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7 Electoral Staff Killed By Landmine As Niger Goes To Polls

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Seven election workers were killed during Niger’s presidential vote on Sunday when their vehicle struck a landmine, a local official told journalists, marring a day meant to usher in the country’s first democratic transition of power, according to VOA. 

Niger experiences sporadic Islamist militants attacks regularly and “had stepped up security to protect the poll, in which ruling party candidate Mohamed Bazoum is facing former president Mahamane Ousmane,” according to press reports.

A vehicle belonging to the electoral commission (CENI) and carrying election workers to their polling stations hit a mine in the rural commune of Dargol in the southwest, said Harouna Mounkaila, the vice president of CENI’s local branch. 

“They were leaving to drop off the ballot boxes and the members of the polling station,” Moukaila told Reuters, adding that three other workers were seriously wounded. 

Dargol is about 80 kms (50 miles) from the border with Mali, a hotbed of militant activity. An attack on two villages near the border in January killed at least 100 civilians, the worst such incident in recent memory. 

Niger’s twin security crises – one near its western border with Mali and Burkina Faso, where militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State operate, and the other along the southeastern border with Nigeria, where Boko Harm is active – were the dominant campaign issues. 

Continuity versus change  

In the first round on Dec. 27, ruling party candidate Bazoum, a former interior and foreign affairs minister, won 39.3% of the vote to Ousmane’s 17%. Bazoum then won the endorsements of the candidates who came third and fourth in the first round.

In the capital Niamey, the vote appeared to go smoothly. After casting his ballot, President Mahamadou Issoufou, who is stepping down after two five-year terms, hailed the historic nature of the election in a country that has seen four coups since independence from France in 1960. 

Bazoum, for his part, projected confidence. 

“I hope that luck is on my side, but I have many reasons to believe it is indeed,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Francophonie bloc, Loiuse Mushikiwabo sent her condelences shortly after the attacks.

“On behalf of the Francophone family, I extend my condolences to the Government and people of #Niger, as well as to the families of the 7 electoral agents tragically killed by a mine while serving their country on this election day,” she said, wishing a quick recovery to the injured.

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West-Africa

US Wants Gen. António Indjai Of Guinea-Bissau Arrested

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He is a decorated fighter at the rank of General in the Guinea-Bissau military commonly known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People or FARP.

Gen Antonio Indjai rose to prominence during the civil war in the 1990s and led a coup in the West African country in 2012.

It should be noted that Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, has a history of coups and no elected leader has served a full term since independence from Portugal in 1974.

On April 12, 2012, he overthrew the elected government in a coup, citing as the reason the presence of the Angolan military.

The 270 soldiers from Angola had originally arrived to help reform Guinea-Bissau’s armed forces, which stand accused of involvement in a cocaine transshipment trade that sees an estimated 30 tons of the illegal substance ending up in Europe every year.

The United States has labelled Gen. Antonio Indjai as “drug kingpin” and has placed a bounty on his head. In mid-August, US justice promised $ 5 million to anyone who will allow the arrest of this former Bissau-Guinean chief of staff.

He has long been one of the most feared men in the country. And seven years after his retirement, his influence hardly seems to have waned: inquiring about General António Indjai still arouses apprehension and many embarrassed silences. When it comes to shedding light on the grey areas of his career, it’s hard to find any official willing to speak with his face uncovered.

The US wanted notice issued against him by Washington, which considers him a drug lord, has of course not helped. António Indjai’s relatives remember the trap set on the high seas in 2013 by the US Anti-Drugs Agency (DEA) for Bubo Na Tchuto, a former almighty head of the Navy, also accused by the courts of having reigned master of the cocaine trafficking plaguing the country.

Targeted the same year by a similar lure, Indjai will not be taken in, but the case will sharpen his caution.

Chatting with Gen. António Indjai in 2012 After the Coup

If Carlos Gomes Jr. were to come back, would the former Prime Minister be safe? 

We would not be responsible for Carlos Gomes Jr.’s security on his return. If he were to come back, he’d be responsible for his own security. I repeat, if he were to come back, whatever happened to him would be his own or the U.N.’s responsibility.

Editors note: Carlos Domingos Gomes Júnior is a Bissau-Guinean politician who was Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau from 10 May 2004 to 2 November 2005, and again from 25 December 2008 to 10 February 2012.

I have read a lot about the April 12 coup but would like to hear about it from you. Why did you organize a coup? 

We didn’t organize a coup, we organized a countercoup. Do you know the origins of this coup? Angola and Carlos Gomes Jr. Would America allow a foreign army with heavier weapons than them inside the United States? We said [to Angola], Either you give these weapons to us, or, if not, leave the country and we will continue with cooperation between our two countries in the future.

They said no, and only reinforced their own weaponry. I’m asking you, in light of this, what is the origin of the coup? Angola and Carlos Gomes Jr.

If we hadn’t organized a coup before them, they’d have reinforced their troops here and arrested us. The intention of Carlos Gomes Jr. was to have international forces to add to the Angolan troops, which meant they could have struck us down at any time.

I drew [Carlos Gomes Jr.’s] attention to this more than 20 times — I said not to bring Angolan troops here. This is why we organized a coup. I didn’t ask that he remove the Angolan troops, just that he solve the problem of the weapons.

I’ve heard people in the street say that the coup represents a failure of democracy.

Of course I agree the coup is a failure of democracy. A coup has no place in a democracy. But if you have no other means of escape, you have to look for a solution.

For example, if I took you and locked you in this room with my weapon and I were to shoot, how would you react? You’d want to escape, and you might break down the door — you’d take any means that you could in order to get out.

We removed just two people — the Prime Minister and the President. Where else does that exist, that a coup d’état happens and no one dies? Not one. Since they didn’t want to take our advice, we said leave or you will be dismissed.

 

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Col. Mamadi Doumbouya Officially Becomes Head of State

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In front of his wife and Guinean politicians, but in the absence of high-ranking foreign representatives, the putschist was made transitional president on Friday, October 1.

Mamadi Doumbouya, was sworn in on Friday October 1 as president of a transition of still unknown duration and content.

The commander of the special forces who overthrew President Alpha Condé on September 5, in a beige ceremonial uniform, wearing a red beret and dark glasses, swore before the Supreme Court “to preserve national sovereignty in all loyalty”, to “consolidate democratic gains, to guarantee the independence of the homeland and the integrity of the national territory ”.

His mother and his wife, a French gendarmerie officer, and many Guinean political figures were present. Cellou Dalein Diallo (UFDG), Sidya Touré (UFR), Faya Millimouno (BL), Siaka Barry or even Ousmane Kaba had made the trip to the Mohammed-V palace in Conakry.

Granting himself an additional rank of colonel, Mamadi Doumbouya again pledged to respect by Guinea all of its “national and international commitments”.

He also assured that, as provided for by the “charter” of the transition, a sort of fundamental act published on Monday, September 27 and entered into force immediately, neither he nor any member of the junta or of the transitional bodies would be a candidate for the future elections.

Personality cult

Before making him swear an oath, the President of the Supreme Court, Mamadou Sylla, compared the task of Colonel Doumbouya to the piloting of a ship “loaded with many painful events, many demands and immense and urgent expectations.”

He called on her not to be sidetracked “by the force of the waves of demagoguery and the storm of personality worship.”

After two coups in neighboring Mali, Colonel Doumbouya led the third putsch in a year in West Africa, carried out in a few hours at the cost of an unknown number of human lives, the media reporting about twenty dead.

This putsch has been widely condemned by the international community, which demands the release of Alpha Condé, still in the hands of the putschists. If the presidents of ECOWAS had been invited to this opening ceremony, none made the trip.

The president of the Malian transition had nevertheless sent Malick Diaw, the president of the Transition Council to represent his country. In attendance were the ambassadors of China and Russia.

Several Western countries had limited their presence to lower-ranking diplomats, but the representative of the United Nations system was present.

Indefinite period

Colonel Doumbouya assigned the mission of this transition to a “re-foundation of the State”, the drafting of a new Constitution, the fight against corruption, the reform of the electoral system, the organization of “free, credible and transparent ”and“ national reconciliation ”.

The junta said it would return power to civilians after elections at the end of a transition period. But she has never specified the duration of this transition, which has yet to be fixed by “mutual agreement” between the military and the country’s forces, nor specified its plans.

Colonel Doumbouya, colossus with calm manners, always closely protected by his men and always appearing in public in fatigues and wearing his beret, seems determined to give himself time, despite international pressure, analysts agree.

ECOWAS called for presidential and legislative elections within six months. It decided to freeze the financial assets of the members of the junta and their families and to ban them from traveling.

Since his accession, the one that the official press releases already designated as President of the Republic even before his inauguration, has multiplied reassuring remarks towards investors and foreign partners.

He guaranteed the respect of mining contracts and reopened all air and land borders. The “charter” of the transition confirms Colonel Doumbouya as the new strongman of Guinea, “Head of State and Supreme Chief of the Armies”, who “determines the policy of the Nation” and who “can take orders”. President Doumbouya will appoint by decree a transitional prime minister, whom he can dismiss.

 

wire

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ECOWAS Launches Trade Promotion Organizations Network

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The Economic Community of West African States, with the support of the International Trade Centre, officially launched the ECOWAS Trade Promotion Organizations Network.

This network (TPO) is a public-sector led entity and will work in partnership with the ECOWAS commission to drive inclusive trade development initia-tives within West Africa and beyond.

According to sources, the TPO also held its First Annual General Assembly 15th – 16th July 2021 in Abuja, Nigeria.

Before officially launching the Network, Tei Konzi, ECOWAS Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi BROU, stressed the importance of the Trade Promotion Organisations in accessing new markets and establishing linkages between local and international businesses.

These are some of the major reasons the Council of Ministers at their 17th June, 2021, 86th Ordinary session took a decision to establish the ECOWAS Trade Promotion Organisation Network in the region, he reiterated.

In her remarks, the International Trade Centre Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton emphasized the milestone West Africa had achieved with the establishment of the ECOWAS TPO Network.

“As a network you can learn from each other, support growth into each other’s markets, invest in shared information assets, and amplify the voice of TPOs and the private sector as champions of the Africa of tomorrow,” said Ms. Coke-Hamilton.

Cicile Tassin-Pelzer, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and to ECOWAS, noted that the flagship of the West African Competitiveness Programme has brought together public and private sectors stakeholders across the region to strengthen competitiveness and enhance the level of production, transformation and export capacities of the Private Sectors.

Speaking directly to the TPOs, by creating this network, you take your mission to another level, creating strength in numbers and synergies of closer collaboration with an ultimate objective improving the West African Markets, she said.

Mr. Olusegun Awolowo ED/CEO Nigeria Export Promotion Council, in his welcome address, stated that indeed this was a first of many steps towards building mutual trust and cooperation

without borders within the ECOWAS region. As at today intra-Africa exports only accounts for about 16% of Africa’s global export, and more specifically intra-ECOWAS trade only accounts for a tenth of ECOWAS countries’ global trade.

Indeed, more must be done to increase the volume of trade within the ECOWAS region and more importantly between ECOWAS and the rest of Africa.

It is therefore imperative that through the TPO network we work assiduously towards facilitating the ease of trade for our MSMEs within the ECOWAS region and Africa at large, thereby building an army of exporters that will boost intra Africa trade.

If soundly operationalized, this new mechanism of TPO Network should help a great deal in boosting trade among ECOWAS member states. Consequently, economic integration in the sub-region will be further deepened, he added

The first AGM of the Network, chaired by the President of the ECOWAS TPO Network Olusegun Awolowo, Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) and supported by the Vice President Guy M’Bengue, Chief Executive Officer of Côte d’Ivoire Export Promotion Agency (APEX-CI), will consider key documents for the operationalization of the network.

As part of the event, the ECOWAS TPO network engaged in discussions with Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa, and Transcorp and Jean B. Bakole, Regional Director of UNIDO, moderated by Dr. Asare Afua Asabea, Chief Executive Of-ficer of Ghana Export Promotion Agency (GEPA).

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