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France Reconsiders Military Presence in Sahel Region

Since 2013 when Operation Barkhane was launched, 49 French soldiers have died.

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The French Defense Minister Florence Parly says France will reconsider its military presence and strategy in the Sahel region and probably reduce military deployment as part of Operation Barkhane after considerable military successes in 2020.

“We will most likely have to adjust this device: a reinforcement by definition is temporary,” Florence Parly told daily Le Parisien in an interview published on Monday, while responding to a question of additional reinforcement of 600 soldiers which brought the strength of Barkhane forces to 5,100 troops in 2020.

She said a conclusive decision on the subject matter will be taken at the next joint summit of France and the G5 Sahel countries in February in the Chadian capital N’djamena, by President Emmanuel Macron and the head of the armies.

The French Defense Minister further said that the Barkhane forces achieved major military success last year after neutralising several senior members of al-Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS and affiliated terror groups in the Grand Sahara in an area which borders Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger by attacking and disrupting their supply chains.

But following two recent attacks which left five French soldiers dead, the defense minister conceded the security conditions remain difficult due to the “pernicious methods of guerrilla warfare” which terrorist groups in the region have adopted.

“At this very moment, we are working on the evolutions of the Barkhane force in the coming months,” she said.

The French Defense Minister ruled out any negotiations with terror groups “which murder indiscriminately and have blood on their hands”, but added willingness to talk to those who have “laid down their arms and who are not motivated by a radical and criminal ideology”, under the 2015 framework of Algiers agreement for peace and reconciliation which is yet to be implemented.

Parly also shoved aside certain criticisms from the opposition on the usefulness of operation Barkhane launched nine years ago and France lacking support in the fight against terrorism.

She said, in the coming months, a special joint team of European and American troops called the Takuba force, will be fully operational in the region to fight alongside the Malian armed forces, in particular in Menaka, an active sector for Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, where the recent attacks took place.

49 French soldiers have died since 2013 when Operation Barkhane was launched.

In Mali last week, five French soldiers were killed and others injured in two separate incidents after their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED). This was according to the French minister of armed forces.

Over 5,000 French soldiers are deployed under Operation Barkhane which is spearheaded by France alongside the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad), to battle terrorist groups in the region, particularly al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Daesh/ISIS in the Greater Sahara.

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Ghana Busts Baby Factory, Arrests 11

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No fewer than 11 people, including two doctors, have been arrested in Ghana for their alleged roles in a “baby-harvesting” and child-trafficking syndicate.

Authorities busted the syndicate after a tip-off from a taxi driver in 2020 and several months of investigation.

During the investigation, members of the syndicate allegedly sold two babies to investigators for $5,000 and $4,800 each.

The investigations were jointly led by the Ghana Medical and Dental Council and the Economic and Organised Crime Office.

After conclusion, 11 suspects including two doctors, four nurses, two mothers, two social welfare officers, and a traditional birth attendant were arrested.

They were allegedly operating at health facilities in the Accra, Ghana’s capital and the neighbouring city of Tema.

Authorities believe some of the mothers may have been told their babies had died after delivery, adding that others who were unable to take care of their newborns may have been encouraged to sell them.

The two rescued baby boys are now in the care of the authorities.

Operation of baby factories is rampant in Ghana’s neighbouring country, Nigeria, where several baby harvesters have been arrested.

In December 2020, Police in Nigeria rescued 10 people, including four children, four pregnant women and two other women from an illegal maternity home. The operation was carried out at the so-called “baby factory” in the Mowe area of the southwestern Ogun state.

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Sahrawi Army Sustains Attacks Against Moroccan Forces

Coordinated armed struggle commenced in response to the Moroccan violation of the cease-fire agreement on November 13, 2020.

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For the tenth consecutive week since Moroccan forces violated a cease-fire agreement in November 2020, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have sustained its military offensive against the positions of the Moroccan occupation forces behind the Wall of Shame, a statement from the Sahrawi Ministry of Defence has said.

The statement said, “the Sahrawi army forces on Sunday launched a series of heavy attacks targeting the positions of the Moroccan occupation forces in several sectors, like the regions of Ajbailat Al-Khader in the Guelta sector, as well as the Kalb Enos area in the Auserd sector, which was bombarded three times during the day.”

The Sahrawi army carried out further bombardments targeting the positions of the Moroccan royal army entrenched in several areas of Rous Echadhimiya zone (Mehbes sector), Frerina in Smara, Adhim Oum Adjloud, Azmoul Oum Khemla sector among others.  

Coordinated armed struggle commenced in response to the Moroccan violation of the cease-fire agreement on November 13, 2020.

Secretary-General of the Sahrawi Ministry of Security and Documentation, Sidi Oukal said Tuesday that 510 military operations have been carried out against the Moroccan army in the past 67 days.

Oukal said Moroccan military bases have incurred huge human and material losses while deploying all forms of weapons and materials despite its discretion with regard to war.

“The region has entered into an intensified war that will escalate in the future” he added.

In a similar press conference on Tuesday, the Frente POLISARIO representative to the United Nations Sidi Mohamed Amar declared that the Sahrawi cause had taken a new turning point since violation of the ceasefire adding that its involvement in any negotiation is dependent on developments on the ground and the seriousness of the UN Security Council. The Sahrawi Army attacks targeting the positions of the Moroccan occupying forces linger on as diplomatic relations remain testy. 

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The Gambia Signs Protective Cooperation Deal with Switzerland

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The Gambian government says it has signed a Cooperation Agreement on migration matters with the government of Switzerland.

The Gambian government says the cooperation agreement is meant to curb irregular migration and ensure effective protection of the rights of Gambian citizens who are migrants in Switzerland.

“The Agreement will create cordial working relations between the government of The Gambia and the government of Switzerland in identifying opportunities, coordinating and managing challenges of migration.

These, the two countries believe, will further strengthen relations and deepen cooperation with regard to the effective management of migration, unemployment and creation of more opportunities for women and youth in The Gambia,” the statement said.

The statement reads that the Gambian government further negotiated for all undocumented Gambian migrants in Switzerland to be trained on livelihood skills and integrated in the Swiss community.

“As The Gambia progresses in enhancing its democracy, there is a need to ensure that the country adheres to international Human Rights Instruments by respecting the laws of other countries whilst also ensuring that Gambian citizens within and outside enjoy the required protection of the Government.

“In this regard, the Gambian Government and the Government of Switzerland agreed that all legal remedies will be exhausted before any voluntary returnees will be repatriated,” the statement pointed out.

The statement also said that the Gambian government further assured all Gambians that it was approaching migration as a developmental issue and that the signed cooperation agreement would also pave the way for the establishment of a multi-purpose skills training centre and create other opportunities for young people to achieve their goals in The Gambia.

The statement said both countries agreed on the spelt-out modalities which serve as an enabling tool to ensure equitable and balanced intervention with a view to attaining dignified life for Gambians in Switzerland and Swiss citizens in The Gambia.

Furthermore, as part of efforts to strengthen the excellent bilateral relations that exist between the two countries and on the invitation of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mamadou Tangara, the Vice President and Federal Councillor of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, is expected to visit The Gambia on Friday, 12 February, 2021.

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