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Thursday, 20th September 2018
2:07:20pm

West Africa

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Soldiers have thwarted another Boko Haram attack on an army base in northeast Nigeria, the latest in a series of offensives against military targets in the remote region.

Scores of fighters attacked the base in Damasak, in the far north of Borno state, on Wednesday evening, firing heavy artillery in an apparent bid to overrun it.

Hours of fighting ensued but the attack was repelled with the help of aerial support, military sources in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, told AFP on Thursday morning.

Nigerian Army spokesperson Brigadier General Texas Chukwu confirmed troops from 145 battalion were fighting the jihadists, calling the battle "fierce".

"The troops are dealing with the terrorists," he said on Wednesday evening.

Chukwu's statement was a departure from the military's repeated denials of Boko Haram attacks in recent weeks, which have seen dozens of troops killed and weapons stolen.

Last month, 48 soldiers were killed in a raid in the village of Zari, near Damasak, while last Friday, a base was sacked in the town of Gudumbali.

Gudumbali is 80km from Damasak. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee and Boko Haram temporarily seized the town before withdrawing the next day.

On Saturday, a regional fighting force set up to stop cross-border attacks helped to repel another attack on a base near Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad.

A senior military officer, who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the jihadists in Wednesday's attack were heavily armed.

"The terrorists attacked the base around 1700 GMT but they met stiff resistance from troops who engaged them in hours-long battle," he added.

After about four hours of fighting the militants were "beaten" and forced to withdraw after a fighter jet bombarded their positions, he said.

There was no immediate indication of casualties on either side.

The latest attacks have been blamed on the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Boko Haram splinter group headed by Mus'ab al-Barnawi and backed by ISIS.

Security analysts assess that the Barnawi faction currently poses a greater threat than that led by Abubakar Shekau, who has indiscriminately targeted civilians.

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed more than 27 000 people in northeast Nigeria since 2009.

The former army general has repeatedly claimed the jihadists are weakened to the point of defeat, despite the continued attacks.

-Reuters

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday formally submitted his candidacy to stand for a second term of office at elections in February next year.

The 75-year-old leader travelled to the headquarters of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the capital Abuja to hand in his nomination form.

He was accompanied by state governors, government ministers and party supporters.

He said afterwards he was seeking the nomination "with all humility, sense of responsibility and an unquestionable desire to serve and protect the interest of all Nigerians". 

Well-wishers and supporters clubbed together to pay the 45 million naira ($125 000) for the nomination form.

"I assure them and the rest of Nigerians that if nominated and if elected, I shall continue to serve you to the best of my ability," Buhari said.

Former military ruler Buhari in 2015 became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president at the polls.

He was elected in the landmark election on a platform to improve security, tackle endemic corruption and boost the economy.

But despite Boko Haram Islamists remaining a threat to security, his anti-corruption campaign is making slow progress while the nation recovers from recession.

There have been questions, too, about Buhari's fitness to govern after he spent months being treated for an undisclosed illness in London last year.

Buhari told his supporters to guard against complacency "but to prepare, strategise and win 2019 elections".

The APC has been hit by a wave of defections to the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP), with critics unhappy at his perceived autocratic style.

In a dig at the PDP, Buhari added: "We must not allow those who brought the country to its knees from 1999 to 2015 to come and take us back."

The APC has scheduled presidential primaries for later this month but a party spokesperson told AFP no one else has picked up a nomination form, making Buhari the only candidate.

The PDP has extended its closing date for submissions of interest to stand in presidential primaries and will choose its candidate by October 6.

Among those who have already declared their intention to stand are former vice-president Atiku Abubakar and the leader of the Senate, Bukola Saraki.

-AFP

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita promised on Tuesday to address deteriorating security caused by an Islamist insurgency and inter-ethnic clashes as he was sworn in for a second five-year term.

Hundreds of supporters and local politicians attended the ceremony in the capital Bamako, which followed Keita’s landslide victory last month in an election marred by militant attacks and claims of fraud by his opposition rival.

Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over the desert north in 2012. French forces intervened the following year to beat back the militants, but they have since regrouped.

The regular attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso have alarmed Western powers like France and the United States who have poured troops and air power into the region.

“This election is not the victory of one Malian against another, it is the victory of all of Mali,” Keita, 73, dressed in a flowing white boubou robe and matching cap, told the audience.

“I chose to place the re-establishment of peace and security at an absolute level of priority,” said the president, universally referred to as IBK, promising to revive the stalled implementation of 2015 peace deal with ethnic militia.

But the security situation has only deteriorated in recent months. Threats by jihadists forced nearly 500 polling stations - about 2 percent of the total - to remain closed during last month’s run-off even as no major attack materialised.

A U.N. camp for peacekeepers near the northern town of Menaka came under rocket fire early on Tuesday, injuring the head of security and a police official, Malian army spokesman Hama Ag Attaher told Reuters.

Violence between different ethnic groups in Mali’s previously peaceful centre has also escalated. Armed men dressed as Donzo hunters killed a dozen Fulani civilians in the Mopti region last week, local sources said.

The security threat as well as general voter apathy reduced turnout in the run-off to 34 percent.

Keita’s challenger, opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, also accused the president’s camp of widespread vote rigging but Keita rejected those charges in his speech and called on the opposition to rally around him.

-Reuters

Suspected Boko Haram militants have kidnapped between 10 and 20 people, a family member of one of those abducted, a senator and two military sources said on Wednesday.

The people were aboard a bus from Maiduguri, the city worst hit by Boko Haram, travelling to the town of Gwoza around 100 km(60 miles) away in the east of Borno state, near the border with Cameroon, late on Tuesday.

Boko Haram “attacked commercial vehicles and abducted some civilians - over 10 men and women were abducted”, said one of the military sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief the media.

Other sources gave the number taken at around 20.

The abduction calls into question government and military statements that stability and security are returning to the northeast in the conflict with Islamist insurgents Boko Haram, which dates back to 2009.

President Muhammadu Buhari is now seeking a second term in February 2019 elections, campaigning in part on his administration’s successes in the northeast.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Isa Musa said his uncle was among those kidnapped.

“He was in the bus with some other passengers, men and women, about 20 of them, when the incident occurred,” he said.

A second military source said Boko Haram stopped three vehicles on the road.

“One of the vehicles is a commercial passenger bus with about 20 passengers,” they said. “The terrorists fired shots and took away some of the passengers. Women were among (them) and one of our soldiers was killed in the attack.”

A senator from Borno sate, Ali Ndume, said that he had been contacted by the wife of one of the victims about the kidnapping of about 10 people.

European states have warned the United Nations that more than 800,000 people are cut off from aid and may be starving in northeast Nigeria, in contrast to government assertions that the crisis has abated, and rebuked the world body for failing to secure access.

-Reuters

Ghana's former president John Mahama on Thursday announced his bid to seek the nomination of the main opposition party and contest the 2020 election.

Mahama, who became president in 2012 but lost his re-election bid to President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in 2016, said he had decided to give the country's top job another shot.

"I have submitted my letter to the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) confirming my decision to contest for the leadership of the party with a clear view on victory in 2020," the former leader announced on his Facebook page.

Mahama said his decision was due to a groundswell of support from Ghanaians. 

"I've prayed diligently about the task ahead and I believe I owe a duty to God and my country to take our great party back into government, to right the wrongs of the past and to put an end to the cries of the people under the current dispensation," he said.

The 59-year-old promised to take Ghana to greater heights if given the opportunity to serve again.

"The 2020 election presents our party, the NDC, with a great opportunity to offer yet again, visionary leadership driven by a commitment to create opportunities for all our people and not just a few," he said.

He added that his aim was to position Ghana "as a true middle-income country by modernising our dilapidated social and economic infrastructure."

Mahama is expected to vie for the NDC's ticket with at least four contenders at the party's primaries slated for between October and November.

In May, the former head of state had hinted of his plan to seek the NDC's nomination.

Mahama lost the 2016 election to Akufo-Addo over a faltering economy and corruption allegations.

Ghana has been one of Africa's fastest growing economies in 2018, fuelled by a surge in oil and gas production.

The West African nation is also a major producer of gold and cocoa.

-AFP

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