Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

DR Congo – UN to start investigation of Kasai killings

Reuters

By Stephanie Nebehay and Aaron Ross | GENEVA/KINSHASA

GENEVA/KINSHASA The United Nations opened an investigation on Friday into killings in central Democratic Republic of Congo, though some Western countries and campaign groups said they had hoped it would have a stronger mandate.

Kinshasa has been fighting insurgents in the Kasai region since August, triggering fears of a wider conflict in the large central African country, a tinderbox of ethnic rivalry and competing claims over mineral resources.

Congo’s Catholic church said this week the violence had killed more than 3,300 people since October, with both government forces and the militia responsible for hundreds of

The U.N.’s Human Rights Council, composed of 47 member states, adopted by consensus the resolution calling for an investigation, brought by African countries.

Congo’s Ambassador Zénon Mukongo Ngay, addressing the Council, said President Joseph Kabila’s government would cooperate to shed light on atrocities. But the Congolese justice system would be in charge of the joint investigations, with the U.N. providing “technical or logistical support”, he said.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who is to name fact-finding experts to the investigation, had called repeatedly for an international inquiry into events in Kasai, an opposition stronghold.

“We fully support the establishment of an international investigation …as a step forward in identifying the perpetrators of gross violations and bringing them to justice,” Zeid said in a statement.

His office counted on the “full cooperation” of the government and on the experts having unfettered access to all sites, files, people and places.

“The team will conduct investigations in a fully independent manner, in accordance with international standards,” he said.

Zeid told the Council on Tuesday that a militia linked to the government has committed a string of ethnically-motivated attacks in recent months, including cutting off toddlers’ limbs and stabbing pregnant women.

Kinshasa has repeatedly denied that security forces systematically use excessive force and insists it is capable of conducting its own investigations.

Several government officials have said in recent days that they were pleased a European Union proposal for a fully-independent international investigation into the violence had been withdrawn. But diplomats said elements of that had been incorporated into the African text.

In a statement to the council, Jason Mack, a representative from the U.S. delegation, said Washington welcomed the resolution but retained doubts about the Congolese government’s commitment to a transparent investigation.

Paul Nsapu, the deputy secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), a French NGO, said investigators might not have sufficient authority to identify perpetrators of rights abuses.

“This resolution risks not being enough to stop the massacres,” he said.

Human Rights Watch’s Leila Matar, however, said in a statement that the inquiry “brings hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence”.

(editing by Richard Balmforth and John Stonestreet)

Donors pledge $352 million to help Uganda’s South Sudanese refugees

Reuters

By Elias Biryabarema | KAMPALA

KAMPALA About $352 million has been pledged to help Uganda cope with an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in South Sudan, donors said on Friday.

Uganda needs some $2 billion for its surging refugee population. The money would fund operations for the next 12 months .

About 1.3 million refugees have fled to Uganda, of whom an estimated 950,000 have come from South Sudan, displaced by the country’s escalating civil war.

Most of the South Sudanese are crammed into about five camps in Uganda’s northwest. One of them, Bidi Bidi is among the world’s largest refugee settlements, hosting about 270,000 people.

“I don’t think anyone ever anticipated that we would be dealing with one million refugees out of South Sudan alone,” David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, told Reuters.

Food for the refugees will run out in July without more help, Beasley said.

Fighting erupted in Africa’s youngest nation in December 2013 between forces allied to President Salva Kiir and his then- deputy, Riek Machar. A peace pact in 2015 briefly halted the conflict, but it exploded into war again last July.

“The international community needs to step up and needs to give to the Ugandan people and to the refugees hosted by the Ugandan people the kind of support that is absolutely needed because the circumstances in which these sacrifices are being made are extremely, extremely challenging,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa, Larry King)

 

Nigeria – state security service says it has foiled plots for attacks in Kano, Kaduna, Maiduguri and Sokoto during Islamic holiday

Premium Times

SSS operatives

SSS operatives

The State Security Service, SSS, announced on Friday that it arrested suspected terrorists planning to attack Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna and Maiduguri during the Sallah celebration.

The federal government had earlier declared Monday and Tuesday next week as public holidays for the Islamic festival.

In a statement on Friday signed by Tony Opuiyo, the SSS said, “The past few weeks, this service has uncovered a sinister plot by terrorist elements to stage series of coordinated attacks using explosives on different cities across the country.”

Two suspects, Yusuf Adamu and Abdumuminu Haladu, were apprehended by the domestic intelligence agency during the early hours of Friday in Sokoto.

According to the statement, Mr. Adamu and his accomplice were to command the operation in Kano.

“However, the Service had earlier arrested the facilitator of the Kano attack, an explosive expert by name Bashir Mohammed at Unguwar Barnawa, Shekar Madaki, Kumbatso LGA, Kano State on June 20”.

“Their plan, together with others now at large, was to assemble the explosives and use them on select targets during the Eid-el-Fitr Celebrations”.

“Their aim was to hit on soft targets such as markets, public parks, public processions, recreation centres, as well as worship centres especially the Eid Praying Grounds and other densely populated areas during the forthcoming Eid-el-Fitr Sallah celebration.  The latest plan by the terrorists was to unleash mayhem on Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna and Maiduguri,” the agency said.

However, the service assured Nigerians that the planned terrorist attacks in the states have been foiled by the agency.

The agency said during the arrest of Mr. Mohammed in Kumbotso, Kano, a search was conducted at his residence where it recovered “Eight (8) AK-47 rifles, Twenty (20) fully loaded AK-A7 magazines, Twenty-seven (27) hand grenades, Seven hundred and ninety-three (793) rounds of live ammunition.”

One gas cylinder, three laptops, one mobile phone, a motorcycle, a car, and a printer were also recovered.

The SSS also said it uncovered plans by the terrorists to infiltrate the ranks of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, which has been demanding the release of its leader Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, held without trial since December 2015.

“This is in an attempt to assume a formidable cover to unleash violence and evoke a complete state of chaos in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja during the group’s Qudus Day Procession/Rally scheduled for Friday in Abuja and several States in the Northern parts of the country”.

“Sequel to this, the Service is warning members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) to desist from staging any form of procession or demonstration as the terrorists will seize the opportunity to unleash mayhem”. Mr. Opuiyo said.

The rallies by the IMN had, however, been held across many cities, in a largely peaceful atmosphere, before the SSS statement.

“The Service is working, in concert with other security agencies, to ensure that no section of the country is attacked during and after the Sallah celebrations”.

“Law abiding citizens and residents are not only assured of their safety but enjoined to go about their normal businesses without fear of attack. It pledges to engage all stakeholders to ensure a hitch free Eid-el-fitr festival across the country,” it stated.

Dr Congo – twelve reported dead in fighting with rebels in N-E Congo

Reuters

At least 12 killed in heavy fighting in northeastern Congo

By Aaron Ross | KINSHASA

KINSHASA At least 12 people were killed in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in heavy firefights between the army and militia fighters on Thursday, and several students sitting exams were wounded in an explosion at a school, local activists said.

The fighting in and around the city of Beni between Congo’s army and what is believed to be a new coalition of armed groups, the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR), killed at least eight militiamen and four soldiers, said activist Teddy Kataliko.

The clashes, some of which occurred near the mayor’s office, broke out early Thursday morning but the army had driven back the militias by mid-afternoon, he added.

Gilbert Kambale, another local activist, told Reuters that at least 13 militiamen and three soldiers had died in Thursday’s fighting.

The mayor and a local army spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

The fighting followed a breakout by more than 900 inmates, many suspected militiamen, from Beni’s main prison this month – one of a series of mass jailbreaks that have undermined security in Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December.

Worsening security in the vast central African nation has raised fears of a return to the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions, most from hunger and disease, and sucked in more than half a dozen neighbouring countries.

Kataliko and Kambale also said unidentified assailants set off an explosive device at a local secondary school, wounding several students sitting exams. A hospital source said at least three students were injured in the blast.

Eastern Congo contains dozens of armed groups that prey on locals and exploit mineral reserves. Hundreds of civilians have died near Beni since October 2014 in a series of overnight massacres, mostly carried out with hatchets and machetes. It is still not clear who is responsible for most of the attacks.

(Reporting by Aaron Ross; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Toby Davis)

Nigeria – 16 women kidnapped as Boko Haram attacks “secure convoy” in Borno

Premium Times

Nigerian Army

Nigerian

Some survivors of the Tuesday morning ambush on a convoy of dozens of vehicles under armed escort have narrated their woes blaming the security agencies for poor preparation.

The survivors also confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that 16 women were among those kidnapped by the Boko Haram after the ambush.

The ambush, at about 10 a.m. on Tuesday, was on a large convoy of commercial, private and government vehicles travelling from Maiduguri to the southern part of Borno State, passing through Damboa.

Armed escort of soldiers is often required to travel through the recently reopened Maiduguri-Biu federal highway.

The road, which also has a link to the gates of Sambisa forest, had been closed for about two years after Boko Haram captured towns and villages along its axis. It was only opened for commercial motorists in February 2016.

But since its opening, Boko Haram gunmen have staged several attacks on vehicles plying the road.

The latest of such attacks was that of Tuesday morning, which occurred at Abbari-Dalwa village located about 30km from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

THE CASUALTY

The Borno State Commissioner of Police, Damian Chukwu, had in a press briefing informed journalists that two people were killed during the ambush

The casualty has now been confirmed to be at least three.

In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Borno State Commissioner of Health, Haruna Mshelia, said of the three trucks conveying drugs and related items to the health facilities in Damboa and Chibok, only one was able to escape and made it to its destination.

“It was indeed a sad development; but it is one of those hazards that one confronts in situations like this,” he said.

“We lost the driver who was shot at during the attack and one other person with the driver who tried to take over the steering before he too was shot at and the vehicle summersaulted.

PREMIUM TIMES was able to confirm from a security personnel who witnessed the incident that the second person referred to by the health commissioner was an escort soldier in the vehicle.

The police commissioner had on Tuesday confirmed that a police sergeant, Bala Tiiseh, was also among those killed; thus bringing the casualty to three.

The Nigerian military is yet to issue any statement on the attack.

Mr. Mshelia also said the driver of the second truck who could not manoeuvre an escape with his truck amidst the confusion, had to flee leaving his vehicle behind.

“The insurgents took the second vehicle away, but the soldiers are still trying to trace and rescue the vehicle,” he said.

“But the driver of the second vehicle has since arrived Maiduguri safely, while the third vehicle conveying drugs to Chibok got to its destination safely as well.”

SURVIVORS SPEAK

A member of the Borno State House of Assembly, who represents Chibok Local Government Area, Aimu Chibok, was among those that escaped from the attack.

In a phone chat with PREMIUM TIMES, the lawmaker described the incident as “embarrassing”.

The lawmaker, a retired senior police officer, blamed the military and police for poor management of the situation.

He said he was in the same car with the Vice Chairman of Chibok Local Government Area as well as the District Head of Chibok when the gunmen opened fire on them.

The officials were on their way to Chibok to witness a federal government project that was to be flagged off in the town, he said.

The vice chairman sustained a bullet injury on his thigh, while the district head was hit in the arm. Both of them are currently receiving treatment at a hospital.

“It was a huge embarrassment to our government and its security outfits”, said the lawmaker who felt the attackers had prior information on the movement of the convoy from Maiduguri.

“From what I observed, it appears the terrorists had information that three trucks loaded with drugs would be passing through that route”, he said.

“And secondly, they may also have been aware of the fact that there were also in the convoy a large deployment of police officers (who) would be packed in a school bus.

“To me it was improper for armed policemen to pack up like sardine inside a bus on such kind of journey.

“It was only God that helped even helped the policemen.

“My vehicle was right behind the 80-sitter school bus conveying the 63 policemen. Just as the driver was trying to negotiate a bend, we started hearing loud shooting from all sides. The bus driver could not manoeuvre the bend, so he had to abandon the bus and fled while the police officers in the bus continued to escape through the window amidst the rain of bullets from the insurgents. As our vehicle tried to drive pass the bus, an RPG was fire at the bus, which scattered it.

“You needed to see how the shooters were going after their fellow human beings as if they were animals”, he recounted.

He said the shooting lasted about 30 minutes.

“The insurgents were all dressed in black attires as they continued to shoot without ceasing for a second. It was very embarrassing seeing armed policemen running for their dear lives because they found themselves in an unfavourable situation. It was a shame to see what happened that day, especially in a country that prides itself as one of the best in West Africa.

“The method of escort provided for more than a hundred convoy of vehicles was the worst I have ever seen in my life. It was too poor.

“But in our case, all the four escort vehicles were leading ahead without any one behind, or in the middle of the convoy. If not that the escort vehicles managed to reverse back to engage the attackers; they would have roasted the hundreds of passengers in the convoy.”

The Borno police commissioner had earlier confirmed the 63 police officers were in a bus when the attack occurred.

“It was based on that approval by the IG that one officer and 62 men of the Nigeria Police Mobile Force were deployed from Delta State to Askira,” Mr. Chukwu said, explaining how the officers were recently deployed to Borno based on a request.

“And the vehicle conveying the deployed unit who were in an 80-sitter bus, had to join the convoy of civilian travellers being escorted by the soldiers,” he added.

But the Borno lawmaker, Mr. Chibok, faulted the arrangement.

“I pity those policemen who were put into that kind of conveyance,” he said.

“How could a deployment of policemen who were all armed be packed inside a bus and ridiculously being escorted by other security operatives. They are supposed to be their own escort since they were all armed, for God’s sake.”

The lawmaker said Nigeria might not get out of the Boko Haram insurgency in the next ten years unless the military changes its strategy by taking the war to the insurgents in the bushes.

“We can’t continue like this; we have to take the war to them; waiting for them to come and be repelled cannot help us.

“I have served in the Nigeria police force for 35 years, but I have never witnessed such kind of embarrassing situation in my life”, he lamented.

THE KIDNAPPED WOMEN

PREMIUM TIMES also gathered that the 16 abducted women were driven away in a TATA truck by the insurgents.

The identities of the victims are being kept for safety reasons.

A police officer who was also privy to the arrangement for the transport of the women said on phone that all the 16 were driven away by the insurgents after the driver was killed.

“When the Boko Haram were attacking, the males in the TATA truck were able to quickly jump off the vehicle, but the women could not; that was how they were rounded up and driven away by the Boko Haram,” the source, who sought anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to journalists, said.

An unconfirmed report that reached PREMIUM TIMES late Wednesday evening indicated that some of the kidnapped women were found somewhere in Damboa.

The police, however, denied knowledge of the kidnap.

“I don’t have any such details of such abduction or rescue,” the Borno Police Public Relations Officer, Victor Isukwu, said in a text message response to our enquiry.

Central African Republic – disabled still at very high risk

Human Rights Watch

Central African Republic: People with Disabilities at High Risk

UN Security Council backs West African states to fight Sahel insurgencies

Reuters

By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously backed a West African force to combat militant groups as well as arms, drug and human trafficking in the Sahel region after diplomats said France softened the resolution’s language to secure the support of the United States.

The vast, arid region has in recent years become a breeding ground for jihadist groups – some linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State – that European countries, particularly France, fear could threaten Europe if left unchecked.

Last year, the nations of the Sahel – Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – proposed establishing specially-trained units of around 100 soldiers each, which would be deployed in areas where jihadist groups are known to operate.

“We cannot let the Sahel become a new refuge for terrorist organizations of the whole world. In the Sahel, all of our security is at stake, not just the security of the … five states,” said French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre.

The United States, however, did not believe a resolution was warranted and did not want the world body to help fund the force, diplomats said. The United States is one of council’s five veto powers, along with France, Britain, Russia and China.

The first draft resolution authorized the force to “use all necessary means” to carry out its operations, but following council negotiations, the language was revised to “welcome the deployment.”

The resolution also encourages countries to provide support. The European Union has already committed $56 million to the Sahel force.

The United States is trying to cut the cost of U.N. peacekeeping and is reviewing each of the 16 missions as they come up for Security Council renewal. Washington is the largest contributor, paying 28.5 percent of the $7.9 billion (6.24 billion pounds) peacekeeping budget.

Special units proposed by the five Sahel nations would complement the efforts of regular armed forces, a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali and France’s “Operation Barkhane,” which has deployed around 4,000 troops across the region.

France first intervened in early 2013 to drive out militants who had seized northern Mali a year earlier. But militants continue to attack in Mali and its neighbours.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)