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Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.

By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Mandela, Nigeria, And The Agonies Of A ‘Baba’sinku’ Wannabe By Dr. Adeleke Otunuga.

‘Leke Otunuga
By Adeleke Otunuga

Nelson Rolihllahla Mandela, the man fondly called Madiba, fell into an eternal sleep on Thursday December 5th, 2013. He lived a life dedicated to struggle against injustice and racial discrimination. Today, the world mourns the man described as “a giant of history” and “one of the greatest leaders of our time.” This Mandela, the man the whole world has stood up for since Thursday night when he breathed his last, was once labeled a ‘terrorist’ and confined to the most hellish part of the world. It is ironic that the most colorful memorial service I have witnessed in my lifetime is for a man the world powers once connived and plotted against. I hope this important lesson of history will not be lost on us.

Mandela is not so honored by people of goodwill the world over because he spent 27 years in prison. He is not so honored today because he fought for freedom, equality and justice. Mandela is not receiving posthumous encomiums simply because of his dogged commitment to an end of apartheid – a struggle he devoted his life to, and for which he was prepared to breathe his last. In my opinion, the most important virtue of Madiba was his great power to forgive. Mandela not only forgave, he set the nation on a genuine course of unity and reconciliation. He admonished South Africans to look forward rather than backwards. With his message of unity, truth, and reconciliation, he singlehandedly helped the nation avert what would have been a devastating civil war

In the legendary story of Mandela and the socio-political transformational history of South Africa there is a great lesson of ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’ of nation building for other African nations, especially Nigeria. If Mandela had come out of prison bitter for his unjust 27 years incarceration, the world today most probably would not have united in paying homage to the great man that he was. If Madiba had come out of prison spewing ethnic hate and political divisiveness, Africa and indeed the whole world arguably would have been a different place today. If Mandela had come out of prison determined to wager revenge against real and perceived enemies of the anti-apartheid struggle, those whose brutal execution of the inhuman racial segregation policy saw thousands maimed and many more unjustly killed, South Africa still would be a killing field today, and the entire African continent would be engulfed by the flaming conflagration.

We Nigerians need to re-chart a course for the future. That future must be devoid of the current persistent penchant for ethnic and religious sororification at the slightest provocation. It is very insane, and clearly anti-progressive, to define any Nigerian by either their ethnic origin or religious affiliation. It is time we start honoring Mandela’s legacy by looking forward. As a nation, we have what it takes to be great. What we lack is the unity of purpose to drive our achievement and help give vent to our creativity. We are like a broken broom the frond pieces of which need to come back together to be effective at sweeping. To actualize Nigeria’s potentials and realize progressive dreams of greatness, we not only need to look beyond the hurtful aspects of actions or inactions of ethnic figures of our nation’s history, we also have to forgive the sad events of our nation’s past.

Nigeria as Mandela’s ‘Baba’sinku’

Ordinarily, Nigeria should have played greater role in the funeral and memorial events for Nelson Mandela. Nigeria was supposed to be at the center-stage of events honoring the departed great. In fact, we were supposed to host the world on behalf of South Africa. But did Nigeria deserve a Baba’sinku honorific at the memorial service?

The Baba’sinku in the Yoruba culture is the Mourner-in-Chief or a Director of Socials at funeral events. A Baba’sinku is never appointed based on socio-demographic criteria; his appointment is usually an affirmation of his honorable standing; an official acclamation that his lifestyle perfectly mirrors the personal philosophy and worldview of the departed. Oftentimes the departed himself chooses his own Baba’sinku even before his death. At other times, the departed’s close relatives and children determine who the cap of the Baba’sinku honorific truly fits.

Nigeria’s insipid recognition at the Mandela funeral has generated so much social media and private gathering debates. Most Nigerians expected that given Nigeria’s official stance against apartheid and our great role in interring the body and soul of that infamous policy, Nigeria should have received more commendation and recognition at Madiba’s memorial event. In a beautiful piece titled “On the Purported Slight of Nigeria at Madiba’s Funeral,” Pius Adesanmi undertook a historical reminder of several instances of Nigeria’s slighting by those who benefitted from Nigeria’s large-heartedness. I agree with him that there is a real connection between the state of affairs at home and the disrespect abroad. Honor is never bought with money nor acquired with gifts; it is earned. I do not think that those who failed to recognize our contribution to Africa’s ride to greatness are ingrates. We need to reflect inward in our honest quest to understand what went awry.

Madiba lived, and is today honored for, his time-tested stand on the side of justice, equality, and progress. His Baba’sinku must be known for and be committed to same beliefs and even greater ideals. Baba’sinkus don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk as well. With a dismal human rights record, high level private and public sector corruption ranking, decomposed public infrastructure, alarmingly high mortality rate, Nigeria possessed no laurels worthy of recognition as Mandela’s Baba’sinku. With a bill to gag social media criticism of government’s ineptitude awaiting a third reading at the National Assembly, Nigeria will fare best as a Baba’sinku at the inevitable memorial of the likes of Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Teodore Obiang Mbasogo of Equitorial Guinea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Joao Bernard Vieira of Guinea Bissau, Yahya Jamme of Gambia, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, and other anti-Mandelianism misleaders in Africa who have turned their countries to personal fiefdoms.

President Obama must have been talking to Nigeria at the event when he noted, “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.” With a statement by President Jonathan that “we must all fight against the vices Mandela fought for [against]. Mandela fought against oppression. If we continue with discrimination against people, then of course we have no reason to celebrate Mandela,” Nigeria would have done a greater honor to the memory of Mandela by sending no delegate to the memorial event in South Africa.


New, Aggressive HIV Strain Causes AIDS Faster.

A new and more aggressive strain of HIV discovered in West Africa causes significantly faster progression to AIDS, researchers at Sweden’s Lund University said Thursday.

The new strain of the virus that causes AIDS, called A3/02, is a fusion of the two most common HIV strains in Guinea-Bissau. It has so far only been found in West Africa.

“Individuals who are infected with the new recombinant form develop AIDS within five years, and that’s about two to two-and-a-half years faster than one of the parent (strains),” said Angelica Palm, one of the scientists responsible for the study based on a long-term follow-up of HIV-positive people in Guinea-Bissau.

Recombinant virus strains originate when a person is infected by two different strains, whose DNA fuse to create a new form.

“There have been some studies that indicate that whenever there is a so-called recombinant, it seems to be more competent or aggressive than the parental strains,” said Palm of the study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The strain was first discovered by the Swedish team in Guinea-Bissau in 2011.

According to researchers, the speed with which A3/02 leads to people falling ill from AIDS does not impact on the effectiveness of medication on infected individuals.

“The good news is that as far as we know the medicines that are available today are equally functional on all different subtypes of variants,” Palm said.

The study warns that such recombinants may be spreading fast, especially in regions with high levels of immigration, such as Europe or the United States.

“It is highly likely that there are a large number of circulating recombinants of which we know little or nothing,” said Patrik Medstrand, professor of clinical virology at Lund University.

Some 35.3 million people around the world are living with HIV, which destroys the immune system and has caused more than 25 million deaths since AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s, according to the World Health Organisation.

Existing treatments help infected people live longer, healthier lives by delaying and subduing symptoms, but do not cure AIDS. Many people in poor communities do not have access to the life-giving drugs, and there is no vaccine.


© AFP 2013

West African bloc extends deadline for Bissau polls.



DAKAR (Reuters) – Elections that coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau was to have held in May have been postponed after West Africanleaders prolonged the mandate of its caretaker government by seven months.

The delay underscores the challenges faced by transitional authorities in the tiny West African nation – a known narcotics trafficking hub – following a military coup in April 2012 that prompted international partners to freeze aid.

Heads of state from West Africa’s 15-nation ECOWAS bloc extended the transitional period in Guinea-Bissau until December 31, according to a communique issued late on Thursday after a summit in Ivory Coast.

It said ECOWAS was asking transitional President Manuel SerifoNhamadjo to propose a revised timeline for elections to be held before the end of the year, instead of May as planned.

The former Portuguese colony was thrown into turmoil last year after soldiers ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior days before an election Gomes Junior was favoured to win.

The military junta handed power back to a civilian leadership led by Nhamadjo in May under a deal brokered by ECOWAS, but which was criticized by the United Nations, the European Union and the CPLP grouping of Portuguese-speaking states as dealing too softly with the coup leaders.

The European Union – once a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the state – has so far refused to recognise Nhamadjo’s administration, a decision the interim president says is hindering election preparations.

Guinea-Bissau’s parliament is also in disarray, with members loyal to ex-premier Gomes Junior calling for his return and blocking the organisation of any polls that could exclude him.

Guinea-Bissau is rich in natural resources, including minerals, cashews, and some of the world’s best fishing offshore, but political instability has hindered investment and kept most of its 1.6 million people mired in poverty.

Thin law enforcement and reported state complicity have allowed South American cartels to use its scores of mangrove-lined islands as a transhipment hub for cocaine bound for the markets of Europe for more than a decade.

Army chief General Antonio Indjai, who runs a military widely suspected of complicity in the drug trade, has been accused of leading the April coup and the EU says he still holds sway.



IMF projects pick-up in Guinea Bissau economy this year.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Increased exports of cashew nuts from Guinea Bissau, the world’s seventh-largest producer, will help the economy recover this year, the International Monetary Fundsaid on Wednesday after talks with the authorities.

Cashew production in the impoverished West African nation fell last year after soldiers staged a military takeover in the coup-plagued former Portuguese colony.

“While the situation remains difficult in the context of continued political uncertainty, the economy is expected to recover in 2013 led by an upturn in cashew production and exports,” the IMF said in a statement.

The IMF said it had also discussed the 2013 budget and donor support in meetings with the authorities between February 13 to 19. The IMF said it also offered technical assistance to help with strengthening financial management, and tax and customs administration.

Wedged between Guinea and Senegal, Guinea Bissau is among the world’s poorest countries and is struggling to contain growing drug trafficking. Most of the country’s cashew nuts are exported to India, a major processor.



Post-coup Bissau leader tries to restore EU ties.

  • Serifo Nhamajo attends a political campaign rally in the capital Bissau March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney

    Enlarge PhotoReuters/Reuters – Serifo Nhamajo attends a political campaign rally in the capital Bissau March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Penney

BISSAU (Reuters) – Guinea-Bissau‘s caretaker President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo may have one of the world’s toughest jobs – leading a country where cocaine smuggling is out of control, the economy is in freefall and violence is the top means to political ends.

But his biggest challenge is also the most fundamental: nearly seven months into his tenure, the European Union – once a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the state – refuses to recognize his administration.

Unless it does, he says, putting Guinea-Bissau back on the path to recovery, and ending its role as a haven for cartels moving cocaine to Europe, after decades of turmoil since independence from Portugal will be impossible.

“There is a lack of understanding on the part of the European Union,” Nhamadjo said in an interview with Reuters in his Spartan office in the capital, a portrait of independence guerilla leader Amilcar Cabral on the wall behind him.

“Guinea-Bissau’s problems did not begin on April 12,” he said, referring to the date of the country’s most recent military coup, which provoked the EU’s pull-out.

The coup ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior days before an election Gomes Junior was favored to win. Both are now in exile.

Nhamadjo, a candidate in the derailed elections who also served as president of the national assembly, was named transitional president in May in a deal struck by West African bloc ECOWAS and the junta. But the European Union – in a move it claims is driven by zero tolerance for coups – rejected his leadership and cut aid.

The move exposed a division among Guinea-Bissau’s traditional partners, with the zero-tolerance camp led by the EU and the CPLP grouping of Portuguese-speaking countries on one side and on the other the ‘pragmatist’ camp of West African neighbors and the United States, which believe reversing the coup is not feasible.

But without broad international recognition and financial backing, Guinea-Bissau will be unable to hold presidential elections before Nhamadjo’s mandate expires in May.

“To hold elections, you need the financial conditions, the coordination of all partners,” he said.


Guinea-Bissau is rich in natural resources, including minerals and some of the world’s best fishing offshore, but political instability has hindered investment and kept most of its 1.6 million people mired in poverty.

Thin law enforcement and reported state complicity has allowed South American cartels to use its scores of mangrove-lined islands as a transhipment hub for cocaine bound for the markets of Europe for more than a decade.

EU and United Nations officials say that drug smuggling has grown since the April coup, a claim Nhamadjo denies.

“This is part of a large campaign to denigrate the image of our authorities and the work we are doing,” Nhamadjo said. “If they really have this information and they are acting in good faith, then they should help us solve this problem.”

Guinea-Bissau’s authorities have long lamented the lack of funding to counter drug smuggling. Recent events, however, suggest that, at least among the armed forces, when there is a will there is a way.

When the leader of a failed counter-coup bid last month escaped capture, the army shut the borders and sent patrols to scour the countryside. Soldiers tracked and arrested him on a remote island six days later. That efficiency has not been seen in the pursuit of the country’s drugs traffickers.

Army chief General Antonio Indjai has been accused of leading the April coup and the EU says he still holds sway.

Nhamadjo said that was untrue.

“My authority has not been questioned,” he said. “We give orders, and they (the military) are conforming to the laws of the republic. So we have excellent relations.”

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis)


By Joe Penney | Reuters

Bissau seeks to extradite former leader from Portugal.



BISSAU (Reuters) – Guinea-Bissau‘s caretaker government said on Wednesday it sent an extradition request to Portugal for its exiled former prime minister, whom it accuses of ordering the assassination of a former president in 2009.

Tensions between Guinea Bissau and its former colonial ruler Portugal have soared since a military coup in April derailed presidential elections that Portuguese-backed Carlos Gomes Juniorwas widely favoured to win.

Guinea-Bissau officials accused Portugal of seeking to returnGomes Junior to power, and said Lisbon was behind a failed counter-coup effort over the weekend in which at least six people were killed.

Carlos Gomes Junior should have the decency to appear in court,” Fernando Vaz, a spokesman for Guinea-Bissau’s transitional government said on Wednesday, adding Gomes Junior was “implicated in several horrific murders” including that of late president Joao Bernardo Vieira.

He said a formal extradition request was sent to Lisbon on October 1. A Portuguese governmentofficial was not immediately available to comment, though the foreign ministry has said it can deny extradition requests to countries that do not meet certain judicial and human rights criteria.

Guinea Bissau’s military, led by General Antonio Indjai, detained Gomes Junior in an April 12 coup ahead of a run-off presidential election he was favoured to win.

The election was meant to shore up stability in the impoverished cashew-producer nation, which has earned a reputation as a haven for Latin American drugs cartels ferrying cocaine to Europe.

Indjai accused Gomes Junior of having a secret pact with Angola, which had troops in the country at the time, to eliminate the army leadership.

Gomes Junior was released but forced to leave the country under a deal brokered by West African regional bloc ECOWAS that has since been criticised by the United Nations, the European Union, and the CPLP grouping of Portuguese-speaking nations for rewarding the coup leaders.

The civilian-led transitional government this week accused Portugal and other CPLP members of being behind an attack on a Bissau military base over the weekend.

Gomes Junior’s office in Lisbon, which claims to represent the ‘legitimate government of Guinea Bissau’, issued a statement saying the attack appeared to have been a fabrication to ‘whitewash’ the failures of the current leadership.

He has said he hopes to return to Bissau to rule.



Mali, Bissau, Sudans, Somalia top U.N., AU talks.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council and African Union Peace and Security Council on Wednesday jointly urged military coup leaders in Guinea Bissau to give up power and expressed concern at an al Qaeda threat in Mali, fighting in the Sudans and Somalia piracy.

The two councils, charged with maintaining and promoting peace and security, met for talks in New York on Wednesday and agreed an eight-page statement that addressed the top security issues in Africa and strengthening cooperation between the two bodies.

Military coups in Guinea Bissau and Mali, simmering border clashes between Sudan and South Sudan, and a bid to stabilize Somalia warranted special mentions in the statement.

“The members of the UNSC and the AUPSC condemned the recent instances of unconstitutional change in West Africa and reiterated their commitment to strengthening democracy, peace and stability on the continent,” the statement said.

They are worried about the threat posed by transnational organized crime, including illicit weapons and drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel region, according to the statement.

“They further expressed serious concern about the insecurity and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Sahel region, which is further complicated by the presence of armed groups and terrorist groups and their activities,” it said.

Mali’s March 22 military coup triggered the fall of the north of the country to secular and Islamist rebels, who now control a desert region the size of France at the heart of the Sahara. The rebel takeover has emboldened al Qaeda’s North Africa wing, and other forces such as Nigerian militants from Boko Haram.

Just weeks later, Guinea-Bissau soldiers took power on April 12, further undermining West Africa’s fragile democracy gains.

Guinea-Bissau has suffered turmoil from several coups and army uprisings since independence from Portugal in 1974, but the latest one has also set back western efforts to combat drugs cartels using the country as a transshipment point to Europe.

The joint U.N.-African Union statement underlined an “urgent need to continue to strengthen measures to restore and respect constitutional order, including a democratic electoral process, and that members of the ‘Military Command’ relinquish their position of authority” in Guinea-Bissau.

The two councils welcomed the resumption of talks between Sudan and South Sudan – which were brought to the brink of war by border clashes in April – but expressed concern at the “prevailing” situation as well as ongoing violence in the Sudanese regions of South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.

The statement said the two councils were worried that some deadlines had been missed in Somalia’s transition to democracy and were “gravely concerned by the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels pose to the situation in Somalia and other States in the region.”

The U.N. Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council plan to meet again before July 2013 in Addis Ababa.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Mohammad Zargham)



West African ministers tackle Mali, Guinea-Bissau crises.

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West African ministers met Saturday to try to resolve the crisis gripping Mali and speed up the return to constitutional rule in Guinea-Bissau, both struggling to recover from recent military coups.

The one-day meeting of foreign ministers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abidjan comes a day after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was “critical” that they “send a clear and principled message against unconstitutional seizures of power.”

In a statement released after the UN Security Council unanimously ordered sanctions Friday against the Guinea-Bissau coup leaders, Ban called on the military in both countries to “return to their barracks… and respect civilian authority and the rule of law.”

ECOWAS has accused the leaders of the March 22 coup in Mali of blocking its efforts to steer the country back to constitutional rule.

The regional bloc successfully mediated a transition agreement and convinced the junta to hand power to interim president Dioncounda Traore on April 12.

But the mid-level army officers who overthrew then-president Amadou Toumani Toure‘s government are refusing to let Traore stay in office beyond Tuesday — the 40 days set down in the constitution as the maximum length of an interim government.

The ECOWAS deal envisioned a 12-month transition that would lead to new elections.

The regional bloc had sharp words for the coup leaders Friday after the latest round of talks failed to resolve the impasse.

“The junta itself created (this) blockage,” Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, whose country holds the rotating ECOWAS presidency, told a regional ministerial meeting.

Two lead mediators for the crisis, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole and Ivory Coast Minister for African Integration Adama Bictogo, arrived late Saturday in the Malian capital Bamako for further talks.

They declined to immediately talk to reporters.

On Friday, Mali’s parliament unanimously passed a bill granting amnesty to the coup leaders.

The bill, which must be signed by the president before becoming law, was part of the ECOWAS-mediated transition deal.

Both opponents and supporters of the coup have welcomed the amnesty.

“It’s proof that everyone wants peace,” Adama Kante, a leader in the United Front for the Defence of the Republic and Democracy (FDR), a party opposed to the coup, told AFP.

But the putschists have been ostracised by much of the international community. The spokesman for the junta, Lieutenant Amadou Konare, and his wife were denied French visas recently, a Malian diplomatic source said.

While the junta justified the coup saying the government was not doing enough to fight a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg rebels in the north, the power vacuum in Bamako has enabled Islamist and Tuareg fighters to seize most of the vast desert north, effectively splitting the country in two.

In Guinea-Bissau, ECOWAS this week deployed the first 70 troops of a force that will eventually comprise more than 600 to oversee implementation of a one-year transition agreement to take the country to new elections after its April 12 coup.

The UN Security Council on Friday ordered a travel ban against five top military officers in the West African nation, including the powerful coup mastermind General Antonio Indjai.

Despite handing power over to a civilian government, the coup leaders are still influential, and hand-picked transitional president Manuel Serifo Mhamadjo.

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, the country’s army and state have remained in constant conflict, and no president has ever completed a full term in office.

Guinea-Bissau has also become a hub for drug-running between South America and Europe.


AFPBy Thomas Morfin | AFP 

Mali parliament approves amnesty for coup leaders.

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  • Malian military junta leader Amadou Sanogo (C) arrives at Bamako airport in March 2012. The parliament in Mali on Friday passed a law granting amnesty to the leaders of the March coup that plunged what was considered one of Africa's democratic success stories into chaos. (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)Malian military junta leader Amadou …

The parliament in Mali on Friday passed a law granting amnesty to the leaders of the March coup that plunged what was considered one of Africa‘s democratic success stories into chaos.

The text, which must be signed by the president before becoming law, was part of an agreement signed by the putschists and west African bloc ECOWAS on April 6 to restore constitutional order in the country. It was passed by the 122 deputies present in the national assembly, according to an AFP reporter.

The amnesty covers the period from March 21, the day before the coup toppled then-president Amadou Toumani Toure‘s government, to April 12, the day interim president Dioncounda Traore took office, according to a parliament document obtained by AFP.

The list of acts exempted from prosecution includes “mutiny, attacking internal state security, attacking external state security, destruction of property… violence and assault, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, looting” and other crimes.

An amendment adopted by lawmakers said the law covers both the putschists and those who opposed them.

The amnesty law comes amid a political impasse in Mali, where the leaders of the coup still wield great influence despite officially handing power over to Traore’s transitional government.

The putschists refuse to see Traore stay in office more than 40 days, beyond May 22.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which mediated the return to civilian rule, planned for Traore to lead a 12-month transition that would pave the way for new elections.

ECOWAS on Friday accused the putschists of blocking efforts to restore constitutional rule.

Ministers from the regional bloc are due to hold new talks on Mali and Guinea-Bissau, also struggling to restore order after an April 12 coup, in Abidjan on Saturday.

Islamist and Tuareg rebel groups in Mali took advantage of the power vacuum created by the coup to seize the vast desert north of the country, effectively splitting it in two.



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