Author Archive for Tommy Miles

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Mali: Release of two of five AQIM hostages

Philomena Kabour, the Burkina-Italian wife of Sergio Cicala, kidnapped near in Mauritania was released, along with Alicia Gamez, one of three Catalan aid workers kidnapped north of Nouakchott. All appear to have been taken to a AQIM camp in the remote Saharan north of Mali. Roque Pascual and Albert Vilalta (the Catalans kidnapped November 29) and Cicala (kidnapped December 18) remain hostage. There is no word on what was exchanged. Burkina authorities were the intermediaries for Kabour's release.

Mali: ‘Bandits’ attack truck on Gao – Ansago road

Unidentified armed men attacked a truck carrying goods and passengers on the Niger river road from Gao to Ansago on Monday. The truck’s driver was killed, several wounded, and the bandits made off with cash and property. This was somewhere between 100 and 200 km west northwest of the attack on a Nigerien military post that same morning, and more than 300 km south of the carjacking of two aid workers near Kidal last week. See my comments on the carjacking for a summary of what I think is going on (short answer guns + poverty + demobed insurgency + corruption = crime). Please leave your Bin Laden fantasies at the door.

Follow up: (2010-03-13)

An anonymous commentator on the message board poses these details: “The attack is locally attributed to Peul individuals. The truck is owned by Ely Ould Hennoun an Arab trader who resides in Bamako. A young Arab died (the driver) and a Tuareg who accompanied him was seriously wounded in the head. … The killers stole two Thuraya satellite phones and the small sum of about 25,000 FCFA [~ 38 Euros]… This at the cost of two lives.”

I haven’t the vaguest clue if the ethnic insinuations are true, and it would be sad should the Gao-ites be overly concerned about ethnic identity in this sort of crime. But it speaks to the general insecurity and the desperate straits of northern Mali, that someone would kill for a handful of goods. It certainly doesn’t suggest that everyone there is flush with drug money.

Niger: Military post raided on Mali border

Reports are coming in of an attack by unknown assailants on the army post at Tiloa, a village around 12km from the Malian border. Several soldiers were killed. North of the more inhabited Zarmaganda plateau, Tiola is a tiny stop in the desert north of Tondikiwindi rural commune, Ouallam Department, Tillabéri Region. This is the same area in which Nigerien forces clashed with alleged AQIM members last year after a Saudi hunting party was attacked. It is west southwest of where tourists were kidnapped (likely by AQIM themselves) before that, including one Briton who was murdered. More prosaically, this area, just north of sedentary agriculture ends, is a prime smuggling location and an east-west transit route of Tuareg and Arab nomads between Gao and the Air mountains. It is also 20-30 km north of an area plagued by recurring conflict between sedentary and nomadic communities that goes back to before the 19th century.

Niger: Canadian gold company reporting two new strikes

The Canadian run Samira Hill mine near the Niger/Burkina border reports two new expansions. Pres. Tandja received the first gold bar in 07, and apparently signed big deals in 2009, of which this is fruition. SEMAFO CEO Benoit La Salle: "The Samira Horizon remains an important mining district for SEMAFO, hence our decision earlier this year to proceed with a two-year $6,000,000 exploration program on the property…. We are encouraged by these new discoveries at Samira Hill, the results of which may become part of our reserves and resources base and ultimately extend mine life. We believe that our continued exploration programs to fully define the property will ultimately benefit from existing infrastructures and contribute to increase value for our shareholders." It would be interesting to see the full contracts signed with the Tandja government, and where that cash went, and to see if any went to protect the nearby W Transboundry Park from the arsenic pools used to process ore.

Niger: Mining protestors squat French hq in Niamey

A Dakar based corespondent for Kenya's Nation paper reports says that Nigerien activists have set up camp at French government uranium miners AREVA's Niamey offices. There is as of yet no independent confirmation of this, or if they are occupying the offices. The name given in the report is "Areva ne fera pas la loi au Niger" ("Aveva is not the law of Niger") This same slogan is used by Tuareg activists of the Tchinaghen collective of Agadez, as well as French anti-neocolonial campaigners Suivre. Activists have long tried to draw attention to the horrible radioactive pollution, the awful working conditions, and the neocolonial exploitation of the huge open pit mines in the Arlit area of the Nigerien Sahara. These provide %40 of the fuel for France's nuclear power industry, upon which they are dependent for electricity. See

Togo:A foregone conclusion

Togo is holding a presidential election today. Success, according to the international community, will be if the army does not butcher voters and soldiers are not photographed running from polling stations with voting boxes under their arms. While these may seem low standards, that was the 2005 election, in which Faure Gnassingbé the son of a 22 year dictator, was jobbed into power by the army after his father's death, and thousands fled the country. Today's outcome is foregone. The main opposition candidate, son of the first President of Togo whom Faure's father murdered, was excluded from running. A relative unknown, Jean Pierre Fabre, was chosen in his stead, rumored to have been pushed by the government itself. While the ruling RPT is divided too (Faure's brother, Kpatcha had much party support before being arrested in 2009), this is a single round election facing five members of what one candidate himself called the "most stupid and criminal opposition in the sub-region."

Niger: Tandja’s spymaster’s wasted funds

"Norbert" in Niamey's "Le Courrier" paper has interesting piece on the ineffectiveness of Tandja's Interior Minister Abouba Albadé. Albadé, a Tandja-ist of the first water served briefly as PM and importantly headed up the police and internal paramiltary (FNIS) services. He was one of the men most associated with Tandja's power grab. While the author refers to Albadé's well funded "Gestapo", the fall of the President suggests those funds may have gone somewhere other than for intelligence. Le Courrier repeats rumors that Albadé was getting 120,000 Euros a year directly from Tandja. When PM Ali Gamatie (on whom the writer hangs the Hausa slur "Bak'in Bature" : essentially "an Uncle Tom") tried to cut the funds, Albadé went over his head to keep them. The piece ends with a bizarrely obscure Diderot quote from his 1769 harangue against Frederick II ("Pages contre un tyran"), saying that when power praise "truth" while lying, people may only yearn for truth even more. True?

Niger: Council of Ministers names former PM’s offical Secretary General

Niger's state paper reports a preliminary meeting of Ministers were given instruction by the Junta Head of State Cmdt. Salou Djibo on Wednesday (3 March). A "Secretary General" of the Council was named: Mrs. Adama Saliah Gazibo. The report describes her as a Judge, which she is. But she was also one of the chief officials of former PM Hama Amadou, the once scion of Tandja who later became his arch foe. Hama is seen by some conspiratorially minded as the backer of this coup. Adama Saliah Gazibo's appointment won't help this. She is also the official who famously attempted to discredit the slavery testimony of a Nigerienne Mariama Oumarou's at the 2001 Durban racism conference. About the girl, who was married at 15 to a Nigerian by her Tuareg noble master and used as a servant and raped, Saliah said a Niger court "found that the girl's marriage was legitimate under traditional law. This girl should not come here and disgrace her country when the legal process has done its work."

AFRICOM: Ghana in the crosshairs

Crossed Crocodiles blog, long focused on the expansion of AFRICOM, contrasts a host of quotes which illustrate what US Military African Command leaders say to the Ghanaian press VS. what they elsewhere proclaim are their intentions. Unsurprisingly, the US military and State Department are quite clear that they wish to set up a permanent offshore presence along the oilfields and trade routes of West Africa, especially Ghana. The US calls this "Seabasing". "Seabasing will allow the use of the world’s oceans as large or small scale Joint, Multinational and Interagency bases for operations without dependence on ports or airfields ashore. We must be present to be a part of the solution and protect our interests." At the same time they are telling Ghanaians who ask if they wish to establish bases: "We have done absolutely nothing that would substantiate that impression, and we’re not going to do anything. There is no intention of setting up bases in Africa." The scramble is in full swing.