Sunday, March 31, 2013

CAR News Update: Religious Tensions Rise; Interim Government Formed; Child Soldiers Killed

Religious tensions rise in Central Africa after coup


Rising religious tensions in the Central African Republic could be a ticking time-bomb after a coup that left the chronically unstable nation with a Muslim strongman, despite his promises of secular rule.

"We are sitting on a bomb. An evil sorcerer could blow up the whole house. I don't want us to underestimate the problem," said Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Catholic archbishop of Bangui.

Michel Djotodia, the self-proclaimed president, became the first Muslim leader of the country after seizing power in a bloody March 24 coup that ousted president Francois Bozize, creating days of chaos and looting.

"The Central African Republic is a secular state," Djotodia said on Friday. "It is true that I am Muslim, but I must serve my country, all Central Africans."

However he said that "some people with bad intentions want to lead the country into inter-religious conflict."

Since Djotodia and his Seleka rebel coalition began an offensive in December, Bozize's regime often accused them of "preaching Wahhabism" -- an ultra-conservative Islam often followed by fundamentalists -- or of being "Muslim terrorists."

During the crisis Bozize's supporters set up so-called self-defence committees which erected roadblocks around the capital Bangui and often lashed out at Muslims whom they associated with the rebels.

At the same time the rebels leaned on the Muslim community which carried out fundraising for them. Looters also ransacked Christian property after the coup, sparing Muslims and heightening tensions.

One resident of Bangui said that images of Muslims chanting "Allah Akbar" (God is great) when Djotodia arrived at the Bangui mosque for Friday prayers had "shocked" some Christians.

"We are no longer at home. They pillage our goods which are then sold by the Muslims who export them to the north (Chad and Sudan)," he said on condition of anonymity.

A woman from the Benz-Vi suburb added, referring to the Muslims: "They say, 'It's our turn now. We will make you pay'."

The country of nearly five million people is mostly Christian, with about 15 percent Muslims who are concentrated in the north where the rebellion started.

The different religions have always coexisted peacefully and leaders from both sides have urged people not to confuse the fact that there is a Muslim leader, with the "Islamisation" of the country.

"The new authorities are not there for a religious goal but a political goal. They must present their political agenda to convince the population," said Pastor Nicolas Guere Koyame, leader of the Alliance of Evangelists in Central Africa.

Imam Oumar Kobline Layama, president of the Islamic Community of Central Africa, said the rebels should not play into the hands of those "who want to turn this change into a religious problem."

"We must not destroy this cohabitation that we have had for more than 50 years," he said.

"I ask Muslims not to say: 'today it's our turn'. There is no 'turn', we are all Central Africans. The leaders of Seleka must keep to the principles of Islam. Islam does not encourage division or theft or looting," he said.

The archbishop Nzapalainga also called for people not to mix up religion and politics.

"The reason for the crisis is not religious but political. But along the way, words and actions toward the Christian community have given the impression this is a religious crisis," he said.

However ,sources in the political, military and diplomatic community say the Islam practiced by Seleka is of less concern than the absence of the state and the security vacuum which, combined with high poverty rates, could make it easier for radical groups to take hold.

Central African Republic leader takes defense ministry in caretaker government

3:51pm EDT
By Ange Aboa

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic's new leader Michel Djotodia announced a caretaker government on Sunday in which he is defense minister, according to a statement issued by his spokesman.

The new government, which is due to hold elections in the mineral-rich former French colony within three years, will retain civilian opposition representative Nicolas Tiangaye as prime minister.

Djotodia toppled President Francois Bozize on March 24 after leading thousands of his Seleka rebel fighters into the riverside capital Bangui, triggering days of looting and drawing international condemnation.

The African Union suspended Central African Republic and imposed sanctions on Seleka leaders, including Djotodia, last week.

France and the United States say the rebels should adhere to a power-sharing deal signed in Gabon's capital Libreville in January that mapped out a transition to elections in 2016 in which Bozize was forbidden from running.

Djotodia has pledged to act in the spirit of the agreement and said on Friday he would step down in 2016. But Washington on Saturday said Tiangaye, named premier under the Libreville agreement, was now the only legal head of government.

Bozize seized power in a 2003 coup, but his failure to keep promises of power-sharing after winning disputed 2011 polls led to the offensive by five rebel groups known as Seleka, which means "alliance" in the Sango language.

Child soldiers killed in Central African Republic, South African troops claim

AFP | Mar 31, 2013, 09.33 PM IST

JOHANNESBURG: South African soldiers who survived last week's rebel takeover of the Central African Republic are traumatized after claiming they later discovered some of the rebels killed were child soldiers, local media reported on Sunday.

In what has turned out to be South Africa's heaviest military loss since apartheid, 13 soldiers were killed last weekend in Bangui in clashes with Seleka rebels who toppled president Francois Bozize.

Around 200 South African troops fought against some 3,000 rebels during the battle for the Central African capital that lasted several hours.

Some troops who have returned to South Africa recounted to local newspapers that they only discovered after the battle that they had been fighting against some child rebel soldiers.

"It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids. We did not come here for this ... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help ... calling for (their) moms," a paratrooper told Sunday Times.

South African President Jacob Zuma in January had approved the deployment of 400 soldiers to the Central African Republic to help local forces, as part of a bilateral pact with the administration of now deposed Bozize. In the end about 200 soldiers were sent.

Some of the Central African rebels were "teenagers who should be in school," the soldier, who like others requested anonymity, told the paper.

In City Press newspaper a soldier was quoted as saying many of the rebels were "only children".

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) told AFP it was not ready to comment on allegations that child rebel soldiers had engaged its troop in Bangui, as it had not received any such reports.

"What we were informed is the SANDF were attacked by advancing groups of rebels ... and they opened fire on our soldiers and our soldiers returned fire in self-defence," defence spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said.

"Now to say the composition (of the rebel forces) was made of this and that, I wouldn't really like to engage," he added.

The two newspapers also quoted the soldiers saying the South African troops were running out of ammunition before the rebels approached them to surrender.

However, Mabanga shot back at the allegation saying it did not make sense to say South Africans were running low on ammunition when the rebels waved a white flag.

"If I'm fighting you and you realise that I am running out of ammunition, which means that I cannot fight you anymore, why do you have to surrender?" he said.

South Africa's government now faces increasing calls at home for a probe into why troops were sent to the Central African Republic.

Zuma is due to attend an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on Wednesday to be hosted by the Chadian leader Idriss Deby Itno.

BRICS Summit Promotes Unity Among Major Emerging Economies

BRICS summit promotes unity among major emerging economies: Chinese FM
2013-03-31 09:51:36

BEIJING, March 31 (Xinhua)-- The fifth BRICS summit has promoted unity among major emerging economies and injected fresh impetus into the development of the cooperation mechanism, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Sunday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the summit, which brought together leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, as part of his first overseas trip since assuming the presidency earlier this month.

The meeting, held from Tuesday to Wednesday in the South African port city of Durban, marked the first time that the high-profile annual gathering had come to Africa.

At the summit, President Xi expounded on China's view on the future direction, principles and areas of BRICS cooperation, and called for the establishment of a global development partnership among the five major emerging economies, Wang said.

Xi called on the BRICS countries to coordinate their macroeconomic policies and to jointly participate in setting the international development agenda, he added.

The Chinese leader looked forward to deepened cooperation among the BRICS countries on an integrated market for trade and investment, financial and monetary affairs, transportation links, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges, the top Chinese diplomat said.

These proposals, winning appreciation and positive responses from other BRICS leaders, outlined the direction of future BRICS cooperation from a strategic perspective, Wang said.

The summit has yielded tangible fruits as were included in the Durban Declaration and its Action Plan, he said.

The leaders also witnessed the signing of a number of cooperation agreements.

The leaders agreed to set up a BRICS development bank, a Contingent Reserve Arrangement(CRA), a business council and a think tank council.

They also reached broad consensus on jointly dealing with major global and regional issues, reforming the international monetary and financial systems, and promoting the cause of the global development.

Wang said the summit's achievements have sent out a message that the BRICS countries are committed to solidarity, cooperation and win-win results.

The next BRICS summit will be held in Brazil in 2014.

Int'l community speaks highly of Xi's Africa visit, attendance at BRICS summit 2013-03-31 03:48:58

• The international community has lauded Chinese President Xi Jinping's first visit to Africa.
• Xi sent a positive signal of friendship, cooperation, mutual benefit, win-win results to the world.
• China's participation in the BRICS cooperation mechanism will promote development of the world.

BEIJING, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The international community has lauded Chinese President Xi Jinping's first visit to Africa as the head of state and his attendance at a summit of BRICS nations, saying he sent a positive signal of friendship, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win results to the whole world.

Analysts say Xi's Africa trip, which included Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of the Congo, shows China attaches importance to the continent and has determination to devote itself to the mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Africa.

Xi also attended the fifth summit of the BRICS countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, held from Tuesday to Wednesday in the South African port city of Durban.

Experts say China's participation in the BRICS cooperation mechanism will promote the development of the whole world including Africa.


Fengxiang Qiao, a professor at the U.S. Texas Southern University, said Xi, in his speech, expounded the China-Africa relations from a historical and future perspective.

Africa had suffered from colonialism and neocolonialism for a long time, he said, adding that China has always been a true friend of the African people.

China and Africa share similar experiences, common development tasks and strategic interests, which link the two peoples even more closely with sincere friendship, mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, Qiao said.

Just like what Xi had said in his speech in Tanzania, China will be for ever a "reliable friend and sincere partner" of Africa, he said.

Sabelo Mavikinduku Ngwenya, a Johannesburg-based political commentator and an international relations expert, said Xi's visit shows that China is an all-weather friend of South Africa and Africa.

"President Xi Jinping's visit to South Africa is a testimony to China's commitment to the two countries' brotherly relations that were formally established in 1998," Ngwenya told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"This visit is a further confirmation that China is South Africa and Africa's friend of all seasons and an equal partner to be relied on at all times," he said.

The partnership between China and Africa was established on the basis of equality and China is playing an important role as Africa's partner, Ngwenya said.

Phyllis Johnson, executive director of the Harare-based Southern Africa Research and Documentation Center, said Xi's Africa visit shows that the new Chinese leadership attaches importance to the China-Africa relations.

Under the new Chinese leadership, the China-Africa relations will move forward on the strength of the rapid development recorded in the past 10 years, Johnson said.

Cooperation between China and Africa enjoys broad prospects, and Africa can learn from China's development model and experience, Johnson said.


Mahmoud Allam, former Egyptian ambassador to China, said Xi assured African governments and people that China will be a staunch supporter of Africa's prosperity, stability and security.

Xi also stressed the mutually beneficial friendship between China and Africa, asserting that bilateral cooperation will produce win-win results, Allam said.

Martin Nguru, a lecturer at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies of University of Nairobi, said China and Africa, as Xi put it, have been "a community of shared destinies" and that China's participation in African affairs will help African countries realize their "African dream."

China, as the second largest economy in the world, calls for equality and opposes hegemonism. This has greatly encouraged African countries in their efforts to safeguard sovereignty and independence, Nguru said.

Cheng Li, director of research and senior fellow of the John L. Thomton China Center at The Brookings Institution, said Xi's speeches in Africa sent a message that China's investment in Africa, plus their trade and economic cooperation, would yield win-win results for both sides, instead of benefits for only one party.

China will never extract resources on the continent, but rather facilitate common development through complementarity, he said.


Henning Kristofersen, a Norwegian China expert, said Xi at the summit "sent clear and reassuring signals towards the other four countries, as he has wisely focused on developmental similarities, rather than geographical distance and potential difficulties."

"China and the rest of the BRICS countries increasingly stand out as the engines of the world economic development," he said.

At the summit, BRICS countries agreed to establish a development bank and create a foreign exchange reserves pool.

"More formalized cooperation between them (BRICS countries) confirms a serious ambition to challenge the current world order," Kristofersen said.

Elias Jabbour, a Brazilian expert of human geography, said that Xi's words at the BRICS summit have reassured other BRICS nations. He was referring to Xi's remarks that China will "continue to take development as the top priority" and "enhanced cooperation with other BRICS countries has always been a priority on China's diplomatic agenda."

China, with its strength, can become a main force to promote the BRICS development, Jabbour said.

Argemiro Procopio, professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia, said that Xi in his speech called for a global development partnership and common prosperity of all countries, which expressed China's goodwill to its partners.

As BRICS' most populous country with the biggest economy, China's attitude is crucial for its development, Procopio said.

Yakov Berger, a professor at the Far East Institute of the Russian Academy of Science, said Xi's keynote speech at the BRICS summit implies that cooperation among BRICS countries is not only important for themselves but for the reform and reconstruction of the global economic system.

The summit has upgraded the BRICS mechanism and will affect the global economic order, Berger said.

Professor Qiao at the Texas Southern University said the specific steps taken at the BRICS summit are an important complement to the current international foreign exchange mechanism and global financial safety nets.

Moreover, cooperation with Africa is the first of its kind for the group to explicitly extend to the regions outside BRICS nations, he said, adding that the BRICS cooperative mechanism will have more influence on the world economy.

Chinese president pledges never-ending support for Africa 2013-03-28 22:46:13

DURBAN, South Africa, March 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Thursday that China-Africa relationship will never cease its development and that China is ready to elevate and broaden its ties with Africa.

"The development of China-Africa ties can only be in present continuous tense, and never in present perfect tense," Xi said at a breakfast meeting with African leaders.

"We are ready to work with African countries to push our ties to a higher level and expand them to a broader area," said Xi, who arrived here Tuesday to attend the fifth BRICS summit, which was joined by African leaders for the first time.

Xi noted that Africa is now in a new critical stage in its pursuit of peace and development.

With a prospering economy and new efforts made in seeking strength from unity, Africa has achieved growing international standing. Meanwhile, it also faces many challenges, Xi said.

"I am confident that, as long as it maintains peace and stability, and actively explores a development path that suits its own conditions, Africa will undoubtedly embrace a brighter future," he said.

The Chinese president said with the international situation undergoing profound and complex changes, China-Africa ties face unprecedented opportunities for development, as well as many challenges that come with new circumstances and new issues.

No matter how the international landcape may change, China will stick to the friendly policy toward Africa, stay forever as a reliable friend and sincere partner of Africa, and strive to make greater contribution to the African cause of peace and development, Xi said.

The Chinese president pledged China will be a steadfast guardian of Africa's peace and stability, a steadfast promoter of Africa's prosperity and development, a steadfast supporter in Africa's pursuit of strength through unity, and a steadfast advocate for Africa in its efforts to seek equal participation in international affairs.

"We are calling on the international community to work together to play a constructive role in Africa's pursuit of peace and development," Xi said.

African leaders also spoke highly of the traditional friendship between Africa and China, voicing hopes of drawing on China's success of development and strengthening Africa-China cooperation.

BRICS summit delivers tangible results, forum pledges to promote partnership with Africa 2013-03-28 05:21:32

Durban, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The leaders of five major emerging economies on Wednesday wrapped up their latest round of summit in the South African city of Durban to promote their partnership for development, integration and industrialization.

It is the first time for the BRICS nations, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to hold their leaders' meeting on the continent of Africa.


While addressing the summit in his keynote speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on all BRICS members to work hand in hand for common development.

He pledged that China would strengthen cooperation with other members to make economic growth of BRICS countries more robust and their cooperation better-structured and more productive.

BRICS cooperation not only brings benefits to the peoples of the five countries, but also contributes to promoting democracy in international relations, Xi said.

He said all members should manage their own affairs well by growing the economy and improving people's lives, strengthen coordination of macroeconomic policies, reform the international monetary and financial systems, and promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation.

They should jointly participate in the setting of international development agenda and make global development more balanced, he said.

BRICS countries should work hard to boost cooperation in economy and trade, finance, infrastructure, movement of people and other fields, Xi said.

He also called for improving global economic governance and increasing the say and representation of BRICS countries, and urged the BRICS nations to move toward the goal of integrated markets, multi-tiered financial network, connectivity by land, air and sea, and greater cultural exchanges.


At the summit, the five BRICS members have achieved a number of tangible results, and agreed to expand their future cooperation to more sectors, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

The most tangible outcomes, among others, is that the leaders have agreed to establish a development bank for mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in the BRICS, as well as other emerging and the developing nations.

The BRICS leaders believed that the bank serves as a supplement to the existing efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global growth and development, adding that the initial contribution to the bank should be sustainable and sufficient.

Meanwhile, the members also agreed to explore the construction of a financial safety net through the creation of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA).

The leaders said the idea would help BRICS countries forestall short-term liquidity pressures, provide mutual support and further strengthen financial stability.

In the statement, the countries also expressed their common aspiration to improve global economic governing system.

The leaders vowed to reform international financial system to make them more representative and to reflect the "growing weight" of the BRICS and other developing nations, adding that the leadership selection of international financial institutions should be open, transparent and merit-based.

Additionally, the BRICS nations would explore the possibility of strengthening their cooperation between their state-owned firms, and promote the dialogues among the small and medium-sized companies.

They would also consider to expand their cooperation to more sectors including public diplomacy, anti-corruption, drug control, youth exchanges, tourism, energy and sports.

Also in the statement, the leaders of the BRICS countries voiced their opinions on a series of international hotspots including peace in the Middle East, Iranian nuclear issue, and the situation in Syria, Mali, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.


Also on Wednesday, the leaders of the BRICS members and some African countries, after the summit, discussed their cooperation at the first BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum, which is under the theme "Unlocking Africa's potential: BRICS and Africa cooperation on infrastructure."

While addressing the forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping the dialogue between leaders of BRICS and African countries reflected the political will of both sides to realize equality and inclusiveness and seek common development.

Xi said the Chinese government is willing to form a cooperative partnership for transnational and trans-regional infrastructure, and help the African nations with the consultation, planning, feasibility research and project design of promoting interconnections and resource censor.

He also promised to help Africa to train 300 managing and technical personnel specialized in the field of infrastructure, and encourage Chinese enterprises and financial institutions to participate in the building and operating the infrastructure.

The Chinese leader also reaffirmed China's promise to give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariff items of exports to China from the least developed nations having diplomatic ties with China.

Other leaders of the BRICS nations said the BRICS countries would like to forge a cooperative partnership with Africa, and help Africa in constructing its infrastructure.

The African leaders said Africa needs to strengthen its infrastructure, promote integration and industrialization, and lift over-all competitiveness and the capacity for sustainable development.

The African nations are willing to set up with the BRICS members a cooperative partnership that highlights mutual support, mutual benefit and win-win results, said the leaders.

Fighting Erupts In Timbuktu Involving French and Malian Forces

Fighting erupts after car bombing in Mali

4:48pm EDT
By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Malian soldiers backed by French fighter jets battled Islamist rebels in Timbuktu on Sunday after insurgents used a car bomb as cover to infiltrate the northern desert town, sources said.

The French-led offensive in Mali has pushed a mix of Islamists out of their northern strongholds and remote mountain bases but the militants have hit back with several suicide attacks and guerilla-style raids.

At least one Malian soldier was killed and four injured in Sunday's fighting in the ancient Saharan trading hub 1,000 km (600 miles) north of the capital Bamako, according to a Mali government communique issued on Sunday evening.

It said that 21 Islamist rebels were also killed.
"It started after a suicide car bombing around 2200, that served to distract the military and allow a group of jihadists to infiltrate the city by night," said Mali army Captain Modibo Naman Traore.

Bilal Toure, a member of Timbuktu's crisis committee set up after the town was recaptured from Islamist control in January, said he saw a French plane firing on the rebel positions. He said fighting had died down since nightfall.

"The situation settled down after around 1900 but everyone is still staying indoors," he said.

The attack reflected the challenge of securing Mali as France prepares to reduce its troop presence and hand over to the ill-equipped Malian army and a more than 7,000-strong regional African force.

Mali's defense ministry said on Saturday that two Nigerian soldiers in the regional African force were killed when their convoy struck a mine outside Ansongo, near the Niger border.

France launched its intervention in Mali in January to halt an advance by northern al Qaeda-linked rebels towards Bamako.
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France will reduce its troop numbers in Mali to 2,000 by July and to 1,000 by the end of the year, down from 4,000 at present.

The West African former colony is to hold presidential and legislative elections in July - vital steps to stabilizing the gold- and cotton-producer after a military coup a year ago paved the way for the northern rebel takeover.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Adama Diarra; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Stephen Powell)

French, Mali troops fight street battles with Islamists in Timbuktu


BAMAKO — French and Malian troops battled Islamist fighters in the city of Timbuktu in day-long clashes Sunday that left three jihadists and one Malian soldier dead, military sources said.

The Islamists began their assault with a suicide bomb attack on an army checkpoint late Saturday on the edge of the fabled Saharan city that left a Malian soldier wounded.

Militants then infiltrated the city, which French and Malian soldiers recaptured from Islamist rebels in January.

Malian troops battled the rebels and were later joined by a French unit of around 50 soldiers and got further back-up from French fighter jets. A French soldier was wounded in the fighting, the military said in Paris.
Battles continued as night fell on Sunday.

"Jihadists have infiltrated the centre of Timbuktu... Our men are fighting them with the support of a unit of our French partners," a Malian officer told AFP by telephone.

The officer said fighting began when the Islamist rebels opened fire on two sides of the centre of the city, targeting a hotel serving as the temporary residence for the region's governor as well as a Malian military base.

A Malian security source said the governor and two foreign journalists had been among the people evacuated from the targeted hotel.

The fighting left three jihadists and one Malian soldier dead, officials said.

An army source requesting anonymity said a Nigerian hostage died during a shoot-out between Malian troops and his captor -- an Islamist rebel seen wearing a bomb-belt who had holed up in a house in the northern part of the city.

Mali has been the target of a series of attacks claimed by Islamist insurgents since France launched a military intervention in January against Al-Qaeda-linked groups that had seized the north of the country.

The French-led operation has forced the extremists from the cities they seized in the chaotic aftermath of Mali's military coup in March 2012.

But French and African forces have faced continuing suicide blasts and guerrilla attacks in reclaimed territory.

On March 21, a suicide bomber blew up a car near the Timbuktu airport at the start of an overnight assault on the city.

The blast killed one Malian soldier. Around 10 Islamist fighters were killed in the ensuing fighting with French and Malian forces.

The attack was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), one of three Islamist groups that had seized the north.

MUJAO said it had "opened a new front in Timbuktu", which had not come under attack since French-led forces entered the city on January 28 -- unlike Gao, which has been hit by a string of suicide bombings and guerrilla attacks.

A landmine blast killed two Malian soldiers near Gao on Saturday.

The same day, Mali's interim leader Dioncounda Traore appointed Mohamed Salia Sokona -- a former government minister and retired ambassador -- to head a new commission tasked with fostering reconciliation in the conflict-torn west African nation.

Aside from its chairman and two vice-chairmen -- who were also named -- the commission will have another 30 members.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is due to visit Mali on April 5, on Sunday welcomed the first appointments made to the Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission, calling it "an important step toward political reconciliation".

French troops seize 7 tons of firearms from Mali rebels

March 30, 2013 20:23

French troops have seized seven tons of looted and smuggled army weapons from rebels in a raid in northeastern Mali. Three tons of hand grenades, ammunition for firearms, mortars, and anti-tank missiles were handed to the Malian army.

The arsenal was seized in the Ifoghas Mountains, where French and African troops have been tracking rebel fighters.

The weapons were sorted by French experts prior to delivery and only some of them proved to be operational, said the French Colonel Jean Frederick, AFP reports.

"Only 15-20 percent of weapons found can be recovered and used in the future for other purposes without life risk. The rest will be destroyed so they don’t pose a threat to the civilians," said Frederick, who is responsible for the provision of French troops in Mali.

The majority of these weapons were looted from government military bases and smuggled into Mali from other African countries.

According to UN reports thousands of firearms have been illegally trafficked to other African nations from Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011.

Russian president Vladimir Putin previously raised concerns about the Malian crisis directly connecting it with the military solution of the Libyan uprising.

“Upheaval in Libya, accompanied by the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, contributed to the deterioration of the situation in Mali,” Putin said at the end of January.

Former US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s words on the matter echoed Putin’s standpoint. During Clinton’s hearing on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew a line between Libya and the on-going conflict in Mali saying “…There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya."

France launched the intervention in Mali in January after the escalation of a crisis between government and Islamist insurgents who took over the north of the country a year ago. The French army succeeded in driving the Islamists out of the main northern cities. French troops are still stationed in Mali though there have been talks of troop withdrawal after the Islamists’ were out of the country. President Francois Hollande said on Friday that French troops will stay in Mali to fight Islamist militants at least through the end of 2013 until a legitimate government can take over. Though he added that he expected more than 4,000 French troops in Mali to pull out in late April.

France’s role in the Mali rebellion is disputed, senior editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, Jeff Steinberg, previously told RT in an interview.

“The rebel operations in northern Mali have existed for quite some time, but it was only in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya – which was promoted by France, Britain and the United States in particular – it was only after that that you had a massive flow of weapons out of Libya into the hands of the rebels, which basically took a low-intensity conflict and threw it into a much greater crisis where the rebels outgunned the Malian army,” Steinberg told RT.

Sunday, 31 March 2013 KSA 09:21 - GMT 06:21

Mali Tuaregs say nine killed in battle with jihadists

Clashes in northern Mali between a Tuareg separatist group and jihadist fighters have left nine dead, Tuareg officials said Saturday.

The fighting pitted Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups against the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) -- a secular separatist Tuareg group that currently supports the government.

“After the fighting, we recorded four dead and two wounded in our own ranks... There were five dead on their side,” Mohamed Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, a top MNLA official based in neighboring Burkina Faso, told AFP.

Mossa Ag Attaher, an MNLA leader based in the northern Malian city of Kidal, added that one jihadist fighter was captured by his men.

The fighting lasted about two hours, they said, and took place on Friday between Gao and Kidal, two of the three main cities in northern Mali, which was under Islamist control for nine months until France intervened in January.

According to the Tuareg officials, the five Islamist fighters included three Algerians, a Mauritanian and one Malian.

The two MNLA officials disagreed however on their opponents' affiliation.

One said they were from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and the other said they belonged to “Signatories In Blood,” a group recently founded by a former Qaeda chief, Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Many former Tuareg rebels who had worked as mercenaries in Libya returned to Mali bristling with weapons after Muammar Qaddafi’s demise in late 2011 and rekindled their decades-old struggle for independence.

The MNLA launched a military offensive in January 2012 and conquered the entire north but was soon overpowered by its allies from the Qaeda-linked groups based in the region.

The secular Tuareg group has since sided with the Malian government and the French forces leading the re-conquest. Its forces have engaged jihadist groups on several occasions in recent months.

No source among the jihadist networks being hunted down in northern Mali could be immediately reached to confirm Friday’s clashes.

28 March 2013
Last updated at 19:30 ET

Mali conflict: Hollande sets French troop timetable

France will reduce the number of its troops fighting in Mali to 1,000 by the end of the year, President Francois Hollande says.

"We have achieved our objectives," Mr Hollande said in a TV interview.

He said troop levels would be halved to 2,000 by July. Withdrawals are due to start next month.

A French-led intervention that began in January has taken back the main cities of northern Mali from Islamist groups, though fighting continues in the north.

Mr Hollande acknowledged that one goal, the release of six French hostages being held in the Sahel, had still not been achieved.

He stressed that France would not pay ransoms to get the hostages freed. It is feared that one of the hostages has already been killed.

The French president also said he was determined that Mali should hold elections as planned in July, though he said France would not back any favoured candidate.

"The time when France chose African heads of state is over," he told France 2 TV channel in a wide-ranging interview.

Islamist groups took over major cities, including Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, in the aftermath of a coup in March 2012. They imposed a strict form of Islamic law in the area.

France intervened after saying the al-Qaeda-linked militants threatened to march on the capital, Bamako.

Troops from several West African countries have been deploying to Mali to take over from the French-led mission.

The African force currently numbers about 6,300 soldiers.

Mr Hollande said the French troops left in Mali at the end of the year would probably be part of a UN peacekeeping mission that France has called on the Security Council to set up.

Tough EU mission to overhaul Mali army kicks off

As France prepares to withdraw its 4,000 troops, the first of four Malian battalions begins training with battle-hardened European instructors on April 2

Sun, Mar 31, 2013

BRUSSELS - The EU begins an ambitious top-to-toe overhaul Tuesday of Mali's ragtag army, far from ready to take the place of foreign troops to defend the West African nation against fresh attacks by Islamist insurgents.

As France prepares to withdraw its 4,000 troops after routing Al Qaeda-linked forces from northern cities, the first of four Malian battalions begins training with battle-hardened European instructors on April 2 as part of a wider effort to bring the army up to scratch as quickly as possible.

"Objectively, it must be entirely rebuilt," said French General Francois Lecointre, who heads the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM).

Underpaid, ill-equipped and riven by divisions, Mali's armed forces fell apart last year when well-armed Islamist extremists seized the country's vast northern reaches, imposing Sharia law and terrorising locals.

Today no one knows exactly how many soldiers are left, probably around 6,000 - about half of which will train with the EUTM over the next year.

"The Malian authorities are well aware of the need to reconstruct the army, very aware that Mali almost disappeared due to the failings of the institution," said General Lecointre.

Class is at a dusty green-shuttered military academy 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the capital, Bamako, its grounds now packed with rows of EU-supplied troop transport vehicles, a field hospital, tents, and trunk-loads of equipment.

After 10 weeks of training, the first 670 Malians are expected to be ready for combat by end June/early July and deployed to northern Mali, where French and Chadian troops are still on the lookout for pockets of jihadist fighters.

The French are to hand over to an African force of 6,300 likely to come under a UN mandate in the coming weeks. But UN leader Ban Ki-Moon said last week that up to 11,200 troops were needed as well as a second "parallel" force.

While mission commander Lecointre expects the last batch of Malian soldiers to graduate in early 2014, he says the EUTM - running on a budget of 12.3 million euros (S$19.6 million) - may have to be extended.

Speaking in Bamako, Mali Defence Minister Yamoussa Camara deemed the 15-month mission "too short" but said it "will enable the training of a core of instructors who will be able to continue training others."

A major issue, according to Lecointre, is the army's poor and "heterogenous" equipment, made up of materiel donated by richer nations over two decades.

"Mali accepted equipment from any country offering but it doesn't function as a whole and often can be either obsolete or over-sophisticated."

EU nations were ready to donate equipment but too often "are inclined to give equipment they no longer want, whilst we are seeking above all to avoid receiving a patchwork of weaponry," he added.

The bigger problem however is the army's lack of a clear hierarchy and chain of command, with no "esprit de corps". "The army is very unstructured," Lecointre said, with soldiers more often than not banding together for one-off missions and not training.

A total 23 EU nations are taking part in the 550-strong EU mission, including 200 trainers, a protection force of 150, another 150 providing medical and logistical support, and 50 administrative staff.

France, which sent troops to its former colony in January to block an advance on the capital by the extremists, is the lead country in the mission, followed by Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Britain and Belgium. Lithuania is taking part in such an operation for the first time.

In February, the EUTM sent a score of officers to Bamako to take stock of the state of the armed forces. A plan was submitted to the local authorities in March on how to rebuild the army which will also be drilled in relations with civil society and protection of human rights.

Once trained, each of the four Mali battalions will have a unified command with an infantry-mobile core, backed by artillery and engineering, and a logistics component.

Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for March 30, 2013

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
March 31, 2013

Pan-African Journal: Special Worldwide Radio Broadcast for March 30, 2013

To listen to this week's edition of the Pan-African Journal just click on the website below:

In this week's Pan-African Journal we reported on the Kenyan Supreme Court's unanimous decision which ruled in favor of Uhuru Kenyatta confirming his victory in the recently-held national presidential elections. His candidacy had been challenged by Raila Odinga the favored candidate of the West.

There has been more unrest in the North African state of Egypt. Youth have clashed with police in Alexandria and Cairo amid a worsening economic crisis inside the country.

The World Social Forum has been held in the North African state of Tunisia. It is fitting that the gathering took place in Tunisia where the uprising began in December 2010 and spread later to Egypt and other countries.

And finally, the BRICS Summit was held in the Republic of South Africa this last past week. This was the first summit held in Africa where the largest economy on the continent exist.

Also there was a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading up to the 45th anniversary of his assassination.

'China Is Africa's All-Weather Friend'

‘China Africa’s all- weather friend’

Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00

Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged Friday that China will enhance co-operation with the Republic of Congo and remain an “all-weather” friend and partner of Africa.

At a meeting with his Congolese counterpart Denis Sassou Nguesso, Xi hailed the deep traditional friendship between the two nations, saying both countries have offered firm support for each other and carried out friendly co-operation.

China is now the Republic of Congo’s largest trading partner. Two-way trade jumped to five billion US dollars in 2012 from 290 million dollars in 2002.

On the occasion of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties next year, Xi said he hoped the two sides will make joint efforts and deepen their friendship and mutual trust, so as to lift the bilateral comprehensive cooperative partnership of solidarity and mutual assistance to a new level.

The Chinese leader said Beijing accords great importance to Brazzaville’s demand for co-operation in certain aspects, and pledged to facilitate major bilateral co-operation projects and encourage Chinese enterprises to participate in the development of special economic zones in the country.

For his part, Sassou Nguesso spoke highly of the headway made in bilateral ties, and the fruitful outcomes of their cooperation in various fields.

The Congolese president said his country appreciates China’s assistance, and hopes to enhance co-operation with China in road and railway construction and other areas.

Sassou Nguesso also dismissed the so-called “Chinese neo-colonialism” in Africa, saying the African people would not be misled by such “ill-disposed” allegations as they fully understood what colonialism is through their own history.

China respects Africa, helps Africa, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of African countries, Sassou Nguesso said.

The African people support Africa-China co-operation, and hope China would play a greater role in promoting peace, stability and development in Africa, he said.

Xi encouraged African nations to continue to seek strength from unity, and reaffirmed China’s commitment to developing friendly cooperation with African nations and promoting peace and development in the continent.

In a speech delivered at the Congolese parliament last Friday, Xi said China will always stay as an “all-weather” friend and partner of Africa.

“No matter how the international situation will change, China is always Africa’s all-weather friend and partner,” said Xi.

The Chinese president, on his last leg of a four-nation tour that also took him to Russia, Tanzania, and South Africa, said he had met with many African leaders during the trip and had extensive contacts with African people from various sectors.

“I have a very deep feeling that Africa is a continent full of vitality and hope,” Xi said.

“China-Africa co-operation has great potential and bright prospects.”

Looking head, the development of China and Africa provides unprecedented opportunities for each other, Xi said, urging the two sides to stick to the path of mutually beneficial cooperation and common development.

China will firmly keep up solidarity and mutual assistance with African nations, firmly strive to enhance mutual trust with them, and firmly maintain close cooperation and increase coordination with them in international affairs, the Chinese president said.

— Xinhua

Opposition Figure Admits Being Used by Imperialists Against Zimbabwe President Mugabe

Madhuku spits venom on western donors

Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00

Western donors feel that they have lost the battle to remove President Mugabe from power and they are now interested in any political arrangement in Zimbabwe which serves the interests of the West, National Constitutional Assembly leader, Professor Lovemore Madhuku has said.

He attacked the MDC-T leadership for abandoning the people “as they are pre-occupied with self enrichment” adding that the party made a mistake by failing to make its principles and values clear to the people over the past eight to nine years.

Prof Madhuku branded western donors as liars adding that they are not interested in any open democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail last Friday, Prof Madhuku admitted that the NCA made mistakes by relying on western donors for funding adding that from now onwards his organization would work with these donors with its eyes wide open.

“We for example were entirely donor funded. In other words, we had not made any steps as an organization to get resources from our own membership. All our funding was depended on us approaching especially western donors and asking them to support our cause for a democratic and people driven constitution.

“The mistake we made was to think that this was going to continue. That was a big mistake because many of the Western donors, don’t mean what they say. They will tell you today that they are supporting an open democracy but that is only if it is in the interests of themselves and their government. We have a typical example as the NCA.

“We would not have thought that the western donors could have rushed to describe the referendum as credible when there was not enough time for voters to read the draft constitution...

“That kind of a referendum would have been unacceptable in the West. Every voter in the West would have been expected to read the draft and make up their own mind. But they didn’t care about it because I think their next stage is just to get over the Zimbabwean problem.

“So it was our mistake to have thought that they could have been part and parcel of our struggle for an open democracy. They are not interested in any open democratic dispensation here. They are interested in a political arrangement in Zimbabwe which serves the interests of the West.

“Now I think that many of them feel that they have strained their relationship with Zimbabwe, they will be comfortable with any government now that they have changed their agenda. They just now want to get a normal relationship with Zimbabwe. They fought at one point against (President) Mugabe and they think that they have lost that battle.

“So if you hear this notion that they have left sanctions on about 10 people, it’s just a face saver. They are too eager to get over those sanctions. If Robert Mugabe were to achieve a possibility of getting a very violent-free election, you would see that the next thing they will say is it’s credible. This is because they now have given up. They think that western interests are better served by working with whatever government they can get in Zimbabwe in the same way they are working with even worse governments in other parts of the world.

“This was the NCA confessing that it had made mistakes to form a movement with an agenda in the country and then entirely dependent for funding that movement from the West. It’s the most unwise thing.”
Prof Madhuku said the NCA would survive without financial support from these western donors adding that during the campaign for the referendum his organisation got no cent from the donors who continued to give “promises and lies.”

Asked what influence the western donors have on the country’s politics, Prof Madhuku said: “Western donors have influence virtually in every developing country. So we should not say that it’s just in Zimbabwe.

They have interests everywhere and people must always be careful to check what their interests are.

“So here in Zimbabwe definitely they have interests, I am not sure to what extent but clearly at the moment they would prefer a different government from that led by President Mugabe. Its an open secret. If they are to end up with a government led by President Mugabe, it would simply be because they have failed to achieve a different government. It’s not something sophisticated and this is not a discovery to say the western donors always have an interest.

“In many developing countries they actually go beyond what they are doing in Zimbabwe. Go to what happened in Egypt, in Libya, whats happening in Syria, what’s happening in Iraq.

“All over the world, their interests are always based on a superiority complex which means that as western people we are superior to any other nation. Secondly that superiority complex then translates into what we call western interests. Ensuring that their economies are not threatened. That’s always the key driving force for western domination and so on.”

Prof Madhuku said he was not bitter adding that; “The only feeling I have about the situation in the NCA is a feeling of our own lack of understanding of international politics which led us to where we are now. They will leave you at a moment that they think you are no longer serving, or no longer in line with their interests. So I am not bitter. I can only say I have learnt a lot from that relationship that we have had as NCA with western donors.

“To have learnt a lot to the extent that we are wiser, much wiser than before. As for the future we will certainly do things differently.

"Even if we were to have any relation with any friendly western donor, we will do that with our eyes wide open and with a realisation that we can not put all our eggs in one basket. So from now on, whatever we will do whether as NCA or after the elections as a new political party, we will always be conscious of the fact that we can never rely on the western world.”

Turning to the MDC-T, Prof Madhuku said there were simmering problems in the party following a decision to put Mr Tsvangirai’s face on the party’s campaign symbol.

“I think that most of the leaders of the MDC-T no longer look at the interests of the people. They are more interested in entrenching their own positions. And also the deep values that led to the formation of the party have been abandoned,” said Prof Madhuku adding that there was no longer any relationship between the MDC-T and the NCA.

Asked what he would do differently if the hands of time could be turned to the days the MDC was formed, Prof Madhuku said: “I think there is only one thing. The only thing that I would do differently if we were to go back is to make the principles and values of the party more clear.

“In other words trying to define exactly the core values of the movement. What we have done wrongly with the MDC has been to leave the agenda of the party fairly open-ended to the extent that many people that then came to join the MDC could take the party in whatever direction.”

He added: “I think he (Mr Tsvangirai) has been overwhelmed by the number of people surrounding him in the party who are clearly not focussing on the original agenda of the party.

“I think the number of people surrounding Tsvangirai at the moment are more interested in personal aggrandisement. How much they get out of the movement, do I get out richer?

When asked what he meant when he said “we cannot follow such a person who thinks the MDC-T is his personal project,” Prof Madhuku explained saying: “I was just referring to the name of the party which is MDC Tsvangirai and also the symbol that they are deciding to use in the next elections which will have an open palm but with the face of Tsvangirai.

“That is a very wrong approach . . . It creates a very bad political culture in the country. Political formations must not be seen as founded around individuals. So if it happens with one dominant party, it is likely to go around and eventually be seen as a norm. This undermines the political culture in the country.

“Many people in the MDC-T itself are not comfortable with that but they may not be in a position to say no to it and I am sure it might be too late for that . . .

“So I am very clear in my mind that this is not something that is popular in the party. People might feel it maybe damaging now to start discussing issues around that ahead of the election. I think they will all put on brave faces and go to the election under those circumstances.”

Chiadzwa Diamond Production to Double in Zimbabwe

Chiadzwa diamond production to double

Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00
Itai Mazire and Kudakwashe Mutandi
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Diamond output from the Chiadzwa fields is set to double following the acquisition of a state-of-the-art ore processing machine by one of the five companies extracting the gems in the area.

Information gathered by The Sunday Mail Business indicates that all the mining firms in Chiadzwa, namely Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Anjin and Rera Diamonds, will benefit from the second front-end module expected to be delivered this week.

Italian-based engineering and equipment supplier Tenova Bateman Technologies Modular Plants (TBTM) revealed that it had completed the first stage of a contract to supply a second front-end module for a diamond company in Chiadzwa.

The Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Mr Gift Chimanikire, confirmed the development but would not reveal the name of the diamond mining firm since the machine had not yet been delivered.

“Our diamond mining firms have for the past years been developing their various plants to suit with international standards set by other mining giants in the world,” said Mr Chimanikire.

“About two years ago we commissioned a module plant for Anjin, and several companies there (in Chiadzwa) have been striving to acquire the latest ore-processing plants.

“Definitely after the machine has been installed we expect the diamond production to boost.”

When installed, the second front-end module is set to increase the ore-processing capacity of the companies operating in the fields.
TBTM said the diamond firms were currently processing about 200 tonnes of ore per hour.

“The aim of the project is to increase the ore-processing capacity from the existing 200 tonnes per hour to 400 tonnes per hour,” said the Italian company in a statement.
“The 200 tonnes per hour scrubber section, with a de-grit module, will match the existing 200 tonne per hour scrubber and screening section. It also includes the in-plant conveyors, as well as modifications to the existing conveyors and bins, to enable handling of the ore to and from both scrubber sections.”

The supply contract was signed in 2012 comprising two stages conducted in July and August last year.

The first stage comprised of the engineering study, detail design and procurement of long lead-time equipment.

The final stage involved procurement of the balance of equipment, fabrication, pre-erection and commissioning of the new module.

Fabrication of equipment and structures has already started and is well within schedule, with pre-erections currently in progress.

The new technology is similar to the one used by major diamond-producing nations such as Russia, South Africa and the Democra­tic Republic of Congo. Currently, Marange Resources, one of the pioneer companies in Chiadzwa, has been producing an average 150 000 carats of diamonds per month since March last year with the use of high-technology X-ray transmogra­phy machinery.

Companies in Marange have the capacity to produce 500 000 carats per month, but illegal sanc­tions that have been imposed by the United States and the European Union have restricted production to at least 100 000 carats per month.

Mines Minister Dr Obert Mpofu has since said such impediments were slowing down expansion plans of the major mining firms in Chiadzwa.

“Sanctions imposed on the country by the US and the EU are still the main threat to Zim­babwe’s diamond trade. For us to buy letters of credit and import spare parts and equipment from Europe and the East, our diamond firms have resorted to buying through third parties, which is very expensive not only in monetary terms but in terms of time as well, which has slowed down growth plans being implemented by the companies,” he said.

Nigeria And The Drone In The Sahel


The good, the bad and the bizarre

12:20 am
By Hugo Odiogor, Foreign Affairs Editor
Nigerian Vanguard

Will the drone be used in the Sahel? Put differently, will the United States order drone strikes on terrorist cells in West African states? That is the big question that confronts states and non-state actors in the on-going war against Al-Qaeda and its local affiliates in the Maghreb and Sahel regions.

But the reputation of the drone for causing collateral damage when in action remains a concern about the usefulness or otherwise of the unmanned aircraft especially in fighting the invisible enemy. Yet there are other uses of the drone that recommends it to nations and organisations for crime fighting.

When news filtered in that the United States had reached agreement with the Republic of Niger to set up a drone base in the West African state, there were concerns about the location of this war machine, especially the possibility of violating Nigeria’s territorial integrity and internal security. Nigeria and Niger Republic share borders and essential demographic features, particularly in northern parts of Nigeria.

The move especially unsettles the security and intelligence communities in Nigeria about the implications of having such equipment that can gather sensitive information about the country, but Prof. Fred Aja Agwu, a senior Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, told Sunday Vanguard that Nigeria has been weakened by its own internal crisis, that it could not utter a word on such brazen act the could compromise its intenal security. Agwu said the activities of Boko Haram and other terrorists groups show that insurgency in region has been internationalised.

According to him, the local insurgents have been infiltrated and the “Nigerian security and intelligence communities have proved incapable of coping with the situation”, so they need external help.

The activities of Boko Haram and Ansaru show that Nigeria is an area of interest for drone surveillance, whether in Niger or in Nigeria.

Prof. Ogbabe Oche, echoing Agwu, said the presence of drones in Niger Republic may serve as a deterrence to terrorists but its implications for national security cannot be overlooked. He explained that the drone option has become necessary because Nigeria is not showing that it is capable of defending its territorial integrity and upholding the security of its citizens.

Drone Technology

The drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is used for surveillance and targeted attacks on suspected terrorists and they have been used by the United States which developed the technology. The drone is remotely controlled and has visual sensors that allow those operating it to focus on intended targets. It carries different types of weapons. For instance, the MQ-9 drones can employ four lasser guided Hellfire missiles and time sensitive targets.

Former US President George W. Bush was the first to order drone strikes in 2008 in Pakistan during his last days in office. There are various types of drones namely the MQ-IB predator which is used for medium altitude long endurance mission. It performs intelligence gathering and has what the military call munition capabilities. The second type is the MQ-9 reaper which is used primarily for hunting and killer mission. It also has the capacity for intelligence gathering. It is designed to find, fix, track, get, examine and assess against high value, fleeting and time sensitive targets.

Former CIA Director General Leon Panetta described the drone as “very effective” as it “has achieved high level of precision attacks on targets. Military experts believe that the US drone has changed the nature of modern warfare because it is surgically precise and high effective.”

Drone in Warfare

Until 2008, drones were used for intelligence gathering in Pakistan. But, in that year, the US fired the first missile from a drone at a terrorist target in Waziristan. The US used the stealthy UAV RQ-17 drones to fly over Osama Bin Laden compound in Pakistan, to monitor the compound before the advance of the Navy Seals that killed him on May 2, 2011.

The US secret drone campaign against Al Qaeda ;and its affiliates has changed the face and nature of modern warfare. It has become a key weapon in US arsenal against suspected terrorists and the prospects of using it in the Sahel cannot be ruled out as Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb continues to grow in strength and presence in the region. Only US, UK and Israel have launched drone strikes against their enemies.

According to reports from Pentagon, the US has about 8,000 drones and it has carried out about 349 drone strikes in Pakistan, 61 in Yemen while it is estimated that between 1,500 to 2,500 persons may have died from this modern form of warfare. The casualty rate is believed to be high among non- combatants and non-terrorists but many people also argue that this is the propaganda of terrorists who want to draw sympathy to themselves and increase the criticisms against the use of drones to hunt them.

Global Drones Race

Israel has, over the years, led the world in developing unmanned aerial vehicle system (UAS). According to America Aerospace Study (2011), there are about 680 of UAS. And about 70 countries including China, UK, Australia, Russia are known to have such technology. Even Iran, which claimed that it it brought down one US drone, has acquired the technology.

China revealed in 2010 that it has 25 drone models. Today, there are more countries lining up to acquire the technology and usage of drones either for domestic or military purposes. In the US, the police use drones for law enforcement duties, especially to gather intelligence.

The Obama administration, which has been secretive about the use of drones, is known to have ordered more drone strikes against suspected terrorists outside the shores of the US than its predecessor. The administration is now faced with the responsibility of mobilising a global consensus on the use of drones.

In the US, there have been debates within government and Congress on legal justification for the use of drones especially targetting US citizens on American soil or abroad if they are found to be involved in acts of terrorism. There is increasing public demand for information on how the drones are used.

Apart from the issue of regularising the drone programme, it has become necessary to draw a guideline. There is, therefore, the need “to ensure that the future use of drones conforms with existing international and humanitarian laws”.

Under the international law, terrorists are considered civilians and killing them is only legal if they are caught in the act of committing an attack. Some experts argue that drones create more terrorists than they kill them.

Apart from military uses, drones have been used for search and rescue operations, tracking of weather disasters, especially after storms, hurricanes, earth quakes, etc.

The Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya wants to use drones to monitor wild life to deter poachers. This is an experience that could be useful to Nigeria in tracking incidence of pipeline vandalism.

Nigerian President Consoles Mother of Tribune Publisher

Awolowo Family: No One Can Fast-track Our Mother’s Death

31 Mar 2013
Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta
Nigeria ThisDay

The Obafemi Awolowo family of Ikenne, Ogun State, Saturday told those who might be wishing their aged mother, Chief (Mrs) Hannah Dideolu Awolowo, dead to have a re-think, declaring that nobody can fast-track the death of the matriarch of the family.

“As for Mama, we pray for long life for her, her time will come when it will come, there is nothing anyone can do about that. We know for a while it will be tough on her because it is tough on us that are her siblings,” the family stated.

Declaring this while welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan who paid a condolence visit to the family saturday over the death of their late brother, Chief Oluwole Awolowo, was Mrs. Tokunbo Awolowo –Dosunmu.

While recalling the circumstances leading to the death of the publisher of The Tribune, Awolowo-Dosumu said: “I recalled with gratitude that when our brother’s illness turned for the worse, the statement I was told you (President ) made, I’ll never forget, was that you will do everything to make sure Mama doesn’t grief again and unfortunately our prayers were not answered but God knows best.

“This is a terrible time for us in this family, our brother passed away exactly two weeks to the second anniversary of my sister and so for Mama, we can’t even imagine what will be going on in her heart but we are people of faith and we believe we will never understand everything in this side of the divide.

“But a time will come, then, we will all be there and see God and He will tell us why he did this and then we will understand but my prayer as bad as this situation is, whatever that God is saying to us that we will hear, whatever lessons he wants us to learn, we will learn and that at the end of it all, some good will come out of this. “As for Mama, we pray for long life for her, her time will come when it will come, there is nothing anyone can do about that. We know for a while it will be tough on her because it is tough on us that are her siblings.”

Speaking earlier during the visit, President Jonathan yesterday described the death of the publisher of Chief Oluwole Awolowo, as painful. Jonathan, who stayed with the mother of the deceased for 20 minutes, said Wole Awolowo’s death was painful to all .

“To me, I’ve seen the way the Awolowo family has taken me as their own and I would have loved to be here almost everyday.

Lagos Deputy Governor Urges Nigerian Students to Seek Greatness

Deputy Governor urges students on greatness

Posted by: Oziegbe Okoeki on March 28, 2013
Nigerian Nation

Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire has urged students to dedicate themselves and challenge life to bring out the talent God has given them.

Mrs Orelope-Adefulire gave the advice during her motivational speech at the programme organised by the Chief Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Dr Abdurrazaq Balogun for senior secondary students in his Surulere 11 Constituency to mark his 43rd birthday. The event tagged: Bringing legislature and mentorship to the classroom’ and held at Aguda was to mark Balogun’s 43rd birthday.

Mrs Orelope-Adefulire said: “Your parents have nurtured you and the government has created opportunities for you to take advantage of and become great in life.

Nothing stops you from getting to the highest height but you must dedicate yourselves to your studies, be determined, have a focus today, start reading your books, ask questions if you don’t understand, that is the only way to get it right.

“You must have passion for education and you must have ambition and work towards achieving your ambition. You must not nag or be proud. Be humble, responsible and abide by rules. Do not keep bad company; respect yourselves, parents, teachers and elders,” she said.

Balogun told the students that it is only education, and not poverty alleviation programmes that can take one out of poverty.

He advised them to stay focused and not be discouraged no matter the challenges confronting them today and that they should be ready to participate actively in the political process in the future so that good leaders can emerge.

“You must continue to be obedient, our role is to continue to give you the best and ensure that the education sector continues to thrive,” he said.

“I strongly believe it is only education that can take them to greater height. It is an opportunity to inspire and encourage them, talk to them about life so that they can excel in future and also drive it home to them the importance of exercising their civic responsibility in future”, he said.

The lawmaker who assured that the event would henceforth be annual, used the occasion to give out prizes which included cash, books and school bags to two students each from three secondary schools who came first, second and third in the quiz competition he organised the previous day for the five senior secondary schools in the constituency.

While Sanya Senior Grammar School, Ijesha Tedo came first, Jubilee Senior Model College came second and Ijesha Tedo Senior Secondary School came third. The other schools that participated in the competition are: Coker Senior Secondary School, Orile Iganmu and Aguda Senior Grammar School, Aguda.

Disquiet In Nigerian Presidency Over Northern Amnesty Proposal for Boko Haram

Boko Haram: Disquiet in Presidency as North backs Sultan over amnesty

Posted by: Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Sunday Oguntola (Lagos) and Shola O’Neil (Warri) on March 31, 2013
Nigerian Nation

• South-South leaders oppose proposal
• NSA opens talks with Algeria, Mauritania, others

In spite of the position of the Presidency, Northern leaders are supporting the recommendation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad for granting amnesty to leaders of Islamist Boko Haram sect.

The support is causing anxiety in government following fears that Northern leaders might not be keen in collaborating with the administration in tackling the insurgent menace.

It was also gathered that the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) had just returned from Algeria as part of steps to seek the support of neighbouring countries where Boko Haram leaders have purportedly relocated to.

But a former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, yesterday raised it alarm that the insurgency was is getting out of hand.

Musa said the insurgency has reached a level that it would amount to a waste of time for President Goodluck Jonathan to be waiting for the leaders of the group to come out before he grants them amnesty.

Investigations show that Northern governors, Emirs, opinion and political leaders are backing the Sultan’s call for amnesty.

It was gathered that the Northern leaders were unhappy that the government did not take time to debrief the Sultan on the evidence at his disposal before rejecting his suggestion.

There were indications that the Sultan might have privileged information on the way out of the Boko Haram menace.

A top source who is in support of the Sultan’s call said: “The truth is that since the Sultan demanded amnesty for Boko Haram leaders, many Northern governors, leaders and Emirs have been backing him.

“Already, some Northern leaders have been angry that Sultan’s recommendation was just dismissed with a wave of hand by the President.

“They think the government needs to take a second look at Sultan’s suggestion or else it might end up not enjoying the support of the North in addressing the menace.

“Yet, there is no way the government can solve the Boko Haram challenge without the involvement of Northerners.”

But it was learnt that the National Security Adviser had been trying to persuade Northern leaders to appreciate that the President is not opposed to dialogue with the sect leaders.

Another source said: “The NSA has been making them to realize that the President is only after a well-tailored amnesty programme not just mere mouthing of such option.

“Dasuki said these Northern leaders should take cognizance of the fact that the government opted for dialogue option when he came on board and that was why he embarked on shuttles to all the troubled spots in the North and key opinion leaders.”

As at press time, it was gathered that Dasuki had just returned from a trip to Algeria to plead for collaboration against Boko Haram following intelligence report that most of the wanted leaders of the sect are holed up in the desert nation.

A reliable security chief added: “In the last few weeks, Nigeria has been trying to open up talks with strategic neighbours. Besides leading a team to France, the NSA had collaborative talks with Algeria, Mauritania, Chad and Niger Republic.

“The exchange with neighbouring countries was necessitated by intelligence reports that both Boko Haram and Ansaru leaders are now operating outside Nigeria.”

But speaking with our correspondent yesterday, Musa, a former Kaduna State governor, asked Jonathan to have a rethink and declare amnesty for Boko Haram leaders.

He said: “The security situation is getting out of hand; it seems to be slipping off the control of security agencies. The Sultan is talking for Nigeria, not the North. President Goodluck Jonathan should give amnesty a deep thought.

“If this Boko Haram crisis is not solved, it will spread to all parts of the country. Let me remind you of the Nigerian civil war in the late 60s. At a point, the late Biafran leader, Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu took control of the South-East and the South-South. When he was almost seizing the Mid-West in order to march to the South-West, all Nigerians knew that there was a major challenge at hand.

“The situation has reached such a level that asking the Boko Haram leaders to come out as the President had done is a waste of time.”

He asked, “How can he (president) say that these sect leaders are faceless when he is the chief security officer of the country, when he has so many of them in detention, and when the nation spends a quarter of its budget on security and defence?

“Secondly, Boko Haram leaders are already in detention. By now they should know those behind the sect. The President is not a market leader and he has to be in charge. He said in his own words that Boko Haram members are in his government. If he is unable to dialogue with them, then it is his fault.

“Those who are calling for dialogue are actually saving his government. Let him use those in detention to identify the leaders of Boko Haram and open dialogue with them.

When Yar’Adua realized the Niger Delta crisis was getting out of hand he did not wait for a long time to declare amnesty. And more militants came out to embrace amnesty than it was initially imagined. Why can’t he do the same thing unless some forces in government are behind Boko Haram.”

Despite what appears to be growing Northern consensus, leading Niger-Delta leaders are rising against the amnesty calls.

President of Conference of Ethnic Nationalities of the Niger Delta, Prof Kimse Okoko, has kicked against it.

According to him, the sect had wasted too many lives and shown no remorse or commitment to dialogue.

“Boko Haram is an insurgency that I find difficult to reconcile with the calls for amnesty. It is an ongoing insurgency and these people have not laid down their arms so how can we even consider dialogue, let alone amnesty?’’

He argued that advocates of amnesty should remember members of the sect have not embraced dialogue or negotiation under any guise.

The former President of Ijaw National Congress (INC) also punctured claims by Northerners that the Niger Delta region is deriving too much from the federation.

He stated that compared with the environmental degradation and massive fund contributions to the federation account, what the Niger Delta region receives as allocations is grossly inadequate.

Okoko said: “People should not be making these unscientific statements. If you look at the deprivations in our region and what we contribute to the nation, you discover we really do not get much.

“The only road linking the region, the East-West road has not been constructed after several decades. We have not been compensated for all that we are suffering and there is no commensurable returns for what we contribute.’’

He said such arguments would have been needless if Nigeria were practising true federalism.

“These people talking are politicians who do not have a clear idea of what is at stake. We are talking development while they are politicking. Let’s control our resources and then we see who is really who.’’

Other prominent leaders from the Niger Delta region have faulted Kano State Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, over his perceived justification of Boko Haram violence and his call for amnesty for members of the Islamic sect.

Ms. Ann Kio Briggs of the Ijaw Republican Assembly, former MEND leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, the Izon-Ebe Oil Producing Communities Forum (IOPCF) and pioneer Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, (TROMPCON) Pere Charles Ayemi Botu, yesterday reacted angrily to statements credited to the governor.

IOPCF President, Mr. Edougha Moses, accused the governor and other prominent northern politicians of hiding under the violence of Boko Haram to unleash mayhem on hapless Nigerians in order to score cheap political points.

He said, “The North should also know that using religion as a cover up to cause destruction of lives and properties with the ill motive of distracting President Goodluck Jonathan can no longer be acceptable to the oil and gas producing communities. The insecurity in the nation is hatched by evil machinations of those who wish (for) Nigeria’s disintegration.”

Ayemi-Botu said Kwankwaso’s statement is in tandem with his “anti-Niger Delta antecedents.” While noting that the Kano State Governor has a history of being against the people of the oil bearing communities, said the statement was also an eye-opener on the sponsors of the violence bedevilling the country.

He said northern politicians are behind the plot to make the country ungovernable having lost power.

“Kwankwaso could be one those sponsoring Boko Haram. It is an irony of fate that somebody of his status could open his mouth to incite a section of the country against the other. Is it because they think Niger Delta is getting too much that they want to use Boko Haram to tear the country apart?”

He cautioned that the magnanimity of the Niger Delta people should not be taking for granted.

Media aide to Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), Paul Bebenimibo, decried the statement by the governor, describing it as careless and capable of plunging the country into another civil war.

He said: “It is unfortunate that Kwankwaso has a history of making very careless statement. It was he who recently advised Ibos to leave Kano State because government could no longer protect them.”

Ms Ann KioBriggs also lambasted Kwankwaso for making statements unbecoming of his position and status, stressing that his utterance seems to justify violence as a means of objecting to perceived injustice.

She noted “Is he (Kwankwaso) saying that it is also not unjust that we suffer environmental degradation from oil exploration, that it is unfair that Bayelsa, which produce oil, has only eight local government areas while Kano has 44?

“I want to tell him it is not fair that Kano has 44 local government areas while Bayelsa which produces the money he is using to develop Kano and running of the 44 LGAs, has only eight. I want to tell him that that is not fair.”

She said the position of Kwankwaso suggests that that Igbo, Yoruba and other ethnic groups should take up arms and hack hapless Nigerians to untimely death whenever they are displeased with government’s policies.

Nigerian Plateau Killing Toll Hits 50

Plateau killings: Death toll hits 50

Our Reporter on March 31, 2013
Nigerian Nation

Two die in Gombe night attack

The death toll in the week-long orgy of killings by unknown gunmen in several villages around Jos, Plateau State has risen to 50.

This figure was confirmed by officials of the Special Task Force (STF) yesterday, as authorities pleaded for peace over the Easter holiday. The attacks came as a string of unsolved killings continue to plague the region that has seen thousands killed in massacres in recent years. While a combined police and military presence still patrols Jos and other parts of Plateau State, many of the villages attacked sit in remote, rural corners of the state.

The most recent killings happened on Friday night in the Barkin Ladi area, according to STF spokesman, Navy Lt. Jude Akpa.

Attackers raided Bokkos town and killed nine people, fleeing before soldiers arrived, Akpa said. Emmanuel Lohman, a government official, said gunmen armed with assault rifles struck a village called Ratas and opened fire in the night while many there were sleeping.

Witnesses said the shooting lasted for almost two hours before the attackers fled. The villagers blamed nomadic Hausa-Fulani cattle herdsmen for the attack.

Muhammadu Nura, the state secretary of the cattle breeders association, said Hausa-Fulani people had been killed in “reprisals” but denied herders were involved the attacks.

The figure of 50 people said to have been killed in attacks, includes an assault on Wednesday on a village in the Riyom local government area that killed 28 people and an attack on Thursday in the Bokkos local government area that killed 18 civilians. The military said it killed six while trying to repel attackers during the assault.

Meanwhile, the management committee chairman of Barkin Ladi local government area of Plateau State, Emmanuel Lohman, has commended the personnel of the Special Task Force on Jos crisis saying but for their constant patrols around the villages in the area there would have been another bloody night yesterday.

Loman who spoke in Jos yesterday while giving an update on the renewed killing of people by suspected hired Fulani gunmen said STF personnel prevented another round of bloody killings because of their constant patrol of the area.

The council chairman commended the STF personnel for their professional conduct, noting that the council will support them in the bid to rid the area of the killers.

Meanwhile, the Police in Gombe State have confirmed the killing of two people when gunmen attacked Kumo Police Division in Akko Local Government Area on Friday night.

The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Mohammed Sule, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Gombe that the dead were among the attackers.

He said the police recovered one AK 47 rifle and two motorcycles from the attackers.

“As far as I am concerned, none of my men was killed. What I know is that two of the attackers were killed and we recovered one AK 47 rifle and two motorcycles,” he said.

Sule, however, said he was expecting details of the incident since it occurred in the night.

He decried the lack of information from the public to enable the police to prevent such attacks.

Some residents of Kumo town told NAN on telephone that they heard sounds of gunshots when the attackers came in the night.

They said they could not sleep in the night because of the exchange of fire between the police and the attackers.