Posts tagged ‘Benin’

AFRICA: Nigerian Election Delayed; Boko Haram Making More Enemies

Election Postponed.

Nigerian flag (CIA World Factbook)

Nigerian flag
(CIA World Factbook)

Nigerians were supposed to go to the polls Saturday (February 14) to elect a president but officials have delayed the election for six weeks — ostensibly to allow more time for multi-national forces can secure areas battered by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The closely contested election will now be held March 28, the election agency told a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, last Saturday night (February 7).

The delay has generated criticism from the opponents of the ruling party  who are trying to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan. It has also generated speculation around the world about the real reason for the delay. Jonathan, a Chrisitian from southern Nigeria, who has been plagued by the Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and abducted hundreds of schoolgirls, is running against former general Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled the country as a military dictator in the early 1980s. Buhari, a Muslim from the north, has promised to crush Boko Haram and end corruption.

According to the New York Times, the delay was ordered after weeks of pressure to postpone it from the ruling party, which analysts say was facing potential defeat for the first time in more than 15 years. The country’s northeastern region has been in the grip of an Islamist insurgency waged by the extremist group, Boko Haram, for more than five years. Nigeria’s military has been unable to contain the violence but it was not immediately clear how the situation might change in the coming six weeks.

Darren Kew, a Nigeria expert at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told the Times: “This is a sign of panic on the part of supporters of the president and the ruling party. The real reason behind it is the opposition is surging right now.”

Washington said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision to postpone the election. “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement  (February 7), adding that “it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process. The international community will be watching closely as the Nigerian government prepares for elections on the newly scheduled dates. The United States underscores the importance of ensuring that there are no further delays.”

Buhari called for calm in the country and cautioned against any violence following the election postponement, which he said was engineered by the ruling People’s Democratic Party.  Foreign powers are closely following events in Africa’s biggest economy and have voiced concerns there could be a repetition of violence that followed 2011 elections when 800 people died and that a delay would stoke unrest in opposition strongholds, Reuters reported.

Jonathan denied he was consulted over the postponement of Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections. He said election officials took the decision on the advice of security officers concerned about the Islamist-led insurgency in the north-east, BBC reported. The six-week delay was not a “big deal, Jonathan said on national television.

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Uniting Against Boko Haram

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

While it struggles politically as well as militarily against Boko Haram, Nigeria’s neighbors are uniting to counter the radical Islamist group, after it has launched cross border attacks into Cameroon and Niger.

Niger, the latest Nigerian neighbor to come under attack, has joined Cameroon, Chad and Benin to form a multi-national force to suppress Boko Haram.  Those countries agreed with Nigeria last weekend to send a joint force of 8,700 troops to fight the violent extremist group, which has killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds more in its bid to carve out an Islamic state in the region. Niger’s parliament voted unanimously to deploy trrops in northern Nigeria.

On Monday (February 9), Boko Haram bombed the southeaster Nigerien town of Diffa, killing five people – its third attack there in four days, according to The Guardian. Boko Haram also carried out raids in neighboring Cameroon, kidnapping a bus full of passengers.

Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram operates. (Wikipedia)

Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram operates.

Thousands of civilians fled their homes in Diffa this week, officials said Thursday (February 12), following waves of cross-border raids and suicide bombings by Boko Haram. Attacks in Niger are deepening a humanitarian crisis in the remote border zone, according to the Voice of America. The area, struggling to feed 150,000 people who have fled from violence in northern Nigeria, has seen about 7,000 arrive this week in Zinder, Niger’s second-biggest town, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Diffa.

Meanwhile, Niger’s military said its forces had killed 260 Boko Haram militants and had arrested others in fighting since February 6. A suspected local leader of the group was arrested, and rocket launchers and other weapons were seized at his home.

At least seven people have been killed by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up at a crowded market in northeast Nigeria, according to witnesses and officials, Al Jazeera reported. The mid-afternoon attack Thursday (February 12) in Biu, 180 kilometers (111 miles) south of the Borno state capital Maiduguri, is the latest in a spate of similar attacks in the region. Boko Haram was suspected in the attack.

The group as been blamed for using women and young girls as human bombs as part of its deadly campaign to create an Islamic state in the country’s far northeast.

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria, Mali-Chad-Algeria, Rhino Poaching, Guinea-Bissau, Benin

Boko Haram Attack

Nigeria(CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

Nigerian security forces say they repelled an attack on a military base by the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, killing 20 militants. An Army spokesman told the Voice of America that the attack occurred today (March 3) in the village of Monguno (also spelled Munguno) about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Maiduguri (see map) on the country’s northeast.

Nigeria’s Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Order said three four-wheeled drive vehicles and eight motorcycles were used in the attack, according to the Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper group (via the All Africa website). Army spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa was quoted as saying AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from the attackers by government troops.

There was no mention of civilian or military casualties. The Associated Press reported that witnesses said the attack also killed a village leader. It came just two days after the release of a video purportedly made by Boko Haram’s leader, saying the anti-Western group – which wants to impose Islamic law in Nigeria – will not call off its attacks until sharia becomes the law of Nigeria.

Did Chadians Score Again?

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

Did soldiers from Chad — who are assisting French troops battling radical Islamist insurgents in the mountains of Mali — kill the mastermind of last month’s hostage-taking attack at an Algerian gas plant?

On Saturday, the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, said his troops killed about 40 militants in a stronghold near the Algerian border, Reuters reported. Among the dead, it was claimed, was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed commander of an al Qaeda affiliate who claimed responsibility for the attack on the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria. More than 60 people were killed during the hostage siege and final rescue/assault by Algerian troops in January. That al Qaeda attack came just days after the French launched a military intervention in Mali at the government’s request.

If true, the news of Belmokhtar’s it would be “a major blow to al Qaeda in the region and to Islamist rebels forced to flee towns they had seized in northern Mali by an offense by French and African troops,” Reuters said March 2.

But now ther commander of Chad’s troops in Mali says he can’t confirm the terror leader’s death in the assault on the stronghold. “It is certain that some leaders were killed. But I can’t confirm that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed, Gen. Oumar Bikomo told the New York Times.

But the general was more certain about the death of another al Qaeda-linked commander, Adelhamid Abou Zeid, which Chad officials reported Friday.

Meanwhile, a third French soldier has been killed in the military intervention in Mali called Operation Serval.

Fighting in Mali's Ametettai Valley.(Copyright Ministre de la Defense)

Fighting in Mali’s Ametettai Valley.
(Copyright Ministre de la Defense)

Imaginative Rhino Protection

White Rhinos in Namibia (Photo by Ikiwaner via Wikipedia)

White Rhinos in Namibia
(Photo by Ikiwaner via Wikipedia)

Illegal poaching of the wild African rhinoceros for its incredibly valuable horn is pushing the beast toward extinction and that’s pushing environmentalists to come up with some unusual solutions to the problem.

Writing in the journal Science, four leading environmental scientists are suggesting legalizing the rhino horn trade as a way to regulate and control it, Reuters reports. There is an incredible black market for rhino horn, an ingredient in traditional Chinese folk medicine. Prices have climbed from about $4,700 per kilogram ($2,132 per pound) in 1993 to around $65,000 per kilo ($29,485 per pound) today, the scientists said.

There are only 5,00 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left — mostly in South Africa and Namibia — even though a 1977 treaty banned the international trade in rhino horns.

Instead, the scientists say, “the time has come for a highly regulated legal trade in horn.”

Meanwhile, Google and the World Wildlife Fund are teaming up to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over parts of Africa and Asia to monitor and catch poachers who kill endangered tigers, elephants and yes, rhinos, according to news reports.

The WWF is already flying small hand-launched drones over national parks in Nepal. Now Google is giving the environmental protection group a $5 million grant to expand their use of drones and other high tech devices like wildlife tagging and analytical software.

Countering Coups

Guinea-Bissau(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

The 15-member West African trading bloc, known as ECOWAS, is giving the interim government in coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau seven more months to prepare for national elections.

The tiny West African nation was wracked by a military coup days before a presidential election last April, prompting international partners like the European Union to freeze aid for the former Portuguese colony. The military gave power back to an ingterim civilian government headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo last May in a deal brokered by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).

Elections were supposed to be held in May 2013 but the heads of state of ECOWAS nations, meeting in Ivory Coast, extended the transitional period in Guinea-Bissau until Dec. 31, Reuters reported, to give Nhamadjo more time to set up the election machinery before the end of the year.

Guinea-Bissau is said to be a major transit hub for South American dug cartels moving narcotics to Europe, Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, officials in another small est African nation say they have foiled an attempted coup.

Authorities in Benin said Sunday (March 3) that a plot to oust President Thomas Boni Yayi and install a military regime has been thwarted, according to Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper.

In a statement read to journalists Sunday, State Prosecutor, Justin Gbenameto, said a Colonel and a businessman were arrested for plotting “to block the Head of State from returning to Cotonou”[Benin’s capital] after his trip [to meet with South American leaders in Equitorial Guinea] “and to institute a military regime,” The Guardian website said.

March 4, 2013 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Pirate Attacks Decline Off Somalia, but Rising in West Africa

Good News/Bad News

Updates photo caption to clarify nature of burning vessel.

Somalia Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Pirate attacks by Somali pirates have fallen to their lowest level since 2009, an international piracy monitoring group says, but violent attacks and ship hijackings are on the rise off the coast of West Africa, the Paris-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) adds.

The IMB says that in the first nine months of 2012, there were 70 attacks on ships in and around Somali waters, compared with 199 for the same period last year. And for the third quarter (July-September) only one ship reported an attempted attack by suspected Somali pirates compared to to 36 incidents for the same three-month period in 2011.

Worldwide, six crew members have been killed and 448 seafarers have been taken hostage by pirates, according to the IMB report. The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre said 125 ships were boarded, 24 were hijacked and 26 were fired upon during the first nine months of 2012. Additionally, 58 attempted attacks were reported. For the year through September, there were 233 incidents worldwide. The most recent incident occurred Wednesday (Oct. 24, see photo).

The IMB, a unit of the International Chamber of Commerce, has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.

A suspected pirate ship burns off the coast of Somalia after being fired upon by the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam, the flagship for NATO’s Ocean Shield counter-piracy mission. The Rotterdam opened fire when the pirate ship and suspected pirates ashore began shooting at a boarding party from the Dutch ship coming to inspect the suspicious fishing dhow on Oct. 24, 2012. (NATO courtesy photo)

As of September 30, 11 vessels were being held for ransom by suspected Somali pirates along with 188 crew members held hostage on land or aboard ship.

The IMB says the drop in piracy incidents around the Horn of Africa (see map above) is due to stepped up policing and interventions by international navies — including the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, NATO and Combined Task Force 151 — and individual ships’ use of armed guards and other onboard security measures.

Gulf of Guinea

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

But it’s a different story in West Africa where piracy and kidnapping are growing problems, the IMB says. In the Gulf of Guinea there were 34 incidents between January 1 and September 30 — up from 30 last year. The IMB said attacks are often violent and aimed at stealing refined oil products which can be easily sold on the open market. Togo reported three vessels hijacked, two boarded and six reported attempted attacks. One ship was hijacked and another boarded off Benin. There were 21 attacks reported by Nigerian authorities: nine vessels were boarded, four were hijacked and seven fired upon. There was also one attempted attack.

IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan commended the Nigerian Navy for its reaction in a number of incidents where it played a key role in rescuing ships from pirates. The full report can be found here, but note it has strict copyright restrictions on being reprinted.

October 25, 2012 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Pirates Release Tanker and Crew

Captain, Crew Safe

Pirates operating off the West Coast of Africa have released a hijacked oil tanker and her crew, Reuters reports.

The ship, identified as the Cyprus-flagged, Spanish-owned Mattheos 1 tanker, was taken by pirates Sept. 14 in the Gulf of Guinea about 62 nautical miles southwest of port of Cotonou in Benin, Reuters said, quoting the Spanish foreign ministry.

The mostly Filipino and Cypriot crew of 23 was released with only one seaman injured. Five Spaniards and the ship’s Peruvian captain also were released.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, says attacks by armed pirates are increasing in the Gulf of Guinea near Cotonou, Benin’s commercial capital.

CIA World Factbook

September 26, 2011 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: Benin Seeks Patrol Planes and Boats

Piracy surging off West Africa

A Benin patrol boat escorts the Belgian navy command and logistical support ship BNS Godetia (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen).

The West African nation of Benin is looking to acquire aircraft and patrol boats to combat piracy off its waters.

James Knight, the U.S. ambassador to Benin, tells Reuters the country is looking to the U.S. and France for assistance in buying one or two patrol aircraft. Additionally, Knight says Benin is negotiating with France to acquire three patrol boats to supplement the two 27-foot patrol craft it received from the U.S. last year.

While pirates in the waters off Somalia in East Africa have garnered the world’s attention, officials say piracy is on the rise on Africa’s west coast in the Gulf of Guinea where ships carry oil, metals and agricultural products to world markets. Benin and neighboring Nigeria have reported more than 20 pirate incidents this year, according to the Guardian, a British newspaper. That’s small compared to more than 160 attacks off the Horn of Africa, but still indicates a growing problem.

“Armed pirates are violent,” says the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, and in some incidents around Benin, “pirates fired at ships.”

August 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment


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