Category Archives: West Africa

France calls for Mali opposition leader release

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on July 8 called for the release of Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse (pictured), who has been held hostage by suspected Islamist militants since March.

“France expresses its outrage over Mr Soumaila Cisse’s situation. He is the opposition leader, he was candidate in the presidential election and he was taken hostage three months ago and we are strongly calling for his release,” Le Drian told the National Assembly when asked about Cisse.

Cisse and several members of his delegation were ambushed by unidentified gunmen in March on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. His bodyguard was killed and two others wounded, Cisse’s Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) said at the time.

Militants with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State stage frequent attacks on civilian and military targets in the area, but there was no claim of responsibility and no request for ransom has been received.

France, the former colonial ruler, has troops in Mali to counter the jihadist threat.

Cisse, 70, is Mali’s leading opposition figure and was finance minister from 1993 to 2000. He lost the 2013 and 2018 elections to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Mali’s government has said the military is trying to find the hostages. Mali has been in political turmoil since the disputed election in March.

Mali: Dogon village attacked

Nine soldiers have been killed in an ambush in the centre of Mali as they advancing on their way to the site of a massacre of villagers, an army official said.

The latest attack took place at the entrance to Gouari, where armed men entered and killed about 30 civilians the day before.

A military unit was immediatley dispatched to the site to help bury the 31 bodies, army spokesman Colonel Diarran Kone told AFP news agency.

On July 2 the army received information about a new attack and sent the unit to Gouari, the offical explained.

“When it arrived at around 8pm, the village seemed deserted, there were practically no signs of life,” he continuedr. “Just at the entrance, the FAMa (Malian Armed Forces) walked into an ambush,” he said, without naming who might be behind the attack.

“We regret that nine died and two were injured, and equipment was also destroyed.”

G5 Sahel Summit in Nouakchott

President Emmanuel Macron will travel to the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on Juin 30 for a Summit of West African leaders to discuss the ongoing combat operations against Islamists in the Sahel region, Elysee Palace office said last week.

French President intends to request Mali and Burkina Faso for guarantees on their commitments in favor of peace, so as not to jeopardize the military gains recently acquired on the ground, said a source at the Elysée on Juin 29.

“All the progress recorded is fragile and can be jeopardized if the political dynamic is not suitable,” he continued.

The Prime Minister of Sapin Pedro Sanchez and the French Head of State Emmanuel Macron are due to make their first trip to Africa in person on Juin 30 since the coronavirus pandemic.

The G5 force operates with the over 5,000-strong French Barkhane force which has been deployed in the Sahel for the last seven years but has encountered increasing resistance from the Islamists, desiring to restore the historic Chaliphate of Sokoto.

The meeting in Mauritania comes six months after a Summit in Pau, France, where the leaders vowed to strengthen the efforts to defeat the jihad in Sahel.

After the Nouakchott meeting, the six leaders will hold video talks with other key players including European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said a French presidential official.

The other European leaders the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the Italian Council Giuseppe Conte will participate in this summit only by videoconference. Five G5 Sahel heads of state and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guiterres, and the president of the EU Council Charles Michel will join by teleconference.

Political criis in Mail has agrravated the situation in Sahel, and caused concern of the European Union, one of the major humanitarian sponsors of the region. The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell has warned about the risk of a protracted poliitical crisis for the security and stablitiy of the region.

Borrell on Mali stability risks

“The political crisis which has been shaking Mali for several weeks is carrying risks for the stability of the country and the region” reads the statement of the Euorpean Union top diplomat Josep Borrell.


“The European Union welcomes the peaceful nature of the protests and the willingness of all political actors to maintain the dialogue in order to reach a broad consensus on the future of Mali.

“The European Union fully supports the good offices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which dispatched a high-level mission to the country, as well as the proposals to end the crisis contained in its press release. press of June 19.
“The European Union joins the United Nations and the African Union in calling on all actors to dialogue and restraint. We encourage the authorities to quickly take decisions that will make it possible to overcome the crisis, in particular on post-electoral disputes”.
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EU committed to G5 Sahel

The joint invitation of the Mauritanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in the presidency-in-office of the G5 Sahel the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell Fontelles, and the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, a ministerial meeting of the Coalition for the Sahel in plenary format was held by videoconference, this Friday, June 12, 2020.

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This first meeting of the Coalition, in response to the call from the G5 Sahel countries, brought together some sixty representatives of states and international institutions. The first works of the Coalition were thus able to be held in an enlarged format, as the European Union and the heads of state of the G5 Sahel had called for during the video conference on April 28, 2020 which devoted the joint establishment of the Coalition for the Sahel and the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel (P3S).

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Participants expressed their commitment to support the implementation of G5 Sahel action. Their intervention will be carried out according to the four pillars of the Coalition for the Sahel: fight against terrorism, strengthening of the military capacities of the G5 Sahel States, support for the return of the State and the administrations in the territory, development aid.

They took note of the progress made and the initiatives under way. These include the implementation of the Priority Investment Program, the ramp-up of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the launch of Task Force Takuba, the military contribution of the African Union currently underway. finalization, progress within the framework of the peace process in Mali, strengthening of the mandate and enlargement of the geographical scope of the European training mission EUTM Mali, commitment of the European Union in favor of the redeployment of the ‘State under the P3S, as well as exchanges within the Sahel Alliance in favor of a more integrated territorial approach.

The participants underlined their common determination to support the efforts of the G5 Sahel to face the challenges that remain and to tackle the structural causes of instability: poverty, fragile growth and development, climate shock, while respecting human rights. and international humanitarian law, and the protection of the most disadvantaged.

The general principles of the Coalition were recalled: mobilization and solidarity with the Sahel, mutual accountability, representativeness of each participant, common and balanced integrated approach between the four pillars, subsidiarity and complementarity: no duplication or authority over existing structures .

To this end, the partners agreed to hold a meeting in restricted format in July to prepare for a next ministerial meeting after the summer. According to the progress of the work, the G5 Sahel will host, in agreement with the partners of the Coalition, during 2021, an extraordinary Summit of Heads of State.

Boko Haram attacks in Borno and Katsina

Nigeria states  Borno and Katsina witnessed attacks from Boko Haram terrorist group. Both states recorded scores of deaths from the attacks on June 9.

As Borno confirmed 81 deaths, Katsina recorded 40, with many sustaining degrees of injuries. Houses were reportedly set ablaze and dozens of women raped.

Among killed 81 civilian and scores injured when suspected members of Boko Haram sect on June 9 invaded Zowo village, 34km away from Gubio town, in Borno state.

The attack also saw the killing of 23 animals, including cows, donkeys, goats and sheep’s.

Reports indicated on June 9 that 69 people were killed instantly during the attack, while 12 others lost their lives on June 10 after sustaining severe gunshot injuries, and in the process of fleeing into the bush, the victims died, bringing the total casualties to 81. “The insurgents burnt around 250 homes and looted goods. They said the act was to punish residents whom they alleged were providing information on their movement to security agencies” a security source told SaharaReporters.

Major General  John Enenche (pictured), the Coordinator Defense Media Operations made a press statement:

In continuation of aggressive clearance operations across the North-East aimed at decisively ending terrorism in the region, more Boko Haram/ISWAP criminals have been neutralised while others have been arrested.

“On 8 June 2020, troops of 192 Battalion, Gwoza, Borno State conducted a daring and well-coordinated commando raid on a Boko Haram criminals’ hideout at Kwatara on the Mandara Mountains. The successful operation led to the neutralization of several terrorists while many others fled with gunshot wounds”.

Cameroon neglected conflict

English-speaking separatists conflict in Cameroon has been rated as the most-neglected crisis in the world by the Norwegian Refugee Council. The annual list of neglected crises is based on three criteria: lack of funding, lack of media attention, and political and diplomatic neglect.

The Anglophone minority are fighting for autonomy to re-establish their cultural identity after decades of neglect by the central government and the French-speaking majority.

A group of the separatists have declared autonomy over two regions, the perspective rejected by President Paul Biya. Some African media reported in the beginning of June that Nigeria and Cameroon would donate part of their territories to form a new state identified as Ambazonia, being created by the United Nations. The acting Director-General of the National Boundary Commission (NBC), Mr. Adamu Adaji dismissed there reports that UN planned to cede 24 local government areas to a new country. However the have been not much of political will form the behalf of the international community to resolve the ongoing conflict.

The report also highlighted the ongoing armed conflict in the Sahel region, that includes Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which has resulted in the deployment of military forces from a host of European nations. There are nine African nations in the list of 10, with Venezuela being the only non-African this year.

 

Niger and Burkina Faso appeared on the list for the first time.

Humanitarian crises in all countries mentioned in this year’s list are expected to worsen throughout 2020, aggravated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Cameroon has also been hit by a refugee crisis from the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) and continuous attacks in the north from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Protests against French majority rule in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and southwest regions broke out in November  2016 after decades of heated debates on how both English and French-speaking cultures and languages can be more equitably represented in public life. The protesters amplified demands by Anglophone lawyers and teachers to have the Common Law and the English education system in their regions.

Cameroon’s English-speaking minority makes up 20% of the country while the French-speaking majority makes up the other 80%.

Clashes between separatist groups and state police and military have led to at least 2,000 deaths and about 500,000 people displaced. English-speaking separatist groups in southern Cameroon seek to break from French-majority Cameroon and create Ambazonia, a new nation.

By January 2017, the Cameroon government shut down the internet in its English-speaking regions for more than a year. The internet blackout — which lasted until March 2018 — occurred after a significant volume of images of torture and death appeared online that the government intended to prevent from being seen.

Next to French and English there are over 200 languages and cultures in Cameroon.

Cameroon: EU promotes inclusive dialogue

We have expressed out support to Switzerland, mediating in the crisis, and we would like to promote a political dialogue which will be accepted by all stakeholders” the European External Actions Service spokesperson said, reflecting upon the latest episode of violence in Cameroon where the mayor of Mamfe, the youngest the country, was assassinated recently.

European diplomacy has taken note of the violence episode in the south-west of the Cameroon, where Mayor of Mamfe was killed, one more act reflecting profound crisis which has been ongoing for some years, effecting the country. The EU has been calling the government and the separatists to do their utmost to put an an end to the down spiral of violence and engage into constructive inclusive dialog, considering interests of all stakeholders.

The EU has been continuously expressing concerns about violations of human rights that are effecting the population.

Via the EU delegation in Cameroon the European diplomacy is engaged in a regular political dialogue with the authorities and the stakeholders as “civil society and religious leaders to encourage them to come up with the peaceful solution to the peaceful solution to the crisis” the spokesperson of the EU diplomacy added.

Cameroon mayor on errand killed

In Cameroon the attack on the mayor’s convoy happened as he was travelling from Mamfe to the nearby village of Eshobi, state broadcaster CRTV said.

Ashu Priestley Ojong, mayor of Mamfe, approximately 500km (300 miles) from the capital Yaounde, was killed by the “terrorist secessionists” on May 10 in the morning, Bernard Okalia Bilai said in a statement on May 11.

The convoy travelled there after receiving a tip-off that some rebels would be laying down their arms, the report said.

Ojong is among a few senior elected officials killed in the conflict between Cameroon’s army and the English-speaking militias. He was elected in February in legislative and municipal polls the separatist rebels insisted to be boycotted.

English speakers are the liguistic minority, and represent one-fifth of the 24 million Cameroonians, who are mainly French-speaking.

The conflict began after the government cracked down violently on Enlgish-speakers peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers in 2016 who complained of marginalisation by the French-speaking majority.

Years of neglected grievances produced a declaration of independence in the Anglophone regions in October 2017, which was followed by a government crackdown.

The declaration has not been recognised internationally and President Paul Biya (87),in power for almost four decades, has definitely refused demands to return to a federal system.

However, the government has lately decentralised some of its powers after a “national dialogue” on the anglophone crisis which was nevertheless boycotted by the separatists.

Human Rights groups have accused both sides of atrocities in the conflict, which has left more than 3,000 dead, 700,000 displaced, and severe disruption in health and education systems.

#TBT: Namib Desert oldest on Earth

#TBT The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over part of the Namib Desert in western Namibia. At 55 million years old, Namib is considered the oldest desert on Earth.

In this image, captured on 27 October 2019, a large portion of the Namib-Naukluft National Park is visible. The park covers an area of almost 50 000 sq km and encompasses part of the Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains to the east. Straight, white lines visible in the right of the image are roads that connect the Namib-Naukluft National Park with other parts of Namibia.

The park’s main attraction is Sossusvlei – a large salt and clay pan visible in the centre of the image. The bright white floors of the pan contrasts with the rust-red dunes that surround it.

Sossusvlei acts as an endorheic basin for the Tsauchab River – an ephemeral river flowing from the east. Owing to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert, the river rarely flows this far and the pan usually remains dry most years. In the past, water from the Tsauchab has reached the Atlantic coast a further 60 km away.

The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world. The tallest, nicknamed ‘big daddy,’ stands at around 325 m. The dunes facing the river valley are called star dunes and are formed from winds blowing in multiple directions, creating long ‘arms’ that point into the valley from both sides.

These dunes contrast with the saffron-coloured dunes visible in the Namib Sand Sea, just south of Soussusvlei. The sand sea consists of two dune seas, one on top of another. The foundation of the ancient sand sea has existed for at least 21 million years, while the younger sand on top has existed for around 5 million years. The dunes here are formed by the transportation of materials from thousands of kilometres away, carried by river, ocean current and wind.

The Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world to contain large dune fields influenced by fog – the primary source of water for the Namib Sand Sea. Haze is visible in the bottom left of the image, the last leftovers of fog coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme.

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