France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

France To Extend Lockdown As Virus Deaths Soar In Europe, US
File: Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP


President Emmanuel Macron warned in comments published Sunday that France will pull its troops out of Mali if it lurches towards radical Islamism following the second coup in nine months.

France has around 5,100 troops in the region under its so-called Barkhane operation which spans five countries in the Sahel — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The mission, headquartered in Chad, was launched after France intervened to fend off a jihadist advance in Mali in 2013.

On Tuesday France and the European Union denounced an “unacceptable coup d’etat” after Mali’s interim president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane were detained and stripped of their powers in what is being seen as the country’s second coup in less than a year.

Macron said he had told Ndaw that France will withdraw its troops if Mali turns towards radical Islamism.

“Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never,” he told the weekly newspaper The Journal du Dimanche.

“There is this temptation today in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I will withdraw,” he warned in comments made during a trip to Rwanda and South Africa. Macron flew home to Paris on Saturday.

The French president added that he had given a message to West African leaders that they could not back a country “where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition.”

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has invited Mali’s junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita to Ghana’s capital Accra for “consultations” ahead of an extraordinary summit on Sunday devoted to Mali.

Goita flew to Accra on Saturday, military and airport sources said.

He had served as vice president since leading a coup last August that ousted the democratically elected president, with the roles of president and prime minister held by civilians after pressure from ECOWAS, which has served as a mediator.

However, the transitional leaders were detained Monday before being released on Thursday, with the military saying they had resigned.

The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the Sahel country.

Mali’s constitutional court completed Goita’s rise to full power on Friday by naming him transitional president.

With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges.

Macron, in his comments published Sunday, warned that if Africa’s development fails then Europe “will pay dearly in terms of migration”.

He stressed the need to “invest massively” adding that the international community must also erase some of the continent’s debt burden “to help Africans build their future.”


Mauritanian Ex-President Summoned In Corruption Case

Former Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz in Nouakchott on 1 August 2019 .(SEYLLOU/AFP)



Mauritania’s ex-president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was interviewed by prosecutors Wednesday over potential corruption charges, a legal source said, after being held alongside other senior figures at a police station in capital Nouakchott.

Aziz “arrived at the Palace of Justice in a police van under heavy escort and brought to the prosecutor Ahmedou Ould Abdallah,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A senior police source had earlier said about 30 people were waiting to be interviewed by the prosecutor.

The prosecutor is expected to complete his hearings with the group in the coming days, before deciding whether to recommend charges.

“This is about dragging a whole system and its men before the police and besmirching their honour,” Aziz’s defence lawyers said, adding that he is “protected” by the constitution as a former president.

One of the lawyers, Mohameden Ould Icheddou, said his client would refuse to answer questions or sign any documents.

He added that the case is “unwelcome because the situation in our country calls for reconciliation and appeasement”.

Aziz, 64, seized power in 2008 and served two terms as president before being succeeded in August 2019 by Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani, his former right-hand man and ex-defence minister.

Ghazouani has kept Aziz at arm’s length since he came to power, however.

Last year, the parliament in the vast Saharan nation of 4.5 million people established a commission to investigate suspected embezzlement under Aziz.

Among other issues, the inquiry probed the handling of oil revenue, the sale of state property, the winding up of a publicly owned food-supply company and the activities of a Chinese fishing firm.

Police then detained Aziz in August for questioning in the case, before stripping him of his passport.

The former president refused to answer their questions, however, and accuses Ghazouani of seeking to settle scores.

It was not immediately clear which other officials were in custody alongside Aziz on Wednesday.

But the police officer said the group includes two former prime ministers and 11 ex-government ministers, as well as businessmen connected to the case.

Nearly 2,200 Migrants Died Trying To Reach Europe In 2020- NGO



Nearly 2,200 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea this year, the vast majority of them on their way to the Canary Islands, a migrant rights group said Tuesday.

Migrants arrivals in the archipelago have increased this year as they looked for alternative routes to reach Europe due to increased patrolling off the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain, posing a logistical strain for authorities in the Canaries.

A total of 2,170 migrants perished in attempts to get to Spain by boat this year, compared to 893 in 2019, according to a report by the non-governmental organisation Caminando Fronteras, which monitors migratory flows.

Eighty-five percent of this year’s deaths, or 1,851, took place during 45 shipwrecks on the route to the Canary Islands, according to the report.

The shortest route to the islands is more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Moroccan coast, but it is notoriously dangerous because of the strong currents in the Atlantic.

Helena Maleno, an activist with the NGO, blamed the rise in deaths this year on the greater distance needed to travel to the Canaries and the “dismantlement of rescue services”.

She also blamed a “lack of coordination” between the nations which operate rescue services in the region — Spain, Mauritania, Senegal and Morocco — which leads to delays in launching operations.



Spanish interior ministry figures show that between January 1 and November 30, a total of 19,566 people landed on the Atlantic archipelago, compared with just 1,993 a year earlier.

The surge in arrivals filled migrant reception centres on the Canaries, forcing thousands of migrants to live in a makeshift tent camp on a pier in the island of Gran Canaria last month.

They were eventually transferred to a military camp and hotels on the island.

UNESCO Lists Couscous As Intangible World Heritage

Lamb Couscous.


Couscous, the Berber dish beloved across northern Africa’s Maghreb region and beyond, Wednesday joined the UN list of the world’s intangible cultural heritage.

The countries that submitted the listing to UNESCO — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritania — may have their differences, but their common love of the grain staple runs deep.

“Couscous, present at every social or cultural event, is at once ordinary and special,” their joint presentation argued.

“Ordinary because of the frequency of its use in a family setting, and special because of the unifying and propitiatory role it plays at convivial community occasions at which food is shared.”

Bland by itself, couscous is served with meat or fish, spicey stews, chickpeas and vegetables in a mouth-watering variety of dishes.

Moroccan restaurant owner Hicham Hazzoum was among the couscous connoisseurs who applauded UNESCO’s honour.

“I think we are the only Arab countries to have a high regard for this dish,” he said. “It is impossible not to eat it every Friday.

“Moroccans are crazy about couscous and even children love it. It shows that the couscous flame will never go out.”

Across the region, couscous — also known as Seksu, Kusksi and Kseksu — is as elementary as rice or noodles are to Asian cuisine, the staple without which no meal is complete.

Arabic dictionaries have documented “Kuskusi” since the 19th century, though it is known to be far older.

The regional pride in couscous found full expression in the countries’ joint nomination for the “knowledge, know-how and practices pertaining to the production and consumption of couscous”.

“Women and men, young and old, sedentary and nomadic, from rural or urban communities or from immigrant backgrounds all identify with this element,” it gushed.

“The ethos of couscous is the expression of community life.”


 ‘Great unifier’

Tunisian chef Taieb Bouhadra said his country took pride in its different types of couscous.

“There are many varieties, almost every house has its own grain,” said the owner of El Ali restaurant, in the old city of Tunis.

Couscous is prepared from wheat or barley, and sometimes from maize, millet or sorghum, which is ground into semolina.

This is rolled into pellets which are sieved and later soaked and repeatedly steamed.



“Women, in particular, play a fundamental role in the preparation and consumption of the dish, and in practising and preserving the related symbolic value systems,” said the paper.

The girls learn not only the techniques but also “the songs, gestures, characteristic oral expressions and ritual organisation” that go along with the process.

Algerian chef Rabah Ourrad said about making his couscous dishes: “I didn’t learn this in a cooking school. It’s decades of observing the mother, the sisters and all North African women who are experts in this.”

In an often fractious region, there were hopes the joint bid would strengthen a sense of common identity.

After Algeria four years ago sparked the ire of regional rival Morocco by planning its own couscous nomination, the 2020 bid was a cross-Maghreb initiative.

Ourrad also passionately argued that couscous could serve as the region’s great unifier.

Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia all have their particular styles, he said, but adding: “We are all the same people, and the couscous is Maghrebi, the couscous is ours.”

Not everyone was fully on board with the mushy couscous diplomacy, including Hazzoum, the Moroccan restaurant manager.

“I say this with all due respect to other countries,” he told AFP, “but Moroccan couscous is the best.”

27 Dead In Mauritania Migrant Boat Disaster – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP.


Twenty-seven people died after the engines on their migrant vessel failed, leaving them stranded off the coast of Mauritania, the United Nations said on Friday.

The UN’s refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a joint statement that they were “deeply saddened at the tragic death of 27 people”.

A boat en route towards Spain’s Canary Islands ran into engine trouble between the northern Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou and the city of Dakhla in Western Sahara, according to the statement.

“Those on board were left stranded at sea and began suffering from extreme dehydration,” it added.

The incident occurred “some days ago,” the UN said, although the exact date remains unclear.

Mauritanian coastguards rescued a lone survivor, a Guinean man, near Nouadhibou on Thursday.

He initially said that he had been travelling with about 40 other people — all of whom leapt into the sea when help failed to arrive.

He later clarified that there had been 28 people on board, according to the UN refugee agency’s Africa spokesman, Charlie Yaxley.

Migrants have increasingly opted to risk the perilous route from West Africa to the Canary Islands in recent years, as authorities have clamped down on crossings from Libya to Europe.

The Atlantic route is especially dangerous as shoddy migrant vessels have to ply the ocean in order to reach the Spanish islands.

At least 170 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands in 2019, according to the IOM, compared to 43 the previous year.

“These deaths are preventable, and they are avoidable,” Vincent Cochetel, the UN refugee agency’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean, said in the statement.

“We must take action to target the smugglers and traffickers who offer false promises to migrants and refugees of safe passage to Europe.”


Mauritanian President Reshuffles Cabinet After First Year

In this file photograph taken on September 25, 2019, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani speaks during the 74th Session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP



Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani on Thursday carried out a government reshuffle and replaced his prime minister, a day after prosecutors received a key report on the dealings of former head of state Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

The Saharan state’s official news agency AMI said Prime Minister Ismail Ould Bedda Ould Cheikh Sidiya tendered the government’s resignation to President Ghazouani, who has been in office for one year.

Mohamed Ould Bilal, a former political adviser, was appointed his successor and “tasked with forming a government,” said an official at the presidency.

Prior to his appointment as prime minister in August 2019, Sidiya had served between 2009 and 2014 as minister of housing and employment under Aziz.

Sidiya had also served as president of the Nouadhibou free zone authority and was a member of the Union for the Republic (UPR), the party founded by Aziz and taken over by President Ghazouani.

The reason for the surprise resignation was not immediately clear.

Prosecutors in the capital Nouakchott said Wednesday that they had received a report by a nine-member commission tasked with shedding light on aspects of Aziz’s 2008-19 presidency.

Matters discussed in the parliamentary report include the handling of oil revenues, the sales of state-owned property in Nouakchott, activities of Chinese fishing company Pully Hong Dong, and the liquidation of a state-owned firm that supplied food products across the country, according to parliamentary sources.

– ‘High treason’ –

The court is required by law to open an investigation, itself a step towards possible judicial proceedings.


File photo of Mauritania map


Aziz, a former army general, ignored a summons from the committee last month to explain the issues at stake, according to a parliamentary official.

Mauritanian MPs adopted a law at the end of July establishing a High Court of Justice to try the head of state and ministers in cases of “high treason”. The court is due to be set up in the coming months.

“This commission will be able to redefine the facts. If it is a case of high treason committed by the former president of the republic, only the High Court of Justice will remain competent to judge him,” constitutional expert Lo Abdoul Gourmo told AFP on Wednesday.

Ghazouani succeeded long-time president Aziz, whom he had previously served as chief of staff and defence minister, on August 1 2019.

Aziz first came to power in a military coup in 2008, then won an election in 2009, followed by another in 2014.

The new prime minister, Ould Bilal, had been a minister several times under former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was deposed in the coup led by Aziz.


Dozens Feared Drowned After Migrant Boat Sinks Off Mauritania

File photo of Mauritania map




About 40 people are feared dead after a migrant vessel sank off the coast of Mauritania, the UN said Thursday, in a fresh tragedy along the Atlantic migration route to Europe.

In a tweet, the UN refugee agency’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, said one person from the West African state of Guinea had survived.

The boat sank off the northern city of Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s second largest, according to Cochetel.

“New shipwreck off the coast of Nouadhibou #Mauritania of approximately 40 persons on board, there is one survivor (from Guinea)” Cochetel said on Twitter, without specifying when the incident happened.

Other details about the event remained unclear and some accounts were conflicting.

A Mauritanian security official, who declined to be named, told AFP that the sinking did not take place in Mauritanian waters, but “far from our shores”.

The official interviewed the Guinean survivor from a hospital bed in Mauritania, however, who said that he and his friends had attempted to travel from Morocco to Spain’s Canary Islands.

The archipelago lies more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the coast of Africa at its closest point.

After the boat’s engines failed, the passengers aboard the vessel reportedly leapt into the open sea.

“They’re all dead, I think. I am the only survivor,” the security official reported the Guinean survivor as saying.

Cochetel tweeted that international organisations “are trying to step up efforts to prevent such tragedies, but traffickers keep lying to their clients.”

Charlie Yaxley, the UN refugee agency’s spokesman for Africa, said that very little information had been confirmed, but that UN officials are “on site providing assistance”.

– Perilous route –

Despite the lack of details, the incident bears strong similarities to a migrant disaster off Mauritania in December.

In that instance, 62 people drowned after their makeshift vessel — also travelling to the Canaries — hit a rock and capsized some 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Nouadhibou.

Passengers jumped into the ocean as the craft began taking on water, and 83 people survived by swimming ashore.

Migrants have increasingly opted to risk the perilous route from West Africa to the Canaries in recent years, as authorities have clamped down on crossings from Libya to Europe.

The Atlantic route is especially dangerous as shoddy migrant vessels have to ply the ocean in order to reach the Spanish islands.

At least 170 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands in 2019, according to the IOM, against 43 the previous year.


How Nigeria, Other African Nations Are Preventing Spread Of Coronavirus

A laborant at the State Health Authorities of Baden-Wuerttemberg works on a test sample of a suspected case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Stuttgart, sothern Germany on January 29, 2020. Germany’s first confirmed coronavirus patient caught the disease from a Chinese colleague who visited Germany last week, officials said on January 28, 2020, in the first human-to-human transmission on European soil, according to an AFP tally. Marijan Murat / dpa / AFP


African states, including the continent’s biggest economy, Nigeria, on Wednesday said they had begun to introduce measures aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus.

No verified infection has been reported to date in sub-Saharan Africa, but elsewhere, countries have stopped flights to China and airlifted their citizens out of the area where the virus emerged.

Nigeria issued a travel advisory advising “all Nigerians and persons intending to travel to China” to delay their plans unless the trip is “extremely essential.”

People arriving from China or any country with a “major outbreak” of the disease are advised to stay at home for at least two weeks if they develop any symptoms, according to the advisory issued by Health Minister Osagie Ehanire.

The authorities are also requiring airlines to report any case of sickness on board before the plane lands in Nigeria.


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“Nigerian ports, health services, and (the) Nigeria Centre for Disease Control are on alert at our airports and other ports of entry,” the advisory said.

Meanwhile, the small central African state of Equatorial Guinea, said it had quarantined four travellers who had arrived from Beijing.

The four had landed on Tuesday aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight at the airport in the capital of Malabo, the government said.

On Monday, the prime minister’s office had announced that all passengers from China would be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

In West Africa, the Chinese embassy in Mauritania said China had asked its nationals who have recently arrived or returned to the country to remain confined for at least 14 days.

There was no indication that the message was motivated by any specific situation in Mauritania.

The embassy also advised Chinese planning to travel to Mauritania to postpone their trip. It said those already in the country should communicate daily about their health and avoid public gatherings.

Experts say the potential spread of the virus in Africa is a concern because of the poor healthcare infrastructure in many parts of the continent.

An oil-rich state with an entrenched record of authoritarian rule and poverty, Equatorial Guinea has developed close economic ties with Beijing.

Chinese companies have been awarded a string of contracts for infrastructure projects.

The Mauritanian government has set up a crisis unit and placed thermal cameras at the airports of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

Many of the Chinese in Mauritania work in technical assistance, Chinese projects and trade operations, but there no direct flights between the two countries.

Gambia Vows To Crackdown On Traffickers After Death Of 60 Migrants

This image grab taken from an AFP video shows boats in the water at a beach, in Barra on December 5, 2019, after at least 62 people died on December 4, 2019 when their makeshift vessel capsized off the coast of Mauritania, including migrants from Gambia. Romain CHANSON / AFPTV / AFP


Gambian President Adama Barrow on Saturday vowed to punish people traffickers as he mourned the deaths of 60 Europe-bound migrants who drowned off Mauritania when their boat capsized.

“To lose 60 young lives at sea is a national tragedy and a matter of grave concern to my government,” he said on national television.

“A full police investigation has been launched to get to the bottom of this serious national disaster. The culprits will be prosecuted according to law”, he added.

Barrow said 60 people were confirmed dead in Wednesday’s tragedy.

He said funds had been sent to Mauritania to cater to the immediate needs of the survivors admitted to hospital and to finance their repatriation.

The boat was attempting to reach Spain’s Canary Islands — a perilous and poorly monitored route along West Africa’s coast — when their boat hit a rock.

Barrow pledged to “fast track prosecution of cases involving human trafficking.

“Law enforcement officials are also instructed to increase surveillance and arrest… criminals involved in human trafficking”, he said.

“Also, I have been informed that 189 people have been intercepted by the Mauritanian authorities. Arrangements have been made to transport them back to Banjul,” the Gambia capital, he added.

On Friday, Mauritanian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 192 Gambian migrants headed for Spain, a Mauritanian security source told AFP.

The boat left Banjul on Monday and was intercepted in the high seas off Mauritania. The passengers were brought back to Nouamghar, about 150 kilometres (95 miles) north of the capital Nouakchott and were given food and blankets.

The sinking off Mauritania is the largest known loss of life along the so-called western migration route this year, and the sixth deadliest migrant capsize globally, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Mauritanian authorities said the boat had been carrying between 150 and 180 people when it sank.

Eight-three people survived the disaster by swimming ashore.

Migrant passages along the route from West African countries to the Canary Islands have increased recently as authorities clamp down on crossings to Europe from Libya.

Some 158 people are known to have died trying to reach the Canary Islands so far this year, according to the IOM, against 43 last year.



Dozens Of Migrants Drown As Boat Sinks Off Mauritania




At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday.

The UN agency said another 83 people swam to shore, while survivors said at least 150 people including women and children were aboard the vessel, which had set sail from The Gambia on November 27.

They said the boat was running low on fuel as it was nearing the coast of the northwestern African nation.

“The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM’s chief of mission in Mauritania.

“Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need,” she added.

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The injured are being treated in hospital in Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s westernmost town on the Atlantic coast, the IOM statement said.

Mauritanian authorities are in contact with Gambian consular services “to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants”, the statement said.

The Gambian Ambassador to Mauritania is headed to Nouadhibou, it added.

Mauritania Sets Aside $550m For The Poor

Mauritania ranks among the poorest countries in the world despite rich deposits of gold, iron and copper. 


Mauritania’s president has pledged the equivalent of 500 million euros ($550 million) to fight poverty ahead of a key state anniversary, after coming to power four months ago on vows to help the poor.

In remarks broadcast on the eve of Thursday’s independence celebrations, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani said the sum, which will be allocated over five years, would fund a specialised anti-poverty agency.

The former general took office in August, in the first transition of power between two elected leaders in the West African state’s history.

He swept to a first-round victory in elections on June 22 on pledges to strengthen the military and attack poverty.

Mauritania ranks among the poorest countries in the world despite rich deposits of gold, iron and copper.

On top of the money for the anti-poverty agency, Ghazouani promised the government would offer “free legal assistance” to the destitute in Wednesday evening’s broadcast.

About 33 percent of Mauritanians lived below the poverty line of $1.90 (1.7 euros) a day in 2014, according to the World Bank, compared to 44.5 percent in 2008.

But poverty remains endemic in the capital Nouakchott, the bank said, and women and children are marginalised.

Vast and mostly desert, the conservative nation has suffered a string of military coups in its history, with the latest occurring in 2008.

The leader of the 2008 putsch, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, won elections in 2009 and again in 2014, and was suspected by opposition leaders of wanting to stay for a third term.

However, he decided instead to pass the baton to his longtime ally Ghazouani.

Annual festivities commemorating Mauritanian self-rule take place in a different place each year.

Thursday’s celebration — marking 59 years of independence — was held in Akjoujt, a gold-rich town in the west of the country which is also the birthplace of Aziz.

Aziz was notably absent, however. He and Ghazouani are rumoured to have fallen out.

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi — the ex-president deposed in the 2008 coup — was present.



Nigeria Rout Mauritania 5-0 To Qualify For 2019 U-20 AFCON

Nigeria Rout Mauritania 5-0 To Qualify For 2019 U-20 AFCON


Nigeria’s Flying Eagles have thrashed Mauritania to qualify for the 2019 U-20 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) hosted by the Republic of Niger.

The Eagles turned in a commanding performance on Saturday as they demolished the visiting side 5-0 at the Agege stadium in Lagos State.

It was a one-sided contest as the Nigerian team dominated from start to finish.

Enyimba Winger Wasiu Alalade put set the Eagles on the lead after 11 minutes while Nazifi Yahaya doubled the advantage 22 minutes later.

Yahaha consequently extended the lead a minute after the restart when he headed home off a corner.

Aniekeme Asuquo scored Nigeria’s fourth goal before the Afeez Aremu sealed the victory in the 87th minute from the penalty spot.

The seven-time champions advanced 6-1 on aggregate.