Sunday, 20th May 2018

West Africa

Articles related to West Africa

The government of the West African state of Guinea resigned on Thursday ahead of an expected reshuffle, a day after opposition parties suspended protests over disputed elections.

"Prime Minister Mamady Youla presented his resignation and that of the whole government," minister of state and presidential spokesperson Kiridi Bangoura told the media.

The outgoing government will remain in charge of day-to-day tasks until a new government is drawn up, he said.

The resignation had long been expected under Guinea's presidential system. 

In March, President Alpha Conde - speaking against a backdrop of political protests and unrest in the education system - declared he would "listen to the silent majority" and "carry out a great ministerial reshuffle... installing ministers who listen to the population and take care of their programmes".

On Wednesday, opposition parties suspended street protests against the official outcome of local elections in February, saying the international community had offered to mediate.

Conde's Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party defeated a coalition led by the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), according to the results.

On Monday, the opposition, resuming strike action by its supporters, brought trade and traffic to a standstill in parts of the capital Conakry.

Its leader, Cellou Dalein Diallo, told AFP late on Wednesday that the campaign was being suspended after he had held talks with envoys from the United States, France, the European Union (EU) and 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

"They asked me to suspend street protests and give them a chance to undertake a few things regarding the opposing camp, and that's what we have done," Diallo said.

"We encouraged them to pursue informal steps to reconcile positions to find a just and fair solution to electoral disputes and to promote the release of the 120 opposition activists arbitrarily arrested and unjustly detained since February 4."

The opposition will continue to boycott an "inter-Guinean dialogue" proposed by the government to settle differences, Diallo said.

At least a dozen people were killed in post-election protest violence.

The February 4 elections were the first of their kind since a military dictatorship ended a decade ago. Years of delay in staging them were blamed on lack of funds, political infighting and the 2013-16 Ebola crisis.


At least 100 people have been kidnapped along a road in northern Nigeria in the past few days, officials, witnesses and relatives of the abducted told Reuters on Tuesday, underscoring the insecurity still afflicting parts of the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari won elections in 2015 partly on promises to bring security to Nigeria but has struggled to fulfil them. He is now seeking a second term in February 2019.

His critics and opponents question his record of tackling the multitude of conflicts that plague Nigeria from Boko Haram and an Islamic State insurgency in the northeast to clashes between farmers and herders in which hundreds have died.

Kidnapping is also rife. In 2014, the abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok shot the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency into the spotlight, prompting the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

“Over 120 people were kidnapped between Friday and today, Tuesday along the Birnin Gwari-Kaduna road,” said Surajo Usman, of Nigeria’s National Union of Road Transport Workers, who escaped an abduction himself.

Birnin Gwari, in the northern state of Kaduna, is infamous for its lawlessness, and thick forests provide bandits with hideouts from security forces. Earlier this month, at least 45 people died in an attack on a village in the region.

Those bandits have for years frustrated authorities’ attempts to apprehend them. In some cases they have amassed thousands of stolen cattle and fought off security agents sent to deal with them. 

Yahaya Hussaini, who works for a civil society group, said his organisation’s motorcade was waylaid.

“On Sunday, in our entourage alone four vehicles were blocked by the kidnappers in military fatigue,” he said, adding that eight of them carried assault rifles.

“They kidnapped about 48 people,” said Hussaini. “Many of those vehicles attacked are still left on the road and the luggage of victims still litters it.”

Ibrahim Aliyu’s daughter was one of those abducted by kidnappers seeking the equivalent of $16,000. “They have contacted me with a 5 million naira ransom demand,” he said. “Where do I get that kind of money that I have never seen in my life?”

Kaduna state’s commissioner of police, Austin Iwar, told Reuters he would have been informed if there had been reports of such attacks, adding that he would investigate.


Libyan coastguard vessels intercepted more than 500 migrants on four inflatable boats on Monday off the country’s western coast and returned them to Libya, a spokesman said.

One boat carrying about 100 migrants was intercepted off the western city of Sabratha, about 70 km west of the capital, Tripoli, naval coastguard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said.

Another three boats with a total of more than 400 migrants on board were picked up off Garabulli, east of Tripoli.

The migrants were taken to one of several detention centres nominally under government control in Tripoli. 

Libya is the main departure point for migrants trying to cross to Europe by sea, though the number making it to Italy has dropped sharply since last July after a major smuggling group in Sabratha halted departures before being defeated in clashes.

The EU and Italy are also supporting Libya’s coastguard to intercept more migrants, a policy criticised by activists who say they are being returned to inhumane conditions in Libya. 

Some 6,660 migrants have crossed to Italy from Libya so far this year, more than 80 percent fewer than the same period in 2017, according to the Italian interior ministry.

Most are sub-Saharan Africans, though increasing numbers of North Africans have been trying to cross in recent months. Most of those on the boat intercepted off Sabratha on Monday were North African, including 18 Libyans, Qassem said.


Sierra Leone’s new President Julius Maada Bio on Saturday called on the public to help him transform the West African nation, which is struggling to recover from an economic downturn and a deadly Ebola epidemic. 

Tens of thousands of supporters packed into a municipal stadium in the capital Freetown alongside regional dignitaries participating in the inauguration ceremony for Maada Bio, who won a presidential run-off April.

Though he was sworn in last month, just hours after his narrow victory was announced, Saturday’s ceremony marked the official transfer of power from outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Maada Bio’s campaign promise to revive the economy and fight poverty resonated with ordinary Sierra Leoneans, many of whom queued for hours to attend the inauguration. The former opposition leader faces an uphill struggle to overturn years of hardship.

“I am aware that we have been elected on a ticket for change which fuels immediate expectations to deliver not only on the basic administrative services but also to change the lives of the people of this country,” he said.

Sierra Leone is facing a years-long slump in commodities prices that has held up development of large-scale iron ore mining projects. And an Ebola crisis paralysed and isolated the country in 2014 and 2015. 

The economy contracted by more than 20 percent in 2015 and is yet to fully recover.

After a military band serenaded him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, Maada Bio, who turned 54 on Saturday, addressed the cheering crowd, pledging to serve all his compatriots no matter their ethnic or political background.

Dressed in flowing white robes, the former army officer, who briefly ruled Sierra Leone as head of a military junta in 1996, said he would wage a three-front war against indiscipline, corruption and poverty.

“The strategic objective of the policies and programmes is to transform Sierra Leone into a country we can all be proud of,” he said. 

“I cannot do it alone. So today I ask all of you to believe in your capacity as citizens that together we can change Sierra Leone,” he added.

The largely peaceful election process that brought Maada Bio to power came as a relief to Sierra Leone’s 7 million people, who in the 1990s endured a brutal civil war fueled by the diamond trade and notorious for its drug-addled child soldiers and punitive amputations.


Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will travel to Britain to see his doctor, he said on Monday in a surprise announcement that could renew concern about whether he is well enough to run for a second term at an election next year.

He spent five months in Britain last year for treatment for an unspecified illness, an absence that prompted many to question his fitness to run a country that is Africa’s top oil producer and one of its biggest economies.

Buhari, 75, was military ruler between 1983 and 1985 and returned to power after winning an election in 2015. He said in April that he would seek a second term, though his candidacy depends on party approval.

“I will be traveling to the United Kingdom tomorrow, to see my doctor, at his request. Will be away for four days; back in Abuja on Saturday, May 12,” he said on Twitter.

His spokesman said Buhari met his doctor last week in London on his way back from Washington where he had held talks with United States President Donald Trump in the White House.

“The doctor requested the president to return for a meeting which he agreed to do,” said the spokesman, Garba Shehu, in a statement.

Shehu, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said it would be a “routine check-up”. 

Buhari’s prolonged absence from Africa’s most populous country sparked numerous protests last year, including demands that he should resign and calls for more transparency about his condition.

Any repeat of last year’s lengthy absence could hinder the president’s re-election campaign which got off to a shaky start after he drew criticism for saying many young Nigerians think they need “do nothing” because they live in an oil-rich country.

The president’s challenges include a surge in communal violence and high-profile attacks by Boko Haram militants that have turned security into a highly politicised issue.

The economy is also a key issue. Nigeria is only gradually emerging from a 2016 recession that was the country’s first in 25 years.

Last year he took two months’ medical leave in Britain starting in January and another break there from May to August. 

He reduced his working day to a few hours after returning from his first stint of medical leave in March, diplomats and government sources said. And little was seen of him during his second stint in London.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo acted as interim leader while Buhari was in Britain.


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