Newswire: West African leaders rush to save President of Mali from expulsion

Mali opposition leader M. Dicko

July 27, 2020 (GIN) – Presidents from five West African countries are stepping up efforts to end a crisis in Mali which threatens to topple the President of that troubled country.
The five regional leaders, Malian government officials and members of the opposition were meeting since the previous week following a month of street protests by tens of thousands of Malians that sparked clashes with police in which the United Nations says at least 14 protesters died.
Malians are said to be furious over government foot dragging on entrenched corruption, disputed local election results and army losses to jihadists.
Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger and current chair of ECOWAS, a 15-member regional, political and economic union, pledged that strong measures were being planned to resolve the crisis.
The opposition, called M5-RFP and headed by Mahmoud Dicko, a Muslim cleric, warned that protests would continue until Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita stepped down. After a final meeting late last Thursday, Dicko told journalists there had been no progress, and nothing had been offered at the moment that was acceptable to them.
“M5-RFP demands the resignation of Keita or the satisfaction of our demands,” which include the establishment of a committee of inquiry into civilian deaths and a transitional government, the group’s spokesman Nouhoum Togo told Reuters news service.
Niger’s Issoufou rejected the call for President Keita’s resignation. “There will be no unconstitutional change of power in the ECOWAS region,” Issoufou declared.
This won’t be the first time that ECOWAS has intervened to settle problems in Mali. A coup by disgruntled military over the management of the Tuareg rebellion in 2012 and raging inter-ethnic conflicts, predominantly pitting the Fulani against the Dogon communities, brought harsh sanctions by ECOWAS leaders.
According to Human Rights Watch, Mali’s human rights situation deteriorated in 2019 as hundreds of civilians were killed in numerous attacks by armed Islamists in northern and central parts of the county allied to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Islamists targeted Malian security services, peacekeepers, international forces, and increasingly, civilians.
Malian security forces, in counterterrorism operations, also subjected numerous suspects to severe mistreatment and several died in custody or were forcibly disappeared.
A U.N. force, called MINUSMA, established by the U.N. Security Council in 2013, continues to work in the country with a total of more than 15,000 personnel and 15,209 military personnel, police and others.

Newswire : As war widens in Africa, body bags begin to fly home

Niger soldiers and medics

Niger soldiers and medics

( – A funeral was held over the past weekend for Sgt. La David Johnson, killed in a country few could find on a map and for a war that few lawmakers knew anything about.
Sgt. Johnson, a Floridian, was one of a dozen Special Operations and Green Beret forces who, along with 30 Nigerien soldiers, were in southwestern Niger on Oct. 4 in an effort to track down a former member of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. As the team departed, they were ambushed by members of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
Four from the U.S. team died in the skirmish as did five Nigerian soldiers. Two Americans were wounded.
“It turns out that this village was a little contaminated by hostile forces,” said Moussa Aksar, a terrorism specialist interviewed by Voice of America. “The unit stayed a little longer than expected because apparently people were aware that something was going on.”
Some 800 U.S. service members are in Niger supporting a French-led mission to defeat the Islamic State, al-Qaida and Boko Haram. The U.S. has drone bases in Niger as well as significant intelligence resources.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the American people, including the families of the fallen soldiers in Niger, deserve answers about this month’s deadly ambush.
But investigative journalist Nick Turse says there is much more to this story. Writing for Vice news, Turse says: “Today, special operators are carrying out nearly 100 missions at any given time — in Africa alone. It’s the latest sign of the military’s quiet but ever-expanding presence on the continent, one that represents the most dramatic growth in the deployment of America’s elite troops to any region of the globe.”
He continued: “In 2006, just 1 percent of all U.S. commandos deployed overseas were in Africa. In 2010, it was 3 percent. By 2016, that number had jumped to more than 17 percent.
“In fact, there are now more special operations personnel devoted to Africa than anywhere except the Middle East.” Overall, there are about 6,000 U.S. troops across the African continent. More than half are in Djibouti, with others in Tunisia, Senegal and Somalia.
In a report obtained by Turse, U.S. Army General Donald Bolduc, who runs the special operations command in Africa (SOCAFRICA) admits: “Africa’s challenges could create a threat that surpasses the threat that the United States currently faces from conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.”
“We owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time,” Dunford said. “And when I say that, I mean men and women in harm’s way anywhere in the world — they should know what the mission is and what we’re trying to accomplish when we’re there.”