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Boko Haram faction backed by the Islamic State group overrun Nigerian troops in Gudumbali

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Boko Haram jihadists were in control of a town in northeast Nigeria on Saturday after sacking a military base, in the latest attack that raises questions about claims they are weakened to the point of defeat.

Local officials and security sources said scores of fighters believed to be loyal to a Boko Haram faction backed by the Islamic State group overran troops in Gudumbali.

At least eight civilians were believed to have been killed, while thousands of others fled to neighbouring towns.

Gudumbali, in the Guzamala area of Borno state, is Boko Haram’s first major seizure in two years and comes after a series of recent attacks on troops.

The authorities and the military have been encouraging people displaced by violence in the long-running conflict to return to Guzamala, insisting it is safe to do so.

But aid agencies say minimum levels of basic services, including shelter, civilian infrastructure and security are still lacking.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general, was elected in 2015 on a promise to defeat Boko Haram and is seeking a second term of office at polls in February.

The Gudumbali attack will again raise questions about his claims to have “technically defeated” the group and that Borno state was now in a “post-conflict stabilisation phase”

An official of the Guzamala local government area, of which Gudumbali is the headquarters, confirmed troops had been pushed out of the town and Boko Haram was in “full control”.

A military source in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, said the attack began at about 7:50 pm (1850 GMT) on Friday and lasted until the early hours of Saturday, “when troops were forced to withdraw”.

Local civilian militia member Musa Ari said: “So far eight civilians, who were errand boys for troops, were believed to have been killed in the attack.”

But “most civilians were spared because the attack was targeted at the military base”, he added.

The IS-backed faction — known as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) — has vowed to hit only “hard” military or government targets.

It is reportedly trying to get the support of local populations in the Muslim-majority region.

Ari said soldiers and residents fled Gudumbali to Damasak, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, on the border with Niger.

Others escaped south towards Gajiram, where nine soldiers were killed in a similar attack in June.

Nigerian Army spokesman Brigadier General Texas Chukwu said he was “not aware” of the latest attack.

  • Increasing strength –

ISWAP fighters led by Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi were last month blamed for an attack in Zari village, just 50 kilometres away from Gudumbali, which killed 48 soldiers.

In July, dozens of troops were said to have been killed, wounded or missing in a similar attack on a base in Jilli village, across the border in Yobe state.

Yan St-Pierre, head of the Modern Security Consulting Group, said the Gudumbali attack was “another demonstration of ISWAP’s increasing capabilities and level of strength”.

“They’ve been able in recent months to attack larger, more important targets with increasing frequency and success,” the counter-terrorism specialist told AFP.

“It is likely to get worse because ISWAP is not only adapting to changing circumstances but benefiting from the changing dynamics in the Sahel as well.”

The Nigerian military regularly trumpets successes against Boko Haram and has strongly condemned any reports of significant troop losses.

But there are indications of disquiet in the ranks, mirroring the situation four years ago when Boko Haram ran rampant across the northeast.

Then, under-equipped troops in some instances refused to deploy.

A military counter-insurgency has since driven out Boko Haram from captured territory, including Gudumbali, which was captured in 2014.

But aid agencies providing food, shelter and healthcare to 1.8 million displaced by the conflict, say much of the hard-to-reach countryside remains in Boko Haram control.

Last month, hundreds of soldiers protested at the airport in Maiduguri, for several hours, shooting into the air and disrupting flights.

They complained about being battle weary and needing home leave after sometimes years on the frontlines.

St Pierre said Nigeria’s military needed to break the cycle by acknowledging its tactics against the insurgents were not working and by addressing low morale.

If it does not, “it will simply never be in a position to defeat them”, he added. ref: AFP

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USAfrica: 60 years since masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, ACHEBE Lives on. By Chido Nwangwu

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60 years since masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, ACHEBE Lives on

By Chido Nwangwu

Chinua Achebe, prophet and great writer, who was born on November 16, 1930, will be remembered forever for what he did in 1958. 

In 1958, Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, was released and he told the conflicted story of Okonkwo, communal life, clash of faiths, dynamics of the clash of cultures and more, set in pre-colonial and colonial Umuofia, of the Igbo nation.

In the assessment of U.S former President Barack Obama, it is “A true classic of world literature… a masterpiece that has inspired generations of writers in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.”

Since 1958, with the masterpiece work, Things Fall Apart, five important historical benchmarks became evident:

First, Achebe laid the foundation for the modern African literature. Whereby the stories and narratives about Africa and Africans hold our perspectives and values amidst the realities of a global market. 

Princeton University’s professor of philosophy, Kwame Anthony Appiah, hit the proverbial nail on its head when he said that “In every English and non-English speaking country on the planet, if you ask a student to name just one African novel, it is most likely to be Things Fall Apart by Achebe. It is the beginning of the African canon. it is difficult to think of anything else without it.” Like him, I believe Achebe’s works are rich fountains of knowledge for credible and engaging understanding of African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history and realities.

On February 18, 2002, a distinguished jury of scholars and critics (from 13 countries of African life and literature) selected Achebe as the writer of the Best book, ‘Things Fall Apart.’

Second, he firmed up the prologue for taking on the litany of Euro-Caucasian racist “scholars” who “objectified” Africa and African lives.

In Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and other works, the centrality of Chi (God) attains an additional clarity in the Igbo cosmology. I’ve studied, lived and tried to better understand, essentially, the towering moral certainties which Achebe have employed in most of his works.

Also, it is a world which prefers a quasi-capitalistic business attitude to life while taking due cognizance of the usefulness of the whole, the community. .

Bottomline: in the Achebe accurate and contextual depiction of pre-colonial Igbo life, the rewards for hardwork/farming are wealth and family! 

Third, in an era of grammatical overload, obscurantism and verbosity, he entered the arena with what I commend as the yet unmatched, uniquely Achebesque style and structure of simplicity, clarity, accessibility and organic lucidity. Achebe is good!

Prof. Achebe, Africa’s most acclaimed and fluent writer of the English Language, our pathfinder, the intellectual godfather of millions of Africans and lovers of the fine art of good writing, was only 28 years when he wrote the classic, Things Fall Apart, in 1958, long before I was born. 

Fourth, between 1958 and 2013, amidst a body of first rate works, he will be remembered as one of history’s great witnesses and chroniclers. Other than ‘Things Fall Apart’ (1958), some of Achebe’s other major books are ‘No Longer at Ease’ (1960), ‘Arrow of God’ (1964; rev. 1974); In 1983, Achebe wrote the often quoted pamphlet, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria.’ In the latter, he cited the litany of failures of the leaders and pointed the way forward; ‘Anthills of the Savannah’ (1987) and his notes and memoir on Biafra titled ‘There Was a Country’ (2012). Those works and his civic, moral conscience placed him on a pedestal which I characterize as the power and permanence of Chinua Achebe! Consequently, he lives in our hearts and minds as an immortal writer!

Fifth, on the critical questions regarding why Achebe become a writer; and why he wrote Things Fall Apart? He revealed: “In the end, I began to understand there is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like.”

For him, there’s an organic relationship between writing as education and the building of a better society. Recall that the prolific Achebe wrote in 1975 in his work ‘Morning Yet on Creation Day’ that “The writer cannot be excused from the task of re-education and regeneration that must be done.”

I recall flying back to the U.S. (from South Africa to New York) to attend Prof. Achebe’s 70th birthday at the historic Bard College (November 3-4, 2000) and its related conference titled, ‘Home and Exile: Achebe at 70″. Achebe was in the midst of his friends and some of the best writers in the world. He mentioned “how everyone has spoken so nicely of me, this evening….” Then, came his one sentence punchline commentary on the gross grandiosity of African leaders: “If I were a military dictator, these two days of November would have been declared national holidays!” He burst into laughter. That’s vintage Achebean sarcasm.

By the year 2020, USAfrica projects Achebe’s magnum opus, Things Fall Apart, would have been translated into 75 languages, and sold almost 25 million copies and listed among the world’s best 50 novels. 

In the full, honest context of the litany of calamities, catastrophes and crimes across Nigeria, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and many communities, may I conclude with the poem written in 1919 titled The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) — from where Achebe gave the  title for his 1958 novel: 

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre

    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

    The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity”

Long live Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko!

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Dr. Chido Nwangwu, analyst on CNN & SKY news,  moderator of the Achebe Colloquium (Governance, Security, and Peace in Africa) December 7-8, 2012 at Brown University in Rhode Island and former adviser on Africa business to the Mayor of Houston, is the Founder & Publisher of Houston-based USAfrica multimedia networks since 1993, first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com

Chido is completing the 2019 book titled MLK, MANDELA & ACHEBE: Power, Leadership and Identity.  E-mail: Chido@USAfricaonline.com

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Gabon President Ali Bongo recovering from an undisclosed illness in Saudi Arabia

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Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba is recovering from an undisclosed illness in Saudi Arabia and still performing his duties, according to a statement released on Sunday amid mounting speculation about his health.

The issue is a particularly sensitive one in the Central African nation. When Bongo’s father died in 2009 after more than four decades in power, Gabonese officials angrily denied French media reports of his death for almost a day, and shut down the internet in the country for several hours.

The statement said that Ali Bongo was suffering dizziness at his hotel in Riyad, Saudi Arabia on Oct. 24 when he sought medical care at King Faysal Hospital.

The information about the president’s health is “extremely reassuring” and the president “continues to perform his duties,” the presidency said.

The communique came amid a swirl of rumors over the president’s health back home in the Central African nation. Some media reports suggested that Bongo had suffered a stroke, though government spokesman Ike Ngouoni cautioned people about “fake news”.

“It would be in his interest entirely to make his presence. I think they’re not putting him in front of the cameras intentionally,” said Douglas A. Yates, a Paris-based Gabon expert.

One of the world’s largest producers of oil, Gabon’s wealth is far from evenly distributed. About a third of the population, estimated to be below 2 million people, live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

The elder Bongo, who ruled the oil-rich nation from 1967 until his 2009 death, was viewed by many as the father of the nation. His time in power, though, was dogged by allegations of corruption and the use of oil profits for personal luxuries, including properties in several European and American cities, and lavish trips abroad.

Ali Bongo won a special presidential election that was held a few months after his father’s death. The opposition claimed it was rigged.

In 2016, protesters took to the streets of the capital, Libreville, and the Parliament building was burned after Bongo’s opponent, Jean Ping, accused Bongo of vote-rigging. The European Union, the United States, and France also expressed concerns about some of the results. Gabon’s constitutional court later upheld Bongo’s victory. AP

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Gunmen abduct Catholic priests in southern Nigeria

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“They were abducted on their way to Ekpoma, Edo state, from Delta for an event,” he added, saying police and local security were hunting for the gunmen.

A source at the Warri Catholic diocese in Delta State confirmed the incident, which comes less than three weeks after five Catholic nuns were kidnapped in Delta State.

The nuns were released two weeks later, and a suspect was in custody, said Aniamaka. He would not say if a ransom had been paid.

Several sources confirm that the nuns had been returning from a burial ceremony in the southeast Nigeria when they were abducted by gunmen who opened fire on their vehicles, injuring two other nuns.

In January, Nigeria’s bishops denounced a wave of kidnappings for ransom in the country.

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