INTL Africa: Politics, Economics, and Military- April 2021

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
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Niger: Attack on presidential palace an 'attempted coup'
A military unit attempted to seize the presidential palace in Niger's capital, according to the government, just days before the country's new president Mohamed Bazoum takes office.

File photo of Niger's presidential palace in the capital Niamey
File photo of Niger's presidential palace in the capital Niamey

A military unit made a failed coup attempt in Niger's capital Niamey on Wednesday, a government spokesman said, coming just two days before the country's first ever democratic transition of power.
President-elect Mohamed Bazoum is due to be sworn in on Friday — taking over from President Mahamane Ousmane, who disputed the election results.

Spokesman Abdourahamane Zakaria said the coup attempt was intended to "imperil democracy."
The government claimed the security situation was under control after the militants attempted to seize Niamey's presidential palace, with several arrests having been made.

What we know so far
Gunfire reportedly began around 3 a.m. local time (0400 CET) and lasted for around 30 minutes.
Local residents told news agency AFP that there was "intense shooting, with heavy and light weapons."
The United States Embassy in Niamey issued a security alert saying it would not open its doors on Wednesday "due to gunshots heard near our neighborhood.''
A combination picture of incoming Niger President Mohamed Bazoum and former President Mahamane Ousmane
The shooting comes two days ahead of Mohamed Bazoum's (L) inauguration after winning in the runoff against Mahamane Ousmane

The situation is 'calm'
DW correspondent Abdoulkarim Mahamadou said Niger's state broadcaster initially began its program as usual at 6:30 a.m. with no mention to the reported shooting.

"The situation here is calm and seems to be under control [of security forces]. Traffic is dense, officials are going to work, cabs are running normally and people are going about their business," Mahamadou said.

Violence escalated after elections
Attacks by militants have grown since Bazoum's victory in February presidential election.
Niger's former president, Ousmane, has deemed the election fraudulent after he lost in the runoff against Bazoum.

Ousmane served as president for three years until a military coup toppled him in 1996. He has since tried to regain power, most recently through the February election.

Niger has had four coups since its independence from France in 1960.

The spread of deadly extremist violence has long plagued the West African country, after Islamist insurgencies spilled over from Mali and Nigeria.

Bachirou Amadou Adamou, a legal scholar based in Niamey, told DW Wednesday the coup attempt was a message "aimed not only at the new government, but also the international community."

Adamou said electoral disputes in Niger are often taken up by international bodies rather than local mediators.

"This coup attempt shows the weaknesses of the Nigerien democratic system and the necessity to strengthen democratic institutions in Niger, including the army," he added.

Watch video02:56
Niger set for first democratic transition of power
How do Nigeriens view their new president?

Thomas Schiller, a Mali-based Africa expert for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, told DW Wednesday that Bazoum is seen as a close follower of Niger's last president, Mahamadou Issafou.

"The transition from Bazoum to Issafou is regarded by the vast majority of people in Niger as a continuation, and not seen as a real change of power," Schiller said.

Schiller claimed that the many Nigeriens feel Issafou did not do enough to improve Niger's precarious security situation, with the Defense Ministry also facing an embezzlement scandal under his leadership.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

EXPLAINER: Who are the rebels in northern Mozambique?
By ANDREW MELDRUMan hour ago

1 of 8
In this image taken from militant video released by the Islamic State group on Monday March 29, 2021, purporting to show fighters near the strategic north eastern Mozambique town of Palma, as the militant group claimed it had taken control of the area after five days of conflict. The video from the Islamic State group claims to show fighters in or near Palma, but cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press. (AMAQ Militant video via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — With more than a week of fierce fighting including beheaded bodies in the streets, the battle for the northern Mozambique town of Palma has highlighted the southern Africa country’s insurgency and threats to its multibillion-dollar investments.
Here’s a look at what is known about the rebel group and the challenges facing Mozambique.

They’re mostly unemployed young Muslim men from Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province on the country’s long Indian Ocean coastline.

For centuries, most people there have been Muslims who traded with Swahili dhow sailors and coexisted with Catholicism brought by Portuguese colonial rulers.

Despite rich natural resources, the province has been one of Mozambique’s least developed, with low levels of education, health services, and nutrition.

In recent years some unemployed youths have studied abroad on scholarships from Muslim organizations and locals say many returned preaching a more radical form of Islam. In 2017, violence erupted against government targets by a few small bands, often using machetes to kill police and officials.

The rebels have grown to several hundred, they use motorcycles and are now well-armed with automatic weapons and mortars. Military experts say many weapons come from abroad.

They are known locally as al-Shabab — Arabic for “youth” — but it seems to be just a handy nickname as they don’t have any known affiliation with Somalia’s jihadi rebels of the same name.

For a few years, the insurgents didn’t appear to be linked to any group, but in 2019, the Islamic State group began claiming responsibility for their attacks, calling them the Islamic State Central African Province.

IS also posts photos and videos of the militants, often standing by the group’s black flag. A video posted this week showed them dressed in a mix of camouflage and black shirts and red scarves, and speaking Swahili and some Arabic.

The number of attacks since 2017 has risen to more than 838, and more than 500 of those have been in the past year, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project.

More than 2,600 people have been killed. The humanitarian crisis has also dramatically increased, from 90,000 displaced at the start of 2020 to more than 670,000 now, according to U.N. organizations. More than 900,000 people in the area need food aid, according to the World Food Program.

After years of hit-and-run attacks, the rebels captured the port town of Mocimboa da Praia in August and have held it since then. They’ve attacked smaller towns in the surrounding area.

In one massacre, they beheaded 50 people on a soccer pitch, according to a report confirmed by the Catholic bishop of Pemba, the provincial capital, where hundreds of thousands have fled. The rebels target government offices, kill local officials and rob banks.

President Filipe Nyusi’s government in Maputo, in the southernmost part of Mozambique, has launched a counterterrorism offensive by the national police and the military.

It also has used a private military organization based in South Africa, the Dyck Advisory Group, which has sent helicopter gunships and other aircraft to find and attack the rebels.
Because the rebels often mingle with civilians, military action is difficult. Atrocities have been committed by all sides — the rebels, the government forces and the mercenaries — according to a March 2 report by Amnesty International. The government and the Dyck group deny the charges, saying they are investigating them.

The United States last month declared Mozambique’s rebels to be a terror organization and sent special operations forces officers to carry out a two-month training of Mozambique’s marines.

Portugal said it’s sending 60 officers to provide training and said the European Union is considering military support.

Mozambique is a member of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community, which has been closely watching the instability. The group has had a few meetings on the rebels but Mozambique hasn’t yet requested direct military help from neighboring countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Rebel violence had caused a suspension of work by the French oil and gas firm Total in January.

On March 24, Total said security had improved enough to allow it to resume, but within a few hours, the rebels attacked Palma, and Total once again evacuated workers from the fortified construction site.

Experts say it will be a long time before stability is sufficiently restored for Total to get back to work. The huge deposits of natural gas are reported to be among the world’s largest, and the government was hoping the projects would bring much-needed economic growth.
Exxon also was planning an investment, but that appears to be on hold.

“The whole gas gamble was bet on a promise of security, and Nyusi -- and Mozambique -- lost the bet,” wrote academic Joseph Hanlon in the newsletter Mozambique News Reports and Clippings.

The rebels have grown in size and organization. Once viewed as a ragtag bunch of dissatisfied youths, their attacks are more strategic and they are spreading their reach over a large part of northern Cabo Delgado.

Military experts say restoring stability will be a long, violent and challenging process. A more long-range solution would be to improve local governments and provide better services and living conditions, according to analysts and military experts.

But that will be difficult, with the rebels already entrenched. Africa’s arc of extremism — from the Sahel region in West Africa, to Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency in central Africa and al-Shabab’s entrenched conflict in Somalia in East Africa — has a new foothold in southern Africa in Mozambique that will be hard to dislodge.


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Mozambique: South Africa deploys forces after jihadist attack
South Africa has deployed troops in Mozambique following a jihadist attack on the northern town of Palma. This comes as French energy giant Total withdraws all staff from the region.

Palma in Mozambique
The volatile security situation in Palma has forced thousands of people to flee the town
South Africa deployed troops to Mozambique on Friday following an attack by "Islamic State" (IS) militants in the northern town of Palma last month. The announcement was made during a televised address by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who emphasized the need to protect South African nationals in neighboring Mozambique.

"We remain involved with securing the safety of our people in Mozambique — in Pemba and in Palma," Ramaphosa said.

The attack on Palma has forced thousands of people to flee the town and seek safety in the port town of Pemba, which serves as the capital of Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province.
Ramaphosa said the South African military began rescuing nationals stranded in Mozambique and recovered the body of a South African killed in the attack.

Watch video01:54
Humanitarian crisis threatens Mozambique after attack
French energy giant ceases operations in the region

Many of the foreign workers in the gas-rich town are employed by French energy giant Total, with security sources telling news agencies as of Friday that the company has ceased operations in the area and withdrawn all staff.

Total planned to invest $20 billion (€16.9 billion) in a liquified natural gas plant located near Palma, but suspended construction on the site last week.

The Mozambican military has claimed that the Total plant is protected, yet drone surveillance had reportedly shown that the jihadists were close to the gas site, which is located on the Afungi peninsula.

What happened during the attack?
The attack began on March 24, when around 100 jihadists seized control of Palma. IS announced in a statement that the group had killed 55 members of the Mozambican security forces during the assault.

Dozens of Palma residents are believed to have died in the siege, including at least two foreign workers in the area.

Watch video02:25
Mozambique: Islamist terror on the Indian Ocean
The UN said Friday that at least 9,150 people have fled from Palma to other areas in northern Mozambique. Thousands are still believed to be displaced within the Palma district.
The assault on Palma is the latest in a string of jihadist-led attacks in northern Mozambique, which began in 2017, So far, more than 2,600 people have died from the raids over the past three years.
wd/sri (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Somalia: Al-Shabab strikes at two military bases
The Islamist group detonated car bombs before launching nighttime raids at two locations in southern Somalia.

Al-Shabab militants train in northern Mogadishu in 2010
Al-Shabab fighters controlled parts of Mogadishu before being pushed out in 2011

The Somali military repelled twin attacks by al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab early on Saturday, inflicting "heavy losses," the army chief said.

Addressing reporters, General Odowa Yusuf Rage said that "thanks to our brave soldiers who knew about the tricks of the assailants, the militants were defeated and their wounded and dead bodies are strewn around." He added that the military was still pursuing the attackers.

What do we know about the attacks?
The attackers used car bombs before trying to storm the military bases located some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital, Mogadishu.

Various military officials gave differing death tolls, with the military initially saying that 19 militants were killed in both locations.

Later, a senior military official told media that the soldiers killed 45 jihadists during the attacks. Several of the soldiers were also killed.

Watch video02:14
Mogadishu tries to rebuild after years of war
What do witnesses say?

In Awdheegle, where the larger of the two bases is located, witnesses said the attackers failed to breach the facility despite nearly an hour of fighting.

"I saw several dead bodies of the Shabab gunmen near the camp where the fighting occurred, the Somali soldiers paraded these bodies after the fighting," town resident Mohamed Ali told the AFP news agency.

In Bariire, witnesses said the militants managed to enter the camp and torch some of the military supplies.

Separately, the groups said it has captured military vehicles and supplies in the attacks.

What is al-Shabab?
Al-Shabab was founded between 2004 and 2006, and claims to fight for an Islamic theocracy in the Horn of Africa. They are believed to have ties to other major terror groups such as al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

While an African Union-led offensive pushed them out of Mogadishu in 2011, they have continued to launch bombing attacks and raids in Somalia and Kenya.

Watch video03:27
dj/mm (AFP, dpa, AP)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

DR Congo hosts 'last chance' talks over Ethiopia's contested Nile dam
Issued on: 05/04/2021 - 07:26
This frame grab from a video obtained from the Ethiopian Public Broadcaster (EBC) on July 20 and July 21, 2020, and released on July 24, 2020, shows an aerial view of water levels at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Guba, Ethiopia.

This frame grab from a video obtained from the Ethiopian Public Broadcaster (EBC) on July 20 and July 21, 2020, and released on July 24, 2020, shows an aerial view of water levels at the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Guba, Ethiopia. © AFP Photo/Ethiopian Public Broadcaster (EBC)
2 min

Foreign ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan held talks in Kinshasa on Sunday over Addis Ababa's contested giant dam on the Nile, seen as vital by Ethiopia and a threat by downstream Egypt and Sudan.

"These negotiations represent the last chance that the three countries must seize to reach an accord," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Egyptian media.
He said the accord should allow the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to be filled in time to begin operations in the coming months, before the next rains.
The dispute over the GERD, built across the Blue Nile, has been simmering for around a decade.


Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who became chairman of the African Union in February, urged the foreign ministers as he opened the talks "to launch a new dynamic".

"I ask you all to make a fresh start, to open one or several windows of hope, to seize every opportunity," he said.

He welcomed the willingness of the participants "to seek African solutions for African problems together".

Egypt and Sudan this month called on Kinshasa to steer efforts to relaunch negotiations on the contested dam.

For Tshisekedi, "The human dimension must be at the heart of these tripartite negotiations."
The people of all three countries have a right to water, food and health, he stressed.

The US ambassador to DR Congo, Mike Hammer, attended the start of the talks, which were set to wrap up on Monday.

The Nile, the world's longest river, is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it crosses.

Upstream Ethiopia says hydroelectric power produced by the GERD will be vital to meet the energy needs of its 110 million people.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan, also downstream, fears its own dams will be compromised if Ethiopia proceeds with filling the GERD before a deal is reached.

Last Tuesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed his country's concerns, warning, "Nobody will be permitted to take a single drop of Egypt's water, otherwise the region will fall into unimaginable instability."

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Nigeria: Hundreds of prisoners escape amid armed attack
Nigeria has experienced one of its largest jailbreaks — involving more than 1,800 inmates — after gunmen attacked a prison in the south of the country.

Nigerian policeman
An attack on a prison in Imo state has allowed hundreds of prisoners to escape

More than 1,800 inmates of a prison in southern Nigeria have escaped after heavily armed men attacked the facility in the early hours of the morning, prison authorities said on Monday.

The attackers used explosives to make their way into the Owerri prison in the state of Imo before starting a gun battle with prison guards, the national corrections authority announced in a statement.

Other government buildings in the town of Owerri also came under attack at the same time.
No group has so far taken responsibility for the attack, but the region is known for being home to a number of separatist organizations.

The Nigerian inspector general of police blamed the paramilitary wing of one of them, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), for the assault.

The ESN says it is fighting to protect the indigenous Igbo population from foreign armed invaders.

Watch video01:10
Nigeria suffers yet another school kidnapping
'Act of terrorism'

In a statement, President Muhammadu Buhari described the attack as "an act of terrorism" and called on security forces to bring both the assailants and the escaped inmates into custody.

The attacks in Owerri come less than two weeks after attacks on four police stations, military checkpoints and prison vehicles in southeastern Nigeria killed at least a dozen security officers.

Prisons in Nigeria are often overcrowded and the hygiene conditions are frequently poor.
tj/mm (AFP, AP)


passin' thru
Cargos grounded in Elegu as truck drivers fear entry into S.Sudan
Author: Okot Emmanuel/Woja Emmanuel | Published: 8 hours ago

Trucks at Nimule border, bringing in market commodities from Uganda and Kenya, the two neighbors South Sudan rely on | File photo

Hundreds of commercial trucks importing goods into South Sudan are reportedly stuck at Elegu border checkpoint on the Ugandan side.

“No trucks are entering into Nimule except these passenger light vehicles here but for the commercial trucks, it is the fifth day now they have stopped coming,” said Daniel Deng, the Chairperson of Clearing Agents at the Nimule border point.
This is after truck drivers refused to cross into South Sudan over the killing of their colleagues along the major highways.
They are protesting last week’s killing of Ugandan and Kenyan truck drivers along the Juba-Nimule highway, Juba-Mundri and Yei-Juba roads.

At least 7 foreign nationals, including South Sudanese, were killed in a span of two weeks.
The truck drivers who have parked near Nimule are demanding security assurance from South Sudan before proceeding with the delivery of goods to Juba and beyond.
The clearing gent the standoff in Elegu would lead to an increase in commodity prices in South Sudan.
“If it continues like this for more days, then what I am quite sure is that prices of commodities may hike,” Daniel Deng said on Tuesday.

“The attack is not only on the Juba-Nimule highway but is everywhere in South Sudan and my appeal to the government is to ensure security for the travelers.”
On Friday, the Kenya Transporters’ Association advised its members to suspend travels into South Sudan following the killing of the drivers.
The following day, the Ugandan truck drivers also stopped sending cargo into South Sudan until such time security is guaranteed.

They stated that there is no security guarantee after reports of violent crimes against foreign drivers; such as killing and burning of drivers and setting ablaze of trucks.
The transporters’ associations also informed drivers already en route to South Sudan to arrange with their clients to collect goods at the Customs yard in Elegu border point.
South Sudan, a landlocked country, depends on imported food and manufactured products for its population from the region.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Talks collapse on Ethiopia's Nile dam
Sudan and Egypt have grown increasingly concerned by Ethiopia's stance during negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The gravity dam on the Nile has been under construction since 2011.

Äthiopien | Satellitenbild | Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)
Negotiations over the GERD appear to have broken down once more

The latest round of talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) appeared to have broken down on Tuesday.

The three sides are all seeking to find some common ground but Egypt's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ethiopia had a "lack of political will to negotiate in good faith."

Hosted by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Kinshasa, the meeting between the three countries' foreign ministries began on Sunday and were extended into a third day on Tuesday.

To further complicate proceedings, a Congolese mediator said Sudan had objected to the terms of a draft communique, news agency AFP reported.

"Ethiopia and Egypt accepted the terms contained in the draft final communique. But Sudan felt that its interests in the River Nile were at threat," the DRC source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Delegations from the three countries were hoping to find a breakthrough in negotiations over a project Ethiopia says is key to its economic development.

Watch video02:38
The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Grave concerns downstream

However, the other parties remain uncertain over the GERD. Egypt fears the dam will endanger its supplies of Nile water, while Sudan is concerned about the dam's safety and water flows through its own dams and water stations.

Egypt had said this latest meeting represented the last chance to re-start negotiations before Ethiopia begins to fill the dam for the second year in a row, after seasonal rains begin this summer.

Ahead of the latest round of talks, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said there would be "inconceivable instability in the region" if his country's water supply were affected by the dam.

The Nile, the world's longest river by some people's calculations and one of the two longest by anybody's, remains crucial to keeping Africa fed and watered. Roughly 19 in 20 Egyptians live within a few kilometers of the river's banks and rely on its water.

Watch video10:10
Nile dam dispute: Why can't Egypt and Ethiopia just get along?
Sudan and Ethiopia at loggerheads

Meanwhile, Sudan's foreign minister Mariam al-Sadig al-Mahdi said on Tuesday that Ethiopia's insistence on such unilateral moves represented a violation of international law.
"Without a new approach to negotiations, there becomes space for Ethiopia to impose a fait accompli and put all the peoples of the region in grave danger," said al-Mahdi.

Sudan and Egypt agreed on a proposal to include the European Union, the United States and the United Nations in the talks, as well as African Union mediators.

But Egypt said Ethiopia rejected the proposal during the meeting, as well as other suggestions to re-start negotiations.

Sudan is also in the midst of a border dispute with Ethiopia.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Ex-president Gbagbo, right-hand man Blé Goudé ‘free to return to Ivory Coast' after ICC acquittal
Issued on: 07/04/2021 - 15:16Modified: 07/04/2021 - 15:17
© AFP I File photo of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo (right) and his close ally Charles Blé Goudé

© AFP I File photo of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo (right) and his close ally Charles Blé Goudé © File photo, AFP
Text by:FRANCE 24Follow
2 min
Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and his former right-hand man Charles Blé Goudé are "free to return to Ivory Coast when they want" after they were definitively acquitted of crimes against humanity, President Alassane Ouattara said Wednesday.

"Arrangements will be made so that Laurent Gbagbo can enjoy, in accordance with the laws in place, the advantages and allowances available to former presidents," Ouattara said at the start of a cabinet meeting in Abidjan.

He spoke a week after the International Criminal Court (ICC) upheld Gbagbo's acquittal, with appeals judges confirming that he was finally in the clear over a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010-11.

Gbagbo was the first head of state to stand trial at the tribunal in The Hague.

More than 3,000 people were killed in the brief civil war which followed Ivory Coast's 2010 president election, when Gbagbo disputed the results of the vote won by Ouattara.
Last Wednesday's ruling ended the decade-long legal saga over the unrest.

Supporters of 75-year-old Gbagbo say it will heal the country's wounds and pave the way for his triumphant return to the West African country.

Despite spending years behind bars in The Hague, as well as time in Brussels as he awaited the outcome of an appeal against his acquittal in 2019, Gbagbo has retained strong support at home.

He has been positioning himself for a potential comeback since last year, casting himself as a conciliatory figure.

Blé Goudé, a former youth militia leader, also saw his acquittal upheld last week.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Tiny but mighty: Djibouti's role in geopolitics
Location, location, location: Thanks to its geostrategic position, the small African nation of Djibouti receives a lot of attention from major world powers. But its population hardly benefits from this.

An officer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force looks through a pair of binoculars
Japan has long had a military presence in Djibouti

The small country of Djibouti, located on the Horn of Africa, has a population of less than 1 million people. But military strategists and security policymakers worldwide consider the country at the top of their lists when it comes to geopolitics.

The United States, France, China and Japan, among other countries, have maintained military bases in Djibouti for several years. Saudi Arabia and India could soon join their ranks.

With Djibouti located at at the entrance to the Red Sea — one of the most sensitive straits in global trading — the small nation plays a major role for stakeholders far and wide. Positioned directly at the Bab al-Mandab Strait, anyone wanting to travel from Asia to Europe or vice versa by ship via the Suez Canal has to pass through Djibouti.
A ship at sea.
Djibouti's coast is of great strategic importance to global trade

Over 10% of world trade passes along the coast of Djibouti. Therefore, various economic world powers have a stake in securing their goods that pass through the strait, especially with their military presence. With threats like Somali pirate ships posing a challenge to these global supply chains, Djibouti's stability in a crisis-ridden region is a welcome anchor point for many world powers.

Peace in an unstable region
Djibouti's neighbors have their share of issues. In Somalia, the terrorist group al-Shabab continues to fight against the government, regularly carrying out attacks on the civilian population. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government is involved in a conflict with the defiant Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which has spilled over into neighboring Eritrea.

And, just across the Bab al-Mandab Strait, on the Arabian Peninsula, the civil war in Yemen has been raging on since 2014, with multiple players from the Gulf region engaging in a proxy war with Iran.
An infographic shows foreign military bases in Djibouti

Thus Djibouti has become a hub for the international community as it has largely been spared all the internal unrest. Whether as a base for counterterrorism operations conducted by US special forces or for evacuations of civilians from crisis areas, the country's rise to a regional hub over the past 20 years is also the result of a deliberate strategy, says Annette Weber, an expert on the Horn of Africa at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "This didn't just happen but was also planned and carried out by Djibouti itself," Weber told DW.

Though there is always some danger involved in hosting foreign soldiers, the military presence in Djibouti from many different countries means that hardly anyone would dare attack the country. "Of course, this provides security and can ultimately also be a locational advantage for the local economy," Weber said.

A mountain of debt
The man who made Djibouti such a hot spot for international military activity is Ismail Omar Guelleh. He has been ruling the small country as president for more than two decades now.

On April 9, he will stand for election for the fifth time. Meanwhile, the opposition is boycotting the ballot for the most part, and the election will feature only one other candidate's name on the ballot. Observers expect the authoritarian ruler to win the election again.

According to Hassan Khannenje, director of the Nairobi-based regional think tank the HORN Institute, Guelleh's political course has not translated into prosperity and wealth for Djibouti, at least not to date. "If you look at the situation on the ground, the main thing you see is that people are still very poor. Djibouti is still one of the poorest countries in the region," he told DW, adding that there is no evidence that the economic situation has seen any improvement compared to neighboring countries.
China Merchants Group members take pictures at the main gate of Djibouti International Free Trade Zone.
Djibouti opened its Chinese-funded international free trade zone in July 2018

Djibouti's national debt has risen sharply in recent years — reaching about 70% of its present gross domestic product. The government has invested the borrowed money in extensive infrastructure projects, including the railroad line between Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Djibouti's capital, Djibouti city. The funds have also gone into investing in the port and creating a special economic zone. But with the money coming primarily from Chinese financiers, the terms and conditions attached to the loans might be questionable.

Ulterior motives?
Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, researches China's growing influence in Djibouti. He says that, in fact, "Guelleh has managed to make the most of Djibouti's geopolitical location.
  • Train station Addis Ababa (DW/J. Jeffrey)

The port generates regular income for the state budget, and rental income from the military bases — amounting to more than €100 million ($119 million) annually — is also a significant source of foreign currency coming into the country.

But there are questions about the real motive for why Guelleh and his government wish to turn the country into a major industrial player, especially when it comes to why they're using Chinese loans to do so. "I doubt that Djibouti will ever become more than a transit center for Ethiopia and the region. The population is very small, and it will take a very long time to train enough people to work in industrial companies," Cabestan said in an interview with DW.

Stability — for the rulers
Khannenje said the presence of China and other global players posed another problem. "These military bases serve as protection for the ruling elites because of course, these powerful people have an interest in maintaining the status quo in the country," Khannenje said.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti casts his vote.
President Ismail Omar Guelleh is all but guaranteed to win the April 9 vote

Maintaining that status quo would hinder the strengthening of democratic processes in the country, where the influence of traditional clans strongly characterizes social structures. "Through these relations with major powers, the rulers can generate income to maintain their patronage networks, and thus secure their power in the country."

If Guelleh is reelected on April 9, he would have the longest tenure of any president since Djibouti's independence from France in 1977. The current record holder is his immediate predecessor, Hassan Gouled Aptidon — Guelleh's uncle — who spent 22 years in office.

This article has been adapted from German.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Chad’s Deby on track to win sixth presidential term
Issued on: 09/04/2021 - 19:04
Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno at the UN headquarters in New York City, New York, USA, September 23, 2019.

Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno at the UN headquarters in New York City, New York, USA, September 23, 2019. © Carlo Allegri, REUTERS
4 min
Idriss Deby Itno, the frontrunner in elections in Chad this weekend, has carved out a reputation as the West's stalwart ally in the Sahel, despite accusations of authoritarianism and failure to ease poverty.

Deby, 68, is on course for a sixth term in office, having already notched up 30 years in office, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in the world.

His long survival in the region's brutal politics has made him a reliable figure in the French-led campaign against jihadist insurgents in the Sahel.

Deby is a herder's son from the Zaghawa ethnic group who took the classic path to power through the army, and relishes the military culture.

Last August, the National Assembly named him field marshal, the first in Chad's history, after he led an offensive against jihadists who had killed nearly 100 troops at a base in the west of the country.

Dressed in a dark-blue silk cape embroidered with oak leaves, and clutching a baton, Deby dedicated the tribute to "all my brothers in arms."

As a young man, Deby enrolled at the officers' academy in the capital N'Djamena before heading to France, where he trained as a pilot.

He returned in 1979 to a country in the grip of feuding warlords.

Deby hitched his star to Hissene Habre and was rewarded with the post of army chief after Habre came to power in 1982, ousting Goukouni Weddeye.

In the following years, Deby distinguished himself fighting Libyan-backed rebels over mountainous territory in the north of the country.

But in 1989, he fell out with his increasingly paranoid boss, who accused him of plotting a coup.

Deby fled to Sudan, where he assembled an armed rebel group, the Patriotic Salvation Movement, which rolled into Ndjamena unopposed in December 1990.

In 1996, six years after he seized power and ushered in democracy, Deby was elected head of state in Chad's first multi-party vote.

He won again in succeeding elections.

The main opposition withdrew its participation in 2006 and 2011, irked by a change to the constitution enabling the former soldier to renew his term, and the elections in 2015 were marked by accusations of fraud.

French friend
Deby is solidly backed by former colonial power France, which in 2008 and in 2019 used military force to help defeat rebels who tried to oust him.

"We safeguarded an absolutely major ally in the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told parliament in 2019.

Deby supported French intervention in northern Mali in 2013 to repel jihadists, and the following year stepped in to end chaos in the Central African Republic.

In 2015, Deby launched a regional offensive in Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger against Nigeria-based Boko Haram jihadists, dubbing the Islamic State affiliate "a horde of crazies and drug addicts".

One of Deby's political rivals, Saleh Kebzabo, has protested against France's backing and urged the world to recognise the regime's "dictatorial nature."

Deby's power base, the army, comprises mainly troops from the president's Zaghawa ethnic group and is commanded by loyalists.

It is considered one of the best in Sahel. According to the International Crisis Group think tank, defence spending accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of the annual budget.

Rights accusations
In 2018, Deby scrapped the position of prime minister to assume full executive authority.
"Everything is centralised around the presidency -- he uses all the weapons of absolute power while bullying society," said Roland Marchal at the Centre of International Research at the Sciences Po school in Paris.

"When he gets angry, he's a bit scary," a trade unionist said, referring to Deby's notorious mood switches, although a close aide said "he has great listening ability and analytical skills."

Deby has been accused of iron-fisted rule. Banned opposition demonstrations, arbitrary arrests and severed access to social networks raise regular objections from human rights groups.

Another common complaint is that Deby has named relatives and cronies to key positions, and failed to address the poverty that afflicts many of Chad's 13 million people despite oil wealth.

The country ranks 187th out of 189 in the UN's Human Development Index (HDI).

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

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Egypt, Tunisia discuss Libya, Ethiopia’s disputed dam

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s president met Saturday his Tunisian counterpart in Cairo, where they discussed neighboring Libya, and a massive dam Ethiopia is building over the Nile River’s main tributary.

Tunisian President Kais Saied arrived in Cairo on Friday for a three-day visit. He was received at the airport by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

The two leaders held “extensive and constructive” talks Saturday at Cairo’s Ittihadiya palace, which serves as the Egyptian president’s office, Saied said.

“We hope that Libya goes down the correct path... There’s no way of dividing Libya,” he told a joint news conference with el-Sissi. Libya is a neighbor to Egypt and Tunisia. The country plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi.

The two leaders also discussed a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River’s main tributary. Egypt and Sudan consider the project a major threat if it is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.

The Tunisian president said his country supports Egypt’s position in the yearslong dispute. He said any damage to Egypt’s water security is unacceptable.

“We are looking for just solutions, but Egypt’s national security is ours, and Egypt’s position... will be ours.”

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are deadlocked in a dispute over the dam, and the latest round of talks collapsed Tuesday.

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Aid group facilities targeted in northeast Nigeria
By SAM OLUKOYAyesterday

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Suspected Islamic extremists attacked the offices of several international aid groups, setting them ablaze and renewing concerns Sunday about the safety of humanitarian workers in Nigeria’s embattled northeast.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Damasak town late Saturday, but suspicion immediately fell on a faction of extremists aligned with the Islamic State group. Last year the militants warned Nigerians they would become targets along with foreigners if they assisted international aid groups or the military.

Edward Kallon, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, expressed concern for civilians and aid workers Sunday in the wake of the overnight attack.

“Humanitarian operations in Damasak will be reduced due to the violent attack, which will affect the support to 8,800 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in the host community receiving humanitarian assistance and protection there,” Kallon said in a statement.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said the attack “jeopardized our work and threatened the lives of many aid workers.”

“Thankfully our five staff staying in Damasak town escaped unharmed. However, the perpetrators succeeded in setting our guesthouse ablaze and destroying lifesaving relief supplies, including vehicles used to deliver aid, said Eric Batonon, country director for the aid group.

Local authorities said the insurgents also looted drugs from a hospital in Damasak and stole an ambulance but were stopped from setting the building on fire.

An insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has now lasted more than a decade.

Militants from Boko Haram and the group known as ISWAP frequently target humanitarian hubs in northeast Nigeria. The attack on Damasak is the fourth on the town and its surrounding area this year and the second attack on humanitarians in the past two months in northeast Nigeria.
Associated Press writer Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria contributed.

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Rebels attacked Chad border post on election day - govt
By Reuters Staff

N’DJAMENA (Reuters) - A group of Libya-based rebels attacked a Chadian border post in the north of the country as polling stations began counting votes from the weekend presidential election, the Chad government said late on Monday.

President Idriss Deby, an ally of western powers in the fight against Islamist militants in West and Central Africa, sought to extend his 30-year-rule over the central African country in an election boycotted by several opposition groups.

Results have not yet been announced.

A group of heavily armed vehicles crossed the border from Libya and attacked the border post at Zouarké at around 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Sunday, government spokesman Chérif Mahamat Zene said in a statement.

The rebels were on the run and being pursued by the air force, Mahamat said, without providing further details of the clashes.

The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), a political-military group founded by dissident army officers in 2016, claimed responsibility for the attack and disputed the government’s portrayal.

FACT, like opposition politicians and rights groups in Chad, accuse President Deby of repression surrounding the election.

The militia claimed to have seized several army garrisons including in Wour and Zouarké, and called Sunday’s election a masquerade.

People should “maintain momentum of pressure on the dictatorship and to help the valiant FACT fighters to liberate our homeland,” the group said in a statement posted on Facebook.
One witness said rebels seized control of Zouarké on Monday.

“We were woken this morning at dawn by heavy gunfire. By mid-day, the village was totally invaded by rebels,” said Hamid Abakar, a resident of Zouarke, in the region of Tibesti.
“The army will certainly retaliate and we fear the town will become a theatre of endless war,” he said.

A heavy military presence was deployed in opposition areas of the capital, N’Djamena, on Monday morning, as the population awaited election results, a Reuters witness said.
Reporting by Mahamat Ramadane; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Lincoln Feast.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Ugandans criticize oil pipeline deal with Tanzania and Total
Ugandans are making disparaging comments on social media about the multibillion-dollar oil pipeline deal that the country has signed with Tanzania and Total. The secrecy surrounding it has raised fears of corruption.

Uganda Unterschrift EACOP in Kampala
President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda
Uganda, Tanzania and the French oil company Total, along with its investment partner in Uganda, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), signed a series of agreements on Sunday to build a heated pipeline that will carry crude oil from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean coast.

The deal, worth $3.5 billion (€2.9 billion), and the secrecy surrounding the details have raised public fears of corruption.

Uganda's crude oil is highly viscous, which means that it needs to be heated to remain liquid enough to flow. The East African Crude Oil Project Pipeline (EACOPP) could be the longest electrically heated crude oil pipeline in the world, at 1,400 kilometers (850 miles). Construction is expected to begin this year.

Tanzania's new leader, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, was in Uganda to witness the signing of the documents — perhaps her most important executive action since her inauguration in March.

The event was "an auspicious occasion" that would unlock the development of the region's oil resources, she said. The shareholder agreements cover the construction of the pipeline, which is designed to connect oil fields near Lake Albert to the Tanzanian port of Tanga.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hailed the deal as a major milestone and a victory for the countries.
An oil pipeline in Ecuador
The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project could be the longest heated pipeline in the world

A blessing or a curse?
Robert Kyomuhendo Ruhigwa, a resident of Uganda's Albertine region, where the oil was discovered 15 years ago, is optimistic that the pipeline project will create much-needed jobs for unemployed youths.

"We have a lot of expectations. I'm a 25-year-old, and I expect that, when the government gets money from oil, it will invest it in education. We don't have any universities in the region. We expect the government to work with the oil companies to ensure that the youth get jobs," he told DW.

Kampala resident Christopher Kisekka is doubtful that the oil sector holds benefits for Ugandans. "Many Ugandans are expecting to supply these companies with needed materials but requirements to be our supplier are very high and very few people will meet these requirements," he told DW.

Beneath the waters and on the banks of Lake Albert, a 160-kilometer natural border that separates Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lie some 6.5 billion barrels of crude, of which about 1.4 billion barrels are currently accessible.

The Uganda reserves could last 25 to 30 years with a peak production of 230,000 barrels per day. However, on March 1, more than 250 local and international organizations addressed major banks in a letter calling upon them to refrain from financing "the longest heated crude oil pipeline in the world", according to AFP news agency.

The letter cites "extensively documented risks", including "impacts to local people through physical displacement ...risks to water, biodiversity and natural habitats; as well as unlocking a new source of carbon emissions".

Despite anxiety over falling crude prices in recent years, hopes have remained high in Uganda over the potential for oil exports to lift the East African country into upper-middle-income status by 2040. The annual per capita income in Uganda was less than $800 in 2019.

A 2015 World Bank study emphasized that the economic benefits would be considerable if local companies are competitive enough to win lucrative service contracts in the oil sector.

Total and CNOOC, must honor commitments to award about 30% of the contracts to suppliers of Ugandan origin, said Robert Kasande, permanent secretary with Uganda's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. "We believe that this should be a catalyst" for economic growth, he said.
Women at a market in Uganda
Many families in Uganda live in abject poverty and depend on small businesses to survive

Museveni's oil?
Watchdog groups and others also have warned against the personalization of Uganda's oil resources and heavy borrowing by national budget authorities anticipating oil revenue.
Civil society groups led by the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) have been urging the governments of Uganda and Tanzania and the oil companies to call off their plans.

The AFIEGO noted that some of the people affected by the pipeline have not been compensated and that the oil developments are also taking place in an ecologically sensitive conservation area.

In an interveiw with DW, Diana Nabiruma, the communications head for AFIEGO, said: "Previously Uganda has signed secret agreements, and Ugandans have lost. For instance, the president told us that electricity in Uganda is expensive because government officials conspired to sign agreements that favor bidding companies. Now we are seeing this being repeated in the oil sector."

They continue to question the fact that the oil deals are still secret despite Uganda being a member of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, Nabiruma added.

But Martin Tiffen, the Managing Director of East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), said every person affected by the project will be compensated before construction commences.

"We have evaluated the land, crops on the land, and the buildings on the land. But we have not asked the people to leave, of course. We will let the people harvest their crops and continue with their daily routines," Tiffen said.

President Museveni, who has led Uganda since 1986, has sometimes suggested that the discovery of commercially viable oil quantities in 2006 created an opportunity for him to remain in power. "They are targeting my oil," he said of his challengers in the country's 2016 presidential election.

His personalization of the oil fields quickly dashed hopes in Uganda that the country could become an oil Eldorado. After that, the scramble to evict residents began and was often perpetrated by Museveni's cronies and members of his inner circle.
Aerial view of an illegal oil refinery in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria
Oil exploration in the Lake Albert region could have ecological impact like in the Niger Delta region

Environmental concerns
Plans for the pipeline have recently been attacked as "irresponsible" by activists who say it isn't compatible with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Critics also say the rights of residents are at risk and that the pipeline, which would cross rivers and farmland, will damage fragile ecosystems. The project could cost more than 12,000 families their land rights, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights recently charged.

But criticism of the pipeline project is likely to persist. "Despite our persistent calls for urgent action from the Ugandan government, Total, and CNOOC, the oil project is accelerating while most of our concerns and recommendations remain unaddressed," Antoine Madelin, advocacy director of the International Federation for Human Rights, told The Associated Press.

"Major environmental and human rights risks remain. The top priority should be to deal with the concerns of communities suffering from the project, not start drilling at all cost." Irene Batebe, Uganda's commissioner in charge of oil operations, downplayed fears that oil production will not benefit local communities.

"No, I wouldn't say that the oil and gas industry in any way is going to be a curse," she told DW. "We have put in place the necessary mitigation measures to ensure that the oil benefits the communities in the region. We have also tried to sensitize the communities about the opportunities that are available."

Facing calls to abandon its projects in Uganda, Total last month said it would limit oil extraction from a national park to less than 1% of the protected area. The company also said it would fund a 50% increase in the number of game rangers in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda's largest protected area.

Total acknowledged "significant social and environmental stakes" posed by oil wells and the pipeline and pledged to proceed responsibly. Patrick Pouyanne, the Total CEO and chairman, said the Ugandan investment would exceed $10 billion. While challenges remain, there's hope "to see the first oil tanker" by early 2025, he said.

It remains unclear when Uganda will export its first drop of crude since developing storage sites, processing facilities, and other key infrastructure will take time. The agreements signed Sunday also must be codified into legislation in both Uganda and Tanzania.

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Russian mercenaries accused of rights violations in Central African Republic
In Central African Republic, the government relies heavily on Russian mercenaries and weaponry to fight rebels. UN experts are now accusing the Russians of gross human rights violations.

A Russian military vehicle
A Russian military vehicle patrols the streets of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic

Security in the Central African Republic (CAR) comes at a heavy price. The government is still fighting different militia groups in many parts of the country, and attacks on civilians have become routine.

As a result, hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Yet, around 12,000 UN blue helmet soldiers are supposed to stabilize the country and support the regular security forces, but the situation remains fragile.

It is no longer a secret that the government in the capital, Bangui, has solicited the services of Russian mercenaries to maintain security, albeit criticism.

UN experts recently reported "serious human rights violations" allegedly committed by Russian security companies — including mass shootings, arbitrary arrests, torture and attacks on civilian facilities.
Russian and Rwandan soldeirs guard President Touadera
Russian mercenaries are part of the security detail of CAR President Touadera and other top government officials

Russia's low profile
Russia's Foreign Ministry replied with a statement when DW inquired about the report: "Military specialists from Russia are sent to the country as per the UN Security Council guidelines."

"Russian aid is being provided in line with the international community's general efforts to strengthen the Central African Republic's security structures," according to the statement.

The Kremlin officially gives the number of Russian military experts in CAR as 535. But according to press reports, the actual number is much higher. The Wagner Group alone, a private security company from Russia, employs over 1,000 people in CAR.

There are also other companies such as Sewa Security Services. They guard airports, ministries and are part of President Touadera's security detail.
Map of the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is surrounded by countries dealing with security challenges

Security as a business
Russia's Foreign Ministry has "no information on the total number of Russian citizens currently in the CAR." Citizens who "temporarily stay in the Central African Republic for business or tourist purposes" are not obliged to report to the Russian consulate.

"It is well known that the security companies are connected to the underworld and organized crime," Paul Stronski, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told DW. "They regard their use as a lucrative business, and their services are partly paid for with shares in gold and diamond mines."

"For Russia, the Central African Republic is part of its long-term strategy to expand its influence on the African continent. At the same time, the use of private mercenaries is seen as an inexpensive way of demonstrating Russia's global clout," Stronski said.

The elites in CAR are increasingly dependent on the Russian security companies. This partnership is not only about politics, but above all, also about economic interests. "CAR is not only rich in raw materials such as gold and diamonds, but it is also very interesting from a geostrategic point of view."
Faustin Archange Touadera and Vladimir Putin
The CAR-Russia partnership has been overshadowed by human rights abuses

CAR-Russia friendship
CAR's cooperation with Russia goes back to the 1960s and 1970s, during the time of the Soviet Union. It was renewed in October 2017 when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with President Touadera in Sochi, Russia.

Two months later, Russia received an exemption from the United Nations, despite an existing arms embargo, to deliver weapons to the CAR. The weapons included Kalashnikov rifles, pistols, rocket launchers, and surface-to-air missiles.

In May 2018, Touadera traveled to Russia again and met with Putin. During their meeting, the two leaders quickly agreed on granting mining licenses to Russian companies in exchange for pacifying regions with gold, diamonds, and uranium deposits.

In July 2018, Putin sent the first Russian military advisers and mercenaries from the Wagner company to Bangui to secure the activities of Russian companies, train Central African soldiers and protect top government officials.
UN vehicles in convoy
UN armored military vehicles are a common sight in the Bangui, the CAR capital

President Putin's 'ace card'
Russia was never a colonial power in Africa, which gives it a comparative advantage in achieving its goals on the continent. In the case of CAR, "Putin is a reliable partner. He protects the politicians in power and is clearly against the opposition. His position pleases those in power," Nina Bachkatov, a Russia expert and author of the blog "Inside Russia and Eurasia", told DW.

The Kremlin is also positioning itself as an opponent of France, Stronski said. Again, the card of "anti-imperialist Russia" is often played, unlike the former colonial power France. The core message: Russia — unlike France — has the necessary clout and credibility to solve CAR's problems. Step by step, Putin's Russia is preparing to challenge the former colonial power for political and economic supremacy in CAR.
Armed rebels on the back of a truck in CAR
A coalition of rebel groups is fighting to oust Toudera's government from power

Russian diplomatic scandal
To achieve this goal, Russian government officials do not seem to shy away from unusual rhetoric. A few days before the UN expert group's report was published, the Russian ambassador in Bangui, Vladimir Titorenko, publicly threatened the rebel leader Francois Bozize with death. He said, "the former president should renounce the armed struggle; otherwise, he would be neutralized by the armed forces."

Serge Simon Bozanga, a spokesman for the rebel group CPC, lamented the excessive interference by a foreign diplomat in the internal affairs of CAR. And the president of the Central African League for Human Rights, Joseph Bindoumi, told DW that "the Russian ambassador has clearly exceeded his competencies as a foreign diplomat."
Mikhail Bushuev and Eric Topona contributed to this report.

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US, EU threaten to sanction Somalia
The United States and European Union say Somalia risks facing sanctions if it fails to resume talks to end its deadlock over elections. But President Mohamed has extended his mandate despite the international criticism.

Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
Somalia's president extended his rule for two more years sparking international condemnation

Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has signed a controversial law extending his mandate for two more years despite international criticism.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that "such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country's progress."

It also jeopardizes "partnership with the international community, and divert attention from countering Al-Shabab."

Blinken further said the US was "deeply disappointed" and warned that President Mohamed's actions could erode the progress toward peace made in tandem with the international community.

The top US diplomat said the implementation of the law would compel his country to consider sanctions or other steps such as visa restrictions.

European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also threatened "concrete measures" without an immediate return to talks on holding elections.

The United Nations Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), in a joint statement with EU nations, regional IGAD bloc, and the United Kingdom, said it was "deeply concerned" and would not support the extension.

In Mogadishu, political and constitutional expert Aweys Salat, said the extension of the president's term was unconstitutional.

"It seems the president ignores that every resolution or law requires approval of both houses of parliament, the senate and the house of representatives," Salat told DW. "The residents in the capital Mogadishu are tired of war, and they are asking politicians to respect the constitution."

Regional observers have also warned that Somalia's current political crisis could deal a blow to efforts to stabilize the fragile state after decades of civil war and an Islamist insurgency.
Legislators with their right hands raised
Somali legislators of the lower house unanimously voted to extend President Mohamed's government for two years

Somalia hits back at 'foreign allies'
Somalia has accused some of its foreign backers of undermining its sovereignty amid the threat of sanctions.

"While we appreciate the concerns of our friends and international partners for Somalia's stability and security, it is regrettable to witness champions of democratic principles falling short of supporting the aspirations of the Somali people to exercise their democratic rights," the country's Foreign Ministry said.

"Inflammatory statements laden with threats, which undermine the political independence and sovereign rights of national institutions, will only serve to embolden terrorist organizations and anti-peace elements in Somalia," the ministry's statement added.

Somalia's president, best known by the name Farmajo, and the leaders of the country's five semi-autonomous federal states had reached an agreement in September on indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But it fell apart over how to conduct the vote, and multiple rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse. The new law paves the way for a one-person, one-vote election in 2023, the first such direct poll since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup before ruling for two decades.

A presidential election was due to have been held in February. It was to follow a complex indirect system used in the past in which special delegates chosen by Somalia's myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

A 'constitutional crisis'
Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, the senate speaker, has slammed the move as unconstitutional and said it would "lead the country into political instability" and pose security risks.

A coalition of opposition presidential candidates in a joint statement called it "a threat to the stability, peace and unity" of the country.

"There is now a constitutional crisis in the country as the senate, or upper house speaker, rejects the extension for the president and the lower house. The fear of chaos, suspension among the politicians, is too high now in Mogadishu and other parts of the country," Salat, the constitutional expert, told DW.
People gathered at a roadside
Mogadishu residents are worried that the political crisis might plunge the country into turmoil

Somalis speak out
While some in Mogadishu welcomed the extension of Abdullahi Mohamed's government for another two years, others are apprehensive that the extension could plunge the country into a political crisis.

"I think the two-year extension is needed. The president has done a lot of good things in the past four years. The president tried to hold the elections, but some politicians and regional states have crippled the process. If all political actors agree, we hope to have popular elections or a one-man-one-vote election in the next two years," Ilyas Nor told DW.
But for Shub'eyb Omar "the extension for the president and parliament is unacceptable."

"The president failed to have elections in the country under his legitimate four-year term. Both the president and the parliament need to rethink about this unlawful power extension," Omar said.

Jamuria Ahmed, a mother of two, told DW: "I'm happy with the extension for the president and the parliament by two years since the regional states and the central government were unsuccessful in ending the impasse on the clan-based indirect elections. We need to participate in the one-man-one-vote elections. There are political spoilers in the country who do not want to let our nation move forward."

"My message to the Somali leaders and intellectuals in Mogadishu is to calm down and compromise for the interest of the people and solve all issues through dialogue. There are significant improvements and developments in our country, especially in Mogadishu, and we need to seize this opportunity, which is for everyone's interest," Nor Hassan, another Mogadishu resident, told DW.
Somali Al_Shabaab militants
Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia could take advantage of the crisis and carry out attacks

Somalia's complex politics
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Barre'smilitary regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fueled by clan conflicts.
The country also still battles Al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked Islamist militant group. The group controlled Mogadishu until 2011 when African Union troops pushed it out.

Al-Shabab retains parts of the countryside and targets the government, military and civilians in attacks in Mogadishu and regional towns.

Somalia still operates under an interim constitution, and its institutions, such as the army, remain rudimentary, backed up with international support.

The 59-year-old President Mohamed was wildly popular when he came to power in 2017. The veteran diplomat and former prime minister, who lived off and on for years in the United States, had vowed to rebuild a country that was once the world's most notorious failed state.
However, observers say he became mired in feuds with federal states in a bid for greater political control, hampering the fight against Al-Shabab, which retains the ability to conduct deadly strikes both at home and in the region.

In February, some opposition leaders attempted to hold a protest, which led to an exchange of gunfire in the capital.
Mohammed Odowa contributed to this report.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Germany dodges mediating role in Cameroon's bloody conflict
Cameroon's Anglophone separatist crisis has German opposition members asking for a change of policy towards the central African country. But Germany's colonial past and political clout is in question.

Two men with assault rifles
Cameroon's gendarmerie on patrol in the Anglophone South West

Germany's government has dodged calls to change its political stance towards Cameroon, amid increased reports of instability, armed conflict and human rights abuses in the central African state.

In reply to a questionnaire authored by members of the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party on Germany's contribution to facilitating stability in Cameroon, the German government stated: "The impetus for a sustainable peace process must come from Cameroon and cannot be provided by external actors."
Cameroonian soldier in Yaounde
Cameroon's security forces have been increasinly accused of human rights violations

German aid
According to Germany's Foreign Office, the country "provides the largest amount of bilateral governmental development cooperation funding of all countries [over €100 million in the 2017-2019 period alone]."

Projects aimed at development, supporting decentralization schemes, and socio-economic assistance in secondary cities will see at least €32.6 million flow from Germany to Cameroon until 2025.

But for German lawmaker and FDP member Christoph Hoffmann, Germany has a special responsibility.

"Germany is a former colonial power of Cameroon," he told DW. "We parliamentarians started an initiative about two years ago in the German parliament to bring the Foreign Office to engage themselves in the peace process.

"We think that Germany could play a role in mediation as we are not directly involved - as Britain has been a former colonial power or France has been a former colonial power. Germany has been one, too, but for a very short period and not necessarily be the one responsible for their actual problems."
Christoph Hoffmann, German FDP MP
Christoph Hoffmann has petitioned for German involvement in solving the crisis in Cameroon

But according to Andreas Mehler, professor of development theories and development policy at the University of Freiburg and a Cameroon specialist, Germany's role is not that clear cut.

"The Cameroonian government was potentially not very successful in many things over the last period, but it was rather successful in diversifying its international relations, Mehler told DW. "It has a lot of donors, has a lot of relationships, including in the Middle East and other places. It's rather hard for one single country to exert pressure more efficiently on the Cameroon government."

Decentralization programs
Many see decentralizing power in Cameroon as key to ending the conflict. Accordingly, about €15 million of German aid money is tied up in programs focused on decentralizing power and conflict prevention. But according to Hoffmann, these schemes are not yielding results or are moving very slowly. The German lawmaker blames a lack of political will within Cameroon for the slow progress.

"If there is no real support for decentralization, even if the program financed by Germany, it can't work," Hoffmann said.

German colonial history in Cameroon
Parts of modern-day Cameroon were colonized by Germany between 1884 and 1916. During World War I, German possession was taken over by French and British colonialists and administered until 1960.
Three people in front of a tent
German colonialists annexed part of modern-day Cameroon from 1884 and ruled until World War One

Recent, violent conflict in Cameroon has pitted Anglophone and Francophone communities against one another, with English-speaking Cameroonians saying they have been marginalized by the central, French-speaking government.

Germany's relatively short-lived colonial involvement has led some to suggest Germany is the perfect country to spearhead negotiations.

Mehler, though, said the perception that Germany's "short-lived" colonial history in Cameroon would help its role as a mediator, is problematic.

"Germany has colonial baggage, and it has to be looked into. Very important decisions concerning the setup of the Cameroon economy, the infrastructure date back to German times," Mehler said.

France, meanwhile, has a much closer post-colonial relationship with Cameroon. But as instability has escalated in Cameroon and other former French colonies, Mehler suggests the country would in fact welcome solutions from elsewhere: "In Paris, the desperation with actually the entire subregion has grown immensely."

Watch video03:05
Cameroon separatists target schools
Reluctance to change

President Paul Biya has been Cameroon's head of state since 1982. The international community has long justified tolerating his leadership because it provided stability, despite reports of authoritarianism and crackdowns. Yet when tensions between Anglophone and the Francophone-led government boiled over in 2016 and have since turned parts of Cameroon into a state of civil war, German politicians like Hoffmann saw a chance for Germany to change its stance.
Cameroonian President Paul Biya casts his ballot during elections in 2018.
88-year-old Paul Biya is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, having come to power in 1982

"We have tried to bring in Chancellor Merkel to Cameroon or Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. And we didn't succeed, unfortunately, because we thought a high-ranking personality could do some more speed into the peace-building process, because we see the Swiss peace-building process where Germany is engaged as well, is grinding along very slowly and we see the bloodshed every day."

So far, Germany's policies have not changed noticeably, maintaining, "Peace can only be achieved within the framework of a political dialogue process that addresses the profound political, social, economic and cultural tensions in Cameroonian society that have developed over decades and that is initiated by Cameroonian actors," according to a 2021 statement.

But according to Mehler, the structural weaknesses in Cameroon's government have resulted in the current state of instability that has been around for a long time.

"One could have intervened much earlier and that has not been done," he told DW. "My suspicion goes in the direction of not wishing to change a certain portfolio. There is a certain imminent weight of existing programs to be continued, even if the context might have changed."

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US orders diplomats to leave Chad as rebels near capital
The US State Department has long warned Americans not to travel to Chad because of unrest and the presence of the jihadist Boko Haram group.

A soldier walks past a woman in Chad
The US has long warned Americans not to travel to Chad

The State Department on Saturday ordered non-essential diplomats at the US Embassy in Chad to leave the landlocked African nation due to potential insurgent attacks on the capital N'Djamena.

It also ordered the families of American personnel stationed there to leave the country.

"Armed non-governmental groups in northern Chad have moved south and appear to be heading toward N'Djamena. Due to their growing proximity to N'Djamena, and the possibility for violence in the city, non-essential US government employees have been ordered to leave Chad by commercial airline," said the department.

The department has long warned Americans not to travel to Chad because of unrest and the presence of the jihadist Boko Haram group. It said any Americans there now who wanted to leave should do so.

The UK also asked its citizens to leave Chad as soon as possible.

Chad's army says rebel column 'destroyed'
Meanwhile, Chad's army said that it had "completely destroyed" a column of rebels, who had attacked the northern part of the country.

"The adventure of the mercenaries from Libya ended as announced. Congratulations to our valiant defense and security forces," said Chérif Mahamat Zene, Chad's minister of communications.

Army spokesman Azem Bermandoa said that they were searching for the last of the rebels.
The UK government said on Saturday that a group of Libya-based rebels, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) was heading towards N'Djamena and a separate convoy was seen approaching a town 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of the capital.

Last Sunday, FACT rebels said they had captured garrisons near Chad's northern borders with Niger and Libya "without resistance."

Deby takes early election lead
The latest assault came last Sunday, the same day as the country's presidential election, which the incumbent Idriss Deby Itno — who has ruled the country for 30 years — is expected to win.
Chad's president Idriss Deby votes in the presidential election
Incumbent president of Chad, Idriss Deby, took an early lead in the election held on April 11

An ally of Western powers in the fight against Islamist militants in West and Central Africa, Deby is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, but there are signs of growing discontent over his handling of the nation's oil wealth.

Chad's government has been forced to cut back public spending in recent years because of the low price of oil, its main export, sparking labour strikes.

Opposition leaders called on their supporters to boycott the polls and make the country "ungovernable" after Deby's decision to seek a sixth term led to protests and clashes with security forces.

Deby has relied on a firm grip over state institutions and one of the region's most capable militaries to maintain power.
am/sri (AFP, dpa, AP)