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Mopti’s regional governor sacked after Mali massacre

The government, referring to the risk of another turn in the cycle of violence, also urged local people “not to fall into the trap of guilt by association and revenge”

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Mopti's regional governor sacked after Mali massacre
Mali's President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

The Malian government on Wednesday sacked the governor of the central Mopti region following a village massacre in which 35 people died. Three days of national mourning would also be held “in homage to the victims of the terrorist attack perpetrated on June 10, 2019, against the population of Sobane Da village,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in a statement read out on public television.

“Drawing lessons from this tragedy, the cabinet had dismissed Mopti’s regional governor,” General Sidi Alassane Toure added in the statement. Twenty-four of the dead were children, the government said earlier in a statement which added that six people had been detained “following routine checks”.

Authorities revised the death toll down to 35 from an estimated 95. In another incident Wednesday, an attack on villages of the Dogon ethnic group in the south of country claimed at least two lives, with several others wounded, a local official and a Malian security source said.

Gunmen late Sunday surrounded the village of Sobane Da, in a Dogon enclave, killing inhabitants and torching homes in a seven-hour assault, survivors said. The killings stirred fears of tit-for-tat violence in the region, an ethnic patchwork where tensions have soared since the emergence of a violent jihadist-led movement in 2015.

The government had given a provisional figure of 95 dead and 19 people missing. That toll was based on early information from soldiers and the district mayor who visited the village, which is also known as Sobane-Kou. But by Monday night there was some doubt and the revised figure was confirmed the following day, officials said.

“This number is based on a painstaking count carried out by a team comprising officials from the (Malian) civil protection force, forensic doctors (and) the public prosecutor of Mopti” region, Wednesday’s statement said. About a hundred women had succeeded in fleeing to the village of Koundo, and this was one of the causes of the confusion, it said.

The government, referring to the risk of another turn in the cycle of violence, also urged local people “not to fall into the trap of guilt by association and revenge”.

Trouble in the region

Ethnic violence in central Mali surged after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015. On May 16, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, announced it had recorded “at least 488 deaths” in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

Armed Fulanis “caused 63 deaths” among civilians in the Mopti region over the same timespan, it said. In the bloodiest raid, about 160 Fulani villagers were slaughtered on March 23 at Ogossagou, near the border with Burkina Faso, by suspected Dogon hunters.

The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, while the Bambara and Dogon are traditionally sedentary farmers. In the heart of the Sahel, Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries. Unrest in the volatile central region coincides with an ongoing jihadist campaign that the Mali government is struggling to contain, despite military support from France and UN peacekeepers.

Falling trust in the government

Analysts said public confidence in the government had slumped, spurring the creation of so-called self-defence groups. “The militias, rightly or wrongly, were created to respond to a need for security among people who no longer have any trust, or very little, in the effectiveness of the institutional responses,” said Baba Dakono of the Institute for Security Studies(ISS), a think tank in Bamako.

An expert working for an aid group in France, speaking on condition of anonymity, criticised the government for a response that had been “above all repressive”, especially towards the Fulani community. The military, he added, had been deployed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the massacre yet had been unable to prevent it.

“They are facing enemies who take multiple forms and the threats are pretty much everywhere. They are rather overwhelmed,” he said. In a separate development on Wednesday, the French military said three people were killed in northern Mali when a French counter-terror unit opened fire on a vehicle that failed to halt for inspection.

The incident took place on Saturday west of Timbuktu, one of three northern Malian towns that were recaptured by French and Malian forces in 2013 but which is still periodically attacked by jihadists.

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Ethiopia plans ban on motorbikes in Addis Ababa to curb crime spree

“Exceptions will be made to those conducting licensed businesses with motorcycles.” -Addis Ababa Mayor

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Ethiopia plans ban on motorbikes in Addis Ababa to curb crime spree

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa plans to ban motorcycles in the city from July in a bid to curb a spree of muggings and robberies, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Addis Ababa mayor, Takele Uma said motorbikes had been used in recent crimes and the city would prohibit them from July 7 though people using bikes for business may be exempt.

“Exceptions will be made to those conducting licensed businesses with motorcycles as well as those who use motorcycles as postal carriers and motorcycles affiliated to embassies,” the mayor told reporters.

Addis Ababa, a city of an estimated five million, is generally considered safe for residents and foreigners. But a growing number of violent crimes involving suspects on motorbikes or in cars has caused recent alarms.

The mayor said the proposed ban came after a study of criminal activities in the city found a significant number were carried out using motorcycles.

Takele said the Addis Ababa municipal administration will also impose a ban on trips by most freight vehicles in the city during daytime to alleviate traffic congestion in the capital. 

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Two police officers killed in attack on police station in Niger

It is the closest attack to the city yet in a long-running insurgency by suspected jihadists.

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Two police officers killed in attack on police station in Niger
An armed policeman stands guard at the police checkpoint where two policemen were killed and four injured by armed men during an overnight attack on June 18 at the police station at the northern entrance to Niamey, the first to happen at the gates of the capital of Niger. (Photo by BOUREIMA HAMA / AFP)

Two policemen were killed late Tuesday when gunmen attacked a police station on the northern edge of the Niger capital Niamey, a security official said.

It is the closest attack to the city yet in a long-running insurgency by suspected jihadists.

“The toll is two dead and four wounded, two of them serious,” the security source said Wednesday.

“We heard gunfire coming from the station at 11:00 pm (22:00 GMT),” a witness told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The police station is at the northern entrance to the city, on the highway from Ouallam, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.

Police investigators were on the scene on Wednesday morning, a reporter saw.

Niger, a large state in the heart of the Sahel region, is grappling with attacks by jihadist groups in the west of the country, and raids by Boko Haram Islamists in the south, near the border with Nigeria.

Eighty-eight civilians were killed by Boko Haram in March alone, and more than 18,000 villagers forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

On June 8, a US military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device as it entered a firing range near Ouallam for a joint training exercise.

Niger hosts an estimated 800 US troops, the largest American deployment in Africa.

The scale of the US presence came to light in October 2018, when four US and five Nigerien troops were killed in an ambush by fighters affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group.

Security is tight in Niamey, with high-profile deployment of the military and police checkpoints on the highways into town.

The city is due to host a summit of the African Union (AU) on July 7 and 8.

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Morsi gains popularity after death, supporters confer martyr status

Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”.

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Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
A portrait of former President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi as people attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Unpopular in power and deposed after huge protests, Egypt’s ex-president Mohamed Morsi could be humanised in the eyes of many Egyptians after his death in court Monday.

“It is sad, from a strictly human point of view”, a trader in central Cairo said of the former head of state, who had been imprisoned since his 2013 fall from power, and was buried on Tuesday.

“He was old and ill. Whatever one thinks of the political situation, his death while the court was in-session shows that those who judged him were not good people”, the trader said, on condition of anonymity.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
People attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 19, 2019. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and he was appealing a 2015 death sentence, making both the man and his organisation extremely sensitive topics in the country.

While Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”, Egyptian authorities appear keen to avoid a wave of empathy from citizens, who largely favoured the uprising that deposed him.

His rapid burial on Tuesday morning took place extremely discreetly and under heavy surveillance, while the public and the press were forbidden from attending.

‘Death symbolically important’ –

Morsi came to power in 2012 in elections that took place the year after a popular uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, who had headed an authoritarian regime for three decades.

Spurred on by mass demonstrations against Morsi’s own rule, the army ousted him on July 3, 2013 and Egypt declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”.

Ever since, the government has cracked down heavily on opponents, especially on members of the Islamist organisation.

The official narrative, regularly broadcast by Egyptian TV channels — which are all behind the regime — is that the Brotherhood are “terrorists” who harm the country’s interests.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Since Morsi’s death was announced, some channels have hosted “experts” denouncing the “violence” and “lies” perpetrated by the group.

On Tuesday morning, pro-government newspapers only briefly mentioned Morsi’s death, without referencing his status as a former president.

TV channels devoted most of their airtime to a visit by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — Morsi’s former defence minister, who ultimately toppled him before being elected head of state in 2014 — to Belarus.

“As a president, Mohamed Morsi was not very popular among Egyptians — in fact he was unpopular, he was seen as uncharismatic, indecisive, very unsteady,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

But “his death in a courtroom will humanise him in the eyes of many Egyptians” who do not support the Brotherhood, Gerges added.

While Morsi was not a great leader for the Brotherhood, “his death will be symbolically important” and could drive radical elements of the group to take up arms against the authorities, Gerges said.

Radicalisation –

Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has faced numerous waves of repression by Egyptian governments, which have been dominated by the military since 1952.

Morsi’s death adds to a long list of what the Brotherhood call martyrs, including the group’s founder Hassan al-Banna, who was assassinated in 1949 by Egypt’s secret police.

Another key figure, Sayyed Qotb — one of the movement’s main ideologues and an inspiration behind its radicalism — was executed in August 1966 by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime, which fiercely repressed the Brotherhood.

But for Zack Gold, an analyst at the CNA research centre in the United States, it is “unlikely Morsi’s death will result in any immediate rise in the security threat to Egypt”.

Jihadist movements — sympathetic or not to the Brotherhood — are already very active in Egypt, particularly the Islamic State group in North Sinai, the Middle East security expert said.

Since 2013, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, police and also civilians have been killed in attacks.

“In the long term, it would be concerning if the government pre-emptively arrested large numbers out of concern for street protests or other outbursts in the wake of Morsi’s death,” Gold said.

Conditions in Egypt’s prisons “have a track record of radicalising individuals”, he noted.

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