Thursday, 20th January 2022

West Africa

Articles related to West Africa

Soldiers who seized power in a military coup Sunday in Guinea announced on state TV that President Alpha Conde has not been harmed.

A representative of the National Committee for Rally and Development (CNRD) said that Conde has access to health care and is in touch with his doctors.

The official made the announcement from the headquarters of the state TV, surrounded by uniformed men. 

The soldiers in the West African nation detained Conde after hours of heavy gunfire rang out near the presidential palace in the capital, then announced on state television that the government had been dissolved in an apparent coup d’etat.

Conde’s whereabouts had been unknown for hours after the intense fighting Sunday in downtown Conakry until a video emerged showing the 83-year-old leader tired and disheveled in military custody.

In their statement, the junta gave no timeline for releasing him other than to do say: “Everything will be fine. When the time comes, we will issue a statement."

They announced plans to replace Guinea's governors and mayors with regional commanders.

The CNRD said that a nationwide curfew was in effect from 8 p.m. local time "until further notice" and said they had invited "Outgoing ministers and former presidents of a meeting tomorrow".

However, they also said that declining this invitation would be "considered a rebellion" against the country's new military leaders.

Conde, in power for more than a decade, had seen his popularity plummet since he sought a third term last year, saying that term limits did not apply to him.

Sunday's dramatic developments underscored how dissent had mounted within the military as well.



West Africa has recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began as several countries grapple with outbreaks of cholera, Ebola Virus Disease and Marburg Virus Disease that threaten to further strain the already stretched emergency response capacity in the region.

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 fatalities in West Africa over the past four weeks increased by 193% from 348 in the previous four weeks to 1018 in the week ending on 15 August.

Although the case fatality ratio, or the proportion of people diagnosed with the disease who have died, stands at 1.4%—below the continental average of 2.5%—it is higher than the previous two waves in the sub-region, a sign that health systems are feeling the strain of a heavy caseload. While new cases in West Africa have dropped this week, they were surging for eight consecutive weeks.

Overall Africa recorded over 244 000 new cases in the week ending on 15 August, an 11% drop from the week before and a second straight week of declining cases. However, nine out of 23 countries experiencing a resurgence are in West Africa. Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Nigeria are experiencing a surge in cases and all three countries are tackling other outbreaks.

West Africa health systems are even more fragile than those in other sub-regions. A World Health Organisation assessment of the functionality of health systems in West Africa found that they were 21% lower than in Southern Africa,

“We are particularly concerned about West Africa and we can expect the pressure of COVID-19 to hit health services harder and faster,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “In addition to the strain of COVID-19, comes Ebola and other outbreaks. Fighting multiple outbreaks is a complex challenge.”


Pirates off Nigeria's coast kidnapped 15 sailors from a Turkish container ship on Saturday, in a brazen and violent attack that was farther from shore than usual.

One sailor, an Azerbaijani citizen, was killed in the raid, while those kidnapped are from Turkey, according to the respective governments and a crew list seen by Reuters.
Accounts from crew, family members and security sources described a sophisticated and well-orchestrated attack, in which armed pirates boarded the ship and breached its protective citadel, possibly with explosives.
Three sailors remain on the Mozart ship, which by Sunday evening was receiving assistance in Gabonese waters off central Africa.
"The ship is in our waters and our sailors are assisting a few nautical miles from Port Gentil," said Gabon's presidency spokesman Jessye Ella Ekogha, without providing further detail.
The Liberian-flagged vessel was headed to Cape Town from Lagos when it was attacked in the Gulf of Guinea, 160 kilometers (100 miles) off Sao Tome island on Saturday, maritime reports showed.
The ship's fourth captain, Furkan Yaren, had been "cruising blindly" toward Gabon with damage to the ship's controls and only the radar working, according to state-run news agency Anadolu. The pirates beat crew members, and left him with an injured leg while another still aboard the ship had shrapnel wounds, Yaren said.
Turkish media cited Istanbul-based ship owner Boden company as saying the owners and operators of the vessel were abducted at gunpoint. Boden was not immediately available.
Ambrey, a security company, said four armed men boarded the Mozart and entered the citadel -- where crew are advised to hide in any attack -- from a deck atop the cabin.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's office said on Sunday he was orchestrating officials in the "rescue of kidnapped ship personnel." Erdogan spoke twice by phone with Yaren, who remained aboard after the attack, his office said.
Edward Yeibo, a Nigerian Navy commander, said he was not aware of the attack and was seeking details. The Lagos naval command office and a spokesman for Nigeria's maritime regulator were not immediately available.

Game changer

Pirates in the Gulf, which borders more than a dozen countries, kidnapped 130 sailors in 22 incidents last year, accounting for all but five of those seized worldwide, according to an International Maritime Bureau report.
The attack on the Mozart could raise international pressure on Nigeria to do more to protect shippers, which have called for tougher action in recent weeks, analysts said.
"The fact that someone died, the number of people taken and the apparent use of explosives to breach the ship's citadel means it is a potential game-changer," said David Johnson, CEO of the UK-based EOS Risk Group.
"It's clearly quite sophisticated and if pirates have decided to use munitions it's a big move," he said. There is "no doubt" those kidnapped will be taken back to Nigeria's Delta and Turkey will have little hope stopping it, he added.
Turkey's foreign ministry said the pirates had not made any contact with Ankara.
Seyit Kaya, brother of the ship's kidnapped 42-year-old captain Mustafa Kaya, a father of two, said in an interview he awaited details from the ship's owner on any possible ransom.
"Since that area is where many attacks take place, they take cautions against pirates," said Kaya, who is also a sailor.

Gunmen on motorcycles attacked a village near Niger’s troubled border with Mali, shooting at people as they prayed at the mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and killing 19 people, officials said Sunday.

The attack took place Saturday evening in the village of Gaigorou in Niger’s Tillaberi region, which has come under repeated attack by suspected Islamic militants since January.

Niger’s government called a “cowardly attack by people who claim to be Muslims,” and sent the interior and defence ministers to visit the wounded.

“The government will continue to fight the terrorists without weakness,” Defence Minister Alkassoum Indatou told residents in western Niger on Sunday.

Islamic extremists aligned with the Islamic State group have long been active in Niger, and suspicion quickly fell on the militants earlier this year after gunmen began staging a series of large-scale attacks on civilians near the Malian border.

It began with a January attack on two villages that killed at least 100 people. The following month 237 more were killed in a series of attacks at the hands of armed gunmen aboard motorcycles.

There have been no claims of responsibility for the wave of attacks.

Not only are jihadis active in the Tillaberi region, but the counterterrorism offensives against those extremists have helped give rise to ethnic militias, analysts say. Intercommunal tensions have been exacerbated as a result, particularly near the border between Mali and Niger.

The mounting violence poses a strong threat to Niger’s newly inaugurated President Mohamed Bazoum. He was sworn into office earlier this month only days after security forces thwarted an attempted military coup at the presidential palace in the capital of Niamey.


The United States on Monday placed Nigeria on a religious freedom blacklist, paving the way for potential sanctions if it does not improve its record. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the U.S. ally — for the first time — as a "Country of Particular Concern" for religious freedom, alongside nations that include China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. 

Pompeo did not elaborate on the reasons for including Nigeria, which has a delicate balance between Muslims and Christians. 

But U.S. law requires such designations for nations that either engage in or tolerate "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom." 

Pompeo notably did not include India, which has a growing relationship with Washington, and was infuriated by a recommendation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to include the secular but Hindu-majority nation over what it called a sharp downward turn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Other nations on the blacklist are Eritrea, Myanmar, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. 

Areas of concern 

Pompeo removed from a second tier watchlist both Uzbekistan and Sudan, whose relations with the United States have rapidly warmed after the ousting of dictator Omar al-Bashir and its recent agreement to recognize Israel. 

On Nigeria, an annual State Department report published earlier this year took note of concerns both at the federal and state levels. 

It pointed to the mass detention of members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, a Shi'ite Muslim group that has been at loggerheads with the government for decades and was banned by a court.  

FILE - Nigerian police officers patrol in the streets of Abuja during clashes with members of the Shi'ite Islamic Movement of Nigeria, July 22, 2019.

The group has taken inspiration from Iran, ordinarily a major target of President Donald Trump's administration.  

However, Nigeria has been widely criticized for its treatment of the movement, including in a 2015 clash in which hundreds were said to have died. 

The State Department report highlighted the arrests of Muslims for eating in public in Kano state during Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast during daylight hours. 

It also took note of the approval of a bill in Kaduna state to regulate religious preaching. 

Improve or face sanctions 

While the designations relate to government actions, the State Department has already listed Nigeria's Boko Haram as a terrorist group. 

The militants began an insurgency in 2009 in northeastern Nigeria that has since spread to neighboring countries, killing more than 36,000 people and forcing 3 million to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. 

Under U.S. law, nations on the blacklist must make improvements or face sanctions, including losses of U.S. government assistance, although the administration can waive actions. 


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