Patrick Obia

last updated Fri, Sep 15, 2023 3:46 PM

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USA resumes surveillance in Niger; outcry in Kenya over fuel, Mali cancels independence rite, others

By Patrick Obia
| Updated 15:46 15/09/2023
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Credit: FRCN

The United States has resumed its surveillance flights over Niger, which had been interrupted by the military coup at the end of July 2023, a Pentagon spokesperson said, specifying that the rest of American military operations in the country remained frozen.

“We can confirm that U.S. Forces in Niger have conducted intelligence and reconnaissance flights to ward off threats and ensure the protection of our forces,” said the spokesperson for the Pentagon’s Africa Command.

“We have obtained approval from the appropriate authorities,” she clarified, noting nonetheless that “the United States always reserves the right to conduct operations with the aim of protecting our forces and our staff, if necessary."

The spokesperson added that although surveillance flights have resumed, exchanges with Nigerien forces, such as training or anti-terrorist cooperation, remain frozen.

According to the AFP, the United States has 1,100 soldiers stationed in Niger, who were operating against jihadist groups active in this region.

The Pentagon announced on September 7, 2023, that it was repositioning its troops "as a precaution", transferring certain soldiers from a base in the capital, Niamey, to an air base further north.

Outcry in Kenya as fuel prices reach record high

The highest fuel prices in recent memory have been announced by Kenya's regulator, to the fury of many in the country.

Overnight, the cost of petrol rose to about 212 shillings ($1.40; £1.20) per litre in the capital Nairobi – with the prices of different types of fuel rising by about 9% to 20%.

According to BBC, the move comes despite countrywide protests in recent months against high living costs and the government's economic policies.

It's going to be "painful" and "it may not work", said President William Ruto's chief economic adviser, David Ndii, on X (formerly Twitter), adding that he was not going to sell false hope to Kenyans.

Both Mr Ndii and the fuel prices have been trending topics on social media.

"(Mr) Ndii has told us the bitter truth that we are repugnant fools and stupid morons for having believed that people who used a wheelbarrow as a party symbol had any idea of fixing the country. It is our fault for believing them," a Kenyan said on X.

"Matatus (public minivans) use diesel, which is the means of transport for the poor that has gone up by 21.32 shillings. The poor majority use kerosene, which has gone up by 33.13 shillings…," said another.

President Ruto removed fuel subsidies when he came into office last September 2022.

Mali Concels Independence Celebration

Mali’s ruling junta has cancelled Independence Day celebrations planned for next week following a resumption of hostilities in the north, BBC reports. 

The council of ministers, in a statement, said the anniversary would be “celebrated in sobriety and in the spirit of national revival”.

Junta leader, Assimi Goita, ordered the government to allocate the funds planned for this year's festivities to help victims of recent deadly attacks.

The council also discussed the possible mobilisation of reservists to counter the militant attacks.

Insecurity is rising in northern and central regions despite the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries.

China, Zambia upgrade ties, focus on key economic sectors

Chinese President, Xi Jinping. has pledged China will support Zambia in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests while encouraging more imports from the Southern African country.

The Chinese Xi met with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema in Beijing, the capital of China, where the two countries upgraded their ties to a "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership", Chinese state news agency Xinhua said. President Xi vowed to work with Zambia to expand corporations covering infrastructure, agriculture, mining and clean energy.

Reuters gathered that  Zambia is seeking to restructure its external debt with China and find more trade opportunities with the world's second-largest economy.

Hichilema thanked China for supporting the African Union's accession to the Group of 20 major economies at its September 9-10 summit in New Delhi and for its positive role in resolving Zambia's debt problem, Xinhua said.

It was not immediately known whether China and Zambia signed any debt agreements.

China has significant commercial interests in Zambia, having invested in over 30 projects through its Belt and Road Initiative between 2014 and 2023, according to data compiled by the American Enterprise Institute - think tank.

It shows the projects were worth $11.3 billion in total, ranging from the energy sector to agriculture and aviation.

China also takes around one-fifth of Zambian exports, predominantly copper.

France won't cut cultural ties with Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso

France does not intend to cut cultural ties with Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the culture minister said on Friday, after entertainment businesses slammed a decision this week to ban all partnerships with artists from these African countries.

"France has always been an open and welcoming nation for artists, so this is not a shift in policy. It's an adaptation to an extremely deteriorated security context," Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak told RTL radio.

Niger's government was overthrown in a military coup in July, while Burkina Faso has been overrun by hardline militants for years. Mali's military has also been fighting a rebel alliance since August, which has led France to ban visas and halt development aid for all three countries.

Abdul-Malak's remarks appeared intended to defuse a confrontation with the union of artistic and cultural businesses SYNDEAC, which had demanded to meet with her after her ministry issued a directive to halt all cooperation and financial support to institutions from the three countries.

SYNDEAC had called the ban "completely unprecedented".

"This total ban on three countries experiencing very serious crises makes no sense from an artistic point of view and is a major mistake from a political point of view", the union said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

Following the outcry, Abdul-Malak said she had asked her ministry to send out "clarifications" to the entertainment businesses, adding that existing partnerships would not be affected by the ban, only new projects that would require travel visas for artists. 

France is home to a large community of people with ties to the three African countries, and performers from the region, particularly musicians, are popular at festivals.

USA resumes surveillance in Niger

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