Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Nigeria – Buhari says end of Boko Haram in sight

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End of Boko Haram in sight, Buhari assures international community

President Muhammadu Buhari addressing World Leaders at the 71st General Assembly of United Nations in New York 7000/21/9/2016/ICE/HB/BJO/NAN

President Muhammadu Buhari addressing World Leaders at the 71st General Assembly of United Nations in New York 7000/21/9/2016/ICE/HB/BJO/NAN

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal, assured the international community that the end of Boko Haram terrorists was in sight.

The President gave the assurance at the meeting of a panel of heads of states at the 3rd Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.

In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday in Abuja, the President also assured the international community that the security situation in Nigeria had improved significantly.

President Buhari noted with delight the increased cooperation between Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against terrorism.

“About a month ago, I spoke with the President of Chad and I was pleased that a number of Chadians and Nigerians that were Boko Haram members are surrendering to him en-masse.

“The good news I have is that the end of the raining season has come in the North-Eastern region of Nigeria.

“Members of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) are in their respective positions and at an agreed time they will move simultaneously and spontaneously for us to see the end of Boko Haram.

“We are now operating in the Sambisa Forest and as far as Boko Haram is concerned in the Lake Chad Basin area, I think they are done for,’’ the President added.

While highlighting the gains of the cooperation among the Lake Chad Basin Commission countries comprising Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Nigeria, Mr. Buhari told the gathering that “Boko Haram is no longer holding any territory or Local Government Area (LGA) in Nigeria.

“Those who live in the North East know that Boko Haram is no longer holding a single territory in the 774 LGAs in Nigeria.

“But they have a system of using IEDs and they indoctrinate mostly teenage girls and send them to soft targets, to churches, mosques and market places. That too is becoming very rear.

“I think Boko Haram shot themselves in the foot when they gave their ideology a religious connotation by killing children in their schools, people in the mosque and churches and shouting Allahu Akbar.’’

According to him, this is a major contradiction as no religion advocates hurting the innocent.

He said:“You can’t kill people and say Allahu Akbar. You either do not know what you are saying or you don’t believe it.”

The President stated that Nigeria was capable of surmounting its security challenges, and appealed to the international community to focus more attention on addressing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and unemployment in Nigeria.

“In the southern part of the country, stolen Nigerian crude is being illegally transported through the Gulf of Guinea and installations offshore are being subverted.

“We also have the problem of unemployment in Nigeria. With a population of 180 million people of which 65 per cent are under the age of 35, young Nigerians are looking for any kind of job to survive.’’

He said that the present administration is addressing the problem of youth unemployment by turning to agriculture and solid minerals “because we are lucky to be blessed with arable land, water and resources.”


Uganda and ICC – LRA’s Ongwen on trial for rape, abduction and crimes against humanity

Star (Nairobi)

Dec. 06, 2016, 6:00 pm

Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in the Lord's Resistance Army, whose fugitive leader Kony is one of the world's most-wanted war crimes suspects, is flanked by two security guards as he sits in the court room of the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2016. /REUTERS
Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose fugitive leader Kony is one of the world’s most-wanted war crimes suspects, is flanked by two security guards as he sits in the court room of the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2016. /REUTERS

An alleged senior commander in the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army was notorious among his fellow soldiers for enslaving and raping particularly young girls, beating those who resisted, the International Criminal Court was told on Tuesday.

Addressing judges at the start of the trial, the court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the fact that Dominic Ongwen was himself a victim of LRA leader Joseph Kony’s campaign of child kidnapping was at most a mitigating circumstance.

Describing harrowing acts of sexual violence, Bensouda said Ongwen had raped one child victim vaginally and anally.

“To quiet her when she wept and screamed he threatened her with his bayonet,” Bensouda told the court, citing the witness’s statement.

The prosecutor quoted another witness describing children as young as six receiving military training, so small “that the muzzles of their AK-47 rifles dragged along the ground”.

Bensouda also played extracts from intercepted radio traffic in which a rebel she identified as Ongwen confirmed massacring a group of civilians.

Ongwen, who says he was abducted as a teenager and pressed into service in the late 1980s, faces 70 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

“It was the LRA who abducted and killed people in northern Uganda, and I am one of the people against whom the LRA committed atrocities,” he said in his native Acholi, speaking through an interpreter.

Dressed in a sober suit, Ongwen appeared unsure of his surroundings. Asked to stand, he rose only after the guards surrounding him interpreted the order with hand gestures.

He was indicted by the global court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2005 alongside Kony, who is still at large, and three other commanders now believed dead.

Waging a rebellion against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the LRA earned a reputation for massacres, mutilating civilians and mass kidnapping of children to serve as fighters and sex slaves from the late 1980s onwards.

Ongwen gave himself up last year after a decade on the run. Prosecutors accuse him of being the commander of the LRA’s Sinia Brigade and being responsible for a series of attacks on civilians from October 2003 to June 2004.

The LRA left Uganda after a military offensive by Kampala and has since roamed across lawless parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic, eluding international efforts to defeat it.

Nigerian human rights commission receives 1.7 million complaints, resolves only 200

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Professor Bem Angwe

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said it received a total of 1,179,510 complaints of human rights violations between January and November.

Its Executive Secretary, Bem Angwe, who disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja, said the commission had treated over 500 cases out which 200 had been won.

According to him, the number of complaints being received by the commission shows that Nigerians are becoming more aware of their human rights.

“This year, the National Human Rights Commission has crossed the one million annual threshold in its complaint status.

“At the end of November, the complaints received by the commission stood at 1,179,510 in one year.

“This is a testimony of the visibility and the confidence that the people of Nigeria have on the NHRC.

“As I speak to you, the commission has treated more than 500 cases and won more than 200 cases where persons, who were illegally detained without trial, have been released and compensation ordered in their favour.

“The number of complaints we are receiving is a manifestation that more Nigerians are becoming aware of their human rights.

“The number of complaints we are receiving today is a manifestation that more Nigerians have become aware of their human rights.

Mr. Angwe also said that the commission had begun the enforcement of the rights of Nigerians illegally detained in prison without trial.

Some of the victims, he said, were being compensated with N2 million each. He did not give further details.

The executive secretary also said the commission would investigate the recent alleged detention of a journalist, Friday Ogungbemi, by security agents in Kogi.

“With respect to the journalist that they are talking about, the situation is like others where Nigerians do have their rights infringed on.

“We would do everything possible, as we have been doing before, to stand by our journalist and to also enforce their rights.

“We are not saying that as journalists they cannot go wrong, but if they are wrong then the due process of the law must be followed, and they should not be incarcerated or detained.

“We are going to ensure that where the right of any journalist is infr

DR Congo – 31 killed in security force clash with local militia



At least 31 people died in clashes between “tribal” militia and security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the weekend, officials say.

They say the violence in the central Kasai province was sparked by a row between an uncle and a nephew over the title of a traditional chief.

Deputy Governor Hubert Mbingho N’Vula said 13 members of the security forces sent to quell the fighting were among those killed.

Eighteen militiamen also died, he said.

Mr N’Vula said public order had been restored in and around the city of Tshikapa in the remote province.

DR Congo is beset by sporadic violence between ethnic militias.

This has been enflamed further by the postponing of a presidential election due to be held before the end of the year.

Nigeria – army denies Operation Python Dance is anti-Igbo


Tony Okafor, Awka

The Nigerian Army has dispelled the insinuation in some quarters that “Operation Python Dance” inaugurated on Monday last week in the South-East geopolitical zone was targeted at inflicting harm and hardship on the Igbo.

The Deputy Director, Public Relations, 82 Division, Col. Sagir Musa, stated this on Sunday while conducting journalists round army checkpoints in Awka and Onitsha, Anambra State.

He said the exercise was to ensure a crime-free Yelutide and free flow of traffic in the zone during the festivities.

Musa said public complaints against the exercise would be addressed where appropriate.

He said the fear being expressed by some people about the exercise was unfounded.

The spokesperson added that similar exercises had been launched in other parts of the country according to the peculiarity of their security challenges.

Public condemnation had trailed the inauguration of the Operation Python Dance, especially among rights groups and pro-Biafran agitators, accusing the army and the Federal Government of a sinister move to cause hardship on the people of the geopolitical zone.

Debunking the allegation, the spokesperson said the exercise was not targeted at anybody or group.

He said, “Exercise Python Dance is not targeted at any individual or group of people.

“It is purely a command post and field training exercises as a way of enhancing troop’s preparedness across spectrum of contemporary security challenges peculiar to the South-East geopolitical zone.

“For emphasis and clarity, Exercise Python Dance is not targeted at MASSOB/IPOB or any individual or group.

“ It is only a Field Training Exercise that is designed to where necessary dovetail into real time activities such as anti-kidnapping drills, patrols, raids, cordon and search, checkpoints, road blocks and show of force.

“This is with the aim of checkmating anticipated rising wave of crimes usually prevalent during the Yuletide period.”

It maintained that similar exercises had been conducted in other geopolitical zones of the country.

Exercise Shirin Harbi was conducted from 17 to 19 April, 2016 in three Division Area of Responsibility to take care of the insurgency, cattle rustling and other sundry crimes in the North-East geopolitical.

Exercise Harbin Kunama was held in 1 Division AOR from 9 to 15 July, 2016 to rid the North-West geopolitical zone of banditry, insurgency and cattle rustling among other menaces.

“Also, Exercise Crocodile Smile was conducted from 5 to 10 September, 2016 in the Niger Delta region with the aim of reducing incidences of illegal bunkering, oil theft, sea piracy and other peculiar criminalities across the entire region.

“In the same vein, Exercise Python Dance has been planned for the South-East geopolitical from 27 November to 27 December, 2016.

“The prevalent security issues such as armed robbery, banditry, kidnappings, herdsmen – farmers’ clashes, communal clashes and violent secessionist attacks among other security threats in the geopolitical would be targeted.”

He asked the public to disregard “the unfounded fear and allegations orchestrated by ill-meaning individuals and groups that the exercise is ‘ a plot to kill IPOB members.”

“This assertion is not only insidious and mischievous but is also devious and should be disregarded,” Musa stated.

Copyright PUNCH.               

Nigeria – Buhari rejects UN and other accounts of crisis in North-East

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said the reports by local and international humanitarian agencies detailing the high level of deprivation in the war-ravaged north-east Nigeria were exaggerated.

The president said the United Nations and other private humanitarian groups are deliberately hyping the level of the crisis for financial gains.

The reproach came two days after the United Nations warned that more than five million victims of Boko Haram face serious food shortages in the coming year.

“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages as the conflict and risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers planting for the third year in a row, causing a major food crisis,” the U.N. Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, said in a statement Friday.

Mr. Lundberg’s alert followed a similar one issued by a sister agency, UNICEF, in September.

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

UNICEF, which focuses on humanitarian assistance for children and mothers, said more than two million people remained trapped in Boko Haram-controlled areas while about 400,000 children were at risk of acute malnutrition.

The agency said more than half of the children could die within 12 months unless urgent measures were taken by the concerned authorities.

But in a statement signed by his media aide, Garba Shehu, Mr. Buhari faulted the findings of the UN and also added some non-governmental organisations raising concerns about looming food crisis for the victims of the seven-year-long insurgency.

“We are concerned about the blatant attempts to whip up a non-existent fear of mass starvation by some aid agencies, a type of hype that does not provide a solution to the situation on the ground but more to do with calculations for operations financing locally and abroad,” the president said.

The president highlighted contradictions in some of the claims made by different humanitarian groups about the crisis.

“In a recent instance, one arm of the United Nations screamed that 100,000 people will die due to starvation next year. A different group says a million will die.”

“So while local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, it is not true as these reports have indicated that 100,000 or even a million people will die because the government is unable to provide care at the camps.

“This country has a responsible government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is doing a lot to bring relief to the displaced people,” the statement said.

Boko Haram
Boko Haram

While acknowledging a decline in socio-economic activities of the people of north-east, Mr. Buhari said his administration is making efforts to resolve the crisis and improve the living conditions there.

“There can be no doubt that the effect of the Boko Haram terrorism and their occupation of communities and destruction of houses, infrastructure and means of livelihood has been manifested in the decline of socio-economic activities throughout the North-East.

“Arising from this, farming, pastoralism, trade, exchange of goods and services and social interaction among the people have negatively been impacted leading to the displacement of more than two million people, mostly women and children. Consequently, there is death, there is hunger and there is poor nutrition.

“The Nigerian government which has been making the most efforts in the entire endeavour will continue to work closely with the local and international response groups to overcome this humanitarian crisis. At this time when the focus is gradually shifting to towards rehabilitation, reconstruction, resettlement, recovery and the dignified return of IDPs back home, we can do with all the support out there in the donor community,” the statement said.

But in the interim, the president warned that humanitarian agencies should desist from continuing to blow the situation out of proportion for financial gratification.

“We do not, however, see the reason for the  theories and hyperbolic claims being made ostensibly to draw donor support by some of the aid agencies.

“The situation on the ground, as it exists, provides sufficient motivation to all well-meaning donors to come and do a decent part.

“The hype, especially that which suggests that the government is doing nothing is, therefore, uncharitable and unnecessary,” Mr. Buhari said.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram crisis: ‘We survived militants but face starvation’


A nutritionist feeds a malnourished baby at the Molai General Hospital Maiduguri, Nigeria. November 30, 2016.REUTERS Maiduguri has become the centre of aid efforts

Kawu Ashe is just one of up to 120,000 people facing starvation in north-eastern Nigeria, which has been ravaged by the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency.

Last month, she made the life-and-death decision to flee her village after militants delivered a chilling message: “We are coming back to take your son.”

The insurgents killed her husband, a cattle trader, two years ago and were now insisting that the couple’s two-and-a-half-year-old son Abdullahi belonged to them.

Ms Ashe knew she had to act – even if the penalty for trying to escape could be execution.

Kawu Ashe and her two-and-a-half-year -ld son Abdullahi in northern Nigeria
Abdullahi faces a serious risk of starvation

Under the cover of darkness, she and her two children and a younger sister walked through the bush for nine hours to safety.

But although Abdullahi survived the militants, he now faces another deadly threat – starvation.

He is among the estimated hundreds of thousands of children in north-eastern Nigeria currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

The UN describes it is as the “greatest crisis on the continent” and is appealing to the international community for more than $1bn (£793m) to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to almost seven million people in the region.

Abdullahi is skeletal. His body weight at 7kg (15lb) is around half of what it should be at his age.

“There was barely any food or clean drinking water in the village,” said Ms Ashe, speaking at a Unicef malnutrition clinic set up in the region’s main city, Maiduguri.

“Even if we did get some food the militants would take it away. Things are little better here. But I’m still struggling to feed my children.”

‘It starts with the kids’

Last month, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said thousands of children had already died of starvation during the crisis.

The seven-year-long Boko Haram insurgency has laid waste to this region – killing thousands and forcing millions to flee their homes in north-east Nigeria and the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger.

But as the Nigerian military pushes the insurgents from territory they once controlled, the sheer scale of the hunger and devastation is being revealed.

Frequent Boko Haram attacks mean farmers have been unable to plant anything in their fields for the third year in a row and aid convoys are ambushed on insecure roads.

There are allegations of wide-spread aid theft, which are being investigated by Nigeria’s senate.

Women and children are seen gathered at the water point at the internally displaced peoples camp Muna camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, December 1, 2016.REUTERS The UN says there is not enough money to fund the aid efforts

The military has also closed down markets because of security concerns but it means people have nowhere to buy food or to make a living.

The UN says millions are now reliant on food aid and there is simply not enough to go around.

“Without more international assistance, many more people are going to die” says John Ging, operations director for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“It starts with kids because their parents have no means to actually take care of them,” he says.

“We can do better than that in 2016 – it’s a rich world. We need a very small fraction of those riches for international humanitarian action. At the moment we’re not getting that small fraction.”

‘Bloated’ with hunger

The city of Maiduguri is now the centre of the aid efforts. Its population is swollen by the hundreds of thousands of civilians who fled the violence and are now living in make-shift camps.

The worst cases of children suffering from starvation are brought to the MSF medical facility in the city.

In the intensive care unit, around a dozen severely emaciated children lay on beds.

They were hooked up to oxygen. Some had drips attached to their skulls as that was the only place the nurses could find a vein.

One of them is two-year-old Ali, who was born albino.

His mother Zara Mustafa said that her husband struggled to find work after they were forced from their home and they had no money to feed the family.

“Sometimes we don’t eat for three days straight,” she says.

Zara Mustafa and her two-year-old son Ali, an albino, who is starving
Ali’s family struggled to feed him when they were driven from their home by militants

In another bed lies one-month-old Mohammedu – his little body bloated my malnutrition. His mother, Aisha Umar has six other children.

“It’s unbelievably difficult to get food here. I have to send my children out to beg,” she says.

While the children are in a terrible state, they are at least getting some care.

There are still areas under the control of Boko Haram, which aid agencies cannot reach.

Conditions there will almost certainly be worse than those in Maiduguri.

And with the start of the dry season under way, yet more hunger is now on the horizon.

Boko Haram at a glance:

Boko Haram videoBOKO HARAM VIDEO Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and often displays its trademark black flag
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS’s “West African province”
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory in the last 22 months.