Index

Index
The153 Club
The Agades Cross
People of the Sahara
Saharan Landscapes
Books on the Sahara(1)
Books on the Sahara(2)
Books on African Art
Saharan Salt Trade
The Gundi
Illizi Festival 2000
Sahara Freeze-up
Camel Cheese
153 Club Newsletter
153 News Update
Join the 153 Club
Today's African News

Père de Foucauld
L'Arbre du Ténéré 1
L'Arbre du Ténéré 2
Saharan Forts 1
Saharan Forts 2
Saharan Rock Art
Giraffe Engravings
Leo Africanus
Battuta's Saharan travels
Shabeni's Timbuktu
Timbuctoo the Mysterious
Heroditus & Pliny on Libya
Timbuktu, a poem

Joliba Trust
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 1
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 2
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 3
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 4
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 5
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 6

Old Michelin Maps
Early NW Africa Map 1
Early NW Africa Map 2
Early NW Africa Map 3
Early NW Africa Map 4
Early NW Africa Map 5
Saharan Exploration

Henry Barth 1
Henry Barth 2
Henry Barth 3
Denham & Clapperton 1
Denham & Clapperton 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 1
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 3
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 4

External Links

Jim Mann Taylor's Home Page
___________________________

 

 

 

Index

Index
The153 Club
The Agades Cross
People of the Sahara
Saharan Landscapes
Books on the Sahara(1)
Books on the Sahara(2)
Books on African Art
Saharan Salt Trade
The Gundi
Illizi Festival 2000
Sahara Freeze-up
Camel Cheese
153 Club Newsletter
153 News Update
Join the 153 Club
Today's African News

Père de Foucauld
L'Arbre du Ténéré 1
L'Arbre du Ténéré 2
Saharan Forts 1
Saharan Forts 2
Saharan Rock Art
Giraffe Engravings
Leo Africanus
Battuta's Saharan travels
Shabeni's Timbuktu
Timbuctoo the Mysterious
Heroditus & Pliny on Libya
Timbuktu, a poem

Joliba Trust
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 1
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 2
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 3
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 4
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 5
Ibn Khaldûn quotes 6

Old Michelin Maps
Early NW Africa Map 1
Early NW Africa Map 2
Early NW Africa Map 3
Early NW Africa Map 4
Early NW Africa Map 5
Saharan Exploration

Henry Barth 1
Henry Barth 2
Henry Barth 3
Denham & Clapperton 1
Denham & Clapperton 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 1
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 2
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 3
Haardt & Audouin-Dubreuil 4

External Links

Jim Mann Taylor's Home Page
___________________________

 

 

 

153 News Update, Dec 2016- Mar 2017

This update has been compiled by Christer Wilkinson from a variety of sources.

Mali
I would like to present some good news about Mali.
Unfortunately this is not possible. The north of the country is effectively still in state of war with almost regular incidents or conflicts between the various government and rebel forces about once every two weeks.
These incidents are of varied types. These include inter rebel group conflicts, attacks on the Mali army, and attacks on the UN forces, which include some French forces still on site some five years after they drove the Islamic rebels groups out of part of the north. Some are by local secular groups, others are backed by Islamic rebel groups. Needless to say this has restricted economic development in the north of the country and thus providing more cause for future revolts.
Previously these incidents had been constrained mainly to the area north of Timbuctoo. But increasingly incidents are now occurring in middle Mali as the region of conflict and instability moves south.
In January there was the most violent and deadly attack in Mali for many years when an attack by Islamic groups on a compound in Gao, caused some 77 or more casualties at a French/UN base. This level of casualties has not been seen since the early French intervention. AQIM claimed in a statement that the group’s ‘Murabitoun’ battalion, executed the attack. Their claim said that this was the work of a suicide bomber, identified as Abdul Hadi al Fulani.
In March after some years of low level dispute between the various Islamic rebel groups in the region, in mid period an agreement between them was announced. Under this agreement Ag-Ghali's Ansar Dine, the Massina Brigades, AQIM's al-Mourabitoun and an offshoot of al Qaeda's north African wing, announced on March 2 that they had joined to form a new group called ‘Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen’.
One of these was the group responsible for the Gao attack, ‘Al Murabitoun’, headed by Mokhtar Belmokhtar whose death in an aerial attack in Libya during the period has yet to be confirmed. It should be noted that his death has been announced several times in the past, only for it to be proved incorrect.
In addition there was a fresh outburst of western hostage taking in Mali. This is covered in the section on hostages below.
As a consequence of the continued unrest, many of the refugees who fled the conflict several years ago have not returned to Mali as hoped, and indeed there are new refugees leaving the country. The figures show 32,000 in Burkina Faso, 60,000 in Niger and 48,000 in Mauritania. Fresh statistics on internally displaced people were not available for this report.
Curiously, in late December, there was a dispute between the Mali government and the French when the latter attempted to return by air a number of Malian citizens without proper documentation from Paris, and their entry was refused at Bamako by Mali. (Given the amount of the annual subsidies to Mali from France this was an odd response.)
There was a related incident at the Mali embassy in Paris, which was occupied by local Malians over some form of documentation delays. The press reports give varying reasons for this odd incident.

Niger
As usual, Niger is much quieter than Mali. It has no indigenous rebel groups active, but there are ‘states of emergency’ on both the frontier areas near to Mali, and down by lake Tchad: the latter as a result of Boko Harem, who are still attacking occasionally into Niger despite their military setbacks in Nigeria.
In this area in the south east a drought is also causing a lack of students at schools as their families move in search of better conditions. The state of emergency in this area is also reported to be hindering trade.
Economically Niger’s long term prospects are reduced due to the continued drop in the price of Uranium. It dropped to only 18$ in this period, from a peak of $60 in 2012. At one time, many years ago, it was well over 100$.
But in a curious announcement Niger announced that it planned to provide its future electricity needs by nuclear power. This, in a country with one of the lowest GNPs per head in the world, is remarkable.
Even more remarkable was the announced prospect of selling gasoline from the Niger refinery in the south east of the country to Nigeria (a major oil exporter!) who are having logistics difficulties transporting it up to the far north of their country, just south of Niger.
Politically, in the capital Niamey there are still occasional protests against the government. Some supporters of Hama Amadou, (an opposition candidate in the last election) imprisoned around the last election have been released but Hama Amadou himself, is still in jail in Filingué on charges relating to child trafficking.
No new western hostages were taken in Niger. The first tourist flight to Agades in about five years proved not to be such a success due to restrictions on travel outside of the city. The American Drone base is reported to be well established. There was an accident (not conflict related) which led to the death of one American soldier in Niger.
Niger continues to have many refugees on its territory: 60,000 from Mali and some 50,000 (fresh statistics not available) from the Lake Tchad region.
The migrant traffic through Agades to Libya was reported to have dropped significantly in recent months leading to a reversal of the activity in the town reported in the last newsletter. This was claimed to be due to a successful EU policy on migration and military activity by the Niger government.
Other sources dispute this reduction and claim that the figures are suspect and point out that the migrants may well have simply avoided Agades, and used other routes (but which?). Recent migration statistics were not available for this report.

Tchad
Tchad had another quiet period. There was yet another government reshuffle, and the parliamentary elections were postponed by the president, leaving the current deputies in place, apparently partly for economic reasons.
The Tchad economy is clearly suffering from the long term drop in the price of oil and the cost of maintaining its military. This has led to a reduction in civil servants salaries and also in student grants.
There have been occasional strikes in the capital N’Djamena throughout the period complaining about the economic situation and the government actions.
Up in the far north, to the north of the Tibesti Mountains, a new rebel Toubou group has emerged: ‘FACT’.
Nominally based in Libya it claims a base in Tchad itself. This group’s activities were partly the cause of an announced closure of the frontier with Libya by the Tchad government. Interestingly Khalifa Haftar a military leader in Libya, met with the Tchad president Deby mid period shortly before a claimed air attack on this group within Libya, and a claim that they were allied with ISIS: both claims disputed by the rebel group.
Later in the period the northern frontiers was partially re-opened after a closure in the last period, but the only assigned crossing point was Wour on the west of the Tibesti Mountains and not in the north near Bardaia and Aouzou, where the rebel group is active, and the same location at which the transmission of drugs and weapons into and out of Libya was reported be widespread.
There has been another gold find in Tchad. This time in the Batha region south east of the capital. There is no news about any new activity in the gold mines in the north of the Tibesti Mountains, (nor for that matter about the gold fields in Niger).
The south of the country, near the Central African Republic, has seen several small incidents from an overspill of the conflict in that country. There have also been occasional Boko Harem raids into Tchad from a reduced but undefeated Boko Harem near Lake Tchad.
A French hostage was also taken in Tchad. The first such kidnapping in Tchad for many years, it took place in eastern Tchad near the Sudan border. This may have been a commercially motivated kidnaping (See Hostage section below)
The French military base in Tchad is still active and France has announced the opening soon of a new base in Niger. The American joint military exercises, ‘Flintlock 2017’ took place as planned in March and was kicked off in Tchad and incorporates participation by many states, Including Niger and Mali.
The refugee situation in Tchad is still bad with at last 75,000 Refugees in the south, 300,000 in the east, and 100,000 refugees and IDPs near Lake Tchad as a result of the Boko Haram attacks. Statistics from the north are not available.
Interestingly some local gas/petrol stations in Tchad are reported to be selling fuel smuggled in from Cameroun rather than the product from the local refinery at Djarmaya, and the Tchad government is trying to shut these stations down and force them to sell local fuel.

Hostages
Very little positive news.
There is no news on Stephen McGowan from South Africa and Johan Gustafson from Sweden both taken in Timbuctoo in 2011 who now have been held for over five years and are believed to be held in Northern Mali.
Similarly there is no news on the American Jeffery Woodke taken in the last period from central Niger apart from an odd report linking his capture to a conflict between two drug smugglers.
There is also no news on the Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly taken a second time as a hostage last year in Mali. Nor of Ken Elliott taken in Burkina Faso, also last year.
There were three new western hostages: a French woman kidnapped in Gao Sophie Pétronin, a nun kidnapped in central Mali (Sister Gloria Cecilia Narváez), and a Frenchman whose name was not released in time for this report, taken in eastern Tchad and reported to be now held in the Sudan.
This last kidnapping had clear commercial motives as the Frenchman was reported to be carrying a significant payroll for the workers of a mining company.

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