Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – bomb rocks University of Maiduguri

Premium Times

University of Maiduguri

Many people are feared dead after twin bomb explosions rocked the University of Maiduguri in the early hours of Monday.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is believed to have been carried out by the Boko Haram.

Monday’s explosion is the first major onslaught on the university since the insurgency began over seven years ago.

The university’s spokesperson, Victor Isuku, confirmed the explosions but could not provide details.

A source within the university said the first blast occurred at a mosque within the staff quarters at the time Muslim worshippers were busy concluding the early morning prayer.

The second attack was said to have happened near the university’s 5th gate usually used by pedestrians.

A female student, names withheld for security reasons, said her father was just lucky to have stepped out of the mosque before it went off.

“But many of his colleagues like Professor Mani and other senior staffers have either been killed or badly injured. When we tried going to scene of the blast, everywhere was covered with shredded human flesh and blood. Most the bodies are being taken to the Teaching hospital while others were rushed to the school clinic”.

She said soldiers have since taken over the scenes.

The police public relations officer said the commissioner of police has mobilised his officials to the university campus.

Witnesses said the mosque was completely destroyed.

Details to come later…

Nigeria – work to start on Lagos-Ibadan railway in February

Punch

N458bn Lagos-Ibadan new rail project

Rasheed Bisiriyu

The Federal Government will commence the construction of a standard gauge rail line from Lagos to Ibadan next month, the Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Mr. Fidet Okheria, has said.

The project, which has been awarded to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, is being jointly funded by the Nigerian and Chinese governments, and will cost about $1.5bn (N458bn).

Already, the Federal Government has made its counterpart funds available, while China promises to release its own by the end of this month, according to Okheria.

This is coming about six months after the Federal Government and the CCECC signed an agreement for the project.

The NRC helmsman, who spoke with our correspondent exclusively in Lagos on Friday shortly after receiving a leadership award from the ECOWAS Youth Council, said, “The Chinese government promises that by the end of the month to release its counterpart funds. And the project should, therefore, start in the next one month.”

The new Lagos-Ibadan rail, spanning 156.65 kilometres, is a double line, which is the first phase of a new Lagos-Kano standard gauge line.

The new line, when completed in 18 months, would coexist with the old narrow gauge rail line, Okheria said.

The contract for the 2,733km new Lagos-Kano rail was first awarded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 at a cost of $8.3bn to the Chinese company (CCECC) but could not be executed due to paucity of funds.

It was re-awarded to the same contractor by the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2012 for execution in six phases, starting with the Lagos-Ibadan stretch.

Okheria also said arrangements were being finalised to start the construction of the Lagos-Calabar and Kaduna-Kano rail lines.

The Federal Government and the CCECC last year signed the contract for the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan and Calabar-Port Harcourt rail lines after the two parties agreed to cut down the total cost for the projects from $11.917bn to $11.117bn.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who signed on behalf of the Federal Government, had said the cost reduction for the projects was achieved after the contract was renegotiated by both parties.

“The contract was awarded by the regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan for $11.917bn. When we took over at the ministry, we renegotiated with the CCECC and we succeeded in reducing the contract sum from $11.917bn to $11.117bn and we are able to save $800m after the renegotiation,” he had explained.

Amaechi also said the projects should be completed in two years, adding that the railways would be connected to the seaports.

For the Lagos-Calabar rail line, the minister had said the CCECC would “commence the construction of the first segment with Calabar-Uyo and Aba-Port Harcourt, and this will include all the seaports on this route. But the entire contract covers Calabar, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Yenogoa, Otuoke, Ughelli, Warri, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha and back to Benin, Ore, Sagamu and Lagos.”

Copyright PUNCH.

South Africa – ANC’s dirty war heats up as succession conflict continues

City Press

2017-01-15 06:01

Johannesburg – Calls for the ANC’s succession race to be opened up are getting louder, as concerns grow about the clandestine activities under way, breeding dirty tricks and smear campaigns.

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) has yet to fire the starting gun on the leadership race, but already teams have been assembled to back the various candidates vying for President Jacob Zuma’s position as leader of the governing party at its national conference in December.

The conference was initially set to take to place in Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape, but will probably be moved to Gauteng because of logistical and financial constraints.

Campaigns taking shape

City Press understands that behind-the-scenes opponents of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa are discouraging support for him by saying he is beholden to Jewish business interests.

Those opposed to ANC chairperson and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete have flooded the rumour mill with stories that she is very ill.

African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s detractors have cited her renewed close relationship to the president as a source of potential conflict should she assume the highest office. She has been accused of hijacking the “female president” campaign, initially tabled with Mbete in mind.

Other campaigns taking shape quietly behind the scenes include former deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

And the allegations of money exchanging hands are a common feature.

ANC leaders said that even Zuma, who a few days ago virtually endorsed Dlamini-Zuma and shot down the notion that ANC tradition dictated that the deputy president should succeed the incumbent leader, could be persuaded that the time had come for members to openly discuss aspirant successors.

A Zuma ally said the president had long been concerned that the debate was “getting out of control”.

Zuma said as much when labour federation Cosatu declared its support for Ramaphosa in November.

His radio comments this week – just a day after a Luthuli House official called on ANC structures and leaders to desist from discussing the matter of succession – were an indication of this.

Bigger scale

Mbete told City Press that, in terms of ANC culture, the succession debate was usually declared open soon after the midyear national policy conference, which is always held a few months before the elective conference.

However, others say the ANC in effect opened up the debate late last year, when provincial leaders were authorised to discuss succession among themselves.

An insider in the Zuma camp told City Press that Mbete, the most senior female leader, was “the candidate people had in mind when the idea of a woman president was proposed”.

He said Mbete’s candidacy was championed by the North West bloc of the Zuma group as its members saw her as “one of their own” since she was previously married to a Kgositsile (referring to poet and political activist Keorapetse Kgositsile).

However, Mbete’s backers were slow off the starting blocks and the initiative was seized by Dlamini-Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal backers.

The Zuma ally said there was concern that Ramaphosa would be a liability to the party because he was “in the pockets of the Jews”.

The best way to quash his ambitions was to push hard on the female president campaign.

“He is a good leader. But he is an unreliable leader on the bigger scale of things,” said the insider.

“And if he becomes president, he will have to answer for the next seven years about the buffaloes and what happened to the people in Marikana.

“It begged the question: Does the ANC want to put forward a candidate with that unfortunate background?”

Ronnie Mamoepa, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, rejected the “puppet of the Jews” taint as a “smear campaign”.

Lobbyists spread rumour

A Limpopo-based Ramaphosa lobbyist said his detractors had hoped he would not have the courage to stand for president. “Now they are making up stories to discredit him.”

Mbete told City Press that she had cottoned on to the “malicious campaign” about her health some years ago, “but it reared its head quite strongly as we started to get into the final year of this [ANC] term.

“Because we had just come out of a hectic election campaign, I was physically ravaged,” she said.

“I even spent time in hospital because of my back. And when I came out, suddenly there were issues about cancer or something else. At one point, I was said to be suffering from Alzheimer’s [a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour].”

Mbete also referred to a time she had not eaten all day and felt dizzy ahead of the state of the nation address. “I am dizzy. It is nighttime and we have to do this walk. I felt that I might collapse and decided to confide in [Zuma] so that he would not be surprised if I fell. I said: ‘Hey President, I’m feeling dizzy. He said, ‘Let me hold you.’”

Mbete’s lobbyists suspect the rumour was spread by those in Zuma’s camp.

Mbete’s unexplained exclusion from discussions last week among female leaders regarding the female presidency debate culminated in last Saturday’s declaration of support for Dlamini-Zuma by the ANC Women’s League.

Mbete told City Press that the health rumours were “generated to counter what I am likely to do this year.

“I really have no serious health issues,” said the 67-year-old.

“Like everybody, at this point we become diabetic and doctors can explain these things. But I am as fit as a fiddle…I can tell you that,” she said.

“Those who want to harp on about issues of health, I think we can take tests together with people of my age – or even those older or younger [than me] – and you will find that I am quite healthy.

“Diabetic or no diabetic, I am a very healthy mother.

“I am here, I am fit, I am ready and I see nothing on the horizon that makes me think I should retreat or throw in the towel.”

Engaging with the issue

Regarding her availability to stand for the presidency, Mbete said: “There will come a time when, officially, it is possible to tell who is availing themselves and who is not.

“For as long as I am healthy and young, I am here – available to be at the service of the ANC and the people.”

She said she had been an ANC member for more than 40 years, including these past 10 years as a member of the party’s top six.

She said that in about September 2015, “these thoughts came to me that the ANC honoured me, making me aware that it thought there was something I could offer as a person and be part of the team that led the organisation at this level”.

She added that over the past 40 years, the ANC had “invested something in me”.

“My deliberations centred on these questions: What do I give back to the ANC? What is my responsibility to the party?

“It was at that moment when I started engaging with the issue of where I was.

“For me, the question then became: What do I give back to the ANC, which has given me this honour?

“I continue to grapple with that question.”

A lobbyist in the Zuma camp said what stood in Mbete’s path was that she sometimes lost control of parliamentary sittings and the NEC meetings she chaired.

“So, it becomes difficult to consider her for a much bigger role,” he said.

Mbete said the ANC was increasingly being pushed in a direction where people would campaign openly and declare their ambitions.

“The reality of the world in which we operate is consistently saying to us: ‘Maybe you ought to rethink,’” she said.

She added that this could also assist branch members to get to know and interact with aspirant leaders and mitigate against “slate” politics.

Not tainted

Expressing concern about the influence of money in ANC processes, she said: “It will be a sad day when it is mainly money that determines who leads the ANC.

“The fact that you have lots of money [means you can] buy people or make people feel obliged that you should be the person at the helm of the party.

“These are not the values of the ANC.”

Mbete warned that the scourge of pecuniary politics which was running riot in the ANC would lead to the party abandoning the poor.

“This country is not for sale and the ANC is not for sale. So, it must not be allowed for money to become a major factor in our organisation and its processes,” she said.

A lobbyist in Mbete’s camp said her strength lay in the fact that “she is someone who is not tainted in one way or another” and is “not corrupt and corruptible”.

Gambia – Jammeh holds on as talks fail

BBC

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh welcoming Nigeria's leader, Muhammadu Buhari, to BanjulREUTERS Gambian President Yahya Jammeh welcomed Nigeria’s leader, Muhammadu Buhari, but talks broke down

The Gambia’s President-elect, Adama Barrow, has left the country after talks failed to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to step down.

Nigeria’s president flew to Banjul to try to broker a deal but Mr Jammeh would not relinquish power.

Mr Barrow is now heading to Mali, where he will meet West African leaders attending a summit there.

The former estate agent wants to resolve the transitional deadlock so he can be sworn in next week.

President Jammeh’s term ends on Thursday.

The African Union has said it will no longer recognise Mr Jammeh’s rule beyond this point.

Adama Barrow and Yahya JammehREUTERS/AFP Adama Barrow (left) beat Yahya Jammeh (right) in December’s election

Nigerian leader Muhammadu Buhari had flown to The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, to try to broker a deal, as the region fears the consequences of a non-peaceful transition.

Ecowas, a 15-nation bloc of West African states that organised the delegation, has it said it would consider removing Mr Jammeh using military force if he refuses to step aside.

Mr Barrow is travelling to Mali with the Ecowas delegation for further discussions this weekend.

Mr Jammeh had initially admitted defeat after the December election. But shortly afterwards he called for the result to be annulled.

The 51-year-old leader seized power in the country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.

A lawyer for Mr Jammeh filed a request with the Supreme Court on Thursday, asking for an injunction to block Mr Barrow’s swearing-in.

The Supreme Court is unable to hear the challenge until May because of a shortage of judges, and Mr Jammeh says he will not step down until then.

There are growing fears that the uncertainty could cause a refugee exodus.

Thousands of Gambians, mostly women and children, have already crossed the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, where they do not require a visa, officials say.

Mr Barrow won 43.3% of the vote in December’s election, compared with Mr Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.

Barrow leaves Gambia with Buhari and other West African leaders

Premium Times

Adama Barrow

President Muhammadu Buhari and other West African leaders have tactically taken Gambia’s president-elect, Adama Barrow, into safety after a botched attempt to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to voluntarily cede power after he lost the 1 December election.

Mr. Jammeh’s tenure ends January 19. And both ECOWAS and the AU have said he would cease to be leader of West Africa’s smallest country by January 20.

President Buhari flew out of Banjul with Mr. Barrow on Friday, en route to Mali, for what was called crisis talks in hopes of ending the nation’s political impasse. Thousands of Gambians themselves are leaving the country over fears of a possible military intervention to resolve the impasse.

Reports say the president-elect would remain in neighbouring Senegal until inauguration day when West African leaders would escort him to Banjul swearing-in.

The Nigerian President had led a three-nation delegation to Banjul earlier in the day, which his foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, admitted had not succeeded in getting Mr. Jammeh to step down.

Mr. Jammeh has made clear he will not stand aside until the country’s Supreme Court decides on his legal challenge seeking to annul the results of last month’s polls, which he initially conceded losing.

The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-nation bloc, has repeatedly called on Mr. Jammeh to respect the result of the vote that delivered Mr. Barrow to victory, and step down after 22 years in power.

“The ECOWAS team has decided to depart Banjul tonight in the company of president-elect Barrow headed for Bamako, Mali,” Nigeria’s foreign minister Onyeama told journalists.

Ghana’s former president John Mahama; Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Mr. Buhari have spent the last month attempting to cajole Mr. Jammeh into ceding the presidency.

Mr. Onyeama expressed West Africa’s “determination to find a peaceful solution that accords with the constitution of The Gambia and also reflects the will of the Gambian people,” and said this was best served by Barrow meeting representatives from all ECOWAS member nations.

West African heads of state gathered in Bamako for the Africa-France summit on Saturday.

The African Union said there would be “serious consequences” for Jammeh, without elaborating, if violence or disorder were to break out as a result of the deadlock.

And Mohamed Ibn Chambas, head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, said Friday that ECOWAS would ask the security council to approve the deployment of troops to The Gambia if Mr. Jammeh refuses to cede power.

There are just five days left of JMr. ammeh’s five-year term, but he warned the international community on Tuesday that “undue external interference” was unnecessary.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to sit and hear his legal challenge before May, ratcheting up tensions with Mr. Barrow, whose inauguration is due Thursday.

GAMBIANS FLEEING

Meanwhile the prolonged political uncertainty and fear of unrest has pushed thousands of Gambians across the border into neighbouring Senegal and further afield to Guinea-Bissau.

Tibna Sambe Na Wana, the national coordinator for Guinea-Bissau’s refugee commission, said more than 1,000 Gambians had crossed into the country, where they do not require a visa, in recent days.

“It is clear that the total number is far higher than a thousand and rising daily,” Na Wana said.

Women, children and the elderly made up the greatest numbers, the official said, with more than 500 passing one border post near the town of Jegue in three days.

“They say they are scared of a military escalation,” Na Wana added.

In Senegal, the UN’s refugee agency said “several thousand people” had crossed into the southern Casamance region from The Gambia, especially children.

Senegal and The Gambia have deep ethnic and linguistic ties, and most families have relatives living across the border.

“Most arrivals in Senegal are Gambians and Senegalese who have been working or living in The Gambia,” said Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s representative for West Africa in Dakar, but added Africans from several other nations were also crossing.

A nation of fewer than two million people, The Gambia already accounts for the highest number of migrants per capita of any nationality crossing the Mediterranean on smugglers’ boats to Italy.

The effects of the crisis were further scrutinised across the continent in Addis Ababa, where the African Union (AU) declared it would no longer recognise President Jammeh as head of state on January 19, regardless of the Supreme Court case.

Citing “the inviolable nature of the outcome of the presidential elections held on 1 December 2016 in The Gambia,” the AU called on Mr. Jammeh to respect the constitution and cede power to Barrow on that date.

Mr. Jammeh has said he wants to wait for the Supreme Court to sit and hear his case, but the Gambian Bar Association said Friday his term could not legally be extended except through a referendum altering the constitution.

The president has few allies and has faced almost universal condemnation for clinging to his post.

The Nigerian House of Representatives said Thursday the country should consider offering him asylum.

NAN/AFP

Nigeria – five students and two staff kidnapped from Ogun State school

Reuters

Gunmen kidnapped five students and two staff, including a Turkish national, from an international school in Nigeria’s southern state of Ogun, police said on Saturday.

The kidnappers, who abducted the six Nigerians and Turkish staff member late on Friday, have not made contact with police or school authorities and no arrest has been made, Ogun police spokesman Abimbola Oyeyemi said.

“We have deployed police operatives and are making serious efforts to release the victims unhurt and bring the culprits to book,” he said.

In September, Ogun state police rescued two kidnapped Chinese nationals who were working for a quarry company.

(Reporting By Anamesere Igboeroteonwu, Writing by Paul Carsten, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Nigeria – troops repel Boko Haram attack in Borno

Premium Times

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian Army troops clearing Boko Haram enclaves along Bitta to Tokumbere, Sambisa Forest, Borno state

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian Army troops clearing Boko Haram enclaves along Bitta to Tokumbere, Sambisa Forest, Borno state

Troops of the Nigerian Army on Friday repelled an attack by Boko Haram fighters on their location in the northern part of Borno State, killing no fewer than 10 of the terrorists, authorities said.

According to the spokesman of the Nigeria Army, Sani Usman, a Brigadier General, the insurgents attempted an attack on troops location in Kangarwa village of Kukawa local government.

Kangarwa is situated around the locations where the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is currently prospecting for oil in the shores of the receding Lake Chad.

Following the disrupting activities of Boko Haram in that strategic region, the Nigeria military had established the 119 Battalion and the 133 Special Forces Battalion of 7 Brigade to fortify the area.

Mr. Usman said troops foiled the attack with the support of the Nigerian Air Force which promptly deployed Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes.

He said troops dealt the attackers “a decisive blow”.

The attack lasted hours, from the evening of Friday to late night, as troops battled to repell the Boko Haram fighters until the airforce jet came to bolster the offensive by ground troops, Mr. Usman said.

“The resilient troops repelled the incursion and in the process killed 10 insurgents and wounded several others,” he said.

“They recovered, 1 Pulemyot Kalashnkova Machine (PKM) Gun, with 67 rounds of ammunition, 1 AK-47 Riffle with 18 rounds of ammunition, 2 AK-Rifle top covers and 3 Dane Guns with 1 cartridge.

“Others include, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade Tube with 3 bombs, 1 Rocket Propelled Grenade charger and smoke grenade, 1 Hand Held (HH) Motorola Radio an antenna, 1 copy of Holy Quran and Boko Haram terrorists flag.

“Unfortunately, three soldiers paid the supreme price in the course of the encounter, while 27 soldiers sustained various degrees of injuries. The bodies of the gallant soldiers and those injured have since been evacuated for treatment.”

The Nigeria military had in December 2016 announced the fall of Sambisa Forest, which was known as Boko Haram’s deadliest hideout.

Authorities at the headquarters of the Theatre Command in Maiduguri have consistently assured that troops would not relent on aggressive mop-up operations to rout “remnant Boko Haram terrorists”.

They described recent attacks and suicide bombings by the terrorists as signs of desperation by the “weakened” insurgents.