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Jihadists kill 27 in Mali, as military junta leans on Russian mercenaries

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The Malian army has confirmed that one of its camps in central Mali was attacked by jihadists on Friday, killing 27 soldiers, 33 soldiers were injured while seven are missing.  

The Mondoro (military) base which was attacked is near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and has previously been targeted by jihadists fighting the Malian state and foreign forces. The Malian troop was however able to neutralise 47 “terrorists”.

The Mali War started in January 2012 between the northern and southern parts of Mali in Africa with several insurgent groups, Jihadist and separatist fighters with  affiliations with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group  began fighting a campaign against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali, which they called Azawad. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make this area of Mali an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, had taken control of the region by April 2012.

A peace deal between the government and Tuareg rebels was signed on 18 June 2013, however on 26 September 2013 the rebels pulled out of the peace agreement and claimed that the government had not respected its commitments to the truce. Fighting is still ongoing even though French forces are scheduled for withdrawal. A ceasefire agreement was signed on 19 February 2015 in Algiers, Algeria, but sporadic terrorist attacks still occur. 

French military source told newsmen that hundreds of jihadists attacked the camp of around 150 soldiers close to 0600 GMT, putting the death toll between 40 and 50. He also revealed that the jihadists seized 21 vehicles, including tanks, and injured more than 20 soldiers, the source added.

The source’s claim is a contradiction to Mali’s army official statement which noted the attack happened around 0530 GMT.

The source said Mali’s army did not request support from France’s Barkhane military operation because the camp was “where Barkhane was asked not to operate, probably because of the presence of Wagner mercenaries”, referring to the Russian paramilitary group.

Until recently, French-led military intervention ousted jihadists who were taking control of northern Mali and troops remained to provide support for anti-terrorist operations. But deteriorating relations with Mali’s new military leaders, who seized power in a 2020 coup, have prompted France to reconsider its role in the country.

It is reported that at the heart of the rift between France and authorities in Bamako is whether Mali should enter into negotiations with the jihadist groups that continue to rampage across the north and centre of the country. Bamako is in favour of opening discussions while Paris sees negotiations with jihadists as a red line that must not be crossed.

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South Africa: Opposition, DA want findings on alleged arms supply to Russia public

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South African opposition party, the Democratic Alliance has vowed to challenge the decision by the presidency to keep from the public, findings from recent arm supply allegations.

The follows allegations by United States Ambassador, Reuben Brigety that South Africa provided ammunition to Russia by ship. Brigety said the US was sure that contrary to its public claim of being non-aligned in the Russia/Ukraine crisis, South Africa supplied arms to Vladimir Putin’s army in December.

Following the allegation, President Ramaphosa launched an investigation to be conducted by an independent body which will be led by retired Deputy Justice Phineas Mojapelo, advocate Leah Gcabashe, and former justice minister Enver Surty. Meanwhile, his spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya said the government would withhold the panel’s findings.

Magwenya said the terms of reference for the inquiry would not be gazetted or published.

“The investigation covers issues of national security and classified information, which is protected from disclosure,” he said.

“This inquiry has been instituted in a similar manner to the inquiry that investigated the July 2021 riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and the value of its report remains unchallenged.

“The panel will be supported in gathering the information that is necessary to fulfil its mandate by letters from the president instructing all relevant government entities as identified by the panel to cooperate fully with the panel or face disciplinary sanction,” he said.

“The work of the panel will not be public, nor will its report be made public. The president will speak to any actions that may result with respect to national security. This is provided for within our secrecy laws as per the nature of this matter,” he added.

In a statement, the DA said it would not ” leave this secrecy unchallenged. We have already submitted an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act to obtain a copy of the panel’s terms of reference. And we are obtaining legal advice to challenge Ramaphosa’s plan to hide the report once it is complete.”

The party leader, John Steenhuisen argued that keeping the report private “undermines the ability of prosecutors and the public to hold guilty parties accountable for any such violations of the law”.

“Hiding this report from public view will rob the people of South Africa – and of the world – of the opportunity to see the full facts of this matter.

“Refusing to disclose the complete picture of how the ANC-led government allegedly smuggled weapons to arm Russia’s war in Ukraine and various parts of Africa will also undermine the very purpose of the investigation.”

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Zimbabwe’s electoral commission, ZEC promises to publicise voters’ register

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The electoral commission in Zimbabwe said it would soon publish the voters’ register for the forthcoming general elections.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) also assured the public of a fair election and promised to rectify anomalies that were observed during the voters’ inspection exercise.

The head of ZEC, Utloile Silaigwana made the position known when he announced the end of the mop-up voter registration exercise on Friday.

Silaigwana further revealed that the Nomination court would sit on 21 June and thereafter the voters’ roll would be accessible to candidates.

There are contentions about the neutrality of the electoral commission. In March, a member of the opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Allan Markham filed a court application challenging ZEC for access to the electronic voters’ roll but had his request rejected because “it was too risky” and in the interest of data protection.

Meanwhile, the ruling party, Zanu PF sent text messages to registered voters during the period urging them to vote for President Emmerson Mnangagwa. This move further fuelled the allegation that Zanu PF had access to the voters’ roll which is why it was able to send the messages.

President Mnangagwa is running for re-election to a second term after coming to power following a military coup that dislodged Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president in 2017.

The country is struggling with deep poverty, recurring power outages, and crippling unemployment, all of which have fuelled widespread resentment.

The President of Zimbabwe is elected using a two-round system. The Zimbabwean legislature is made up of 270 members of the National Assembly, 210 members elected in single-member constituencies, and 60 women elected by proportional representation in ten six-seat constituencies based on the country’s provinces.

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