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Thursday, 9th April 2020
2:52:56am

West Africa

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An armed gang killed at least 50 people in attacks on villages in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna on Sunday, Kaduna’s governor said on Monday on a visit to the affected communities.

Governor Nasiru El-rufai said the gunmen are suspected to have come from the neighbouring states of Katsina, Zamfara and Niger Republic, adding that troops had been sent to the area.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the northwest of Nigeria since last year, in attacks the government attributes to bandits - a loose term for gangs of outlaws carrying out robberies and kidnappings.

Houses and vehicles were set ablaze by the gunmen in the Kaduna state attack. 

Police spokesman Muhammed Jalige said the gunmen invaded the five villages of Hashimawa, Marina, Kerawa, Unguwan Musa and Zariyawa between 05:00 and 08:00 GMT on Sunday. 

Security experts say Nigeria can ill afford more instability as it is already struggling to contain Islamist insurgencies in the northeast, conflict in central states and militant groups in the Niger Delta to the southeast.

The death toll from violence continues to rise in Nigeria, along with incidents of kidnapping and robbery.

In a statement on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed regret over the killings and said the government was “determined to frustrate and defeat” those responsible for the attack.

-Reuters

Senegal’s health minister on Monday announced the first case of coronavirus in the country, the second case in sub-Saharan Africa after one was confirmed in Nigeria last week.

The rapid spread of the new coronavirus has increased fears of a pandemic, prompting governments to step up control measures and sending global financial markets into a dive.

The patient is a French man who lives in Senegal and came back from a skiing holiday in France on Feb. 26 on an Air Senegal flight, Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr told reporters.

He passed a temperature check at the capital Dakar’s main airport on his return but developed a fever two days later and went to a private clinic for a check-up, the minister said. That clinic alerted the authorities who have quarantined him in Dakar’s Fann Hospital.

The patient had been in contact with his wife and two children, the minister said. It was not clear how many other people had also been in contact with him. Authorities are in the process of tracing the other passengers on the Air Senegal flight.

Fann Hospital was not reachable for comment. 

As of Monday, there have been over 89,000 cases of the virus globally, the majority in China, according to a Reuters tally. Outside of China, it has spread to 66 countries, with more than 8,800 cases and 130 deaths. Globally, the illness has killed over 3,000 people.

North African countries Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt have also confirmed cases of the virus.

The risk of a global spread and impact of the coronavirus is now “very high”, the highest level of alarm, but containment is still possible, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Africa’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says it has activated its emergency operation centre for a continent where healthcare capacity is limited and early detection is vital.

The WHO has identified 13 top-priority countries which either have direct links or a high volume of travel to China, but Senegal was not on that list.

Still, Senegal is home to one of the 26 labs in Africa that can test for the virus. Public announcements on state television advise people to wash their hands and masked health officials conduct temperature checks at the airport while others film arriving passengers.

Before the confirmation of the first case, President Macky Sall on Monday urged calm.

“The health services are taking care of the patient according to the procedure recommended by the World Health Organization,” he told reporters.

-Reuters

Former Ivory Coast rebel leader Guillaume Soro said on Tuesday he would not drop out of presidential elections set for the end of the year, despite an arrest warrant out against him.

“I definitely remain a candidate in the election. Those who tried to stop me from going back to my homeland will not stop me from being a candidate,” he told Reuters in Paris.

Ivory Coast’s public prosecutor issued the warrant for Soro on Dec. 23 as part of an investigation into an alleged coup plot. 

Soro denied any wrongdoing and said he was a victim of judicial persecution. “Mercenaries made illegal recordings thinking they can entrap me,” he said. “My lawyers have filed a case in Paris against the authors and prosecutor because part of(the alleged recording) was done in France.”

Soro added that his lawyers had placed a request with French prosecutors for his rights to be respected, and will do the same with the regional West African Court of Justice, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, and the United Nations.

The case against Soro adds to political tensions ahead of the October 2020 vote, regarded as a test of Ivory Coast’s stability after two civil wars since the turn of the century. 

Soro said there could be a pre-electoral crisis in Ivory Coast. “I must return to Ivory Coast. We will organise ourselves to make sure that my entry to Ivory Coast is possible.”

President Alassane Ouattara won re-election in 2015 but has been unclear about whether he will seek a third term, deepening uncertainty about the vote in Francophone West Africa’s largest economy, also the world’s biggest cocoa producer.

Soro retains the loyalty of many former rebel commanders who now hold senior positions in the army. He served for several years as speaker of the National Assembly but has since fallen out with Ouattara.

-Reuters

West African countries have agreed to conduct an investigation into the impact of Nigeria’s decision last year to close off its land borders to trade, Nigeria’s presidency said on Monday.

Nigeria has banned the import and export of all goods through its land borders since last August as part of what it describes as a campaign to tackle smuggling. Its smaller neighbours, many of whom rely on trade with Africa’s biggest economy, have complained that this has caused severe hardship. 

Heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States agreed Sunday night to set up a committee “to study and make a full report on Nigeria’s land border closure with her neighbours,” said a statement from a spokesman for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.

There is no timeline for when the report is due, but it is meant to be completed “as soon as possible,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said, according to the statement. 

Since taking office in 2015, Buhari has introduced policies aimed at curbing imports and smuggling, to boost local manufacturing. Buhari has also been trying to boost revenues after a 2016 recession slashed income.

The move to shut the borders followed a decision in July to sign Nigeria up to an African Continental Free Trade Area, a project to create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc.

-Reuters 

Gambian police arrested 137 people and more than two dozen were injured as protests calling for President Adama Barrow to honour a pledge to step down after three years in office turned violent for the first time, the government said.

Barrow came to power after a 2016 election, ending 22 years of authoritarian rule by Yahya Jammeh. But he has reneged on his campaign promise to step down by this month, saying the constitution requires him to serve out a full five-year term.

In response, a movement called “Three Years Jotna” - which means “enough” in the local Wolof language - began protesting last month to demand his departure.

On Sunday, police intervened when protesters deviated from the planned route on the outskirts of the capital Banjul in order to march toward the city centre, the government said.

In a statement late on Sunday, government spokesman Ebrima Sankareh said the protesters had stormed a police barricade and chanted that they planned to unseat Barrow. 

“The protesters became riotous and violent by obstructing roads and burning tyres and logs on the highway as well as setting up fires in nearby bushes and on government wetland,” Sankareh said.

Eighteen police officers and seven civilians were injured, Sankareh said, adding some of those among the 137 arrested were executive members of Three Years Jotna.

The government also decided to ban Three Years Jotna, Sankareh said, calling it “a subversive, violent and illegal movement”, and suspended two radio stations it accused of inciting violence during demonstrations.

Opposition leaders could not be immediately reached for comment.

After winning plaudits at the beginning of his tenure for committing to respect rights and establish a truth commission to investigate abuses under Jammeh, Barrow is facing multiple challenges. 

Hundreds of Jammeh’s supporters demonstrated earlier this month to demand the former president be allowed to return to Gambia from exile in Equatorial Guinea. Jammeh fled there in January 2017 under military pressure from West African countries to respect his election loss to Barrow.

The government has said Jammeh will be arrested if he returns to Gambia for killings, torture and other abuses allegedly committed by his security forces. Jammeh denies those allegations.

Barrow also faces a weak economy, hobbled by massive debts incurred by Jammeh’s government.

-Reuters

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