Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Gambia bans female genital mutilation


Yahya Jammeh bans female genital mutilation

President JammehAFP President Jammeh’s ban on FGM is effective immediately

The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has banned female genital mutilation (FGM) saying it is not required in Islam.

The announcement at a rally was met with a huge applause, AFP reports.

Three-quarters of women in the mostly Muslim country have had the procedure,according to Unicef.

In the procedure’s most severe form, after removing the sensitive clitoris, the genitals are cut and stitched closed so that the woman cannot have or enjoy sex.

FGM, also known as female circumcision, can be extremely painful, lead to tetanus, gangrene, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C and effective sterilisation.

The president’s announcement said the ban was effective immediately.

It is not clear when a law will be passed to allow the ban to be enforced.

Types of FGM

•Clitoridectomy – partial or total removal of the clitoris

•Excision – removal of the clitoris and inner labia (lips), with or without the outer labia

•Infibulation – cutting, removing and sewing up the genitalia

•Any other type of intentional damage to the female genitalia (burning, scraping et cetera)

Burundi suspends 10 civil society groups as crisis deepens


Burundi’s interior minister suspended 10 civil society groups, accusing them of fuelling widespread violence in recent months, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The turmoil in the East African nation was sparked by a decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in a disputed July vote.

Terence Ntahiraja, the permanent secretary in the interior ministry, told Reuters on phone that the 10 groups, most of them led by prominent civil rights defenders who fled into exile, were found to have been supporting trouble makers.

“Investigations have revealed their involvement in disturbing security in the country,” he said, adding the groups will be given a chance to defend themselves and those found to be innocent will be allowed to restart operations.

The groups include APRODH (Association for the Protection of Human Right and Detained Persons), led by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who survived an assassination attempt in August.

The groups, which led the protests against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term of office, had earlier seen their bank accounts, and those of their leaders, frozen by Prosecutor General Valentine Bagorikunda.

The United States will sanction four current and former Burundi government officials, including the minister of public security, over ongoing violence in the country, the White House said on Monday.

Various vigilante units have been formed, and more than 200 people have been killed in violence since April.

(Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Ten killed in Cameroon suicide bombing


A suicide attack by suspected members of Nigerian Islamist militants group Boko Haram killed at least 10 people over the border in the Far North region of Cameroon on Saturday, security sources said.

Boko Haram has mounted numerous attacks in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria this year and is turning the border region near Lake Chad into a war zone, the United Nations refugee agency said last month.

“The initial figures speak of 10 dead including the suicide bombers and around a dozen wounded,” said a senior Cameroonian army commander of the attack on the village of Nigue, a suburb of Fotokol town.

Boko Haram has waged a six-year campaign for an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria. Neighbouring countries joined an offensive against the group this year and the conflict spilled across their borders, displacing tens of thousands of people.

Boko Haram used Cameroon’s impoverished Far North to stockpile supplies and recruits until the government cracked down last year.

Cameroon is also in an 8,700-strong regional force led by Nigeria against the militants, expected to be operational by the end of the year. The United States is sending military supplies and troops to the central African country to aid the fight.

(Reporting by Sylvain Andzongo; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Senegal considering ban on full-face veil over jihadi activity


A Muslim woman wearing the burkaAFP Four other African states have announced restrictions on wearing the full-face veil

Senegal plans to ban women from wearing the full-face Islamic veil in public in an attempt to curb jihadi activity, the interior minister has said.

The move should not be seen as anti-Islamic, as Senegal was a mainly Muslim state, Abdoulaye Daouda added.

If the plan becomes law, Senegal will be the fifth African state to restrict the wearing of the full-face veil.

In another move to target militants, all unregistered Sim cards are to be deactivated by the end of November.

Last week, its President Macky Sall, a Muslim, called for a courageous fight against militant Islamists.

Chad, Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville have announced similar bans, while Cameroon introduced it in July in its Far North region.

All of them are former colonies of France, which caused an uproar in 2011 when it became the first European country to ban the full-face veil from being worn in public places.

People cross the street in front of the Great Mosque in Touba, the holy city of Mouridism, 01 November 2007Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMost Muslims in Senegal follow a tolerant version of Islam

Chad and Cameroon have been targeted by suicide bombers, linked to the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group, whose militants sometimes wear the full-face veil as a cover to enter heavily populated areas.

Senegal has not been attacked so far by militant Islamists.

However, about two weeks ago officials said that at least two imams had been arrested for suspected links with militant groups, in the first such case reported in the country.

Sim card crackdown

Mr Daouda said the plan to ban the full-face veil was in the interest of national security.

Last week, Mr Sall said the full-face veil was not compatible with Senegalese culture and the tolerant Islam practiced by Muslims in the West African state.

Only a tiny minority of Senegalese women wear veils and most also do not cover their hair.

In another move to curb militant Islamist activity, Senegal has set a 30 November deadline for the registration of all mobile phone Sim cards. Otherwise, they will be deactivated.

In Nigeria, Africa’s biggest telecom firm, MTN, is facing a $5.2bn (£3.4bn) fine for failing to cut off unregistered mobile users.

Nigerian officials believe that Boko Haram has used unregistered mobile phones to organise its activities.

Mozambique’s albino people live in fear

Deutsche Welle

Albinos in some African countries are killed for their body parts in the mistaken belief they have miraculous powers. In Dar es Salaam, the Pan Africa Albinism Conference is campaigning for their safety and dignity.

Mosambik Albinos in Quelimane

Representatives from almost 30 African countries will be converging on Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for the first ever three-day Pan Africa Albinism Conference, starting on Thursday (19.11.2015).

Albinism is a hereditary condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

People with albinism face discrimination. Regular attacks on albinos in Tanzania, fuelled by superstition, were described by President John Magufuli as a “national shame” during the recent election campaign.

The supersititions are numerous. Fishermen believe that their catches will be bigger if albino hair is fastened to their nets. Miners are convinced that powdered albino bone turns into diamond when it is buried in the ground. Some believe that albino body parts are charms that bring the wearer riches.

The choice of Tanzania as the venue gives added poignancy to this conference, which the organizers say “will focus on empowering people with albinism.”

They don’t only face problems in Tanzania. So far this year at least 15 albinos have been kidnapped or killed in Mozambique. The true figure could be a lot higher, because fear prevents the victims from reporting such crimes to the authorities.

Mosambik Organisation Amor à Vida - Laurinda TembeLaurinda Tembe has little hope that the plight of Mozambique’s albinos will improve

“One of our members has already been burgled,” says Laurinda Tembe. An albino herself, she campaigns with a group called Àmor a Vida (Love of Life) for albino rights in Mozambique. “In one case, a two-year-old baby was saved by the police at the last moment. In another case, a mother was able to escape [from kidnappers] but her daughter was later found dead,” she said.

Traditional healers protest innocence

Traditional healers are often blamed for albino murders. But the spokesperson for Mozambican Association of Traditional Healers (AMETRAMO), Fernando Mathe, denies all knowledge of any such incidents. He said traditional healers would not use body parts because albinos “do not possess anything special that would distinguish them from the rest of us.” However, he added that human traffickers misuse the name of the traditional healer for their own purposes.

Many albinos have been kidnapped or murdered in Nampula city in northern Mozambique. It lies close to the border with Tanzania where the government has already declared albinos “an endangered minority.” Pedro Cossa from the Nampula police force says the threat to albinos could have come from Mozambique’s neighbor but insists that “these crimes are not being committed by foreign nationals.” Those foreign nationals do, however, incite Mozambicans to “persecute albino brothers and sons.”

Symbolbild Albinos in AfrikaFear of deadly physical violence can deprive children with albinism of proper schooling

The climate of fear is stopping many children with albinism from attending school in Nampula. Their parents recently asked for permission to send their children to a school in Quelimane, which is some 500 kilometers (311 miles) away. This prompted teacher and students in that city to stage a protest against the abuse of albinos. “When albinos are forced to flee for safety in the own country, then we are dealing with a clear violation of human rights,” said teacher Shara Ofumane. “The criminals responsible should be punished in accordance with the law.”

Prevention and public awareness

A number of kidnappers have already been detained by the police and there have been prosecutions. The government is counting on prevention and has appointed a committee to draw up measures for the protection of people with albinism. The public prosecutor in Nampula has reinstated a commission for the combating of human trafficking. Security along the borders between Mozambique, Tanzania and Malawi is to be tightened. Public awareness campaigns about albinism – including radio commercials – are also going to be launched.

Laurinda Tembe remains pessismistic. “We have been calling for equal rights day in, day out, but nothing really changes,” she said.

Marcelino Mueia, Leonel Matias and Sitoi Lutxeque contributed to this report.

Nigeria – over 30 killed in Yola market blast


A blast struck a market in the northeastern Nigerian city of Yola on Tuesday evening, killing 32 people and wounding 80 others, both the Red Cross and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.

The explosion occurred at a fruit and vegetable market beside a main road in the Jimeta area of Adamawa’s state capital around 1900 GMT.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the blast bore the hallmarks of militant Islamist group Boko Haram which has killed thousands over the last six years in its bid to create a state adhering to strict Sharia law in the northeast.

“Thirty-two people were killed and 80 have been injured,” said a Red Cross official who asked not to be named. NEMA regional spokesman Alhaji Sa’ad Bello later gave the same casualty figures.

Suspected Boko Haram militants have carried out attacks in neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in recent weeks but have not struck northeastern Nigeria since late October when bombings in Yola and Maiduguri left at least 37 people dead.

“The ground near my shop was covered with dead bodies. I helped to load 32 dead bodies into five vehicles,” said witness Alhaji Ahmed, who owns a shop in the market.

A Reuters witness said he saw eight ambulances being used to carry casualties away for treatment.

Suspected members of Boko Haram have killed around 1,000 people since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in May, vowing to crush the militant group.

Since losing most of the territory they took over earlier this year to the Nigerian army, the militants have focused attacks on markets, bus stations and places of worship, as well as hit-and-run attacks on villages.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Ande; Additional reporting by Isaac Abrak; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Nigeria – massive arms spending did not cut deaths from insurgency and violence

Premium Times

Nigeria has recorded more deaths from insurgency and violent crimes in the last four years than before, despite spending an unprecedented N1.488 trillion on armaments between 2011 and 2014, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis has shown.

While N369 billion was spent in 2011, N365 billion, N381 billion and N374 billion were spent in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively for the purchase of the security equipment — mostly arms and ammunition — across the major law enforcement departments of the country.

Offices reviewed are the Office of the National Security Adviser, Ministries of Defence, Interior, and the Police. Together, they received a total budgetary allocation of N3.69 trillion within the period.

The N1.488 trillion spent on arms  formed about 40 per cent of the entire N3.69 trillion security budget.

The security budget was about 20 per cent of Nigeria’s entire budget within the period.

Military spending - budget
Source: Premium Times

Curiously, the number of deaths caused by insurgency and violence in the country increased as the spending rose.

According to the death toll tracker by Nigeria Security Tracker, deaths caused by crime and violence in Nigeria rose from 29 in May 2011 to 41,619 in September 2015.

Military spending - Nigeria security tracker2
Majority of these deaths were linked to the militant Islamist movement, Boko Haram, violence among ethnic groups, farmers, and herdsmen, Niger Delta militants and even police extrajudicial murders.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations: Nigeria Security Tracker Website.
Source: Council on Foreign Relations: Nigeria Security Tracker Website.

The Nigerian military and allied agencies do not fully disclose details of how these monies are spent. They simply tag them as matters of national security.

The heads of the country’s security agencies have also repeatedly said allocations to their units were insufficient to equip the armed forces.

Experts however say the huge allocations should translate to improved level of security in the country.

Military spending - Armament1
Nigerian Military Spending on Armament (2011 – 2014)

But that is not the case.

An analysis of global annual military spending by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, as well as annual violence-related deaths collated from Council for Foreign Relations’Nigeria security tracker show that for Nigeria, the funds dedicated to arms have not exactly translated to improved security or fewer number of deaths.

Military spending - What is-should be
Relationship between Military Spending and Death caused by Violence


The huge military investment could improve other sectors significantly. For jobs creation, it could help:

  • 148,820 beneficiaries of YOUWIN loan scheme at N10 million each
  • 59,528 doctors’ annual salary of N2,500,000 for 10 years
  • 219,595 teachers’ annual salary of N677,704 for 10 years
  • Close to 1.5 million beneficiaries of SMEs loan at N1 million each

Should the same amount be committed to infrastructure and or social amenities, here is what it can do.

  • Over 67 gas-turbine able to produce up to 32,800 megawatts at the cost of N22billion per piece;
  • Extra 74,400 primary schools built for N20 million each;
  • Up to 148,800 primary health centres at a total cost of N10million;
  • Additional 212,571 cheap housing for citizens at N7million per piece;
  • Not less than 16.17 million households with potable water at a cost of N92,000 per household connection;
  • Additional 15,780 kilometers roads constructed at the outrageous N94 million per kilometer;
  • 248 million bags of fertilizers for farmers across Nigeria to enhance growth of agricultural plants; and
  • Mosquito treated nets at N6,900 each for about 215.65 million Nigerian kids thus saving them from the scourge of malaria which kills more than 300,000 Nigerian children under the age of five. (Is it annually)
Human Development Index (HDI) Value of N1.488Tr Military Spending in 4 Years
Human Development Index (HDI) Value of N1.488Tr Military Spending in 4 Years

Ishola Williams, a retired major general in the Nigerian Army, said part of the reasons the military is unable to contain the violence in the country was perhaps not related to inadequate arms and ammunition.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Williams said the failure in containing the insurgency could be “because the community intelligence, comprising the state security service (SSS), Civil Defence and Police, are not friendly with the community where they operate; they don’t get good information from residents to help them uncover activities and hideouts of criminals and even the Boko Haram insurgents”.

He also said the Nigerian military’s reliance on the conventional military style inherited from Britain, the country’s colonial master, in fighting a non-conventional war against the Boko Haram, is responsible for the poor outing the military has recorded.

Mr. Williams said while the Nigerian military are equipped with sophisticated ammunition, many of its personnel do not have full knowledge of how they work.

He said they also lack the knowledge of how Boko Haram operates.

Quoting Sun Tzu, Mr. Williams said, “If you know yourself and your enemy, you will fight thousand battles and win the war, but in the case of Nigeria, perhaps our military only knows itself but does not know the enemy very well and so keeps losing the war”.

He said recruitment into the army is majorly to reduce unemployment and are not based on the need to fill critical positions with special requisite skills.

View and download full infographic here

INFOGRAPHIC: EXCLUSIVE: Many more people killed in Nigeria despite unprecedented N1.48trillion arms spending.

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