The White House announced on Thursday, that US counterterrorism operation in Yemen had killed Qassim al-Rimi, the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the first official confirmation since a drone attack on 25 January.
“At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi,” the White House said in a statement.
“His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qa’ida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”
The Trump administration gave no further details about the killing or the military operation.
The counter-terrorism strike reportedly occurred on 25 January. Yemeni tribal leaders said the drone strike destroyed a building housing al-Qaeda militants.
The tribal leaders said the drone strike took place in the Wadi Ubaidah area in the eastern province of Marib. The area is known as a stronghold for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, as the Yemeni affiliate is known.
They said at least three explosions rocked the area, and that the building was set ablaze.
Trump last week retweeted several tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation the January 25 strike killed top al-Qaeda leader Qassim al-Rimi.
Thursday’s statement was the first official confirmation by the White House.
Rimi was previously targeted by Trump in February 2017 when the first raid ordered by the new president was against the AQAP chief. That raid failed and left 23 civilians, including an 8-year-old US citizen, dead.
Rimi had led AQAP since his predecessor Nasser al-Wohaishi was killed by a drone strike in 2015.
In the ongoing conflict between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabia-backed government, AQAP has supported the Yemeni government, whose president and prime minister live in exile in Saudi Arabia.
Still, the Yemeni government has denied that its forces fight alongside AQAP.
“The Yemeni government does not want to admit that AQAP militants fight with pro-government forces, so as to avoid the international sanctions of supporting al-Qaeda,” Ibrahim al-Yasri, an independent political analyst for the Yemen Media Guide Centre for Development, previously told Middle East Eye.
President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja today to attend the 33rd Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Buhari will join leaders from the 55-member countries of the African Union to participate in the Summit with the theme, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”
The President will attend the 29th Forum of Heads of State and Government of Participating States of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the 27th Session of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (AUDA-NEPAD). The meetings will precede the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly.
In Nigeria’s capacity as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council, President Buhari will participate in the High Level meeting of the Peace and Security Council on the situation in the Sahel and Libya, and High Level Ad-Hoc Committee on South Sudan.
On the margins of the Summit, the President will deliver a keynote address at a High Level Side Event on “Stop the War on Children: Dividend of Silencing the Guns.” The event is co-sponsored by the Governments of Nigeria, Uganda and Norway, and Save the Children International.
President Buhari and the Nigerian delegation will also participate in other High Level Side Events in furtherance of Nigeria’s national, regional and international goals, priorities and aspirations namely, peace and security, countering terrorism and violent extremism, economic development, asset recovery and fight against corruption.
The President will also hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders on the margins of the Summit.
At the end of the AU Summit on February 10, the Nigerian President will commence a State Visit to Ethiopia on February 11, at the invitation of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed.
The visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between Nigeria and Ethiopia and reinforcing cooperation in key areas of mutual interest between the two countries.
Before returning to Abuja, President Buhari will also interact with the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia.
The President will be accompanied by Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Senator Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Yusuf Baba, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Others are: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Defence, Major-Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd); Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Princess Gloria Akobundu, National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Nigeria.
Also on the President’s entourage are, the National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd), and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.
President Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.
The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has expressed outrage over the killing of eight “peaceful protesters” in Iraq on Wednesday.
In a statement on Thursday evening, Pompeo urged the Iraqi government to take immediate steps to hold the perpetrators accountable and address the protesters’ legitimate grievances.
The incident occurred when supporters of radical cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, stormed an anti-government protest camp in the southern city of Najaf.
Media reports quoted medical sources as saying no fewer than 20 others were wounded in the violence, which followed attempts by the al-Sadr’s supporters to clear the camp.
Anti-government protesters have been on the streets of Baghdad and Najaf since Oct. 1, 2019 over alleged rampant government corruption, unemployment and poor services.
Al-Sadr, who was said to have initially backed the uprising, later aligned with the government and urged his supporters to assist security forces in dismantling the movement.
According to the News, Pompeo stated that no fewer than 600 protesters had been killed and thousands injured since the uprising started.
“We are outraged by the violence perpetrated in the city of Najaf on Feb. 5 that led to the killing and wounding of peaceful demonstrators.
“Since October of last year, peaceful demonstrators have taken to the streets to urge government reform.
“They have been met with threats, brutal violence, and live fire attacks. It is unconscionable that the perpetrators continue to act with impunity.
“Political figures, who incite this violence and government leaders, who fail to take steps to protect rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be held to account”, Pompeo is quoted.
He said the “militias, thugs and vigilante groups”” in Najaf and other cities must be brought to justice for attacks against Iraqis “exercising their right to peaceful protest”.
“The Government of Iraq should immediately address the protesters legitimate grievances by enacting reforms and tackling corruption.
“To the courageous Iraqi people seeking reform and a government free of corruption and Iranian meddling, we offer Americas continued friendship and support.
“We reaffirm the United States enduring commitment to the Iraqi people and a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq,” the Secretary of State added.
China on Thursday said it would halve additional tariffs levied against 1,717 U.S. goods last year, following the signing of a Phase 1 deal that defused a bruising trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
While the announcement reciprocates the U.S. commitment under the deal, it is also seen by analysts as a move by Beijing to boost confidence amid a virus outbreak that has disrupted businesses and hit investor sentiment.
Casting doubts over the immediate outlook, however, was the prospect raised in a local media report that Beijing could invoke a disaster-related clause in the trade agreement, which might allow it to avoid repercussions even if it cannot fully meet the targeted purchases of U.S. goods and services for 2020.
Washington welcomed the tariff cuts as a “big step in the right direction,” but said it expected China to live up to its obligations under the Phase 1 trade deal despite the outbreak.
“We’re monitoring the virus carefully,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business Network. “But based on current information, I don’t expect there will be any issues in them fulfilling their commitments.”
China’s finance ministry said in a statement that starting Feb. 14, additional tariffs levied on some goods will be cut to 5% from 10% and others lowered to 2.5% from 5%.
The ministry did not state the value of the goods affected by the decision, but the products affected by the new rule are among $75 billion of goods hit by Chinese tariffs of 5% to 10% tariffs that came into effect on Sept. 1.
In a separate statement, the finance ministry said the tariff reduction corresponds with those announced by the United States on Chinese goods that are also scheduled for Feb. 14.
Further adjustments would depend on the development of the bilateral economic and trade situation, the ministry said.
The reductions will cut tariffs on soybeans from 30% to 27.5%, although some traders say the impact could be limited as the 25% tariffs remains in place. Duties on crude oil will fall to 2.5% from 5% that was imposed in September.
The remaining tariffs were scheduled to kick in Dec. 15 but were suspended due to the interim trade deal.
“Any move to de-escalate is always good,” said Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank in Singapore. “The announcement shows China’s commitment to implement the phase one trade deal despite the disruptions from the recent virus outbreak.”
The news buoyed financial markets, shoring up investor and business confidence at a time when the virus outbreak has cast deep uncertainty over the economic outlook.
The yuan hit its highest in two weeks, while Asian and U.S. stocks rallied following the announcement.
China’s finance ministry said it hopes both sides can abide by the trade deal and implement it to boost market confidence, push bilateral trade development and aid global economic growth.
Infinity Trust Mortgage Bank Plc has declared a final dividend of N3.5k per share for the period ended 31 December, 2019 on the back of its impressive recently released Full Year 2019 financial results.
This feat makes the mortgage bank the first company on the Nigerian bourse to declare a dividend this year.
According to the firm’s notice to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), posted on the latter’s website on Wednesday, the dividend “It will be paid to shareholders whose names appear in the Register of Members as at the close of business on the 6th of March, 2020.”
The register of shareholders will be closed from 9th March to 13th March 2020, preparatory to the payment. The qualification date is 6th March 2020.
The company says dividends will be paid electronically on 14th March 2020 to shareholders whose names feature on the members’ register as of 6th March 2020 and who also have completed the e-dividend registration and mandated the registrar to pay their dividends directly into their bank accounts.
In a related development, the company has timed its Annual General Meeting to hold on 7th May 2020 in Abuja.
Incorporated in January 2002 as Infinity Trust Savings & Loans Limited, it attained a Public Limited Liability Company status in 2013.
Infinity Trust currently trades on the floor of the NSE at N1.39 per share.
It is expected that telecommunication companies will block unregistered SIMs from functioning on their networks in line with the directive which came in the wake of increased killings and kidnapping for ransom and general insecurity.
The NCC was also directed to ensure that the National Identity Number (NIN) becomes a prerequisite for Nigerians registering new SIM cards, while for foreigners use their passports and visas. Already registered SIM cards are to be updated with the NIN before December 1, 2020.
The statement released by Dr. Femi Adeluyi, the technical advisor of the Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Ibrahim Pantami, reads;
“The revision of the policy is based on the feedback received from the security agencies, following the successful revalidation of improperly registered SIM cards in September 2019 and the blocking of those that failed to revalidate their SIMs.
“Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to revise the Policy on SIM Card registration and usage.
“This is in line with the Powers of the minister as stated in Section 25(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003- “the Minister shall, in writing, from time to time notify the Commission or and express his views on the general policy direction of the Federal Government in respect of the communications sector.
“The updated policy is expected to include the following provisions, amongst others:
Ensure that the National Identity Number (NIN) becomes a prerequisite for Nigerians registering new SIM cards (while for foreigners, their passports and visas should be used), while already registered SIM cards are to be updated with National Identity Number (NIN) before 1st December, 2020;
Ensure that only fully-accredited agents support the SIM card registration process without pre-registering SIM cards themselves, while the eventual registration should be done by the operators;
There should be a maximum number of SIM cards that can be tied to a single individual, possibly a maximum of three;
Ensure that no unregistered SIMs are ever allowed on mobile networks;
Ensure that subscribers can easily check the number of SIM cards registered to their name, along with the associated phone numbers and networks;
Ensure that mobile network operators fortify their networks against cyberattacks and ensure that they adhere to the provisions of the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR); and
Ensure that SIM cards that have been used to perpetrate crimes are permanently deactivated.
“The NCC is to provide the minister with progress reports on the implementation of the revised policy.”
Commenting on the directive, telecommunication operators said the new measures may not stop criminal activities in the country. The President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola said the next move by criminals will be to get as many NINs they need to register SIM cards for their nefarious activities.
Teniola listed the post-code system and digital address system as measures that worked in other climes including the United Kingdom (UK) and Ghana, as he urged the Minister to take the issue of the digital address system seriously.
Record-breaking NASA astronaut Christina Koch has returned to Earth today, February 6, 2020, after spending 328 days in space.
This is the longest single spaceflight by any woman.
Astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth alongside European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.
Koch has been living and working aboard the International Space Station to help scientists gather data for future missions to the Moon and Mars.
Koch is also only the second US astronaut to spend such a long time on the International Space Station (ISS) in a single spaceflight.
Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly holds the longest single spaceflight for US astronauts at 340 days, set during his one-year mission in 2015-16. In terms of overall time spent in space, she is now seventh on the list of US astronauts.
Christina Koch’s work on the ISS
During her record-breaking spaceflight, Koch has been a crew member for three expeditions — 59, 60 and 61. Her mission included participation in more than 210 investigations, helping advance the space agency’s goals to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars, NASA said.
Koch also participated in a number of studies to support those future exploration missions, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight. She also worked on the Microgravity Crystals investigation, which crystallizes a membrane protein that is integral to tumour growth and cancer survival.
During her spaceflight, Koch completed 5,248 orbits of Earth and a journey of 139 million miles, roughly the equivalent of 291 trips to the Moon and back. She also supported the arrivals and/or departures of more than a dozen Soyuz and cargo resupply spacecraft from the U.S., Japan, and Russia. Koch ventured outside the confines of the space station for six spacewalks during her mission, spending 42 hours and 15 minutes outside the station. Among those was the first all-woman spacewalk, which she conducted alongside NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
Dangers of long-time spaceflight
Long-time spaceflights are not good for the human body. NASA has gathered data about astronaut health and performance during the past 60 years and has focused recently on extended durations up to one year with the dedicated mission of astronauts like Scott Kelly, Peggy Whitson, Andrew Morgan, and Christina Koch.
NASA says that it has a rigorous training process to prepare astronauts for their missions, a thoroughly planned lifestyle and work regimen while in space, and a rehabilitation and reconditioning program for them after they return to Earth. It says that these measures help the human body remain robust and resilient even after spending nearly a year in space.
There is truly no place like our home: Earth.
Big Tim, a beloved elephant who was one of Africa’s last giant “tuskers”, has died, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said yesterday.
“The celebrated elephant died early Tuesday morning aged 50,” KWS said in a statement.
A survivor of poachers, Big Tim was found dead of natural causes in Amboseli National Park at the foot of the snowcapped peak of Kilimanjaro, the Amboseli Trust for Elephants said.
He was “a benevolent, slow-moving preserver of the peace at Amboseli,” KWS said. “He was well known and loved throughout Kenya.”
An elephant is technically a “tusker” when its ivory tusks are so long that they scrape the ground. Usually, only old bull elephants grow their tusks long enough to reach this acclaimed status.
But conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals with tusks that size are now left on the continent. This because poachers target the animals with the biggest ivory, and elephants with the heaviest tusks are most at risk.
With the big tuskers killed first, that reduces the gene pool; as a result most elephants in Africa today have smaller tusks than they did a century ago, scientists say.
Tim was named by researchers who called each elephant in the family herd they were monitoring by the same letter to help identify them; Tim was a member of the ‘T’ herd.
The giant pachyderm once roamed outside the national parks into farming lands and had survived poachers and angry farmers.
Vets once treated him for a spear that had gone through his ear and snapped off into his shoulder.
“Our hearts are broken,” said Wildlife Direct, a Nairobi-based conservation campaign group.
“Tim was one of Africa’s very few Super Tuskers, and an incredible elephant whose presence awed and inspired many. He was one of Kenya’s National Treasures.”
Big Tim’s body is being transported to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where a taxidermist will preserve Tim for display at the national museum, KWS said.
Poaching has seen the population of African elephants plunge by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Standard Chartered Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa and Middle East, Ms. Razia Khan, has projected a three per cent economic growth for Nigeria in 2020.
Khan, also projected that for the first time the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) would witness accelerated growth even as the global growth was predicted to decelerate. She also said that SSA growth would be powered by Nigeria and South Africa’s economies.
She said this during her presentation of Nigeria’s 2020 economic outlook, held in Lagos, yesterday.
Khan’s projected economic growth for Nigeria was slightly above the 2.9 percent growth rate President Mohammadu Buhari proposed in the 2020 budget.
According to her, “2020 is a year we might see SSA economies growing faster in the face of slowing global economy. Growth in the SSA will be driven by the two largest economies in Africa, namely Nigeria and South Africa.”
She predicted that oil price stability and increased crude oil production would power Nigeria’s economic growth 2020.
“We have positive view on Nigeria’s growth because of developments in the fiscal and monetary sectors that will drive more expansion in the Nigerian economy. We have not lowered our Nigeria’s GDP and oil price projection.”
One of the monetary policy stance of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that would bolster the economy in 2020, according to Khan, was the push for increased private sector lending, which has since unlocked N2 trillion in to the economy.
She also noted that the return of Nigeria’s budget cycle to January-December and early implementation of the fiscal policy tool would enhance the execution of capital projects.
“The difference in 2020 is that Nigeria has reverted to normal budget cycle as early implementation of capital projects will add stimulus to the economy.”
Other developments she identified that would encourage economic growth in 2020 were the enactments of Petroleum Sharing Contract Act of 2019 and the Finance Act 2019 that increased the Value Added Tax by 50 per cent, from five to 7.5 per cent.
However, Khan warned that the ability to ensure compliance to the above legislations would be where the challenge lies for the federal government, adding that previous VAT collection did not meet government’s projected revenue earning from it.
The Standard Chartered Bank’s chief economist also warned Nigeria to do away with the its age-long sharing of oil revenue every month during FAAC, and focus on diversifying the economy so as to earn more revenue from other sources.
She also noted that Nigeria’s problem was not high debt burden, but low revenue mobilisation.
She also projected that a prolonged case of the coronavirus would affect demand for oil and might add pressure on Nigeria’s foreign exchange market.
She, however, noted that the expectation of better GDP performance in 2020 would also depend on return of positive momentum capable of building confidence and attracting private sector investments to make Nigeria economy grow by offering them higher rate on return.
Daniel arap Moi – Kenya’s president from 1978 to 2002 – has died at the grand age of 95.
The only extended biography of Kenya’s longest-serving president was written by Andrew Morton, made famous for his account of the world’s glitterati – from Princess Diana and Madonna to David and Victoria Beckham.
In Moi: The Making of an African Statesman, Morton portrays Moi as a “traditional” African elder who understood the complexities of leading, uniting and developing a poor and predominantly rural community composed of at least 42 “tribes”.
Unsurprisingly, this exculpatory portrait never became a bestseller.
Moi is widely held responsible for a regime that bore witness to, and benefited from, violence, corruption and discrimination. Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission found that between 1978 and 2002, Moi’s government was responsible for numerous gross human rights violations. These included massacres, unlawful detentions and torture.
But rather than focus on the ills of the Moi regime, I want to look at how he rose to power in the first place and what insights that rise can provide. Particularly because – unlike many other post-independence African leaders – Moi was not particularly well connected.
Moi was not educated abroad, nor did he rise through the ranks of the military. He was from a small and relatively marginal community: the Tugen, a sub-group of the Kalenjin.
Despite such odds, Moi succeeded Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, in 1978. And unlike Kenyatta, who benefited from being the “father of the nation” and from the immediate economic gains of independence, Moi rose to power when the Kenyan economy was beginning to stagnate. He soon faced increasing dissent and an attempted coup.
In this context, Moi oversaw an increasingly authoritarian regime in which he – as the “Big Man” – depended on a network of loyal supporters. But how was Moi’s leadership shaped by his formative years?
Moi was born in 1924, when Kenya was a British colony. He was chosen by his uncle, a local chief, to attend the Christian Africa Inland Mission school in 1934. This turned him into a staunch lifelong follower of the Evangelical church.
After school, Moi opted to go to a teacher training college. This seemed to ossify his religiosity and the importance he attached to discipline and order, which would characterise his regime.
Through his role as a teacher and then head teacher, together with his regular church attendance and position on various boards and committees, Moi quickly developed a reputation with colonial officials for hard work and sobriety, and thus as a potential “moderate” African leader.
Moi was selected by British officials to attend a special civics course in 1953. This was at a time when opposition to colonial rule had reached new heights. Two years later he became one of eight Africans nominated to be a member of the colonial government’s legislative council.
Moi was to remain a member of the Kenyan legislature – first as a nominated member, then as an elected member – for 47 years.
His early entry into politics bestowed two crucial advantages. First, when other Kalenjin politicians joined him in the legislative council, he was in a real sense their elder. This helped to entrench him as the Kalenjin spokesperson.
Second, Moi used his political position to take advantage of the new opportunities for African citizens and to advance himself economically. This allowed him to accumulate resources for political campaigns.
Yet these factors cannot alone explain Moi’s longevity and continued rise.
In parliamentary elections in 1957, the first in which Africans could be elected, Moi was one of just two African incumbent members of the legislative council to secure election. In the first decade following colonial rule, many heroes of the independence period and wealthy sons of independence fell by the wayside.
As I have argued in I Say To You: Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya, Moi had the ability at key historical junctures – notably at independence and with the return to multi-party politics in the early 1990s – to articulate the grievances of his fellow Kalenjin. These included widespread fears of political marginalisation and historical narratives of injustice with regard to land, which also appealed to a number of other communities.
In addition, Moi’s financial generosity to local fundraisers, frequent tours of the countryside, and excellent memory for names and faces kept him popular with many across the country.
Then there was his political acumen, which included an ability to build cross-ethnic alliances.
From the beginning, Moi – later nicknamed the “professor of politics” – showed great insight when, on joining the ruling party in 1964, he became a loyal ally of the then president, Jomo Kenyatta. This loyalty, together with his position as the preeminent Kalenjin politician, goes a long way to explain Kenyatta’s decision to appoint Moi as his vice-president in 1967. He wasn’t seen as a threatening figure and this helped him rise to the presidency on Kenyatta’s death.
We must also recognise Moi’s ability, often through the strategic use of patronage and sanctions, to preempt and undermine his opponents. He had the tendency to act decisively and ruthlessly against former allies and later reconcile with former foes. This gave Moi great political flexibility and enabled him to enter new alliances and to rehabilitate, recycle, or swap allies.
This dynamism helped him to keep ahead of opponents and limited the entrenchment of potential rivals in the short term. But in the longer term his direct intervention in elections and repression of dissent led a growing number of popular politicians to form new alliances with church leaders and civil society activists to call for his removal.
This group was first successful in their push for multi-party politics in the early 1990s. Then on Moi’s retirement in 2002, they secured victory – through the broad-based alliance that was the National Rainbow Coalition – over his chosen successor (and Jomo Kenyatta’s son and current president), Uhuru Kenyatta.
Moi’s legacy is mixed.
His supporters can point to Kenya’s relative stability during the 1980s, his decision to reintroduce multi-party politics in the early 1990s and the peaceful handover of power in 2002.
In contrast, his critics can point to the problems that his regime oversaw and to the centralisation of power, culture of impunity and sense of an ethnically biased state with which Kenyans still grapple today.
This article draws from Gabrielle Lynch (2008) Moi: The Making of an African ‘Big-Man’ and Gabrielle Lynch (2011) I Say to You: Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya.