Tag Archives: Sahel

Mali: last French hostage liberated

Brussels 09.10.2020 AMENDED: First images of Mme.Sophie Pétronin, 75, from Bamako Airport, Mali, where she was embraced by her son Sebastian. At present her state of health is unknown, she appeared on video, released by her kidnappers very fragile.

Brussels 8.10.2020 The Presidency of the French Republic confirms the release of Mr. Soumaïla Cissé and Ms. Sophie Pétronin. The ex-hostages are on their way to Bamako”, writes the presidency of Mali on his Twitter account.

The last French hostage in the world, Ms.Sophie Pétronin, captive since December 2016 in the Sahel, and Malian opponent Soumaïla Cissé are free and on their way to Bamako, the Malian presidency announced Thursday evening.

Two Italian hostages, Nicola Chiacchio and missionary Pier Luigi Maccalli, who were also detained in the north of the country, the scene of a jihadist insurgency, were also released, the presidency of Mali announced later in the evening in a statement. read on national television.

In Paris, Emmanuel Macron said in a statement released by the Elysee Palace that he had learned “with immense relief” of the release of Sophie Pétronin.

“Happy to know that she is free, he sends a message of sympathy to his family and loved ones,” the presidential statement continued. “The President of the Republic also welcomes the release on the same occasion of Mr. Soumaïla Cissé, Malian politician kidnapped six months ago.”

The head of state “particularly thanks the Malian authorities for this release. He assures them of France’s entire will to support Mali in the fight it is waging with perseverance against terrorism in the Sahel ”.

Aged 75, Sophie Pétronin, who headed a small Franco-Swiss NGO helping malnourished children, was kidnapped on December 24, 2016 in Gao, in northern Mali.

In a video released in June 2018 – the most recent – she appeared very tired and challenged Emmanuel Macron, believing that the head of state had “forgotten” her.

In November of the same year, his captors had issued a press release stating a “deterioration of his health” and blamed the French government for which, according to them, “stubbornness” “prevented” the closure of this. “case”.

On April 1, we learned that the French authorities had “proof of life” from Sophie Pétronin dating back to “early March”, according to her son, Sébastien Chadaud-Pétronin.

The latter had left for Bamako on Tuesday in the hope of his mother’s release soon.

“I’ve been saying I believe it for four years and I’m a big liar because there are a bunch of times I didn’t believe it. And then there, I could not believe it any more “, he reacted Thursday evening at the microphone of France Info.

“I can’t even realize it yet, I think I haven’t realized yet. She’s on the plane. There is now a bunch of odds that we meet again, I think we can tell, ”he added, his voice filled with emotion.

Popular opponent Soumaïla Cissé, who was finance minister between 1993 and 2000, was kidnapped in March while campaigning in the Timbuktu region in the north of the country.

Reportedly two hundred jihadists were liberated as a part of a deal to liberate Mme.Pétronin, and Mr.Cissé.

Mali suffocated by ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continues the imperative demands to the military commanders supported by Malians who assended power by coup d’état, to ensure a “rapid” return of civilian rule. The Republic of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou on September 7 at the opening of ‘a summit of the ECOWAS in Niamey once again has underlined the major request for a clear timetable, ensuring the transition of power to the civilans.

“It is the duty of our community to assist the Malians with a view to the rapid reestablishment of all democratic institutions. The military junta must help us to help Mali”, affirmed Mr. Issoufou, also current president of the ECOWAS.

“Other strategic partners of the Malian people have the same hope,” he insisted.

President Issoufou recalled that the ECOWAS had “taken sanctions and asked the military junta to return to the barracks (…) and the establishment of a transition, lasting a maximum of 12 months, led by civilians “.

However the talks conducted by the ECOWAS are not reduced to verbal promotion of the democratic demands, the regional orgainsation has decided to close all its borders with Mali and block all the economic and financial transactions, launching a total blockade of the landlocked country.

As consequence even Mali neighbours started to doubt the effectiness of this drastic measure of the West African politicians, causing immense damage to Malians, already being listed among the poorest nations in the world. In Ayorou, a Nigerien town close to the border, residents are worried about the consequences of this closure, Radio RFI reports.

The residents of Ayorou are seeing short, medium and long term damages of the ECOWAS blocade because exchanges with neighboring Mali are essential for the city, especially concerning the supply of food products for the large Sunday market.

“There are the foodstuffs that they export, there is also tea, sugar and pasta. So really, if the borders are closed, we can say that the prices of the products will increase” the inhabitants of Ayorou complain.

Another consequence for the locals in the closing of the borders is damaging the travel between the various family members on the outskirts of Mali.

“If I wanted to visit family in villages on the border, for example in Koutougou which is around or eight kilometers from the border, it is a problem because the police do not accept the passage of vehicles” the local residents explain.

However the major concern is in absence of clarity for the future, how long will this devastaing for local population strategy last. The food shortages among neighboring countries, depending on Mali exports, are just part of the problem caused by the ECOWAS borders shut down. Nowadays the situaiton of the Malian population enters a dramatic stage of food insecurity, which has been a considerable problem for the internaitonal community, attempting to assist and provide humanitarian aid for the population, ensuring their human rights, namely right to life.

Escalating violence and insecurity in Mali have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, rendering 3.9 million people in need of assistance and protection – an increase of 700,000 since the beginning of the year, the UN said in December 2019.

Mali has been the scene of perpetual conflict and displacement for nearly eight years, when in January 2012, tensions in the marginalized north came to a head as rebels took over almost one-third of the country. A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the complex web of warring groups, has failed in implementation.

The report notes that eight years after the onset of the political crisis that has destabilized Mali, “the international community remains heavily focused on stabilization and counterterrorism, at times to the detriment of the worsening humanitarian situation.”

While insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-Government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have inflamed intercommunal tensions.

Some 70% of the people affected live in the conflict regions of Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao.

Throughout the year, UN and humanitarian partners have assisted about 900,000 people with food assistance and in 2020, the Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $365.6 million to assist nearly three million in urgent need.

While the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has restored some degreed of peace and government control there, the country’s northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence.

The UN report (2019) has concluded that there is no purely military solution to the country’s crisis.

Although international humanitarian aid must be strengthened, Mali’s citizens also require a government willing and able to meet the needs of its people and address grievances at the root of the conflict while implementing the terms of the peace agreement in a timely and transparent fashion.

“The real war will be won by whoever wins over the population. And for now, the state is perceived to not even be trying”, said one of the UN representatives quoted in the report.

So fare the EU diplomacy has not expressed its position towards the ECOWAS strategy blocade of Mali trade, and finance.

“The decision to close borders by ECOWAS countries was undertaken on volonuraly basis” said the European Extenal Action Service spokesperson, while commenting on the issue.

France to pursue Barkhane operation in Sahel

France will pursue its military counter terrorist operations in Mali against Islamist insurgence despite the ousting of the country’s President two days ago by a coup d’état, the French armed force minister Florence Parly announced.

“The Barkhane operation, asked for by the Mali population and authorised by the U.N. Security Council, continues,” Florence Parly wrote on her offical Twitter micro blog.

Barkahne is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation which started six years ago (August 1, 2014), and is led by the French military against Islamist militiants in Sahel region. At present France located around 5 000 miliatry there, under operational command of headquarts in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.

“Barkhane brought a remarkable tactics success, but it has not reached the strategic victory yet” said the French military expert Arnaud Danjean in his recent interview to Le Figaro newspaper.

The operation is lead in cooperation with five countries, and former French colonies, which has entered new partnership with a former metropol: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.These countries are collectively referred to as the “G5 Sahel”. A crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert named Barkhane became the name of this military mission.

There are aslo around 100 Estonian troops focus on protection for the Barkhane base, undertaking checkpoints, providing escorts and conducting patrols. The need for strengthinging vigilance was put forward in 2019, when troops thwarted a suicide car bomb and gun attack at the Gao camp. Six Estonian personnel were injured in the incident.

France reinforces protection in Sahel

France will step up security measures to protect the countriy’s nationals in Africa’s Sahel region, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, August 11, two days after six French aid workers and there two local guides were shot dead in Niger, while touring in natural park Kouré.

“We will do everything we can to support the families of the victims and to respond to the attack that cost the lives of six of our compatriots and two Nigeriens. These six young people, who were members of the NGO ‘ACTED’, showed extraordinary commitment to the local population,” Macron wrote on his Tweeted microblog.

“I have decided to step up security measures for our citizens in the region. We will continue in our action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the increased support of our partners.”

The unidentified gunmen on motobyces have attacked a group of French aid workers in Niger, killing six French citizens, their local guide from natural park and driver, officials say.
The gunmen arrived on motorcycles and opened fire, the governor of Tillabéri region, Tidjani Ibrahim, said to Agence France Press.

They were in the Kouré region, which famous among tourists for rear herds of giraffe in West Africa.

The French presidency confirmed the deaths of the French citizens, after the post mortem expertice of their bodies undertaken in military base in Niger.

The French nationals worked for an international aid group, and went on Sunday for a tour to the giraffe park Kouré were they were attacked and killed, their vehicle burt.

ACTED, a French humanitarian NGO, confirmed its staff members were killed in this random attack in Niger, in the aread considered to be not dangerous for toursim.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the phone with his Niger counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou on Sunday, a statement said, ensureing cooperation of both countris in defeating terrorsim in Sahel.

In photos which were not released for the ethical reasons, the victims’ bodies were found lying on a road by the side of their vechile. There were no survives. All victims were young people from 26 to 35 years old, idealists, devoted to the cause of development of Niger.

This random attack in Kouré parc caused considerable damage to local community living from tourism to giraffe parc, which has been considered as one of safe areas, just one hour drive from the captial. The group was killed in the morning hours between around 11 AM.

Niger attack defined «terrorism»

Six aid workers and their two guides were killed by armed men in a deadly attack in Niger, during excursion to natural park. French charity ACTED confirmed their deaths in random attack on the vehicle on Sunday, August 9.

The French government called it a terrorist attack, though no group has yet claimed responsibility.

Unidentified gunmen attacked the group in the Kouré region, around 50 kilometers from the capital Niamey.

The victims, who are both French and Niger nationals from ACTED and IMPACT aid organizations, were “senselessly and cowardly murdered”, according to ACTED, which did not give additional details about the incident.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Niger President M. Mahamadou Issoufou about the incident the French call “the murderous attack that cowardly targeted a group of humanitarian workers”, according to a statement from the French Presidency on Monday.

The Elysee statement said President Macron has also sent condolences and the nation’s support to the families of victims, it has also underlined that both the French and Niger presidents are working to clarify the circumstances of the attack.

“Their determination to pursue the fight against terrorists in Sahel remains intact,” the statement said.

French troops and the army in Sahel are fighting to suppress a jihadist insurgency, which has seen army outposts in both countries attacked by militants.

ACTED said aid workers helping with the vulnerable affected by the conflict should not be the target of attacks. The killed Frenchmen where not trourists, but humanitarian aid workers. The slain aid workers spent their Sunday in a natural resort famous for wildlife, and mainly admired for its population of giraffe. The parc is situated near the capital, and has not been considered as dangerous so far.

“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” the charity said in the statement.

Burkina Faso: gunmen attacked cattle market

A group of gunmen killed about 20 people in an attack on a cattle market in eastern Burkina Faso on August 7, the government said in a statement.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in the village of Fada N’Gourma, around which the army is conducting a search operation.

An eye witness who was at the scene at the time of the attack told to local press: “About ten men came on motorcycles with weapons. I was buying poultry as usual. They passed us and headed for the sheep and oxen buyers. Everything was going well when suddenly we heard the crackling of guns. Everyone fled to hide. And soon after, the guns were silent and in their places the screams pierced the sky. Without trying to confirm or know anything, we all fled to get into the stock market place. When we returned, there were bodies and many injured. Seized with fear and panic, I quickly returned to Fada.”

Armed jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed hundreds of people in attacks over the last year in Sahelian country, forced more than half a million to flee, and eroded government control in most areas outside the capital.

The similar massacre took place in May, when a gumen opened fire killing 25 people in an attack on another cattle market in the eastern village of Kompienga.

Image: illustration, Burkina Faso village.

Michel addresses Nouakchott Summit

“I am not physically present at this time in Nouakchott but know that I am with all my heart with you“, said the President of the EU Council Charles Michel, addressing the Summit in Mauritania capital, Nouakchott via teleconference. In his speech “Alongside the G5 Sahel, the European Union keeps its commitments” he reiterated the message of support and determination of the EU to continue the strategy of joined international efforts to defend Sahel from criminal networks, and terrorism.

I naturally want to start by thanking you, in a friendly and warm way, dear President in office of the G5 Sahel, Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani. I would also like to thank the President of France, dear Emmanuel Macron, for joining me again in these essential exchanges. I also want to salute the participation of the different countries that join us. I see this as a sign of a dynamic that is encouraging.

The Pau Summit last January was an opportunity to give new impetus to our relations. It is up to us to transform the test, while the situation on the ground, as we know, remains difficult, remains worrying on different fronts. Violence has claimed some 4,500 lives in the Sahel in the past 6 months. And we know that the pandemic we are facing does not help the situation.

As you know, in January in Pau, we agreed to organize a G5 Sahel-EU summit. It took place virtually on April 28. It was an extension of our meeting in Pau. This April 28 Virtual Summit was a boost for our partnership. It was an opportunity to reaffirm our mutual responsibilities. It was an opportunity to re-mobilize all the European institutions and the Member States of the European Union. In a way, he “Europeanized” the Coalition for the Sahel. An additional step was taken with the Ministerial Conference on June 12 which “internationalized” this Coalition, which is naturally essential. I of course welcome the commitment of the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and the International Organization of La Francophonie.

Since the Pau Summit, we have made precise and very concrete progress. They are all testimony to this commitment that we want to strengthen alongside you:

– First, more and more European Member States are either already contributing or are going to contribute to Takuba, by deploying special forces or equipment, or by politically supporting this task force;

– Then, we have just adopted a new program to support Niger’s efforts in the fight against criminal networks linked to terrorism. You know that we were inspired for this by the excellent work of the Joint Investigation Teams which are already mobilized in the fight against the smuggling of migrants;

– The EU training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) has seen its mandate extended and its budget reinforced. As I speak, 95% of the workforce requested has already been made available by the 22 out of 27 Member States participating. As soon as conditions allow, we will deploy the entire workforce;

– Finally, we reconstructed the Joint Force Command Post which has just been inaugurated in Bamako, two years after the attack which had destroyed the headquarters of Sévaré;

– In addition, nearly 200 million euros in additional funding has been announced to strengthen security, stability and resilience in the region. And concrete projects are ready to be launched;

– The same dynamic is at work concerning support for the deployment of the State and basic services. This is the keystone, as we well know, for our stabilization efforts, with the P3S initiative [1]. The European Union will also coordinate it;

– You also know that we are working to update our strategy for the Sahel, in dialogue and of course taking into account your priorities;

– Finally, a word, Mr President, you mentioned it and we have discussed it together in recent months, concerning debts. You know that this is an issue that is close to my heart and for which I wish to take action. Because I consider this question legitimate, certainly at a time when your economies, your societies, are under pressure, a fortiori in connection with this crisis of COVID-19 which strikes us and strikes you.

I can hear your appeal on the subject of debt cancellation. You know that I am committed to being sincerely involved on this subject, and I do intend to open the debate. It is done, in the European space this debate has now started. Within the European Union, the ministers for international cooperation have taken up the subject – an important subject also for Heads of State and Government. I also intend to conduct this debate within the framework of our international contacts. I thus had the opportunity, in the last virtual summits in which we participated, with Japan, with China also a few days ago, to systematically put this point of debts on the agenda. Because we understand that this is an issue that must mobilize the entire international community.

I also know that we can also count on Italy, which will assume the presidency of the G20 next year, and which, I am sure, will have a positive outlook, in particular on the debt moratorium. It is a work of conviction to carry out. And it is my intention, modestly but tenaciously, to take my part on behalf of the European Union. Finally, dear friends, you know that my ambition, my hope, is to be able to organize a meeting between the countries of the European Union and the G5 Sahel in order to continue to address all the subjects. As you can see, European commitment is not an artificial incantation: it is a reality with commitments and concrete effects. We can and must build together an area of security and economic prosperity. We must build an area where good governance reigns, and where the rule of law and fundamental rights also prevail. And I would like to say that the rule of law is not a footnote. The strength and honor of a state governed by the rule of law is not to fall into the trap of violence from its enemies. It’s not to look like the ones we fight. It is to make justice prevail – the same for all, the same for everyone. A word to conclude. We agreed at our previous summit to meet again with the leaders of the G5 Sahel. I am sure that with President Ghazouani, we will have the opportunity to work actively with you, with all of our peers, to try to continue to progress together. You can count on the commitment of the European Union. We stand by your side. I send you from Brussels my sincere and friendly greetings to those who are physically present in Nouakchott”

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 reacts on Mali killings

“Several killings took place in central Mali between June 3 and 5. More than 40 people were killed, including women and children. Serious suspicion hangs over the possible involvement of the Mali Armed Forces” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement, reacting upon allegations, including charges that Malian soldiers killed 43 people during attacks on two villages last week.

“The European Union wishes to express its indignation and deep concern at what constitute clear human rights violations. The European Union encourages the Government of Mali to complete the investigations which have been opened, to create the conditions necessary for the exact circumstances of these attacks to be established, for justice to be done and to fight against the impunity of those who would be guilty of such acts, whatever they are”.

“The European Union is fully mobilized alongside the states of the region for stability, development and security in the Sahel. Our commitment is conditioned and based on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law which are essential principles of our action. Nothing can justify abuses that will only strengthen the very people we fight”.

Security forces in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have been accused of unlawfully killing or causing the disappearance of around 200 people. Amnesty said this could constitute war crimes.

The deliberate killings of unarmed civilians by security forces in Mali and Burkina Faso may constitute war crimes under international law and should be thoroughly investigated,” said Amnesty.
There have been multiple accusations of human rights abuses against the forces, which they have either denied, or promised to investigate in the future. The issue was also debated by the UN Security Council on June 5.

Image: illustration

Islamist warlord killed in Mali

Al-Qaeda warlord in north Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdel, is pronounced dead by French authorites after an operation in Mali.

Defence Minister Florence Parly said Droukdel along with members of his inner circle were neutralised in the north of the country on June 3.

French forces had also captured a senior Islamic State group commander in Mali in anther operation in May, she said.

The Minister described actions as “daring operations” had dealt “severe blows to the terrorist groups”.

Droukdel was in charge of all the al-Qaeda affiliates in north Africa and also commanded al-Qaeda’s Sahel affiliate, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which has been active in the north of Mali and Burkina Faso.

The captured Islamic State group commander, Mohamed Mrabat, was a jihadist was a long recored and had a senior role in the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, she said.

ISGS has been active in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

« Older Entries