On Monday, thousands of Liberians gathered to celebrate the end of Ebola after the country was declared free of the deadly disease that has killed more than 4,700 people. Several dignitaries participated in the celebration, including the President of Togo, along with guests from the African Union, Ghana and Nigeria. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf closed the celebrations by recommitting herself to helping the governments and people of neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone to overcome the disease.
In a statement released Saturday 9 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 42 days had passed since the last person confirmed with the virus in Liberia was buried. On Monday, the Liberian government declared a public holiday in order to allow workers and students to take part in a festival in the capital city, Monrovia. The ceremony however began on a sombre note, with testimonials from health workers and other staff in the country’s Ebola treatment units (ETU’s) as well as survivors and body disposal team members.
The WHO has hailed the eradication of the deadly disease in Liberia as an enormous development in the crisis, which has affected the West African region for over a year. However the United Nations agency has warned that because outbreaks are continuing in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, the risk remains high that infected people could re-enter the country. More than 4,700 people died during the Ebola crisis in Liberia, which remains the hardest-hit country by the outbreak. Neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to report new cases on a weekly basis. While the number of new cases being reported has significantly declined in recent months, officials in both countries have noted that they have had difficulty in tracing new cases.
Latest figures released by the WHO indicate that 26,720 cases have been reported and 11,079 people have died from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Sierra Leone and the United States, however officials have warned that the full scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported. The latest outbreak, which was officially confirmed in March 2014, has killed five times more people than all the other known outbreaks combined.
At least six United Nations workers killed in Somalia in an attack launched by al-Shabaab, just one day after the militant group killed three African Union (AU) troops.
Police officials have confirmed that at least six UN workers were killed in Somalia on Monday when a huge bomb placed by al-Shabaab militants destroyed a bus in the northeastern town of Garowe, the capital of the semi-autonomous Puntland region.
Somali police official Abdullahi Mohamed disclosed Monday “we have confirmed the death of six UN staff, including a foreign national,” adding “the bomb is believed to have been attached to the minibus and was detonated near the UN office.” While officials are currently carrying out an investigation into the attack, witnesses and security officials have suggested that the explosion may have come from a roadside bomb that was detonated as the minibus, which is used to transport staff from a guesthouse to the UN compound, was passing. Mr Mohamed has indicated, “investigations are still ongoing to establish how it happened but I can confirm you that the UN compound was not affected.”
The head of the UN in Somalia, Nick Kay, has condemned the attack, stating that he was “shocked and appalled by (the) loss of life.” Shortly after the attack, al-Shabaab insurgents claimed responsibility, stating that the UN is a “colonization force in Somalia.” The militant group has in the past targeted the UN. In December 2014, four people were killed when a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a UN convoy in the capital Mogadishu.
Monday’s attack comes a day after al-Shabaab militants killed three AU soldiers in southern Somalia.
African Union officials confirmed Monday that al-Shabaab militants killed three AU soldiers in Somalia on Sunday. AU envoy to Somalia Maman Sidikou condemned “the cowardly ambush” on a convoy of troops. The incident occurred Sunday as the convoy was travelling in the southern Lower Shabelle district, between the settlements of Lego and Balidogle.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab confirmed that the militant group was responsible for the attack, adding that five AU soldiers had been killed and that several vehicles were destroyed. While he indicated that the soldiers were from Burundi, AU force officials have not released any details pertaining to the nationalities of the victims.
The latest attacks come as al-Shabaab militants on Saturday shot dead a lawmaker in the capital Mogadishu in what is the latest in a string of assassinations of politicians in the Horn of Africa nation. According to an al-Shabaab spokesman, Adan Haji Hussein, an MP in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, was killed in Mogadishu during a visit to the capital city. Abdulaziz Abu Musab confirmed “our commandos shot and killed Adan for being a member of the apostate administration,” warning “all MPs, whether they are regional or so-called national MPs, we will kill them.” Omar Dalha, a fellow MP, confirmed the death and has called on the government to investigate the murder.
Reports have surfaced that Somali-based al-Shabaab is heavily recruiting in northeastern Kenya. The news comes just days after the militant group targeted Somalia’s higher education ministry in the capital city, Mogadishu.
On the ground sources have reported that in the town of Isiolo in northeastern Kenya, twenty-six young men have disappeared, with officials suspecting that they have joined the militant group. Sources have indicated that here are similar concerns in other parts of the country. Al-Shabaab’s recruitment in Kenya marks a change of tactic for the group and highlights fears voiced by Kenyan intelligence services and MP’s that the Somali-based militant group is increasingly threatening Kenya and the wider Horn of Africa region. In the wake of a recent string of deadly attacks in northeastern Kenya, al-Shabaab has warned Kenyan officials that this is just the beginning, and that they will carry out further deadly attacks in the coming months. With al-Shabaab militants increasingly being force out of key areas in central and southern Somalia, increasing recruitments of militants in Kenya is likely to be seen as a way for them to not only replenish the group’s numbers, but for them to more power to stage deadly attacks.
On Tuesday, al-Shabaab militants attacked the higher education ministry in Mogadishu, Somalia. They used a car bomb before storming the building, killing at least fifteen people and wounding twenty others.
Police officer Mohamed Dahir disclosed that troops backed by African Union (AU) forces regained control of the building after around an hour-long attack, which began when “a car loaded with explosives rammed the gate.” Police and eyewitnesses reported that the car bomb caused a huge explosion that effectively allowed the gunmen to force their way into the fortified building. According to Mohamed Yusuf Osman, the internal security ministry spokesman, six al-Shabaab gunmen were killed in the attack, “the security forces and AU peacekeepers shot and killed four of the attackers, while the other two blew themselves up.”
Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab claimed responsibility for the attack, indicating that al-Shabaab gunmen had been “fully in control” of the ministry and that they were also able to enter a neighbouring building that houses the oil ministry. Both buildings are located in the capital’s K5 district, which has been targeted by a string of similar attacks in recent months, with a car bombing to force entry into fortified buildings followed by an armed raid becoming the militant group’s trademark tactic. Last month, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the fortified Maka al Mukurama hotel in Mogadishu. While earlier this month, the militant group carried out its deadliest attack yet, when al-Shabaab gunmen killed 148 people in a day-long siege at a university in neighbouring Kenya’s northeastern town of Garissa.
After an election weekend that was marred by confusion and occasional violence, results from Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections is due to start trickling in late Monday/early Tuesday, however the opposition party has already rejected the outcome in Rivers state and has stated that the polls were “a sham and a charade,” prompting fears that violence may erupt once the results are announced.
Violence and Confusion
Saturday’s parliamentary and presidential elections were marred by technical hitches and violence linked to Boko Haram.
Voting in some parts of Nigeria was extended to Sunday after problems occurred with the new electronic card readers. President Goodluck Jonathan was amongst those whose registration to vote was delayed because of the technology, which was introduced in order to prevent fraud. His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which opposed the card readers, called it a “huge national embarrassment,” while election commission chief Attahiru Jega disclosed that only a fraction of the 150,000 card readers being used nationwide had failed.
Boko Haram maintained its promise of disrupting the elections, attacking several polling stations in northeastern Nigeria, which prompted officials to declare a curfew in Bauchi state after fighting erupted between troops and the insurgents.
- 29 March – In the wake of troops fighting Boko Haram fighters outside of Bauchi city, the state capital of Bauchi, authorities have imposed an indefinite lockdown on three areas. On the ground sources have reported that late Sunday, soldiers, supported by two fighter jets, intercepted the militants who were in 20 pick-up trucks at Dungulbe village, which is located seven kilometres (four miles) from the state capital. The troops engaged them in fierce fighting, with a military officer in the city disclosing “the fighter jets are pounding the enemy position while ground troops are engaging them… The operation is still on-going but the terrorists have suffered serious losses and are in disarray.” Residents reported that the insurgents arrived in Dungulbe at around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) and set up camp in preparation for an invasion of the city. The militants are believed to have come through the town of Alkaleri, which is 60 kilometres (37 miles) away, where they carried out a dawn raid on Saturday. A spokesman for the Bacuhi state governor disclosed that an indefinite, round-the-clock curfew had been imposed on three areas, Bauchi, Kirfi and Alkaleri, because of the fighting, stating that it was imposed in order to “…enable security agencies to restore normalcy in the affected areas… By this curfew, residents of the three affected local governments are to remain in their homes until further notice.” The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Bauchi state governorship, Mohammed Abullahi Abubakar, has blamed the curfew on his political opponents, claiming “the curfew was only an attempt by the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) to tinker with the results of the elections.”
- 28 March – At least seven people were killed in separate attacks in the northeastern Nigerian state of Gombe on Saturday, with suspected Boko Haram militants opening fire on voters at polling stations. The first attacks took place in the neighbouring villages of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani in the Nafada district of Gombe, which has been repeatedly targeted by the militant group. According to an election official, “we could hear the gunmen shouting, ‘Didn’t we warn you about staying away from (the) election?’” The election official disclosed that the masked gunmen arrived in Birin Bolawa in a pickup truck at around 8:30 AM (0730 GMT), shortly after accreditation for Saturday’s presidential elections had begun. One voter was shot dead while many civilians fled in panic. On the ground sources have disclosed that the gunmen had set fire to all the election materials. The second attack occurred at about 9:15AM. At about 11:30 AM, gunmen stormed the town of Dukku, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the state capital Gombe. Residents reported that the gunmen shot randomly as voters queued up at polling stations. At least three people, including a state assembly lawmaker, were killed in the attack. Last month, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau warned in a video message that the militants would disrupt Saturday’s general elections, which they have called “un-Islamic.” Officials have disclosed that there were twenty-eight Boko Haram attacks in the three weeks after the delay was announced, compared with eighteen that occurred in the three weeks beforehand, effectively representing an increase of 56 percent.
- Police officials disclosed Saturday morning that an explosion struck a polling station at a primary school in the city of Awka. The attack, which occurred Saturday morning, claimed no casualties. According to Uche Eze, police spokesman for Anambra state, of which Awka is the capital, “no lives were lost and none injured. The police bomb squad has moved in.” The state of Anambra has often been affected by political thuggery around election time.
- Gunmen shot dead a Nigerian soldier in an ambush that occurred in the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt on Saturday. According to Brigadier-General K.A. Essien confirmed the attack however military officials have not released any further details pertaining to the incident.
- On Saturday, a bomb exploded at a polling station in a primary school in the northeastern city of Enugu. The attack occurred hours before the polling station opened. Enugu police spokesman Stephen Lar confirmed that attack, disclosing, “no life was lost but there were blood stains on the vehicle that conveyed the bomb showing the occupant may have been injured.”
- Suspected Boko Haram gunmen attacked public buildings and security checkpoints in the northeastern town of Alkaleri. According to on the ground sources, a police station, the office of the paramilitary Nigeria Security and Civil Defense force and the local electoral commission premises were all burned to the ground.
- An official disclosed Saturday that suspected Boko Haram gunmen beheaded twenty-three people and set fire to homes in Buratai, northeastern Nigeria, on the eve of the country’s general elections. According to Mohammed Adamu, who represents the town, which is located 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Borno’s capital Maiduguri, “there was an attack on Buratai late Friday by gunmen suspected to be insurgents…They beheaded 23 people and set homes on fire,” adding “at least half the village has been burnt.” At least thirty-two people were injured in the attack. While further details pertaining to the incident were not immediately available, the attack is consistent with Boko Haram’s past strikes in the area.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) initially indicated that the first results from 120,000 polling stations nationwide would be available Sunday evening, officials have since pushed this back, with the results now not expected to be released until either late Monday or early Tuesday. Sources have disclosed that turnout amongst the 56.7 million registered voters appears to have been high.
As millions of Nigerians wait for the results, tensions remain high and fears are growing that violence, which already erupted in some parts of the country on Sunday, may spread.
Thousands of supporters of the main opposition party demonstrated on Sunday in the state of Rivers, with many calling for the cancellation of elections locally over alleged irregularities. This prompted local police to fire warning shots in a bid to disperse the crowd. One group stoned a car they though was carrying the ballots. Demonstrators supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the INEC in the state capital, Port Harcourt. According to River state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside, “we are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday).” Mr Peterside alleges that APC supporters across the southern state were “disenfranchised by INEC, working in connivance with (the) PDP.” He alleges that results sheets, which in Nigerian elections are given at every polling station to both the local electoral commission and party representatives after the count, were not provided and that instead “INEC in collaboration with (the) Peoples Democratic Party hijacked the materials and were filling them in private homes for the PDP.” Mr Peterside has called for the presidential and parliamentary elections to be re-held in the state. Protests continued on Monday, prompting police to use tear gas to disperse the demonstration, which was carried out by at least 100 female APC protesters. INEC chairman Attahiru Jega has disclosed that he is investigating the complaints. The southern state is seen as a key battleground for the presidential election.
In an increasing sign that the opposition will likely challenge the results, the APC governor of the southern Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, denounced the conduct of the election in his region, accusing the military of meddling in the result. Meanwhile in Bauchi state, hundreds of youths gathered outside the INEC office shouting APC slogans and shouting that they would protect their vote from rigging. The military fired warning shots to disperse the crowds.
Despite some violence and technical difficulties, on Monday, the African Union (AU) praised the conduct of Nigeria’s general election however officials have urged the political parties to resolve any disputes in court. In its preliminary findings, the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) disclosed that the vote was “conducted in a peaceful atmosphere within the framework that satisfactorily meets the continental and regional principles of democratic elections.” Regional bloc ECOWAS also urged Nigerians to accept the results.
The United Nations Secretary General also congratulated Nigeria for holding a “largely peaceful and orderly” ballot, however Ban Ki-moon called on citizens to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere and to exercise patients.” The Secretary also condemned attacks carried out by Boko Haram and other militants who attempted to disrupt the presidential and parliamentary polls.
On Monday, Burkina Faso announced the West African country’s new interim leader who will lead the nation until the next presidential elections, which are due to occur November 2015. The appointment of an interim leader will end weeks of uncertainty in the West African nation after mass protests brought down the 27-year regime of president Blaise Compaore, which resulted in the military seizing power.
Veteran diplomat Michel Kafando has been chosen as Burkina Faso’s interim president. The decision was made after several hours of negotiation, which had started the previous day. Lieutenant Colonel Issac Zida, the army-installed leader, had given the country’s various parties a noon deadline Sunday in order to submit names to a panel of twenty-three mainly civilian electors. The panel later elected Mr Kafando after preferring him to other candidates, which included journalist Cherif Sy and sociologist and ex-minister Josephine Ouedraogo. While Mr Kafando has described the appointment as “more than an honour,” his selection as interim president will now have to be ratified by the country’s Constitutional Council. The election of a civilian interim president homes ahead of a deadline that was imposed by the African Union (AU) and which instructed Burkina Faso to establish interim institutions and to select an interim president by Monday or face sanctions.
On Saturday, the military reinstated the country’s constitution, which was suspended when the army filled the power vacuum that was created by the departure of Compaore. A “transition charter,” effectively an interim constitution agreed upon between the military and civilian, opposition and religious figures last week, was officially signed on Sunday by the military. The signing of the interim constitution by Lieutenant Col Zida effectively marks his acceptance of Burkina Faso’s return to civilian leadership. Under the agreement, the president will appoint a prime minister, either a civilian or military figure, who will head a 25-member transitional government. A civilian will also head a 90-seat parliament, which is known as the National Transitional Council. According to the document, no members of the interim regime will be allowed to stand in the November 2015 presidential elections.
Mr Kafando previously served as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, between 1998 and 2011. Between 1981 and 1982, he was Burkina Faso’s Foreign Affairs minister. AU chief Nkosazan Dlamini-Zuma has welcomed Mr Kafando’s appointment and has praised the people of Burkina Faso “for their political maturity and sense of responsibility.” The AU chief also called for “a smooth transition under the direction of civil authorities.”
Presidential elections are set to occur in November next year, and will effectively return the country to civilian rule after long-time president Blaise Compaore was ousted in late October.