Parties To Mali Peace Deal Meet In Kidal



Signatories to a shaky peace deal deemed vital for ending conflict in Mali met on Thursday in the northern city of Kidal, a former rebel bastion.

The city fell to Tuareg separatists in 2012, who captured much of the north of the Sahel state before jihadist groups commandeered their rebellion.

Islamist fighters have since expanded the conflict into central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, killing thousands.

In a bid to curb the fighting, Mali in 2015 signed an accord in Algiers with several rebel groups — a deal viewed as one of the country’s few options for escaping the violence.

The agreement, among other things, saw rebel militias start cooperating with the army, and provides for decentralising governance in the vast nation of 19 million people.  

But implementing the deal has been painfully slow: Malian troops only returned to Kidal last year, for example. 

On Thursday, Algiers-accord signatories gathered in Kidal, in their first such meeting in the symbolic city. 

Diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Mali’s neighbour Algeria, also attended.

wire story

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7 Electoral Staff Killed By Landmine As Niger Goes To Polls



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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Armed Bandits Attack Nigerian College, Kill one, Abduct Many



Reports from West Africa’s largest economy Nigeria confirm that at least one student is feared killed, and several others abducted after armed bandits attacked government college in Niger State.

The attack took place at the Government Science College Kagara in Rafi Local government area of the state.

Some teachers and their family members residing within the College Staff Quarters were also said to have been abducted by the gunmen.

According to Channels, a government source who pleaded anonymity confirmed the attack.

The attackers were reportedly dressed in the school uniform in what looked like a premeditated attack and the dead student was identified as Benjamin Doma.

According to the source, the attackers were said to have stormed Government Science College Kagara at about 2:00 am on Wednesday and started shooting sporadically.

In the process, a student was killed while some others sustained gunshots. Some staff of the College and their families were also abducted from their homes during the attack.

The source could not, however, give the number of persons abducted and those injured as at the time of filing the report. Confirming the attack.

Senator Shehu Sani tweeted, “Early hours of this morning, Armed bandits stormed the Government Science College Kagara Niger State, my alma mata, and abducted some students and staff family members.”


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New Ebola Outbreak Declared in Guinea



Guinea has declared a new Ebola disease outbreak with 3 cases already confirmed in the West African country.

“Three cases have been confirmed in the rural community of Gouéké in N’Zerekore prefecture,” according to the Guinea authorities.

This is the first time the disease has been reported since the last outbreak ended in 2016.

World Health Organization (WHO) said its staff are already on the ground, supporting the Government of Guinea in: -disease surveillance activities -ramping up infection prevention and control in health facilities -reaching out to communities as they have key role in the response -Ebola vaccine procurement.

WHO also said it is working with health authorities in neighbouring countries to strengthen Ebola preparedness, such as disease surveillance in the border districts as well as strengthening their capacity to test for Ebola and conduct surveillance in health facilities.

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