West Africa Leaders Press Mali Junta Over Transition

Arrival of the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou (C), to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra, Ghana on September 15, 2020, as part of several efforts to resolve the political crisis in Mali. (Photo by Nipah Dennis / AFP)

 

West African leaders met the head of Mali’s military junta on Tuesday to press for the return to civilian rule nearly a month after rebel officers seized power in the fragile state.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped sanctions on Mali after the putsch, including closing borders and a ban on trade and financial flows, and has called for elections within 12 months.

The 15-nation bloc also gave the new military rulers until Tuesday to name a civilian president and prime minister to head a transitional government.

“My reason for this meeting is simple. We need to bring finality to our deliberations on Mali,” Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said in an opening statement at a lodge at Peduase, eastern Ghana.

“That country can no longer afford any delay in putting a responsible government in place.”

Akufo-Addo, the current ECOWAS rotating chairman, reiterated that Tuesday was “supposed to be the day the military junta is supposed to put in place a government”.

“Closure should be brought to the matter now,” he said.

Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita, who was appointed interim head of state, was attending the talks on his first trip abroad since his seizure of power.

He was set to deliver a speech behind closed doors to the assembled leaders from across the region outlining his plans.

– Opposition criticism –

The military junta over the weekend backed an arrangement for an 18-month transition government in which the junta would be given the leading role in choosing the interim president.

But the document was rejected by Mali’s protest movement.

It underscored its objections on Tuesday, while stressing it did not want to “break or get involved in a conflict” with the junta.

The communique said that consultations about the transition — which culminated in a document published on Saturday after a three-day forum — were marked by “intimidation (and) anti-democratic and unfair practices” and “the desire to monopolise and confiscate power to the benefit of (the junta).”

“Corrections must be able to be made to the national consultation documents,” said Mountaga Tall, a leader of the so-called June 5 Movement, or M5, an alliance of political parties, trade unions, religious figures and NGOs.

Mali’s former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was toppled after months of protests by the M5 demanding his resignation.

He had been facing deep anger over an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency, economic problems and entrenched corruption.

The M5 wants to be given equal status with the junta during the transition.

Other criticism it has made of the junta-backed transition charter concerns the powers that would be given to the vice president, tasked with defence and security — a job description considered to be tailor-made for Goita.
– Unstable past –

Mali’s neighbours, who are anxious to avoid the fragile Sahel state spiralling into chaos, have not yet reacted to the transition roadmap.

Last month’s coup is Mali’s fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960.

A further reminder of its chronic instability came on Tuesday with the death on Tuesday of Moussa Traore, who led the country for 22 years.

In 1968, Moussa Traore, then a lieutenant, was the main instigator of a coup that overthrew Modibo Keita, the country’s first post-independence president. He stayed in power until he in turn was ousted in a coup in 1991.

Traore died aged 83 in the capital Bamako, his nephew Mohamed Traore told AFP.

Mali Military Junta Launches ‘Consultation’ Amid Pressure Over Handover

FILE PHOTO: Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff and military junta spokesperson Ismael Wague (C) holds a press conference in Kati on August 19, 2020, a day after the military arrested Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and he officially resigned. ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

 

Mali’s military junta on Thursday launches a three-day “national consultation” with political parties, unions and NGOs, facing questions at home and pressure from abroad over its plans for returning the country to civilian rule.

Around 500 people are due to attend the forum, unfolding at a conference centre in Bamako, the capital of the West African state.

The talks mark the second round of discussions between the young officers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 and civilian representatives, many of whom had campaigned fiercely for him to resign.

READ: Egypt’s Prosecutor To Investigate Missing African Cup Saga

At stake is how the junta intends to make good on its vow, made just hours after the coup, to restore civilian governance and stage elections within a “reasonable time.”

Early jubilation among many Malians over Keita’s exit has been superseded by questions and also divisions about the speed of the handover and the military’s role in the transition period.

The coup — Mali’s fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960 — came after months of protests, stoked by Keita’s failure to roll back a bloody jihadist insurgency and fix the country’s many economic woes.

Mali’s neighbours have watched with concern, fearing the country could spiral back into chaos — a scenario that eight years ago helped fuel the jihadist revolt which now rattles Niger and Burkina Faso.

The junta initially talked of a three-year transition, corresponding to the time left in Keita’s second five-year mandate, that would be overseen by a soldier.

In contrast, the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS has set a hard-line, closing borders, banning trade with Mali and insisting that the handover last 12 months maximum.

In the runup to the talks, the group said Mali’s civilian transition president and premier “must be appointed no later than September 15”.

The so-called June 5 Movement, which engineered the wave of anti-Keita protests, is split.

Some voices argue in favour of giving the military a long handover in order to tackle the problems that have driven the country to the brink.

Others say that this would simply worsen instability — four more Malian troops were killed in an attack on the eve of the talks — and set a poor example for democracy in West Africa.

A committee of around 20 lawyers, researchers and academics has drawn up a draft “road map” resulting from a first round of talks on Saturday.

This document will be put to the forum “for amendment, improvement and enrichment”, its chair, Diarra Fatoumata Dembele, told AFP.

AFP

Nigeria’s Increased Petrol Price Cheapest In West Africa, Angry Reactions Unnecessary – Lai Mohammed

A file photo of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed.
A file photo of the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

 

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has defended the decision of the government to increase the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol.

He attributed the increased amount to the global price of crude oil, saying the “angry reactions” that have greeted the latest petrol price were “unnecessary and totally mischievous”.

Mohammed made the remarks on Monday at a press conference in Abuja on the recent increases in petrol price and electricity tariff.

He explained that with the price of crude creeping up, petrol price was equally bound to increase, hence the latest price of N162 per litre.

The minister, however, believes if the price of crude drops again, the price of petrol will also drop and the benefits will also be passed on to the consumers.

He stressed that despite the recent increase in the price of petrol, that of Nigeria has remained the lowest in the West and Central African sub-regions.

According to Mohammed, petrol is being sold for N211 per litre and N168 per litre in Egypt and Saudi Arabia respectively.

On the hike in electricity tariff, he described the increase as a service-based adjustment by the Distribution Companies (DISCOS).

The minister stated that due to the problems with the largely-privatised electricity industry, the Federal Government has been supporting the sector.

He said while the government has so far spent almost N1.7 trillion, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls and does not have the resources to continue, borrowing to subsidise generation and distribution which have been privatised would be grossly irresponsible.

A fuel station in Lagos sells petrol at N162 per litre.

 

Read the minister’s full remarks at the press briefing below:

TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HON MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON MONDAY, 7 SEPT. 2020 ON THE RECENT INCREASES IN PETROL AND ELECTRICITY PRICES

PROTOCOL

Gentlemen of the press, good afternoon, and thank you for honouring our invitation to this press conference, which we have called to address the recent issues surrounding the price of fuel and electricity tariff.

FUEL PRICES

  1. As you are aware, the long-drawn fuel subsidy regime ended in March 2020, when the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) announced that it had begun fuel price modulation, in accordance with prevailing market dynamics, and would respond appropriately to any further oil market development.
  2. Recall that the price of fuel then dropped from 145 to 125 Naira per litre, and then to between 121.50 and 123.50 Naira per litre in May. With the low price of crude oil then, the cost of petrol, which is a derivative of crude oil, fell, and the lower pump price was passed on to the consumers to enjoy.

With the price of crude inching up, the price of petrol locally is also bound to increase, hence the latest price of 162 Naira per litre. If perchance, the price of crude drops again, the price of petrol will also drop, and the benefits will also be passed on to the consumers.

The angry reactions that have greeted the latest prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) are therefore unnecessary and totally mischievous.

  1. Gentlemen, the truth of the matter is that subsidizing fuel is no longer feasible, especially under the prevailing economic conditions in the country.

The government can no longer afford fuel subsidy, as revenues and foreign exchange earnings have fallen by almost 60%, due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector. Yet, the government has had to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects.

Even though we have acted to mitigate the effect of the economic slowdown by adopting an Economic Sustainability Plan, we have also had to take some difficult decisions to stop unsustainable practices that were weighing the economy down.

  1. One of such difficult decisions, which we took at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March – when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown – was the deregulation of the prices of PMS.

As I said earlier, the benefit of lower prices at that time was passed to consumers. Everyone welcomed the lower fuel price then. Again, the effect of deregulation is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices.

This means quite regrettably that as oil prices recover, there will be some increases in PMS prices. This is what has happened now.

  1. Government can no longer afford to subsidize petrol prices, because of its many negative consequences. These include a return to the costly subsidy regime. With 60% less revenues today, we cannot afford the cost. The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this Administration.

The days in which Nigerians queue for hours and days just to buy petrol, often at very high prices, are gone for good. Of course, there is also no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, because we just cannot afford it.

  1. Gentlemen, the cost of fuel subsidy is too high and unsustainable. From 2006 to 2019, fuel subsidy gulped 10.413 Trillion Naira. That is an average of 743.8 billion Naira per annum.

According to figures provided by the NNPC, the breakdown of the 14-year subsidy is as follows:

– In 2006       Subsidy was 257bn

– In 2007       Subsidy was 272bn

– In 2008       Subsidy was 631bn

– In 2009       469bn

– In 2010       667bn

– In 2011       2.105tn

– In 2012      1.355tn

– In 2013      1.316tn

– In 2014      1.217tn

– In 2015       654bn

– In 2016       Figure Not Available

– In 2017      Subsidy was 144.3bn

– In 2018      730.86bn

– And in 2019   Subsidy was 595bn

  1. The Federal Government is not unmindful of the pains associated with higher fuel prices at this time. That is why we will continue to seek ways to cushion the pains, especially for the most vulnerable Nigerians.

The government is providing cheaper and more efficient fuel in form of autogas. Also, Government, through the PPPRA, will ensure that marketers do not exploit citizens through arbitrarily hike in pump prices.

And that is why the PPPRA announced the range of prices that must not be exceeded by marketers.

9   In spite of the recent increase in the price of fuel to 162 Naira per litre, petrol prices in Nigeria remain the lowest in the West/Central African sub-regions.

Below is a comparative analysis of petrol prices in the sub-regions (Naira equivalent per litre);

– Nigeria              – 162 Naira per litre

–  Ghana               –  332 Naira per litre

–  Benin                 – 359 Naira per litre

–  Togo                   – 300 Naira per litre

–  Niger                   – 346 Naira per litre

–  Chad                   – 366 Naira per litre

–  Cameroon           – 449 Naira per litre

–  Burkina Faso      –  433 Naira per Litre

–  Mali                     – 476 Naira per litre

– Liberia                 – 257 Naira per litre

– Sierra Leone        – 281 Naira per litre

– Guinea                 – 363 Naira per litre

– Senegal               – 549 Naira per litre

  1. Outside the sub-region, petrol sells for 211 Naira per litre in Egypt and 168 Naira per litre in Saudi Arabia.

You can now see that even with the removal of subsidy, fuel price in Nigeria remains among the cheapest in Africa.

ELECTRICITY TARIFF

  1. Another issue we want to address here today is the recent service-based electricity tariff adjustment by the Distribution Companies or DISCOS.

The truth of the matter is that due to the problems with the largely-privatised electricity industry, the government has been supporting the industry.

To keep the industry going, the government has so far spent almost 1.7 trillion Naira, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls. The government does not have the resources to continue along this path.

To borrow just to subsidise generation and distribution, which are both privatized, will be grossly irresponsible.

  1. But in order to protect the large majority of Nigerians who cannot afford to pay cost-reflective tariffs from increases, the industry regulator, NERC, has approved that tariff adjustments had to be made but only on the basis of guaranteed improvement in service.

Under this new arrangement, only customers with guaranteed minimum of 12 hours of electricity can have their tariffs adjusted. Those who get less than 12 hours supply will experience no increase.

This is the largest group of customers.

  1. Government has also noted the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing. Accordingly, a mass metering programme is being undertaken to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians, largely driven by preferred procurement from local manufacturers, and creating thousands of jobs in the process.

NERC will also strictly enforce the capping regulation to ensure that unmetered customers are not charged beyond the metered customers in their neighbourhood. In other words, there will be no more estimated billings.

  1. The government is also taking steps to connect those Nigerians who are not even connected to electricity at all. As you are aware, under its Economic Sustainability Plan, the government is providing solar power to 5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months.

This alone will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation, thus ensuring that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system.

  1. Gentlemen, please note that despite the recent service-based tariff review, the cost of electricity in Nigeria is still cheaper or compares favourably with that of many countries in Africa.

COST IN NAIRA PER KWH IN SOME AFRICAN COUNTRIES.

– Nigeria            49.75

– Senegal          71.17

– Guinea            41.36

– Sierra Leone   106.02

– Liberia              206.01

– Niger                59.28

– Mali                  88.23

– Burkina Faso    85.09

– Togo                  79.88

CONCLUSION

  1. Gentlemen, the timing of these two necessary adjustments, in the petroleum and power sectors, has raised some concerns among Nigerians. This is a mere coincidence.

First, the deregulation of PMS prices was announced on 18 March 2020, and the price modulation that took place at the beginning of this month was just part of the on-going monthly adjustments to global crude oil prices.

  1. Also, the review of service-based electricity tariffs was scheduled to start at the beginning of July 2020 but was put on hold so that further studies and proper arrangements can be made.

Like Mr President said today, at the opening of the Ministerial Retreat, this government is not insensitive to the current economic difficulties our people are going through and the very tough economic situation we face as a nation. We certainly will not inflict hardship on our people.

But we are convinced that if we stay focused on our plans, brighter and more prosperous days will come soon.

  1. The opportunistic opposition and their allies are playing dirty politics with the issue of petrol pricing and electricity tariff.

Please note that these naysayers did not complain when the price adjustment led to lower petrol prices on at least two occasions since March.

Nigerians must therefore renounce those who have latched onto the issue of petrol pricing and electricity tariff review to throw the country into chaos.

19. I thank you all for your kind attention

Mali Junta Postpones First Meeting Over Transfer Of Powers

Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff and military junta spokesperson Ismael Wague (C) holds a press conference in Kati on August 19, 2020, a day after the military arrested Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and he officially resigned. 
ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP

 

Mali military rulers said on Saturday they were postponing their first meeting over the transfer of powers due to “organisational reasons” nearly two weeks after ousting the president in a coup.

The junta had invited civic groups, political organisations and former rebels to consultations on Saturday, but said in a statement that the meeting was postponed to a later date.

A protest coalition that had campaigned against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the June 5 Movement, had not been invited to participate in the meeting.

The group has demanded that the military junta give it a role in the transition to a civilian rule which the military has promised, though without a timetable.

READ ALSO: Social Distancing: Germany Police Stop Mass ‘Anti-Corona’ Protest

After an escalating series of mass protests, young army officers mutinied on August 18, seizing Keita and other leaders and declaring they now governed the country.

The coup shocked Mali’s West African neighbours and ally France, heightening worries over instability in a country already struggling with an Islamist insurgency, ethnic violence, and economic malaise.

Mali’s influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, a key player in the mass opposition protests that led to Keita’s ouster, said Friday that the new military rulers did not have “carte blanche”.

His comments came as a new document published on the Malian government’s Official Journal said the junta’s head had been effectively invested with the powers of a head of state.

West African leaders, meanwhile, on Friday demanded an immediate civilian transition and elections within 12 months as they considered sanctions.

AFP

 

Mali Crisis: Summit With Buhari, Others End In Deadlock

The presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation.

 

West African leaders ended a day-long summit in Mali on Thursday without a deal to soothe the country’s escalating political crisis.

Five of the region’s leaders met Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation, as a long-running jihadist insurgency threatens to throw the country into chaos.

But the intervention failed to seal a deal and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou — at the talks along with the leaders of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria — said Western African bloc ECOWAS would hold a summit on Monday.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

“Nothing has moved for the movement,” said one of the protest leaders, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, after holding talks with the presidents.

Earlier as the foreign leaders arrived on Thursday morning, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside the airport.

“We’re here to demand IBK’s resignation and ensure our comrades who have been killed are not forgotten,” said Yaya Sylla, a young protester, using the acronym by which Mali’s leader is known.

President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo (C) arrives at the Sheraton hotel where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali, in Bamako on July 23, 2020.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The June 5 Movement, named after the date when the protests began, has tapped into deep anger over Keita’s perceived failure to tackle the dire economy, corruption and the eight-year jihadist revolt.

Malians are also incensed at the disputed outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita’s party.

The summit came on the heels of a five-day mediation mission from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which ended on Sunday without reconciling the two sides.

 

President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou arrives in Bamako on July 23, 2020, where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The West African leaders discussed proposed solutions that had been crafted in behind-the-scenes talks between the president and opposition this week.

The Institute for Security Studies think-tank warned on Thursday that there was an “unfavourable prejudice” towards the presidents, however, with some perceiving the leaders as protecting their own narrow interests.

“The search for solutions will have to take into account the need to improve the daily lives of Malians,” the think-tank said.

 

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Deepening crisis

Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under increasing pressure to end Mali’s long-running jihadist conflict.

The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since 2012, despite the presence of foreign troops.

In the latest violence, a French soldier was killed and two others were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in northern Mali on Thursday, according to France’s presidency and the French army.

 

France’s soldier Tojohasina Razafintsalama, from Tarbes, southern France was killed, “during fighting against armed terrorist groups”, announced the Elysee Palace. (Photo by Handout / FRENCH ARMY / AFP) 

 

But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita’s party and sparking protests.

Tensions then ratcheted up into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.

Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces left 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali had seen in years.

Seeking a way out, ECOWAS mediators suggested forming a new unity government including opposition members and appointing new constitutional court judges who could potentially re-examine disputed election results.

But the June 5 Movement had already rejected any outcome that did not involve Keita’s departure.

 

Mahamadou Issoufou (C), President of Niger, speaks during a press conference after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. – In an exceptional one-day summit, the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Possible compromise?

Despite the apparent failure of the ECOWAS mediators, the president’s camp and opposition figures had quietly been talking all week and the June 5 Movement notably suspended protests ahead of the forthcoming Eid festival.

Brema Ely Dicko, a sociologist at the University of Bamako, had suggested the opposition might be prepared to accept Prime Minister Boubou Cisse’s resignation instead of Keita’s.

“The M5-RFP is obliged to keep up the pressure to at least get something,” he said, using the opposition coalition’s formal acronym.

A European diplomat in Bamako who declined to be named said that the opposition may have overplayed its hand in demanding Keita’s departure.

“Nobody wants to open the door to a period of political instability in Mali, which remains the epicentre of the Sahel security crisis,” he added.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and the Imam Mahmoud Dicko (C), influential leader of the opposition coalition, greet each other after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

 

AFP

Mali President’s Speech Fails To Appease Opposition

In this file photo taken on August 10, 2018 Mali’s incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita addresses his supporters during his last political rally in Bamako ahead of the runoff vote in Mali’s presidential election on August 12, 2018. 
Michele CATTANI / AFP

 

 

Mali’s main protest group said that fresh anti-government demonstrations would take place Friday, rejecting the president’s latest attempts to appease the resurgent opposition in the fragile West African state.

It follows reforms floated by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Wednesday evening meant to quell growing hostility to his government.

Thousands of people in the country of roughly 19 million protested on two occasions last month, urging Keita to resign over his perceived inability to resolve Mali’s economic woes and bloody jihadist conflict.

Adama Ben Diarra, a leader of the so-called June 5 opposition movement, told AFP they would protest following Friday’s prayers at around 2 pm (local) in the capital Bamako.

Earlier on Thursday Mahmoud Dicko, an influential imam who has emerged as one of the leaders of the movement, indicated a protest planned for Friday would go ahead.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012, before spreading to the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict to date, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes.

On Wednesday evening, Keita proposed in a televised speech the appointment of new judges to the country’s constitutional court, which has been at the centre of controversy since April.

Following a long-delayed parliamentary poll in March — which Keita’s party won — the court overturned the provisional results for about 30 seats on April 29, in a decision that triggered protests in several Malian cities.

The move saw several members from Keita’s party elected to the parliament, and is viewed by many as having ignited Mali’s latest political crisis.

But Keita, who has been in power since 2013, suggested in his speech on Wednesday that new constitutional court judges could revisit that decision.

– ‘Failed speech’ –
The embattled president’s attempt to appease Mali’s growing opposition movement appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

One protest leader, Moussa Sinko Coulibay, tweeted Thursday the speech had “completely failed”.

“We massively invite women (to demonstrate). President IBK has not met our expectations,” the leader of the women’s wing of the protests, Fatoumara Oulare, said Thursday.

Malian singer Salif Keita also tweeted a call to protest on Friday.

The president is on increasingly shaky political ground as protests continue, alarming the international community which is keen to avoid Mali sliding into chaos.

The 75-year-old has mooted several reforms since demonstrations began in a bid to appease protesters, such as the formation of a new national unity government.

Last week, opposition leaders said they wanted to engage in dialogue with the president, dropping demands for his resignation in favour of the dissolution of parliament and the establishment of a transition government.

Since then, back-and-forth talks between the opposition and Keita have failed to achieve a breakthrough, however, with the president refusing to dissolve parliament.

 

 

-AFP

Ivory Coast PM Amadou Gon Coulibaly Dies At 61

Ivory Coast Prime Minister and ruling party's candidate in the October 2020 presidential election Amadou Gon Coulibaly, wearing a protective face mask, delivers a speech to members of the government upon his arrival at Felix Houphouet Boigny Airport after "recovering" in France following heart problems in Abdijan on July 2, 2020. (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)
Ivory Coast Prime Minister and ruling party’s candidate in the October 2020 presidential election Amadou Gon Coulibaly, wearing a protective face mask, delivers a speech to members of the government upon his arrival at Felix Houphouet Boigny Airport after “recovering” in France following heart problems in Abdijan on July 2, 2020. (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)

 

 

Ivory Coast Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who was the ruling party’s candidate for October’s presidential election, died on Wednesday aged 61, the presidency said.

“I am deeply saddened to announce that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the head of government, left us early this afternoon after taking part in a cabinet meeting,” Patrick Achi, secretary-general to the Ivory Coast presidency, said on public television.

Coulibaly returned to the Ivory Coast last week after a two-month absence in France to receive medical treatment for recurring heart problems.

He was announced as the candidate for President Alassane Ouattara’s party in early March, after Ouattara ended months of speculation and said he would not seek a controversial third term.

“I pay tribute to my younger brother, my son Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who was my closest collaborator for 30 years,” Ouattara said in a statement.

“I salute the memory of a statesman, a man of great loyalty, dedication and love for his homeland,” he added.

Following the closure of Ivory Coast’s borders due to the coronavirus pandemic, Coulibaly — who had a heart transplant in 2012 — travelled to France on May 2 for medical care.

He received a stent about a week after arriving in France following an exam of his coronary arteries.

“I am back to take my place by the side of the president, to continue the task of developing and building our country, Ivory Coast,” Coulibaly said on arrival at the airport in the country’s main city Abidjan last Thursday.

 

AFP

Reps Seek Ban Of Foreign Herdsmen Into Nigeria

A file photo of lawmakers during plenary at the House of Representatives chamber in Abuja.

 

The House of Representatives has urged the Federal Government to stop the entry of herdsmen into the country from other African countries.

The matter was raised at plenary on Tuesday, after Rep. Ndudi Elumelu (PDP-Delta), moved a motion urging the government to ban the entry of herdsmen into Nigeria.

It was, thereafter, unanimously adopted by the House.

According to the lawmakers, herdsmen have been on rampage, destroying farmlands and killing innocent Nigerians.

They also noted that they are aware that security agencies have consistently said the herdsmen come from neighbouring African countries.

Read Also: Ganduje Calls On FG To Ban Entry Of Herdsmen From Other African Countries

The appeal is coming days after the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, called on the Federal Government to put a stop to the movement of herdsmen from other African countries into Nigeria.

This, according to him would help to curb the rate of crime attached to the Fulani-herders conflicts across the country.

The governor, therefore, on Tuesday, thanked the lawmakers for lending their voice to the request, and described their actions as “apt and patriotic”.

Senegal Launches Huge Aid Scheme Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Food is stored in the courtyard of the community hotel in Yenn on April 28, 2020. – Senegal on April 28, 2020, kicked off a massive food distribution operation to help nearly half of its population cope with the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is slowing down the economy of this West African country. Seyllou / AFP.

 

A man in Senegal’s coastal capital Dakar lifts a sack of rice onto a donkey cart, ready to take home much-needed essentials as coronavirus cases increase across the country.

He is an early beneficiary of one of West Africa’s biggest aid programmes for softening the impact of coronavirus restrictions.

Senegal has shut its borders, banned travel between cities and imposed a strict dusk-to-dawn curfew in a bid to curb the contagion, also mandating mask-wearing in government and commercial sites.

But 40 percent of the country’s roughly 16 million people live in poverty, often working in precarious informal jobs, and the restrictions have hit them hard.

Government-chartered lorries have been hauling supplies to the working-class Dakar suburb of Guinaw-Rails, where the first families received the aid on Tuesday.

Individual aid packages are lined up in the backyard of a cultural centre, each containing 100 kilos (220 pounds) of rice and 10 kilos of soap, as well as sugar, cooking oil and pasta.

Some 60 people were at the pickup point on Tuesday out of about 3,200 people covered under the scheme in Guinaw-Rails, which lies beside a disused railway track some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the centre.

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An official from the community development ministry on the scene said that the aid was being carefully handed out to 30 households each time in order to maintain social distancing.

“Each household will be summoned at a specific time,” he said.

The government has mobilised 888 lorries to transport provisions to all corners of the country, in a scheme worth 69 million CFA francs ($114 million, 105 million euros).

Set to benefit are one million households, comprising a projected eight to 10 million people in total.

Alongside the government handout, private companies, religious groups and local authorities are also making donations to struggling Senegalese.

– ‘No salary’ –

Ami Sakho, a 37-year-old fishmonger who has not worked since the beginning of the outbreak, was among the first people to receive her package on Tuesday.

“I can no longer leave (the house) because of this disease,” she said, noting that she had eight children and a jobless polygamous husband.

Sakho added she was pleased the “aid is going to the people in need”, although many in the country have feared the resources would be siphoned off.

Diarra Ndiaye, a school teacher of about 40, had also come to collect her provisions.

“This aid will relieve us. My husband is a carpenter but now, he stops work earlier,” she said, referring to the curfew.

“We have no salary. I have six children with my husband, who has two wives,” she added.

Before the aid handout, reports of suspected corruption linked to the scheme were widespread on social media.

But at a brief ceremony on Tuesday, Senegal’s Community Development Minister Mansour Faye dismissed the allegations, saying that the donations would proceed “by the book,” and that he had received no complaints so far.

“This is a very large operation, of great complexity,” he said, while urging people to maintain social-distancing measures.

— Spreading disease —

Senegal has recorded 823 coronavirus cases to date, with 9 fatalities — a low number relative to the outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

But authorities are increasingly concerned about an uptick in cases of community transmission, or cases which cannot be traced to known infections.

Such cases are an indicator that the outbreak may be bigger than detected.

Authorities detected one community-transmission case this week, who, alone, managed to infect 25 people, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry has previously warned that market traders — some of whom have defied travel restrictions — are particularly exposed to the virus.

Their people-oriented profession means they are also primed to spread the disease if they have it.

Despite increasing cases and government health messaging, violations of anti-virus measures remain common in Dakar.

At the start of Ramadan, for example, many of the faithful crowded in markets or in front of bakeries to break their fast, often without wearing the compulsory face mask.

AFP

Benin Republic Confirms First Coronavirus Case

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP.

 

West Africa’s Benin on Monday announced its first confirmed coronavirus case as the continent scrambles to stop the spread of the global pandemic.

Health minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said a man coming from neighbouring Burkina Faso had tested positive, having recently visited Belgium.

Health Minister Benjamin Hounkpatin said a man from neighbouring Burkina Faso, who had recently visited Belgium, tested positive after arriving in Benin.

READ ALSO: Liberia Confirms First Case Of Coronavirus

The announcement comes as numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa have begun imposing entry restrictions or closing schools and banning public gatherings.

AFP

Togo Goes To Polls As President Seeks Likely Fourth Term

An usher holds an example of a ballot paper with a fingerprint marked next to the picture of Togolese President and presidential candidate of the ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party Faure Gnassingbe during a campaign rally in Dapaong, 
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

 

Togo went to the polls Saturday in an election widely expected to see President Faure Gnassingbe claim a fourth term in power and extend his family’s half-century domination of the West African nation. 

The incumbent, 53, has led the country of eight million since 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.

In Lome, some voters were out early to cast their vote in the hope the election may bring much-needed change.

“We suffer too much in Togo, this time it has to change,” said Eric, a driver in his 30s, near a voting centre.

“I am not going to tell you who I will vote for, but this time we don’t want to be cheated of victory,” he said, adding that he would return in the evening to watch over the counting after polls close at 1600 GMT.

READ ALSO: Libyan Commander Ready To Fight Turkish Forces If Peace Talks Fail

Elsewhere, ruling party supporter Balakebawi Agbang urged people “to turn out in force to make the right choice” so the government can continue its work.

The authorities faced major protests in 2017 and 2018 demanding an end to five decades of a dynastic rule that have failed to lift many out of poverty.

But the demonstrations petered out in the face of government repression and squabbles among the opposition.

Last year, Gnassingbe pushed through constitutional changes allowing him to run again — and potentially remain in office until 2030.

The current president has sought to distance himself from his father but his regime still maintains a stranglehold over the country and its financial resources.

“I don’t feel like a dictator,” Gnassingbe told AFP in an interview.

Critics insist the vote will not be free and fair and the authorities have banned a civil society coalition and the Catholic Church from fielding observers.

The president is hoping to win a resounding victory in the first round but turnout could be low if opposition supporters stay away, as many have said they will.

Results are expected in the coming days.

Stability and security are central to Gnassingbe’s message as Togo eyes the jihadist violence rocking its neighbour Burkina Faso to the north.

The country has so far managed to prevent the bloodshed spilling over and its army and intelligence service are among the most effective in the region.

The president has also made a major play of a programme that aims to provide the entire population with power by 2030 and is pledging to create 500,000 jobs for young people.

But after 53 years of his family’s rule, the country still remains deeply impoverished.

The World Bank says that around half of the population live on under $1.90 (1.76 euros) per day.

Even so, the six challengers lining up against Gnassingbe face a mammoth task to persuade the 3.6 million registered voters to oust him.

Veteran candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre came second at the last two elections but the 67-year old has failed to keep the opposition united.

Agbeyome Kodjo, who served as prime minister under Gnassingbe’s father, is seen as a potential dark horse after winning the backing of an influential Catholic archbishop.

One name not on the ballot is Tikpi Atchadam, a politician from second city Sokode who shot to prominence in 2017 at the head of anti-government protests.

But he fled Togo for Ghana in the face of a crackdown by the authorities on his supporters and has seen his influence dwindle.

AFP

Terrorist Attack: ‘We Will Stand With You’, Buhari Tells Burkina Faso

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has assured the government and people of Burkina Faso that their bothers in Nigeria and the West African subregion will not abandon them to their fate.

According to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari, on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president said this in reaction to Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 35 citizens.

He described the incident as a cowardly act, adding that it remains condemned by reasonable opinion all over the world.

Speaking further, President Buhari recalled his meeting last weekend with the country’s President, Roch Marc Christian Kabore on the sidelines of the ECOWAS meeting, during which both leaders agreed to hold a summit in the new year to discuss the issues of security and economy.

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“I look forward to that meeting,” the President said, adding that “as we have done all the time, we will stand with our brothers and sisters in West Africa in all situations.”

Meanwhile, President Buhari commended the Burkinabe troops for their efforts in repelling the attack and prayed for the repose of the souls of those killed.