Category Archives: West Africa

Mali – pro-government militias leave key northern town ahead of peace deal

Reuters

Pro-government militias withdrew from a flashpoint town in northern Mali on Friday, removing a key obstacle to a long-delayed U.N.-backed peace deal due to be signed this weekend.

Mali’s turbulent desert north is home to secular armed groups who have been battling each other for control of the strategic town of Menaka for the past two months.

Western powers are hoping Saturday’s peace deal will help focus resources on fighting Islamist militants who are profiting from the chaos to launch attacks on U.N. and Malian targets.

In a sign of the security challenges, unidentified men on motorbikes attacked a U.N. convoy near the town of Gao, security sources said. Nobody was killed in the attack, they added.

Al Qaeda-linked fighters, who briefly held the north until a French military operation scattered them in 2013, have spread further south towards Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso in recent months and carried out attacks in the capital Bamako.

Mostly Tuareg separatists rebels, who have refused to sign past versions of the deal, said they would not agree unless rival groups loyal to the Malian government left Menaka.

The Malian army and sources from the U.N peacekeeping force (MINUSMA) confirmed their departure on Friday. One MINUSMA source said that a convoy of 60 vehicles had left the town.

“We have handed over control of the town to MINUSMA and the Malian army and we have left,” said Fahad Ag Al Mahamoud, secretary general of a pro-Bamako armed group GATIA, part of a broader coalition called Platform.

The U.N. special envoy for the Mali mission said the departure from Menaka was a clear and reassuring sign that the peace process was on track.

“MINUSMA praises the courageous and responsible decision made by Platform showing their commitment to advancing the peace process for the benefit of all Malians,” said Mongi Hamdi.

Residents in the northern town of Kidal said that leaders from a Tuareg-led coalition of armed groups known as Coordination of Azawad Mouvements (CMA) were preparing to depart for the Bamako signing ceremony.

“We are going to sign the agreement for peace tomorrow in Bamako,” said Zeina Ag Mohamed, part of the CMA delegation in Kidal.

A planned demonstration in Kidal against the deal was postponed, residents said. The agreement, completed after five rounds of negotiations, was already approved by the Malian government and by Platform in March.

Nigeria – does Saraki want Obasanjo to help reconcile him with APC?

Premium Times

What Saraki told Obasanjo at closed-door meeting

Saraki and Andy Uba

Facts have emerged showing why Senate President Bukola Saraki led a delegation of Senators to meet former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his hilltop mansion, Abeokuta, Ogun state on Friday.

A source close to the meeting told PREMIUM TIMES that the Senate President was in Abeokuta to beg Mr. Obasanjo to reconcile him with President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Mr. Saraki emerged as the president of the Senate against the decision of APC leaders. He was also elected when most Senators from the APC were at the International Conference Centre waiting to hold a meeting with Mr. Buhari to discuss the election of the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Our sources said Mr. Saraki lamented to Mr. Obasanjo that although the party leaders have stated that they have accepted his emergence, there was “complete communication breakdown between him, the president and the party”.

The national chairman of the APC, John Oyegun, had abruptly cancelled a scheduled meeting with Mr. Saraki last week without giving another appointment.

Likewise, we also gathered that Mr. Saraki had tried severally to meet with Mr. Buhari after his emergence, but was always denied audience.

Another source in the presidency informed us that the President was angry with Mr. Saraki and the management of the national assembly for going ahead with their election despite adequate knowledge of an invitation for a meeting with Mr. Saraki and his colleagues.

“The president considered it as a mark of disrespect for his office for Saraki to ignore an invitation to meet with him and his colleagues,” our source said.

In his response to the Senate President’s lamentation, Mr. Obasanjo reportedly promised to do his best to “ensure communication between all parties”.

However, the spokesperson for the president, Garba Shehu, said the Senate president has never sought a meeting meeting with Mr. Buhari since his election.

“I am not aware of any request for a meeting, the president would have seen him, he represents a key institution in our democracy,” he said.

Calls to Mr. Saraki and his aide, Bamikole Omishore, were not answered.

Our source said the former president, in his usual jocular self, also joked with the delegation, saying “ you children of nowadays only run to elders when you have finished making the damage”.

Mr. Saraki and his entourage laughed.

A presidency official told PREMIUM TIMES President Buhari was aware of the the senate president’s visit to Mr. Obasanjo’s home.

The official said Messrs Buhari and Obasanjo are constantly in touch and regularly have telephone conversations.

The official said in one of their recent conversations, Mr. Obasanjo informed Mr. Buhari that Mr. Saraki was leading a delegation of Senators to his Abeokuta home.

“I overheard President Buhari laughing and saying to Mr. Obasanjo, “you have to see them, are they not all your boys?”, our presidency source said.

Among Mr. Saraki’s delegation include former governor of Gombe state, Danjuma Goje, Senator Andy Uba, former Zamfara governor, Ahmed Sani, and former Osun governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

Mr. Saraki and most members of his delegation are largely Mr. Obasanjo’s “boys”, a term loosely used in describing the former president’s staunch loyalists.

Nigeria – fresh crisis in APC over Senate posts

Punch

Fresh crisis brews in APC over Senate posts

National Chairman, All Progressives Congress, John Odigie Oyegun

The sharing of principal offices in the Senate seems to be creating a fresh crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress.

The principal offices are the Senate Leader; the Deputy Senate Leader; the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip.

While the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, is believed to have recommended to the APC National Working Committee that the positions be allocated to the zones, some leaders of the party, especially those from the South-West, want them filled by the party’s hierarchy.

A senator made this known to one of our correspondents in Abuja on Thursday just as the APC NWC meeting   on Thursday   failed to agree on the modalities for brokering peace among aggrieved members of the party.

The senator warned that if the issue was not quickly resolved, the Senate and the APC might “face another round of crisis bigger than that that resulted from Saraki’s emergence as Senate president.”

He added, “The Senate President, had after wide consultations, suggested how the officers to occupy these posts could be appointed. He suggested the allocation of the four principal offices to some of the geopolitical zones.

“But some leaders, who are still angry with his (Saraki) emergence, turned down his suggestion. Some of the influential leaders from the South-West are insisting that the party should fill the offices. This is in spite of the fact that the chairman of our party (John Odigie-Oyegun) and other members of the NWC are in support of allocating the principal offices to zones.

“The South-West leaders are even saying that allowing the party leadership to fill the offices, remained the only way to allow peace to reign in the Senate.”

A Senator from the North-Central , who is loyal to Saraki, confirmed the development on condition of anonymity .

He said that it was true that some APC leaders were insisting that the party should nominate the senators who would occupy the four principal offices .

He said, “By the Senate tradition, the party in majority normally sends the offices to the zones where the Senate caucuses would meet and choose among themselves in the zone, who occupies the offices.

“Some other leaders of the party are claiming that asking the party to produce the principal officers was a smart way   to impose the Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, the Chief Whip and the Deputy Chief Whip on the Senate.”

The senator claimed that a “very influential “ leader of the party from the South-West had allegedly written Odigie- Oyegun that the leaders would fill the positions. “

He said, “Some of us were just called by some members of the NWC intimating us of details of a letter forwarded to the body that it should just fill the remaining four leadership positions in the Senate.

“In fact, the letter from the South-West leader is that the party must take charge and name its preferred candidates for the four offices.”

It was further learnt that some senators had already met with some NWC members asking them to ignore the letter.

They   were said to have insisted that the tradition remained that the zonal caucuses which did not produce the Senate President and his deputy should meet and nominate among themselves.

They added that it was when there were two or more nominations that,   an election could hold and that whoever scored the highest votes   would be the candidate.

Efforts to get the spokesperson for the pro – Saraki group, Dino Melaye, failed because his mobile phone was switched off.

Spokesperson for the Senate Unity Forum, a group of senators loyal to   Lawan, Kabir Marafa, argued that the choice of other principal officers who are not elected on the floor of the Senate, remained the sole business of the party leadership.

He said, “How can the executive of the party at the zonal levels determine who will be made the Senate Leader, the Deputy Senate Leader, the Chief Whip   and the Deputy Chief Whip?

“It is the party executive that would determine all these. So the party would write the Senate President. That is the tradition. It cannot be done at the zonal level, it is absurd. There should be due process in whatever things   we do.”

But when contacted , the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lai Mohammed simply said,   “No comment.”

NWC meeting deadlocked

Meanwhile, the leaders of the party will meet again on Friday   following their failure to reach an agreement on how to end the crisis that arose due to the National Assembly leadership elections .

The meeting, which was held behind closed doors at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja   started at about 5.20pm. It   lasted for a little over an hour.

Details of the meeting were not made public as of   8pm on Thursday when this story was filed.     When approached for comments ,   Odigie-Oyegun,   said, “We will meet again tomorrow to continue.”

It was however learnt that the party leaders had been unable to get supporters of the Senate President and the APC’s preferred candidate for the Senate Presidency , Ahmed Lawan, to meet face-to-face.

One of our correspondents, who visited the APC secretariat observed that the posters and banners of a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, had disappeared from the secretariat.

His banners were hitherto pasted   side by side those of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

Most of the banners were put up by individuals and groups   supporting the APC.

It is not clear what led to the disappearance of the posters and banners.

Copyright PUNCH.

Africa elephant poaching – Tanzania/Mozambique and Gabon-Congo at centre of trade

BBC

Elephant poaching hotspots identified

Elephant
African elephants have an estimated population of half a million

Most illegally-poached African elephant ivory can be traced back to just two areas of Africa, research shows.

Scientists were able to locate the hotspots by matching the DNA fingerprint of seized ivory to DNA profiles from the dung of elephants living throughout the continent.

Around 50,000 elephants are thought to be poached each year.

The worst area for poaching was identified as Tanzania and nearby parts of Mozambique.

The Tridom, which spans parts of Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, was also highlighted.

The researchers say the data, published in Science, may increase international pressure to stop the killing.

This week, the US government hopes to send out a message against the illicit sale of elephant ivory by destroying one tonne of elephant ivory in New York’s Times Square.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade in ivory in 1989, but a black market trade continues to thrive.

Ivory is used for trinkets, souvenirs and also in traditional medicines.

With an estimated population of less than half a million, the ongoing African poaching problem is rapidly driving the animal towards extinction.

International efforts to try to stop the ivory pipeline focus on points of sale and tightening up controls at potential shipping routes.

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Elephants live in social groups

But, Dr Samuel Wasser, a conservation biologist from the University of Washington and lead researcher on the Science paper, thinks other measures might be more effective.

“The source populations are where it all starts, and to be able to focus on the source populations, especially the major source populations, is very very effective at trying to target these killings,” Dr Wasser told the BBC’s Science in Action programme.

Genetic Analysis

In an effort to identify where illegal ivory was originating from, Dr Wasser and his team turned to genetic analysis.

Elephants live in social groups, or herds. Animals living in one location are more genetically related to one another than they are to animals living elsewhere.

So, by analysing the DNA sequence – particularly those stretches that reveal relatedness – from animals living across Africa, the researchers could build a geographical map of elephant genetic diversity.

Elephants are large, wary and not easy to sample directly, but their dung provides an abundant source of the essential elephant blueprint; that tell-tale DNA. An analysis of dung samples from 1,500 individuals, each from a separate family group and living in different locations across Africa, resulted in a detailed DNA geographical map.

As Dr Wasser explained, this allows them to pinpoint the source of illegal ivory: “We are very accurate.

“Most importantly, areas are further apart than 300km so that, combined with knowing the natural history of the area – what parks are there and where the elephants live – it means you can get it to the precise park.”

Essential groundwork done, they were poised to analyse ivory to pinpoint its source, and there was no shortage of material to analyse.

Geographical map

The team focussed on 28 seizures made between 1996 and 2014.

“We analyse large animal seizures that are over half a tonne in weight, and that’s important because these large seizures represent about 70% of all ivory smuggled,” Dr Wasser said.

“They reflect the involvement of large transnational organised crime syndicates.”

A comparison of the DNA fingerprints in the seized ivory to their geographical map of elephant DNA enabled them to pinpoint the sites of this mass animal slaughter.

The results were astonishing.

Virtually all of the large seizures from the last decade that were analysed came from just two poaching hotspots.

African elephants are divided into two sub-species: the forest elephant and the Savannah elephant.

The majority of forest elephant deaths had occurred in or close to the protected area known as the Tridom, including parts of Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon. Some deaths were also occurring in the adjacent Dzanga Sangha Reserve in the Central African Republic.

Savannah elephant slaughter was focussed in Tanzania, with spill-over into Mozambique. This was the biggest poaching hotspot of all.

Dr Wasser hopes that the weight of evidence will force the international community to put pressure on these countries to “clean up their act” and to be made more accountable by government aid agencies and private donors.

Nigeria-Niger – Boko Haram kills 30 in attacks on Niger villages

Reuters

NIAMEY

Boko Haram militants attacked two villages in southern Niger’s Diffa region overnight, killing at least 30 civilians, two security sources said on Thursday.

It was the second major cross-border attack by the Nigerian Islamist group this week, following twin suicide bombings in Chad’s capital on Monday that killed at least 34 people.

The attackers drove into the villages in the Gueskerou area with cars and motorbikes and shot residents before setting fire to the mostly straw thatched houses where others were hiding, the sources said.

“In all, at least 30 were killed. Some of them died when the houses were set alight,” said one of the security officials. The source said he expected the death toll to rise because a number of survivors had serious burns.

Gueskerou is along the banks of the Komadugu River separating Niger from Nigeria.

Despite a regional military operation to beat back Boko Haram, southern Niger has been attacked dozens of times this year. Its government has declared a state of emergency for the region and has arrested more than 600 people it accuses of links to the group.

Chad bans Islamic face veil after suicide bombings

BBC

Woman wearing a burka
Chad’s security forces have been ordered to burn all burkas sold in markets
Chad has banned people from wearing the full-face veil, following two suicide bomb attacks on Monday.

Chad’s government accused Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram of the bombings which killed more than 20 people.

The prime minister said the veil was used as a “camouflage” by militants and said the security forces will burn all full-face veils sold in markets.

Chad is to host a new regional force set up to tackle Boko Haram.

The militant group has not commented on the attack but has previously threatened to attack Chad, after its forces started to help Nigeria.

At a meeting with religious leaders, Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said the ban applied everywhere, not only public places.

He added that any clothing that covers everything but the eyes was a camouflage.

The attackers were on motorcycles when they blew themselves up outside two police buildings in the capital, N’Djamena.

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A cleanup operation has been going on at the scene of the attacks

Borno state, at the heart of the insurgency, is on the Nigerian border with Chad and Chadian forces have played a key role in helping Nigeria battle the jihadist group.

The US announced on Tuesday that it will give $5m (£3.2m) towards a multi-national task force headquarters in Chad.

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The BBC World Service’s Africa editor Richard Hamilton says Boko Haram militants have increasingly been using female suicide bombers in Nigeria, as they are more likely to smuggle bombs into public places without detection.

The majority of the population in Chad is Muslim and the burka is worn mainly for religious reasons, but also helps protect women from the hot, dusty climate of the Sahara.

The full-face Islamic veil was also banned in May in public places in Congo-Brazzaville, to “counter terrorism”.

Although there has never been an Islamist attack in the country and less than 5% of the population of Congo-Brazzaville is Muslim, thousands of mostly Muslim people had fled the neighbouring Central African Republic and had taken shelter in mosques.

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Nigeria – APC crisis meeting and backing for Buhari over assembly posts

Punch

APC crisis: State chairmen back Buhari, Odigie-Oyegun

National Chairman, All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun on Wednesday met behind closed-doors with the chairmen of the 36 state chapters of the party.

The meeting which lasted for a little over four hours is the first of its kind since the party won the Presidential election on March 28.

After the meeting, the Chairmen of the state chapters of the party expressed support for the position taken by President Muhammadu Buhari and Odigie-Oyegun with respect to the emergence of the new leadership of the National Assembly.

The meeting was convened by the Forum of APC State Chairmen to review the challenges that bedevilled the party before, during and after the 2015 general elections.

The forum declared support for the decision of President Buhari to accept the outcome of the leadership election in the National Assembly even though he would have preferred that the party’s candidates emerged.

President Buhari and Odigie-Oyegun had accepted the new National Assembly leadership, describing it as a constitutional reality.

In a communique issued and signed by the chairman of the Kano State APC, and the acting Chairman of the Forum, Umar Haruna Mohammed, at the end of their meeting in Abuja, the chairmen said, “We totally aligned ourselves with the President’s position regarding the leadership of the National Assembly.”

They urged the party leadership to ensure that funds were made available to state chapters without delay in order to help them defray their liabilities in line with the resolutions of the National Executive Council.

“Chairman sir, we acknowledge the enormity of the responsibilities placed on the office of the chairman and as such we urge you to be alive to the challenges so as to move the party forward.

“You should always see us as partners in progress and your own foot soldiers as we pray for more success in future, “ they said.

One of the chairmen from a state in the North-West explained that he and his colleagues also considered it necessary to meet with the chairman to among other things, express their displeasure at the way they were being left out of the scheme of things.

He said, “As chairmen of the party at the level of states, we worked for the party and we deserve to be carried along now that the victory has been won.

“We are however not happy that we are being kept in the dark about happenings within the party and we told him so.

“We raised this issue because the states are being neglected and since we do not support disunity within our party, we decided to meet with the chairman to work out ways of improving the situation in the interest of the party.

“On his part, the national chairman told us he has been looking for an opportunity to meet with us to share ideas but that the campaigns and the limited time the party had to organise itself before the election made it difficult.”

In a related development, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Segun Oni, also held a separate meeting with the leadership and selected members of the party from Delta State.

The governorship candidate of the party in the last elections, O’tega Emerhor, however, told newsmen after the meeting that there were no factions within the party in Delta State.

He said, “There are only a few of our brothers who are aggrieved but the issues are being sorted out.”

Copyright PUNCH.

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