Category Archives: North Africa

Sudan – Darfur agreement between government and Minnawi group

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – Sudanese government and a number of Darfur rebel commanders led by Mohamedain Ismail Bashar, a former operation commander of the Sudan Liberation Movement -Minni Minnawi, signed a peace agreement in the Chadian capital Ndjamena on Friday.

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Head of Darfur peace office, Amin Hassan Omer (L) shakes hands with Mohamedain Bashar in Ndjamena on 27 March 2015 (SMC photo)

Bashar’s group is composed of several dissident rebel commanders who on 7 October 2014 accused their leader of nepotism, corruption and illegal detention of some leading members. Two weeks later, Minnawi sacked four commander and accused them of treason and communication with the enemy.

The peace agreement was signed by the head of Darfur peace office Amin Hassan Omer, and Bashar, in presence of the Chadian foreign minister Moussa al-Faki, representing president Idris Debi who facilitated the deal.

The parties didn’t release the text of the signed deal but Sudan Tribune learnt it is a security arrangements agreement negotiated on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD).

Omer welcomed the agreement and said that it was the first time that confidence building and cooperation between the two parties take place before the signing. He further called on the rebel groups to follow this example.

Bashar’s group strength is estimated at around 400 combatants with 30 vehicles.

Former SLM-MM military spokesperson Adam Saleh Abakar, the group logistics officer Abdalla Tijani and former humanitarian official Adam Buy-Dad are among Bashar’s group members.

Several sources told [Sudan Tribune that the signatories were is relation with JEM-Sudan leader Bakheit Abdallah Abdel-Karim (Dabajo) who encouraged them to negotiate with the government.

Dabajo himself before to join JEM was part of the SLM-MM.

The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) called Darfur rebel groups including SLM-MM and their political allies of the Sudan Call forces to meet with the government next Sunday to discuss procedures of the national dialogue process.


Africa and the world – rising but on the margins


As pressure mounts for Africa to take greater responsibility for development, peace and security on the continent, the question of regional leadership becomes pressing. A recent African Futures paper explores the changing power capabilities of Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa (the so-called ‘Big Five’) over the next 25 years. These countries are all leaders in their respective regions and hold some of the greatest power potential in Africa.

Collectively, they represent 60% of the African economy, 40% of Africa’s population and 58% of the continent’s military spending. This is expected to remain the same over the next 25 years. The future of these countries will provide a fairly straightforward answer to the often-evoked question of whether or not Africa is rising. Indeed if these states fall or fail, Africa will not be able to rise.

The authors of the paper, published by the Institute for Security Studies and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures, use the International Futures forecasting system to forecast future power trajectories. In an increasingly flat world where institutions matter, states that don’t network will have little influence on issues of regional and global governance.

The projections explored in the paper are based on a new index to measure national power, which includes diplomatic engagements in addition to traditional measures such as demographics, economics and technology.

If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say

Today, the combined power of Africa’s 55 countries accounts for close to 9% of global power. This is more than that of Japan, Russia or India, but less than the United States (US) or China, which represent about 18% and 13% of global power, respectively. By 2040, Africa’s total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union (EU) and US – although only adding up to around 11% of global power. This is at odds with the world’s demographic evolution. By 2050, one in four people will be African. If the world were a democracy, Africans would certainly have a bigger say.

In the next couple of decades, Africa is set to remain at the margins of global power. And this is an understatement, as Africa is clearly neither a country nor a union of states with any kind of supranational provisions. Even with significant advances in regional and continental integration, it is highly unlikely that Africa will speak with one voice in foreign policy matters, or be able to act in unison.

Only Nigeria has the potential to become a player with global significance. But this would require far-reaching changes in its current domestic stability, governance capacity and political leadership, which is an unlikely scenario. All other African countries are expected to remain so-called ‘minor powers,’ which affects Africa’s influence in issues of global governance.

For the Big Five, the data tells a story of two emerging powers and three whose potential is waning. The capabilities of Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years. Those of Egypt, South Africa and Algeria, on the other hand, are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline.

Nigeria’s economy, already the largest in Africa, is expected to represent almost 3% of the global economy by 2040. Its military spending is set to increase significantly over the next 25 years, ready to overtake Africa’s current military heavyweight, Algeria, in more or less 10 years. By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power capabilities.

By 2040, Nigeria is forecast to account for nearly a fifth of Africa’s total power

Ethiopia, the other rising power, is coming from a low base and the country will remain the poorest among the Big Five. Nevertheless, by 2040 it is expected to be the sixth largest African economy due to high average economic growth rates. Algeria, Egypt and South Africa are likely to grow below the African average growth rate of 6.3% per annum. The size of their populations will also stagnate – although this is due to higher general levels of development, which are associated with lower fertility rates.

Among the Big Five, Egypt has traditionally dominated the category of global diplomatic engagement. This can be gauged according to the number of embassies abroad, the number of memberships to international organisations and the number of international treaties ratified by a country. Egypt’s strategic location, and its important role in both Arab and African nationalism, ensures that it is deeply connected internationally. Egypt is closely followed by South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, while Ethiopia lags behind. Not surprisingly, South Africa made big strides after the end of apartheid in 1994 when the country reintegrated into the international community.

The way the Big Five project power is not necessarily in line with their capabilities. After all, power is as much about potential as it is about concrete projection. Some countries are able to influence more international actors, institutions or regimes than would be expected based on their capabilities, while others don’t live up to their potential.

It is questionable whether South Africa will continue punching above its weight

This is the case for Nigeria, which has been punching below its weight despite a strong set of capabilities. High levels of internal instability and corruption along with a political economy of violence compromise the country’s prospects. There is also a lack of strategic vision in the foreign-policy domain, which has recently been aggravated by the growing threat of Boko Haram.

Algeria’s role in Africa is also at odds with its relatively robust albeit declining capabilities. Faced with significant domestic and regional threats, Algeria remains focused on the need to maintain a large military capacity for internal purposes.

Egypt punches above its weight internationally, but below its weight in the African context. The country is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the Arab Spring as well as spill-over effects of the conflict in neighbouring Libya. Domestic challenges seem to detract from projecting power outside of the country, with external priorities evolving around the conflict in the Middle East and efforts to contain terrorism.

In contrast, both South Africa and Ethiopia have largely punched above their weight. Despite its limited capabilities, Ethiopia is Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and plays an important role in peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, regional security is a domestic priority for Ethiopia.

South Africa, for its part, has capitalised on the miracle of the transition to democracy; Nelson Mandela’s legacy; the international activism of his successor, Thabo Mbeki, as well as several years of healthy economic growth and a benign global environment. Yet it is questionable whether the current context of stagnant or even declining capabilities and a lack of credible leadership will allow South Africa to continue punching above its weight in the medium-term future.

What seems certain is that the distribution of relative power in Africa will remain multipolar, with various countries fulfilling the role of regional leaders.

Julia Schünemann, Senior Researcher and Project Leader, African Futures and Innovation Section, ISS Pretoria; Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director, ISS; Jonathan D. Moyer, Associate Director, Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures.

Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan sign Nile waters deal


Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan sign deal to end Nile dispute

The leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopian in Khartoum on 23 March 2015
Egypt’s leader (l) signed the deal, despite expressing reservations

Three African leaders have signed an initial deal to end a long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile waters and the building of Africa’s biggest hydroelectric dam, in Ethiopia.

The leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed the agreement in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

Egypt has opposed the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, saying it would worsen its water shortages.

Ethiopia says the dam will give it a fairer share of Nile waters.

In 2013, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a controversial treaty to replace colonial-era agreements that gave Egypt and Sudan the biggest share of the Nile’s water.

Egypt’s then-President Mohamed Morsi said he did not want war but he would not allow Egypt’s water supply to be endangered by the dam.

Diversion ceremony at the Blue Nile in Guba, Ethiopia. 28 May 2013
Ethiopia has the support of many African states for building the dam

Mr Morsi’s successor, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi signed the deal with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Halemariam Desalegn and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.

‘Veto power’

The three leaders welcomed the “declaration of principles” agreement in speeches in Khartoum’s Republican Palace, and watched a short film about the Grand Renaissance Dam that highlighted how it could benefit the region, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Halemariam said he wanted to give an assurance that the dam would “not cause any harm to downstream countries”, Reuters news agency reports.

Mr Sisi said the project remained a source of concern to Egypt.

“The Renaissance Dam project represents a source of development for the millions of Ethiopia’s citizens through producing green and sustainable energy, but for their brothers living on the banks of that very Nile in Egypt, and who approximately equal them in numbers, it represents a source of concern and worry,” he said.

“This is because the Nile is their only source of water, in fact their source of life.”

map of the river nile

Ethiopia wants to replace a 1929 treaty written by Britain that awarded Egypt veto power over any project involving the Nile by upstream countries.

Ethiopia says the $4.7bn (£3.1bn) dam will eventually provide 6,000 megawatts of power.

Egypt was apparently caught by surprise when Ethiopia started diverting the Blue Nile – a tributary of the Nile – in 2013.

Ethiopia says the river will be slightly diverted but will then be able to follow its natural course.

Egyptian politicians were inadvertently heard on live TV in 2013, proposing military action over the dam.

Ethiopia has received strong backing from five other Nile-basin countries – Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.

Conflict deaths in Africa in 2015

Africa Check

Conflict-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa

Researched by Shirley de Villiers 

The first two months of 2015 saw about 8,300 people die as a result of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, with just five countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Somalia and Niger – accounting for roughly 90% of these deaths.

Most violence was concentrated in West Africa, where conflict between armed forces and Islamist group Boko Haram, and Boko Haram attacks on civilians, accounted for the majority of conflict deaths.

Who is doing the counting?

The figures are extrapolated from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project, which has tracked political violence in Africa since 1997. It is a non-governmental organisation that gathers data on conflict events, role-players and fatalities through local, national, regional and international media sources on a daily basis. The information is supplemented with reports from non-governmental organisations in hard-to-access locations.

The dataset figures are conservative: where there are discrepancies in fatalities reported, the lowest figure is recorded in the database; and “dozens” and “hundreds” of deaths are recorded as 12 and 100 deaths respectively.

For example, it lists the death toll of the Baga massacre in northern Nigeria in January as 1,700 whereas initial reports said it had exceeded 2,000.


In Boko Haram’s wake

More than half of the deaths due to conflict in sub-Saharan Africa so far this year were in Nigeria. Conflict centred on Boko Haram activity which claimed roughly 5,700 lives in the country and that of its neighbours, Cameroon and Niger. (During the same period in 2014, 770 people were killed in Boko Haram-related violence.)

Boko Haram, which is said to have at least 15,000 members, largely draws its support from uneducated, unemployed and socio-economically disadvantaged Nigerian Northerners who are fed up with corruption, heavy-handed state security forces and neglect of the North.

The group has adapted its tactics and strategy since its turn to violence in 2009. Where it initially targeted government installations and personnel, it later directed attacks against civilians in campaigns of mass terror. The group more recently turned to conventional warfare, capturing and holding territory, but inroads by national and regional forces have seen it revert to guerrilla tactics.

An increase in direct conflict between Boko Haram and regional and national armed forces in Nigeria – roughly 70 conflict events this year against about 10 during the same period the year before – has weakened the movement.

In February, regional forces reclaimed the city of Baga, which Boko Haram seized in early 2015. By early March, 18 out of 20 local government regions in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe had reportedly been retaken by the military. Niger and Chad have launched a joint ground and air assault, while the African Union has backed a 10,000-strong multinational force to neutralise the movement.

Yet the group remains a destabilising force. In early March, more than 50 people were killed in five bomb blasts in Borno state capital Maiduguri. The group is also reported to have gone on the offensive in neighbouring Cameroon and Niger, where a total of 930 and 500 deaths occurred in the first two months of this year.

Sudanese government vs. rebels

In Sudan, the government is embroiled in war on two fronts: against rebels in Darfur, and against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. These conflicts claimed 700 lives so far this year.

The issues underlying the conflicts are similar to Nigeria’s: local grievance as a result of political and socio-economic marginalisation and the inequitable distribution of resources in the country.

Darfur. Persistent conflict between the Sudanese government and rebel movements in Darfur first flared up in 2003, when the Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Army took up arms in protest at the region’s marginalisation. The government responded by unleashing Arab militias, called the Janjaweed, which targeted non-Arab Darfuris in a campaign of genocide, as it was referred to.

Since then 400,000 people are thought to have died, and nearly 3-million displaced. Government attacks against rebels are said to have escalated: by early January, an estimated 115 villages had been evacuated or razed, with about 88,000 people displaced.

About 277 people have been killed in battles between government forces, their allied militia and rebels since the beginning of 2015.

Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan broke out soon after the secession of South Sudan in 2011. The SPLM-N in the two states had fought in the country’s independence war, but were separated from their southern neighbours in the final settlement.

They soon began agitating for political autonomy, political reform and a more equitable distribution of Sudan’s oil riches. The rebel movement subsequently banded together with the armed opposition in Darfur under the banner of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), formed with the aim of unseating Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

The SRF has since joined forces with the political opposition, calling for political reform and an interim government to oversee a transition to democracy.

However, negotiations have yielded little in the way of results, and conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile has not abated: 255 were killed in battles between rebel forces and government so far this year.

With Bashir consolidating power in the run-up to the April 2015 presidential elections, and polls possibly cancelled in nine constituencies as a result of instability, there seems little hope of peaceful resolution in the near future.

Al-Shabaab losing territory in Somalia

In Somalia, 627 people have died in political conflict in the first two months of this year. The country has been fractured by violence since 1991, when then-president Siad Barre was pushed out of office. Clan warlords stepped up to fill the power vacuum left in his wake, leading to violent competition that effectively destroyed the state.

While clan conflict continues to contribute to the country’s death toll, it is Islamist group Al-Shabaab that constitutes the primary source of conflict in the country. Violence related to the group claimed 380 of the 627 lives lost through conflict in the Horn of Africa country in the first two months of 2015. These were largely battle-related, setting the group against national security forces and troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab has its origin in the radical youth wing of the Union of Islamic Courts, which seized control of the capital, Modagishu, and much of the south and central regions of the country from competing clan warlords in 2006.

The group, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, is thought to comprise about 5,000 members. It draws its support from a conservative Somali population and plays on perceptions of government corruption. Al-Shabaab has presented itself as a viable alternative to government in territories it controls, providing citizens with the services and infrastructure the state is unable to offer.

Al-Shabaab has been weakened by clashes with Amisom and national security forces. The group is reported to have lost 85% of its territory after Amisom offensives in March and August 2014. The group faced a further setback when a US drone strike killed its leader, Ahmad Godane, in September.

On-going military offensives against the group continued in early 2015, with more than 100 battles between the group and Amisom or Somali armed forces. Three suspected US drone strikes on Al-Shabaab targets killed 40 people in the first two months of the year.

Al-Shabaab has not, however, lost its capacity to strike, attacking targets inside and outside the Somali borders. In July last year it detonated a car bomb near the Somali parliament and attacked the presidential palace.

Late in 2014 it killed 64 people in two attacks in north-eastern Kenya. And in the first two months of this year, Al-Shabaab attacked Amisom and African Union-Ethiopian forces convoys, two Amisom bases, as well as two hotels in Mogadishu.

Are things getting better or worse?

The 8,300 deaths in the first two months of 2015 compare with 6,300 deaths during the same period last year – a year in which 35,000 people died in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.

Five states accounted for 83% of conflict deaths in 2014, with Nigeria the overwhelming leader then too, with 11,000-odd deaths. It was followed by South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and the Central African Republic. Most conflict involved battles between security forces and armed combatants.

While most violent deaths this year were the result of battles, the direct targeting of civilians presents a worrying trend. So far 40% (or 3,400) of conflict deaths in the region have been those of civilians targeted by armed groups, in contrast to 35% in 2014, when violence against civilians increased for the first time in five years.

2014 was the bloodiest year in sub-Saharan Africa in the past ten years, up from about 26,500 deaths in 2013. If the Boko Haram insurgency is not brought under control, 2015 may prove deadlier.

Shirley de Villiers is a doctoral candidate and lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

Additional reading

FACTSHEET: Explaining Nigeria’s Boko Haram and its violent insurgency

FACTSHEET: What happened in Baga?

COMMENT: Assessing the Baga massacre death toll

REPORT: Have over 13,000 people been killed in Nigeria’s insurgency?

REPORT: Boko Haram ‘massacre’ image fake

FACTSHEET: The leading causes of death in Africa

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Eritrean rebels claim attack on government facility

Sudan Tribune

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

March 15, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Eritrean opposition group has reportedly raided a government owned garage facility in the capital Asmara.

Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) in a statement said its armed wing has carried out the attack on Wednesday at the garage located in Qohawta neighbourhood in retaliation to the regime’s oppression against citizens including deny economic rights of the people.

The statement alleged leaders of the country are looting national resources and the regime has intensified repression against civilians living in Asmara particularly at Arbaate Asmera and Tselot neighbourhoods and recently to the people of Adi Keih town.

The statement didn’t disclose if there were causalities from government side following the attack but it admitted one of its fighters have sustained light wounds.

It said its fighters have retreated to their positions safely after destroying a number trucks and other government owned machineries.

The group said necessary preparations were made “to shift its activities and place of operation to confront the regime inside Eritrea.”

The statement said the attacks never intended to target the “helpless” Eritrean army but the regime and anyone who supports it.

Sudan Tribune couldn’t independently verify the group’s attack claims.

In the past, Asmara has repeatedly dismissed such attack claims by rebels operating in neighbouring Ethiopia.

The Eritrean opposition further said the attack was also in response to Eritrean leaders’ arranged deals with foreign companies aimed to exploit the county’s natural resources.

The attacked garage, had been serving to store, service and repair heavy trucks owned by the government’s land transport companies.

The trucks, according to the statement, mainly work at Bisha Gold-copper mine project which is owned by the Eritrean government and the Canadian Nevsun Resources.

The $350 million mine project is the largest foreign investment in Eritrea since the east African nation gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

ENSF called on the Eritrean Army to defend the people and protect the rich national resources of the country by standing up against President Issaias Afeworki led regime in Asmara.

The group had in the past carried out cross-border attacks against Asmara regime jointly with other Eritrean rebel groups based in Ethiopia.

The secretive red sea nation is one of the world’s politically repressive countries.

International human right organizations particularly the Human Rights watch has dubbed the country as the North Korea of Africa.


Sudan-South Sudan – Bashir says Abyei will remain Sudanese

Sudan Tribune

March 12, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – During a visit to the West Kordofan state on Wednesday, Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir asserted that the contested Abyei area belongs to Sudan and will remain a Sudanese territory.

Sudanese president and National Congress Party (NCP) candidate Omer Hassan al-Bashir addresses supporters at the start of his election campaign for the pesidential race in Madani, the capital of Jazeera state February 26, 2015 (Reuters Photo)Bashir was speaking in an election rally in Al Foula the capital of the West Kordofan state, in a campaign for a third mandate since the singing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which led to the independence of South Sudan.

The candidate of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) promised the crowd, which is mobilised by the party and the state apparatuses from the different state towns, to complete the roads under construction to connect the West Kordofan outskirts from Al-Muglad to El Meiram, South Bahr Al-Arab until Southern remote areas of the state “because Abyei is Sudanese and will remain Sudanese,” he told the meeting.

He further vowed to build water reservoirs to retain water during the dry season, adding “Our programme with you will continue because you did a lot for the Ingaz (Revolution) and provided Mujahideen and martyrs”.

In line with the CPA, the residents of the disputed area have to hold a referendum to determine whether Abyei will remain part of the Sudan or join the South Sudan. But the two countries failed to agree on the participation of the Misseriya pastoralists who reside there several months every year.

Last week, it was announced that Bashir would visit Abyei however, he only met with a delegation from the area including representatives of Misseriya and Nogk Dinka loyal to Sudan.

The Sudanese co-chair of Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), Hassan Ali Nimir, announced that candidates from different Sudanese political parties will run for the national parliament election in the districts located in the northern part of the disputed region.

South Sudan ambassador to the United Nations protested last month against this announcement, but the Sudanese envoy recalled that Abyei is a Sudanese territory until the run of the referendum, as it is agreed in the 2005 peace deal.

Bashir further urged the unity of different branches of Misseriya tribe and to stop the to fight each other saying he was saddened when he learnt that there were children a:ong the dead.

Last November 133 people were killed and hundreds injured, following renewed clashes between two of Misseriya branches ” Amran’s sons ” and “al-Zyoud” in a dispute over the ownership of land in West Kordofan.

“We want them (the children) for the future and whoever dies must have died in the defence of the country. I want you to commit yourself to not use the gun against each other but you should direct it to the enemies of Sudan and all your enemies.”

The incumbent president further criticised the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North and advised the Misseriya youth against joining the rebel group which he termed as “mercenaries” and called them to return home.

“We have one message to address from here in Al-Fula to the deceived youth who are still carrying arms. Look at the SPLM-programme of the New Sudan what it did in South Sudan”, he said adding “We do not want the destruction that happened there to move here.”

He pledged to clear Kordofan region from the rebellion, end the war and to develop it.

Al-Bashir is expected to continue his electoral campaign next week and visit further states including North Kordofan.


Mali – UN urges northern Tuareg rebels to sign peace deal


BAMAKO (Reuters) – The United Nations is urging Tuareg-led rebels to sign a proposal on the future of northern Mali, calling it an important step towards peace in the violent region.

The deal, brokered by the world body and already signed by the southern Bamako government, aims to put a stop to decades of Tuareg uprisings.

Following the latest Tuareg revolt in 2012, Islamist militants seized northern Mali, prompting a French-led military intervention. But while the Islamists were driven out, Mali remains deeply divided.

Analysts and diplomats worry that a failure to reach a deal in the Algiers talks, now in their fifth round, could facilitate the return of the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

“We encourage the armed groups of the Coordination to initial the agreement,” Francois Delattre, France‘s UN envoy and current President of the UN Security Council, said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Delattre was referring to the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CPA), a coalition of rebel groups that is seeking greater autonomy for a region covering half of Mali.

Fighting between armed groups, some of which are loyal to the government while others support Azawad, has complicated the negotiations in recent weeks.

The Algiers document proposes more devolved powers for the north, a regional security force and a special development plan but leaves open the question of north Mali’s political status.

The CPA says it needs “a reasonable timeframe” in which to consult with residents about the deal, without elaborating. A meeting to discuss the deal is planned in the Tuareg stronghold of Kidal on Tuesday.