Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

South Sudan fragile states index

Inter Press Service

South Sudan Again Tops Fragile States Index

South Sudanese Police Cadets taking oath during their graduation ceremony at the Juba Football Stadium. September 17, 2012. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy Gideon Lu'b

South Sudanese Police Cadets taking oath during their graduation ceremony at the Juba Football Stadium. September 17, 2012. Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy Gideon Lu’b

SAINT JOHN, New Brunswick, Canada, Jun 18 2015 (IPS) – For the second year in a row, South Sudan has been designated as the most fragile nation in the world, plagued by intensifying internal conflict that has displaced more than two million of its people.

Headline-making events of the past year have spurred much of the movement of countries’ rankings – for better or worse – in the Fragile States Index (FSI), a joint annual report by Foreign Policy magazine and think-tank Fund for Peace (FFP) released on Jun. 17.

“For me, Nigeria was one of the most interesting stories of the year. All indicators showed intensive pressures on all fronts…and yet people were able to really rally at the local, national level.” — Nate Haken

Sub-Saharan Africa found itself leading the pack, with seven out of the top 10 countries ranked as the most fragile. As far as regional trends go, the Islamic State’s encroaching influence pulled states such as Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq into the top 10 most-worsened countries of 2015.

Cuba stood out as the most-improved country this past decade, owing its designation to the thawing of relations with the United States and the gradual opening of its economy to foreign investment. Though trends suggest the nation is on track to improving conditions, there remains the challenge of access to public services and upholding human rights.

In an effort to measure a state’s fragility, the index accounts for event-driven factors and makes use of data to illuminate patterns and trends that could contribute to instability. The report analysed the progress of 178 countries around the world.

“At the top of the index, countries do tend to move minimally, but at the centre of the index, you tend to see a lot more movement,” said Nate Haken, senior associate of FFP. “That’s partly because fragility begets fragility and stability begets stability.”

And yet, the report highlighted, there are outliers like Nigeria that defy easy categorisation even as pressures on all fronts – political, social, economic – would indicate a country on the brink of descending into conflict.

“For me, Nigeria was one of the most interesting stories of the year. All indicators showed intensive pressures on all fronts,” Haken told IPS. “Oil prices were down, there was more killing this past year.”

But in an unexpected turn, Haken noted, the political opposition led by Muhammadu Buhari emerged as a credible threat to incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party. He added that many expected a polarising outcome that would pit the north and south against each other, whatever the outcome.

“I think most observers looking at these trends thought this was bound to be a disaster,” said Haken. “Every empirical measure shows a high degree of risk and yet, people were able to really rally at the local, national level.”

Meanwhile, Portugal and Georgia joined the ranks of Cuba for the most improved, with strides being made in the economy.

Whereas some countries’ progress or decline has held steady, a closer look can reveal an emerging narrative, said Haken. The United States’ year-over-year score (ranked at 89) has remained flat, but group grievances – tensions among groups – has been increasing since 2007, with respect to the immigration of children fleeing Central America and protest against the police over racial relations.

Far from being a predictive tool, the index functions as a diagnostic tool for policy makers working in human rights and economic development to identify high-priority areas, he noted. As well, it serves to turn the spotlight on countries that seemingly have marginal bearing for the international community.

In the case of the Ebola crisis in West Africa, countries like Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone may not have figured large in headlines, but the “ripple effects across the region” also had far-reaching consequences for the international community as the world scrambled to contain the outbreak, Haken noted.

Demographic pressures – massive rural-urban migration – coupled with lack of proper road infrastructure gave way to the spread of Ebola.

“One thing that came out of the index is how critical infrastructure is for sustainable human security,” he said. “… Once it began to spread, it was difficult for medical personnel and supplies to reach the rural areas.”

This regional crisis, in particular, served as a reminder that “post-conflict” nations “on path to recovery” still face vulnerabilities, the report noted.

The index relies on 12 indicators (plus other variables) to make its assessment. They account for state legitimacy; demographic pressures; economic performance; intervention of state or non-state actors; provision of public services; and population flight, among others. Each indicator is given equal weight, and countries take a numerical score, with one for the best performance and 10 for the worst.

On this basis, policy makers are encouraged to use the index to frame research questions and to help determine the allocation of humanitarian aid.

Since 2014, FSI moved away from the use of the term “failed” in favour of “fragile,” as a way of acknowledging that in some instances, the pressures a state faces can be beyond its control, said Haken.

For instance, he cited refugee crises in which governments – ill-equipped or not – take on a large number of refugees.

“Failure connotes culpability somewhere, whereas that’s not what this index was ever trying to do,” he said. “It was looking at factors – some of which governments have influence over, some of which they don’t.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 

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Nigeria-Niger – Boko Haram kills 30 in attacks on Niger villages

Reuters

NIAMEY

Boko Haram militants attacked two villages in southern Niger’s Diffa region overnight, killing at least 30 civilians, two security sources said on Thursday.

It was the second major cross-border attack by the Nigerian Islamist group this week, following twin suicide bombings in Chad’s capital on Monday that killed at least 34 people.

The attackers drove into the villages in the Gueskerou area with cars and motorbikes and shot residents before setting fire to the mostly straw thatched houses where others were hiding, the sources said.

“In all, at least 30 were killed. Some of them died when the houses were set alight,” said one of the security officials. The source said he expected the death toll to rise because a number of survivors had serious burns.

Gueskerou is along the banks of the Komadugu River separating Niger from Nigeria.

Despite a regional military operation to beat back Boko Haram, southern Niger has been attacked dozens of times this year. Its government has declared a state of emergency for the region and has arrested more than 600 people it accuses of links to the group.

Chad bans Islamic face veil after suicide bombings

BBC

Woman wearing a burka
Chad’s security forces have been ordered to burn all burkas sold in markets
Chad has banned people from wearing the full-face veil, following two suicide bomb attacks on Monday.

Chad’s government accused Nigerian militant Islamist group Boko Haram of the bombings which killed more than 20 people.

The prime minister said the veil was used as a “camouflage” by militants and said the security forces will burn all full-face veils sold in markets.

Chad is to host a new regional force set up to tackle Boko Haram.

The militant group has not commented on the attack but has previously threatened to attack Chad, after its forces started to help Nigeria.

At a meeting with religious leaders, Prime Minister Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet said the ban applied everywhere, not only public places.

He added that any clothing that covers everything but the eyes was a camouflage.

The attackers were on motorcycles when they blew themselves up outside two police buildings in the capital, N’Djamena.

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A cleanup operation has been going on at the scene of the attacks

Borno state, at the heart of the insurgency, is on the Nigerian border with Chad and Chadian forces have played a key role in helping Nigeria battle the jihadist group.

The US announced on Tuesday that it will give $5m (£3.2m) towards a multi-national task force headquarters in Chad.

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The BBC World Service’s Africa editor Richard Hamilton says Boko Haram militants have increasingly been using female suicide bombers in Nigeria, as they are more likely to smuggle bombs into public places without detection.

The majority of the population in Chad is Muslim and the burka is worn mainly for religious reasons, but also helps protect women from the hot, dusty climate of the Sahara.

The full-face Islamic veil was also banned in May in public places in Congo-Brazzaville, to “counter terrorism”.

Although there has never been an Islamist attack in the country and less than 5% of the population of Congo-Brazzaville is Muslim, thousands of mostly Muslim people had fled the neighbouring Central African Republic and had taken shelter in mosques.

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UN slams South Sudan president over civilian protection

Reuters

Girls play in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp inside the U.N. base in Malakal, in this July 24, 2014 file photo.
REUTERS/ANDREEA CAMPEANU

The United Nations slammed South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on Wednesday for hindering efforts to protect civilians by blocking U.N. attack helicopters and surveillance drones and declaring that U.N. personnel caught taking photos will be deemed spies.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the world body’s mission in South Sudan wanted to do a better job protecting civilians amid the country’s civil war. Some 136,000 civilians are currently sheltering at seven U.N. sites around the country.

“We needed attack helicopters, request denied; we needed UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), request denied by the president to me, personally, three times last year,” Ladsous told a U.N. Security Council meeting on peacekeeping operations.

The South Sudan capital city “Juba did declare some of our senior personnel persona non grata, if you look at the fact that yesterday it was announced that U.N. personnel taking pictures will be considered a spy, I think this raises a number of concerns,” he said.

Ladsous said the movements of peacekeepers had also been restricted during the 18-month conflict in the world’s newest state, which seceded from Sudan in 2011. There are some 12,000 U.N. troops and police in South Sudan.

The South Sudan mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the accusations by Ladsous.

Forces loyal to Kiir are pitted against rebels allied to former Vice President Riek Machar in a war that tends to follow ethnic lines – Kiir is an ethnic Dinka and Machar is Nuer. Several cease-fires have been agreed but broken.

The 15-member Security Council has long-threatened to blacklist anyone undermining security or interfering with the peace process in South Sudan, but has not sanctioned anyone yet.

South Sudan U.N. force commander Lieutenant-General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, of Ethiopia, told the Security Council that the sites where peacekeepers were protecting civilians were increasingly being targeted.

He said restrictions by the parties to the conflict “fundamentally hamper” the U.N. mission and “negate the principle that the authorities, and not we as the peacekeepers, have the primary responsibility of protecting civilians.”

“The Security Council plays an important role in holding accountable those who harm civilians, or directly obstruct our efforts to protects them,” Tesfamariam told the council.

Thousands have been killed in the violence and more than 1.5 million people have been displaced in South Sudan, while a further 500,000 have fled to neighbouring countries, the United Nations has said.

About a third of the nation’s 11 million people rely on food aid and other assistance.

Nigeria – were Monguno bombs old home-made explosives?

BBC

Nigeria Boko Haram crisis: ‘Old bombs’ explode in Monguno

A handout picture released by the Nigerian military and taken on 23 May 2015 shows arms and ammunition recovered from Boko Haram Islamists during military operations in Dikwa
Fleeing militants have abandoned ammunition and weapons which has been found by the military

A series of explosions in the northern-eastern Nigerian town of Monguno has killed an estimated 20 people.

A witness told the AP news agency they were caused by a sack of home-made bombs found at an old Boko Haram camp.

People had gathered to inspect the devices on Tuesday evening when they detonated, he said.

Despite a successful military crackdown on the Islamist militants this year, there have been continued suicide attacks blamed on the militants.

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African news updates

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The BBC’s Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says there is no official information about the incident in Monguno, about 135km (83 miles) north-east of the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, or how the devices exploded.

One hospital source said there were close to 20 killed and almost 50 injured, he says.

Eyewitness Haruna Bukar told AP news agency that anti-Boko Haram vigilantes were patrolling the area when they discovered the abandoned militant camp.

They found a bag of metal objects, which they carried to the nearby town of Monguno, where they later exploded, he said.

Our reporter says it seems that while celebrating this discovery at least one of the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off killing and injuring people who had gathered around.

This incident highlights the danger that remains even after Boko Haram fighters have been flushed out of an area, he says.

According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the group launched their violent uprising to impose Islamic rule in 2009.

The group is still holding many women, girls and children captive, including 219 schools girls it kidnapped from a school in Chibok in April last year.

With the help of Niger and Chad, Nigeria’s military has been able to recapture towns and villages taken by the group.

Despite losing territory and retreating to the Sambisa forest, the militants are still active in the north-east and Chad blamed Boko Haram for two suicide attacks in its capital, N’Djamena on Monday.

Nigeria – Boko Haram kill scores in Monguno, Borno State

Daily Trust  

17 June 2015


*Three female suicide bombers killed in another village

Suspected Boko Haram insurgents onTuesday killed nearly 100 people in Monguno town in northern part of Borno State, witnesses and security sources said.
It was a market day in Monguno where grains and animals are brought and sold  from far and near, thereby attracting large patronage.

The   terrorists reportedly used the opportunity to sneak into the town and wreaked havoc, leading to the death of no fewer than 100 people, including traders, customers, labourers and children.

According to a security source, the bomb used by the insurgents reportedly exploded at an area known as ‘Bakassi.’

Several other people, including women and children sustained injuries during the blast which also destroyed nearby houses and merchandise, witnesses said.
Dozens of charred bodies of the victims have been brought to the Specialists Hospital in Maiduguri this morning and kept at the premises of the morgue.
Kanna Alhaji Kura, a middle aged woman said her sister was among the people killed by the explosive. “When I came to Maiduguri, I saw at least 30 dead bodies lying on the floor at the hospital before I sighted my sister and I stopped counting,” she said.
Sources in Monguno said life was gradually returning to the garrison town when the latest attack was launched.
“The market became alive just recently and the terrorists came calling once again,” said Alamin Modu, a member of the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
“Sadly, the bomb was planted by one Boko Haram member called Ali.  He was familiar here in Monguno and had for a very long time pretended to be a Good Samaritan,” Modu said.
A security source in Maiduguri who confirmed the attack said investigation was ongoing.
In a related development, three suicide bombers were on Tuesday killed by their own explosives after they failed in an attempt to kill unsuspecting people near Gajiram in Nganzai Local Government Area also in northern part of Borno State.

 

British concern at Nigerian trafficking and slavery

BBC

Nigerian trafficking ‘top priority’, commissioner says

Lagos
Hundreds of people are believed to be brought from Nigeria to virtual slavery in the UK every year

Clamping down on the problem of Nigerians being trafficked to the UK is a main priority, the first independent anti-slavery commissioner says.

Kevin Hyland told the BBC it was “deeply concerning” that hundreds of Nigerians were brought in every year for prostitution or forced labour.

Mr Hyland said the problem of such exploitation was “enormous”.

The Home Office said it was “committed to tackling modern slavery” and was addressing specific issues in Nigeria.

The commissioner, who has only been in post for six months, says he can’t think of anything more worrying than women and children being raped and forced into domestic servitude.

‘Current-day slaves’

Latest figures from the National Crime Agency show that more than 2,000 potential trafficking victims were referred to the authorities in 2014 – 244 of whom were from Nigeria, a 31 per cent increase from the previous year. The highest number of potential victims were identified as being from Albania.

Campaigners believe the real figure of potential trafficking victims from Nigeria could be much higher, however.

Mr Hyland, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s human trafficking unit, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am extremely concerned about this. And we’re talking about several hundred every year.

“This isn’t just a one-off – it’s continuous – so the treatment of these people, what they go through, is actually a very serious crime, so for me it’s a big problem.

“But also I think the fact that there is a demand for this kind of exploitation in the United Kingdom really concerns me, that there are people who will want to buy sex, will want to exploit, will want to have children as what are current-day slaves, so that is a really serious problem.”

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Kevin Hyland said victims of modern slavery were often moved around the UK

Research published by the Home Office in December estimates that there arebetween 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK. Home Secretary Theresa May, speaking last year, described the scale of abuse as “shocking”.

Melissa (not her real name), who is in her 20s, was trafficked to the UK to work for a Nigerian woman in London as a domestic slave.

From the age of 10, she was made to clean the kitchen, sell food on a market, feed and bathe other children, and go to school and do her homework. She was beaten regularly, and locked in her room if she answered back.

She said: “I know that this sounds unbelievable and the reason it sounds unbelievable is because, you know, who does that to someone?

“I don’t understand the hatred because that’s how I feel – hated. I felt I didn’t do anything to deserve that and at some point I actually thought I was the one that was the problem, that there’s something about me that’s making her do that to me.”

‘Handful of convictions’

Debbie Ariyo, executive director of the charity Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, is adamant that the real number of those trafficked to the UK from Nigeria is much higher because many victims are reluctant to speak out.

She deals with hundreds of victims and believes the reasons for these people coming to the UK in the first place are the same.

She said: “There is a notion among the families in Nigeria that once their family has come over here, they will have a better life, they will get better education, they will have better food and material things.

“A lot of people don’t see the abuse and exploitation and many of the young people who’ve tried to tell their parents back home, it’s difficult for the parents to accept that something like this could be happening in Britain.”

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The government launched a campaign last year to raise awareness of modern slavery in the UK (image from Home Office TV advert)

The anti-slavery commissioner is calling for further prosecutions and for more victims to be identified, saying that a “handful of convictions is not enough”.

Mr Hyland said: “It’s about working with the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria – working with all those in the communities and telling them this could happen – and that’s never been brought together before so it’s unique.

“This is a new idea – Europol, Interpol, National Crime Agency, all must work together. It’s up to me to oversee this.

“This is not about lack of resources but about using them effectively.”

Tatiana Jardan, director of the Human Trafficking Foundation charity, believes that combating this problem is easier said than done because it’s a complex issue.

She said: “We believe the role of the commissioner is crucial but solving this is not going to be easy.

“This is a difficult type of trafficking because Nigerians believe in witchcraft so they’re worried about speaking out in case some harm comes to them. The police and other authorities desperately need more education so that they understand these complexities.”

‘Disrupt networks’

A Home Office spokesman said: “This government is committed to tackling modern slavery, including human trafficking, which is why the Modern Slavery Act 2015was passed earlier this year.

“This legislation, the first of its kind in Europe, gives law enforcement the tools they need to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and enhances protection for victims.

“The Modern Slavery Strategy, which was published in November last year, sets out an ambitious plan, including work with international partners, to increase collaboration and target human traffickers.

“We are already addressing the specific issue of human trafficking in Nigeria. This includes working closely with the National Crime Agency and the Nigerian National Agency for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons to identify and disrupt Nigerian networks involved in the movement of potential victims.”

With the commissioner only having been in post for six months, campaigners say it would be unfair to make an assessment now.

Some argue the creation of his role in the first place is a sign the issue is being taken seriously.

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