Category Archives: Central Africa

Burundi – President Nkurunziza ide killed by men in uniform

BBC

Burundi presidential aide Nshimirimana killed in attack

  
President Pierre Nkurunziza after voting in parliamentary elections in June, 29 June
President Pierre Nkurunziza after voting in parliamentary elections in June

A close aide of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has been killed in an attack on his car in the capital, Bujumbura.

Gen Adolphe Nshimirimana was a former army chief of staff and intelligence chief.

The attackers targeted his car in the Kamenge district reportedly with machine guns and rocket launchers.

Burundi has been racked by unrest since April, when Mr Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office.

Opponents argued this contravened the constitution and there was a failed coup attempt in May.

A presidential election was then held last month which Mr Nkurunziza won, but which was boycotted by the opposition.

Gen Nshimirimana was reportedly in charge of the president’s personal security and had been central in cracking down on protests.

Witnesses to the attack said four men in military fatigues had sprayed the car with bullets.

Other witnesses said rockets were also fired.

Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe told Reuters: “He has been killed by a bullet… He was in the car with some bodyguards but I don’t know exactly what happened.”

In a Twitter message Mr Nyamitwe said (in French): “I have lost a brother, a companion in the struggle.”

Djibouti – America’s African drone base

Mail and Guardian

US frets over its sole base in Africa

CORMAC ERIKSON

Djibouti is a springboard into a troubled region and home to a squadron of American drones.
Exception: President Omar Guelleh is only the second president Djibouti has known since independence in 1977. And he may alter the Constitution to stand for a fourth term. (AFP)

NEWS ANALYSIS

At first glance, United States President Barack Obama in Kenya was a man in search of his roots. His father was born near Lake Victoria, and his extended family welcomed him to Nairobi, hosting a private family dinner on the first night.

But the visit also showed a shift in concern from building democracy in places such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland to shoring up the US’s interest in a region where China leads the way.

Ironically, for all Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s pledge to “look east”, and Zanu-PF’s anger about US “sanctions” or travel bans on the regime, Zimbabwe is one of the few countries that still buys more from the US than it does from China.

By contrast, for every dollar of products Kenyans buy from the US, they spend $10 with Beijing.

Add the ongoing problems of Somalia, human rights in Eritrea, violence in Burundi, piracy, terror strikes by al-Shabab, and long-term rulers trying for yet another term in Uganda and Rwanda, and it’s clear why Washington’s focus has moved to East Africa.

And the poster boy for these woes is Djibouti, where Americans fear their once-staunchest ally, President Omar Guelleh, may have lost the plot.

In Africa, Washington has just one military presence, with a base at Camp Lemonnier a short way from Djibouti airport, and a small number of troops in the northern town of Obock. But, in May, Guelleh ordered them out, saying he planned to hand the site to China, which will send up to 10?000 soldiers, dwarfing the Pentagon’s total force of about 4?000.

In this tiny country – roughly the size of the Kruger National Park – China is building a new airport, expanding the harbour and restoring a railway line into landlocked Ethiopia. Chinese exports to Djibouti are already nine times higher than those from the US. Now, like the troublesome President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Guelleh looks set to change the Constitution and allow himself a fourth term. He did the same thing to gain a third in 2010, pledging it would be his last. His People’s Rally for Progress party holds all 65 seats in Parliament.

Restrictive regime

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) rates Guelleh’s regime as among the most restrictive in the world.

In Nairobi, Tom Rhodes, who oversees the CPJ’s work in Africa, told the Mail & Guardian there were few alternatives to state propaganda in Djibouti. “With virtually no independent media and consistent oppression of the opposition, the public have no outlets for critical debate,” he said.

“As a key regional and Western ally, virtually no one opposes President Guelleh’s abysmal record,” Rhodes said, adding that Djibouti was “comparable with other small despotic countries such as Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea”.

Despite Chinese aid and investment, and the US paying $63-million a year for their base, more than half the population struggle with basics such as water, food and healthcare. The United Nations index on human development places Djibouti in a band near the bottom, with Haiti and Afghanistan.

But Djibouti dominates the only entry and exit point between the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal. And, since independence in 1977, the former French Somaliland has had only two presidents: Guelleh and his uncle, who died in 1999.

Although much of the population are ethnic Somalis, Guelleh gives no succour to pirates and terror groups such as al-Qaeda or al-Shabab, which attacked Nairobi’s Westgate mall in 2013 and, this year, murdered 147 teachers and students at the university in Garissa.

US, Africa and defence
After Afghanistan, Djibouti is home to the world’s largest squadron of drones and from here the US can strike across the Horn of Africa and over the narrow Bab al-Mandeb Strait into the Middle East.

Obama came to charm the continent and mend fences with what the White House still hopes are its allies. Although he had some harsh words on human rights, he talked mostly about “shared values and trust”, telling the BBC that China’s policy was merely to “funnel an awful lot of money into Africa in exchange for raw materials”.

Documents obtained this week by the M&G show just how anxious some members of the US Congress have become about Guelleh and his efforts to uncouple himself from Washington.

When it comes to Africa and defence, few US lawmakers have as much clout as Tom Marino of Pennsylvania and California’s Duncan Hunter.

Marino, a former lawyer, is among the most active members of Congress, advising the house on foreign affairs, homeland security and the judiciary.

In June, he wrote to colleagues, calling for a joint sitting of all the congressional committees that deal with Africa, human rights and threats to the US, in the wake of “the erratic behaviour of Djibouti’s dictatorial president”.

In a departure from the diplomatic language that usually defines the work of Congress, he said US counterterrorism in the region could not be “hindered by Chinese interference” and “the potential threat this holds for US and regional security”.

Hunter serves on the armed forces committee previously chaired by his father, who was a presidential candidate in 2008. Supporters say he might have defeated Obama if the Republicans had not gone instead with the geriatric John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

Calling for regime change
On June 26, Hunter wrote a letter urging the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, to “insist on an orderly change of Djibouti’s government”. He has made the same call for regime change to the secretary of state, John Kerry, who, on May??6, visited Guelleh for talks. Less than 24 hours after that meeting, Guelleh dropped the bombshell that the US troops were to be evicted from Obock in favour of the Chinese.

Hunter also believes Guelleh is about to renege on his promise to step down before next year’s elections and allow a democratically elected candidate to take his place.

In his letter, Hunter urges the secretary of defence to “pay close attention to Guelleh and his mistreatment of political opposition and journalists, which is well documented”.

He warns that, although the president “has said he will step down when his term expires next year, his previous actions call this into question”. The US, Hunter wrote, “requires reliable allies”.

Djibouti trickier than Harare for Washington
Although Obama had previously said Mugabe was “on the wrong side of history”, this week he made no reference to the 91-year-old who, critics say, has remained in power for the past 35 years by terrorising his opponents and, when that failed, rigging the vote.

But Washington’s policy on Djibouti faces even more problems than it did in Harare. As in Zimbabwe, Djibouti’s neighbours won’t speak out on human rights, the African Union is equally silent, and China will gladly step in if the West cuts off aid.

But Zimbabwe is not on the Horn of Africa, and ships don’t have to sail the Zambezi to enter Suez. The US’s clout in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and, potentially, South Sudan, depends on Camp Lemonnier and the land, air and naval presence in Djibouti.

Guelleh is yet to confirm whether he will alter the Constitution again and stand for a fourth term in 2016, but, whatever he decides, as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in his talks this week with Obama: “Choices have consequences.”

The letters from Hunter and Marino, and concern over the violence spawned by Nkurunziza’s quest for another term in Burundi, suggest Guelleh may have misjudged the mood.

Chad says it has killed 117 Boko Haram in two weeks

Reuters

N’DJAMENA Chad said on Thursday its forces had killed 117 Boko Haram insurgents during a two-week military campaign aimed at clearing islands on Lake Chad used by the militants as hideouts and bases to launch attacks.

Chad has deployed thousands of soldiers alongside troops from neighbours Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger to tackle the militant group whose six-year insurgency has killed thousands.

“We killed 117 Boko Haram fighters during the two-week operation. We lost two men and several wounded,” Colonel Azem Bermandoa, spokesman for the Chadian army, said.

“We destroyed their boats and seized various weapons during the operation,” he said.

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, has stepped up attacks in countries around the lake in recent months in response to a regional offensive.

Last weekend, suspected militants from the group raided several remote localities around the lake.

(Reporting by Madjiasra Nako; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Burundi – opposition leader accepts deputy speaker post after Nkurunziza victory

BBC

Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa speaks during an interview in the capital Bujumbura on 22 July 2015
Despite boycotting the presidential poll Mr Rwasa still won nearly 20% of the vote

Burundi’s opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has been elected as a deputy speaker of parliament, despite strident criticism of recent legislative and presidential polls.

There has been a political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.

Mr Rwasa withdrew from this month’s presidential election and described Mr Nkurunziza’s victory as “a joke”.

He now says he will “play the game” to bring peace, AFP news agency reports.

Mr Rwasa supported the protests, that began in April, against Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid in which more than 70 people have died in clashes with the police.

There was also a failed coup attempt in May.

Policeman at Burundi protests
Weeks of protest and a failed coup attempt followed Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid

Mr Rwasa’s opposition coalition also called for a boycott of June’s parliamentary elections, but with its name on the ballot paper it still won 21 seats.

There is a faltering negotiation process, chaired by Uganda, that is aimed at solving the crisis.

Mr Rwasa took up his seat in parliament to some surprise on Monday saying that as the talks were still going on it was worth participating in the political process.

Fellow opposition leader Charles Nditije said Mr Rwasa’s move betrayed those who died during the protests.

He was elected as one of parliament’s deputy speakers with the backing of MPs from Mr Nkuruniziza’s CNDD-FDD party.

The BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, says that it is difficult to see what Mr Rwasa’s strategy is.

But the opposition leader may now have more influence on the politics of the country in his new post, he says.

Nigeria – Buhari won’t challenge Cameroon’s ownership of Bakassi

Premium Times

Muhammadu Buhari AU summit

Nigeria will abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Bakassi Peninsula, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.

President Buhari said his administration would ensure the faithful implementation of the Green Tree Agreement, which regulates the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon.

Mr. Buhari spoke at an interactive session with Nigerians living in Cameroon during his two-day working and friendly visit to the country, a statement by Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesperson, said.

“Since Nigeria allowed the case to go to court (ICJ), and we lost, we have to abide by it, ” the President said in response to a question from a Nigerian on the issue.

Nigeria had on October 9, 2012, finally conceded the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in line with the judgment of the International Court of Justice awarding the area to the Central African country.

But even that did not put paid to speculations speculations that Aftica’s most populous country might seek a review of the ruling.

The then Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, said in a statement at the time that the committee constituted by government and a firm of international lawyers retained by government came to the conclusion that “an application for a review is virtually bound to fail“ and that “a failed application will be diplomatically damaging to Nigeria”.

“In view of the foregoing, the Federal Government is of the informed view that with less than two days to the period when the revision will be statute barred (9th October, 2012), it would be impossible for Nigeria to satisfy the requirements of Articles 61(1) -(5) of the ICJ Statute,” Mr. Adoke said in the statement.

“Government has therefore decided that it will not be in the national interest to apply for revision of the 2002 ICJ Judgment in respect of the Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria.”

President Buhari’s comment has now dampened expectations by some Nigerians that subsequent Nigerian administrations might again try to wrestle the oil-rich peninsula from Cameroon.

On the plight of some 40,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, who were
forced to flee their homes because of Boko Haram terrorists, the President said the Federal government would ensure their safe return and rehabilitation in the shortest possible time.

“We also have about 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria and we have a programme of rehabilitation and reintegration into the society for them, which involves providing shelter and schools to the displaced persons.’’

President Buhari, who is on his maiden visit to the country after his
inauguration on May 29, said his administration had yet to articulate a foreign policy for Nigeria beyond what was captured in the All Progressives Congress (APC) party’s manifesto.

“However we will make our embassies more efficient and improve our relations with other countries,’’ he said.

The President urged Nigerians in Diaspora to be law abiding in their
host countries and told representatives of the over 4 million Nigerians living in Cameroon to continue to live in peace and harmony with Cameroonians.

Responding to a question on the voting rights for Nigerians in Diaspora, the President promised that his administration would revisit the issue, which would require legislation from the National Assembly.

Later in a prepared text read to the Nigerian community, the President pledged to do everything possible toward bringing positive change to Nigeria.

“Despite the numerous challenges confronting us, the future of our country is bright.

“You all know very well that your fellow Nigerians are resilient, hardworking and patriotic.

“These qualities have always seen us through our most difficult national challenges and they will do so now.’’

On the fight against Boko Haram, the President assured Nigerians that the current security challenges are not insurmountable.

He said Nigeria was working with all her neighbours, including Cameroon, to fight and stand firmly against all forms of terror and trans-border crimes.

He appealed for patience and vigilance l from Nigerians to ensure that youths are not lured into joining “misguided groups.’’

“We are determined to end this callousness against our innocent citizens.

“The defence of the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the protection of lives and properties of Nigerians and all those who live in the country are out top priorities.

“We shall explore all reasonable options to enable us to bring this rebellion to an end,” he vowed.

President Buhari will depart Cameroon for Abuja on Thursday after addressing a joint press conference in Yaounde with his host, President Paul Biya.

Nigeria – regional anti-Boko Haram force will cross borders to fight

BBC

Cameroon troops in the north of the country
Cameroon has had to increase its military presence in the north to fight Nigeria-based militants

Multinational troops fighting Boko Haram in West Africa will be able to pursue the militants across borders, Nigeria’s presidential spokesman says.

Garba Shehu told the BBC this was there was now trust between those contributing troops since the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in May.

He was speaking ahead of the Nigerian leader’s visit to Cameroon.

A boosted force with 8,700 troops from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria is to become fully operational next month.

Relations between Nigeria and Cameroon have been fraught for years because of territorial disputes, in particular over the Bakassi peninsula.

The oil-rich region was eventually awarded to Cameroon by an international court.

BBC Nigeria analyst Naziru Mikailu says Mr Buhari is trying to smooth over these diplomatic tensions as he meets President Paul Biya as both nations now face a new enemy threatening their territorial integrity.

A banner reads
Security is reportedly tight in the Cameroonian capital for the visit

On Tuesday, Cameroon announced it would deploy an extra 2,000 troops along its northern border with Nigeria to fight Boko Haram.

It follows an upsurge in suicide attacks in northern Cameroon blamed on the Nigerian militants.

‘In disarray’

With the help of troops from Chad and Niger, earlier this year the Nigerian army managed to retake most of the areas taken over by the militants in north-eastern Nigeria.

Map

Although the militants have lost their strongholds, they are still active and there has been an upsurge in suicide attacks since Mr Buhari took office.

“Boko Haram is in disarray and it is doubtful they have any central command,” Mr Shehu told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

President Buhari has made the multinational force central to his government’s strategy in tackling the insurgency.

The force of soldiers, police and civilian personnel will be based in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, which has also been affected by the violence.

“All the countries agreed this operation will not recognise international boundaries – wherever terrorists are they will be chased to these locations and they will be fought until they are finished,” Mr Shehu said.

At least 17,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in northern Nigeria 2009, according to Amnesty International.

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Boko Haram at a glance

Boko Haram fighters
  • 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
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined Islamic State, now calls itself “West African province”
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory this year

Nigeria – Buhari in Cameroon seeking closer alliance against Boko Haram

Reuters

Nigeria’s Buhari in Cameroon seeks closer partnership against Boko Haram

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari began a two-day visit to Cameroon on Wednesday in a bid to soothe fractious ties between the West African neighbours and strengthen cooperation against Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Buhari’s first visit to Cameroon since his election in March comes as the militant group, which has sworn allegiance to Islamic State, has launched a fresh wave of attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Buhari, wearing a white traditional robe, was greeted on arrival at Yaounde international airport by 82-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya. The two were to hold talks at the presidential palace on Wednesday, before making a joint statement ahead of Buhari’s departure on Thursday.

Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger waged an offensive against Boko Haram this year that broke its grip over swathes of northeastern Nigeria, but it responded with suicide bombings and raids that have spilled the conflict across borders.

Tensions are running high in Cameroon’s Far North region after three suicide attacks in the past week killed at least 60 people, prompting the local government to announce the closure of some mosques, ban burqas and forbid street hawkers.

In Nigeria, suspected Boko Haram attacks have killed at least 600 people since Buhari took office two months ago.

Cameroon’s Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakari said Boko Haram had switched to attacking civilian targets because it was no longer capable of military engagements.

“The heads of state are going to discuss the best means of eradicating this new form of belligerence and the strategies to reduce Boko Haram,” he said.

An African Union-mandated, 8,700-strong regional taskforce, headquartered in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, was due to start operations at the end of this month but has been delayed by questions over funding.

The Nigerian presidency said the talks would focus on the activation and deployment of this force. Buhari is due to visit Benin, the fifth member of the operation, on Saturday.

Relations between Cameroon and Nigeria have been strained by a border dispute that flared into conflict in 1993. Biya, in power since 1982, did not attend Buhari’s inauguration and the Nigerian leader’s trip comes nearly two months after he visited Chad and Niger.

In the past, Abuja has accused Yaounde of dragging its feet over tackling Boko Haram, which analysts say established rear bases on the Cameroonian side of the Mandara mountains.

Cameroon has complained that its efforts to combat the militants have been hampered by Nigeria’s refusal to grant its forces the right to pursue them onto its soil, which both Chad and Niger enjoy.

“Buhari’s visit should help ease the climate of mistrust between Cameroon and Nigeria,” said Njoya Moussa, a Cameroonian political analyst.

“I pray that they should talk about security because mostly it’s what we need here in Cameroon and Nigeria,” said Doris Onuorah, a Nigerian business woman in Yaounde.

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