Armed bandits killed at least 18 people in raids in northern Nigeria, where attacks by kidnappers and cattle rustlers have been on the rise, residents said Friday.
Gunmen on motorbikes stormed into four villages in Kankara and Danmusa districts in Katsina state on Wednesday, shooting residents as they fled.
“We collected 18 dead bodies from the four villages after the attacks,” said Sada Iliya, a community leader from Unguwar Rabo village where nine people were killed.
“The bandits rode through the villages, opening fire on people,” he said.
Residents on Thursday transported the bodies to the state capital 130 kilometres (80 miles) away and presented them to the traditional emir in protest at the attacks.
“We took the 18 corpses to Katsina for the emir (so that he could) see what we are going through at the hands of bandits,” said Isyaku Jari from Maidabino village.
The victims were buried the same day after funeral prayers attended by the emir, his entourage said.
Katsina state has suffered months of attacks by cattle thieves and kidnappers, prompting villagers to form vigilante groups to protect themselves.
The gangs hole up in forests, using them as bases from which to launch assaults.
In May, 34 people were killed when bandits attacked three villages in Batsari and Danmusa districts, according to police and residents.
The latest violence comes amid efforts to halt the attacks in neighbouring Zamfara state, which has seen the worst of the bloodshed.
Bandits, herders and local vigilantes attended a peace meeting on Tuesday brokered by the regional government and police.
Farmers and herding communities in the area have long been terrorised by the gangs but the vigilante groups they have formed have been accused of extra-judicial killings.
The gangs have demanded that their suspected members stop being targeted for reprisal attacks, while mediators are pushing for both sides to disarm.
Social media restriction in Chad lifted after one year
Access to social media was cut in March 2018, as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution
Chad President Idriss Deby said Saturday he was lifting social media restrictions which were imposed more than a year ago for “security reasons.”
“For some months, security requirements led the government to toughen access conditions and control measures for electronic communications,” Deby said in a closing address to a digital forum in the capital N’Djamena.
“These measures were imposed in a context of terrorist threats (but)” the current situation ” leads me … to instruct the firms concerned to lift immediately the restriction on electronic communications,” said Deby.
On Saturday afternoon, it was possible to access social media applications including Whatsapp and Twitter, an AFP journalist reported.
Access to social media was cut in March last year as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution shoring up his power after almost three decades in office.
Access remained possible using VPN networks but the use of those is costly in one of the world’s poorest nations.
Barely five per cent of the population enjoys internet access.
Chad is a Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in Africa and notably faces threats from Boko Haram, which has made several deadly incursions into its territory in recent months.
The largely desert north, bordering Sudan, Libya and Niger, is highly volatile while several rebel groups have set up base just over the border with Libya.
In late January, Chad rebels seeking to destabilise Deby entered the northeast of the country from Libya but were pushed back after French air strikes.
In the east, farmers and nomadic groups have also clashed while the south on the border with the Central African Republic is still tense after the 2013 overthrow of former CAR president sparked unrest which spilt over the border.
Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year having been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, looks to maintain his grip on the country.
Arab spring deja-vu for Egyptians exiled in Sudan
Post-Bashir Khartoum in 2019 has much in common with Cairo after January 2011, when president Hosni Mubarak was toppled.
Egyptians exiled in Sudan, who fled after their elected Islamist president was deposed by the military, say the current standoff in Khartoum reminds them of their own broken dreams.
“It’s the same young people that are trying to carry out the same revolutionary action,” said Abdelaziz, an Egyptian student who has been in Sudan since 2016.
“They have read the same books, lived the same experiences”, he added.
For him and other Egyptians once close to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, the popular uprising in Sudan reminds them of events in their own country, even if there are some clear differences.
Sudan’s uprising has been led by liberal movements and unions of professionals, which spurred the military to overthrow Omar-al Bashir’s Islamist regime.
In Egypt itself, the Brotherhood polarised the youth movements that spearheaded the 2011 revolt.
But Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was likewise ousted by the army after mass protests against the Islamist’s divisive year in power.
Like Abdelaziz, many supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood ended up in Sudan after fleeing a deadly crackdown launched in 2013 in Egypt.
He fled to escape a 15-year prison sentence for “protesting” and “acts of vandalism”.
In Khartoum, sitting in the courtyard of his house and dressed in a traditional white Sudanese robe, he spoke to AFP using a pseudonym to protect the fragile stability of his new life.
His host country has been swept up by the same revolutionary fervour that Egypt once experienced.
Post-Bashir Khartoum in 2019 has much in common with Cairo after January 2011, when president Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a popular uprising.
On the walls of the city, the slogans are the same: “Down with the military government”.
The graffiti depicting Bashir is accompanied by the clarion call of the Arab Spring that once reverberated across Egypt, Tunisia and Syria: “get out”.
“A very enthusiastic person asked my opinion of the situation in Sudan… I laughed and said ‘we did the same thing as you and here we are sitting by your side'”, said Abdelaziz, who is in his twenties.
“Let’s not be too optimistic, let’s stay realistic”, he added.
If he is cautious, it is because in his country, the democratic moment ended with the removal of Morsi, and paved the way for the repression of not only Islamists but also secularists.
Detained for almost six years and kept in isolation, the ex-president died after collapsing during a court appearance on June 17.
His Muslim Brotherhood was branded a “terrorist organisation”, and thousands of his supporters were sentenced to years in prison or handed down the death penalty.
In August 2013, security forces dispersed a pro-Morsi sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square, killing more than 700 people in one day.
“Sudan appeared to be something of a safe haven at a particular time for Islamist opponents of the Egyptian regime”, said H.A. Hellyer, senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Bashir consistently denied that his country granted asylum to members of the Brotherhood.
In 2017, Sudan and Egypt signed an agreement not to host any opposition groups hostile to their respective governments.
The Egyptian authorities even gave Khartoum a list of names of Brotherhood members allegedly residing in Sudan, requesting their extradition, according to several sources.
In fact, Bashir’s regime – which came to power with the support of Islamists – had turned a blind eye to the arrival of the dissidents.
Today, Sudan’s ruling transitional military council has initiated a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, all fiercely hostile to Islamists.
“The new Sudanese regime is currently reformulating its geopolitical position”, Hellyer said.
‘The same naivety’
Almost every day for more than a month, Abdelaziz has said goodbye to a departing Egyptian friend.
Fellow exile Ahmed, an Egyptian student who came to Sudan since 2015, saw his circle shrink — all his friends went to Turkey, a stalwart Islamist supporter.
“They saw a power change” in Sudan, said the young man who also used a pseudonym.
“The fear of the unknown means they want to find a safer place”.
Detained for a few months in Egypt, he also avoided 15 years in prison for participating in a pro-Morsi demonstration after 2013.
With time and reflection, he said he has distanced himself from the ideology of the Brotherhood, admitting that it had committed “catastrophic errors” in its management of Egypt’s crisis.
To escape the memories and emotions of a painful past, he avoids Sudanese political life.
But it is not easy when Khartoum is engulfed in protest.
“I feel like these people in the streets are a lot like us,” he said.
“It’s the same dreams, the same ambitions, the same fears, the same desire for change, the same naivety too”.
Discover luxury in Madagascar with Africa’s first caviar
The owners of this venture believe that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar’s economy.
Madagascar, renowned for its unique wildlife and vanilla production, has a new claim to fame – the island nation is Africa’s first and only source of caviar.
The owners of this venture believe that luxury foods can play a part in improving Madagascar’s economy.
“A lot of people laughed at us,” says Delphyne Dabezies, the head of Rova Caviar, admitting that the enterprise was a big gamble.
“But we took the time to prove that this is serious. Madagascar caviar is now the only caviar produced in Africa and the Indian Ocean.”
The island off the coast of Mozambique is still only a minor player in terms of global production, which is dominated by China, Italy and France — though producers in the Caspian Sea still boast the most prized caviar, from Beluga sturgeon.
Last year Mozambique produced a tonne of caviar in a world market of about 340 tonnes a year.
But its ambitious promoters hope to soon increase production to five tonnes.
The unusual plan is the brainchild of Dabezies, her husband Christophe and their partner Alexandre Guerrier – all entrepreneurs based in Madagascar.
“At the time, our business in luxury ready-to-wear clothes had become sustainable, and we were seeking to diversify our activities,” Dabezies said.
“We are all gourmands, so this idea served our purposes.
“Madagascar has an exceptional environment that produces rare crops such as cocoa, vanilla, organic shrimp and lychees – we thought we could add caviar.”
The sturgeon that produce unfertilised caviar roe are kept in Lake Mantasoa, perched at an altitude of 1,400 metres east of the capital Antananarivo.
Training the staff has been a major part of the project.
“Caviar professionals have come from abroad,” said Ianja Rajaobelina, now assistant director of the production plant, which employs 300 people.
“I had to learn everything on the job.”
Staff member Say Sahemsa, wearing white boots, tells AFP: “You have to take care of the spawn and avoid giving them too much or not enough food, to have the lowest possible mortality rate.”
Sturgeon are imported from Russia in the form of fertilised eggs, which hatch in a special nursery facility in Mantasoa.
When they reach seven grams (a quarter of an ounce), they are moved to freshwater ponds, and then into large cages in the lake when they weigh 500 grams (around a pound).
At 1.5 kilogrammes, the males are killed and only the females are kept on until their eggs are ready.
Colour, taste and smell
The process demands patience and skill.
The first imported eggs arrived in Mantasoa in 2013, and the first grams of caviar did not go on sale until June 26, 2017, Madagascar’s independence day.
The quality of the harvest depends on the dexterity of one man, 23-year-old Gaston Soavan’i Thomas.
Knife in hand, Thomas has no margin for error as he extracts eggs from the entrails of each sturgeon.
“At first, I was afraid to destroy or contaminate the eggs, but now everything comes automatically,” he said.
The eggs are kept in a refrigerated room at 0 degrees Celsius.
Expert taster Georges Heriniaina Andrianjatovo taps each box with a small hammer to detect any air bubbles, which are removed as soon as possible. Colour, taste and smell are all important.
“A good caviar rolls in the mouth and exudes an odour of fresh butter,” he says.
Once it is judged up to standard, the precious output is sold to high-end shops and restaurants on the island and to its neighbours of Mauritius, Seychelles and Reunion.
Its price is a relative bargain – $144 per 100 grams – far cheaper than in Europe.
According to Guinness World Records, a kilogramme of the costliest caviar from albino sturgeon off the coast of Iran regularly fetches over $25,000.
Last year Rova Caviar’s stock sold out in just a few weeks.
Among those impressed is prominent Madagascan chef Lalaina Ravelomanana.
“I prefer to serve it in its natural state, with salmon or oysters on ice,” he says.
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