Press Review CW 38/2023: Need for security
Press Review 15 September 2023 to 22 September 2023

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger form defence alliance

Mali’s interim president Assimi Goïta announced the creation of the so-called Alliance of Sahel States (AES) on Saturday. In Mali’s capital Bamako, the constitutive Liptako-Gourma Charter was signed by Goïta, Burkina Faso’s transitional President Ibrahim Traoré and Niger’s junta leader Abdourahamane Tiani. According to Mali’s Defence Minister Abdoulaye Diop, the AES is intended to strengthen the military and economic cooperation of the member states, with the fight against terrorism as the top priority. Accordingly, a collective defence architecture is to be established, which also includes mutual support in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. The Charter provides for joint preventive measures as well as military support In the fight against terrorism. The defence mechanism of the Charter commits all Member States to mutual support in the event that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties is violated. This includes military support, whereby any attack on the armed forces of one or more of the contracting parties, whether within or outside the country, is considered aggression. The charter was named after the Liptako-Gourma region, which lies in the border triangle of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The region is considered as a gathering place for various jihadist groups and violent clashes have been taking place there for years. The formation of the alliance comes just two months after the coup in Niger. After the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held out the possibility of military intervention, Burkina Faso and Mali showed solidarity with the military government in Niger and declared that they would support the neighbouring country militarily in the event of a military intervention by ECOWAS. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, together with Mauritania and Chad, belonged to the G5-Sahel military alliance founded in 2017 and supported by France. The alliance was supposed to act with joint troops against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). Mali already withdrew from the alliance after last year’s coup, and its force has since de facto come to a standstill. All three military governments also ended their cooperation with France and increasingly turned to Russia. Especially in Mali, military advisors and fighters of the Wagner Group support the Malian army, but there have also been talks about a possible deployment of the Wagner Group in Niger. According to reports, on the day of the signing of the Liptako-Gourma Charter, Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Yunus-bek Yevkurov, accompanied by high-ranking intelligence officers, was also in Bamako to meet representatives of Mali and Niger.

Demonstrations after disastrous flooding in Libya

Protests against the political leadership in the eastern part of the country erupted in the Libyan port city of Darna on Monday after heavy storms and rainfall caused two dams to burst and flooded the city a fortnight ago. United Nations officials estimate that at least 11,000 people have died and more than 43,000 are displaced. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered around the Shaba Mosque in the centre of the city, some moving to the home of the unpopular and now suspended mayor of Darna, Abdulmonem al-Ghaithi. The protesters accuse local and national authorities, above all the parliament of the parallel government in Benghazi in the east of the country, the so-called Council of Deputies, and its parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh of political failure, decades of negligence and corruption of the authorities. Consequently, the protesters are demanding investigations into the current city council, which has since been dissolved by the prime minister of the Benghazi government, Osama Hammad, as well as an investigation into the previous city budgets. After the Abu Mansur Dam, whose reservoir holds around 22.5 million cubic metres of water and which is located 13 kilometres from the city, initially collapsed, the Al Bilad Dam, which has a capacity of 1.5 million cubic metres and is located just one kilometre from the coastal city, also collapsed. According to Attorney General Al-Seddik Al-Sour, cracks had already been found in both dams during investigations in 1998. The recommendation of an Italian engineering company, which was commissioned two years later to inspect the dams and advocated the construction of a third dam, had not been followed. Even after that, there had been repeated delays and failures in maintenance and repair work, although a yearly budget had been set aside for this. Likewise, the early warning and emergency management systems had largely failed, according to the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Petteri Taalas. In addition to a quick investigation and legal action against those responsible, the demonstrators are demanding the rapid reconstruction of the city, the opening of a UN office in Darna to better coordinate international support, and compensation for the affected citizens. Local and international journalists were asked to leave the city by noon on Tuesday by the government in Benghazi after the protests broke out, as they would hinder rescue work on the ground and be exposed to health risks, according to an official statement. Internet access and mobile phone networks were also reportedly cut off in Darna. Meanwhile, rescue teams from European and Arab countries continued the search for survivors and the recovery operations. Response teams and aid were sent from a number of countries including Egypt, France, Greece, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The European Union announced that it would provide €5.2 million in humanitarian aid to Libya. In view of the flood disaster, the rival Libyan governments showed willingness to set aside their differences for the time being and called for cooperation in the relief efforts. The government in Tripoli, for example, announced on Monday that it had begun building a makeshift bridge in Darna. Since the fall of former ruler Muammar al-Gadaffi in 2011, the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) under Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, based in the capital Tripoli, and the Government of National Stability (GNS) under Prime Minister Osama Hammad, based in Benghazi in eastern Libya, have been pitted against each other .

In other news

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is currently meeting in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh. Among the many sites newly inscribed on the World Heritage List are three on the African continent. One of these sites is the island of Djerba in Tunisia, the largest island in North Africa, which, in addition to its historical ruins, traditional architecture and religious buildings, is also known as the location of several Star Wars films. Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda, with its remarkable biodiversity and ecosystems, is also now considered a significant protected area for the rainforest in Central Africa and will be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On Thursday, UNESCO also announced the listing of the four genocide memorial sites of Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisero in Rwanda. The listing of these memorials, which commemorate the genocide of the Tutsi in 1994, sends an important message to counteract the forgetting and denial of the genocide, but also genocides worldwide, the Rwandan government welcomed the decision.

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