Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria’s national cake – cut up and kept in the family

BBC

Letter from Africa: Sharing Nigeria’s cake

Nigeria marked 54 years of independence from the UK in October this year

In our series of letters from African journalists, Nigerian writer and novelist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani looks at the clamour for assistance that accompanies a politician’s rise to office.

The political party primaries in Nigeria have drawn to a close and voters now have a clearer picture of whose turn it might be to divide up the national cake after the elections in February 2015.

But the winning candidates won’t be the only ones taking their share of the country’s riches.

In Nigeria, news of a person’s success in an election often travels at the speed of lightning, over rivers and mountains and past fields and forests, to his kindred in all corners of the globe.

Those with no jobs believe their days of unemployment are coming to an end; those with no education think it will soon pose no barrier to climbing the corporate ladder; those in faraway lands begin plans to return home.

Soon, these kith and kin launch their pilgrimage towards the successful candidate.

They ring his phone; they send text messages; they knock at his gate.

They offer to help his campaign in any way they can; they organise prayer sessions for his victory, usually late at night in his living room.

The most unforgivable sin a politician can commit is to forget ‘his people’ after he assumes office”

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

‘Bitter tongues will wag’
A friend of mine who lives in Lagos told me last week that he was travelling to Benin city.

His friend had just “picked up” a spot in the House of Assembly there. Another person he knew was set for another top position.

“He’s a good friend of my elder brother in Florida,” he said. “I’ve already told my brother: ‘You’d better come down and rub minds with him and introduce us to him.'”

Another friend whose husband is a close associate of a winning candidate in one of Nigeria’s choicest states told me her phone did not stop ringing after his victory was announced.

People had been calling to offer congratulations. Indeed, even I had called for that very reason.

In Nigeria, the culture has always been that anyone who gets into power, who suddenly finds himself holding a knife with which to cut the national cake, must invite his clan to both slice and eat it with him.

Friends and family of candidates take to the streets to celebrate if their man is triumphant at the polls
The most unforgivable sin a politician can commit is to forget “his people” after he assumes office.

He must “remember” his sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, friends, schoolmates, and so on.

Preferably through contracts, appointments and jobs.

Failure to do so will lead to taunts and ostracism and on the day his tenure expires, he will find himself completely alone.

Long after his funeral, the bitter tongues will continue wagging.

Local history will forever record him as having denied his kindred their turn.

I have heard several amusing stories regarding the influx of people from the Niger Delta region into Abuja, the Nigerian capital, after their kinsman, Goodluck Jonathan, was elected president in 2011.

Outstretched palms
One of my favourite tales was told by my British-Nigerian friend who teaches in one of those Abuja schools where the children pay stupendous fees in dollars and make fun of their teachers’ cheap mobile phones.

She was shocked when a particular pupil, during a science lesson, seemed to know more about crustaceans than you would expect of a child his age in the city.

This child stood before the class and described in great detail how the creatures are caught, cleaned and cooked.

It will be tough for Nigeria to tackle its corruption problem while people demand rewards for their votes
At the end, my friend called the boy aside and asked how he knew so much about the topic.

The child explained that he had grown up in the creeks, where his family petty-traded crustaceans for a living.

That is why the news of a candidate’s potential ascension into political office stirs such joy.

In many parts of the world, it requires years of steady progress for one’s economic circumstances to radically transform.

Here in Nigeria, all it takes is an election, and a new political appointment. Suddenly, a child goes from capturing crustaceans in the creeks to an exclusive school in Abuja.

Voracious kith and kin are the main force behind Nigeria’s corruption problem.

Imagine the thousands lined up with outstretched palms behind each political office holder.

Try telling them that you intend to reform the system now that it is finally their turn to eat.

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Liberia holds Senate election delayed by ebola

BBC
Voters in Liberia are going to the polls in an election that was postponed in October because of the Ebola outbreak.

Liberians are choosing representatives to the country’s senate.

Among the 139 candidates vying for 15 seats are former football star George Weah and Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberia’s president.

Ebola has infected about 19,000 people in West Africa, killing more than 7,300 – with about 3,340 deaths in Liberia.

The senate elections were postponed in October in a bid to stop campaigners and voters spreading the virus.

The election is being held just days after neighbouring Sierra Leone clamped down on public gatherings.

It has banned Sunday trading, restricted travel between districts and prohibited public celebrations over Christmas and the New Year.

Suspected Ebola patients are kept in quarantine at medical centres
One of Sierra Leone’s top doctors, Victor Willoughby, died from Ebola on Thursday, just hours after the arrival of experimental drug ZMab which could have been used to treat him.

Healthcare workers are among those most at risk of catching Ebola because it is spread by bodily fluids and requires close contact with victims.

In November Liberia’s election commission chairman, Jerome Korkoya, urged candidates and supporters to follow public health regulations in the run-up to the senate elections.

“For instance, the transportation of large groups of electorates by candidates clustered in vehicles and the congregation of huge number of people will be regulated,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Liberia on Friday at the start of a two-day visit to countries affected by Ebola in West Africa.

Ben Bland reports on Ban Ki-moon’s tour aimed at reminding the world the Ebola threat is not over yet
After stepping off the plane, he washed his hands and had his temperature taken – two important practices to help stop the spread of the disease.

Mr Ban urged people to follow strict health regulations until the epidemic was over.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lifted a state of emergency last month that was imposed in August to control the outbreak.

It came after the WHO said there was “some evidence” that the number of cases in Liberia was “no longer increasing”.

A crowd follows former soccer player George Weah as he campaigns for senate seat in Monrovia.

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Nigeria – 172 women and children taken in Boko Haram raid on Gamsuri

Reuters

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – Suspected Boko Haram gunmen kidnapped 172 women and children and killed 35 other people on Sunday during a raid on the northeast Nigerian village of Gumsuri, residents said on Thursday.

Although no one has claimed responsibility, the attack bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which abducted more than 200 women in April from a secondary school in Chibok, only 24 km (15 miles) from this latest attack.

The campaign for an Islamic state by Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has become the gravest threat to Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer.

Village resident Abba Musa, a maize grinder who survived the attack, estimated the number abducted as 172 after the village did a head count following the assault.

The attackers shouted “God is Great” and unleashed salvos of gunfire, he said.

“My sister and her seven children were among those taken away,” he told Reuters by telephone. “We ran into the bush and were lucky. There were not many others who were lucky.”

He said at least 33 were killed.

Thousands of people have been killed and many hundreds abducted, raising questions about the ability of security forces to protect civilians, especially around the north Cameroon border where the militants are well established.

“The government is outraged and deeply saddened by this deplorable act,” government spokesman Mike Omeri said in a statement. “Boko Haram continues to choose, ever cowardly, to target civilian populations to spread their brand of terror.”

He estimated deaths at 17 but said the numbers abducted could not yet be reliably ascertained.

Maina Chibok, who did not witness the attack but is from Gumsuri and visited family there shortly afterwards, said the insurgents carted away their victims on open-topped trucks.

News from remote parts of Nigeria that are cut off from mobile communications sometimes takes days to emerge.

A security source confirmed that more than 100 had been abducted and 35 people killed, including the district head.

“They also burnt down a government medical centre, houses and shops,” Chibok said.

The abductions have increased in frequency this year. A man who says he is Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau last month rejected comments by the government that it was in talks to free the Chibok girls, saying he had in fact “married them off” to Boko Haram commanders, in a video posted on the Internet.

Aliyu Mamman, a young vigilante from the area, told Reuters by telephone that there was no security presence to stop the militants, who stayed in the town all night before leaving.

Nigeria sentenced 54 soldiers to death for mutiny in the northeast on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cameroon’s army killed 116 Boko Haram militants when they attacked a base in the Far North region of the country, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

 

Turning Africa’s elephants and rhino into economic assets

The jury really is out on this approach to conservation.  It has a certain logic but the trade is so valuable and so criminalized that it is hard to see any government, whether in Africa or abroad, having the expertise, funding and manpower to police a legalised ivory or rhino horn trade and thereby provide income that could ensure ultimate survival but at the cost of regulated hunting. There are strong arguments against it and the real effects of temporary lifting of the ban on ivory sales in the past are still far from clear.  I also have the lingering suspicion that there are those in South Africa who want a legalised rhino trade who are constructing efforts to stop poaching or are actively involved in it. KS

Mail and Guardian

Turning Africa’s Big 5 into hard cash

19 Dec 2014

Lifting ivory and rhino horn trade bans could translate to an economic turnaround for Africa, where the black market for animal products is thriving.

While elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered illegally for their tusks and horns, some argue that legalising trade could be beneficial for both animal and the economy. (Reuters)

For many outsiders, Africa’s big animals are among the natural wonders of the world and a major tourist draw.

For many Africans, elephants, rhinos and lions – or at least the bloody trade in their body parts, and the proximity of big, dangerous critters to their crops, cattle and kin – are part of a wider “resource curse” that has long afflicted the continent.

Commodities such as oil and minerals – or elephant ivory – have historically been extracted in Africa in ways that have enriched a few but failed to spread the prosperity. At its worst, the curse has fueled colonialism, apartheid and conflict.

Framing wildlife issues in this context may help policy makers find solutions to a poaching crisis, which has seen rhinos and elephants slaughtered at a record rate.

Legalising trade in their horns and tusk could provide revenue for housing and other social needs among communities living near wildlife. Similar initiatives in sectors like platinum have been undertaken by black-owned companies such as Royal Bafokeng Platinum.

But trade in African ivory, for example, has long benefited the traders, who exploited or terrorised local communities.

Demand for ivory
European and American demand for ivory for billiard balls reached industrial scale in the 19th century, helping to fuel the great power scramble into Africa. Men such as Tippu Tip, a Zanzibari trader, made a fortune out of the trade, using slave labour to ferry his “blood ivory”.

King Leopold of Belgium treated the Congo like a fiefdom. His officials killed elephants with abandon and confiscated tusks from villagers – part of a genocidal campaign to plunder natural resources that killed millions of people.

Today, ivory from elephant tusks and horn from rhino still benefit a limited number, including global criminal syndicates, a point underscored by the arrest this month of 16 people in the Czech Republic for horn smuggling.

The United Nations has also linked the ivory trade to terror groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, while a report by conservationists last year found a strong link between poverty, infant mortality and elephant poaching.

Surge in slaughter
After the trade in ivory was banned at the end of the 1980s, poaching declined sharply. It has since been escalating dramatically, driven by consumer demand in China, where ivory is coveted for decorative items and jewellery.

Last year was the third consecutive year in which at least 20 000 elephants were poached in Africa, according to the UN-linked Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Poaching of rhinos for their horns, used in traditional medicine in Vietnam and China, has also soared, with South Africa at the epicentre.

According to government data, South Africa had lost 1 020 rhinos in 2014 by the middle of November, compared with 1 004 for all of last year and over triple the 333 rhinos poached in 2010.

Based on the average weight of rhino horns, that could represent 4 000kg to 5 000kg of the commodity, which conservationists say is fetching $65 000 a kilogram on the black market – making it more valuable than gold or platinum.

That works out to a total ranging from $260-million to $325-million – money that could be used for development in poor communities such as rural villages in Mozambique, from which many of the poachers killing South Africa’s rhinos hail.

Rhino horn can be harvested, because it grows back. South Africa is considering a proposal to CITES to lift the trade ban on the commodity, though Environment Minister Edna Molewa stressed last month that no final decision has been reached yet.

Depriving income
Elsewhere, the wholesale slaying of elephants in regions such as central Africa is depriving the rural poor of a potential source of future income in the form of eco-tourism.

Finding ways to generate cash from big animals also has wider conservation and social imperatives. Poor villagers have to contend with elephants raiding their crops and lions preying on their livestock or worse.

This is another part of the curse that has contributed to African poverty, according to academics such as Jared Diamond.

African animals are especially ornery: the Asian buffalo has been harnessed to the plough, while Africa’s version is untamable, putting put the region at an historical disadvantage.

The task facing policy makers and conservationists is to lift the curse by making big animals an economic boon instead of burden to Africa’s rural poor. – Reuters

Sudan – Darfur Déjà Vu

African ArgumentsBy Alex de Waal

Alex-de-Waal1There is an old joke that Sudanese politics is different every week but if you come back after ten years it is exactly the same.

That sums up my impressions of the Darfur peace talks in Addis Ababa two weeks ago, except that it is nine years ago, not ten, that I became engaged full time in working for the African Union on the last round of the Darfur mediation.

The participants are almost all the same, except greyer, thicker around the middle, and (in the case of the rebels) wearing smarter suits. It is the same Minni Minawi; the same Abdel Wahid al Nur (booked into a different hotel and refusing to turn up); Khalil Ibrahim has been replaced by his brother Jibreel; Majzoub al Khalifa has been replaced by his deputy Amin Hassan Omar.

The same issues, the same demands, the same procedural gimmickry, the same obstinacy, the same selective memory. (Didn’t they sign a Declaration of Principles that includes all the issues they are raising now, back in July 2005?)

The same claims by the government generals that they are on the brink of victory, and by party bosses that they are about to win round most of the rebel commanders, leaving the rebel leaders isolated; the same earnest claims by the rebels that they are talking to the Arabs who are about to rise in revolt, and the government is about to collapse when the next army offensive fails.

The same blithe insistence from U.S. diplomatic staff that Minni should be taken seriously and the rebels have learned a lot. (They have learned that the U.S. is gullible.)

The Darfur Peace Agreement failed eight and a half years ago because the government delegation had other priorities than settling the Darfur conflict on terms they thought were too expensive. (Today, the Khartoum government’s priority is not to lose the $2 billion promised by Qatar on the condition that there is no interference with the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.)

It failed because the same rebel leaders represented a small fraction of Darfurians, and moreover were too weak to take their followers with them into a peace deal, and so the rebel movements fragmented.

Darfur’s conflict can be settled but not by these means.

Alex de Waal is Director of the World Peace Foundation.

Nigeria – beating epidemics through community buy-in

allAfrica

Nigeria: Preventing Urban Epidemics Through Community Buy-In

Abuja — Okechukwu Ndaguba sits at a table in a noisy conference room at the Jades Hotel in Nigeria’s capital city, summoning strength for the last day of a planning session about a new health insurance scheme.

Last week President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan signed into law a National Health Bill that greatly expands access to health care for Nigeria’s 190 or so million people. The new legislation dedicates a portion of national revenues to primary health, expands the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to cover more people and provide a broader range of services, eliminates fees for pregnant women and children under five – as a way of reducing high rates of maternal and infant mortality – and expands emergency services

While NHIS already covers a major portion of the formal, employed sector, those covered number only about 4.5 million people. Implementers of the new law are therefore faced with the enormous challenge of coming up with ways of insuring those in the informal sector — consisting mostly of the unemployed and the urban and rural poor.

Ndaguba, who works for NHIS, believes that an emerging community-based model will make fulfilling the law’s mandate possible. In addition, community schemes could provide a bulwark for Nigeria’s crowded cities against the kind of epidemic emergency presented by Ebola.

Ndaguba’s husky voice is freighted by weariness and skepticism, in common with many Nigerians tasked with making their large and complex country – the most populous in Africa – function better. But even the weight of his worries can’t mask his excitement as he imagines the impact of the newly-launched Community Based Health Insurance (CBHI) programme. He hopes that the public-private model of extending health services, coupled with community engagement, will demonstrate ways that sustainable and affordable access to medical care could transform Nigeria’s health landscape.

“The biggest attraction of community health insurance as a model for delivering universal health coverage is probably its inclusion of the community, the insurer, the provider and sometimes a third party in its management,” says epidemiologist Chikwe Ihekweazu, who launched Nigeria Health Watch to provide informed commentary and analysis on the country’s health sector. “Involving the ‘people’ is a principle that receives a lot of lip service but is rarely implemented.”

Ihekweazu recently visited a community health insurance programme in Obio, Rivers State that he thinks has begun to deliver on that promise. He describes the scheme, which he calls “an island of hope”, as a tripartite arrangement involving the state government, the Shell Petroleum company that operates in the area and the people – “a people/public/private partnership to deliver on health care”.

In some ways, the community-based model resembles efforts to enable financial inclusion for the ‘unbanked’ – a proportion of the population that is around 75 percent across Africa. Bankers, in alliance with governments and community organizations, have created various products that allow millions of people without bank accounts access to the financial system for the first time.

Similarly, health-insurance practitioners in Nigeria have been looking for ways to create products that serve as points of entry into the nation’s healthcare and health surveillance systems. For the plans to work, policymakers say, there should be products of varied design that enable access by a diversity of stakeholders – including both urban and rural communities.

No rural/urban split

The use of the term “community-based” purposely avoids the “rural” label, which is often assumed in discussions about expanding health services.

Health economist Dr. Kenneth Olayinka Ojo, who chairs the Center of Health Economics and Development, is one of the designers of the ‘Ukana West 2’ community-based insurance scheme in Akwa Ibom State, whose stakeholders are among those meeting at the Jades Hotel. Ojo bristles at the assumption that the new schemes are primarily for rural areas – and he eschews ways of thinking that draw a dichotomy between urban and rural in a country where those boundaries are blurred and so many people retain both identities.

“I don’t want to look at ‘community’ as only for rural areas, no,” says Ojo. “A community can be a bunch of urban elites or people who come from Ikoyi and come together in Ikoyi Club, as a community of rich people. (Ikoyi is an affluent area of Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and commercial center, and the club is an elite social and sports establishment.) Or an insurance association can be a “community of fishermen”, he says, or a “community of Okada riders”. (Okadas are commercial motorcycles that help fill a public-transport gap both within cities and between cities and surrounding areas.)

For Ojo, insurance is all about economies of scale. When people come together to define among themselves what kind of coverage they want for themselves and their dependents, they can drive community-based schemes – as long as they come together in sufficient numbers, take a common position and define a coverage package that is applicable to their situation.

Preventing the next Ebola

To appreciate the importance of having such community-enabled healthcare entry points, it is useful to look at the disaster that struck the largest cities of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia this year.

Infectious disease specialists were able to trace the current Ebola epidemic back to its first patient – what epidemiologists call the ‘sentinel case’ – a two-year-old child in the Guinean village of Meliandou, in Guéckédou province in the far north-eastern corner of the country. The epidemic spiraled out of control, partly because it made its way to densely populated urban areas, where it had never been seen in previous epidemics, dating from 1976.

The earliest and hardest hit was in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, but it also spread to Guinea’s capital and largest urban center, Conakry, as well as to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Why? One plausible reason is urbanization and modernization that have promoted the flow of people and goods from rural areas to cities.

In Liberia, the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had given priority to building good roads to promote commerce, to allow farmers to get crops to market, and to ease the path of citizens to schools and clinics. Afflicted Guineans in Guéckédou needed only to cross a small stream constituting the border between the two countries and make their way to a hospital in Kakata, midway to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. More than a dozen nurses and doctors in Kakata were early casualties of Ebola. From there, the improved road ran all the way to Monrovia, where the country’s JFK Medical Center was quickly overwhelmed.

Pair a continuous rural/urban flow with a lack of community health structures that could have offered a network of disease surveillance, and the outcome was predictable.

In Nigeria, where Ebola cases stemmed from one case in Lagos and required extraordinary efforts to contain, the task of strengthening this country’s health system has acquired a newly recognized urgency. The country has been declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization, but Nigerian health professionals say they must perform as well, or better, in the face of the next threat.

The ability for even poor Nigerians to get medical care when they are ill is an important safeguard against the next epidemic – whatever it may be. Delivering care to as many ill people as possible can offer health officials and epidemiologists more ways to know quickly when a threat appears. Early knowledge offers the chance to spread awareness about hygiene or facts about diseases, increasing the likelihood that a future outbreak can be contained and reduce the spread – either from rural to urban areas and vice versa or within vulnerable urban neighborhoods, which often have poor sanitation and low levels of prevention information.

A decade of learning

The Akwe Ibom State scheme that is animating the NHIS’s Ndagubawas launched in September. But the DNA of the new programme and others across the country dates to 2007, when a health investment fund backed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs partnered with the government of Kwara State.

Dr. Bukola Saraki, a physician, who is now a senator in Nigeria’s federal parliament, was then Kwara governor. His wife, Toyin Saraki, enthusiastically supported the insurance plan – which she described in a 2007 forum organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – as a powerful way to reduce deaths of mothers and babies during pregnancy and childbirth. The Wellbeing Foundation she launched in 2003 to support improved health outcomes in Kwara has become a national philanthropy promoting that cause, as well as other health advances.

Within a year, Kwara’s Community Health Care program had opened 10 clinics, and the scheme has continued to expand. Adult enrollees were charged two dollars per person per year, with a family plan to cover children. A June 2013 report by the Brookings Institution, cited Kwara’s program as an “innovative model” that can and should be replicated in other states and across Nigeria.

Those minimal ‘membership’ fees provided an income stream for salaries, drugs and electricity, but Kwara’s government and other partners subsidized about 93 percent of the operating costs. Clinic health staff told a visiting reporting team from AllAfrica that even the small sums paid by members gave them a sense of ownership. They felt empowered to demand accountability from providers, which raised the standard of care.

Proof that community-based programmes still empower local communities can be heard loud and clear back at the conference in Abuja. Ukana stakeholders at the Jade hotel include health insurance experts, primary health care workers from local governments, village development community heads, youth and women leaders, the Akwa Ibom health ministry’s director of planning and statistics, Dr. Emmanuel Boniface Ekong, and Michael Akpabio, who chairs the Board of Trustees overseeing the program. Funmi Esan, with over 16 years of experience in delivering sustainable community development programs, coordinates the lively discussions with the deft touch of a center midfielder or quarterback.

On the sidelines, speaking over the noise in the room, Trustee Akpabio explains that trustees provide “the bridge between the [healthcare] service providers and the people who need the service. To register the numbers of people targeted, officials must help the people skepticism about the government. With his short Afro and beard, peppered with white streaks, he comes across as an avuncular professor as he explains complex structures and the choices being made.

The Akwa Ibom plan charges higher fees – about U.S.80 annually for a family of six – than the Kwara programme. Data being collected from the numerous community insurance schemes taking shape across the country will help planners determine what models are most effectible and sustainable.

Everyday sees the dramatic movement of people from Nigeria’s rural to urban areas, where there are more economic opportunities. According to UN-Habitat, Africa will have more than 300 million new urban dwellers by 2030 – more than half of the continent’s poor. Building resilient health systems to absorb future shocks must take account of the circular migration of people who move back and forth between rural and urban areas.

“There is a lot to learn,” says epidemiologist Ihekweazu. “I was told about how the gardeners in Obio had formed themselves into a choir to sing as they worked, and I smiled about the spirit of Nigerians when it is let loose,” he says. “One day, we will sing as these gardeners when our country begins to achieve its full potential; but in the meantime there is much work to be done.”

Nigeria – Boko kidnaps dozens from border town; Cameroon kills 116 Islamists

BBC

Boko Haram unrest: Nigerian militants ‘kidnap dozens’

Boko Haram militants (file photo)Boko Haram has taken control of several towns and villages in the north-east

Militants have stormed a remote village in north-eastern Nigeria, killing at least 33 people and kidnapping dozens, a survivor has told the BBC.

He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Bintiri village.

The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases, AFP reports.

Residents told the BBC the armed militants attacked the border town of Amchide on Wednesday, arriving in two vehicles and many others on foot.

They raided the market area, setting fire to shops and more than 50 houses.

No group has said it carried out either attack but officials have blamed Nigerian-based Boko Haram militants.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in militant violence this year alone, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon.

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Who are Boko Haram?

A screen grab taken on 12 May 2014 from a Boko Haram video showing the girls kidnapped from Chibok, NigeriaMore than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the group in April
  • 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
  • Some three million people affected
  • Declared terrorist group by US in 2013

Who are Boko Haram?

Profile: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau

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The survivor of the Bintiri attack said that afterwards he returned to village in a remote area of Borno state and helped bury 33 bodies.

His testimony was confirmed to BBC Hausa by a local official. Neither person wanted their names to be published.

In a statement, the Cameroonian army said some of its vehicles from its elite battalion had been caught in an ambush on Wednesday.

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“At the same time… the Amchide military base was attacked by hundreds of fighters from the sect, but the response from our defence forces was instant and appropriate,” AFP news agency quotes it as saying.

One Cameroonian soldier was killed and an officer is missing, it reports.

Death penalty

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says it is yet another example of just how vulnerable the communities of north-east Nigeria are and how the military has not been able to offer sufficient protection, despite promises of a massive deployment of soldiers supported by the air force.

The military has had problems of indiscipline amid reports of soldiers being poorly equipped, he says.

On Wednesday a Nigerian court martial handed down death sentences to 54 soldiers who had refused to take part in an operation last August to recapture three town overrun by the militants.

Court Martial in Abuja. 2 Oct 2014The soldiers appeared before a court martial in Abuja

The soldiers, who were found guilty of mutiny, had complained that they did not have the weapons needed to take on the jihadists.

Boko Haram has been waging an insurgency since 2009 and is seeking to create an Islamist state in north-eastern Nigeria.

Attacks have increased since three states – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – were put under emergency rule more than 18 months ago.

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April sparked international outrage.

Despite military assistance from countries such as China, France, the UK and US, the girls have not yet been rescued.