision is racist.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said he was convinced that had Helen Suzman been alive today, she would have been standing for the victims of human rights abuses. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The suspension of Hawks head Anwa Dramat is not a personal attack on him but about recognising the gross violation of human rights in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans, and the value of the lives of the two who were found dead.

By focusing only on Dramat’s suspension and not his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of the Zimbabweans, the country was not giving enough importance to the lives of black people that died as a result, says Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.

Nhleko was briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Thursday on the December suspension of the Hawks head and the subsequent hiring of Major General Berning Ntlemeza as the acting head.

“Having taken into consideration our history, I am convinced that because the lives involved and the lives at stake are those of black people, therefore, all that the colonial forces can do is prop up the debate, and for it to be about the institutional arrangements of the Hawks. Had the lives involved been those of white people, the debate and headlines would have been about human rights.

“This is the sad reality we must fight and defeat, for our immediate aim as a country remains this creation in practice, of a truly just and democratic society, that is able to sweep away the old legacy of colonial conquest and white domination,” the minister said in his presentation.

Nhleko suspended Dramat last month after he received a draft report from a reference group he had established to look into allegations of misconduct and corruption, he said.

He was then taken to court by the Helen Suzman Foundation, which brought an urgent application to have Dramat reinstated, and won. Within hours of the foundation’s victory last week, Nhleko announced that he had lodged an appeal.

‘Suzman would have stood for the victims’
On Thursday the minister said he was convinced that had Helen Suzman been alive today, she would have been standing for the victims. Suzman was a liberal anti-apartheid activist and politician.

“She would have upheld the observance of fundamental human rights regardless of the victims’ skin colour. It is therefore no accident that when the issue is about fundamental human rights, neo-colonialists, apologists and some of their media sympathisers elect to frame the matter as if it is about institutional arrangements and political partisanship,” Nhleko said.

Nhleko, who insisted that he had acted within his rights in suspending Dramat, asked the portfolio committee to help untie his hands in the matter and begin proceedings for a permanent removal of the Hawks head from his position as he was “not fit and proper to hold that office”.

In a letter to committee members – including Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald and Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the National Freedom Party’s Munzoor Shaik-Emam and committee chairperson and ANC MP Francois Beukman, among others – Nhleko said until the legal issue was resolved on appeal, which was likely to take months, his hands remained tied.

“It will not be in the interest of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, its head and of the SAPS and the country as a whole for such allegations to linger too long against Dramat without steps being taken to deal with them.

“To this end, I request that you [Beukman] as chairperson of the portfolio committee take steps to initiate a parliamentary process for the removal of the head of the DPCI on grounds of misconduct and that he is not fit and proper to hold that office.”

ANC MP Nyami Booi, who does not serve on the committee, pledged his full support and that of his party to Nhleko, and praised him for his presentation.

Nhleko’s presentation all ‘smoke and mirrors’
Incensed with the direction of the presentation, Groenewald said it was all smoke and mirrors and he was disappointed that Nhleko had decided to focus on race.

“It is quite disappointing that you brought race into the matter because you said if it was white people, then the outcry would have been different. I think we must move on in South Africa. This is 2015 already, this is a constitutional democracy.”

Groenewald rubbished the minister’s presentation and suggested he fire his legal team for their advice on suspending Dramat.

Nhleko justified bringing race into the matter by saying it was a fact that the outcry would have been different if those involved had been white.

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Diliza Twala urged Nhleko to hold off on further actions against Dramat and said he was astounded at how the country had come to a standstill over renditions, which were not new.

Kohler-Barnard said: “If the minister was confident that his conduct in this regard was lawful, as he has purported, he would not need Parliament to condone his decision ex post facto (after the fact). If General Dramat has committed a crime he must be charged, not judged by a Parliamentary committee in lieu of a court.”

Committee chairperson Beukman said the committee would make a decision on Friday regarding Nhleko’s request as they needed time to read his letter.

Nigeria – army says Amnesty report on Baga and Monguno inaccurate

Premium Times

Amnesty International’s report on Baga, Monguno inaccurate, unfair – Nigerian military

Baga satellite image

 

The Nigerian military has hit back at Amnesty International’s claim that it ignored repeated warnings of an impending attack on Baga and Monguno and also failed to take measures to protect the civilian population of the surrounding towns and villages describing the allegation as “misleading”, “inaccurate and unfair.”

On Wednesday, Amnesty International [AI] released a statement claiming information it obtained from a senior military officer and evidence gathered from other sources revealed that commanders at the military base in Baga informed the military headquarters in Abuja of a looming attack on the town and repeatedly asked for reinforcement but the military hierarchy failed to respond accordingly.

Amnesty’s claim also tallies with PREMIUM TIMES exclusive report that though the army was aware of an impending attack the base was not adequately prepared when the terrorists attacked.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Director for Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Brigadier General, said AI’s claim is a continuation of the organisation’s use of the unfortunate incident to discredit the military’s counter terrorism efforts.

Mr. Olukolade said the protection of civilians is the essence of the military’s counter terrorism activities and that the troops were adequately prepared and engaged the insurgents in all the instances mentioned by AI.

“Being an area of operation where terrorists are known to be ever looking for the slightest opportunity to attack and perpetrate heinous atrocities, Nigerian troops are conversant with the need to maintain the highest form of alertness always,” he said.

“Every available information is factored into the intelligence that drives every engagement or encounter in any part of the mission area. This standard has not only been sustained but has been incrementally enhanced in terms of capacity, troop’s deployment, coordination, troop’s mobility and protection as well as logistics.

“Regular patrols, surveillance, pursuit and actual combat engagement to curtail or forestall terrorists’ activities and threats are also conducted. This has substantially succeeded in preventing, frustrating or minimising the effect of terrorists’ dastardly intentions and actions. This also accounts for why the main intention of terrorists attack on Maiduguri and other places could not succeed.”

Mr. Olukolade, therefore, said AI’s conclusion was misleading adding that if the organisation had tried to confirm the information it got, it would have found out that it was misleading at best.

“The misleading conclusions by Amnesty International could have been avoided if they had made meaningful efforts to verify the inciting allegations. Whatever be the intention, the allegations, at best can only constitute a distractive and misleading commentary or interpretation of the terrorists’ activities, the efforts to curb them and the actual situation on the ground in Nigeria.,” he said

“The Nigerian security forces remain willing and capable of discharging the responsibility of defending the country’s territory and people,” he maintained.

Nigeria – government condemns ex-militants threat of violence if Jonathan not re-elected

Punch

 

Federal Government has condemned the threat by some ex-militants that they would declare war against the nation, if President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the forthcoming election.

Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, described the threat by the warlords as reprehensible, noting that there was no basis for such threats, stressing that Jonathan had said that he would concede defeat if he lost the presidential election.

Addressing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, Moro stated that the President had promised free and credible elections and therefore cautioned against inflammatory remarks and actions that may plunge the country into avoidable crisis.

He said,”It is reprehensible for people to threaten this country with mayhem and violence should their candidate lose the elections. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has not left anybody in doubt as to his preparedness to conduct a free, fair, credible and transparent election.

“Mr. President has said that in the unlikely event of his losing the election, in the course of this exercise, that he was democratic enough to concede defeat.

” And so if Mr President himself, who is the main contestant in this election, who is the President of this country, who is the leader of the PDP has come out to say that he was going to ensure free and fair elections where the choice of Nigerians would be respected, I do not see where statements from the supporters of either Mr. President or any other political parties for that matter should derail the course of this democratic movement.”

The minister said that the anxiety over the elections was unwarranted, noting that it was in the character of elections to generate hype in the media, adding that the Federal Government was determined to conduct hitch-free elections.

He said in spite of the hype about the elections, Nigerians have nothing to worry about, stressing that citizens do not need to leave their state of residence for other parts of the country as being reported.

The minister said adequate security would be provided during the polls, noting that all the security agencies have been sufficiently mobilized, stressing that the necessary men and materials would be deployed to ensure a credible electoral process.

Moro stated that foreigners would not be allowed to vote during the elections, as according to him, the Nigeria Immigration Service has heightened its surveillance of the borders and is working with other security outfits to make sure only registered Nigerians exercise their franchise.

ISS says African Union should act early on presidents’ third term bids

ISS

The AU should take early action on third term bids
29 January 2015

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The African Union (AU) has a critical role to play in ensuring democratic governance in Africa. It should therefore speak out strongly against attempts by African leaders to manipulate constitutions to extend their mandates, said the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

At a seminar yesterday on the margins of the 24th bi-annual AU summit, held in Addis Ababa, ISS researchers said the AU Constitutive Act and other documents, like the 2007 Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance provide a framework for ensuring democratic changes of government on the continent. Civil society organisations and groups opposing constitutional changes to prolong the rule of the incumbents – like those in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – should be able to draw on the support of the AU, said the ISS.

The popular overthrow of Burkina Faso’s former president Blaise Compaoré has set a precedent and indicates the strong opposition in many parts of the continent against African leaders who stay in power for extended periods.

Stephanie Wolters, head of the Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis division of the ISS, said efforts by leaders to prolong their mandates is already causing political instability in countries like the DRC, Burundi and the Republic of Congo.

‘In all three of these countries, the constitutions were the result of negotiations following conflict and therefore the efforts to change them are a very emotional issue. People see them as a step backwards.’

The decision by the senate of the DRC to block the government’s proposed controversial new law, which would potentially postpone presidential elections for several years, was ‘unprecedented’ and seen as a victory for the opposition, she said.

Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, head of the ISS office in Dakar, said interventions by the AU and regional economic communities like the Economic Community of West African Sates (ECOWAS) to sanction unconstitutional changes of government should be better coordinated. ‘For sanctions to work, they must be seen as a real threat,’ she said.

It is critical for the AU to pre-empt possible instability linked to elections and the issue of presidential mandates, said the ISS. The AU has sent special envoys to Togo and Burundi recently to try and mitigate the risk of violence in those countries. In Togo the constitution does not impose term limits, but there is strong opposition against President Faure Gnassingbé’s bid for a third term. In Burundi supporters of a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza are arguing that he should constitutionally be able to run for elections later this year.

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Lesotho – next month’s elections will not be enough to solve the political impasse

ISS

Lesotho: elections are not enough

29 January 2015

On 30 August 2014, an attempted coup in the Kingdom of Lesotho, led by an elite group within the military, threatened the country’s already fragile stability.

Parliament hadn’t been functioning for an extended period, which triggered a political crisis. Led by Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, the coup resulted in the exile of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to South Africa.

Following negotiations with mediator Cyril Ramaphosa, the parties agreed to hold elections on 28 February 2015 (as agreed in the Maseru facilitation declaration and the Maseru security accord), two years earlier than originally scheduled.

The recent attempted coup resurgence of conflict in Lesotho suggests that previous attempts to resolve tensions have been superficial, and have insufficiently addressed the root causes of the crisis. Elections are only one part of what should be a much broader strategy to address the conflict. There is therefore a risk that the February elections might be a quick fix attempt at a solution that once again fails to address the deeper problems facing the country.

The main causes of the kingdom’s tensions are its governance structures. A coalition government has ruled since May 2012, consisting of the three dominant parties: the Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and All Basotho Convention (ABC).

Previous attempts to resolve tensions have been superficial

The parties clashed over the appropriate distribution of resources within the coalition government. This division became increasingly visible at the beginning of September last year between the parties of the Prime Minister Thabane (ABC) who is allegedly supported by the police, and Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing (LCD), who is said to have the loyalty of the military forces.

This has contributed to a breakdown in the security structure, creating an especially hostile relationship between the military and police. The recent coup attempt was not the first time the people of Lesotho have experienced insecurity. In 1998, the country experienced a political crisis after some Basotho alleged that election results had been fraudulent. Some 113 people died in post-election violence, where the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and South Africa intervened. The coalition government that was formed in 2012 was a way of addressing some of the political tension from 1998.

A peacebuilding strategy must be included in any attempt to resolve the Lesotho crisis. The United Nations (UN) defines peacebuilding as action to strengthen peace and avoid relapse into conflict, while other literature refers to peacebuilding as a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of repeated conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels.

February elections might be a quick fix attempt at a solution

Therefore the kingdom’s peacebuilding strategies should also include dialogue, capacity-building, good governance, reform in the justice and security sectors, and socio-economic development. A fundamental challenge in Lesotho is the issue of good governance and power sharing, despite the 2012 formation of a coalition government. In July 2014, just a month before the political crisis took place, there were already early warnings issued by the Commonwealth Envoy to Lesotho.

In their report titled Governance in Lesotho: Repositioning for Success, the panel made several recommendations, including that the government’s Parliamentary Reform Committee should undertake a review of Lesotho’s parliamentary processes and institutions to prevent political instability within the government.

According to Thabang Matjama from the Open Society initiative for Southern Africa, one of the challenges with a coalition government is that parties use state resources to accumulate power for themselves. Lesotho is a case in point, where the three parties seem more concerned with gaining power than addressing the needs of ordinary Basotho.

The main causes of the kingdom’s tensions are its governance structures

Other peacebuilding strategies can be creating national dialogues between civil society, government and the private sector, which will allow people to come together and build strength, unity and healing after conflict. Peacebuilding practitioners such as the UN argue that a lack of inclusivity causes peace agreements to fail, and that inclusivity is essential to any long-lasting solution to conflict.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, peace agreements also arguably failed because they did not initially include all the relevant parties to the conflict. On 17 October 2014, Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s Deputy President and the SADC facilitator of the peace negotiations, announced that Kamoli had left the kingdom along with two of his rivals as part of a deal to restore security.

It is unclear how Kamoli’s departure affects the prospects of much-needed dialogue. If the root causes of the conflict are to be addressed, Ramaphosa and his team should create a platform that enables all parties to engage in open and transparent dialogue sessions, which will expose the fundamental triggers of the country’s unrest. Greater attention should be paid to developing peacebuilding strategies that address a lack of inclusivity. In solving the Lesotho crisis, it is imperative that all relevant parties are involved. Moreover, civil society and government should work together to find solutions and address the fundamental challenges faced by the military and the police force, and their loyalties to the prime minister and his deputy.

Successful elections next month will be an important milestone for establishing stability in Lesotho, but will only be successful if they form part of a broader process. Peacebuilding activities – formal and informal dialogues, engaging in coalition building, reconciliation, and the inclusion and participation of the relevant local actors – have not yet been considered in the facilitation processes. Therefore, as it prepares for the elections, Lesotho must seriously engage in peacebuilding processes to prevent a resurgence of violence. Reforming the parliamentary system should be the first step.

Gugu Selela, Research Intern, and Sibongile Gida, Junior Researcher, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Pretoria

South Sudan – Kiir rushed to hospital with stress-related illness

Sudan Tribune

January 28, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir was rushed to hospital in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday after he fell ill during a meeting.

PNG - 165.4 kb
South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (AFP)

Kiir arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to attend the 24th ordinary session of the assembly of head of states and government of the African Union (AU).

He was also expected to attend the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) leaders summit due to kick off on Thursday to discuss the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.

Kiir’s sudden illness interrupted a meeting between the president and rebel leader Riek Machar, which was being hosted by Ethiopian prime minister and IGAD chairperson Hailemariam Desalegn ahead of the leaders summit, which was due to be held on the side lines of the AU assembly.

The direct talks were aimed at securing an agreement between the rival leaders on a series of contentious issues, particularly on the structure of the agreed interim government.

The meeting was also being held to brief African leaders on the progress of the IGAD-led mediation process and to reports on the outcome of consultation meetings between the government and rebel faction held in Juba and Pagak during the recess.

An IGAD source later told Sudan Tribune that president Kiir had suffered a nosebleed brought on by “stress”.

As a result, IGAD was forced to cancel the meeting between the two rival leaders.

IGAD has also been forced to delay the regional leaders meeting.

IGAD officials told Sudan Tribune that if Kiir’s condition does not improve by Thursday, the leaders summit may have to be postponed indefinitely.

According to medical doctor Yonas Yohannes, one of the main causes of non-trauma induced nosebleeds is an increase in blood pressure caused by either stress, excessive consumption of alcohol, dry climate or heavy smoking.

However, he cautioned that the causes of Kiir’s illness could not be properly determined without a thorough medical examination.

(ST)