10 May 2013

Namibia: Nigerian Leader Cancels Namibia Visit

Windhoek — Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan who was due to arrive in Namibia late yesterday for a State Visit to Namibia cancelled his visit and cut short his visit to South Africa as well.

State House and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already mounted posters of the Nigerian leader alongside that of President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the two countries' national flags on lampposts along Independence Avenue and other prominent Windhoek streets and public buildings. "This note serves to inform the nation as well as the diplomatic community in Namibia that due to circumstances beyond his control, His Excellency Dr Goodluck Jonathan has postponed his State Visit to the Republic of Namibia until further notice," Dr Albert Kawana the Minister for Presidential Affairs announced yesterday afternoon.

"Their Excellencies - Dr Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia and Dr Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria - apologize for the inconvenience caused," Kawana further stated. Kawana did not proffer reasons for the cancellation of the highly anticipated visit, but the Daily Post an online Nigerian newspaper quoted Reuben Abati, the special advisor to President Jonathan on media and publicity, saying the president cut short his visit to South Africa and cancelled his State Visit to Namibia to "deal with security challenges back home".

The article was making reference to recent coordinated extremist attacks in which 55 people, among them children, died when Boko Haram extremists attacked a town in Borno State. The article further stated: "The President is returning to Abuja immediately to personally oversee efforts by national security agencies to contain fresh challenges to national security, which have emerged this week in Borno, Plateau and Nassarawa States." Jonathan on arrival will meet with the Chief of Defence Staff, the Services Chiefs, the Inspector-General of the Police and the heads of security services to review the security situation in the country, according to the online newspaper.

The BBC also said the police station in Bama and the army barracks in the town in Borno State were burnt to the ground while the extremists freed 105 inmates. Correspondents say extremist attacks are common in this region, but what makes this particular attack stand out is the scale of the bloodshed.

Tuesday's raid in the remote town reportedly began when some 200 heavily armed suspected members of Boko Haram arrived in buses and pick-up trucks at about 05h00 (04:00 GMT) the AFP quoted Musa Sagir, a military spokesman based in Maiduguri some 70 km from Bama.

"Some of the gunmen attacked the military barracks but they were repelled. Ten of them were killed and two were arrested," he told AFP. "But the gunmen broke into the prison, freeing 105 inmates, and killed all prison wardens they could see except those who hid in a store where cooking utensils were kept," he told the news agency, adding that some of the attackers wore army uniforms for the assault, which continued for almost five hours.

Twenty-two police officers, 14 prison wardens, two soldiers and four civilians are said to have died along with 13 members of Boko Haram. Bama police commander Abubakar Sagir was quoted as saying the civilians comprised a woman and three children.

A police station, an army barracks and some buildings - reportedly including a magistrate's court - were razed to the ground. The Islamist Boko Haram, as it is popularly known, has its roots in this region of Nigeria and is fighting to overthrow the government and set up an Islamic state.

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