Also today: Egypt and Ivory Coast reach Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals; Senegal’s president offers Haitians a new home; Somali Islamists al-Shabaab say they’ve got into bed with Yemeni radicals.
Guinea coup leader stays put in Burkina Faso
Pretty much everybody has welcomed Guinea’s announcement that coup leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara will not return to the country for several months. He’s the guy who was shot in the head by an aide who feared being blamed for the massacre of nearly 200 civilians last year, after tens of thousands of demonstrators protested Camara’s decision to run for president in 2010 elections. The African Union is relieved, because Guinea is the latest thorn in the flesh of the continent’s body politic. Camara, who is now convalescing in Burkina Faso, has agreed to let his deputy, General Sekouba Konate, lead the country while his brain recovers. It’s been tricky getting to this point though. Last week Camara thought he was going back home to take up the reins again, after Konate opened talks with opposition leaders about moving toward civilian rule. Some of Camara’s supporters don’t want that to happen, so Burkina Faso’s president, Blaise Compaore – who’s mediating the crisis – told Camara he was staying put. Now the junta says Camara supports the transition to civilian rule. And nearly everybody’s ecstatic about that. Photo: Reuters/Luc Gnago.
Egypt and Ivory Coast reach Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinals
Reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions Egypt reached the last eight of the continent’s premier tournament with a 2-0 victory over Mozambique on Saturday.
It was the Mozambicans who looked the side to beat in the first half, but the Egyptians obliquely found the net after the break when a Mozambique defender scored an own goal. Mohamed Gedo made sure of the result in the dying minutes with a volley from the edge of the box.
In an earlier game, Nigeria beat Benin 1-0.
Egypt has won a record 15 matches in a row in the Cup, putting them on course for a third successive title and a record seventh title overall. They next play Benin on Wednesday, while Mozambique must beat Nigeria to stand any chance of going forward.
Sunday night’s games saw Gabon move closer to the knock-out stages of the tournament in a hard-fought 0-0 draw with Tunisia, while Cameroon revived their chances of reaching the last eight after beating Zambia 3-2 with a late header.
Photo: Mohamadou Idrissou of Cameroon (R) gestures as Samuel Eto’o runs to congratulate him after he scored the winning goal against Zambia in the African Cup of Nations Group D soccer matches at the Angolan city of Lubango, January 17, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly
Friday’s game between Burkina Faso and Togo was cancelled after the tragic separatist attack on Togo’s team bus in Angola’s Cabinda province saw them leave the Cup, but Ivory Coast beat Ghana 3-1, becoming the first team to reach the last eight.
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Senegal’s president offers Haitians a new home
It’s a really grand gesture, but the offer by Senegal’s president of free land to people devastated by Haiti’s earthquake could lead to who knows what. President Abdoulaye Wade says Haitians are sons and daughters of Africa, including some thought to be from Senegal, so he’s offering “voluntary repatriation” to any Haitian who wants to return to their origins. Presumably, would-be returnees would be carefully screened, to make sure they didn’t have murder raps or other nasty things hanging over their heads. And to ensure they aren’t among the looters who are terrorising Port-au-Prince. Senegal’s regional West African neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone were widely populated by returnee former slaves, and they ended up fighting brutal civil wars. The Senegalese say they’re ready to offer Haitians an entire region, depending on how many want to come, and that, if they’re given a region, it’ll be in a fertile part of the country rather than in the desert. Fabulous offer, but it really sounds a bit daft. One can only wonder what local villagers think.
Somali Islamists al-Shabaab say they’ve got into bed with Yemeni radicals
It’s everything the US fears: an expansion of Al Qaeda’s terror. Al-Shabaab, a radical Somali Islamist group that controls far too much of Somalia, now says its swapping fighters with rebel groups in Yemen. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian-born man who tried to take down Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day, was said to have been schooled and equipped by Al Qaeda in Yemen, so expect the US to respond negatively to this news. Al-Shabaab’s ideology is far more radical than the Islam traditionally practiced in Somalia, and although a spokesman for the group told the BBC it doesn’t have any formal links with al-Qaeda, the Americans say it definitely does. Al-Shabaab claims it’s only fighting the West’s oppression of places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. On home soil, it regularly pummels a Western-backed government protected by some 5,000 African Union troops, who control a tiny part of the capital Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab also told the Beeb that if American troops were ever again sent to Somalia they would suffer the same fate they did in 1993, when they were dragged dead through the streets of Mogadishu. The movie Black Hawk Down gives a Hollywood take of events around that nasty little episode. It wasn’t pretty.
South Sudan leader to campaign on home ground, doesn’t want national presidency
Southern Sudanese leader, Salva Kiir, says he doesn’t want to vie for the post of national president. That means he’s likely to concentrate on gaining secession for the country’s southern region, as part of a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war between the Arab north and black African south. Instead, his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party will field a northern Muslim, Yassir Arman, in the national elections due in April, to try to depose long-time President Omar al-Bashir. It’s likely Bashir will win the election, despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for his role in years of bloodshed in the country’s western province of Darfur. The SPLM joined a unity government in Khartoum after the war ended in 2005, but relations between the former foes are less than cordial. The politicians are fighting about how to share the wealth of the oil-rich south, but nearly 75% of Sudan’s population lives in the north, so, along with many disagreements over democratic reforms and acknowledgement that Darfuris have legitimate grievances, this election hasn’t even got started yet.
Algerian gas giant does deal with Total consortium
Algeria’s state-owned energy giant Sonatrach and a consortium led by oil major Total will invest up to $2 billion in the country’s gas fields by 2014. The announcement comes just after Mohamed Meziane, Sonatrach’s chief executive, was suspended amid allegations over irregular company tenders and security contracts. Sonatrach supplies Europe with a lot of gas, so the firm’s vice-president, Abdelhafid Feghouli, was immediately appointed as Meziane’s stand-in. The government in Algiers wants to maintain the stability of its primary source of income, as gas exports make up almost a third of gross domestic product. So, it looks like it’s business as usual while authorities look into Meziane’s affairs.
Jamaican race-hate cleric fuels Islamic fires in Kenya
The Kenyans are having a really hard time trying to deport an unwanted Jamaican cleric, who has already spent jail-time in Britain for preaching racial hatred. The man got sent back to Kenya after his Nigerian transit visa ran out. He was on his way to the tiny West African state of The Gambia, and supposedly then on to Jamaica, but airlines and numerous nations didn’t want him in transit, and the Jamaicans don’t want him back at all. Now Abdullah al-Faisal is back in a Kenyan jail, incensing local Muslim groups, who say that the state hasn’t laid charges against him. This sparked pitched battles in Nairobi, with reports that up to seven people have died. Many of the protesters were Somali nationals, some of whom carried flags identifying themselves with Somalia’s radical Islamist group al- Shabaab. This will frighten the Kenyans, because neighbouring Somalia has suffered anarchy for decades, and they fear any spill-over could ignite feelings among Kenya’s Muslim population.
Rush is on for Ugandan oil fields
The battle is on for Uganda’s new-found oil wealth, after London-based Tullow Oil exercised its right to buy Ugandan oil fields around Lake Albert. Tullow’s partner Heritage Oil had earlier agreed to sell the blocks for $1.5 billion to Italian firm Eni. They contain some two billion barrels of oil, so the move could now stymie Eni’s plans to get into Uganda. It’s not yet clear what this means, as Tullow co-owns two of the blocks, and owns 100% of another. But last year it began a process of selling up to 50% of its Ugandan holdings, so it looks like the Heritage assets will now be included in the package, upping the price of the whole deal.
The 2016 Rio Olympic medals are already showing defects including rusting and chipping.