- Africa Weekly
- Jul 13 2017
Rwanda elected to lead AU in 2018
The 29th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union that ended on July 4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia elected Rwanda to lead the Union in 2018. Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, announced the development this via her Twitter account after the closing ceremony. “African Union Summit now in closing; among many decisions, Rwanda elected to lead the Union in 2018. We are honored and express appreciation!” Mushikiwabo said.
President Paul Kagame on July 3 presented to the summit a report on the implementation of the AU institutional reforms. He warned that certain aspects of the reforms could cause discomfort among some external partners as it challenges some of their interests as the continent seek to become more independent. Mushikiwabo said that there is steady progress on the proposed reforms, adding that more than 10 countries are already implementing the January 2018 self-financing scheme. Rwanda will take over leadership from Guinea on January 30, 2018. The President of Rwanda will then replace President Alpha Condé of Guinea for a period of one year.
This is the first time that Rwanda will be chairing the Union since it was established in 2001 and launched in 2002 as African Union (AU), replacing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). At the closure of the session, the African Union Chairperson, President Alpha Condé, urged Africa to consult regularly and to speak with one voice. The summit concluded on July 4 with calls for strong collaboration among African countries to tackle key regional and global issues. Condé said there is need to jointly address issues such as terrorism and migration which he said take Africa’s vital resource, the youth, out of the continent.
Meanwhile, the closing ceremony also featured the swearing in of two senior AU officials: the commissioner for economic affairs (from Madagascar) and the commissioner for human resource, science and technology (from Cameroon) who will serve for four years. The summit was convened under the theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in the Youth.”
Source: The New Times
Financing high on AU Summit agenda
Hot on the heels of the G5 Sahel meeting in Bamako, leaders from across Africa travel to Addis Ababa for the 29th Summit of the African Union (AU). The stakes of the meeting include how to finance an organisation which gets 80 percent of its budget from western donations. The solution which has been proposed is a 0.2 percent levy which would be imposed on all eligible imports which enter a member state from outside the AU.
While the proposal has its supporters, some fear an ‘AU tax’ would be difficult to implement. There have even been suggestions, from reticent members that the move would contravene world trade rules. “The idea of this tax is to make the organisation independent and self-sufficient,” says the Nigerian foreign minister Geoffrey Onyema. He dismisses claims that the tax would break World Trade Organisation rules pointing out that there is a similar levy within ECOWAS (the West African group of nations).
“Our position was that the implementation of the tax seemed to be posing problems for a number of states. We think that more time could be afforded to give countries the time to make the necessary changes.” While in principle there is a broad consensus supporting the move, the practicalities of implementing a continent-wide tax are complex.
Morocco back in the fold
Six months after the admission of Morocco, the AU is adjusting to the changing dynamic this brings to its internal politics. For decades Morocco had been barred from the Union over the disputed region of Western Sahara. The AU recognizes the government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. Rabat says the territory is a part of Morocco. Also known as Western Sahara, the United Nations does not deem the territory an independent state. When the AU’s Human Rights Commission called for an “evaluation mission to be sent to the occupied territory” to investigate allegations of rights abuses, Morocco protested.
Among the crises facing heads of state and government at this summit is the fighting in South Sudan. Last week, Juba sent a team to South Africa, where the vice president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, is currently in exile. If there are signs of an opening coming from president Salva Kiir, one reason is the pressure being applied by the African Union for the warring factions to cease hostilities. As one AU official put it this summit is the “last chance saloon” for the parties to return to the negotiating table.
Source: Radio France Internationale
Intra-Africa trade receives financial boost
The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has signed agreements to provide financing facilities totaling up to $1.11 billion to support African entities engaged in intra-African trade, including $1 billion to the African conglomerate Dangote Industries Limited. The signing ceremonies were held as part of the activities marking the 24th Annual General Meeting of the Bank, in Kigali last week, in line with the Bank’s strategy to facilitate the growth of intra-African trade.
A statement said the terms of the MoU with Dangote Industries provides for credit facilities, “which may be granted by Afreximbank to Dangote Industries Limited and its subsidiaries in an aggregate amount of up to one billion dollars”. The MoU provides for collaboration between Afreximbank and Dangote Industries in respect to proposed funding of transactions, which could involve the provision of short and long-term liabilities for trade-related projects in Africa.
Under the deal, the utilization of the facility would boost intra-African trade volumes, enhance continental value chains and increase production and export of goods and services across Africa. Another signing ceremony was a $100-million facility to Heirs Holdings Limited, a pan-African proprietary investment holding company, to support its cross border investment programme. Heirs Holdings has a portfolio of investments in key sectors in 20 African countries, including energy, financial services, real estate and hospitality.
Also signed was a facility agreement for a $10 million amortising term loan facility to the Development Bank of Rwanda Limited (BRD) to support the development of power and manufacturing projects in the country. A note on the seven-year facility said that it would finance projects that were in line with Afreximbank’s strategy aimed at promoting industrialisation and export development and would contribute to an increase in Rwanda’s electricity generation and consumption, thereby enhancing the growth of the country’s manufacturing and export sectors.
Dr Benedict Oramah, the President of Afreximbank, signed the agreements on behalf of the Bank, while Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Industries Limited; Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings; and Alex Kanyankole, Chief Executive Officer of BRD, signed on behalf of their respective organisations.
Source: The New Times
French Judge probes post-election violence in Gabon
A French judge will investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed in Gabon during post-election violence last year. Violence continued for several days after President Ali Bongo was declared reelected at the end of August. Clashes broke out shortly after the announcement that Bongo had beaten opposition leader Jean Ping and the opposition said more than 50 people were killed by the security forces.
The investigation in France started in April 2017, following a legal complaint by a French-Gabonese citizen in September 2016. He was arrested on the night of 31 August 2016 when masked men attacked Ping’s headquarters and claims there was a “night of horror” during which dozens of people were wounded or killed. The inquiry was not originally into charges of crimes against humanity but into alleged arbitrary arrest, torture, acts of barbarism and attempted assassination. But in June the judge added crimes against humainty to the charge sheet.
“The investigative judge considers that at first glance it was not possible to skip crimes against humanity,” the plantiff’s lawyer, William Bourdon, told RFI. “There are some strong, convincing elements” in the case, he added. “In respect of his French citizenship, this allows, as you know, a French judge to recognise its [France] own judisdiction” The International Criminal Court earlier this month sent a team to investigate the post-election violence.
Source: Radio France Internationale
DR Congo rebels kidnap 21 Tanzania, Uganda drivers
Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have allegedly abducted 21 drivers, 18 of who are Tanzanians working with Alistair Cargo Transport Company. Alistair transport manager Anna Mbise said the incident is said to have occurred on the morning of June 29 after an intensive fire exchange between DRC police officers and the rebels.
“According to drivers, the DRC police who were escorting them were overpowered by the rebels during the fight that’s how our drivers were taken prisoners,” she said. She said, the firm has filed a letter of notification to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation seeking for government assistance in order to ensure the drivers are released and send back home safely. “We’re worried about their safety because there is a huge possibility that DRC forces are organising to invade the fighting scene,” she said.
The acting director of Africa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Mr Suleiman Saleh, admitted to have received the information on the incident saying they have started working on it. According to the coordinator of the Federation of East Africa Road Transport Association (Fearta), Mr Emmanuel Kakuyu, the drivers were taken prisoners at the Lulimba Village which borders Lake Tanganyika and Kindu Manyema.
The distance from Lulimba Village to Kigoma is 448 kilometers. He said none of the drivers were injured and that they (drivers) and rebels have been in speaking in good terms.He added that the rebels have assured the safety of drivers. “They have assured that all drivers, including three Ugandans, are safe insisting that they (rebels) have problems with their government not our drivers,” he said.
This is not the first time for Tanzanian drivers to get troubles in DRC as the same happened last September whereby four trucks were torched and eight drivers abducted by the MaiMai rebel group. The incident occurred in Namoyo, South Kivu, DRC where the rebels burnt four trucks belonging to Simba Logistics owned by Azim Dewji.
Source: The Citizen
UN Staff attacked, robbed in Kaga-Bandoro
The U.N. refugee agency has temporarily relocated its staff after armed men in the Central African Republic attacked and robbed the UNHCR’s premises in the northern town of Kaga-Bandoro. The U.N. refugee agency condemns the attack against its staff, which occurred late afternoon on July 1. It reports armed men looted all the goods and money on site, including personal items and passports.
The UNHCR says the six U.N. workers were threatened at gunpoint, but fortunately, none were hurt. The agency says they have been temporarily located to the UN Mission base in Kaga- Bandoro for their safety. It says some will be moved to the capital Bangui. UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, tells VOA the agency has no information regarding the identity of the perpetrators. “This is obviously something that would need investigating. But, clearly in the context of the CAR, that might be a tall order given the situation inside the country,” he said. “Our staff faces constant insecurity and threats… Our staff there works in precarious conditions.”
The UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 8,600 refugees and more than one-half million internally displaced people. Mahecic says the UNHCR will do what it can to help these people during this uncertain time. “We will obviously consider the return of the staff at the time when it is considered for them to be safe. And, obviously, the aid that has been on the ground has been delivered, but also we would be making contingency plans in such situations for assistance to the displaced,” he said.
Last week, the UNHCR warned renewed violence in CAR was threatening thousands of civilian lives and forcing many to flee. The agency reports more than five years of civil war has caused nearly 1 million people to become internally displaced or refugees.
Source: Voice of America
Gunmen fire at UN convoy, seize workers in Libya
Gunmen fired at a United Nations convoy in Libya on June 28 and seized seven U.N. observers. A U.N. spokesman said the convoy was traveling between Tripoli and the town of Surman in western Libya when the gunmen started shooting. One vehicle was damaged, but the seven staffers who were detained briefly were released unharmed.
The U.N. thanked Libyan government officials and local authorities for helping to ensure the workers’ safety, and said the U.N. staff in Libya remain committed to supporting peace and security. The identity of the gunmen is unclear, but militias are believed to be widespread across parts of western Libya. Libya is split between an internationally recognized government in Tripoli and rival administrations, all jockeying for power and control over the country’s oil wealth.
Source: Voice of America
UN renews steps against illicit Libyan oil exports, renews missions in Golan, Mali, Darfur
The Security Council on June 29 adopted a series of resolutions by which it extended the mandates of United Nations missions in the Golan, the Darfur region of Sudan and Mali, and renewed measures against illicit oil exports in Libya. In resolution 2361, which extends the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the Council condemned the use of heavy weapons by both the Syrian armed forces and armed groups in the ongoing Syrian conflict in the area of separation between Israel and Syria, and underlined that there should be no military activity of the armed opposition groups in that area.
It also urged Member States to convey strongly to the Syrian armed opposition groups in UNDOF’s area of operations to halt all activities that endanger UN peacekeepers and to accord them the freedom to carry out their mandate safely and securely. UNDOF was established by the Council in May 1974 to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria, to supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces, and to supervise the areas of separation and limitation.
Similarly, the Council adopted resolution 2363, in which it extended the mandate of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) until 30 June 2018. Among other things, the Council also decided that from 31 January next year, UNAMID’s troop and police ceiling shall be reduced to consist of up to 8,735 military personnel and 2,500 police personnel, including individual police officers and members of formed police units.
Also on June 29, the Council extended the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known by its French acronym MINUSMA, through June 2018. In adopting resolution 2364, the Council also decided that MINUSMA shall continue to comprise up to 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 police personnel and that its strategic priority shall remain to support the implementation by the Government, the Plateforme and Coordination armed groups, as well as by other relevant Malian stakeholders, of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.
Furthermore, the Council authorized French forces, within the limits of their capacities and areas of deployment, “to use all necessary means” until the end of MINUSMA’s mandate, “to intervene in support of elements of MINUSMA when under imminent and serious threat upon request of the Secretary-General.”
The Council also renewed the measures against illicit oil exports from Libya as well as the mandate of the expert panel assisting the sanctions committee through November this year. In adopting resolution 2362, the Council condemned attempts to illicitly export petroleum, including crude oil and refined petroleum products, from Libya, including by parallel institutions which are not acting under the authority of the Government of National Accord.
The Council also raised concerns about activities which could damage the integrity and unity of Libyan State financial institutions and the National Oil Corporation, and stressed the need for the Government of National Accord “to exercise sole and effective oversight” over the National Oil Corporation, the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Investment Authority. In the same resolution, the Council decided that the Panel of Experts on the issue shall provide an interim report on its work no later than 28 February 2018, and a final report, with findings and recommendations, by 15 September of next year.
Source: UN News Service
Morocco secures US $25 million loan from the clean technology fund for hybrid solar project
Morocco received approval for a US $25 million loan from the Climate Investment Funds’ Clean Technology Fund (CIF CTF) for a project to generate solar power through an innovative hybrid Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) solution. The Midelt Phase I Concentrated Solar Power Project is being supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank with an additional allocation of US$ 25 million in CTF resources.
The project consists of two separate CSP plants, each with 150-190 MW CSP capacity and a minimum of 5 hours of thermal storage. The envisaged installed capacity of the PV component could reach approximately 150-210 MW, making the total capacity of each of the proposed plants 300-400 MW and the total capacity of this first phase 600-800 MW. The project’s innovative hybrid solar design is also built on a unique Public-Private Partnership between the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) and private sector sponsors – with a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer project structure and implementation approach.
Selected sponsors are expected to form a Special Purpose Company to build and operate the plants and sell the generated electricity to MASEN under a 25-year Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). The process will be designed to allow the award of the plants to different bidders. The support from the CTF and AfDB is critical in driving down the cost of the project’s capital and lowering the Levelized Cost of Electricity. “In 2015, the world saw an important shift in CSP investment from the developed to the developing world, particularly in Morocco” stated Anthony Nyong, AfDB’s Director, Climate Change and Green Growth. “Morocco’s path-changing Noor CSP program under CTF, for which we serve as implementing agency, has been a critical element of that shift.
This new project, which will be modelled on the Noor operational and financial structure, will increase the development of solar energy and further help diversify the country’s energy mix and enhance its energy security. We believe that the project can serve as a model for other countries in the region and beyond,” he added. The project will significantly contribute to the Government of Morocco’s achievement of its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, including its goal of achieving 52% of installed capacity from renewable energy (20% from solar) by 2030. Morocco’s Solar Plan will also contribute to industrial development, competitiveness and could create about 30,000 jobs.
“Until now, CSP has been the dominant renewable energy technology assuring electricity during peak hours and by adding a PV component, we expect enhancing the reliability of the power plant” stated Leandro Azevedo, AfDB’s CIF Program Coordinator and Senior Climate Finance Officer. “The combination of these two technologies will allow Morocco to optimize the dispatch of generated power during the daytime by ensuring that the utilization of the CSP component can be maximized during night-time through the use of thermal storage,” he said. Estimated greenhouse gas savings for the Noor-Midelt Phase 1 project is about 1.2 million tCO2 equivalent per year and 36 million tCO2 equivalent over the project’s 25 year-lifetime.
Climate Investment Funds (CIF): Established in 2008, as one of the largest fast-tracked climate financing instruments in the world, the US $8.3-billion CIF provides developing countries with grants, concessional loans, risk mitigation instruments, and equity that leverage significant financing from the private sector, MDBs and other sources. Five MDBs – the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and World Bank Group (WBG) – implement CIF-funded projects and programs.
Source: African Development Bank Group
In Zimbabwe, MDC-T, Zapu, Code lash back at Nkosana Moyo
Local opposition parties took umbrage with Zimbabwe’s newest presidential aspirant Nkosana Moyo’s comments weekend that their plans to form a grand coalition was a mere stampede for jobs. Hardly had locals savoured his surprise entry into the presidential race did the former industry minister fire the earliest shots at his more politically established colleagues, describing their move as a desperate lot.
This comes after Zimbabwe’s mainstream and fringe parties have pulled all the stops to come up with a united front against their common rival, Zanu PF. But coalition formation seems to be weighed down by an apparent struggle for leadership, most prominent, pitying veteran opposition leader and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and ex-Vice President Joice Mujuru, NPP leader.
Moyo found this too absurd to warrant a tongue lashing. “We need to make a distinction between people who are coming together to literally divide jobs among themselves, and people who are offering themselves with clarity of the job that needs to be done,” he said during the launch of his presidential bid on June 29.
Coalition protagonists found his comments way too untoward with ZAPU leader Dumiso Dabengwa saying he was now too old to be job seeking. “We have been in the liberation struggle since 1963. Why should we be looking for jobs?” Dabengwa told NewZimbabwe.com weekend. “In my case, after all these years in the liberation struggle and in the service of the country. I am looking for a job! What a joke!
Dabengwa added: “I don’t know who he is talking about when he says political parties are looking for a job. Maybe it could be relevant to some but certainly not my party and not me.” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu felt Moyo’s comments were diversionary, adding that his party will not be distracted in its pursuit for elusive power. “Surely do you expect a train to stop simply because a dog has barked! “We will meet Nkosana Moyo in the political market,” Gutu said.
But Zimbabwe People First leader and current chairperson of the 11 party Coalition of Democrats (CODE) Maxwell Shumba was more scathing. “Zimbabwe is in dire need of a national solution to its current social and economic woes. This is no time for aloofness and snobbish attitude. We have it in Robert Mugabe already,” said the US based politician and academic.
“Coalition is the best definition of unity. It is a demonstration of tolerance of divergent views and ability to compromise. “Zimbabwe after 37 years of Mugabe’s fowl mouth cannot afford another leader with similar attitude. “These words do not show national leadership. “Genuine and selfless leaders invest in unity. Charity begins at home. One cannot rubbish unity at home and still live with the United Nations.”
In South Africa, vehicles overturned, windows smashed in Hout Bay protest
Vehicles have been overturned, windows smashed and temporary food trucks destroyed as Hout Bay protests enter the third day, authorities said on July 3. City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety JP Smith asked police to use video footage of “rioters” engaged in public violence and damaging state and private property, to ensure individuals were prosecuted.
“The situation in Hout Bay has become serious and it is clear that it is no longer a matter of community protest, but has now entered the realm of sheer criminality,” Smith said. “Every available city traffic law enforcement and metro police resource has been dispatched to Hout Bay to attempt to contain the situation.” “Their [the protesters’] behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in a democratic dispensation.” On July 3 morning, stun grenades were used to disperse an estimated 100 protesters in the area. Victoria Road was reopened on July 3 morning and traffic from the Main Road was diverted into Disa River Road and down Valley Road.
In a statement, Western Cape Police said personnel from public order policing, the stabilisation unit and Visible Policing had been deployed to the area. Police are working closely with law enforcement agencies to quell the situation and to restore tranquillity to the area, spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said. It was unclear whether a meeting between the housing department and the Imizamo Yethu steering committee, set for July 3 morning at 10:00, would continue.
Protests in the area started on July 1 when community members erected structures blocking traffic in roads. In March, a huge fire tore through Imizamo Yethu, destroying hundreds of homes and leaving thousands of residents displaced. City of Cape Town safety and security director Richard Bosman previously told News24 that the protest was over a lack of electricity and decent formal housing in Imizamo Yethu, which had allegedly been promised by Mayor Patricia de Lille to those displaced by the devastating fire in the area a few months ago. Protesters claim they were promised better housing within three months of the fire. Those displaced are currently staying at an interim housing area on Hout Bay’s sports field.
President Lungu warns of possible state of emergency in Zambia
President Edgar Lungu has given the clearest indication that he is on the verge of declaring a State of Emergency following the fire that has destroyed City Market. President Lungu and his deputy Inonge Wina have laid the blame on saboteurs although in one breath they allege that police will launch investigations. The Head of State went straight to City Market soon after arriving from Ethiopia where he had been attending a Heads of State summit.
A fuming President Lungu said the people’s rights may have to be suspended in order to deal with the alleged acts of sabotage. The country has witnessed a number of damage to public property with fires sparked at some public places. “I do not want to pre-empt the measures we have put in place to up the game and we have done that, but I will wait to be briefed,” he said. “If it means taking measures which are unprecedented, we will do just that, some people will have to lose their rights. People who have lost their property have lost livelihoods. So if I become a dictator for once bear with me.” President Lungu said that cabinet will table the matter on July 12 and make pronouncements on how to deal with the alleged acts of sabotage.
Source: Zambia Reports
Nakumatt closes three outlets in Uganda
Troubled regional retail chain Nakumatt has closed down three of its outlets in Uganda. The cash-strapped retailer shut stores at Acacia Mall in Kololo, Village Mall in Bugolobi and at Victoria Mall in Entebbe. “The supermarket space at these malls will go under redevelopment,” said Knight Frank Uganda, the property manager, in a statement issued on July 1.
In April, Nakumatt shut its Katwe branch after it accumulated rent arrears running into millions of shillings. Last month, the retailer said it would close poorly performing outlets in Uganda and Kenya. It has already closed two stores in Nairobi. The retail chain also has a presence in Tanzania and Rwanda.
Source: The Monitor
Saudi Arabia detains 12 Ethiopian Muslims on Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage
Twelve members of Ethiopian Muslims who were in Saudi Arabia on Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage were detained by the Kingdom’s security on June 29, according to friends and family members. The detainees include Ustaz Abubeker Ahmed and Ustaz Yasin Nuru, prominent members of the Ethiopian Muslim Arbitration Committee, a committee formed by the Addis Abeba Muslim community in the wake of the 2011 rift between the government and Muslims in Addis Abeba. However, as the initial rift escalated and sustained anti-government Friday sit-ins by Muslims throughout the country intensified, both Ustaz Abubekr and Ustaz Yasin were detained, subsequently charged and tried for terrorism.
During a three year trial marked by several inconsistencies, in August of 2015 each were sentenced to 22 years in prison. A year after the sentencing however both were pardoned by Ethiopia’s President Mulatu Teshome in Sep. 2016. According to this information posted on Facebook, among the twelve detainees are: Aleem Dr. Joylan Khedir, Ustaz Khamil Shemsu, Ustaz Raya Aba Mecha, Ustaz Hassen Ali, Ustaz Abdurrahman Sultan, Ustaz Khedi Kahsay and Engineer Bedru Hussien. So far, there has been no official statement both from the Kingdom and the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs. But according a report on DW Amharic, some of the detainees were already residents of the Kingdom. AS
Source: Addis Standard (Addis Ababa)
In Kenya, 2 policemen dead, 7 missing after ‘Shabaab’ attack in Lamu
Two police officers have been killed and seven others are missing in their battle against suspected Al-Shabaab fighters in Lamu. Two of the suspected militants, who attempted to raze the Pandanguo Police Post, were also felled in the gun fight on July 5 morning.
According to a senior administrator, the officers died following a fierce battle in the early morning attack. Six other officers were reportedly seriously injured according to our source. “Unknown number of officers and villagers are missing. Some of the injured persons have been taken to Witu Hospital,” the administrator, who sought anonymity because he is not authorised to brief the media, told the Nation. He said the over 200 fighters struck at the crack of dawn after holding prayers in a mosque.
The fierce fighting paralysed learning at Kakate, Maleli, Rehema, Furaha, Sendemke and Soroko primary schools. Pupils from the schools told the Nation that they had been ordered to vacate the institutions following the attack.
Source: Daily Nation
West African and French leaders launch Sahel Force
Five African countries have launched a new multinational force to fight armed groups in the Sahel region, which France’s President Emmanuel Macron told a summit in Mali should be fully operational “in a matter of weeks”. The new regional anti-terror force is set to include as many as 5,000 soldiers, with one battalion from each of the so-called G5 Sahel countries: Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. “Our enemies are cowards, but they have determination. They want to destroy us,” Macron said on July 2, in a regional summit with the G5-Sahel leaders in the Malian capital, Bamako.
France’s President said his country would contribute $9m to the new force this year. He also mentioned a contribution of 70 vehicles, without saying whether that was included in the sum. The European Union has also pledged $57m towards the new force, and France is seeking additional financing from partners, including Germany and the United States.
The new force will operate in the region along with the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission and the 5,000-strong French troops already in Mali, which obtained its independence from France in 1960. In addition, Macron announced $228m in development aid to the Sahel region over the next five years. “We cannot hide behind words, and must take actions,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita described al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the Sahel as “without face and with no ethics”. “They do not share our values,” Keita said. The fight against armed fighters is expected to focus on the border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, where attacks against military barracks have occurred recently. A French military intervention in January 2013 turned back a separatist movement in Mali’s north, but various armed groups still stage attacks.
Key challenges: Macron’s visit comes as al-Qaeda’s Mali branch released a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages, including a French woman who was abducted in late 2016 in the northern Malian town of Gao. On July 2, Macron denounced the abduction of Sophie Petronin, vowing that his government will “put all our energy towards eradicating” the armed groups involved in the abduction.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Bamako, said financing remains the crucial issue for the operations across the Sahel. “There are troops here and they’ve been trying to solve the problem of insecurity in the region, but they haven’t been successful because the funding is at the heart of this situation,” he said, adding that lack of money could cause the new initiative to fail. “The United Nations is struggling now with the approach of the US that the UN should reduce its security budget around the world,” Vall said. “That US approach is touching this region.”
Meanwhile, analysts said internal conflicts within Mali are complicating the fight against the armed groups. “What we see is a big focus on military, on equipment, on institutions that they are going to establish,” Marie Roger Biloa, editor of the Paris-based Africa International, told Al Jazeera. She said, however, that so far it has proved difficult to bring troops from different countries to effectively work together, and called for increased political efforts to address Mali’s “very complicated” situation.
“The problem is that France wants to fight terror – because terrorism is striking on French soil but also abroad – but they fail to realise or to take into consideration that Mali, which is the heart of the problem, is having internal problems to solve,” she said. “If you want to be efficient you also have to address that issue.”
In 2015, an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels and Mali’s government signed a peace deal brokered by Algeria. The deal hands the Tuaregs greater autonomy of the northern region of Mali, in a bid to end a cycle of violence. Since then, there has been sporadic fighting between pro-government militia and the coalition of Tuareg rebels, also known as the Coordination of Movements for Azawad.
“You have a political situation with the Azawad pro-independence rebels who did not really sign the peace agreement – they just initialed this, they refused to sign it. But you have a huge gap of trust between the government and the rebels,” Biloa told Al Jazeera. Mali has seen a series of attacks in recent months, including a deadly raid of a tourist resort in Bamako in mid-June. More than 100 UN soldiers have also died in recent months, making it the most deadly UN mission to date.
Source: Al Jazeera (Doha)
Al Qaeda releases hostage video as Macron attends Mali anti-Jihad meeting
Al Qaeda’s branch in Mali has released a video of six foreign hostages, including French naitonal Sophie Pétronin, just before a visit by France’s President Emmanuel Macron to finalise the establishment of a Sahel anti-jihadi force with the leaders of five African countries. The undated video by Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, also known as the Group to Support Islam and Muslims, was released on Telegram on July 1, US-based monitoring group SITE said. It featured Pétronin, the head of an NGO that works with children, who was abducted by armed men in Gao, northern Mali, in December 2016 and says she hopes Macron will help her return to her family.
The other hostages are: Australian surgeon Arthur Kenneth Elliott, 82, who was kidnapped along with his wife, Jocelyn, in Burkina Faso in January 2015, Jocelyn being released in February 2016: South African Stephen McGowan, kidnapped in northern Mali in November 2011; Romanian mining engineer Iulian Ghergut kidnapped in Burkina Faso in 2015; Swiss missionary Béatrice Stockly, kidnapped in Mali in January 2016; Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti kidnapped in Malinin February 2017. At the end of the video the narrator tells the hostages’ families “no genuine negotiations have begun” for their release but then adds that discussions are “still active”.
Macron addresses G5 meeting: Macron arrived in Bamako overnight for a meeting with the leaders of the G5 countries – Chad’s Idriss Déby, Mauritania’s Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, Burkina Faso’s Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger) – to discuss the military force they will set up to fight jihadism, smuggling and people trafficking in the Sahel region. The force, which will supplement France’s operation Barkhane and the UN’s Minusma mission in Mali, will start with 5,000 troops and the G5 hope to double its numbers over time. “It will be up to you and your armies to show that the G5 can be effective while respecting humanitarian conventions,” Macron told the heads of state. “The results must be delivered to convince our partners.”
France hopes to convince its European allies and the US to help finance the force, whose budget will be close to 500 million euros, according to sources. So far the European Union has promised 50 million euros, while Washington forced Paris to amend a UN Security Council resolution to avoid commitment to funding from the world body. Déby, whose country is already contributing to Minusma and the multinational force fighting Nigerian-based Boko Haram, has threatened to pull out of the G5 force for budgetary reason.
Source: Radio France Internationale
In Nigeria, elder statesman Maitama Sule is dead
A two-time minister and former Nigerian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Yusuf Maitama Sule, is dead. He was 88 years old. Mr. Sule, also known by his traditional title, Danmasanin Kano, died in the early hours of Monday while on admission at a hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He was flown to the Egyptian hospital on July 1 after doctors at Kano’s Nasarawa Hospital diagnosed him of pneumonia and chest infection.
A close associated of the late politician told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Sule’s remains would be flown to the country on July 4 and the funeral prayers would take place at Kano Emir’s Palace by 4 p.m. Mr. Sule was minister of mines and power during the first republic administration of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and was minister for national guidance in 1983. In 1976, his former student, Murtala Mohammed, appointed him to head a newly established ombudsman body, Public Complaints Commission.
Born in 1929 in the old city of Kano, Mr. Sule was famous for his oratory and flamboyance. In the 1979 transition to civil rule, Mr. Sule vied for the presidential ticket of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, losing to his opponent, Shehu Shagari, in a controversial re-run. In what was seen as a move to take the flamboyant politican out of the political cycle, Mr. Sule was appointed ambassador by then President Shagari and posted to the United Nations. While at the UN, he chaired the United Nations Standing Committee Against Apartheid then ravaging South Africa.
Source: Premium Times
66 incumbents up for re-election in Liberia
With seven days to the end of Candidate Nomination of the 2017 presidential and representative elections, the Daily Observer has gathered that at least 66 of the 73 incumbents are vying to return to the House of Representatives. On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, the term of the 53rd Legislature will end. The election of new and returning lawmakers, totaling 73, coupled with the current 30 Senators will give birth to the 54th Legislature.
Based on interviews conducted with all 73 members of the Lower House, of the 66 sitting Representatives seeking re-election, 15 are running for their third term (hat-trick), 50 are eyeing their second (brace), while an incumbent Representative who have served two terms will be seeking his first term from another county.
Source: Daily Observer
This monitor is prepared by Harish Venugopalan, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi