Category Archives: North Africa

Niger – French help army attack drug and weapons smuggling convoy in north

Reuters

French, local forces kill three gunmen in northern Niger raid

French and Niger forces killed three gunmen in a convoy carrying drugs and heavy weapons in Niger close to the Libyan border, the French army said on Monday, as its troops step up efforts to stop militants crisscrossing the Sahel-Sahara region.

Paris, which has led efforts to push back Islamist fighters in the region since intervening in its former colony Mali in 2013, has deployed thousands of troops across West Africa to form a counter-terrorism force and prevent trafficking in the region.

The army said in a statement that on May 14 two pick-up trucks attempted to force their way through a checkpoint set up by about 200 French and Niger troops.

“The occupants of the vehicles attempted to drive through and responded to warning shots by violently opening fire,” it said. “Amid the fighting, three people in the convoy were killed and three others were captured and handed to the Niger army.”

It said 1.5 tonnes of drugs and weapons, including submachine guns, were recovered as well as communications equipment.

France has set up a base at Madama in northern Niger to monitor the Salvador Pass trafficking route that leads from southern Libya to northern Mali.

More than 3,000 French troops are now operating out of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — countries straddling the vast arid Sahel band — with the aim of stamping out Islamist fighters across the region.

The French operation, dubbed Barkhane after the name of a kind of sand dune formed by desert winds, has set up its headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but also placed an outpost in northern Chad about 200 km from the Libyan border.

French officials have said for several months they are concerned by events in Libya, warning that the political void in the north is creating favourable conditions for al Qaeda-linked fighters to regroup in the barren south of the country.

They have also said that failure to conclude a peace deal between the Malian government and separatist rebels is helping traffickers restore their previous networks in the region.

Sudan Tribune

2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has issued an executive order appointing media regulatory authority, whose membership includes officials of the national intelligence in the country.

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South Sudanese president Salva Kiir (Photo: Paul Banks/UNMIS)

The order broadcast by the state-run South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Wednesday, named Kiir Chol Deng as the chairperson of the body and Joseph Abuk as his deputy.

Another decree appointed William Haisasa from Juba University as head of Broadcasting Corporation. Seven other members were also appointed to the board from different institutions.

The Media Authority and Broadcasting Corporation will regulate operations of both public and private media in the country, but critics throw doubt on its independence given polluted membership and tightening restrictions.

Rights groups have been warning of crack down on journalists by security forces, suffocating debate on how to end a civil war in which tens of thousands of people have been killed in the past 17 months of the war between pro-government forces and those loyal to former vice president, Riek Machar.

The leadership of the overdue Media Authority and Broadcasting Cooperation include government media, academic and legal representatives, as well security officers, said the presidential decree.

Media Authority, first of its kind since South Sudan became independent three years ago, was established after the president signed the media bill last year after many calls by journalist to establish the regulatory body.

This latest decision was announced after president Kiir held a meeting with information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, who last week told journalists that security operatives must be given the power to arrest, detain and take to court reporters who write news the government sees false or infringing on national security.

The head of Union of Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS), Oliver Modi, described the appointment of security officials on the boards as an infiltration and a mistake which denied independence of the bodies.

“The decision to include in the appointment members of the security was unwise. It was a mistake because, first of all, what is the security man going to do?”, he inquired.

He said it would be wise to enhance cooperation between journalists and the security by allowing the latter to come on their own if they wanted to monitor the work of the media but not to make them be part of the media authority.

(ST)

Sudan Tribune

(EAST DARFUR) – Heavy fighting has erupted Monday in East Darfur state between Ma’alia and Rizeigat tribes amid fears that the deadly clashes could leave hundreds dead and injured.

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Maalia and Rezeigat delegations arrive at Al-Tawisha in North Darfur before the signing of a cessation of hostilities deal on 22 August 2013 (Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam/UNAMID)

Sudan Tribune correspondent quoted sources in East Darfur state capital, Ed-Daein as saying the security situation in the city is very tense following outbreak of fighting inside the locality of Abu Karinka which is considered a Ma’alia stronghold.

He noted that East Darfur governor, al-Tayeb Abdel-Karim, chaired an emergency meeting for the state’s security committee to discuss repercussions of the situation, pointing to a looming fierce war between the two tribes if authorities do not make decisive measures to stop the clashes.

The correspondent pointed that Ma’alia have evacuated hundreds of families from Abu Karinka with the approach of confrontations, saying the fate of those families is unknown because most of them have scattered in the desert in search of survival.

Other sources said that Rizeigat mobilized thousands of fellow tribesmen from several areas in Darfur and elsewhere to join the fight against Ma’alia claiming the latter refused to comply with repeated calls for reconciliation and seized their land.

On Saturday, the state governor said that mobilization of the armed tribesmen could lead to the deadliest clashes ever between the two sides.

He stressed that his government has sent large military reinforcements to create a buffer zone between the two tribes and prevent a security breakdown.

Reliable sources revealed to Sudan Tribune on Saturday that the federal government plans to deploy two army battalions to the area backed by two warplanes to monitor movement of the conflicting parties.

Meanwhile, the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has expressed serious concern over the recent escalation of tensions between the Rizeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur.

It urged in a statement circulated on Monday the “leaders and members of both tribes to exercise maximum restraint, engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve their dispute and refrain from all acts that would lead to violence and displacement.”

The mission welcomed the deployment of additional troops by the Sudanese government to create a buffer zone between the two tribes, calling on it to further intensify its efforts to avoid potential eruption of conflict.

UNAMID added that it “shall continue to protect affected civilians, facilitate and support all efforts by the Sudanese government, native administration, leaders of the two tribes and other stakeholders to de-escalate the tensions and achieve reconciliation between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia in accordance with its mandate.”

In Khartoum, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Sudan ad interim, Geert Cappalaere, for his part, expressed deep concern at reports of clashes between Ma’alia and Rizeigat.

He called, in a statement on Monday, on warring tribes to stop fighting immediately, exercise restraint to prevent further escalation, and support mediation efforts to resolve the underlying causes of this conflict by peaceful means.

“These towns are full of ordinary people, most of them women and children, who are just trying to live in peace. They should not have to carry the burden of renewed conflict. I would like to remind all parties to this conflict that they have an obligation to protect civilians and to allow them unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.” he said.

The conflict between the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia tribes in East Darfur state is considered one of the longest and most deadly in the region.

Both the Rezeigat and the Ma’alia are pastoralist tribes, based in East Darfur. The centre of Rezeigat territory is in Ed Daein town, while the Ma’alia centre is in Adila, the second largest town after Ed-Daein.

Last month, 20 people were killed and several others injured in renewed clashes between the two tribes in East Darfur state.

In August 2014, 200 Ma’alia and 123 Rezeigat tribesmen were killed in clashes which took place in the Umm Rakubah area in East Darfur’ Abu Karinka locality.

Armed clashes between the two tribes in 2013 killed over 149 people and forced an estimated 51,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter in Adila, Abu Karinka and Ed-Daein localities.

Last March, the reconciliation conference between the two tribes, which was held under the auspices of Sudan’s first vice-president, Bakri Hassan Salih in the locality of Merowe in the Northern state, stalled over the right of land ownership known as Hakura (traditional land grant).

Tribal fighting has intensified in four of Darfur’s five states during the past two years leading to thousands of deaths and injuries and forcing over 300,000 people to flee their homes. They are usually triggered by land disputes, pasture rights and fighting over water resources. More than 7,000 people were killed in those clashes since 2007.

(ST)

Mali – drought, desertification and hunger drive conflict

Thomson-Reuters/allAfrica

Mali: Drought, Expanding Deserts and ‘Food for Jihad’ Drive Mali’s Conflict 

Menaka — Life has never been easy in Moussa Majga’s corner of northern Mali, a desert region of leafless trees, mud huts and roaming gunmen.

For years, violence has plagued Majga’s dusty town, the scene of clashes between government forces and Tuareg-led separatists who took advantage of a 2012 coup in Mali’s capital Bamako to escalate their uprising.

But today, the biggest security concern for the ageing chieftain is a new cycle of ferocious droughts he blames on climate change, that is savaging his people.

“There is a crisis due to the lack of rain,” says Majga, sporting a white robe and thick, knock-off designer watch, during a community meeting in the town now controlled by the rebel Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

A dozen local residents nod in agreement.

Mali’s average rainfall has dropped by 30 percent since 1998 with droughts becoming longer and more frequent, according to a 2013 study by the U.S. army’s Strategic Studies Institute.

As a consequence, hunger is a chronic problem in the West African country with more than 1.8 million people, including 660,000 children, in need of food aid.

But the situation is worse in the north, which was briefly seized in 2012 by Tuareg separatists allied with Islamic militants until a French-led military operation scattered them.

Here, some 270,000 people face starvation, according to figures from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

EXPANDING DESERT

For generations, people from Menaka have wandered the land with their cows and goats in search of water and grass for grazing. Now, even this is under threat, Majga said.

The Sahara desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 kms a year, forcing whole communities to migrate and pushing them on to land occupied by other groups, researchers said in a 2011 study.

Herders from other regions, and even neighbouring countries such as Algeria and Niger, are moving onto territory that Majga’s mostly Tuareg community uses for grazing.

“This will destroy the land even more,” he said, fearing inter-communal conflicts.

Experts have long warned of the risk that climate change would worsen conflict in many of the world’s poorest regions as different groups struggling to cope with poor rains and growing desertification take up arms to fight over scarce resources.

Last year, the Brookings Institute published a study showing that the frequency of cross-border violence grows by four percent, while inter group violence – the kind seen in Mali – rises 14 percent for each percentage change in average temperature and rainfall.

WARNING SIGNS

Pittsburg State University professor Steve Harmon said water shortages linked to global warming is one of the factors fuelling the latest Tuareg revolt in a country that has had four rebellions since winning independence from France in 1960.

“The droughts of the 1970s and 1980s in the Sahel were kind of the canary in the coal mine for climate change (causing violence),” Harmon said in an interview.

The droughts decimated Tuareg animal herds, the main source of wealth and sustenance for the nomadic community.

After losing their livelihoods as the climate became more erratic, many Tuareg fled to neighbouring Libya, often serving in the security forces of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Following Gaddafi’s death in 2011, many Tuareg returned home and launched their latest uprising.

“The current crisis … coincided with a period of drought and famine,” Dona Stewart, a former U.S. military analyst, said in an interview.

“Environmental issues certainly can exacerbate the economic and political drivers of conflict,” she said, adding that it was impossible to draw a direct causal link between climate change and ongoing violence.

U.N.-brokered peace talks between Mali’s government and the MNLA have stalled several times.

A deal is expected to be signed on May 15 in Algeria, but violence is likely to continue even if that happens, since al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters and other armed groups operating in the north are not part of the negotiations, experts say.

FOOD IN EXCHANGE FOR JIHAD

The links between climate change, violence and basic human needs are not lost on Malian government officials.

“In the north there is such poverty, the environment is so tough, that when the jihadists come they find it easy to get followers,” said Paul Coulibaly, a senior adviser to Mali’s agriculture ministry, said in an interview in his air conditioned office in Bamako.

“Even if they (fighters) don’t bring money – just food – they will find allies if they can feed people,” Coulibaly said.

Chief Majga, however, does not believe the government really understands the problems his community face.

Echoing one of the major grievances of the Tuareg separatists, he said the Bamako government had neglected the region and was responsible for its poverty.

“The government hasn’t done anything,” Majga said.

Officials back in the capital said action was being taken to address some of the problems caused by climate change, pointing to new irrigation efforts and other plans to offset a warming planet.

But officials also acknowledged that global warming was making it harder to produce food in Mali, and fuelling at least some of the strife the country currently faces.

“The link between food security and political security is plainly obvious,” Coulibaly said.

 – Reporting by Chris Arsenault; Editing by Katie Nguyen

IGAD endorses Sudan’s elections

Sudan Tribune

April 17, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) approved of the conduct of the Sudanese elections and declared that it conformed with international standards and was credible overall.

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A Sudanese electoral worker breaks the seal on a ballot box as they begin the process of counting votes for the presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum, Sudan, Friday, April 17, 2015 (AP Photo/Abd Raouf)

Mohammud Abdulahi Hussien, head of IGAD elections monitoring team, said that they successfully deployed their observers to eight states and urged candidates to accept the results or else challenge it through legal venues if needed.

At a press conference he also urged all parties to engage in the national dialogue process launched by president Omer Hassan al-Bashir last year.

Hussien urged officials to train election workers to raise awareness among youngsters whom he said mostly refrained from voting this time around.

The IGAD official acknowledged logistical issues that hindered elections in several states but nonetheless said that the National Elections Commission (NEC) performance improved relative to 2010.

He also underlined the high level of participation and inclusion of women in the voting process.

Yesterday the African Union (AU) team led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo called for “enhancing” freedoms that would make for a more credible vote.

“I said there are a few things that could have [been] taken that could have made the quality of fairness and freedom to have been enhanced. But I will not say it is absolutely un-free or unfair,” Obasanjo said.

“Some measures could have been taken to enhance that,” he added.

The AU team affirmed that voter turnout was low and said it could be a result of boycott by opposition parties.

“It is not unlikely that the boycott has had some effect on the turnout of voters,” the AU team said in its preliminary assessment released today.

“The extension [of voting for an extra day] for the whole country was to allow more voters to cast their ballots”.

Obasanjo said on Thursday that the vote would likely not exceed 40%.

The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) issued a statement on Friday hailing the smooth conduct of the elections and its credibility despite attempts to derail it in several states by rebels.

It thanked observers who ignored western pressures and came to monitor the elections.

The vote counting has begun on Friday morning after polls were closed in most of the country on Thursday evening.

Partial results showed a handful of wins for independent and non-NCP candidates particularly in the northern states of Sudan.

But observers nonetheless expect a sweeping win for NCP candidates in all elections including presidency.

Sudan – two presidential candistes pull out of race

Sudan Tribune

(KHARTOUM) – Two candidates running for presidency in the Sudanese elections said that they have decided to drop out of the race in protest at what they describe as serious violations committed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

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A man waits to check for his name at an official at a polling station on the third day of elections in Khartoum on 15 April 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The NEC said Wednesday that it would extend the voting period nationwide by an extra day until Thursday evening without stating the reasons. Observers however attributed it to the poor voter turnout.

Ahmed Radi, one of the two withdrawing candidates, toldSudan Tribune that the NEC extension decision and low voter turnout prompted him to make that move.

Radi said he would formally inform the NEC of his decision on Thursday and noted that the NEC chairman told him that they will declare a winner any presidential candidate who receives a mere 50.1% of the votes.

The second candidate Omer Awad al-Karim also announced his withdrawal calling the elections a “farce”.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Karim said that his conscience and his sense of responsibility towards the nation and the people compelled him to stay away from “the play designed to trick the Sudanese people in the name of democracy”.

He cited several breaches including absence of serial numbers on the ballots, making the pre-elections silence period two days instead of one as stated by the electoral code and accepting residency affidavits in lieu of government identification for voters.

“As for what was happening inside the [polling] centres in terms of wrongdoing and abuses called irregularities by the NEC … I have seen with my own eyes offences happening that are contrary to the electoral law,” Karim said.

He also claimed that the NEC did not direct its staff to verify identities of face-veiled women opening the possibility of allowing duplicate voting.

Another presidential candidate by the name of Mahmoud Abdul-Jabbar said he rejects extending the voting process in the state of Khartoum, saying “This is totally unacceptable for us”.

“The extension will enable the ruling party to rig the elections dramatically and solicit people who do not have any proof of identity and give them residency affidavits to cast their votes,” he told Sudan Tribune.

“We are against the extension [of voting] in Khartoum state even for one hour,” he added, claiming outright fraud had been committed in the voting process.

Alam al-Huda Hamid, another presidential candidate, said the extension was due to voter numbers falling short of required quorum.

But he warned that the extension may spoil the electoral process and make it “messy” and lacking credibility based on democratic and international standards.

The Associated Press (AP) said that to increase turnout, Sudanese authorities gave awards for polling stations with high turnout.

Sudan Tribune reporter has seen attempts by supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to convince voters in some neighbourhoods of Khartoum to cast their ballots by offering them free rides to the polling stations.

At one Khartoum polling centre in the upper-middle-class neighbourhood of al-Riyadh, turnout was only 15% after three days of voting, election official Youssef Ibrahim told AP.

Other workers spread out mattresses in the empty poll place while some drank tea.

“Even if you give people a month, they won’t come if they don’t want to come,” Ibrahim said. “The people are fed up. After 25 years, people have had enough.”

About 13.6 million people are eligible to vote across the country. The poll results are expected on 27 April.

(ST)


Sudan – election extended for a day and people told to vote

Radio Dabenga

Sudan election extended with one day, police ordered to vote

April 16 – 2015 KHARTOUM
An empty polling centre in Khartoum, 13 April 2015 (RD)
An empty polling centre in Khartoum, 13 April 2015 (RD)

The National Election Commission (NEC) on Wednesday announced the extension of the official three-day voting process with one day. Two presidential candidates announced their withdrawal. The police in Khartoum was pressured to vote. 

Because of the very poor voters’ turnout throughout the country, the NEC on Tuesday had already extended the voting time for Wednesday, the third and officially the last day of the presidential and parliamentary election, from 6pm to 7pm.

“The extension of the voting period will enable the ruling party to rig the election dramatically.”

A number of presidential candidates rejected the extension of the election period. Mahmoud Abdeljabar toldSudan Tribune that the extension “will enable the ruling party to rig the election dramatically and solicit people who do not have any proof of identity, and give them residency affidavits to cast their votes.”

Two presidential candidates, Ahmed Radi and Omar Awadelkareem, announced their withdrawal, in protest against “serious violations” of the electoral law.

At a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday, Awadelkareem pointed to the abuses he had witnessed at several polling stations in the capital, “called irregularities by the NEC”. He had noted that the serial numbers were missing on the ballots, and that voters were allowed to identify themselves with residency affidavits, instead of their voter registration cards.

‘No vote, no salary’

A policeman in Khartoum reported to Radio Dabanga on Wednesday that senior police officers ordered their personnel to participate in the elections by voting for the ruling party. If they would not cast their vote, the payment of their salaries would be delayed or cancelled.

“We were instructed to present our electoral registration number to the police administrative unit, to ensure our participation in the election.”