Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – chance of reprieve from Buhari for death row soldiers

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: ‘Buhari hope’ for Nigerian death-row soldiers

   

Court Martial in Abuja. 2 Oct 2014

Femi Falana has been critical of the courts martial, which were held behind closed doors

Boko Haram


Why Boko Haram remains a threat

Boko Haram: What next for the rescued?

Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists?

Is Islamic State shaping Boko Haram media?

Nigeria’s incoming president may review the death sentences of 66 soldiers convicted for refusing to fight Boko Haram, a lawyer has said.

Femi Falana told the BBC that Muhammadu Buhari had promised to review all operations against the militants.

He said that he was now confident the soldiers, who said they lacked weapons to take on the Islamist insurgents, would not be executed and face justice.

This week it was revealed another 579 soldiers face trial over indiscipline.
Army spokesman Sani Usman said the courts martial, currently taking place in the capital, Abuja, were to ensure professionalism in the army.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that the Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, had caused “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa”.

‘State negligence’

Mr Falana, who is a prominent human rights lawyer and represented some of the 66 sentenced to death for conspiracy, cowardice and mutiny last year, said the Nigerian government had failed to adequately equip the units fighting the insurgency in the north-east.

“They [the soldiers] did not sign to commit suicide but to fight for their fatherland and since the government did not make weapons available, they were unable to fight,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.


  

General view of school in Yola, Nigeria, where victims are recovering (May 2015)

Hundreds of people have recently been rescued from Boko Haram captivity

“The sentences are awaiting confirmation but we are taking steps to ensure that no soldier, no officer in Nigeria is executed on account of the negligence of the Nigerian state in motivating the soldiers to fight and equipping them.”

He said that outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan “had refused to assist to the request of the convicted soldiers to review their matter”.

“So happily the incoming government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has promised to review the entire operations in the north-east region and we are confident that the cases of the officers and the soldiers will be reviewed so that justice will be done to them.”

Earlier, he told the Associated Press news agency the courts martial were a “travesty” as they were held in secret and evidence supplied by some of the accused indicated corrupt officers often diverted money meant for salaries and arms.

Despite a state of emergency in three north-eastern state, Boko Haram managed to take over many towns and villages last year.

It was only from the end of January, with military backing from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, that the army began to recapture territory.

However, sporadic attacks and violence have continued.

“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering… even if the fighting stopped tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said after a trip to the north-east.

Help was also needed for the victims of sexual violence, amid widespread evidence the militants raped some of the kidnapped women and girls, he said.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captives including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

Nigeria moves Boko Haram survivors

BBC

Nigerian army ‘relocates’ 260 Boko Haram survivors

A child rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest is seen at the Internally Displaced People's camp in Yola, Nigeria on 3 May 2015.
Hundreds of people rescued by the Nigerian army are being held at a camp in Yola

The Nigerian army has relocated at least 260 women and children recently rescued from the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, officials say.

They were taken from a camp in the north-eastern city of Yola and flown to an unspecified military facility.

The women will receive medical help and support as part of their rehabilitation process, the BBC has learnt.

The government is said to be worried that some women may have been radicalised while in captivity.

Camp officials said there were suspicions some of the women had been communicating with militants.

They will be housed at the military facility under the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Programme which is part of the government’s so-called “soft approach” to combating terrorism.

Backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the Nigerian army has managed to liberate a number of towns from the militants since they launched a military operation in February.

However, sporadic attacks and violence have continued, with thousands killed in the last year alone.

‘Serious humanitarian crisis’

Some 275 women and children were brought to Malkohi camp in Yola on 2 May, after their rescue from a Boko Haram camp in the Sambisa Forest.

At the time, the women said some members of their group were killed when the militants pelted stones at them because they refused to run away as the army approached.

While 260 of them have now been moved, some are still being treated in a hospital in Yola, according to the BBC’s Nigeria Correspondent Will Ross.

A spokesman for the government body managing the camp, Sani Datti, told the AP news agency that he was aware soldiers had removed the group. But said he had no more details of what he described as an “entirely military affair”.

Separately on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Boko Haram insurgency had caused “one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa”.

General view of school in Yola, Nigeria, where victims are recovering (May 2015)
Recent captives were rescued from what is thought to be the group’s last Nigeria stronghold

“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering… even if the fighting stopped tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services,” ICRC president Peter Maurer said.

He has just returned from a trip to the two north-eastern cities of Maiduguri and Yola, where thousands of people have fled the violence.

He said the charity was seeking an additional $65m (£41m; €58m) to support its operations in Nigeria as well as in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where the fighting has spread.

Further support was also needed for the victims of sexual violence, he said, amid widespread evidence the militants raped some of the kidnapped women and girls.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since the group launched their violent uprising in 2009. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captives including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

The name Boko Haram, loosely translated from the region’s Hausa language, means “Western education is forbidden”.

map

Nigeria – Buhari praises Jonathan’s acceptance of electoral defeat

Punch

Jonathan’s acceptance of defeat averted crisis, says Buhari

 

President-elect, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari

The President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has commended President Goodluck Jonathan, for conceding defeat at the March 28 presidential election.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Buhari gave the commendation in Abuja on Thursday when he received Nigerien President Issoufou Mahamadou on Thursday. He said Jonathan’s action turned around Nigeria’s nervous political process.

He said, “The Nigerien president purposely came to congratulate me on my victory and President Goodluck Jonathan for the maturity and statesmanship that he exhibited by accepting that he had lost the election.

“His (Jonathan’s) action actually doused tensions and averted crisis in Nigeria.

“Not only Africa but the world has commended the President for that because if he had disputed the election, there would have been crisis in the country.

“That is what people don’t want, not only Nigerians but other countries. So, he came to commend President Jonathan for his courage and statesmanship.”

He said Mahamadou had also come to show solidarity and acknowledged Nigeria’s importance on the continent.

Buhari said but for colonialism, Niger and Nigeria and all countries living along the border would have been one as they shared similar cultures, religions and mannerisms.

“As he rightly puts it, if Nigeria sneezes, the rest of Africa catches cold because of its importance, population and resources.

“So, Nigeria and Niger Republic are one entity as one singer from Niger puts it in his lyrics. We share a 1,500-kilometre long border with Niger which stretches from Chad to Sokoto, and all the people living along the borders on either sides are same people.

“The colonialists separated these people when they partitioned Africa at the Berlin conference in 1885. They separated the Fulani, Kanuri and the Hausa from their brothers who are presently in Niger.

“They separated the Yoruba of Nigeria and the ones in Benin Republic. They also separated the Fulani and other tribes who were living together as one along the Cameroon border.

“So, all these countries around us were a single entity with people of similar culture and religion before they became separated but time has changed and we thank him for reminding us of our history of brotherhood.”

Earlier, Mahamadou had said he was in Nigeria to convey the gratitude of Niger Republic to Nigerians for the peaceful conduct of the elections held in spite of challenges.

“President Jonathan conceding defeat and this act will have a lasting impact and influence on politics in Africa, West Africa and Africa at large.

“So, I’m here both to congratulate the president-elect and the people of Nigeria for the smooth conduct of the elections,” Mahamadou said. 

French claim killing of jihadist leaders in Mali

BBC

Two jihadist leaders killed in Mali, says FranceThis file picture dated on January 2, 2015 shows French helicopters stationed at a base in Goa, 320 km east southeast of Timbuktu, as part of the Barkhane Operation

Hundreds of French troops are in the region as part of a counter-terrorism operation

French special forces have killed four jihadists, including two leaders, in a raid in north Mali, the French defence ministry says.

One of those killed was Amada Ag Hama, suspected of the kidnapping and murder of two French journalists in 2013.

He is said to be a commander of in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

France sent troops into Mali two years ago when Islamist militants threatened the capital Bamako. Some 3,000 remain in the region combating terrorism.

The other leader killed was named as Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, from another al-Qaeda linked militant group, Ansar Dine.

Aside from the murders of Radio France International journalists Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, Amada Ag Hama was also said to be involved in the death of aid worker Michel Germaneau and the abduction of four French nationals in Niger, both in 2010.

“France has a long memory,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Mali suffered a coup in 2012. In the chaos that followed, Tuareg rebels seized control of the north, declaring independence, before being supplanted by Islamist militants.

Instability remains, despite the French intervention and the presence of the 11,000-strong UN peacekeeping force known as Minusma.

On Wednesday, an attacker opened fire on a UN residence in Bamako, injuring a guard.

China fishing illegally off the west coast of Africa

BBC

  

China illegally fishing off W Africa – Greenpeace

Fishing pirogues in Kayar, Senegal

There is an absence of efficient fisheries management in some West African states

More than 70 Chinese vessels have been found fishing illegally off the coast of West Africa, Greenpeace says.

Using information gathered from 2000 to 2014, Greenpeace said Chinese companies had fished in prohibited grounds or under-declared their catches.

Boats either turned off their identification systems or transmitted false location data, it added.

One company’s fishing capacity off the coast of Guinea Bissau is said to have exceeded its authorised limit by 61%.

The absence of efficient fisheries management in some West African states allows rogue companies to plunder marine resources, the BBC’s Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar in Senegal.

  

A bottom trawler fishing boat

Bottom trawlers are considered the most destructive fishing vessel in the industry

In less than a month, Greenpeace documented an average of one new case of illegal practice by a Chinese-owned boat every two days, but the report’s authors say they think that is only the “tip of the iceberg.”

Chinese companies were “unlawfully exploiting West Africa’s marine environment,” said Rashid King, head of Greenpeace East Asia’s China Ocean Campaign, in a statement.

“They were taking advantage of weak enforcement from local and Chinese authorities to the detriment of local fisherman and the environment.”

‘Exploiting’

Mr Kang said unless the Chinese government controlled rogue fishermen, it would “seriously jeopardise” its mutually beneficial partnership with West Africa.

China came to West Africa’s aid during the Ebola outbreak, Mr Kang said, but Chinese companies were “exploiting” West Africa’s marine environment.

In the most recent cases, the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza, which sailed off Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea last autumn, documented 16 illegal fishing activities by 12 Chinese vessels.


  

Woman at a West Africa fish market

Chinese companies are escaping licensing fees and plundering West Africa’s fishing resources, Greenpeace says

Over the last 15 years, Greenpeace has also investigated illegal fishing practices by EU, Korean and Russian fishing vessels in Africa.

From 1985 to 2013, China expanded its Africa fishing operations from 13 to 462 vessels.

The vessels were mostly bottom trawlers, which Greenpeace calls “one of the most destructive fishing vessels in the industry”.

Nigeria – PDP National Chairman resigns

Punch

PDP National Chairman Mu’azu resigns, Secondus takes over

Alhaji Adamu Mu'azu

 

The Deputy National Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Uche Secondus, has taken over as the acting National Chairman of the party.

This followed the resignation of the party Chairman, Adamu Muazu, who threw in the towel on Wednesday on health grounds.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, who confirmed this to journalists at the Wadata Plaza secretariat of the party, commended Muazu for his services to the PDP and love for the nation.

He said, “I can confirm that we have received the resignation of the National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu. I can confirm that the chairman, who had health challenges, stayed on for the primaries, for the campaigns and the elections and after consultations with his family, and in his personal interest, he had decided to resign.

“This party commends him for his services to the party and for his love for the nation. We wish him well. We will not forget him. In line with the constitution, the  Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has taken charge of the affairs of the party as acting national chairman of the party. The constitution does not recognise a vacuum.”

Metuh said Secondus would be in charge pending when a replacement would be appointed from the North-East.

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Embattled National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, on Wednesday resigned from his position.

This was confirmed to The PUNCH by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Abdullahi Jalo, in a telephone interview.

Jalo said, “It is true, Mu’azu has resigned. I can confirm this to you, he resigned today.”

He however declined further comments.

French forces in Niger seize huge drug and weapons haul from “militants”

BBC

Sahara desert gun battle yields drugs haul, says France

French soldiers with drug haul in Niger
French and Nigerien forces have been working together to tackle militant Islamists

The French army says it has seized 1.5 tonnes of drugs and a cache of weapons after stopping a convoy of militants in the desert in north-eastern Niger.

Militants in two pickup trucks opened fire on French and Nigerien forces after refusing to stop at a checkpoint on 14 May, the French military said.

Soldiers discovered the illegal cargo after a fire-fight in which three militants were killed, it added.

France has 3,000 troops in the Sahel region to combat militant Islamists.

Three other militants were also captured and handed over to Nigerien forces, the French army said in its statement.

Widespread trafficking in the Sahel region is a major source of funding for militant Islamist groups across the continent, analysts say.

Operation Barkhane, which comprises French forces as well as troops from Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, was established in August 2014 to stop the emergence of jihadist groups.

Map of west africa

The checkpoint where the incident took place is located in the Sahara desert in an area the French army describes as “an important transit zone between Libya and the northern Sahel”.

The Sahel includes some of the world’s poorest countries but has rich natural resources in the form of minerals and gas.

France sent troops to Mali in January 2013 after Islamist militants threatened to overrun the capital, Bamako.