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Mauritania’s minister steps down amidst internet blackout2 minutes read

Neither the minister nor the government provided reasons for Ould Maham’s departure

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Mauritania's minister steps down amidst internet blackout
(File photo)

Mauritania’s government spokesman has stepped down after defending a three-day communications blackout imposed during three days of post-election unrest, sources said Friday as fixed internet in the country was restored.

Sidi Mohamed Ould Maham, also the minister of culture, handed in his resignation Thursday, ministry sources said, shortly after he gave a press conference describing the restriction as “preventive”, and promising “the internet will be restored as soon as the reasons for its disconnection disappear.”

Related: Mauritania joins Ethiopia, Sudan in Africa’s ‘internet blackout zone’

Neither the minister nor the government provided reasons for Ould Maham’s departure.

While the internet was back up Friday, the mobile phone network that was disconnected last Sunday remained down, in what the opposition has claimed was a “state of siege” imposed to cover up an electoral “holdup”.

According to official results, ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won Saturday’s election with 52 per cent of the vote.

Related: Opposition party candidates cry foul over ruling party victory in Mauritania elections

Ghazouani, a former general, is a close ally of outgoing president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz who stepped down after serving the maximum two five-year terms. 

Opposition leaders have accused the authorities of fixing the ballot, and say hundreds of people were arrested in a crackdown on protests that followed the June 22 vote. 

Police also raided opposition party headquarters, clashed with opposition supporters, and announced Tuesday they had arrested more than 100 foreigners accused of working with domestic opposition parties to destabilise the country through protests. 

Related: Mohamed Ould Ghazouani declares himself the winner in Mauritania elections

The election represented Mauritania’s first democratic transition of power since independence from France in 1960. 

Nouakchott was calm Friday ahead of an expected public address by Ghazouani, who has already received messages of congratulations from countries including France, Morocco, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia.

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Politics

Nigerian Army chief warns against foreign interference in Boko Haram, ISWAP fight

The Nigerian army recently clamped down on aid agencies working in the northeast of the country, accusing them of being used as tools for financing terrorist activities.

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Nigerian Army chief, Lt. General Tukur Buratai./TheWillNigeria

Nigerian Army chief, Lt. General Tukur Buratai on Monday warned foreign countries, agencies and mercenaries against meddling into the country’s national security isaues, especially the fight against Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).

“All local and foreign interests are advised to exhibit more commitment and restraint on issues of our national security and avoid taking sides. Furthermore, all actions and utterances must be tailored towards supporting the national cause with a view to restoring peace and tranquillity to our beloved country,” Buratai said in an army statement.

The army chief described as “the kicks of a dying horse” recent attacks by Boko Haram and ISWAP saying that the military was prepared to route out the terrorists and their collaborators.

“The recent moribund activity of Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province insurgents is synonymous with the kicks of a dying horse gasping for the last breath,” Buratai said.

Although the Army did not give the names of the agencies, it advised both local and foreign interests to tailor their actions and utterances towards supporting the national cause with a view to restoring peace and tranquillity in the country.

The army assured that the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast and other parts of the country are still on course, local media reported.

The statement signed by the Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, “reassured Nigerians that the Counter Insurgency operations in the North East and indeed other ongoing operations against our common enemies across the country are still on course with current indicators revealing tremendous successes across the various theatres of operation.”

The army authorities commended troops at the war front for their renewed zeal in counter-insurgency operations and cross-border terrorism by Boko Haram, ISWAP and other elements.

“After a careful review of the Nigerian Army operations in the North East, it is pertinent to state that Headquarters Nigerian Army has gladly observed the renewed zeal and determination by troops to take the counter-insurgency operations to its logical conclusion with outcomes favourable to Nigeria and Nigerians as evident in the recent decimation of many Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province criminals, including some of their top commanders amidst several arrests of the insurgents’ logistic suppliers and collaborators, numerous capture of the criminals’ arms and ammunition as well as rescue of many captives from the bondage of the insurgents,” Buratai stated.

The army chief assured troops that their sacrifices and that of m fallen colleagues will never be in vain reiterating the unreserved commitment of the Nigerian Army to defend the country.

He warned “all enemies of Nigeria and Nigerians who take delight in the sufferings of our innocent citizens that the day of reckoning is at their door steps. All well-meaning Nigerians especially those in the North East and friends of Nigeria elsewhere are enjoined to fully support the counter insurgency operations as well as the fight against all forms of criminality across the nation”.

The Nigerian army recently clamped down on aid agencies working in the northeast of the country, accusing them of being used as tools for financing terrorist activities.

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Politics

Nigeria’s dark secret haunts new generation, 50years after Biafra war

Biafran flags, an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun, still make appearances on the front of buildings in Enugu state as hardline separatists continue to demand independence.

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A young Biafran soldier during the civil war that lasted between 1967 - 1970./Tumblr

It’s fifty years since Nigeria ended its civil war that left about two million people dead after the old eastern region or Biafra tried to secede from the rest of the West African country.

Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation. 

He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that like the majority of his classmates he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14”.

When he did begin to find out about the brutal civil war that nearly tore Nigeria apart, it was not in the classroom.

Instead it was a schoolmate in his dormitory who showed him a separatist leaflet demanding Nigeria’s southeast break away from the rest of the country.

Before then Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967.

He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970.

“We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka told AFP.

“We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened. But without knowing our history we will repeat the same mistakes. Our history is a succession of deja-vu.”

It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that Oyeyinka wrote the novel Stillborn – a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule in 1950 to 2010.

In it the civil war is the pivotal event.

– ‘Our history, our conflict’ -Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, or Chinua Achebe’s memoir There Was A Country, Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.

“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict’,” he recounted. 

But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.

“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”

While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on. 

Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence. 

The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra.

At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country. 

The  leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.

Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalised.

One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo aspirant to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.  

“In the early 1980’s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.



– ‘More divided’ -Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare. 

“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said. 

“We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”

In order to try to heal the rifts Utomi helped organise a “Never Again” conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.  

He is also a patron of the “Centre for Memories” in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history”. 

– ‘History is essential’ -History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.

The current government reintroduced it only from last term as an obligatory subject for pupils aged 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum. 

“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry. 

But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers and there is no unified narrative about the civil war which does not figure in the lessons. 

“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory. 

“Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.” 

Chika Oduah, a Nigerian-American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.

She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period. 

“A 70-something former soldier… broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said. 

She herself only learnt at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people. 

“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted. 

“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal”.


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Politics

Isabel dos Santos considers running for Angola’s presidency

“I will do everything I need to do to defend and serve my country,” Isabel dos Santos said.

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Chairman of the Unitel SA Isabel Jose dos Santos attends the "Business Dialogue Russia-Africa" session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) , in St. Petersburg, Russia. Iliya Pitalev / Sputnik

Africa’s richest woman and billionaire daughter of Angola’s ex-president, Isabel dos Santos, has said she would consider running for president in the next election in 2022.

Asked in an interview with Portuguese state broadcaster Radio e Televisao de Portugal (RTP) whether she would run for the top job in Angola, dos Santos said it was “possible”.

“I will do everything I need to do to defend and serve my country,” she said in the interview, which was broadcast late Wednesday, an AFP report said.

Dos Santos has been targeted in an anti-graft campaign led by her father’s successor President Joao Lourenco, who has vowed to fight corruption and rebuild the economy of sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producer.

Prosecutors froze the bank accounts and holdings owned by the 46-year-old businesswoman and her Congolese husband Sindika Dokolo last month.

Dos Santos, reportedly Africa’s richest woman, has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the investigation as “politically motivated”.

The investigation surrounding dos Santos is centred on the alleged use of state-owned companies to siphon off over one billion dollars.

It is delving into irregularities involving Angola’s national oil company Sonangol and Sodiam, a national diamond marketing firm.

Dos Santos was appointed head of Sonangol by her father Jose Eduardo dos Santos in 2016, one year before he stepped down and handed the reins over to Lourenco.

The president forced her out of the position within months of coming to power in 2017.

He has since launched a large-scale purge of the dos Santos 38-year administration, during which top positions were awarded to the ex-president’s cronies.

Dos Santos’s brother Jose Filomeno — nicknamed “Zenu” — went on trial last month for allegedly embezzling $500 million from Angola’s sovereign fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Zenu, who faces a maximum of 12 years in jail if found guilty, is the first member of the dos Santos family to be prosecuted.  

“The selective manner of this so-called fight against corruption (is being used) to neutralise future political candidates,” dos Santos told RTP, adding that she continued to be “shocked” by the allegations.

Dos Santos has been named Africa’s richest woman by Forbes magazine, which last year rated her net worth at $2.2 billion (two billion euros).

She has holdings in two private banks, mobile operator Unitel, a supermarket chain and cable television among others.

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