The European Union on Monday added three Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist commanders in West Africa to its terrorist sanctions blacklist for attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso.
The new asset freezes and visa bans target Sidan Ag-Hitta and Salem ould Breihmatt, senior commanders within the UN-listed Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM) in Mali, as well as its Burkinabe branch Ansarul Islam and its leader Jafar Dicko.
“The sanctioned group and individuals are responsible for several terrorist attacks, including against civilians, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and defence and security forces in Burkina Faso,” the EU said.
“Their activities contribute to the expansion of the terrorist threat in Western Africa and therefore pose a serious and continued threat to the EU and to regional and international stability.”
The move takes to 13 people and four groups the number of targets now on the EU’s blacklist against Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
West African foreign ministers will arrive in Guinea on Friday to evaluate the situation after a military coup in the country, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister Alpha Barry said Thursday.
The foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo will visit as representatives of the West Africa bloc ECOWAS, said Barry, a member of the delegation.
On Wednesday ECOWAS suspended Guinea from its ranks after the military coup on Sunday when special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya seized power and arrested President Alpha Conde, sparking international condemnation.
Conde, 83, had come under increasing fire for perceived authoritarianism, with dozens of opposition activists arrested after a violently disputed election last year.
But the putsch in Guinea has sparked fears of democratic backsliding across West Africa — where military strongmen are an increasingly familiar sight.
It has drawn parallels with its neighbour Mali. The Sahel state has suffered two coups since August last year led by Colonel Assimi Goita, who was also a special forces commander.
On Wednesday Barry had announced the 15-nation ECOWAS would send a “high-level mission” to Guinea to review the situation.
So far the West African bloc has imposed no economic sanctions on Guinea.
When faced with a similar predicament in Mali last year, ECOWAS imposed economic sanctions on the country but lifted them after Mali’s ruling military committed to restoring civilian rule.
Doumbouya, hours after taking power in Conakry, appeared on television and accused the Conde government of “endemic corruption” and of “trampling on citizens’ rights”.
He has pledged to open talks on forming a new government, but it is not yet clear when, or under what form, these may take place.
The coup leader has also sought to reassure the business community, alarmed over the potential for disruptions in commodity supply chains.
Mining is the economic backbone of Guinea, which has abundant mineral resources, from bauxite and iron ore to gold and diamonds
Guinea will continue to uphold “all its undertakings and mining agreements”, the coup leader said Monday
The putsch followed a long period of political tension in Guinea, first spurred by Conde’s highly contested bid for a third presidential term last year.
The military coup was met with jubilation in some parts of Conakry, where residents turned out on the streets to applaud passing soldiers.
Opposition figures reacted angrily on Tuesday after Ivory Coast’s top court rejected 40 candidates for upcoming presidential elections, validating the contested bid of head of state Alassane Ouattara but sidelining his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo.
Tensions in the West African state are running high ahead of the October 31 polls — more than 3,000 people died in post-election violence in 2010-11.
One of the four accepted candidates, former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan, said the country was “descending into a spiral of exclusion”, a phenomenon he described as “the most consummate sign of the regime’s tyrannical nature.”
Nguessan, 67, served under Gbagbo and heads the party he founded, although he is struggling to win over loyalists who want the former president to be their flagbearer.
Gbagbo was forced out by Ouattara after a brief civil war following the elections in 2010 and was then prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity.
He was released by the ICC in January 2019 and lives in Brussels pending the outcome of an appeal against the ruling.
But Gbagbo’s application for the October 31 elections — submitted in his name by followers — was rejected by the Constitutional Council as he had been sentenced to a 20-year term in absentia last November over the looting of a regional bank during the post-election crisis.
Another notable rejection was an application by former rebel leader turned prime minister Guillaume Soro, 47, who fell out with Ouattara, and had been sentenced to 20-years in absentia over alleged embezzlement.
“The Constitutional Council missed a historic chance to show its independence,” Nguessan said in a statement.
He referred to a constitutional change in 2016 that enabled Ouattara to argue that the two-term limit on presidential tenure had been reset to zero — a rationale accepted by the court.
“It accepted the candidacy of the outgoing president, who is clearly ineligible, and refused those of Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, who have been deprived of their civic rights out of purely political opportunism,” Nguessan said.
– Violence fears –
Ouattara, 78, had initially said in March that he would not seek a third term but was forced into a U-turn just four months later when his preferred successor, prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack.
Violent protests against Ouattara’s candidacy left around 15 dead last month, reviving memories of the post-election bloodshed nearly a decade ago.
Clashes broke out in several Ivorian cities on Monday ahead of the announcement by the Constitutional Council, while on Tuesday, the police presence in Abidjan was beefed up and security forces reinforcements were sent out to other regions.
Soro, reacting on Twitter late Monday, called the Constitutional Council’s ruling “unjust and baseless”.
“It is an iniquitous decision, politically motivated, legally flawed, and part of a process of crushing democracy and the state of law,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter and Facebook.
He said he would hold a press conference on Thursday in France, where he lives.
The Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), whose champion, 86-year-old former president Henri Konan Bedie, has been allowed to contest the polls, made no immediate response to the court’s decision.
But it said it would boycott elections to the offices of local election commissions on September 15 — a reflection of its long-running anger at what it says is a rigged electoral system.
Ghana on Monday closed all schools and universities and suspended public events to stop the spread of coronavirus as a string of African nations imposed tighter restrictions to stem the spread of the global pandemic.
President Nana Akufo-Addo announced in an address to the West African nation that the authorities were shutting schools and universities “until further notice”.
Public gatherings — including conferences, religious services, sports matches and political rallies — have also been suspended for four weeks, he said.
Ghana on Sunday announced it would start barring entry to the country from Tuesday for any non-Ghanaian citizen or resident “who, within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases”.
The move came as the authorities reported a rise in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 from two to six, with the new cases all arrivals from abroad.
Numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa — including Senegal, Kenya and South Africa — have begun imposing entry restrictions or closing schools as the continent scrambles to halt the spread of the virus.
The United States has advised countries facing challenges of terrorism to take a cue from Nigeria in winning the war against global terrorism.
The U.S. Secretary of States, Mr Rex Tillerson, gave the recommendation on Thursday at the ‘Meeting of the Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS’ in Washington.
The meeting was convened at a time when the activities of terrorist groups across the globe were on the increase.
Experts identified sharing of ideas at different fora as an important step in winning the war against terror.
Mr Tillerson also noted that information sharing was one way countries could defeat terrorism, adding that Nigeria and West African countries have done well in sharing information which he said resulted in foiling a great number of attacks.
He asked countries that have challenges of domestic terror groups to build up their information sharing systems, just as Nigeria did to win the war against Boko Haram insurgency.
The U.S. Secretary of States, however, recounted with sadness the attacks on some countries by terrorists groups and proffered solution on how to tackle them.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonishakin, on his part pledged Nigeria’s resolve to mobilise resources in order to confront violent extremists.
The Charge d’ Affaires of Nigeria to the United States, Mr Hakeem Balogun, also highlighted the effects of the commendation on Nigeria.
The meeting was attended by representatives from 68 countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco and Somalia.
The organising committee has confirmed that the 2016 edition of the Korean Ambassador Cup will commence from Friday, December 8 to 10.
The organisers also announced that over 300 participants from the 36 states of the federation and friendly West African coast will be available to compete for honours in different weight categories, for the sparring (kyorugi and the forms (poomsaes).
The Chairman of the Main Organising Committee, who also doubles as the President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, Grandmaster George Ashiru, said the annual event sponsored by the Korean Cultural centre ‘with their other chosen partners’ is geared towards enhancing sports development and bilateral relations between Nigeria and South Korea.
He believes that in the absence of the National Sports Festival, the 2016 edition will provide an opportunity for the federation to raise a new national team for 2017 which is a world championship year.
According to information made available from the Secretariat of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, about 300 athletes made up of 50 teams have already arrived in Lagos for the competition set to kick off on Friday.
He said: “300 athletes with about 150 accompanying officials have already landed in Lagos and ready for the 2016 edition of the Korean Ambassador Cup.
“Ghana have already sent in three separate teams from three different provinces, Niger have sent in another set of athletes while Togo are reported to have their athletes on the road.
“But, we won’t count them as part of the competition until they arrive in Lagos.
“We do know that many states, the Armed forces and other para-military units as well as elite clubs are seriously gearing up to be for this event to ensure that their athletes are nationally ranked in preparation for a busy season in 2017”.
Apart from individual awards for participating athletes at the end of the competition, there will be a presentation of awards from the Korean Ambassador to former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, former Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Inuwa Wushishi (rtd) and other Nigerians for their immense contributions to Taekwondo development.
The government of Niger Republic has urged West African regional authorities to “rethink Boko Haram” and defeat the group in Nigeria.
This call was made by the country’s defence minister following the killing of seven security personnel and wounding of 12 others by suspected Boko Haram militants.
The incident reportedly occurred when the suspected terrorists attacked a village in Niger while a delegation of ministers were visiting the area on Friday.
The Nigerien government also asked its former colonial power France, to strengthen military operations against the Nigeria-based Boko Haram and other militants.
According to the country’s defence minister, the thinking that Boko Haram has been reduced to making suicide attacks is a mistake, as the group has rebuilt its forces, adding in his words, “we are dealing with an army”.
The Governor of Kebbi State is seeking collaboration among rice producing states if Nigeria would meet its target of rice production sufficiency in the shortest possible time.
Governor Abubakar Bagudu told a gathering in the state’s capital to mark Nigeria’s Democracy Day that the Federal Government’s initiative on patronising made in Nigeria goods especially in the agricultural sector, required such collaboration to enhance efficient rice production which had been identified as a major step towards achieving the objective.
Governor Bagudu said sufficiency in rice production could make Nigeria a major exporter of rice to neighbouring West African region.
The state government organised a town hall meeting and media chat to interact with the people and members of the press profession on the activities of the government in the last one year.
With the potential of the state in rice production and encouragement to farmers towards a high yield, Governor Bagudu wants other rice producing states to come together towards harnessing these potentials for maximum benefit.
The State government in pursuit of increasing its internally generated revenue is collaborating with the Lagos State Government and Memorandum of Understanding that will see the two states working towards improved economic activities.
As the country looks inward towards self-sufficient in food production particularly in the production of rice; the collaboration among rice producing states will go a long way in producing the long awaited Nigerian rice that will not only feed the Nigerian market but also take care of the West African market.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria say they are ready for the final group game against the Syli Nationale of Guinea as they seek to guarantee qualification for the quarter finals of the African Nations Championship.
The team had a feel of the match venue as they trained at the Rubavu stadium on Monday, having also trained there the previous day.
All 23 players who made the trip are in excellent physical and mental shape ahead of the crucial West African derby.
Victory by any margin would guarantee Nigeria top spot in Group C, and a quarter final date with the second placed team in Group D.
The Eagles already have four points having beaten Niger Republic 4-1 in their first match and played 1-1 with Tunisia in the second match.
Ghana’s President, John Mahama, has banned public officials from first class air travel in a renewed effort to cut wasteful spending as the West African nation implements an IMF aid deal to revive state finances, the government said on Tuesday.
Ghana is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016 and, with the opposition accusing government ministers of inflating contract sums, inappropriate spending will likely be a top campaign issue.
The presidency issued the directive this week asking all ministers and other top officials to avoid “unwarranted” foreign trips on the public purse, Communications Minister Edward Omane Boamah told Reuters.
Ghana, a major producer of cocoa, gold and oil, began a three-year program with the International Monetary Fund in April to fix its economy, which has been dogged by high deficits, a widening public debt and unstable local currency.
Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, told Reuters on Tuesday that the cabinet is also discussing a financial accountability bill which would impose penalties such as dismissal or jail time for public officials who are found to violate it.
“It is expected to be clear enough to enable the general public to see malfeasance if there is (any) and hold the agency involved accountable,” he added.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has assured ECOWAS member nations that Nigeria would remain steadfast in its commitment and support to democracy and good governance, insisting that a stable west Africa can only be strong and prosperous.
The President was speaking in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city at the opening session of the 48th session of the Economic Community of West Africa States and the 40th anniversary of the regional body.
The Nigerian President, who is playing host to the event observed that the organisation may have recorded concrete achievements, but still needed to grapple with the challenges that pose risk to the peace and security of West African people.
It is a summit designed to mark 40th years of the existence of the West African regional body. A body whose main focus is the integration of the people, as well as entrenchment of peace and development in West Africa.
The summit will hold for two days.
ECOWAS may have done well in regional integration, 40 years after, but there are still daunting challenges of insecurity, drug trafficking, cross border crime, terrorism and infrastructure problems.
The host President said these issues must be tackled going forward.
Many of the heads of government present were in France for the recent summit on climate change issues and President Buhari stressed that West Africa should not lose the lessons from the summit.
President of Senegal and the Chairman of ECOWAS Macky Sally and the President of ECOWAS Commission Kadre Ouedraogo, who spoke in French most of the time, commended the various efforts in peace issues, the effort to conquer Ebola and fight against terrorism.
Goodwill messages came from representatives of the United Nations Secretary General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.