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Boko Haram, 'Islam's worst enemy,' will be beaten – Niger president
April 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Richard Valdmanis* [caption id="attachment_17351" align="alignleft" width="300"]Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Niger, answers a question from a student in the audience following a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts April 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder Issoufou Mahamadou, President of Niger, answers a question from a student in the audience following a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts April 3, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder[/caption]

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) – Militant group Boko Haram is “the worst enemy of Islam” and will be defeated because West African Muslims reject its violent actions and harsh interpretation of the Koran, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou said on Friday.

“There is nothing Islamic about Boko Haram,” Issoufou told students and faculty at the Harvard Institute of Politics John F. Kennedy Forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during a trip to the United States.

“Abducting and raping women, killing innocent people, drinking human blood … these are not the most efficient ways of spreading Islam,” he said. “Boko Haram has no future, Boko Haram will be defeated, God willing.”

Niger is taking part in a regional operation against Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, a militant group which has launched repeated bloody attacks and abductions in Nigeria and an increasing number of raids into neighbouring countries. The military alliance includes troops from West African countries Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin.

Issoufou said Niger’s mostly Muslim population broadly supported the alliance, which he said had notched recent successes fighting Boko Haram, and rejected Boko Haram’s attempts to carve out its own state in the border region.

“The successes of this multinational force … can be explained not only by the fact that they are coordinating their information systems and operational forces, but more importantly by the fact that they are supported by the population,” he said.

“It shows the population of our countries reject terrorism, reject extremism. The population of our countries reject Boko Haram as a Muslim organization,” he said.

Niger, which is also stepping up security against traffickers and jihadi groups bolstered by weapons and fighters from Libya’s conflict to the north, is ranked at the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index for 2013.

[caption id="attachment_17353" align="alignright" width="300"]Chadian soldiers drive in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. Armies from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have launched an offensive to end Boko Haram's six-year campaign, which has killed thousands in northern Nigeria and spilled over into Cameroon and Niger. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun (NIGERIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST MILITARY POLITICS) Chadian soldiers drive in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. Armies from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger have launched an offensive to end Boko Haram’s six-year campaign, which has killed thousands in northern Nigeria and spilled over into Cameroon and Niger. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun (NIGERIA – Tags: CIVIL UNREST MILITARY POLITICS)[/caption]

Issoufou said he saw poverty as an important reason some people join militant ranks, but he said efforts to combat it have been hindered by fluctuations in donor support, rapid population growth and climate shocks.

He said he had held meetings with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank during his trip to discuss financing.

Issoufou won election in 2011 in the uranium-producing country following a military coup that removed the previous president, Mamadou Tandja, widely criticized for overseeing rampant state-level corruption.

Issoufou touts advances in transparency and press freedoms since coming to power, and is expected to seek re-election in mid-2016.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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Obama to Nigerians: “You have shown the strength of Nigeria’s Commitment to democratic principles”
April 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

Jonathan and Buhari Jonathan and Buhari[/caption] U.S President Barack Obama has hailed Nigerians for turning out in large numbers for the recent elections which saw the emergence of the opposition’s Muhamadu Buhari as the country’s next leader. “The last few days have shown the world the strength of Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House on April 1, 2015. Obama commended President Goodluck Jonathan and President elect Buhari for their public commitments to non –violence throughout the campaign. Saluting the courage of President Jonathan, Obama said he placed country first by conceding the election and calling to congratulate President elect Buhari. Obama described Jonathan’s conduct as statesmanlike at a critical point in Nigeria’s history while thanking him for his many years of service.  Echoing earlier messages, Obama urged Jonathan and Buhari to repeat calls to their supporters to respect election outcomes, focus on unifying Nigeria and leading the country through a peaceful transition. [caption id="attachment_17258" align="alignright" width="300"]President Obama Meets With President Jonathan In US President Obama Meets With President Jonathan In US[/caption] Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission and its Chairman Attahiru Jega equally deserve special recognition for what independent observers have deemed a peaceful and orderly vote, President Obama said in his statement.  INEC’s efforts had increased credibility and transparency in the electoral process ,said Obama. He urged national attention to ensure logistical challenges are overcome and peace is protected. The Nigerian elections drew keen attention from the US. In January, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Nigeria where he met with President Jonathan and challenger Buhari. Ahead of the elections, Obama also released a video message calling on Nigerians to shun violence. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas Greenfield was in Nigeria leading a team of US officials to observe the elections.]]>

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Buhari claims victory in historic Nigerian vote
March 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Tim Cocks and Alexis Akwagyiram*

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) declared an election victory on Tuesday for former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and said Africa’s most populous nation was witnessing history with its first democratic transfer of power.

[caption id="attachment_17221" align="alignleft" width="300"]Supporters of presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari gesture in front of his election posters in Kano March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic Supporters of presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari gesture in front of his election posters in Kano March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic[/caption]

“The people of Nigeria have taken over,” an ecstatic APC spokesman Lai Mohammed told Reuters at the house in the capital where Buhari, a sandal-wearing Muslim ascetic watching the results on television.

“This is the first time in Nigeria that a sitting government will be voted out of power using purely democratic means.”

The count showed Buhari steamrolling to a landslide against President Goodluck Jonathan, whose People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has made no comment since the scale of the political earthquake in Nigeria — Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer — has become apparent.

With just one of 36 states left to declare, Buhari’s APC had 15.1 million votes versus 11.7 for Jonathan and the PDP, according to a Reuters tally.

Mohammed said there was no reason to doubt Jonathan would concede, in line with a ‘peace accord’ he signed with Buhari before this weekend’s vote to allay fears of violence.

Around 800 people were killed in three days of bloodletting in the mainly Muslim north after a Buhari defeat to Jonathan in 2011.

“He said several times that he would relinquish power if he was voted out in a free and fair election,” Mohammed said.

Buhari ruled from 1983 to 1985 before being ousted in another military takeover led by General Ibrahim Babangida. He has since declared himself a convert to democracy and has run and lost in several previous elections.

Jonathan’s five years at the helm have been plagued by corruption scandals and a Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the northeast in which thousands have been killed. The PDP has run Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999.

Bar some technical glitches and the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram militants in the northeast, the election has been the smoothest and most orderly in recent history – a factor that appears to have played in the outcome.

“There are probably lots of reasons why the PDP might have lost, but I think the key one is that the elections just haven’t been rigged,” said Antony Goldman, a business consultant with high-level contacts in Nigeria.


In the Abuja house where Buhari was staying, there was restrained joy tinged with a sense of the responsibility ahead, in particular managing a smooth transition in a country of 170 million people split along a complex mix of ethnic, religious and regional lines.

“We should all work together to redirect the country. A lot of sacrifices will have to be made,” Kwara state senator and senior APC official Bukola Saraki said.

_82041831_c5942c26-c9e4-4a5c-b272-b2a8c25e84fbIn a sign of the simmering PDP passions, Buhari’s march to victory was briefly interrupted when Godsday Orubebe, a former minister from the Niger Delta, grabbed a microphone and launched into a 10-minute rant against election commissioner Attahiru Jega at the body’s headquarters in Abuja.

“Mr. Chairman, we have lost confidence in what you are doing,” he shouted. “You are being very, very selective. You are partial.”

Orubebe was finally persuaded to end his sit-in and put down the microphone, allowing the results ceremony to continue.


At least 15 people were shot dead on polling day, most of them in the northeast where Boko Haram has declared war on democracy in its fight to revive a mediaeval caliphate in the sands of the southern Sahara.

However, the level of violence and chaos was significantly lower than previous elections in a country that only rid itself of military rule 16 years ago.

As Buhari’s vote tally mounted, flashpoint northern cities such as Kaduna and Kano were quiet, pushing the stock market up more than 2 percent towards a three-month high.

The naira, which has been hammered by the decline in oil prices over the last eight months, also held steady at 218 against the dollar on the black market.

_79677984_79674561Although Nigeria’s economy has been growing at 7 percent or more, scandals over billions of dollars in missing oil dollars and the rise of Boko Haram have undermined Jonathan’s popularity.

His perceived slow reaction to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in last April caused widespread anger, and fueled a public appetite for decisive military action from a strongman such as Buhari.

The war has turned in Jonathan’s favor in the past six weeks, with external intervention by troops by neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, but the battlefield victories appear to have been too late for Jonathan at the ballot box.

*Source Reuters/Yahoo]]>

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Nigerian Born Woman Set To Become The First African Mayor in Spain
March 30, 2015 | 1 Comments

HelenMukoroThe story of Helen Mukoro, the Nigerian born Spanish lawyer, politician and writer fits in as the stone the master builders rejected which became the chief corner stone of the building. The same place she was rejected and thrown out due to the color of her skin has equally turned out to be a place she has gained acceptance and is in the path of making history to become the first Afro-Spanish mayor in the kingdom of Spain. And the first Afro-Spanish to form and float an approved and registered political party, Union De Todos, in Spain. A country where Africans don’t have a voice.

But for Helen Mukoro, she has chosen to tread a path where even the Angels are afraid to walk. According to Shakespeare; “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves, that we are underlings”. Helen Mukoro has caught the fire of the wheel set in motion by Obama for other Africans who aspire to follow in his footsteps to stay the course, light a star, and change the world wherever you are. She is daring, learned, intelligent, dynamic, versatile full of gait and energy, and has a sharp grasp of issues. Helen is on news in the Spanish media, and the Spanish press is going after her to have a clue of the black woman who has become the rave of the moment in Spain. Below is an interview she granted to our foreign correspondent in Spain.

Could You Please Tell Us About Yourself?

Helen Mukoro is my name. A Spanish Legal Consultant, Writer, Forensic Expert and Politician. I was born in Delta state, Nigeria to Mr. Anthony Mukoro (the late Director General of the Defunct Bendel state Government Treasury’s Cash Office, and Mrs. Mary Mukoro and Apkomudjere (a retired Civil Servant Governor’s Office, Delta State, Nigeria). A niece to Dr. A.G Onokhoraye (ex -Vice Chancellor of University of Benin. A step daughter to Hon. Justice Emmanuel Akpomudjere (the late Chief Judge of Delta State, Nigeria). I attended College of Agriculture, Anwai, Delta State, Nigeria, where I obtained a Diploma Certificate in Agriculture. And Left the shores of Nigeria to Spain in 1992.

Studied Law at the Spanish National University Alicante, and holds a Master degree in Criminology. Masters degree in Social Education, a Post Graduate Certificate in Tax and Labor Management, a Post Graduate Certificate in Forensic Psychology, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Immigration and Domestic Violence. Worked as a legal Consultant (immigration department) at the Red Cross Society, Spain. Owner of a legal firm. President at the African Europe Chamber of Commerce. And founder of the party, Union De Todos, Spain.

Why Did You Decide To Go Into Politics?

I went into politics because; we have to become more involved in decisions that affect us as citizens. And we have an obligation to ensure the legacy we leave to future generations: Politicians, we all are. I saw the need to go into politics as a means to making our own explanation of political leadership that suits the interest of the people and is ready to listen and care for the needs of its constituents.

You Are The Founder And Leader Of The Party, UNION DE TODOS, When Did This Party Come Into Existence?

Yes, I am the founder and leader of the Party, UNION DE TODOS, which means in English, We All Together, or Together We can. This is a new Political party in Spain that was born in 2014.

As An Afro Spanish, How Were You Able To Gain Acceptance Into The Spanish Society?

When you talk about being accepted, it is said that “when you are in Rome, live like the Romans” Being accepted in Spain is for you to know how to live in Spain. You don’t go and stand on the road naked, and you expect people to accept you, or you go and do drugs, and you want people to accept you. Another factor is Education, 90% of African community in Spain don’t have basic Education. All these have to do with knowing how to live. I know where to go, when to go, and whom to go with and stay out of crime. By that way I was able to integrate and gain acceptance.
You Are Running For The Mayor Of Denia- Alicante, What Motivated You To Go For That?

Denia- Alicante is a very beautiful place with about 45,000 inhabitants. What motivated me to run for the seat of Mayor of Denia is the situation Spain is now. It is even enough to make a dead man to wake up and say, I am back to my feet again. The Politicians that ruled between the past 8-10 years did more harm than good. There was corruption, and a lot of things went wrong. People could not afford to pay for their basic needs, not that the country is poor, but because money is being taken away. Spain is no longer that super country that used to be everybody’s dream. I felt that, Spain has to come back to be what it used to be, Spain has to stand on its feet, Spain is not a lazy country, Spain is not a doomed country.

How Is Your Popularity And Candidacy Among African Immigrants And Spanish People?

I start with the Spanish, because in my city Denia, we have just a few Africans. The Spanish knows about us. The Media has given us a very good coverage. The power of the Media, that’s where the campaign is. Because it’s an advanced country, they like information, they love to buy newspapers before they buy bread because they want to know what is happening. We have been on the news, everywhere I go on the street, I hear Mayor, Mayor, and the tide is high.

What Support And Assistance Do You Need To Actualize Your Dream?

What we need at this moment is that, the Nigeria and African Governments should come forth and support us morally and financially, because if it happens we win, not just me, it’s a victory for Africa. I am the first to found a political party here, and heading for the Mayor of my city, tomorrow it will no longer be news. As the first, let it not be the last, let it be the beginning and not the ending. That is the reason I need to break the ice, and now the ice has been broken, and they need this push. My aim is that, in a few months and years from now, you begin to see a lot of candidates from Nigeria and Africa all over the place. Therefore, I call upon all Africans in Spain to go for the same party and start using the name of the party to aspire for any level wherever they live, if they decide and like what we do. Because the victory will be a history that will never be erased. They can say that Nigeria is the first country to produce a black leader in Spain. That will be a pride to Nigeria and Africa. If we get there, Nigeria and Africans in Spain will begin to be respected in a different dimension.

Nigerians And Africans Don’t Have a Voice In Spain, How Will Your Party Help Africans To Gain Recognition?

I have begin to notice that the group of Africans, and Nigerians coming into Spain lately are different from the first group of people that came to Europe earlier, the Nigerians that migrated first to Italy and Europe spoiled their names everywhere. There is a different group of people coming in now, those that have the value for Education, a lot of them starting churches etc. When the people see these things, gradually, it makes their mentality and concept to change as they begin to see that they are organized towards positive things. If we win, I will convey to the National Government that the Universities here should be bi-lingual, because the language is a barrier that prevents African immigrants to acquire University Education as it is in United States of America and Great Britain. Also, I will ask that Africans should be given bursary and in addition, finance their housing facilities as rents are high and it is difficult for African students to meet up with the high cost of accommodation during the cause of their studies, because I believe that the best way to integrate into a society and gain acceptance is through Education.

You Are Multi-talented, Lawyer, Politician, Writer, And I can Say, You Are, a Child Of The Universe, Please Tell Us About Your Forays Into Writing?

I crawled into writing because of what happened to me, which made me feel, it is good to write to keep records, create awareness, and write for people to know their rights. I have launched into world history with these books: ‘The Case That Bruised My Heart, Eight Thousand Miles, A City Of Two Umbrellas, Another Will Open, Make Wealth Everywhere, The Reward Of A Good Man, What Good Is Happiness, High Level Of Effectiveness, Leadership, A Thorn Rose, and ‘In A Closed Business Growth.
*Source nigeriamasterweb
*Photo Caption – Helen Mukoro



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Boko Haram HQ Gwoza in Nigeria 'retaken'
March 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

The capture of Gwoza was celebrated by Nigerian soldiers after the battle The capture of Gwoza was celebrated by Nigerian soldiers after the battle[/caption]

The Nigerian army says it has retaken the north-eastern town of Gwoza, believed to be the headquarters of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

The insurgents had now been driven from virtually all the territory they had held, it said. Some militants were now fleeing towards border areas, the military said. News of Gwoza’s recapture comes a day before presidential elections, which were postponed by six weeks because of the offensive against Boko Haram. Meanwhile, the president of Chad, which is helping Nigeria fight Boko Haram, has strongly criticised Nigeria’s military. Thousands of people have been killed since 2009, when the group began its insurgency to create an Islamic state. An estimated three million people have fled their homes because of the unrest, and many may be unable to vote. Gwoza’s location made an ideal base: The nearby Mandara Mountains offered protection and the jihadists could flee into Cameroon until the military there stepped up patrols. There is a complex system of caves and tunnels, some of which burrow hundreds of metres into the mountainside. Recent rumours suggest the Boko Haram leader may have been hiding there. When Gwoza was captured by the jihadists last August thousands of residents were trapped and terrified on the mountain slopes with no food. They were badly let down – the military fled, leaving the jihadists to help themselves to the armoury. Now on the eve of a pivotal election there is at last some good news for those who survived. The cost was high though. One resident told me the jihadists recently assembled all the elderly residents and informed them that, as they were unable to defend themselves from a military attack, they would be helped on their way to paradise. They were slaughtered in Gwoza’s abattoir. Eyewitnesses say that after the military assault, people could be seen heading over the mountain by torchlight – Boko Haram fighters on the run. BBC Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo says Gwoza’s capture is a major milestone for the Nigerian army. The town is not far from Chibok, where Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from a boarding school last April. Our reporter says Gwoza was one of the places where the militants were rumoured to be hiding the girls, who are yet to be found.

Nigeria ‘uncooperative’

After his fighters captured Gwoza in August 2014, the Boko Haram leader declared a caliphate in areas under his control. The militants have been pushed back since Nigeria’s neighbours, Cameroon, Chad and Niger sent troops to help it earlier this year. [caption id="attachment_17119" align="alignright" width="300"]The armed forces also recaptured a police training base near Gwoza The armed forces also recaptured a police training base near Gwoza[/caption] “These successful operations have culminated in the dislodgment of terrorists from towns and communities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states,” military spokesman Chris Olukolade said. A lot of arms and ammunition were recovered and “a massive cordon and search has commenced to locate any of the fleeing terrorists or hostages in their custody”, he said. Maj-Gen Olukolade also thanked Nigeria’s regional partners for their encouragement during the recent operations. But Chad’s President Idriss Deby has been fiercely critical of Nigeria’s response, saying the Nigerian military had been uncooperative. He told French magazine Le Point that Chadian troops have had to retake towns twice from Boko Haram because Nigeria’s forces had failed to secure them. He estimated Boko Haram had 20,000 young fighters, some of whom had been trained by Islamic State in Libya, the AFP news agency reports. *Source BBC]]>

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Obama to Nigerian Leaders and candidates: Violence should have no Place in Democratic elections.
March 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ajong Mbapndah L [caption id="attachment_17064" align="alignleft" width="300"]President Obama Meets With President Jonathan In US President Obama Meets With President Jonathan In US[/caption] U.S President Barack Obama is urging all Nigerian leaders and candidates to eschew violence as D-day approaches for crucial elections considered by analysts as too close to call. In a march 23rd message to Nigerians, President Obama describes Nigeria as a great nation which should be proud of the progress it has made from winning independence to turning its back on military rule, strengthening democratic institutions, working hard to improve the lot of its citizenry and building the largest economy in Africa. Nigeria now has the historic opportunity to write the next chapter of its progress with upcoming elections Obama said. Expressing the wish to see all Nigerians cast their votes without intimidation or fear, President Obama said “for elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful”. “I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections—and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence—before, during, or after the votes are counted,” said Obama. The US President expressed the believe that successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria to do better in tackling the urgent challenge of fending off the onslaught from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. “Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress,” Obama said. Borrowing a Nigerian saying “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done,” President Obama called on Nigerians from all religions, ethnic groups and regions to come together and keep Nigeria one . Obama ended his message with a pledge of partnership and support from the USA as Nigeria continues with the task of advancing security, prosperity and human rights for all its citizens.   The keenly fought elections between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Progressive Party-PDP, and former military ruler General Mohamadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress-APC, have drawn unprecedented attention from the USA. Prior to the postponement of the elections earlier billed for February 14, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Nigeria where he met with the two frontrunners. [caption id="attachment_17065" align="alignright" width="280"]APC's Buhari with US Sec of State John Kerry in Nigeria APC’s Buhari with US Sec of State John Kerry in Nigeria[/caption] Since the elections were postponed in other to secure parts of the country under Boko Haram, the Nigerian military has registered stunning victories over the Islamic terrorist group. At a recent event at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, Senior Defence Intelligence Officials from Nigeria indicated that the country was better prepared for the elections today in terms of security and logistics than it was in February. The victories over Boko Haram have given incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan a chance in elections that many may have been in a haste to call for the APC’s Buhari.]]>

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How Nigeria has managed to push back Boko Haram
March 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

Is the tide turning against Boko Haram? * [caption id="attachment_17046" align="alignleft" width="300"]President Goodluck Jonathan visits troops President Goodluck Jonathan visits troops[/caption]

The Nigerian president is confident that the Islamist insurgents of Boko Haram are finally about to be decisively defeated.

In an interview with the BBC, President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram will be routed in one month. His bullish comments follow the news this week that Nigerian troops had finally driven Boko Haram militants from Bama in Borno State, north-east Nigeria. Military spokesman Chris Olukolade said militants fled the city, which they had held since September last year, after days of ground skirmishes and aerial bombardments. General Olukolade said troops would continue to pursue the militants towards Nigeria’s porous border with Cameroon. Bama lies along a critical road connecting Cameroon to Maiduguri, the embattled north-eastern Nigerian capital and epicentre of the Islamists’ activities.

The troops’ advance to recapture the town started early this month but was slowed, largely because Boko Haram militants had destroyed bridges linking it to other communities.

The military had to spend time constructing a make-shift passage to the town. String of successes The victory over Bama came as part of a string of successes recorded by the Nigerian military in the last month, after struggling for years to contain the deadly jihadists. Bama was one of the two most important towns held by Boko Haram. The other is Gwoza, which is now the only big town under the control of the militants. It is believed Boko Haram uses Gwoza as its headquarters. It took the postponement of a general election earlier scheduled for the middle of February, for the Nigerian military to make progress. The army says that it has recaptured 11 of 14 districts from Boko Haram. But how did Nigeria turned the tide against Boko Haram in just four weeks? Key has been collaboration with neighbouring countries, mainly Chad, Niger and Cameroon, who have provided troops to help tackle the insurgents. New confidence [caption id="attachment_17048" align="alignright" width="300"]Chadian troops have joined the multi-national taskforce fighting Boko Haram Chadian troops have joined the multi-national taskforce fighting Boko Haram[/caption] In addition, President Jonathan told the BBC his military has acquired new weapons sufficient to defeat Boko Haram. Nigeria has brought in extra equipment from the former Soviet Union and South Africa. Initial incursions into the Nigerian territories were made by the multi-national force supported by the African Union, which had massed in Cameroon. Led by Chad, they bombarded Boko Haram positions and killed more than 300 of them. Nigerian troops then moved in on the ground. The Nigerian government is eager to show progress in the fight against Boko Haram ahead of the general elections, the reason officials gave for postponing the polls in the first place. Government criticism It attracted scathing criticism after it failed to stop the jihadists, who had carried out bombings of towns, schools and company installations, killing over 20,000 people and displacing nearly two million others. The government has not explained how it failed to protect the lives 59 school boys who were slaughtered in their sleep by Boko Haram in Buni Yadi, Yobe state. Similarly, there has been no explanation for the failure to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from their school by Boko Haram militants in Chibok, Borno State nearly a year ago. Campaigners with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, keep agitating for their rescue, but they have largely been ignored. Last year, Nigerian defence officials were quoted as saying they had sighted the girls but would not want to use force to rescue them. That has subsequently been denied, and the spirits of the parents, who expected a sort of miracle after President Jonathan assured them the girls would be found, remain dampened. With elections imminent, the government appears to be racing against time to prove it has the capacity to deal with the intractable insecurity situation that has bedevilled the north-east, in order to get Nigerians to vote it back to power. But Boko Haram’s presence still looms large. New dimension Last week, the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) operating in Iraqi and Syria. This seems to have introduced a new dimension to the anti-insurgency campaign. Although the military say it is not fazed by this, many Nigerians are worried. _81801777_nigeria_boko_haram_v14-1Late last month, four suicide bombs in Maiduguri killed about 60 people, adding to the tally of some 20,000 people the group has killed in the past six years. The latest successes are expected to boost the chances of the ruling party holding on to power. However, it faces a formidable challenge from the opposition, whose candidate is former military ruler Gen Muhammadu Buhari.

And many want to know why the government allowed the insecurity to fester until a few weeks to polling day before it could muster the strength to fight.

There are also searching questions about whether the success achieved in the last four months can be sustained. With homes and livelihoods destroyed, displaced people are now primed to return to their devastated communities. But they are keen to know what support will be available to help them piece their lives together again. Some also fear they will be disenfranchised. The electoral laws in Nigeria say voters can only vote where they registered. This means that displaced people may not vote since they have been driven out of their towns and villages. Many of them are currently in internally displaced person camps. It is now the responsibility of the electoral commission to determine how this challenge is addressed and ensure that it does not affect the outcome of the general elections. *Source BBC]]>

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Nigeria's Jonathan eyes Boko Haram ouster within a month
March 20, 2015 | 1 Comments

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says Boko Haram are "getting weaker and weaker every day" (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei) Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says Boko Haram are “getting weaker and weaker every day” (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)[/caption] Lagos (AFP) – Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said in an interview broadcast on Friday that he hoped that Boko Haram militants would be pushed out of captured towns and villages within a month.

“I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover the old territories that hitherto have been in their hands,” he told the BBC.

Nigeria’s military has had a remarkable transformation, claiming to have recaptured dozens of communities from the Islamists in the restive northeast since early February.

Ill-equipped soldiers had previously appeared unable — even unwilling — to respond to attacks by the heavily armed rebels, whose insurgency began in 2009 and has killed more than 13,000.

The military, backed by soldiers from Chad, Cameroon and Niger as well as foreign private military contractors, claim to have “cleared” the northeast states of Yobe and Adawama of insurgents.

Borno state, which has been worst affected by the insurgency, is expected to be liberated “soon”, they have said.

In the interview, Jonathan, who is seeking re-election at polls on March 28, said Boko Haram were “getting weaker and weaker every day”.

He blamed the military’s inability to put down the rebellion previously to a lack of weapons and resources, which have now come through.

Military and political rhetoric from Abuja suggests that victory over Boko Haram could be declared soon but security analysts have warned that this could be premature.  

On Wednesday and Thursday, Boko Haram fighters demonstrated that they were still able to mount hit-and-run attacks, storming the border town of Gamboru and killing 11 civilians.

The town, in eastern Borno on the frontier with Cameroon, was previously recaptured by Chadian forces but they withdrew last week, leaving it without a security presence, residents said.

The lack of troops suggested a problem in co-ordination between the allies, with anglophone Nigeria having long been suspicious of its francophone neighbours and ties tense.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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The Return of Confidence: Boko Haram on The Ropes Say Nigerian Officials
March 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Jonathan in a file picture wearing military gear for the 52nd Independence Anniversary inside the Aso villa. Military victories over Boko Haram have dialed back acerbic criticisms but will this help his chances of re-election? Photo credit Daily Post Jonathan in a file picture wearing military gear for the 52nd Independence Anniversary inside the Aso villa. Military victories over Boko Haram have dialed back acerbic criticisms but will this help his chances of re-election? Photo credit Daily Post[/caption] Senior Defence Officials of the Nigerian Government say the all out offensive launched against Boko Haram is yielding dividends, with the military securing much of the territory that was previously held by the sect. At an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC to share updates on Security in Nigeria and the Campaign against Boko Haram on March 11, Ambassador Ayodele Oke, Director General of the National Intelligence Agency and Rear Admiral Gabriel E.Okoi,Chief of Defence Intelligence said the military had stepped up its fight and was on course to secure all portions of the country previously under Boko Haram before the March 28 elections. Defending the decision to postpone elections, the two officials indicated that it was not only about Boko Haram, but also about offering all Nigerians the opportunity to freely cast their vote. Holding elections in February would have meant disenfranchising millions of Nigerians in addition to putting the lives of election personnel in danger, the Nigerian Officials said. Nigerians have embarked on an irreversible path to democracy and all must be done to ensure that elections take place in a peaceful atmosphere with all Nigerians accorded the opportunity to freely cast their votes, said Ambassador Ayodele. In addition to the security gains that have been made, the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency disclosed that some additional ten million Nigerians have picked up voters cards and the electoral commission INEC had tested new equipment. All of these would not have been possible had the initial election date of February been maintained, he said.   According to Rear Admiral Okoi, there is now better coordination with the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Benin and Niger which have now joined the fight after initial reluctance. Rear Admiral Okoi however lamented the slow pace with which intelligence was been shared especially with leading world powers which have the capacity to do so. When intelligence is shared late, instead of before for timely action, it makes things very hard for the military, said the Chief of Defence Intelligence. The two officials also lamented the fact that at its hour of need, the USA could not help Nigeria with procurement of necessary arms needed to effectively check the growth of Boko Haram.Although cooperation between the Nigeria and the USA had improved, the Nigerian Officials said there was a lot more that could be done to strengthen the hand of the military, protect civilians and ensure that investment interests are protected. [caption id="attachment_16975" align="alignright" width="225"]Ambassador Ayodele Oke,Director General of Nigerian National Intelligence Agency at the Atlantic Council Ambassador Ayodele Oke,Director General of Nigerian National Intelligence Agency at the Atlantic Council[/caption] A certitude from the Nigerian Officials was that elections will take place as scheduled on March 28. The recent gains by the Nigerian have helped to restore credibility in the military and the Jonathan Administration which has been subjected to severe criticism as Boko Haram ran riot.From the 200 Chibok girls who are still to located, to tales and images of Nigerian soldiers fleeing from superior fire power from Boko Haram, and seemingly endless reports of attacks and territory falling into the hands of the Islamic sect, it has been tough time for the Nigerian government . With Boko Haram been pummeled by Chad,Cameroon and Niger, and the African Union bracing up to join the fray with its own forces, Boko Haram may in for a rough time. “Taking the fight to Boko Haram takes away a major talking point of the opposition APC ,”said Franklin Ekechukwu National Coordinator of the Diaspora Campaign Network who was at the Atlantic Council event. Ekechukwu who supports Jonathan said the Boko Haram atrocities masked all the positive things and progress that Nigerian has witnessed under the leadership of the incumbent President and flag bearer of the ruling PDP. Expressing confidence in the  military,Ekechukwu said victory for Jonathan at the March polls will only be a net plus for continued development and progress for all Nigerians .]]>

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Late firebrand leader Sankara strikes chords at Burkina film fest
March 10, 2015 | 0 Comments


[caption id="attachment_16961" align="alignleft" width="300"]Delegates of FESPACO look as Prime Minister Isaak Zida (right) launches the 2015 Pan-African Film and Television Festival at Ouagadougou (Fespaco) in Ouagadougou on February 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ahmed Ouoba) Delegates of FESPACO look as Prime Minister Isaak Zida (right) launches the 2015 Pan-African Film and Television Festival at Ouagadougou (Fespaco) in Ouagadougou on February 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ahmed Ouoba)[/caption]

Ouagadougou (AFP) – Even in death, the former revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, helped inspire the uprising that ousted his successor last year, and he came to the fore again at the country’s annual film festival.

The audience at the 24th pan-African FESPACO in Ouagadougou, which wrapped up at the weekend, was moved to rowdy appreciation at the screening of “Captaine Thomas Sankara”, a flattering 90-minute portrait of the iconoclastic Marxist soldier by Swiss director Christophe Cupelin.

Sankara seized power on August 4, 1983 in then Upper Volta in a coup backed by many compatriots who shared his wish to stamp out corruption and bring sweeping social change to the former French colony.

Dubbed Africa’s “Che Guevara” by admirers, the new head of state, at age 33, soon changed the name of the deeply poor west African country to Burkina Faso, meaning “the land of upright men”, where he also campaigned strongly for women’s rights.

Sankara’s reputation spread far beyond Burkina’s landlocked borders because of his determined anti-imperialist outlook and a raft of measures to end dependency on foreign aid.

Known for strong statements during his speeches, the fiery leader urged the whole of Africa to halt debt repayments to developed nations. “If we pay, we’re the ones who are going to die,” he said at the rostrum of the Organisation of African Unity, today the African Union.

In addition to archive footage, Cupelin presents a range of statistics. Under Sankara’s rule, the number of children in school rose from six percent to 22 percent, two million youngsters were vaccinated in just two weeks, and a public housing programme got under way, while thousands of health clinics were built. The gross domestic product doubled.

When asked by a journalist towards the end of his life about rumours of a possible bid to oust him, Sankara was prescient. “The day you learn that Blaise (Compaore) is preparing something against me, don’t try to intervene, it will be too late,” he said.

And in the end, Sankara was overthrown on October 15, 1987, in a coup led by his longtime comrade-in-arms, Blaise Compaore, who in turn was ousted last October when he sought to prolong his 27-year rule.

– Audience ‘stood as one’ –

Emotions have run high in Ouagadougou in the aftermath of the uprising against Compaore during which Sankara’s principles made a vocal comeback.

When the film was shown for the first time in Burkina at the grand Neerwaya cinema, with 3,000 seats, the audience noisily applauded each of Sankara’s lines and booed Compaore when he appeared on screen.

“Everywhere, the film has been greeted in the same fashion, very positive,” Cupelin told AFP. “Citizens of the world can identify with Sankara’s speeches.”

According to the director, in Argentina, which was ravaged by a military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983, the audience “stood as one and applauded” when they heard Sankara say, “A military man without political training is a criminal in the making.”

After seeing the film, self-proclaimed “pioneer of the revolution” Moussa Ouedraogo, 37, said he felt “very nostalgic and very proud… The struggle continues, we are holding the flame high.”

A French viewer of the film said it gave her a better understanding of why a popular uprising erupted against Compaore. “I understand better what’s going on, the impetus that the people want to give, or rather give back, to the country,” said Maria Gaschet.

*Source AFP/Yahoo


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Ethiopia's $5bn project that could turn it into Africa's water powerhouse
March 6, 2015 | 1 Comments

By Milena Veselinovic*

It’s called the Grand Renaissance Dam — and the clue is in the name.

[caption id="attachment_16906" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ethiopia's $5bn project that could turn it into Africa's water powerhouse - CNN Photo By William Lloyd-George Ethiopia’s $5bn project that could turn it into Africa’s water powerhouse – CNN Photo By William Lloyd-George[/caption]

With some 8,500 laborers working around the clock on its construction, the imposingly-named dam is surely one of Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure projects, reaffirming Ethiopia’s ambitions of becoming a big regional player and a major exporter of power.

When completed, the project will generate around 6,000 megawatts of electricity for both domestic use and exports.

The most striking aspect of the nearly $5 billion enterprise is, however, that it is entirely funded by Ethiopia, without any foreign investment. According to the authorities, 20% of the project is financed from bond offerings to Ethiopians, and the remaining 80% from tax collection.

“It was seen as a strategically important initiative that the government and the Ethiopian people are financing it 100%,” says Zemedeneh Negatu, managing partner at Ernst & Young Ethiopia.

“They have come up with a very creative and innovative way that I think will be a lesson for other African countries who want to embark on such large infrastructure projects, and want to have the flexibility to do it themselves,” he adds.

Hydroelectric powerhouse

So far, Ethiopians at home and abroad have contributed about $350 million, and the government says that the 170 meter tall dam is on track for a 2017 opening, with 40% of the work already complete.

Ethiopia’s per capita income might be one of the lowest in the world, but the country has enjoyed an impressive economic growth since 2000, averaging 10.9% annually, which has resulted in a 33% reduction of people living in poverty.

If the Grand Renaissance Dam and other hydroelectric projects, such as the Gibe III dam on the Omo river, are completed on time, The World Bank estimates Ethiopia could earn $1 billion a year from electricity exports. Negatu says that this would make the country the largest exporter of power in Africa, and second only to South Africa when it comes to installed capacity.

Unhappy neighbors

Yet, not everyone is happy about Ethiopia’s energetic drive to harness its water resources. The Grand Renaissance Dam is being built on Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River which has been powering the agriculture of Sudan and Egypt — through which it flows — for millennia. These countries have strongly opposed the project since its inception, fearing that the dam will reduce their share of the Nile water. The ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi had even threatened to defend “each drop of Nile water with our blood if necessary” back in 2013.

Passions have been calmer more recently, and today the Reuters news agency reported that representatives of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia reached a preliminary agreement in Khartoum on how to operate the dam. Negatu is convinced that a compromise will be reached, as he thinks that the dam will ultimately benefit not just Ethiopia but most other East African nations.

“This is actually a regional project because up from Egypt all the way down to Rwanda, countries are going to buy the power that’s generated by this dam,” Negatu says, adding that both Rwanda and Kenya have already agreed to purchase thousands of megawatts once the project is finished.

A lack of reliable power has long stunted Africa’s development, with 600 million people on the continent not connected to the grid and getting by on a mix of generators, kerosene lamps and candles. In Ethiopia, only 15 to 20% of the population has access to power according to a study by Chatham House.

“It’s Africa’s Achilles’ heel,” says Negatu. “With anyone who wants to build a factory in Africa, the first thing they ask is infrastructure, and within infrastructure, whether there is sufficient electricity. Industrialization has always been about electricity, and this [dam] addresses this basic need.”

He adds that, after depending on exporting raw commodities for decades, governments across Africa should be pursuing a strategy of industrialization, following the example of China.

“We’ve got to move up the value chain, and it’s what Ethiopia is doing right now. Its strategy is industrial-based — not to export commodities but to manufacture value-added things, and other African nations are trying to emulate that. But without electricity there won’t be industrialization in Africa.”

*Source CNN


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Residents: Boko Haram readies for battle in NE Nigeria
March 6, 2015 | 0 Comments


  [caption id="attachment_16896" align="alignleft" width="300"]Chadian troops previously stationed by the Sudanese border make a stop on their way to lake Chad near Baga Sola Friday March 6, 2015. Large contingents of Chadian troops were seen heading to the region bordering Nigeria, where residents and an intelligence officer said Boko Haram fighters are massing at their headquarters in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza in preparation for a showdown with multinational forces. (AP Photo / Jerome Delay) Chadian troops previously stationed by the Sudanese border make a stop on their way to lake Chad near Baga Sola Friday March 6, 2015. Large contingents of Chadian troops were seen heading to the region bordering Nigeria, where residents and an intelligence officer said Boko Haram fighters are massing at their headquarters in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza in preparation for a showdown with multinational forces. (AP Photo / Jerome Delay)[/caption]

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram fighters are massing at their headquarters in the northeast Nigerian town of Gwoza in preparation for a showdown with multinational forces, residents and an intelligence officer said.

A woman trapped there since Gwoza was seized in July told her daughter that Islamic extremists are urging civilians to leave town to avoid being killed in crossfire in an anticipated major battle.

Hajiya Adama said her mother said the fighters also have released young women being held against their will, including some made pregnant during their captivity.

She said her mother left last week and escaped to the town of Yola, in neighboring Adamawa state.

“She told me that Boko Haram terrorists asked them to leave suddenly, that they were preparing grounds for a major battle,” Adama told The Associated Press. “She said while being helped by other women to leave through Madagali, they saw many Boko Haram terrorists in trucks and some on bikes moving toward Gwoza.”

An intelligence officer said security forces are moving slowly for fear of harming civilians, and especially since Boko Haram is surrounding Gwoza with land mines.

He confirmed forces from Chad are in the area, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

Boko Haram in August declared an Islamic caliphate across a swath of northeast Nigeria where it held sway. In recent weeks, Chadian and Nigerian troops have retaken a score of towns. But the militants continue to kill scores in suicide bombings and village attacks.

Retaking Gwoza would be a major coup for Nigeria and for the campaign of President Goodluck Jonathan for re-election at critical March 28 ballots. Critics say the contest is too close to call between Jonathan, a southern Christian, and retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator who has vowed to stamp out the 6-year-old insurgency that has killed an estimated 12,000 people and left 1.6 million homeless.

*Source AP/Yahoo

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