Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – Dlamini-Zuma of AU urges African action on Boko Haram

BBC

Nigeria’s Boko Haram unrest: African leaders urged to act

Nigerian military manning checkpoints in Maiduguri, North East Nigeria. (File image)Maiduguri would be a major prize for Boko Haram

African states should act quickly and collectively to curb the growing threat posed by Nigeria’s militant Islamists, the African Union chief has said.

Cross-border raids into Cameroon showed the dangers the Boko Haram group posed, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.

Nigeria has rejected AU or UN intervention, saying regional armies are capable of dealing with the threat.

Its troops repelled a new attack by Boko Haram on the key north-eastern city of Maiduguri on Sunday night.

Boko Haram launched a full-scale insurgency in north-eastern Nigeria in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

Soldiers and security block a road as they secure the venue during a rally of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Maiduguri on 24 January 2015 The military was out in force in Maiduguri during President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit on Saturday

In an address to African foreign ministers at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Ms Dlamini-Zuma said recent attacks by Boko Haram were deeply horrifying.

AU heads of state had agreed to include the conflict on the agenda of their summit, due to begin on Friday, she said.

Correspondents say Boko Haram and Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabab will now dominate the summit, which was supposed to focus on women’s empowerment and development.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Nigeria on Sunday to call for peaceful elections next month.

Boko Haram seized the north-eastern Nigerian town of Monguno on Sunday, raising further doubts about whether elections could be held across the country on 14 February.

It controls many towns and villages in the north-eastern Borno state and Maiduguri, the state capital, is seen as a prized scalp for the group.

The conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis affecting some three million people, Nigerian officials say.

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Tomi Oladipo, BBC Africa security correspondent

Capturing Maiduguri would be Boko Haram’s most significant achievement yet, taking the largest city in north-east Nigeria and returning to the place where it began a full-scale insurrection in 2009.

It is also a battle the Nigerian military cannot afford to lose. Boko Haram has been inching across Borno state and even if its fighters are repelled now, another audacious attack is inevitable, considering much of the area around Maiduguri is already under its control.

The army has been working to defend its major cities from Boko Haram raids but Nigerians would expect their soldiers to also be reclaiming the towns seized by the insurgents, which we have not really seen so far

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In an interview with the BBC Hausa service, Borno state governor Kashim Shettima called on people not to panic.

“This is our land. No fear, no flight, no retreat. We should not flee. We have a history dating back 1,000 years and I swear by Allah we are going to beat [Boko Haram],” he said.

An official stands in front of relief materials at a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri in Borno State on 19 January 2015Thousands of people from areas seized by Boko Haram are taking refuge in Maiduguri
Soldiers of the Chadian army patrol on 21 January 2015 at the border between Nigeria and CameroonChad has deployed troops to Cameroon to fight Boko Haram

A 24-hour curfew imposed on Sunday in Maiduguri has been relaxed and some businesses reopened on Monday.

Government troops beat back Boko Haram fighters who had launched an assault on the city on Sunday night – the second in less than 24 hours, an army source told the BBC.

Both attacks were in the Jimtilo district.

Loud explosions were heard in the city, a resident told the BBC Hausa service.

‘Houses on fire’

A medical source said the four biggest hospitals in Maiduguri were overwhelmed with casualties.

Some relatives took away corpses that lay at the entrance of the Maiduguri General Hospital, he told the BBC.

Children as young as four years were among those who had been treated for bullet wounds, he added.

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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

Why is Boko Haram so strong?

City under siege

Soldiers without weapons

Who are Boko Haram?

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President Goodluck Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his election campaign, his second visit in two weeks.

The army in Monguno, 140km (85 miles) north of Maiduguri, was reported to have been overwhelmed when Boko Haram attacked on Sunday, setting houses on fire.

A journalist in Maiduguri told the BBC that fleeing soldiers from Monguno had arrived at the barracks in Maiduguri.

Mr Kerry urged Mr Jonathan and the main opposition’s presidential candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, not to condone violence during what is expected to be a tense election campaign.

He said the US could do more to help against Boko Haram, as long as the elections passed off smoothly.

US Ambassador to Nigeria James Entwistle (left), US Secretary of State John Kerry (centre) sit beside Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House in LagosMr Kerry (centre) held talks with President Jonathan (right) during a rare visit to Nigeria

The US does not currently sell weapons to Nigeria’s military because of its human rights record.

Last week, Nigeria’s national security adviser Sambo Dasuki told the BBC that regional armies were in “good shape” to take on Boko Haram and so they did not need help from the UN or AU.

However, there have been many reports of government forces fleeing when Boko Haram fighters advance.

Some soldiers say they do not have enough weapons and working equipment to defend territory.

Chad, seen as having the most capable military in the region, sent a convoy of troops and 400 military vehicles to Cameroon earlier this month to battle Boko Haram.

map of areas under attack by Boko Haram

 

Nigeria – fight to recapture Monguno as thousands flee

Reuters

(Reuters) – Nigerian troops were fighting on Monday with air support to recapture the northeastern town of Monguno from Boko Haram insurgents as more than 5,000 residents fled, government and security sources said.

The insurgents on Sunday seized the town, which lies on the shores of Lake Chad, in a triple offensive that also targeted Konduga and the outskirts and airport of the main northeastern city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram’s five-year-old insurgency, which it covets as the potential capital of an Islamic state.

The conflict with Boko Haram has intensified in the past year and is a major issue in the campaign for a presidential election on Feb. 14 that pits President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

A local journalist who visited Maiduguri’s biggest morgue said more than 100 people, mainly insurgents but also including at least 15 soldiers and a few civilians, had been killed in Sunday’s fighting around the city.

In Monguno, at least 15 soldiers were killed along with more than 25 civilians, a security source said.

Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade said on Sunday evening that warplanes had attacked rebel positions after ground troops were forced to retreat. Soldiers said they had come up against superior firepower.

On Monday, a security source said the bombardment had resumed.

Monguno lies near the larger town of Baga, which was seized by Boko Haram this month along with a military base in an attack that left scores of civilians dead.

In a video claiming responsibility for the capture of Baga, the insurgents said they had seized enough weapons to “annihilate Nigeria”.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Abdulkadir Ibrahim, said over 5,000 people had been registered as having fled Monguno.

He said a housing estate still under construction had been converted into an emergency refugee camp.

In a visit to Nigeria on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was committed to helping Nigeria fight Boko Haram, but its ability to do so would hinge on how the well the election was conducted.

South Africa – SIU head who investigated Nkandla resigns

Mail and Guardian

Head of the Special Investigating Unit Vas Soni has resigned in a surprise move, citing personal reasons for his decision.

SIU head Vas Soni says it has been 'stressful and it's a serious challenge' working in the public sector.<br />

Spokesperson for the unit, Sefura Mongalo, said Vas Soni – who had been appointed to the post by President Jacob Zuma in September 2013 – wanted to spend time with his wife, who had not been well the last five months.

During his career one of Soni’s tasks included conducting an investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.

Soni is believed to be going into private practice.

eNCA quoted him as saying that he had found the position very “stressful” and that he had not expected what a challenge the job would be.

“I think it has been stressful and it’s a serious challenge … I had spent almost my entire working life in the private sector and did not realise what a challenge working in the public sector is,” he said.

Report found Zuma benefitted
The SIU’s report found that President Zuma was enriched by the state-funded improvements to his residence, but placed the blame for the millions lost on the shoulders of his architect Minenhle Makhanya.

It opted to recover the excess money spent from Makhanya himself, instead of trying to get it from a number of people who had benefited.

The 245-page report said the probe had shown that as a result of Makhanya’s actions, the state had suffered losses of about R155-million and many people, including Zuma and his family, had benefited.

The president and his family had derived benefit in that their home was enhanced.

The SIU argued its case in the Pietermaritzburg high court last year, where Makhanya was appealing the claim that he had had authorised structures that were not security measures, pushing up the price ten times.

Makhanya’s case has been postponed to February 25.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her March report last year also found that Zuma had derived undue benefit from the improvements made to his homestead in the KwaZulu-Natal hamlet. – Sapa, Staff Reporter

Nigeria – army failed to act on intelligence on Boko attack on Monguno

Premium Times

The Nigerian military received reliable intelligence report indicating that the Boko Haram sect would launch a massive attack on Monguno, yet troops were taken by surprise when the insurgents struck early Sunday, suggesting the 5 Brigade stationed in the area failed to prepare adequately for the group’s onslaught.

Reliable military sources told PREMIUM TIMES that the Brigade received report indicating the insurgents would attack between January 22 and 25.

The report, our sources said, was read to officers and men of the Brigade on the night of January 22, with a stern warning that everyone should remain on high alert.

Despite warning troops to remain on alert, the leadership of the formation failed to take the necessary steps and make the right deployment of men and equipment to check the imminent attack, PREMIUM TIMES was told.

When the terrorists arrived on Sunday, the troops were therefore taken by surprise.

Military insiders said the insurgents arrived at about 2 am on Sunday, parking their Hilux vans deep into the bush, with their headlights on.

Soldiers of the Brigade, who saw the unusual lights, began to shoot in the direction of the vans without knowing that the insurgents had left the vans and advanced close to the Brigade headquarters.

Suddenly, the insurgents began to shoot sporadically. The troop of the Brigade, including those of the Multinational Joint Task Force [MJTF], who were camped at a school inside the barracks after they were dislodged from Baga, engaged the terrorists in a long exchange of gunfire.

The biggest fighting tank owned by the Brigade, known as Shika, killed several insurgents, and wounded several others.

It was such a long battle that the equipment, which provided cover for ground troops, suddenly ran out of ammunition and began to withdraw.

As it withdrew, the rifle men behind also retreated, as the insurgents followed in pursuit. In the process, the commander of the Brigade, a Brigadier General Yekini, and a few other soldiers were wounded. It is not clear the number of soldiers and insurgents killed in the attack.

“We could have overpowered the insurgents, but there was no enough ammunition,” an officer, who participated in the battle, told PREMIUM TIMES.

But when contacted Monday, the Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, dismissed the suggestion that the military did not prepare enough for the attack despite knowing days before that it was coming. “Because it is an area that is prone to attacks, our officers and men are always on the alert,” Mr. Olukolade said.

He declined further comments.

Meanwhile, the 5 Brigade commander, who was injured in the attack, has been removed from his post and replaced with another officer who addressed the dislodged soldiers on Monday morning asking them to remain calm and focused on the task ahead.

It is not known whether his removal has to do with the injury he suffered in battle or his alleged failure to prepare his Brigade well to fend off the onslaught.

Nigerian soldiers in Borno state had on Sunday faced three separate and daring raids by the extremist Boko Haram sect on three major towns, successfully repelling two of them, and losing the battle for one.

Mr. Olukolade said the daring attacks on Maiduguri and neighbouring Konduga by insurgents were successfully repelled by soldiers while officers and men of 5 Brigade lost the battle for Monguno.

Kenya – one killed in protest over Maasai Mara tourism corruption

Reuters

(Reuters) – At least seven people were injured on Monday in clashes between Kenyan police and protesters from the Maasai ethnic group who accuse a local governor of corrupt handling of tourism funds from the Maasai Mara game reserve, the Kenya Red Cross said.

Kenya television said at least one person was killed during the violence, in which witnesses said police used teargas and fired shots as thousands of Maasais clad in traditional red cloaks marched to the governor’s office.

Police had no immediate comment on the report and the Red Cross did not report any deaths.

At the gates of Governor Samuel Tunai’s office in Narok town, the administrative centre of the sprawling Maasai Mara game park, demonstrators chanted: “Tunai must go.” Some hurled rocks.

Visitors to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s biggest tourist draws, pay $80 per day to roam an area full of wildlife such as lions, rhinos and giraffes.

Upmarket lodges and luxury tented camps can charge hundreds of dollars per person per day for the experience, although a spate of militant attacks in Kenya as well as the Ebola epidemic on the other side of Africa have scared off many tourists.

The dispute began when Tunai’s administration contracted a company to collect Maasai Mara park entry fees, a deal the locals say was suspect.

“(Tunai) cannot account for billions of shillings from all financial sources including the Mara. He should be held to account,” said Senator Stephen ole Ntutu, who was among the protesters.

Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery on Sunday banned all rallies and demonstrations amid fears of violence in Narok, where residents often complain about high unemployment and the poor state of roads and schools.

Nkaissery said the office of the Auditor-General and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) have been sent to Narok to investigate graft claims which Tunai has denied.

Local government finance has come under increased scrutiny from Kenyans since a newly devolved system was introduced in 2013 under which local governments receive about 43 percent of the national budget directly and are responsible for raising their own additional revenues.

Devolution was designed to spread wealth and help local communities benefit from revenue earned in their areas but analysts say corruption and other issues that have blighted national politics have now also spread to local bodies.

Central African Republic – minister kidnapped to gain release of detained rebel

BBC

26 January 2015
CAR minister Armel Sayo kidnapped ‘for rebel chief’

The militia group which abducted Central African Republic’s sports minister has demanded the release of its detained commander, the minister’s spokeswoman has said.

Armel Sayo was seized while returning from church on Sunday by men linked to anti-balaka militia commander Rodrigue Nagibona, Tatiana Yangeko said.

The men had briefly abducted three people in the capital Bangui last week.

CAR has been gripped by religious and ethnic conflict since March 2013.

Mr Sayo is the first government minister to be abducted since the conflict broke out.

‘Pulled from vehicle’
The anti-balaka is a mainly Christian militia formed to oppose the Muslim-led Seleka rebel group which overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013.

Seleka handed power to a UN-backed transitional government last year, but large parts of the country continue to be lawless.

UN troops arrested Mr Nagibona, known as General Andjilo, earlier this month.

UN peacekeepers earlier arrested one of the militia’s leaders
He was wanted for alleged murder and rape in connection with attacks on minority Muslims in December 2013, as well as on charges over rebellion and looting.

Ms Yangeko said contact had been made between Mr Sayo’s family and the kidnappers, who were demanding Mr Nagibona’s release in exchange for the minister’s freedom.

She did not give further details.

Mr Sayo was on his way home from church when his car was accosted in Bangui’s Galabadja neighbourhood by fighters in an unmarked taxi, his wife, Nicaise Danielle Sayo, told Associated Press news agency.

“They instructed us to stop… They pulled him from his vehicle to put him in their car to head to Boy-Rabe, their stronghold,” said Mrs Sayo, who was with her husband when he was abducted.

The anti-balaka have been involved in fierce fighting with Seleka rebels

Freed French aid worker Claudia Priest arrived in Paris on Sunday
Last week, a Kurdish UN employee, a French aid worker and her local colleague briefly were abducted.

The aid worker, Claudia Priest, 67, returned to France on Sunday.

Her abduction was said to be linked to Mr Nagibona’s arrest and the circumstances around her release and that of the other two people are unclear.

The conflict in CAR has killed thousands and displaced about one million.

The UN plans to bolster its troop presence in the country to 10,000 by April.

It currently has about 8,700 troops there.

Armel Sayo is the first government to be abducted since a transitional government was formed last year

2015/01/img_1043.jpg

US snubs Nigeria to work with Cameroon, Niger and Chad against “terrorism”

Punch

 

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh

Major rift between the Nigerian and American military authorities have been hampering the fight against Boko Haram militants, which have been carrying out murderous attacks on villages and towns in the North-East, the New York Times reports.

Relations between American military trainers and specialists advising the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram are so strained that the Pentagon often bypasses Nigeria altogether, choosing to work instead with security officials in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, NY Times quoted defence officials and diplomats as saying.

Following the strain in relationship, the Federal Government in December 2014 cancelled the last stage of American training of a newly-created Nigerian Army battalion and there has been no resumption of the training since then.

This was against the backdrop of the refusal of the US to sell Cobra attack helicopters and other lethal weapons to the Federal Government to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the army could not maintain them.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, scheduled to travel to Nigeria on Sunday, is expected to discuss the security issue and the forthcoming elections with President Goodluck Jonathan when they meet in Lagos.

The NY Times reports that American officials are hesitant to share intelligence with the Nigerian military because they contend it has been infiltrated by Boko Haram.

It said that the US was so concerned about Boko Haram infiltration that American officials had not included raw data in intelligence they had provided Nigeria, worried that their sources would be compromised.

The officials are also said to be wary of the Nigerian military as well, citing corruption and sweeping human rights abuses by its soldiers.

“We don’t have a foundation for what I would call a good partnership right now,” said a senior military official with the US Africa Command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

“We want a relationship based on trust, but you have to be able to see yourself. And they’re in denial,” the official said.

Senator Ahmed Zanna said it was disappointing that the US would bypass Nigeria to work with smaller countries on terrorism.

“For a small country like Chad or Cameroon to come to assist the Americans, that is disappointing. You have a very good and reliable ally and you are running away from them,” he said, faulting the Nigerian government.

“It is terrible. I pray for a change of government,” he added.

A British diplomat noted that the frustration between the two sides (Nigeria and US) has broad implications for the fight against Boko Haram, including making it harder for other international partners who have joined the effort.

“We are trying to work closely with the French and the Americans in support of the Nigerian military and government against Boko Haram, a rift between one of our two partners and the Nigerian government is not a good thing,” the diplomat stated.

Copyright PUNCH.