French President Set To Visit Mali On Saturday

French President Francois Hollande will  be visit Mali on Saturday. 

Hollande, who sent French troops to repel an advance by Islamist rebels in West African’s former colony, will be accompanied by his ministers for defense, foreign affairs and development, his office said in a statement that gave no further details.

France’s Liberation newspaper reported earlier that Hollande would travel to Mali on Friday night.

Reuters

French Troops Re-Claim Malian Town

French forces have now re-claimed the northern Malian town of Kidal, the last main stronghold of Islamist rebels in the region.

The militant Islamist fighters left the town, near the Algerian border, and are now believed to be hiding in the surrounding mountains.

Kidal was captured days after French and Malian forces retook the provincial capitals Gao and Timbuktu.

Haminy Maiga, a Kidal official, said the troops who arrived aboard four planes had met no resistance.

“The French arrived aboard four planes,” said, Mr Maiga, who heads the regional assembly.

“They took the airport and then entered the town, and there was no combat. The French are patrolling the town and two helicopters are patrolling overhead.”

Earlier, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a sandstorm had delayed the troops from leaving the airport and entering the town.

 

Channels TV Joins Hillary Clinton’s Last Global Townterview

Channels Television on Tuesday flew the African flag in the live and last ‘Global Townterview’ with outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

The Secretary of State had her 59th Global ‘Townterview’ at the Newseum in Washington DC, her last in which she engaged young people around the world including young Nigerian professionals who were gathered inside ChannelsTV studio for the live interaction.

The event which was streamed live on the internet on YouTube had in attendance BBC London, MBC Beirut Lebanon, NDTV, New Delhi, India, NHK Tokyo, Japan, NTN24 Bogota, Colombia and representing Africa was Channels Television from Nigeria.

Nigeria’s 2015 Election

When Channels TV correspondent Maupe Ogun, asked the outgoing Secretary if she can pinpoint any African country that has strived to develop its institutions as President Obama advised in his speech when he visited Ghana in 2009, Mrs Clinton replied; “both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa.”

She described the successful transition in Malawi and the peaceful re-election of Ellen John Sirleaf in Liberia and the just concluded election in Ghana as big moves that showed that the countries are building their political institutions and the voice of people are hearkened to.

“Nigeria is a very important country in Africa and even the world. It really matters how well the next general election goes. Whether it is free and fair. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued. So it is important that everybody in Nigeria does not feel like they are going to be left out” she stated.

The crisis in Mali is one issue Madam Secretary spoke passionately about; she noted how important it is for peace to rain in the country and the region as a whole.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s feat in the first four years of the Obama administration cannot be over-emphasized and this has aroused speculations if she would be running for president in the next US election.

But responding to a question on her plans for the US Presidential in 2016, she responded that “I am not thinking anything about that now. I am working on concluding my tenure as the Secretary of State. I am also working on my 20 years of sleep deprivation.”

When two uniformly dressed radio dee-jays from Australia asked her what she would advise anyone to include on their CV to appeal for her office, the former First Lady of the United States cheerfully stated that “education, good looks and ability to meet people are the essentials needed to be a Secretary of States.”

The Townterview is a mix of a town hall and a television interview. The concept was first introduced by the Secretary when she entered office as a way to broaden people to people engagement.

Mrs Clinton is expected to resign as the US Secretary of State on Friday, 1st of February.

Former aspirant to White House, Senator John Kerry, was on Tuesday, confirmed as the next US Secretary of State.

Mali To Receive $18.4 Million Loan From IMF

The strife-torn West African nation, Mali, has been approved to receive an $18.4 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help stabilize its economy over the next 12 months, the IMF said on Monday.

The Fund said approval of the loan, under its Rapid Credit Facility, will not fulfill all the government’s needs but should send a signal that Mali’s economy is on the right path, prompting other donors to offer financial assistance.

The IMF first announced in November that it had agreed on a loan with Mali, subject to board approval.

“The disbursement … is designed to help Mali deal with urgent balance of payments need and catalyze financial support from Mali’s international partners, which is critical to Mali’s economic recovery,” the IMF said in a statement.

Other donors that often support Mali include the World Bank, the African Development Bank and France, the IMF said.

The facility is a quick-disbursing fund for poor countries recovering from natural disasters or conflict.

The United States and the European Union are backing a French-led intervention in Mali against al Qaeda-allied militants they fear could use the West African state’s desert north as a springboard for international attacks.

“Mali’s economy is traversing a particularly difficult period as a result of the 2011 drought, insurgent attacks in the north of the country and political instability in the wake of the military coup in March 2012,” the IMF said.

However, the IMF’s mission chief to the West African country, Christian Josz, said Mali is making an effort to improve its economy, which should expand by 4.5 percent this year after contracting in 2012, especially if the weather is favorable to crops.

“But of course there are many uncertainties,” he told reporters on Monday.

Mali received a $46 million IMF loan in 2011 but canceled it after soldiers toppled the president in March 2012 and al Qaeda-linked militants seized northern cities.

A leading producer of gold and cotton, Mali faces a budget shortfall, especially since the European Union and the United States suspended aid after the coup.

For 2013, Mali faces a budget shortfall of $110 million, but it will freeze spending unless it is able to plug the gap with development aid from donors, the IMF said.

Mali Rebels Torch Timbuktu Manuscript Library – Mayor

Islamist fighters fleeing Mali’s ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu as French and Malian troops closed in, set fire to a South African-funded library there containing thousands of priceless manuscripts, the city’s mayor said on Monday.

Mr. Halle Ousmani Sisse said the Islamist rebels, who had occupied the fabled trading town since a Tuareg-led rebellion captured it on April 1, 2012 from government forces, also torched his office and the home of a member of parliament.

The newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute, one of several libraries and collections in the city containing fragile ancient documents dating back to the 13th century, built by the South Africans was also torched four days ago.

Ahmed Baba Institute is named after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare and houses more than 20,000 scholarly manuscripts; some stored in underground vaults.

Fighters from the Islamist alliance in the north of Mali, made up of AQIM, the Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine and AQIM splinter MUJWA, had also destroyed ancient shrines sacred to moderate Sufi Muslims, provoking international outrage.

French and Malian troops were securing the city on Monday.

Ecowas Defence Chiefs To Meet Again On Mali

Members of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDDS) will meet at an emergency session in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday, 26th January 2013 to appraise the status of the on-going deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).

Last week, the Senate approved the deployment of 1,200 Nigerian troops to join French forces currently staging an onslaught against Islamist militia in Mali.

The emergency meeting, the second in 11 days, is in response to the 19th January 2013 extra-ordinary summit of regional Heads of State and Government towards an accelerated deployment of AFISMA, within the context of the UN Security Council Resolution 2085 of December 2012.

Personalities expected at the one-day meeting include Heads of Police in Member States, the Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the Force Commander and the Chief of Staff of AFISMA.

Gunmen Kill 23 In Kano And Borno

Gunmen killed 23 people in northern Nigeria in attacks that appeared to target gamblers and people selling ‘forbidden’ meat that Islamist militants disapprove of, officials and locals said yesterday.

In the deadliest attack, late on Monday, gunmen opened fire at a market in the town of Damboa in Borno state North East Nigeria, targeting local hunters who sell bush meat from animals such as monkeys and pigs, which strict Muslims are forbidden to eat, a local official said.

“Gunmen suspected to be members of BH (Islamist sect Boko Haram) came to the town market and shot dead 13 local hunters on the spot while five others died from their injuries at the hospital,” Alhaji Abba Ahmed said. “They came to the market in a Volkswagen Golf car, carried out the operation and left.”

In a separate attack in the north’s biggest city of Kano, some 500 km (310 miles) west of Damboa, on Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram members riding on motorbikes shot dead five people playing an outdoor board game, witnesses and a hospital source who received the bodies said. Two others were wounded.

Damboa is in the remote northeast, the sect’s heartland near the borders with Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

President Goodluck Jonathan told Reuters in Geneva on Tuesday that tackling global jihadists is in Nigeria’s interest because of the links between its Islamists and those in the desert states to the north, like Mali. An Islamist group known as Ansarudine, which has been blamed for abducting and killing Westerners, claimed responsibility for an attack on Nigerian troops heading to Mali on Sunday that killed two officers.

Militants have killed several hundred people in the past three years in a campaign to impose sharia, Islamic law, on Nigeria. Their targets include the security forces and churches, although they have killed more Muslims than Christians.

Gunmen also fired on the convoy of Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero in Kano on Saturday, killing six people.

Nigerian Troops Restore Hope in Distressed Mali

The presence of Nigerian troops in Mali following the intervention of the French forces has elicited a sense of confidence that the war against terrorism in the West African country will soon be a thing of the past.

Channels Television’s crew in Mali went to town to find out how the Malians feel about the arrival of Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) forces in Mali especially the Nigerian contingent.

The general consensus is that Nigeria is key to the liberation of Mali from the various extremist groups in the country.

Judging by the sense of calm on the faces of the Malians, it is almost impossible to tell that the French-speaking country is under the threats of terrorism however beneath this calm lies a feeling of anger and disappointment at what is happening in the northern part of Mali.

The presence of the Nigerian troops in the territory has once again restored lost hope as many residents say this is an indication that the war on terror in Mali is nearing its end.

Citizens have offered prayers for the safety of the troops and that the operations will be concluded as quickly as possible.

Speaking with Channels Television’s crew, Sidibe Dramanae, a young Mailian, expressed his gratitude to the Nigerian government for always playing the big brother role for fellow West African states.

 

 

Nigerian Military Contingent Depart To Mali

First batch of 80 Nigerian military contingent to the African led international peace support mission in Mali have departed to Mali and the Chief of Army Staff has claimed the deployment enhance the federal government fight against Boko Haram.

The soldiers departed at exactly 6PM, Thursday evening.

They were airlifted by a Nigerian Air Force cargo plane to Mali through the Kaduna international airport.

The remaining 826 are to be airlifted from tomorrow.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika, said the contribution of Nigeria in the restoration of peace in Mali will complement the federal government’s efforts in the fight against Boko Haram insurgence in the country.

General Ihejirika who was addressing the first Nigerian battalion to African led international peace support mission in Mali, said the crisis in Mali which has become a global concern has attracted intervention from the international community.

He said that some of the members of Boko Haram sect had undergone training in Mali.

A total of 906 personnel of the Nigerian army had undergone a four week pre-deployment training at the Nigerian Army Peacekeeping Centre Jaji, Kaduna where they were trained on various skills ahead of the deployment.

The Nigerian soldiers will be joining troops from other countries, as part of an African force to fight against Islamist militants in the West African nation seeking to seize and overthrow the government.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ihejirika charged the soldiers to stick to the rules of their engagement if they must succeed in the enormous task, which is necessary to aid the fight against Boko Haram in the country.

He also commissioned operational vehicles for the peace mission in Mali.

Peace Enforcers

The commandant of the centre, Major General John Zaruwa, noted that the training was designed to suit the operational environment while expressing confidence that the battalion will live up to expectation.

“They are not peacekeepers, they are peace enforcers. And they are trained to use all means including force to restore peace in Mali” he explained.

The Nigerian contingent are going to an unfamiliar terrain in Mali to face a versatile adversary who observers say are determined, well-equipped and well-trained.

In the light of this, many have raised fears about the adequacy of preparations towards the welfare of the families they have left behind.

But the Chief of Army Staff said there is no cause for alarm as he wished the soldiers good luck while in Mali. He also reminded them to be disciplined and make the country proud

 

Hollande Steps Up France Security Over Mali And Somalia

French president Francois Hollande has ordered security step up around public buildings and transport areas because of military operations in Africa.

He was responding to the risk of Islamist attack after French forces attacked militants in Mali and Somalia.

A pilot was killed as air strikes were launched on Malian rebels.

In Somalia, two French soldiers were “sacrificed” in a raid to free a French hostage who was eventually killed.

His remarks came within hours of one of the Islamist groups targeted by French military action in Mali threatening reprisals against France.

An Ansar Dine spokesman told Reuters news agency, there would be consequences for French citizens throughout the Muslim world.

The operations in Mali and Somalia were launched within hours of each other but were “totally unconnected”, according to government officials.

French troops were deployed in Mali on Friday after the army lost control of a strategically important town to Islamists who were advancing south. The rebels took control of a huge swathe of northern Mali last April.

Pope urges end to Boko Haram killings

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday prayed for “concord in Nigeria”,as he lamented the “savage acts of terrorism” that frequently target Christian churches in Nigeria, during his traditional Christmas message.

The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has often targeted churches in its bloody insurgency against the Nigerian government killing about 3,000 people since 2009 when the insurgency started.

The violence is now worsened with the emergence of another terror group, the Ansaru that claimed to have kidnapped French engineer, Frances Colump, in Rimi Katsina, Katsina State last week.

Pope Benedict also called for an “end to the bloodshed” and “a political solution” in conflict-wracked Syria in a traditional Christmas message that touched on several other of the world’s conflict zones.

“There is hope in the world … even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations,” he said, praying that “peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims.”

More than 44,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown, a rights group said last week.

The Pope’s annual “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World) message, heard by some 40,000 pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, also pointed to hotspots across Africa and urged religious freedom in China, and as usual called for peace in the Middle East.

The Pope prayed for “help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” where a rebel campaign caused tens of thousands to flee their homes, and peace in Kenya, “where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship”.

He also urged peace in Mali, where Islamist insurgents have occupied large swathes of the desert north since a March coup.

He also prayed for “Israelis and Palestinians (to be granted the) courage to end long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.”

Turning to China, the German Pope called on the new leadership to “esteem the contributions of the religions.”

Speaking of “the high task that awaits them,” the Pontiff said he hoped the new leaders unveiled in November would “help build a fraternal society for that noble people and of the whole world.”

China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taipei, a rival to the communist regime in Beijing.

Although Beijing and the Vatican have improved relations in recent years as China’s Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.

About 5.7 million Chinese belong to the state-run Catholic Church, according to official figures. Independent estimates say 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in unauthorised churches and are loyal to the pope.

Nigeria Moves Five Places Up In Newly Released FIFA Rankings

Nigeria moved up from 57th to the 52nd position on the latest FIFA rankings released today by world football governing body, FIFA.

Seen as a positive impact on the Super Eagles this time, Nigeria is now rated 10th in Africa as against the old rating of 16th position.

Cote d’Ivoire placed 14th is still the highest ranked African country while Japan placed 22nd, is Asia’s best team. The Ivoirians are also first in Africa while Algeria moved up five places to occupy Africa’s second spot and 19th in the world.

Mali are third on the Africa rankings after the West African nation dropped one place and are now ranked 28th in the world.

The Eagles have experienced a gradual renaissance under Coach Stephen Keshi, who steered the team to January’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Nigerian side defeated Liberia 8-3 aggregate in their final qualification game to book a ticket to South Africa.

World and European champions, Spain, remain top of the rankings despite their 1-1 draw with France while Germany retained second position.

But Argentina leapfrogged Portugal (4) to climb to third in the standings after they recorded victories over Uruguay (who fell out of the top 10) and Chile in the past month to move up one place.

Italy completes the top five, rising with three positions following wins against Armenia and Denmark.

Brazil; hosts of the 2014 World Cup are 18th in the standings.