Mali Capital Bans Protest Against French Army

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

Mali’s capital Bamako has banned a demonstration against France’s military role in the West African country, the city’s government said Wednesday, citing health concerns.

Daniel Dembele, the chief of staff to Bamako’s governor, told AFP that the city hall did not authorise the protest planned for Wednesday “because of Covid-19 measures”.

Mali has been struggling to quell a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the country’s north in 2012, before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, first intervened in the country in 2013 to help drive back jihadist forces advancing on Bamako.

It now has 5,100 troops deployed across Africa’s arid Sahel region, as part of its anti-jihadist force Barkhane.

But France’s military presence in Mali is frequently criticised on social media and by civic leaders. Activists also stage occasional demonstrations in Bamako against French troops.

Their role was placed in the spotlight earlier this month when several residents in the village of Bounti said about 20 people in a wedding party had been killed in a strike by a helicopter.

It occurred on January 3, they said, near where French forces said they carried out an airstrike on jihadists using a fighter jet.

France’s military has insisted it struck jihadists, ruling out the possibility of any mistake.

Several organisers of Wednesday’s banned protest are members of Mali’s interim legislature, set up after the August 18 coup that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Young military officers led the putsch after weeks of anti-Keita protests.

Under the threat of sanctions, they subsequently handed over to an interim government between September and October, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.

Army figures retain strong influence over the interim government, however, which has stressed its committment to military cooperation with France.

Interim President Bah Ndaw thanked foreign forces in Mali during a military ceremony on Tuesday evening, for example, for “risking their lives for the liberation of our country”.

In France on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced an “adjustment” to French forces in the Sahel.

Many have interpreted his remarks as a sign that France is preparing to reduce its deployment in the region.

Mali Probes Death Of Three Jihadist Prisoners

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa.

 

The Malian army has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of three jihadist prisoners while they were being transferred to a military camp, Mali’s armed forces said on Saturday. 

The army’s chief of staff said in a statement that “three of four prisoners lost their lives while being transferred from Boulkessi”, where the Group of Support for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — a group close to al-Qaeda — is active, to Sevare, where the army has an important base.

The statement said the chief of staff had ordered “the opening of an investigation to determine the circumstances of the prisoners’ death. He offers his condolences to the families of the victims.”

The four militants had been captured on January 13 following fighting during a military anti-terrorist operation in a village 25 kilometres (15 miles) south west of Boulkessi near the border with Burkina Faso, the statement said.

The statement did not specify whether the incident was connected to two operations by France’s armed forces last weekend in which around 15 jihadists were killed and four arrested in the same region.

The region close to the Burkina Faso border is the epicentre of a deadly Islamist offensive that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then advanced into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.

Independent confirmation of reports in this area is difficult, given the remoteness and danger.

Last month, an exhaustive report into strife-torn Mali by UN investigators said it had garnered evidence of war crimes committed by the security forces and others, and of crimes against humanity by jihadists and other armed groups.

 

AFP

UN Says Three Peacekeepers Killed In Mali Attack

Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.
Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa.

 

Three Ivorian peacekeepers from the UN’s mission in Mali were killed on Wednesday during an attack on a convoy near the central city of Timbuktu, a UN source said on condition of anonymity.

A Malian military official, who declined to be named, confirmed the death toll.

Earlier on Wednesday, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in New York that one peacekeeper had died in the attack, with another seven wounded.

Niger Presidential Favourite Wins First Round, Heads For Runoff

Niger’s presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum leaves the polling station after casting his ballot in Niamey on December 27, 2020 during Niger’s presidential and legislative elections. – Voters in the Sahel state of Niger go to the polls on December 27, 2020 for an election that could seal the country’s first-ever peaceful handover between elected presidents, despite a bloody jihadist insurgency. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Ruling party candidate and former minister Mohamed Bazoum won the first round of Niger’s presidential vote, the electoral commission announced on Saturday, with a runoff set for next month.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) said the close ally of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou garnered 39.33 percent of the votes in last weekend’s election.

Bazoum will face former president Mahamane Ousmane, who won 16.99 percent, in the February 20 runoff in the West African country, which is fighting a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Former prime ministers Seini Oumarou and Albade Abouba came third and fourth respectively with 8.95 percent and 7.07 percent of the ballots.

Turnout reached 69.67 percent or 5.2 million of the 7.4 million registered voters, CENI said, in an election hoped to be the country’s first peaceful handover between elected presidents.

 

Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PDNS) supporters wears a tee shirt with Mohamed Bazoum face during a campaign rally of the PDNS presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum in Diffa on December 23, 2020, ahead of Niger’s December 27 presidential and legislatives elections. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Bazoum, who has been both interior and foreign minister, campaigned on promises of improved security and education.

The 61-year-old was the favourite and had hoped to clinch victory in the first round. But he will now likely have to join forces with one or more of the other 29 candidates who ran in Sunday’s election.

Before the vote, Ousmane clinched a deal with several rivals to back him in a second-round, including former foreign minister Ibrahim Yacouba, who came in fifth with 5.38 percent.

Negotiations are likely to be complex in the former French colony, where alliances are made and broken quickly.

Issoufou had received support from Yacouba in 2016, the president rewarding him with a ministerial post. But Yacouba was sacked just two years later over “disloyalty” and went into the opposition.

On Saturday Yacouba cast doubt on the ballot, saying that CENI had given turnout rates of “97.8 percent or even 99.9 percent in areas were this is unimaginable”.

 

Presidential candidate for the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PDNS) Mohamed Bazoum attends a campaign rallye in Diffa on December 23, 2020, ahead of Niger’s December 27 presidential and legislatives elections. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

– Jihadist threat –
Bazoum’s ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) is leading in the legislative vote also held on Sunday, with 80 of the 165 seats and five diaspora seats remaining to be decided.

However, insecurity overshadowed campaigning. Niger has been battered by jihadists on its southwestern border with Mali and on its southeastern frontier with Nigeria.

 

A local artist performs during a campaign rally of the PDNS presidential candidate Mohamed Bazoum in Diffa on December 23, 2020, ahead of Niger’s December 27 presidential and legislatives elections. (Photo by Issouf SANOGO / AFP)

 

Five years of violence have cost hundreds of lives with many more displaced.

Issoufou, who was elected in 2011 after the country’s last coup in 2010, is voluntarily stepping down after two five-year terms.

In a New Year radio address he hailed the election as “a new, successful page in our country’s democratic history”.

Niger has been unstable since gaining independence 60 years ago and is ranked the world’s poorest country in the UN’s Human Development Index.

Drunk Soldier Shoots Two Colleagues In Mali

FILES) This file photograph taken on January 1, 2015, shows the logo of the Barkhane Operation – an anti-Islamist operation in Africa’s Sahel region which began in July 2014 – at Madama near the Niger border with Libya.   AFP

 

A French soldier deployed to Mali as part of the Barkhane force fighting jihadist insurgents has wounded two comrades with a pistol while drunk, the army headquarters said Saturday.

The confrontation under the influence happened overnight from December 24 to 25 at a base in Gao in eastern Mali.

“Two soldiers from the same unit were getting on each other’s nerves. One soldier wounded two of his comrades with his service weapon,” an automatic pistol, army spokesman Frederic Barbry told AFP.

One of the two men was wounded very lightly, while the other’s injury was more serious although not life-threatening.

Both were flown out following the shooting and brought to the hospital in France.

Military police are investigating the incident and “once the probe is finished, (the shooter) will be flown home,” Barbry said.

France’s Barkhane force numbers 5,100 troops spread across the arid Sahel region and has been fighting jihadist groups alongside soldiers from Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, who together make up the G5 Sahel group.

Paris is weighing cuts in the number of soldiers deployed in the region ahead of a summit planned for mid-February.

Malian Opposition Leader Dies Of COVID-19

In this file photo taken on September 10, 2017 Mali’s opposition leader Soumaila Cisse attends the closing ceremony of the 3rd congress for the Rally of Republicans (RDR) party or congres ordinaire du Rassemblement des republicains at the Sports Palace in Abidjan.  ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse has died of coronavirus aged 71, his family and party said Friday, after being held hostage for six months by jihadists earlier this year.

Cisse “died in France, where he had been taken for Covid-19 care,” a member of his family told AFP.

“I can confirm this terrible news. He’s dead,” a leader of Cisse’s URD party told AFP, saying the politician’s wife had let him know.

READ ALSO: Four Burundi Journalists Freed After One Year In Prison

Cisse was snatched by jihadists on March 25 while campaigning in the northeastern Timbuktu region ahead of legislative elections.

He was freed six months later in October alongside Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin and two Italians.

The hostages were exchanged for some 200 prisoners whose release was demanded by jihadist groups.

“I was not subjected to any violence, either physical or verbal,” Cisse said following his release.

A former leader of the opposition in parliament, Cisse was runner-up in three presidential elections.

In 2013 and 2018, he was defeated by Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was ousted in an August 18 military coup.

An engineer and IT specialist by training, Cisse studied in Senegal and France, where he worked for major companies including IBM before returning to Mali.

AFP

Key Coup Figure Malick Diaw Heads Mali’s New Legislature As Army’s Clout Grows

In this file photo taken on September 5, 2020 of Colonel Malick Diaw speaks.
MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Mali’s interim legislature on Saturday chose Colonel Malick Diaw, a leading player in an August coup, as its president despite anger over the military’s increasing clout in politics.

The 121-seat National Transition Council met for its inaugural session in the capital Bamako. It is expected to play a crucial role in the Sahel state’s return to democratic rule.

Young army officers toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests sparked by his government’s failure to tackle a brutal jihadist insurgency and perceived corruption.

Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to a makeshift government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.

But figures with army links dominate this body and anger over their prominent role and the slow speed of reforms is growing.

Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was named interim vice president and retired army colonel Bah Ndaw interim president.

Critics say it has taken far too long to establish the legislature, which is meant to draft a new constitution and pave the way for elections within a short time frame.

The transition council elected Diaw as its president unopposed with 111 votes in his favour, AFP journalists said.

Members of the defence and security forces have 22 seats in the transition council, while political parties, civil-society groups and trade unions also have seats.

“This is an important stage in the ongoing transition,” said Hamadoun Amion Guindo, a trade union leader and member of the council.

– ‘Disguised military regime’ –
Diaw’s near-unanimous election comes amid mounting frustration and anger with the army’s stranglehold on power.

Diaw had served as deputy commander of the military zone of Kati, in the suburbs of Bamako, where the coup started.

He was also number two of the junta that ruled the vast West African state until handing over to the makeshift government.

Last month, interim vice president Goita was given veto power over appointments to the new legislature.

The list of members of the new council was read out on national television Thursday and several key groups voiced their discontent over the apparently unilateral decision.

The opposition June 5 Movement — which had led protests against Keita in the run-up to the coup — said it was boycotting the new legislature because it would not serve as a “stooge for a disguised military regime”.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a mostly Tuareg alliance of armed rebel groups which launched a rebellion in 2012 and also has seats on the council, called the nomination process “absurd”.

READ ALSO: Campaigning Winds Up In Ghana Ahead Of Monday Election

Interim Prime Minister Moctar Ouane said on Thursday that the transition council’s first task will be to adopt the government’s programme.

The balance of power between the executive and the legislature remains unclear, however.

The makeshift government is under pressure to quell the brutal jihadist conflict that has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians since it first broke out in 2012.

Anger over the conflict, as well as over perceived corruption, contributed to the protests which culminated in Keita’s ouster.

AFP

 

Military Officer Elected Head Of Mali’s Interim Legislature

FILES) In this file photo taken on September 5, 2020 Vice-President of the CNSP (National Committee for the Salvation of the People) Colonel Malick Diaw speaks during the opening of two days of talks aimed at validating the terms of reference for a transitional government in Mali, in Bamako. 
MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Mali’s interim legislature on Saturday elected Colonel Malick Diaw, a member of the military junta that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August, as its president. 

The 121-seat body known as the National Transition Council was meeting for its inaugural session in the capital Bamako and is a key part of the post-coup interim government apparatus in Mali.

Young army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests.

Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.

Figures with army links dominate this interim government, however, and anger over their prominent role is growing.

Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was elected interim vice president, for example, and retired army colonel Bah Ndaw was also elected interim president.

Members of the defence and security forces have 22 seats in the transition council, according to a government decree, while political parties, civil society groups, and trade unions also have seats.

On Saturday, the council elected Colonel Malick Diaw as its president unopposed, according to AFP journalists, with 111 votes in his favour and seven abstentions. Three council members did not vote.

Diaw was second in command of the military junta that took power after Keita’s ouster. The junta has never formally been dissolved.

Last month, Goita was also given veto power over the appointments to the new legislature, in a move seen by critics of the interim regime as strengthening army control.

The opposition June 5 Movement, which led protests against Keita this year, said in a statement on Friday that it was boycotting the new legislature and that it would not serve as a “stooge for a disguised military regime”.

-AFP

Buhari Lauds Jonathan For Helping To Restore Peace In Mali

File: Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday congratulated his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, on the occasion of the latter’s 63rd birthday.

The president’s felicitations were contained in a statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.

He thanked Jonathan for his service to the country and the African continent, including his work in helping to restore calm to the Republic of Mali after a military coup earlier this year.

“On behalf of the Federal Government and Nigerians in general, President Muhammadu Buhari warmly felicitates with former President Goodluck Jonathan on his 63rd birthday, November 20, 2020, congratulating him for a life of service that has brought honour and goodwill to the country,” the statement said.

“The President notes, with appreciation, the peculiar and remarkable climb of the former president on Nigeria’s political ladder, and dedication that has kept him working most recently as ECOWAS envoy to bring peace to the Republic of Mali.

“As the former Nigerian President turns 63, President Buhari prays that the Almighty God will grant Dr Jonathan longer life, good health and more wisdom to keep serving the nation and humanity.”

Mali Holds State Funeral For Ex-President Toure

Malian Vice President Assimi Goita (C) attends the funeral of former President of Mali Amadou Toumani Toure in Bamako on November 17, 2020.MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Mali held a state funeral on Tuesday for former president Amadou Toumani Toure, an emblematic figure who steered the troubled nation to free elections and led it for a decade before being ousted in a coup.

Toure, sometimes called Mali’s “soldier of democracy,” died on November 10 at the age of 72 after he had been transferred to Turkey for medical care following heart surgery.

A coffin draped in the national flag and borne by six soldiers was slowly carried into the centre of a square in the capital Mali for ceremonies attended by the leaders of the country’s latest putsch and by foreign dignitaries.

“A great man has fallen,” the master of ceremonies declared.

“It is an incalculable loss for Mali. He came bringing the breath of life, he leaves with the wind of hope.”

Those in the VIP stand included Bah Ndaw, a former military officer who is currently president of Mali’s transitional government, and the vice president, Assimi Goita, who led the August 18 coup.

Niger and Guinea-Bissau were represented by their prime ministers, and other countries in the region sent their envoys.

Ceremonies were to conclude with a parade by troops and aircraft, according to the programme.

Toure, a former soldier, first took charge of the country for a year in 1991.

He helped overthrow the iron-fisted regime of Moussa Traore, who had been in power since 1968.

He then took the helm of a transitional committee, exercising the duties of head of state and steering the country to elections.

These were won in 1992 by Alpha Oumar Konare — the first democratically-chosen president in Mali’s post-independence history.

Universally known by his initials as ATT,  Toure won presidential elections in 2002 and again in 2007.

His presidency was abruptly curtailed in 2012 by rebel troops who accused Toure of failing to support their battle against Tuareg and jihadist insurgents in the north of the country.

Toure fled to Senegal, only returning from exile in 2017.

The chaos that followed his downfall wrecked Mali’s poorly-equipped and demoralised army.

The jihadists swiftly overran the north of the country before being forced out in 2013 by French intervention.

They regrouped and advanced into central Mali, a flashpoint region where they ignited ethnic conflict, and then headed into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

-AFP

Mali Ex-President Amadou Toumani Toure Dies At 72

Photo Credit: The New Times (Rwanda)

 

Mali’s former president Amadou Toumani Toure, who led the Sahel nation for a decade before being ousted in a coup, has died in Turkey aged 72, a family member and a doctor said on Tuesday.

“Amadou Toumani Toure died during the night of Monday to Tuesday in Turkey,” where he had been taken for health reasons, his nephew Oumar Toure told AFP.

A hospital doctor in Bamako said the former leader had recently undergone heart surgery.

Although “everything seemed to be going well”, the doctor said he was later transferred to Turkey for medical reasons.

Toure, a former soldier, first took charge of the country for a year in 1991, helping to overthrow the previous regime and install democracy.

He won presidential elections in 2002 and 2007 but was overthrown in 2012 by mutinous soldiers who accused him of failing to support their battle against both Tuareg rebels and jihadist insurgents.

Mali has suffered from chronic instability and repeated coups, the latest coming earlier this year.

-AFP

French Hostage And Mali Opposition Leader Freed

In this undated and unlocated handout file picture released by the support committee for the liberation of Sophie Petronin shows Sophie Petronin while on assignment in Africa. Handout / www.liberons-sophie.fr / AFP

 

 

A French aid worker kidnapped in Mali in 2016 and one of the country’s leading opposition politicians have been released, the presidency said on Thursday.

The office of Mali’s president said on social media that Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin, 75, and Soumaila Cisse, 70, who were believed to have been held by al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, were on their way to the capital Bamako.

The announcement comes after Mali freed over 100 alleged or convicted jihadists over the weekend.

The government gave no indication of the circumstances of the hostages release, however, nor did it provide information on the health of either Petronin or Cisse.

Petronin was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016, in the northern city of Gao. She was the last French national held hostage in the world.

Cisse, a three-time presidential candidate, was abducted on March 25 while campaigning in his home region of Niafounke in central Mali ahead of a parliamentary election.

Mali has been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in 2012, and which has since claimed thousands of lives.

AFP