Category Archives: Central Africa

Nigeria – Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau Reported Killed Again — This Time by Cameroon’s Army

Vice News

By Hannah Strange

September 22, 2014 | 2:55 pm

Nigerian security forces are investigating reports that Abubakar Shekau, the notorious leader of the Boko Haram extremist group waging an Islamist insurgency in the country’s north, has been killed in fighting.

It is by far from the first report of Shekau’s death — previous claims of his demise have been put down with sneering proof-of-life videos in which the Islamist commander mocks the inability of his foes to defeat him. But the release of a photo by Cameroon’s armed forces purporting to show Shekau’s body has attracted particular interest.

The image shows a man lying on the ground, apparently with a wound to his head. The bearded individual bears a close resemblance to Shekau as seen in the many video appearances in which he threatens the Nigerian government and boasts of the strength of the Islamist group which has brought mayhem and bloodshed to a large swathe of the north.

The Cameroonian military posted the picture to social media with no explanation as to the circumstances of the alleged killing. The country’s armed forces have been increasingly engaging with Boko Haram along its border as the group makes gains in the state of Borno, north-eastern Nigeria.

Nigerian security forces have been struggling to contain the onslaught from Boko Haram, which has rampaged through towns in the country’s north and is increasingly striking at the capital, Abuja, in its bid to carve out an Islamic caliphate — the establishment of which was declared last month in the town of Gwoza. More than 2,000 people were killed in attacks by the group in the first half of 2014, according to Human Rights Watch. Boko Haram has also kidnapped civilians including children for use in the insurgency; the fate of more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from the town of Chibok in April, whom the group later threatened to marry off to fighters, is still unknown.

A source familiar with the Nigerian investigation told Bloomberg that it was thought Shekau may have been killed in fighting near Konduga in Borno state. Nigeria’s army said last week that it had killed over 60 Boko Haram fighters and captured a senior leader during a battle at Konduga, which lies around 20 miles from the state capital, Maiduguri. The military said the captured commander, who wasn’t identified, was being treated at a military hospital in the area.

Adding to the confusion surrounding the report, some local media suggested the man killed by the Cameroonian military might have been a body double used by Shekau, citing anonymous security sources.

There has been no word as yet from Boko Haram on the claim. But its veracity was questioned by experts, who noted the frequency of such reports.

“Is this his fourth or fifth death? He dies more often than an iPhone battery,” Ryan Cummings, a security analyst, said, according to The Times.

Follow Hannah Strange on Twitter: @hannahkstrange

Vice

Upper Nile fighting might derail faltering South Sudan peace process

Sudan Tribune


September 20, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has condemned a renewed outbreak of fighting between South Sudan’s warring parties in Upper Nile, warning it could jeopardise the latest round of peace talks.

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Rebel fighters hold their weapons in the air as they walk in front of a bushfire in rebel-controlled territory in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state on 13 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday, the east African regional bloc, which is mediating the South Sudan peace process, said fighting had erupted between government and rebels forces in Renk county, south of Upper Nile state capital Malakal.

IGAD’s chief negotiator, Seyoum Mesfin, claimed the fighting was a deliberate act aimed to disrupt the latest round of peace talks.

The former Ethiopian foreign minister expressed regret over the latest development, urging both rival parties to remain calm and exercise restraint.

“It is unfortunate that this trend of events has been observed every time a new session of talks begins and any such sideshows aimed at derailing the peace process will not be tolerated,” said Mesfin.

Mesfin urged the two sides to adhere to all the agreements previously signed, particularly the January cessation of hostilities agreement.

REBELS REPULSE ATTACKS

Meanwhile, rebel spokesperson Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang told Sudan Tribune on Saturday that rebel forces had repulsed a series of attacks from pro-government troops over the weekend.

He claims pro-governments troops attacked their positions with the intent to occupy rebel-controlled areas, adding that fighting remained ongoing and was advancing towards oil fields in Renk county.

“Our forces have captured nine areas between Friday and Saturday and still more fighting is going on toward Renk and Malakal towns,” said Koang in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday.

According to Koang, rebels had subsequently captured four areas on Friday and another five on Saturday after heavy clashes broke out in and around Nasir area, south of Malakal.

Koang has downplayed the number causalities on both sides in the latest outbreak of violence, saying it was unclear how many were wounded as fighting remained ongoing.

Residents at a camp for internally displaced people in Malakal town reported hearing gun shots to the south and north-west of the capital.

“Since yesterday (Friday) we could hear heavy gun firing in different directions of the area,” said one resident told Sudan Tribune.

“We could not tell who is attacking who as it has been the behaviour of the warring parties to trade one another when fighting resumes.”

Camp residents have called on warring parties to refrain from further fighting, urging them to give negotiations a chance to resume and allow peace to return to conflict-affected areas.

IGAD TO INVESTIGATE

Mesfin said IGAD Monitoring and Verification Teams will immediately investigate the latest outbreak of violence, warning those violating the ceasefire agreement would be exposed.

IGAD leaders, including Ethiopia’s prime minister, have previously blamed rebels for violating the terms of ceasefire arrangements.

However, the opposition group continues to accuse IGAD mediators of favouring president Salva Kiir rather than addressing the root causes of the conflicts.

Koang claims government forces triggered the latest outbreak of violence after launching an offensive on rebel-controlled areas in violation of the ceasefire deal.

He says the Juba government lacked credibility to negotiate and was simply buying time to delay peace talks.

Comprising largely of ethnic militias and dissident soldiers, rebel forces aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar have been engaged in a brutal armed struggle with the government after a split in the country ruling party (SPLM) turned violent in mid-December last year.

IGAD has repeatedly warned that it is prepared to take punitive measures against parties found to be obstructing the peace process.

Proposed measures include blocking parties from participating in future governance arrangements in the country.

The latest violence comes after the signing of an implementation matrix for the cessation of hostilities agreement on 25 August.

Fighting in South Sudan has killed thousands while some 1.8 million have been displaced, sparking a major humanitarian crisis in the young nation.

Kiir has repeatedly accused Machar and his supporters of staging an attempted coup to overthrow the government – an allegation the latter denies and which has not been backed by the international community.

IGAD-led peace talks have been hampered by ongoing delays and have also come under criticism for failing to reach a negotiated political settlement to the crisis.

(ST)

Sierra Leone ebola crackdown ends

BBC

Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone lockdown declared “success”

A man travels along a street in his wheelchair during a three-day lockdown to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014Streets in the capital Freetown have been largely deserted during the three-day lockdown

A three-day curfew aimed at containing the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has been declared a success by authorities.

The wide-ranging curfew ended at midnight on Sunday (GMT) and will not be extended, authorities said.

Sierra Leone has been one of the countries worst affected by the outbreaks, with more than 550 victims among the 2,600 deaths so far recorded.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Liberia announced a four-fold increase in the number of beds for Ebola patients.

Liberia is the country worst-hit by the epidemic, accounting for more than half the number of total deaths.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. The deadly virus is transmitted through sweat, blood and saliva, and there is no proven cure.

Dozens buried

The curfew in Sierra Leone came into force on Friday morning, with most of the country’s six million inhabitants confined to their homes.

Around 30,000 medical volunteers travelled to affected neighbourhoods to find and treat patients and distribute soap.

Empty streets in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 19 September 2014Normally bustling streets in the capital Freetown were deserted from Friday onwards
Police guard a roadblock in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 19 September 2014Police roadblocks were set up in Sierra Leone to enforce the curfew
An undated handout photo released by Spanish aid organisation Juan Ciudad ONGD, shows Spanish doctor and missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo (L) working at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Lunsar, Sierra LeoneSpanish priest Manuel Garcia Viejo (l) was working at a hospital in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, before becoming infected

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sarian Kamara said authorities had managed to discover 22 new cases of the virus during the curfew.

“Had they not been discovered, they would have greatly increased transmission,” he said.

He also said between 60 and 70 Ebola victims had been buried in the past two days. Bodies of Ebola victims are highly contagious and their swift burial is considered key to containing the disease.

Earlier on Sunday, the head of the country’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Stephen Gaojia said there was a “very strong possibility” that the curfew would be extended.

“Even though the exercise has been a huge success so far, it has not been concluded in some metropolitan cities like Freetown and Kenema,” he said.

The three-day curfew is the most aggressive measure taken against the virus yet by a West African country.

West Africa Ebola casualties

Up to 14 September

2,630

Ebola deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected

  • 1,459 Liberia
  • 601 Guinea
  • 562 Sierra Leone
  • 8 Nigeria
Getty

Meanwhile, a Spanish Catholic priest was evacuated from Sierra Leone on Sunday after contracting the virus.

A military plane carrying Manuel Garcia Viejo took off from the capital Freetown on Sunday evening and is due to land in Madrid in the early hours of Monday.

Last month another Spanish priest died after contracting the virus in neighbouring Liberia.

In a separate development on Sunday, Liberia said it would increase from 250 to 1,000 its beds for Ebola patients in the capital Monrovia.

Information Minister Lewis Brown told AFP news agency that patients were currently being rejected due to lack of space.

“So the government is trying its best to finish the 1,000 beds so we can accommodate all the patients,” he added.

It follows a warning from the WHO about a huge expected spike in infections in Liberia.

School closure plea

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, a teachers union called on the government to delay the start of the school term because of the outbreak.

Pupils are due to return to school on Monday after an extended summer break, but the National Union of Teachers said that adequate safety measures were not yet in place.

President Goodluck Jonathan dismissed the call for a postponement. Eight people have died in Nigeria out of 20 who have contracted the disease, but no new cases have been discovered for 10 days.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola virus
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

BBC

South Sudan – further US sanctions against warring South Sudanese military leaders

Sudan Tribune

(ADDIS ABABA) – Unites States government has slapped the South Sudanese warring parties with additional sanctions targeting two senior military officers on the two sides, accused of fuelling the ongoing 9-month long conflict.

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Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) jump from a vehicle while on patrol in the capital, Juba (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

Major General Santino Deng Wol of South Sudan army, in charge of third military division and Major General James Koang Chuol, who was previously in charge of fourth army division but defected and joined the rebel faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) became the latest targets.

In a statement released on Thursday by the US Treasury under-secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, David Cohen, accused the two generals of prolonging the violence in South Sudan.

“Both of the individuals we are designating today are prolonging the violent conflict in South Sudan and engaging in reprehensible violence,” the statement partly reads.

The treasury department accused Wol of expanding the conflict and of obstructing peace, saying his troops continued to attack the rebel positions despite the 23 January cessation of hostilities agreement between the warring parties.

According to the treasury, Wol is accused of breaking the agreement with a series of military engagements in which his forces recaptured the towns of Mayom, Tor Abyad and Wang Kai from the rebels.

The statement also accused the rebel commander Koang of carrying out attacks against civilians in Unity state.

The rebel attacks “targeted civilians, including women and children, with killing, sexual violence and attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, and locations where civilians were seeking refuge,” says the statement.

Washington in the past imposed sanctions on president Salva Kiir’s presidential guards commander, General Marial Cinuong and General Peter Gatdet who defected in December to the rebel group in Jonglei state while previously serving as the overall commander of the eighth army division.

The four generals are banned from travelling to US and their assets or financial transactions which may be in the US or related to US companies are frozen.

Generals Wol and Gatdet are also under sanctions by the European Union (EU), which also bans their movement to EU countries and freeze their assets.

The latest US sanction came a day after the United Kingdom threatened the two warring parties with regional sanctions unless they abide by the cessation of hostilities agreements they signed and speedily conclude the peace talks.

UK also hinted that the United Nations would impose sanctions on South Sudan.

However, Juba slammed the looming sanctions, describing them as a conspiracy of western strategy.

“We believe that threats of sanctions as a western strategy to bring peace while apportioning blames, even when they know every well that the government does not bear any responsibility in this senseless war created by Riek Machar and his group, will also affect other countries in the region”, Mark Nyipuoc, the deputy speaker of the national assembly told reporters Monday.

The rebels on their side downplayed the effect of the targeted sanctions on individual military officers, saying South Sudan government has remained at large and continued to import weaponry from China through ports of Mombassa of Kenya in order to perpetuate the war.

Tens of thousands of people have died since the conflict began in mid-December with 1.5 million more displaced.

The two parties have been engaging in peace talks in Ethiopia since January under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

(ST)

Seven killed in Uganda-South Sudan border clash

Reuters

(Reuters) – At least seven people were killed in a string of clashes either side of Uganda and South Sudan’s border, a remote area plagued by cattle rustling and conflicts over territory, Uganda’s military said.

The fighting started on Thursday when South Sudanese gunmen detained Ugandan local government officials carrying out a census, accusing them of straying into South Sudanese territory, said Uganda’s military spokesman Paddy Ankunda.

That triggered demonstrations in the Ugandan border town of Moyo, where Ugandans razed houses belonging to South Sudanese residents, Ankunda said.

That, in turn, led to a series of tit-for-tat attacks.

“I am informed last evening Ugandan youth entered South Sudan and killed a South Sudanese woman. In retaliation, South Sudanese militants entered Uganda and killed five people at around midnight,” Ankunda told Reuters.

A local government official in Moyo, Jimmy Vukoni, told Reuters by telephone that he had received reports that South Sudanese youths on Friday also crossed into Uganda and stole cattle, burnt houses and raped women.

Ankunda said five Ugandans were killed in the skirmishes and both Ugandan and South Sudan security officials were trying defuse the fighting.

A South Sudanese county commissioner near the area where the fighting occurred, Henry Sabuni, said two people from his country also died.

Uganda sent troops into South Sudan late December in support of the government of President Salva Kiir against insurgent forces led by his sacked deputy Riek Machar. Reuters

Sierra Leone begins three day ebola lockdown

BBC

Sierra Leone begins three-day Ebola lockdown.

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana says frenetic shopping had been taking place ahead of the lockdown

A three-day curfew or lockdown to try to stop the spread of the Ebola virus has come into effect in Sierra Leone.

The aim of the move is to keep people confined to their homes while health workers isolate new cases and prevent Ebola from spreading further.

Critics say the lockdown will destroy trust between doctors and the public.

Sierra Leona is one of the countries worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 2,600 people.

The UN Security Council on Thursday declared the outbreak a “threat to international peace and security”.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on states to provide more resources to combat it.

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The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Sierra Leone

Even the heavy downpour that deluged Freetown since dawn on Thursday did not stop thousands of people from rushing to supermarkets and vegetable markets to stock up on food ahead of the lockdown declared by the president.

The government hopes this drastic action will prove to be the magic bullet in the battle to stop the spread of Ebola, which has hit 13 of the country’s 14 districts, killing more than 500 people.

A supermarket attendant in the west of Freetown told me she that she has had to restock her shelves five times in two days – a mark of the brisk buying that’s going on by those who can afford it.

“I’m here to get some food and beverages for my family that will last us the whole weekend,” Christian Thomas told the BBC. “I’ve also bought dozens of litres of fuel for my generator should the lights go out as is so often the case,” he said.

In the poor eastern suburb of Calaba Town survival is on the minds of many. Customers and traders alike wondered how they would manage to pull it off.

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The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been strongly critical of the lockdown, arguing that ultimately it will help spread the disease.

MSF, whose staff are helping to tackle the outbreak, said in a statement this month that quarantines and lockdowns “end up driving people underground and jeopardising the trust between people and health providers”.

“This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.”

Freetown Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)There are reports of stockpiling in Freetown ahead of the lockdown
A World Health Organisation worker, (centre) trains nurses to use Ebola protective gear in Freetown, Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)Volunteers will go door-to-door to test people for the virus and take infected people to treatment centres
A drama film poster made about the Ebola virus hangs on the walls of downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone (18 September 2014)Posters warning about the dangers of Ebola can be seen all over Freetown
A charity worker educates children on how to prevent and identify the Ebola virus in their communities at Freetown, Sierra LeoneSierra Leona is one of the countries worst hit by West Africa’s Ebola outbreak

But the authorities insist that the measure “will minimise the spread of the virus”, and that thousands of officials would be deployed to make sure residents stayed indoors.

Volunteers will go door-to-door to test people for the virus and take infected people to treatment centres.

Health ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis told the BBC this month he did not expect the public to object.

“You follow or else you’ll be breaking the law. If you disobey then you are disobeying the president,” he said.

The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.

It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.

line

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Ebola virus
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
line

West Africa Ebola casualties

Up to 14 September

2,630

Ebola deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected

  • 1,459 Liberia
  • 601 Guinea
  • 562 Sierra Leone
  • 8 Nigeria

UN deploys ebola mission in West Africa as death toll reaches 2,630

Reuters

U.N. to deploy Ebola mission as death toll reaches 2,630

NEW YORK/PARIS Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:53am BST

Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014. REUTERS/James Giahyue

Health workers remove the body of Prince Nyentee, a 29-year-old man whom local residents said died of Ebola virus in Monrovia September 11, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/James Giahyue

NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council on Thursday declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “threat to international peace and security” as the death toll hit 2,630 and France became the latest Western nation to step up its support.

French President Francois Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to the remote Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the outbreak was first detected in March.

Since then the virus has infected at least 5,357 people, according to World Health Organization (WHO), mostly in Guinea, neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has also spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

With fragile West African healthcare systems overrun by the outbreak, Hollande said France’s response would not be limited to contributing to 150 million euros (118 million pounds) in aid promised by European Union nations.

“We must save lives,” Hollande told a news conference. “I have asked the defence minister to coordinate this action and to include military doctors and the civil protection agency plus air support.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he will create a special mission to combat the disease and deployed staff in the worst-affected states.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” Ban said. He added that he will appoint a special envoy to head the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, which will push a “rapid and massive mobilization” of people, material and financial resources.

“This international mission … will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks,” Ban told an emergency session of the Security Council.

SPEED IS OF ESSENCE

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said a surge of support could help turn things around for the roughly 22 million people in the hardest-hit countries, whose lives and societies have been shattered by the disease.

“In the hardest hit countries, an exponentially rising caseload threatens to push governments to the brink of state failure,” Chan said during the session of the 15-member council.

The Security Council also adopted a resolution that also calls on states “to lift general travel and border restrictions, imposed as a result of the Ebola outbreak and that contribute to the further isolation of the affected countries and undermine their efforts to respond.”

Joanne Liu, international president for medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres called on member states and others to follow the lead of countries that have committed to join the fight against Ebola.

“We need concrete action on the ground now. Speed is of the essence,” Liu said.

“Although dangerously late, the pledges such as those of the U.S. and UK are ambitious, but they must be implemented now. We do not have months or even weeks to wait. Thousands of lives are at stake,” she said, adding that other countries must commit to deploying assets and staff as soon as possible.

U.S. President Barack Obama, calling the disease a threat to global security, promised this week the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to help contain the epidemic. Britain also announced on Wednesday it would provide a further 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, its former colony.

One of the most deadly diseases, there is no known cure for the hemorrhagic fever, though development of several treatments and vaccines is being fast-tracked.

ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS, OFFICIALS

The WHO warned on Thursday there were no signs yet of the outbreak slowing, particularly in the three countries hardest hit. It said a surge in Liberia was being driven by an increase in the number of cases in the capital, Monrovia, where 1,210 bed spaces were urgently needed – five times the current capacity.

A U.S. C-17 military aircraft landed in Monrovia international airport on Thursday with a team of engineers to assess the capacity of the runway to handle large planes.

The U.S. plan will include the construction in Liberia – the country hit hardest by the outbreak – of 17 Ebola treatment centres with 100 beds each, plus training thousands of healthcare workers.

French forces will be based in an area where authorities are battling fears and stigma about the highly contagious disease.

Highlighting these difficulties, eight bodies, including those of three journalists, were found after an attack on a team trying to educate locals on the risks of the Ebola virus in a remote area of southeastern Guinea, a government spokesman said.

“The eight bodies were found in the village latrine. Three of them had their throats slit,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters by telephone in Conakry on Thursday.

In a rare piece of good news, the latest data showed no new deaths in Sierra Leone in the one day since the previous update.

The government in Sierra Leone has locked down the country, limiting movements for three days from midnight on Thursday. It said extreme measures are needed to contain the outbreak.

“Avoid touching each other, avoid eating bush meat, avoid visiting the sick, avoid attending funerals, report illnesses and deaths to the nearest health facility,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation ahead of the start of the lockdown.

“We know some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult. But life is better than these difficulties,” he said.

However, many people fear the decision will bring more hardship to a nation that is already one of the poorest on earth and critics also question whether it will even be effective.