Chad began funeral ceremonies on Friday for veteran ruler Idriss Deby Itno, a key figure in the fight against the Sahel’s jihadist insurgency, as France and regional allies voiced backing for his son and successor, Mahamat Idriss Deby.
The elder Deby, who had ruled the vast semi-desert state with an iron fist for 30 years, died from wounds sustained fighting rebels at the weekend, the army said Tuesday.
His death has stunned the Sahel and its key ally France, battling a nine-year-old jihadist revolt that has claimed thousands of live s and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
His coffin, draped in the national flag and surrounded by elite troops, was driven on the back of a pickup truck to the Place de la Nation square for ceremonies attended by foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron.
There followed a 21-gun salute for Deby, who only last August had been declared a field marshal — the first in Chad’s history — after leading an offensive against jihadists in the west of the country.
Just before the funeral, Macron and his counterparts from Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger jointly met with Deby’s son.
The leaders, expressing a “unity of views”, said they “stood by Chad and expressed their joint support for the process of civilian-military transition, for the stability of the region”, a French presidential official said.
The 37-year-old general was named president and head of a military council immediately after Deby’s death was announced.
He will wield full powers but has promised “free and democratic” elections after an 18-month transition period that can be extended once.
The move has been branded an “institutional coup” by the opposition.
Deby’s death was announced the day after he was declared the winner of an April 11 election — giving him a sixth mandate after three decades at the helm.
The army said the 68-year-old had died from wounds suffered while leading troops in battle against heavily armed rebels who had launched an incursion from neighbouring Libya.
The Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) has vowed to pursue its offensive after a pause for Deby’s funeral, with spokesman Kingabe Ogouzeimi de Tapol telling AFP that the rebels were “en route to N’Djamena”.
On Monday — the day of his reported death — the army had claimed a “great victory”, saying it had killed more than 300 FACT rebels and captured 150 others, with the loss of five soldiers.
– Unstable country –
Allies of the late leader had moved swiftly to ensure power remained in their hands, installing the younger Deby, w h ose nickname is “Kaka”, as president and head of a transitional military council while dissolving parliament and the government.
The younger Deby until now had commanded the top-notch Republican Guard.
His father seized power in a chronically unstable country in 1990 and had twice thwarted attempted coups with support from France.
He was repeatedly returned to office in elections denounced by opponents as fraudulent.
But he gained a reputation in the West for his reliability in the fight to roll back jihadists, whose campaign has shaken the vast, impoverished region.
Chad has well-respected armed forces and hosts the headquarters of France’s 5,100-strong Barkhane anti-jihadist mission.
It also partners Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a regional anti-jihad coalition called the G5 Sahel.
– French armoured escort –
Macron was the only Western head of state to attend the funeral.
French armoured vehicles escorted Macron to the embassy after his arrival at the military base used for Barkhane’s headquarters, an AFP journalist saw.
The African Union (AU) was being represented by its current chair, President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the European Union by its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.
The funeral was to be followed by prayers at the capital’s Grand Mosque.
Deby’s remains will be flown a thousand kilometres (600 miles) east to the village of Amdjarass near the Sudanese border, where he will be buried alongside his father close to his birthplace of Berdoba.
Nigeria collapsing, agitations should be solved through dialogue — Bishop
Bishop Hilary Dachelem, of the Catholic Diocese of Bauchi in Nigeria, expressed concern over the ongoing killings in Nigeria, adding that the country is falling apart.
The bishop, who spoke at a press conference at St. John’s Cathedral in the diocese of Bauchi on Thursday, May 6, urged the government to dialogue with various groups agitating in the country, rather than sweeping it aside under the carpet.
Noting that in the past, crime was minimal in the country, Bishop Dachelem said: “This is certainly not the Nigeria we used to know; we are facing a different Nigeria. The Nigeria we used to know was a free country and it was not as if there was no crime then but it was minimal and not at the alarming rate that it is now.
“There were pockets of issues but they were not too overwhelming. Those who were into crime and criminality were very insignificant compared to the entire number; but now, I don’t know if the majority of us are criminals, more or less.
“In the former Nigeria we knew, you could go anywhere at any time; we had armed robberies but they weren’t as prevalent as what we have today, so much, that a governor is afraid of traveling, even a governor is attacked by bandits
“If a governor who has all the paraphernalia of security at his disposal is also suffering from this, if we don’t do anything, we know that we are already heading for a doom.
“Nigeria is indeed sick because it doesn’t carry the integrity of a federal nation; it doesn’t carry what a corporate nation should be. Nigeria is not okay, not what it should be, something is definitely wrong somewhere.
“If you open the television, people want to know ‘where is the place that people have been kidnapped, who and who have died? How many? Where?’ This is the anxiety that people are attacked because we have acculturated ourselves with the culture of death and it is sad.
“If we are comfortable with the culture of death, one day, we will kill everybody and all of us will wake up and there is no Nigeria.
Speaking of the secessionist movement underway in the southern regions of the country, the bishop said; “Agitations by various groups across the country should not be swept under the carpet but must be solved through dialogue.”
Nigeria has witnessed a series of attacks by Boko Haram and other Islamic terrorists, including Fulani herders who seek to transform the Africa’s most populous nation into an Islamic state.
Dachelem added that, “Nigeria is a nation that is collapsing, almost a nation in moribund with the way it is going”.
Do not assist or sell weapons to Nigeria — Kanu writes to US
The rights activist and leader of the indigenous peoples of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has called on the United States not to assist or sell arms to Nigeria.
Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Nigeria in April asked for assistance and arms from the United States, saying it was for fighting terrorism in the country.
But in a letter dated May 1, 2021, Kanu listed the reasons why United States President Joe Biden should decline the request.
The letter to Biden reads as follows:
Honorable Joe Biden
United States of America
The White House
Re: REQUEST FOR UNITED STATES MILITARY ASSISTANCE BY PRESIDENT MOHAMMADU BUHARI OF NIGERIA
Dear Mr. President:
We, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) applaud your election as President of the United States, the most powerful office in the history of the world. We salute your adept and muscular discharge of presidential duties during your tenure in the White House.
Mr President, as you consider Buhari’s request for military assistance to Nigeria, we respectfully urge you to also consider the following:
1. President Buhari has made Nigeria the most dangerous country in the world for Christians, Jews and Nigeria’s indigenous peoples, particularly those of the former Republic of Biafra. Hundreds of thousands are routinely plundered, tortured or killed with impunity by Nigerian security forces controlled and populated by Buhari’s Fulani Islamic tribesmen, often in collaboration with Fulani herdsmen (Islamist terrorist group that has been internationally branded the 4th deadliest terrorist grouping in the world). These atrocities have been confirmed and published by US State Department in its various Human Rights Reports on Nigeria, by Amnesty International and other credible bodies. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended listing Nigeria as a country of concern because of its religious oppressions. United States sales or transfers of weapons to Nigeria to fight Boko Haram are diverted to killing and terrorizing Christians and Jews. The Nigerian army, which leadership is Fulani and Islamist is complicit in these illicit transfers.
2. President Buhari is promoting radical Islam in secular Nigeria. He has endorsed Sharia law in twelve northern Nigerian states. He has treated Boko Haram with kid gloves, releasing from detention hundreds arrested by the previous administration. He recruited them into Nigerian army and offered generous foreign scholarship to hundreds of them. He has appointed radical Muslims to head every security agency in Nigeria, including Sheik Isa Pantami whose profuse support for Al Qaeda and Taliban was widely published recently. Yet, Mr Buhari has refused to sack him from his sensitive position as Minister of Communication overseeing the biometric data of Nigerians. By defending Sheik Pantami, Mr Buhari is seemingly aligning with Mr Pantami’s terrorist sympathies. Mr Buhari is a strong ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran and China; and he has generally pursued policies that put Nigeria at odds with US national interest since you came to office.
3. President Buhari is conducting a genocidal campaign against tens of millions of Christians and Jews, particularly those indigenous to the former Republic of Biafra. These include mass killings, torture, and the destruction of Christian schools, churches and Jewish synagogues. He has arbitrarily branded and terrorized the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a nonviolent group pursuing the Independence of the former Republic of Biafra. Mr Buhari’s draconian measures were geared to retaliating against peaceful demonstrations favoring the restoration of Biafran independence that was cruelly extinguished by a genocidal military campaign Buhari partly led between 1967 and 1970. He has concocted treason charges against IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu to crush Biafran self-determination, despite the fact that self-determination is legal under Nigerian law. Mr. Buhari’s demonic rule is convulsing Nigeria and creating new safe havens for radical Islamic terrorists that pose potent threat to US interests, from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea.
1, We respectfully suggest that you consider, among other things, denying weapons sales or transfers to Nigeria under the Leahy Amendment; listing Nigeria complicit in persecuting Christian and Jews under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
2, We respectfully urge Mr President to invoke particularly Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, which prohibits the furnishing of assistance authorized by the FAA and the Arms Export Control Act to any foreign security force unit where there is credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
In conclusion, we state categorically that the national interests of the United States lie in protecting Christians and Jews in Nigeria, defeating radical Islam and preventing instability in West Africa which will altogether be enhanced by a US-led diplomatic pressure on the Nigerian government to – as a matter of urgency – agree to a UN-supervised referendum on Biafran Independence.
We wish you and your family many wonderful years in the White House.
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu
Leader, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)
Rwanda in talks to produce COVID-19 vaccines
The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently seeking to establish permanent vaccine production capacity in regions where this is currently mostly absent.
Under the initiative targeting low and middle-income countries, WHO plans to expand capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines and scale-up manufacturing to increase global access.
President Paul Kagame this week told the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, co-chaired by Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that the only way to ensure vaccine equity is to produce more vaccines where they are needed.
“Rwanda is working with partners to bring the first mRNA manufacturing facility to Africa. So long as Africa remains dependent on other regions for vaccines, we will always be at the back of the queue, whenever there is scarcity,” President Kagame said.
Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of Primary Healthcare, said, “The government is looking for a way to produce the vaccine from Rwanda. It is one way to acquire the vaccine for Rwanda but also for Africa. There is hope. Rwanda is negotiating with partners who are willing to manufacture the vaccines from Rwanda. I cannot say exactly when but there is hope that the negotiations will be fruitful.”
Rwanda needs at least 13 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 60 percent of the population, about 7.5 million people, by June 2022. So far, only 4 percent have received the first dose of the vaccine.
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