Category Archives: Africa – International

Nigeria – security head says fight against Boko hampered by cowards in army

Reuters
(Reuters) – Nigeria’s campaign against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents is being hampered by “cowards” in its armed forces, its presidential security adviser said in a rare public sign of high-level unhappiness with the effort.

Boko Haram’s bloody uprising to carve out a breakaway Islamic caliphate has seized much of Nigeria’s northeast and poses the worst threat to Africa’s most populous state and biggest energy producer and at least three of its neighbours.

Boko Haram claimed a Jan. 3 attack on the town of Baga that killed scores, possibly hundreds, of civilians and left the jihadists in control of the headquarters of a regional multinational force including troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Nigerian soldiers fled the area after Baga was overrun. It was the latest Boko Haram success to cast doubt on the commitment of some in the military, and 22 officers including a brigadier general are on trial over alleged sabotage in the war effort.

“Unfortunately we have a lot of cowards. We have people who use every excuse in this world not to fight,” Sambo Dasuki, the top security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, told an audience at the Chatham House think-tank in London on Thursday.

But, he stressed, “there is no high-level conspiracy within the army not to end the insurgency.”

Dasuki denied the army was under-equipped, as critics have asserted, calling this an “excuse.”

He said of troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon that were supposed to be stationed there at the time of the attack: “That wasn’t that much of a multinational task force, it was by name (only), because they were all supposed to be physically there,” when in fact most were not.

BOKO HARAM LEADER “STILL IN CHARGE”

Dasuki added there was international pressure to set up a multinational task force with headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but “Nigerians don’t see what the use is” of the regional force.

Returning to the subject during his talk with journalists later, Dasuki said however genuine cooperation between the forces of all four nations was essential to defeat the insurgency.

Dasuki said the leader of Boko Haram, a mysterious figure known as Abubakar Shekau whom the Nigerian army have repeatedly claimed to have killed, remained in control of the insurgent group.

A man purporting to be Shekau claimed responsibility in a new video on Tuesday for the attack on Baga.

“We believe he is present at every major operation (of Boko Haram),” Dasuki said.

Dasuki added Shekau had travelled “all over the world” to receive training from other Islamist extremist groups. He named Pakistan and Mali as training grounds for Shekau and other Boko Haram fighters.

He said he estimated Boko Haram had about 5,000 active fighters.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and David Clarke; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Nigeria – regional threat from Boko Haram

Mail and Guardian

Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped about 80 people, many of them children, in a cross-border attack on villages in northern Cameroon, the first time villagers from that country have been kidnapped by suspected militants. The latest reports say the Cameroonian army has freed about 20 of the captives.

In previous kidnappings blamed on the Islamist group in Cameroon, targets have been high-profile people or foreigners taken for ransom. Sunday’s abductions occurred around the village of Mabass in northern Cameroon. The attacks have fuelled fears that the insurgency is spilling out of Nigeria into neighbouring countries.

Increasing ruthlessness
Boko Haram has grown bolder in recent years, and the recent spate of attacks has coincided with the upcoming Nigerian presidential election on February 14.

Before Sunday’s assault in Cameroon, the militants launched one of their bloodiest attacks yet in Nigeria on the towns of Baga and Doron on January 3, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands of houses burnt or razed.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, described the Boko Haram assault as “the largest and most destructive” his organisation has analysed. “It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt-out ruins,” he said.

Elizabeth Donnelly, an analyst at the Chatham House think- tank, says Baga – a small town in Nigeria’s Borno state – closes a gap in Boko Haram’s map, fulfils a strategic purpose with its proximity to the border with Chad, where it is reported to have set up camps on islands in Lake Chad, and further bolsters its resources and sense of confidence with a win over a multinational military force.

“The small town near Lake Chad was home to the base of the multinational joint task force, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad – but despite the military presence, Baga was surrounded in the country’s northeastern corner by what has become Boko Haram territory,” she writes.

Impact on the election
Nigeria’s presidential, parliamentary and state gubernatorial and assembly elections, scheduled for next month, are likely to be more contentious than usual.

According to the International Crisis Group, tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias in security ?agencies, suggest the country is heading toward a volatile and vicious electoral contest.

If the vote is close, marred or followed by widespread violence, it will deepen Nigeria’s political and economic problems. In addition, falling oil prices are eroding government revenue, raising fears that eventually the federal authorities may be unable to pay those who work for them or even maintain essential services.

The Boko Haram insurgency and the state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe could prevent voting in parts of those northeastern states.

The law states people must go to their home constituencies if they want to participate in the poll, but many city-based voters will be reluctant to return if they are under the control of the insurgents.

Boko Haram has repeatedly ?stated its opposition not only to Western education – its name means Western education is forbidden, in the Hausa language – but also to democracy and secular government, which it regards as a form of “paganism”, and its ?attacks could intensify to discourage voting. Some 1.5-million people have been displaced by the insurgency.

As of mid-September 2014, the insurgents had seized 25 towns in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Nigerian media reports say Boko Haram ?has seized and established control over 20 000km2 of territory in the region.

Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which draws most of its support from the north, says it will not accept a result in which “large swaths of the citizenry” are disenfranchised.

The election pits the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, against General Muhammadu Buhari, who has a reputation as one of the more honest and well intentioned of the country’s military rulers but not as one of the most astute.

What Boko Haram wants
The insurgents’ demands have focused on two main areas: the release of Boko Haram prisoners and the creation of an Islamic state.

The group began to emerge in 2002 and 2003, when followers of a young charismatic preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, retreated to Kanamma, a remote area in the northeast. He advocated a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an and believed that the creation of Nigeria by British colonialists had imposed a Western and unIslamic way of life on Muslims.

The group opposes voting in elections and the wearing of shirts or trousers. Its eventual goal is to create an Islamic state. Northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups, but Boko Haram has proved to be the most durable and lethal of such groups.

The Nigerian military thought it had finished off Boko Haram when it seized the group’s headquarters in 2009 in the city of Maiduguri and killed Yusuf. But Boko Haram regrouped under Abubakar Shekau, and has grown stronger and more ruthless. In 2010, it carried out assassinations and a major raid on a prison.

A suicide attacker rammed a ?car bomb into United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in August 2011, killing 23 people. In 2013, Boko Haram targeted pupils in a series of attacks, culminating in the raid in Chibok deep in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, in which 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped. Of this number, 219 remain missing.

Scorched-earth tactics
Despite the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe since May 2013 and increased military offensives, the insurgents have adopted and intensified a three-pronged strategy of bombings in cities, scorched-earth tactics in rural areas and assaults on military and police bases.

These attacks resulted in more than 5 000 civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 750 000 people between May 2013 and October 2014.

The weekend abduction of Cameroonian villagers in that country’s far north will fuel fears that the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries. In a video posted online this month, a man claiming to be Shekau threatened to step up violence in Cameroon unless it scraps its Constitution and embraces Islam.

Boko Haram has financed itself mainly through ransom kidnappings, bank robberies and other illegal activities. The group is believed to have raided at least one Nigerian military arms depot. Illegal arms are not difficult for Boko Haram to obtain as arms trafficking is widespread in West Africa.

Nigerian response to the insurgency
Since troops were deployed when an emergency was declared, Boko Haram has withdrawn from its urban base in Maiduguri to the vast Sambisa forest, along the border with Cameroon. But the seventh division of the Nigerian army has been stretched and it lacks equipment and training.

Further complicating Nigeria’s response to the attacks is the fact that the armed forces have been criticised for corruption. It is unclear how much has been spent to combat the insurgency. On the economic front, there is the presidential initiative for the ?northeast, pooling funds from federal departments, state governments, foreign donors and businesses to provide jobs for 100 000 youths in a region of desperate poverty, a factor that is exploited by Boko Haram.

But the programme only began in November and it will take time to have any impact. The government has also been criticised for its seeming lack of urgency in getting to grips with the crisis in the north.

After the abduction in Chibok, which triggered the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign that drew the support from such figures as Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, it took the president three months to meet any of the affected parents. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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Nigerian security head advises delaying elections

BBC

Nigeria elections: Security chief urges vote delay

Nigeria's National Security Advisor Mohammed Sambo Dasuki listens to a question after his address at Chatham House in London, 22 January, 2015Sambo Dasuki said it was safer to wait for the poll

Nigeria’s national security adviser has urged the electoral commission to delay next month’s elections to allow more time for voter card distribution.

The polls are the first in Nigeria to require voters to have biometric cards.

Nigeria, wracked by a violent uprising by Islamists Boko Haram, is scheduled to hold the election on 14 February.

The security chief, Sambo Dasuki, also said that neighbouring Chad was sending troops to help fight the militants, who control many towns and villages.

And he criticised “cowards” within Nigeria’s armed forces for hampering the campaign against the insurgents.

A woman sits beside an electoral poster of Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan during the flag-off for his campaign for a second term in office, in Lagos on 8 January  2015Millions of voters still do not have their biometric ID cards

“We have people who use every excuse in this world not to fight,” he told an audience at the Chatham House think-tank in London, adding “there is no high-level conspiracy within the army not to end the insurgency”.

Several soldiers have complained about not being given the weapons they need to fight Boko Haram.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on Cameroon

The soldiers without enough weapons to fight jihadists

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

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Speaking about the forthcoming election, Mr Dasuki said 30 million cards had been distributed over the last year but the same number still remained to be handed out.

The measure was introduced to guard against electoral fraud.

President Goodluck Jonathan is standing for re-election. His main challenger is former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Mr Dasuki, speaking at the London think-tank Chatham House, said he had told the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) that it would be sensible to postpone the poll within the three months it had to legally take place.

“Start Quote

Why are they not ready? Why should we postpone? We say ‘no’ to postponement”

End Quote Lai Mohammed Opposition spokesman

“It costs you nothing, it’s still within the law,” Mr Dasuki said he had told the Inec chairman.

He told Chatham House that a postponement would be “safer for all of us”.

“If in one year you’ve distributed 30 million, I don’t see how you will distribute another 30 million in two weeks. It doesn’t make sense.”

But Inec spokesman Kayode Idowu said there were currently no plans to delay, according to Reuters news agency.

“It is not a conversation of the commission’s at all. As far as we are talking now, the date is what it is,” Mr Idowu said.

Lai Mohammed, spokesman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), told Reuters he was not happy with the proposal.

“Why are they not ready? Why should we postpone? We say ‘no’ to postponement,” he said.

Displaced voters

The elections look to be the closest fought since the end of military rule in 1999.

They pit President Jonathan of the governing People’s Democratic Party (PDP) against Mr Buhari, who ruled Nigeria from January 1984 until August 1985 following a coup.

Nigeria is gripped by a violent uprising in the north-east led by Islamist Boko Haram rebels.

But Mr Dasuki stressed that adequate security will be in place for the poll and that those displaced by the fighting will be able to vote.

Nigerian security forces promise to remain neutral during elections

Premium Times

Nigeria2015: Nigerian security agencies promise to remain neutral

Police-combat

Security agencies in Nigeria have promised to remain nonpartisan in carrying out their duties in the forthcoming general elections.

This was made known in a communiqué by the Forum for the Spokespersons of the Security and Response Agencies, FOSSRA.

The Forum has as representatives, spokespersons from the Defence Headquarters, Army, Airforce, Navy, Police, Department of State Services, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS.

Others include: Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigeria Prison Service, NPS, Federal Fire Service, FFS, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.

The forum pledged to support and work with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to ensure a free, credible and non-violent election. It also urged Nigerians to always strive toward the promotion of peaceful co-existence and tolerance.

Members of the forum agreed to ensure that press statements and official pronouncements of individual members as well as their organisations remain professional.

They stressed the need for efficient and effective inter-agency collaboration while resolving that blackmail or intimidation will not deter any of the agencies from carrying out its statutory duties.

Reassuring Nigerians of their readiness to ensure safety of lives and property all through the election period, the encouraged security consciousness among the citizens at all times.

It also advised media practitioners against undue sensationalism and unprofessionalism and the need for media executives – editors and publishers – to ensure fairness, balance and objectivity on their platforms.

The forum called on all politicians to avoid making reckless statements and inciting comments. It enjoined religious and community leaders to sensitize their followers on the need to shun acts of violence and thuggery.

The forum pointed out that all security agencies are currently undergoing training, monitoring and mobilizing required logistics to guarantee a peaceful and successful general election.

Sudan – 18,000 displaced by government and militia attacks in Jebel Marra

Sudan Tribune

January 21, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The number of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the capital of North Darfur state have reached 18,000 people said OCHA a UN body tasked with the coordination of humanitarian action on Wednesday.

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A child walks with her mother to their shelter at the Zam Zam camp for displaced people in North Darfur on 11 June 2014 (Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that more than 18,000 people have been newly verified as displaced in El-Fasher, Shangil Tobaya, Tawila and Um Baru areas in North Darfur, according to humanitarian partners,” said Farhan Haq, UN chief deputy spokesperson.

Haq further said that more than 2,200 IDPs sought protection at the UNAMID site in Um Baru, adding that people continue to arrive too the base of the hybrid peacekeeping mission there.

He also pointed that 200 IDPs reached UNAMID camp in Sortony area which is not far from Jebel Marra “reportedly fearing attacks on villages in the area”.

Since the beginning of this year, the Sudanese army and the government militias carry out military attacks on the rebel positions in Jebel Marra in North Darfur.

The spokesperson of the army said they expulsed different factions of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) from the eastern part of Jebel Marra and captured strategic rebel positions.

Also the army and the rebels confirmed the death of the SLM-Minni Minnawi to operational commander Mohamed Hari on 13 January in an ambush near Orshi, North Darfur.

OCHA said aid groups on the ground provide civilians affected by the fighting in the area with humanitarian assistance including healthcare and household items.

However, the Un body says “that aid agencies aren’t able to access those displaced in the Jebel Marra area and assess their needs due to ongoing hostilities and access constraints.”

access to this isolated area continues to be a challenge for humanitarians but that efforts are underway to carry out a rapid assessment and deliver humanitarian assistance.

(ST)

South Africa – two killed in violence against foreign residents in Soweto

Mail and Guardian

Two people have died and a foreign-owned shop burnt in Soweto since violence broke out between community members on Monday.

Residents carry goods which they took from a looted shop owned by foreign nationals in Soweto. (Gallo)

One person was shot dead and a foreign-owned shop was burnt down in Soweto on Wednesday night, Gauteng police said on Thursday.

This brings the death toll to two from violence that broke out in Snake Park, Dobsonville on Monday involving locals and foreigners.

“There was a Naledi community member who was shot and killed. It’s not clear who shot at him … but it was during the process of last night’s violence,” said Lieutenant Kay Makhubela. A murder case had been opened.

In Mabata, a foreign-owned shop was burnt down.

A 14-year-old boy was shot dead on Monday and a 15-year-old boy was shot and injured. He has since been discharged from hospital.

The death of the teenager on Monday happened apparently when a mob tried to rob a foreign-owned shop.

He died from a gunshot wound to the neck. He was identified as Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori.

The foreigner said he fired a warning shot after his shop was surrounded by a group of people, who also tried to break through his roof.

The group was apparently angry because he took out a gun earlier in the day when they attempted to rob him. His assailants then told other community members that the foreigner had a gun, after which a group of people decided to go and confront him.

The shooting of the teenager sparked protests and forced some foreign shop owners to flee the area.

Although the area was calm on Thursday morning, the provincial police commissioner had called on police from across Gauteng to assist in the area.

Arrests
Twenty-nine people were arrested in Soweto over night for looting and public violence, Makhubela said.

“Last night, we arrested 29 suspects, which brings the total number of arrested suspects in Soweto since Monday to 68.”

Of those arrested, eight were foreign shop owners in possession of unlicensed firearms.

“The rest were for the public violence, looting, and possession of stolen property.”

Three Somali nationals were arrested in Bram Fischer Phase two on Wednesday afternoon for being in possession of three unlicensed firearms, Makhubela said.

“They were shooting at the community as the community was attacking them and looting their shops and demanding they leave the area,” he said. The trio was also found in possession of fake South African identity documents.

During the week, the looting had spread to Mapetla, Dobsonville, Emdeni, Zola and Protea Glen.

The provincial commissioner was expected to hold a press briefing at 11.30am in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Foreigners appeal for help
The foreign nationals want the South African government to help them following attacks and looting of their shops in Soweto, they said on Thursday.

“The government must help us. We have been attacked and left with nothing,” said Temesgon Worku, from Ethiopia. “Our brothers have no food or clothes. If the government does not want us they must tell us. We will go to countries that will accept us.”

He said locals had robbed them and chased them out of the area.

“They called us makwerekwere and said we must leave. We do not feel safe anymore,” he said. Makwerekwere is slang for foreigner.

Worku said two of his relatives were arrested while trying to defend themselves. “They had a panga and their attackers were armed with guns. The police arrested them and left the armed attackers.”

A local resident, Paul Mogale, said foreigners helped pensioners by giving them groceries on credit. “They provide a service for pensioners, but for young people they ruin their lives by selling them drugs,” he claimed.

Mogale claimed he had seen boys as young as 14 buying drugs from foreigners. “The boys are regulars at their shop.”

Some of the arrested would appear in the Protea Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. At the court, foreign nationals stood in groups under trees in the court yard. Locals filled the two court rooms where the cases were being heard.

Attacks ‘not xenophobic’
Gauteng’s community safety MEC said on Thursday that the violence and looting against foreign shop owners in Soweto was not xenophobic.

“The actions are pure criminality … For now we won’t declare it xenophobic attacks,” Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane told reporters in Johannesburg.

Nkosi-Malobane said the attacks were sporadic and being carried out by a group of young people who moved from area to area.

“Unfortunately sometimes they’re joined by adults,” she said.

Earlier, Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba said reinforcements had been sent to control the situation.

An operations centre had been established to co-ordinate police operations in the area.

Police were working with community policing forums and other government leaders to calm the situation. – Sapa, Staff reporter

West Africa – ebola turning point as number of cases falls

BBC

Ebola volunteers

There has been a “turning point” in the Ebola crisis, with cases falling in the three affected countries, World Health Organization officials say.

Just eight cases were detected in Liberia in the last week down from a peak of 500-a-week in September. Guinea and Sierra Leone have also seen falls.

The WHO said the figures were the “most promising” since the outbreak started.

But it continues to urge caution, and to highlight the need to find those who had contact with Ebola patients.

The largest outbreak of Ebola in human history has infected 21,724 people and killed 8,641 – largely in just three countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

All are now showing falls in weekly cases:

  • Cases in Liberia stand at eight-per-week down from a peak of 509
  • Cases in Guinea stand at 20 per week down from a peak of 292
  • Cases in Sierra Leone stand at 117-per-week down from a peak of 748

There are now some days in Liberia where no cases are reported at all.

Dr Christopher Dye, the director of strategy in the office of the director general, told the BBC News website: “The incidence is pretty clearly going down in all three countries now.

“Each of the last three weeks has been the most promising we’ve seen so far, the message is reductions in all places.

“I would have identified the turning point as the beginning of the decline, first in Liberia and then later in Sierra Leone and Guinea.”

Resurgence

However, he argued there was “no basis for complacency” due to the risk of a resurgence in cases.

It is also uncertain whether the downward trends will continue unless there are improvements in “contact tracing”.

A single case is enough to start an entire outbreak so identifying everyone who comes into contact with Ebola is vital.

Yet the latest WHO situation report says the number of people being traced “remains lower than expected in many districts”.

Dr Dye added: “Contact tracing to find every last case needs to be intensified and we need all guns blazing on all fronts.”

Western Sierra Leone remains another problem.

Of the 145 cases reported across all affected countries last week, more than 100 were in that region, which includes the capital Freetown.

Speaking earlier this week, the UN system co-ordinator for Ebola, David Nabarro, said: “We have a very attractive and promising situation that leads us to believe that perhaps we are beginning to see the end of the outbreak.

“Unfortunately it’s not quite as simple and the reason for that is any case of Ebola in the region can restart an outbreak very quickly.”