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France wants Mali to implement peace deal with rebels

France will press Mali’s re-elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to move more quickly to bring into force faltering peace accords with rebels as Islamist militants keep up actions to destabilise the West African country.

Bamako is struggling to contain Tuareg and Islamist violence in the north, highlighting the difficulty international partners face in restoring peace in Mali, now a launchpad for attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State across West Africa.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive out Islamist militants that had occupied the north and has since kept about 4,500 troops in the region as part of counter-terrorism operations. French officials acknowledge Paris is likely to remain in the zone for the next decade.

Peace accords from 2015 between the central government and Tuareg rebels in the north have still to be implemented and French officials have become increasingly impatient with the status quo, fearing Keita may delay further ahead of legislative elections in November and December.

“They must not wait for the elections to make the necessary decisions”, a French diplomatic source said ahead of Keita’s inauguration ceremony on Saturday which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will attaned.

The U.N. Security Council in June gave the parties six months to implement the 2015 peace roadmap. The text calls for the beginning of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process, which sets a basis for demobilising or integrating fighters into the Malian army or police.

“The time for warnings is over,” France’s representative to the Security Council said at the time, accusing leaders of some of the armed groups of deliberately blocking peace efforts and nurturing ties with Islamist militants.

The French diplomatic source said the subject of individual sanctions at the U.N. was on the table. He said Le Drian would put “respectful” pressure on the Bamako government.

Led by France, Western powers have provided funding to a regional force made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania to combat jihadists. But the so-called G5 force has been hobbled by delays in disbursing the money and poor coordination between the five countries while insecurity has in particular escalated in the border region between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

“We will be able to widen and finalise the financing especially when the force has demonstrated its capacity to be effective on the ground,” the source said, adding that Paris expected seven or eight battalions to be operational by year-end.

Sad tales from Tanzania ill-fated ferry as death toll hit 86

Fear has gripped residents of Tanzania’s Mwanza region as they wait to hear about the fate of their relatives who were travelling in a ferry that capsized on Thursday near the shores of Ukara island and Bugorora, a town on the island of Ukerewe.

The overloaded MV Nyerere ferry sank in Lake Victoria while carrying hundreds of passengers.

Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella said at least 86 people have died in the accident while another 37 were rescued and are in critical condition.

The rescue-and-recovery operation resumed on Friday morning after it was temporarily suspended overnight.

Hundreds of residents are now heading to the accident scene to seek more details of their relatives.

“I received a call at 13:30 and I was told the ferry was involved in an accident,” Editha Josephat Magesa, a resident of Ukerewe Island, told me.

“Then I received another call telling me that I have lost my aunt, father and my younger brother.

“We are really saddened. We urge the government to provide us with a new ferry as the old one was small and the population is big.”

This latest tragedy has so far ignited sad memories of the MV Bukoba – which sank some 20 years ago – and claimed the lives of more than 800 people in the same waters of Lake Victoria.

Cameroon militants behead security official

AN estimated 400 civilians and 160 state security personnel have been killed in the protests in English-speaking regions of Cameroon over the past two years.

The latest indication of worsening brutality is a video of separatists showing a security man’s decapitated head.

The activists in the North West region are demanding independence from Cameroon alleging marginalisation by the government of Paul Biya, which is largely French-speaking.

English speakers constitute 20 percent of the 24 million-population.

“The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for West and Central Africa.

Daoud said perpetrators from both sides had attacked and killed people or destroyed their properties but continue walking free.

Early this month, armed separatists kidnapped seven students and the head of the Presbyterian Comprehensive Secondary School in the town of Bafut. They were released days later.

Last week, the militants attacked positions of soldiers stationed near the town of Buea, causing an intense exchange of fire between them and the security forces.

It is feared violence will worsen with the upcoming elections in Cameroon.

“We may well see an escalation in the number of security incidents and increased activity by armed separatists threatening to disrupt the electoral process at all costs,” Daoud said.

Divine Nduwimana, Burundi budding pen portraitist

Divine Nduwimana is the first woman in Burundi to organise a solo art exhibition, which opens next weekend in the capital, Bujumbura.

The 23-year-old specialises in pen portraits and she will be exhibiting artworks of famous faces, including Esther Kamatari – a former top model:

An agronomy graduate, she told BBC Great Lakes that she had been unable to find a job in the agricultural sector.

But her friends encouraged her to share her images on social media, and she is now managing to sell some of her works.

Ms Nduwimana said she did not formally study art, but used to practise during her other classes.

This is why she sketches uses a pen, instead of a pencil, so that her teachers wouldn’t notice.

Her dream is to set up an exhibition centre, where people can go and learn about Burundi’s history through images.

Scores drowned in Lake Victoria ferry sinking, death toll may top 200

A Tanzanian passenger ferry capsized on Lake Victoria and the death toll of 44 was expected to rise when rescue efforts resume Friday, an official said.

Thirty-seven people were rescued after the sinking Thursday afternoon, Mwanza regional commissioner John Mongella told The Associated Press.

“I cannot speculate” how many people had been on board, he said. “Right now our focus is on rescue.”

Such ferries often carry hundreds of people and are overcrowded.

The Tanzania Electrical, Mechanical and Electronics Services Agency, in charge of servicing the vessels, urged patience in a statement as rescue efforts began.

The ferry was traveling between Ukara and Bugolora and capsized near the area of Mwanza, the agency said.

Accidents are often reported on the large freshwater lake surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Some of the deadliest have occurred in Tanzania, where passenger boats are often said to be old and in poor condition.

In 1996, more than 800 people were killed when the passenger and cargo ferry MV Bukoba sank on Lake Victoria.

Nearly 200 people died in 2011 when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.

Pop star, MP Bobi Wine vows to continue freedom fight against Uganda govt

Ugandan pop star turned opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi pledged on Thursday to continue what he calls a fight for freedom for millions of oppressed fellow citizens, after returning to his country from the United States. Ugandan musician turned politician.

The return of the 36-year-old musician, known by his stage name of Bobi Wine, has rattled the government headed by 74-year-old President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986 and leads a nation where nearly 80 percent of the population is below the age of 30.

Though a political novice — he was elected in a parliamentary by-election last year — Kyagulanyi’s popularity has skyrocketed particularly among disillusioned youths who say they see few prospects under the rule of Museveni.

When Kyagulanyi arrived at Entebbe International Airport from the United States, police escorted him into a vehicle and whisked him to the capital Kampala where his whereabouts were for a time unknown, leading supporters for a while to fear he had been arrested.

He had received medical treatment in the United States for injuries which he said were sustained during torture by security forces last month. The government has denied any mistreatment but says it is investigating.

But Kyagulanyi later appeared atop a car outside his home in Kampala to address hundreds of cheering supporters.

“I am resuming immediately … I am on the mission already, I am on the fight for freedom and liberty already,” he said, surrounded by throngs of people.

Leaning on a cane, he said his “desire for liberty” was as strong as “the desire of the millions and millions of people in Uganda to be free.” Ugandans, he said, were “slaves in our own country”.

His supporters had earlier in the day defied a heavy security presence and gathered at his residence to welcome him, but once he arrived by police escort, security forces did not attempt to stop crowds from gathering at his home.

Many of his supporters wore red t-shirts and hats. The color has come to be associated with his “People Power” movement, and demonstrators at Ugandan embassies in London, Nairobi and elsewhere have donned the same color during protests.

Police had on Wednesday banned rallies to welcome Kyagulanyi home and said they would escort him to his home. The legal basis for the escort was unclear.

Ahead of Kyagulanyi’s arrival, security forces had deployed around the airport and the highway linking it to Kampala to prevent supporters from greeting him. Armored personnel carriers and police vehicles lined the route and journalists were prevented from traveling to the airport to cover the arrival.

Kyagulanyi is increasingly seen as posing a significant challenge to Museveni, who has ruled since 1986.

His message – that young Ugandans need a dynamic new head of state to tackle the myriad problems they face – has electrified citizens who say they are fed up with corruption, unemployment, and state repression of dissent.

The government denies allegations of corruption and of stifling opposition.

Museveni has won praise in the West for his support against militant Islam and his role as power-broker in the volatile Great Lakes Region. Uganda has also welcomed foreign investors such as France’s Total, China’s CNOOC and Britain’s Tullow as part of a plan to start pumping oil from 2021.

But the government is facing growing criticism from its allies, particularly main donors the United States and the European Union, who have deplored the torture alleged by opposition politicians including Kyagulanyi.

Kyagulanyi attracted a youth following through songs critical of Museveni and his status rose higher due to an incident in August in which his driver was shot dead and he was detained and charged with treason over what authorities said was the stoning of the president’s convoy.

The politician, who has pleaded not guilty to the treason charges, said he was beaten with an iron bar in detention in northern Uganda. The government denies that he was mistreated.

Libya reopens runway at Wafa oilfield after protest ends

Libyan state oil firm NOC has reopened the airfield at the southwestern Wafa oilfield after state guards ended a blockade, it said.

“NOC is thankful that those blockading the site stood-down following the corporation’s public warning regarding this activity,” it said in a statement.

NOC said output at the field had not been affected. Wafa produces around 40,000 barrels a day of crude and condensates as well as 400 million cubic feet of natural gas.

A field worker said a first flight would arrive on Saturday.

The runway is used by the company to transport workers and equipment as it is too dangerous to travel by road in the chaotic country that is still trying to establish the rule of law since veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011.

NOC had said in a statement earlier on Thursday that the protesters were planning to “extort” Mellitah, the joint-venture between ENI and NOC that runs Wafa and other operations, for a “corrupt” contract, without giving details.

Guards, paid by the state to protect oil faculties, as well as other groups regularly seize oilfields to pressure weak authorities into giving them extra pay and benefits, part of the chaos in the OPEC producer since 2011.

NOC and other government entities have agreed in the past to some demands in the end to keep oil and gas exports flowing, Libya’s only source of income.

Nigeria struggles against Islamic State in West Africa

Islamist militants have killed hundreds of soldiers in attacks in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks, security and military sources say, forcing a turnaround in the course of an insurgency which the government has frequently claimed to have vanquished.

The fatigued, ill-equipped government troops have reached breaking point, they said.

The setback in the war against Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and the Boko Haram insurgency from which it split in 2016 comes as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in elections next February.

Buhari came to power in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram, and security has once again emerged as a main campaign issue.

In the past three weeks, according to military and security sources, ISWA killed 48 soldiers at a military base and, in a separate attack, left 32 dead in Gudumbali – a town to which thousands of refugees were ordered to return in June.

“The situation in the northeast is deteriorating,” said one security source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They are running out of weapons, ammo and basic equipment. They are exhausted.”

Now, ISWA is winning almost all its battles with the military, security sources said.

That marks a contrast with the situation in early 2015 when the Nigerian army, backed by troops from neighbouring countries, pushed Boko Haram off a swathe of land that the insurgents controlled.

Before the insurgency, Nigeria’s northeast, sitting in the arid Sahel that skirts the Sahara’s southern border, had for centuries been a hub of cross-continental trade through the desert and one of the country’s agricultural breadbaskets.

ISWA’s influence extends from the Lake Chad region, including in Niger and Chad itself, and stretches about 100 miles into the Nigerian states of Borno and Yobe, where government has in many areas all but vanished after a decade of conflict. It was not immediately clear how control of that territory has changed in recent months.

Nigeria military denies deaths

A military spokesman denied the army was losing most of its clashes with ISWA.

“It’s not true,” said Brigadier General John Agim, adding that no soldiers had died at Gudumbali.

Agim declined to show battle reports or comment on the rest of the situation, other than saying the military did not have enough equipment.

In one of the army’s biggest defeats since Buhari came to power, an ISWA attack on a base in July killed at least 100 soldiers, according to people familiar with the matter. Many of the dead were interred in a mass burial, two sources said.

Other gruelling battles have been fought – at least 45 soldiers killed in Gajiram in June, scores dead and missing after a convoy ambush in Boboshe in July, and 17 killed in Garunda in August. These are just some of the recent attacks, according to military and security personnel, that are taking a heavy toll on the military.

With each victory, ISWA gets stronger, collecting weapons, ammunition and vehicles abandoned by fleeing troops. Its tactics have also improved, using trucks mounted with heavy guns to pin down ill-equipped troops, as well as suicide-bombing vehicles.

“The military are a bit like sitting ducks, waiting for a very mobile and versatile enemy to strike at a weak point or another,” said Vincent Foucher, who studies Boko Haram at the French National Centre for Science Research.

The military has kept details of its most recent challenges and defeats close, rarely acknowledging them or any loss of life, say security sources who have sought briefings.

Buhari’s administration and the military continue to issue statements about victories against an insurgency aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate that dates back to 2009. Normality is returning to the northeast, it says.

“The country has been stable for the past three years,” Defence Minister Mansur Dan Ali told Reuters last month.

However, the minister, discussing the Jilli attack, acknowledged that a strong and well-equipped insurgent force was capable of wiping out as many as 200 soldiers.

“A crisis of morale”

Soldiers have become terrified of the insurgents, afraid to leave their bases, said a security source and a diplomat. While hundreds have died recently, hundreds more have deserted.

One retired general, speaking on condition of anonymity, described “a crisis of morale,” linking the frequent allegations of human rights abuses – rape, torture, shake-downs and extra-judicial killing – to broken spirits.

The Nigerian military denies such accusations, though it set up a panel last year to probe allegations. Its findings have not been made public.

Last month, Nigerian special forces mutinied at an airport, refusing to be deployed after learning that after years in the northeast they were being rotated to another, more dangerous part of the region.

“Many of our troops have been in the theatre for over two years,” said one captain. “They don’t know how their families, their wives and children, are.”

Some soldiers said though they do get a few days of leave, it is often barely enough time to go from the field to their families before they must return.

Others said their wages and rations are often embezzled by their commanders, there is too little equipment, and many vehicles are broken and gathering rust. One said his men had to buy blankets from refugees for 300 naira ($1) each to keep warm.

The United States, Britain and France support the military, mostly through training and information-sharing, but it has struggled to secure arms supplies due to human rights concerns.

The United States and Nigeria this year finalised a $500-million deal for 12 Super Tucano fighter planes. British Prime Miniser Theresa May, on a visit to Nigeria last month, promised to increase military support in the war against the Islamists.

Uganda bans rallies by Bobi Wine supporters ahead of return from U.S

Uganda on Wednesday banned rallies to welcome a prominent opponent of President Yoweri Museveni home from the United States where he received treatment for injuries he said were sustained during torture by security forces.

The homecoming of Robert Kyagulanyi, a pop star and opposition lawmaker, could present a significant challenge to Museveni, who has ruled since 1986.

Kyagulanyi, 36, attracted a youth following through songs critical of Museveni and his prominence rose due to an incident in August in which his driver was shot dead and he was detained and charged with treason over what authorities said was the stoning of Museveni’s convoy.

He said in a tweet on Wednesday he was “headed home” and showed a picture of himself at an airport holding a walking stick.

Police said they had received information that supporters of Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, planned to stage rallies and processions on his return but had not sought permission.

“As a result, they (the rallies) are unlawful and would disrupt normal business activities,” a police statement said.

Kyagulanyi has pleaded not guilty to treason charges.

He said he was beaten with an iron bar in detention in northern Uganda. The government denies that he was mistreated.

Kyagulanyi’s case sparked protests in Uganda’s capital Kampala and drew international condemnation from the government’s major backers including the EU and the U.S. The Pentagon has donated equipment and weapons to the unit of the Ugandan military accused by Kyagulanyi of torturing him.

In a statement on Tuesday five U.S. legislators said they were “gravely concerned” by the torture of the legislators and their supporters and described it as “unacceptable”. Five legislators in all were detained, two say they were badly beaten and all say they were mistreated.

Liberia ban 15 officials from foreign travels over ‘vanishing’ cash

Liberia’s government has banned 15 people, including the son of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from leaving the country while it investigates the alleged disappearance of tens of millions of dollars intended for the central bank, the Ministry of Information has said in a statement.

Border posts have been informed that Charles Sirleaf, the deputy governor of the central bank, and Milton Weeks, the former governor of the bank, are among those barred from travelling abroad, the statement added.

However, Mrs Sirleaf was quoted by the Front Page Africa news site as saying that the bank had given “full evidence and clarification” to refute allegations that the money had disappeared.

The government has ordered an investigation into the alleged disappearance of the newly printed bank notes that had reportedly come from abroad between November last year and August this year.

“The government… takes the ongoing investigation seriously because it has national security implications,” the statement added.

The statement did not say how much had allegedly gone missing. Some reports put the number at around $60m (£45.6m) and others at around $100m.

The central bank had flatly denied that containers packed with the money had disappeared from the port in the capital, Monrovia, Liberia’s Daily Observer news site reported.

Former Central Bank Governor responds

Liberia’s former central bank governor Milton Weeks says he is fully co-operating with the police as they investigate allegations that at least one container-load of newly printed banknotes has gone missing.

Mr Weeks told the BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh in the capital, Monrovia, that he was “definitely” not aware of any money missing after it was printed abroad, and brought to the country between November last year and August this year.

“I myself want to get to the bottom of this to understand where these allegations are coming from,” he added.

Mr Weeks said he still had all his “civil liberties”.

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