Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Gambia – Adama Barrow inaugurated as President in Embassy in Senegal


2017-01-19 19:00

Get the latest details as a military intervention is looming in Gambia following President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to step down after he was defeated in the December 1 elections.

Yahya Jammeh

Barrow has officially asked Ecowas, AU and the UN to back the will of the Gambian people.


All arms personnel should return to the barracks, Barrow says 


Barrow calls on all security forces to remain loyal to the country’s constitution 


The new president promises constitutional and legal reforms in Gambia


Barrow urges national unity,… says there were “no losers” in the elections.


Barrow urges all Gambians to accept him as their new president 


Barrow delivers his inaugural speech as Gambian president 


Barrow just sworn in as the new president of the Gambia

Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow has sent out this tweet – shortly before he was due to take the oath of office at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal. 

UN Security Council to back ECOWAS intervention in Gambia


By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote later Thursday on a Senegalese draft resolution that would back efforts by West African regional bloc ECOWAS to ensure Gambian President Yahya Jammeh hands over power to his successor, diplomats said.

Senegal has deployed hundreds of soldiers to its shared border with Gambia, and Nigeria has pre-positioned war planes and helicopters after ECOWAS said it would remove Jammeh if he did not hand over power to challenger Adama Barrow, who won an election in early December.

The draft U.N. resolution would express the Security Council’s “full support to ECOWAS in its commitment to ensure the respect of the will of the people of Gambia as expressed in the results of 1st December elections.”

Diplomats said the 15-member council was likely to adopt the draft resolution with broad support.

The draft text asks Jammeh to hand over power and “calls upon the countries in the region and the relevant regional organisation to cooperate with President Barrow in his efforts to realise the transition of power.”

It also asks “the Gambian defence and security forces to demonstrate maximum restraint to maintain an atmosphere of calm in Gambia and stresses their duty and obligation to place themselves at the disposal of the democratically elected authorities.”

Both ECOWAS and the African Union have said they will recognise Barrow as president from Thursday.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Burundi – haunted by ghosts of its violent past

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

The situation in Burundi is still deteriorating, and could lead to genocide, civil war or regional conflict.

Last week, a mass grave was discovered in a village in central Burundi. Builders, breaking ground for a new school, uncovered the skeletal remains of more than 1 000 people who had been hastily buried beneath the earth.

Although Burundi has experienced chronic instability of late, this mass grave is not connected to recent events. Not directly, anyway – although modern Burundi continues to be haunted by the ghosts of its troubled past.

According to locals, the mass grave dates back more than four decades. ‘It was in 1972 when I was a young girl studying in fifth form in primary school. The crisis began and we abandoned schools. Many people were killed and buried in this place, which remained smelly for about a whole year,’ said Rose Habonimana, speaking to IWACU News.

In 1972, more than 200 000 Burundians – mostly civilians from the country’s Hutu ethnic group – were slaughtered in an extraordinarily brutal three-month period. This was Burundi’s first genocide.

Now, some 45 years later, the problems that precipitated the slaughter – ethnic tensions, populist politics and social inequalities – haven’t disappeared. Experts are increasingly worried about a repeat performance.

‘We’re not saying the genocide is coming now. We are explaining that all the mechanisms, all the intention and all the bodies of the repression are ready to commit a possible genocide,’ said Florent Geel, Africa Director for the International Federation for Human Rights.

In April 2015, Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term as president of this tiny East African nation. This was a blatant contradiction to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Arusha Accord – the peace deal that ended the civil war, yet another dark chapter in Burundi’s history that left more than 300 000 people dead in 13 years of violence.

Nkurunziza’s decision was met with strong opposition, both domestically and internationally, but the president went ahead anyway, using the full force of the state as well as informal youth militias to guarantee his victory. Since then, Nkurunziza has moved to consolidate his power by shutting down civil society and independent media, eliminating opposition, and stirring up ethnic tensions. A United Nations report found that at least 348 people died in extrajudicial killings between July 2015 and June 2016, with government or government-aligned forces mostly to blame.

The international community has proved powerless to stop Nkurunziza. Repeated efforts at mediation have led nowhere, and any progress that has been made has not been implemented by Nkurunziza’s administration. Things have got so bad that the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the regional body tasked with mediating the political crisis, has threated to suspend Burundi unless it embraces dialogue and ends the recent spate of extrajudicial killings.

‘There has been no significant movement on Burundi at all,’ observed Stephanie Wolters, Head of the Peace and Security Research Programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

If anything, Wolters observed, Nkurunziza’s hand in the diplomatic arena has been strengthened by recent comments made by East African Community mediator, Benjamin Mkapa. At a press conference, Mkapa appeared to endorse both Nkurunziza’s third term and the controversial elections that gave it to him. ‘Those who want me to question the legitimacy of Pierre Nkurunziza are out of their mind – it is the people who have given legitimacy to the government,’ Mkapa said.

So where does Burundi go from here?

The options are bleak. Analysts are very concerned that the situation might degenerate further, with three scenarios possible: an escalation in extrajudicial killings that turns into a genocide; a civil war between government forces and opposition groups, some of whom have already threatened an armed rebellion; or a regional war in which other countries are also embroiled.

In the latter scenario, Rwanda’s potential role is most concerning. Rwanda has already been accused of arming Burundian rebel groups, although it denies this accusation. Nkurunziza is also upping the ante. In his New Year’s Eve address, the president made a point of emphasising Burundi’s ownership of a disputed hill on the Burundi-Rwanda border.

‘All three of these scenarios are possibilities,’ said Wolters. ‘What Nkurunziza is doing is rolling back everything that Burundi has been based on in the last 15 years. The more he chips away at the ethnic balance that has made Burundi work, the longer we have no movement on negotiations, the closer we get to armed conflict, regional war or genocide.’

A key constraint for analysts and policymakers when assessing Burundi, however, is the dearth of information coming out of the country. Nkurunziza’s crackdown on civil society and media means that outside of Bujumbura, no one really knows what is going on. Addressing this information gap should be an immediate priority for the international community, and can be achieved by pressuring Nkurunziza into allowing a meaningful number of international and African observers into the country. (There are already 32 African Union (AU) observers in situ, but this number is far from adequate.)

‘We need more neutral presence on the ground,’ says Wolters. ‘Or we need Nkurunziza to let civil society operate freely again, and to show some confidence-building measures. But we all know that that’s not going to happen. It’s a really grim outlook, frankly. He doesn’t want the United Nations, he doesn’t want the AU, he doesn’t want civil society. That isn’t going to change.’

One potential lever that the international community is yet to seriously consider is Burundi’s involvement in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Burundi contributes 5 432 troops to the peacekeeping mission. The payments received from AMISOM by the government and soldiers provide one of the main sources of foreign currency into Burundi. Withholding those payments could substantially alter the balance of power within the armed forces, which might just push Nkurunziza into a compromise.

There is no sign that this particular strategy is on the agenda of the AU or of the United Nations Security Council, however, who still need Burundi’s troops to guarantee the stability of Somalia – especially in an election year.

The bottom line: Burundi’s ghosts aren’t going anywhere yet.

Simon Allison, ISS Consultant

Gambia – a test of ECOWAS resolve over democracy

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)


While many of US President-elect Donald Trump’s opponents vowed to boycott his inauguration on Friday, across the Atlantic, opponents of tiny Gambia’s recalcitrant President Yahya Jammeh were mobilising to express their opposition more forcefully, by physically ousting him from office if he did not hand over power.

Senegalese troops and Nigerian aircraft have massed on the border as Jammeh’s mandate expired, and a Nigerian gunboat entered Gambian waters, ready to remove Jammeh from office and install Adama Barrow, who beat him in the 1 December elections.

But would they actually do so? Or was it just a bluff? And, if so, would Jammeh buckle under pressure – or would he call their bluff? A major test loomed for the West African intergovernmental body ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), which put its credibility on the line by resolving to use military force, if necessary, to enforce its democratic norms.

It’s also another big credibility test for the African Union (AU), which has backed ECOWAS’ decision to use force if necessary to topple Jammeh.

After 22 years of often brutal years in power, Jammeh conceded electoral defeat on 3 December. But then a week later he reneged, claiming election irregularities, and challenged the results in court.

He has also rebuffed efforts of a delegation of ECOWAS leaders, led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who visited him in Banjul to try to persuade him to step down peacefully. Offers by countries like Morocco and Mauritania of asylum have so far also fallen on deaf ears. Maurice Toupane, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Dakar, believes this is mainly because of pressure not to give up from Jammeh’s fearful entourage.

It was apparently threats – tactically disastrous, one might add – by Barrow’s aides, shortly after his election victory, to prosecute Jammeh and others in his government for human rights violations, which probably prompted Jammeh to reverse his concession of defeat on 9 December. Asylum or amnesty for him would still leave his lieutenants exposed.

This week Jammeh’s court challenge foundered as the head of the Gambian Supreme Court, Emmanuel Fagbenle, ‘recused’ himself from hearing Jammeh’s challenge to the election results. The court currently has no other judges to hear the case.

Then Jammeh declared a state of emergency to block any transfer of power. But Barrow, speaking from what he hoped would be a very brief exile in Senegal, insisted this week that he would return to Gambia to duly swear his oath of office and take up his presidential duties regardless.

This set the stage for major confrontation. If Jammeh does not blink first, will ECOWAS indeed invade Gambia?

Toupane thought it might eventually do so, but only as an absolute last resort. And ECOWAS would meanwhile continue to try all available peaceful measures, including targeted economic and diplomatic sanctions against Jammeh and his entourage, to try to persuade him to stand down.

As Toupane noted, in an ISS briefing on Wednesday, four of Jammeh’s cabinet ministers as well as several ambassadors, have already resigned over his failure to surrender power. ECOWAS hopes targeted sanctions will provoke further defections and ultimately bring down Jammeh’s government without a shot being fired.

And ECOWAS and the AU would also continue to isolate Jammeh’s administration diplomatically. Both have already vowed to withdraw recognition from Gambia if Jammeh did not stand down when his mandate expires. Toupane has also indicated that they might go further, formally inaugurating Barrow as president in the Gambian embassy in Dakar today, rather than in Banjul.

Some commentators have suggested that a military intervention would be relatively easy. Except for a short coast, Gambia is entirely surrounded by Senegal, the launchpad for an ECOWAS force. Gambia’s army is very small and its commander has been quoted as saying he will not fight the Senegalese.

But Toupane believes a military intervention should not be taken lightly. After five coup attempts against him, Jammeh has toughened the military. A firefight, if there were one, would have unpredictable humanitarian and socio-economic consequences for the local population.

ECOWAS has shown a greater readiness than other regional economic communities to use military force to enforce the democratic norms that the AU and its subsidiary bodies espouse.

These are founded upon a firm opposition in the AU Constitutive Act to ‘unconstitutional changes of government.’ This has been clearly interpreted to include not only toppling a duly elected government by military coup, but also failure to give up power when defeated in a democratic election.

In a not-dissimilar case in 2011, ECOWAS formally backed the use of military force to topple former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo when he refused to concede his defeat by Alassane Ouattara in the elections of December 2010. In the event ECOWAS forces were not needed, as United Nations (UN) and French troops did the job.

If anything, ECOWAS’ resolve to remove entrenched incumbents may be greater today than it was then. Ouattara is now the Ivorian president, and thereby a member of ECOWAS’ supreme leadership.

And, as Peter Penar of Michigan State University has pointed out, there is a growing body of former opposition leaders in ECOWAS, including also Buhari, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Senegal’s Macky Sall.

By contrast, other regional economic communities, such as the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community, more dominated as they are by incumbent leaders or parties, have been much less willing to tackle presidents who cling to power in their member states such as Burundi and Zimbabwe respectively.

On Wednesday, Senegal sought UN Security Council support – though reportedly not explicit authorisation – for an ECOWAS military intervention in Gambia.

Whatever happens over the next few days, Gambia seems to be shaping up as the inevitable crisis du jour that will dominate discussions at the annual AU summit in Addis Ababa next week.

And a test case for Africa’s determination to enforce democracy.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant

West African intervention force being assembled as Gambia deadline runs out

Daily Nation


Gambian President Yahya Jammeh gestures before casting his marble at a polling station in Banjul on December 1, 2016. AFP PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI

In Summary

  • The Economic Community Of West African States has repeatedly called on leader Yahya Jammeh to respect the result of the December 1 election and step down after 22 years in power.
  • Jammeh on Tuesday declared a state of emergency as President-elect Adama Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, maintained his inauguration will go ahead as planned on Thursday on Gambian soil.
  • Nigeria said the forces were part of an ECOWAS military standby intervention force “tasked by ECOWAS heads of state to enforce the December 1, 2016 election mandate in The Gambia”.

Nigeria has sent 200 soldiers and air assets including fighter jets to Senegal as part of a regional force to enforce the result of Gambia’s contested election, the country’s air force said Wednesday.

The Nigerian Air Force said it had “today moved a contingent of 200 men and air assets comprising fighter jets, transport aircraft, light utility helicopter as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to Dakar from where it is expected to operate into Gambia”.

The Economic Community of West African States has repeatedly called on leader Yahya Jammeh to respect the result of the December 1 election and step down after 22 years in power.

Jammeh on Tuesday declared a state of emergency as President-elect Adama Barrow, who is currently in Senegal, maintained his inauguration will go ahead as planned on Thursday on Gambian soil.

Nigeria said the forces were part of an ECOWAS military standby intervention force “tasked by ECOWAS heads of state to enforce the December 1, 2016 election mandate in The Gambia”.

Nigeria – Bornu governor says camp bombing unfortunate but not unique

Premium Times


The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, said on Wednesday that though sad, the Tuesday accidental bombing of a civilian population in his state was not unique.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how at least 52 people were killed and 120 others injured after a Nigerian Air Force jet accidentally bombed a Rann camp for persons displaced by Boko Haram, IDPs.

The governor said several wars that shaped the history of mankind were not ended without cases of people dying, not from the bullets of the enemy, but by friendly fire of their own soldiers.

The governor who made this comment when the federal government delegation paid him a sympathy visit at the Government House Maiduguri, said though the state was grieved by the “unfortunate incident”, his government still remains grateful to the soldiers for the role they have played so far in securing Borno from Boko Haram.

“The incidence of friendly fire is as old as the history of mankind. They constituted up to 5 to 20 per cent of all casualties in war. From the war of the Rose of 1471 to the English civil war of 1643, to the Napoleonic wars, to the American war of independence down to the first and second world wars, such incidences like people dying out of friendly firing were very rampant.

IMG_2684“On 3rd May 1945, the RAF fighter pilot attacked three German ships; and unknown to the pilot, those German ships were carrying concentration camp survivors and allied prisoners of war. Ten thousand people perished in that attack alone. And even very recently, there was an incidence in Afghanistan where United States fighter pilots attacked a hospital…killing 25 persons including women and children. So also in Syria when a coalition air strike attacked a wedding convoy killing 25 people; was the case in Iraq.

“We are not justifying the sad incident of Tuesday; but we are going down memory to show the world that such incident usually occurs in times of war”.

The governor said rather than being angry at the soldiers for what happened, he was happy with the soldiers’ uncommon candour  by coming out on time to tell the world the truth about the incident.

“We have to commend the military for the way and manner they managed the incident”, he said.

“As bad as the incident was, nobody tried to hide it, nobody tried to sweep it under the carpet. We have to commend the Nigerian armed forces for the forthrightness they displayed by coming out and telling the world exactly what happened. If not for what they did yesterday (Tuesday), people would have resort to the blame game and name-calling; some may even accuse me Kashim Shettima of planting the bomb in Rann to kill his own people.

“And for us in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, we cannot but thank the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for all the support he has given us.  Three years ago, Maiduguri was effectively in a circle, you can’t go beyond ten kilometres away from each entrance to the city. The only accessible road was the Maiduguri-Kano road, which was also haunted by incessant attacks by Boko Haram.

“So we in the north-east remain eternally grateful to the government of Muhammadu Buhari for reclaiming our land and for returning peace to us.”Bomb victims

Mr. Shettima sad Boko Haram have been degraded “as such they no longer cause a threat to us.

“Once in a while they may have planted bomb in the streets to attack innocent people; but believe me, we have crossed the Rubicon and the worst is over.”

Earlier, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Abba Kyari, who led the delegation of ministers and service chiefs, had condoled the state government and victims’ families over the incident.

He said the federal government would double its commitment to see that the insurgency comes to an end and displaced persons are moved out of the IDP camp back to their respective communities.

“The President and C-in-C is very distressed about the incident, and has instructed us to embark on this condolence visit. This kind of incident happens occasionally in war, especially when dealing with terrorists like Boko Haram who arbitrarily and in cowardly fashion hide among civilians.

“The President deeply regrets the incident. The Armed forces will take extra care to ensure this doesn’t happen again. The Federal Government is working with the State, Local, and International partners to ensure speedy resettlement of IDPs,” Mr. Kyari said.

The delegation later paid a condolence visit to the Maiduguri temporary palace of the displaced Shehu of Dikwa, under whose domain the attacked Rann IDP camp is located.

Mr. Kyari also visited the office of the International Red Cross, ICRC, and Doctors without Borders, MSF, who lost some officials to the Tuesday bombing.

The delegation finally visited the Maiduguri specialists hospital to see some of the injured survivors that were brought in from Rann by ICRC helicopters.

At the hospital, the Chief Medical Officer, Kwaya Bura, informed the delegation that 54 injured persons were flown in from Rann and most of them were children.

Journalists were not allowed to speak with the victims, as military personnel insisted they were not in the best state to grant interviews.

Similarly, the spokesperson of the Borno State Governor, Isa Gusau, in a statement said the state deputy governor, Usman Durkwa, and the member representing Kala-Balge, Bama, Dikwa and Ngala federal constituency where the attacked IDP camp is located, had been flown in a military helicopter to visit the attacked location.

The road from Maiduguri to Kala-Balge is in a bad state and not completely safe, thus necessitating the airlifts of victims and officials.

“Governor Kashim Shettima has since morning deployed his Deputy, Usman Mamman Durkwa and the House of Representatives member, representing Kala-Balge, Bama, Dikwa and Ngala federal constituency of Borno State, Mamman Nur Sheriff and the Assembly member among other officials to scene of the incident at Rann, Headquarters of Kala-Balge local government area in order to assess the situation and supervise evacuation of victims to Maiduguri.

Nigeria – survivors says air force bombed IDP camp three times


One of the Internally Displaced Persons in Rann, Borno State, who survived the accidental bombing of the camp on Tuesday, said the Nigerian Air Force fighter jet involved in the operation dropped bombs on the camp three times.

Abdulwahab Adam, who spoke to The PUNCH at the General Hospital, Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where he was receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the attack, on Wednesday, said, “The bombs were dropped on us thrice and there was no way a mistake could be made thrice.

Tragedy had struck on Tuesday, when a fighter jet involved in the counter-insurgency operation in the North-East, fired at aid workers, soldiers and displaced persons in error, killing no fewer than 100 persons on the ground.

Aid workers confirmed to have been killed in the bombing included the officials of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), International Committee of the Red Cross and some refugees.

“There was nothing accidental about the attack and it could not be referred to as a mistake.

“The Federal Government should stop telling Nigerians that it was a mistake; for this was not. It was nothing but an unprovoked attack on a civilian populace.

“This was not a new camp and the attack happened when people queued up to receive humanitarian materials.

Another victim of the attack, Abba Yusuf, believed the NAF had to explain what led to the attack.

He added, “This is the same force that told the world that they did not drop the bomb on insurgents in the Sambisa Forest because of human shield but weeks later, dropped bombs on unarmed civilians in an IDPs’ camp.

“Could they have been blindfolded to know that we were in a queue and we were unarmed or could they have mistaken the IDPs camp for the haven of insurgents?”

One of the people, who trooped to the hospital to visit their relatives who sustained injuries in the attack, Yakubu Hassan, said, “This is really unfortunate. I came to the hospital to get information about my brother, Babangida Hassan, only to be told that he was killed in the attack.”

He said his brother was a 35 year-old ad-hoc worker with the Nigerian Red Cross.

He asked President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the “negligent” pilot was brought to book.

He lamented that the deceased left behind two wives and over 30 other dependants.

“How do you want them to be taken care of now?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government dispatched a high-powered delegation, led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari, to condole with the government and people of Borno State and the international aid agencies affected in the attack.

In the delegation were two ministers – retired Brig. Gen. Mansur Dan Ali (Defence); and Alhaji Lai Mohammed (Information and Culture).

Others are the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai; and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.

Kyari delivered the government’s message to the state Governor, Kashim Shettima; the Shehu of Dikwa, Alhaji Mohammed El-Kanemi, and the injured international aid workers at the hospital.

He said, “We are in Maiduguri at the instance of President Buhari to come over and condole with the people and government of Borno State over the unfortunate air strike that took place at Rann town’s IDP Camp on Tuesday, leaving many innocent people dead and others wounded.”

He assured the people that the Nigerian Armed forces would ensure that such incidents did not occur again.

Kyari said the Federal Government would bear the cost of the treatment of all those wounded and who are receiving attention at hospitals in Maiduguri and its environs.

Shettima, who thanked the delegation for the condolence visit, acknowledged the sacrifices of the Armed Forces and the Federal Government in the fight against Boko Haram.

He added that with prayers, zeal, determination and commitment of the military and other security agencies, peace was gradually returning to the state.

Shettima stated that had commenced the reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement of the IDPs.

24 hours after, 90 critically-injured victims yet to be evacuated

Meanwhile, no fewer than 90 critically-injured victims of the Rann attack were yet to be evacuated from the area on Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the accidental strikes.

The PUNCH learnt that 46 of them were supposed to be flown to Maiduguri, which had the facilities required for their treatments, but they had yet to be evacuated as of press time.

According to a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross on Wednesday, a surgical team had been deployed in Rann to assist with the 90 injured IDPs, who were in an “open-air space in a precarious environment.”

The ICRC added that 100 patients were sighted at the camp, among which only nine were airlifted to Maiduguri on Tuesday.

It added, “Hours after the air strike, a surgical team from the ICRC deployed in Rann, and another ICRC surgical team in Maiduguri, prepared to support the Ministry of Health in receiving casualties.

“The team in Rann triaged around 100 patients, while nine patients in critical condition were evacuated by helicopter to Maiduguri.

“Around 90 patients remain in Rann, out of whom 46 are severely injured and need to be evacuated to Maiduguri as a matter of urgency. Patients are attended to in an open-air space in a precarious environment.”

An ICRC surgeon in Rann, Dr. Laurent Singa, confirmed that the patients at the Rann needed urgent evacuation.

He said, “We started medical work in Rann shortly after the incident. The conditions for post-operative care are not adequate. So, all the patients must be evacuated to Maiduguri as soon as possible.”

The Head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria, Eloi Fillion, said the Federal Government must ensure that such tragedy did not reoccur, adding that the ICRC would continue its humanitarian services to the IDPs.

The ICRC and the Red Crescent Movement said it extended its heartfelt condolences to the families of all those killed or injured, including those affiliated to the Médecins Sans Frontières.

The Human Rights Watch also on Wednesday called for compensation for the victims of the IDPs camp bombing.

A senior researcher with the HRW in Nigeria, Mausi Segun, said the compensation must be “prompt, adequate and effective.”

We’re evaluating our procedures, says NAF chief

The Chief of Air Staff, on Wednesday, said the Nigerian Air Force had raised a committee to conduct a thorough investigation into the accidental bombing of the IDP camp in Rann.

The air chief added that the NAF was evaluating its procedures to have more efficiency.

Abubakar said this at the Air Force Base in Kainji, Niger State, during an interview with newsmen, adding that the bombing was a tragic mistake.

He said, “Our pilots got airborne on Tuesday, hoping to save lives, but unfortunately, there was a tragic mistake, which led to the loss of innocent lives.

“We have operated for eight years in the North-East and flown close to 6,000hrs; this is the first time we are having this tragedy.

“This is a very tragic and unfortunate incident. Sometimes, it does happen in war. We have directed our Chief of Medical Services to provide medical facility in Maiduguri to the injured, so that they can be treated.

“We are putting up a high-powered committee at the NAF level. We do not want to pre-empt the findings of this committee.

“As a professional service, we will continue to evaluate our procedures and processes so that we can be effective.”

Buhari cancels FEC meeting, Reps set up fact-finding panel, Senate warns military

A scheduled weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council was also called off on Wednesday.

Although no official reason was given for the cancellation, some government officials said the accidental bombing could be responsible for the development.

Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, had, on Tuesday, in a statement, quoted the President as regretting the accidental bombings by the NAF.

But the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, began a subtle investigation into Tuesday’s mistaken air strike in Rann.

It set up a 10-man committee with a mandate to immediately visit Rann, the site of the incident to assess the situation.

The 10 lawmakers were drawn from the Committee on IDPs/Refugees/Initiatives on the North-East; Committee on Air Force; Committee on Army; Committee on Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Assistance; and Committee on Health Services.

A member from Jigawa State and Chairman, Committee on the IDPs/Refugees/Initiatives on the North-East, Mr. Sani Zorro, had drawn the attention of the House to the air strike under matters of urgent public importance.

While leading the debate, Zorro said there was the need to ascertain whether the bombing was as a result of human error or a deliberate hostile act on civilian population.

He added, “The House is mindful of the need to ascertain whether the air strike was in accordance with strict observance of the rules of engagement under air law and as enshrined under international humanitarian law, otherwise the Law of Armed Conflict.”

The House, in a separate resolution, condemned Monday’s suicide bomb attacks on the University of Maiduguri, which claimed the life of a professor and three others.

Also, the Senate urged the Nigerian military to apply caution in its operations.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly issued the warning following a point of order raised by the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, at the plenary on Wednesday.

Lawan’s point of order was based on Tuesday’s accidental bombing in Rann.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, said, “We only hope and pray that this will not happen again. We urge the military, especially the Air Force, to, as much as possible, ensure that this does not happen again.

“We are also conscious of the efforts by our gallant soldiers, especially that which they have been making in the North-East. We believe this was completely unintended.”

He, however, urged the military not to allow the sad incident to dampen its morale.

“No doubt, it was an obvious mistake,” he stated.

The senators also observed a minute silence in honour of those who died in the incident.

In a related development, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; and his deputy, Ekweremadu, in separate statements, lamented the bombing.

Saraki, in a statement on his social media handles, on Tuesday night, said, “My thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims of today’s accident in Rann community of Borno State. I pray that the souls of the victims may rest in peace. I wish the victims speedy recovery, and I pray that incidents like these never reoccur again.”

Ekweremadu, in his statement, “expressed deep grief and condolences over the erroneous bombing.”

He said, “This is shocking and sad. I am pained by the gory pictures emanating from the scene, but I commend the efforts by the authorities and the armed forces to evacuate and treat the wounded.

“I also appreciate the support of the humanitarian organisations, notably, the Medicines Sans Frontiers and the International Committee of Red Cross towards salvaging the lives of the evacuated despite suffering casualties as well.”

Ministers, APC, Buhari’s wife others react

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has described as utterly tragic the accidental bombing of a civilian community in Rann by a NAF fighter jet.

While saying that the incident was regretted and sad, it nevertheless started that the accident should not be viewed as the true reflection of the professionalism of the NAF.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, stated this in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday.

The minister also sent the government and his personal condolences to the families of those who died in the unfortunate bombing and prayed for quick recovery of the injured.

Mohammed, who recently led members of the Bring Back Our Girls and the media to Yola, Adamawa State, where the Air Component of the fight against Boko Haram is based and over the Sambisa Forest, said he was particularly saddened because the accidental bombing was not a true reflection of the level of professionalism that he witnessed during the visit.

He said, ‘’One of the things we went away with after spending two days at the Tactical Air Command in Yola is the strict adherence to operational guidelines and the high level of professionalism of the officers and men, especially the young pilots who fly high-risk missions day and night.

“It therefore came to me as a rude shock to learn, a few hours after leaving Yola, that one of the fighter jets has accidentally bombed civilians, including aid workers.’’

The minister urged the NAF to continue to take the necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties while carrying out its challenging task of keeping Nigerians safe.

Also, the All Progressives Congress has condoled with victims of the accidental bombing. The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the APC offered its deep condolences to families of the IDPs and humanitarian aid workers affected by the unfortunate incident.

This was contained in a statement by Abdullahi in Abuja, on Wednesday.

He said, “Although Tuesday’s accident is regrettable, the party urges humanitarian aid agencies not to be deterred in their noble and selfless mission to bring succour to the IDPs in the North-East.”

The party urged the Nigerian military to remain focused on its ongoing final mop- up operation of Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East so that inhabitants of the insurgency-ravaged areas could quickly return safely to their normal and productive lives.

In her reaction, the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, condoled with the families and victims of the Tuesday accidental bombing by the NAF fighter jet in Rann.

In a statement by her Special Assistant on Media, Adebisi Olumide-Ajayi, the President’s wife prayed that God would continue to guide the nation’s armed forces in their bid to rid Nigeria of terrorism.

“Being deeply involved with the IDP’s and having shared both sad and happy moments with them through her NGO, Future Assured, Mrs. Buhari feels really pained by this unfortunate incident,” the statement read.

Speaking on Wednesday, Shettima said the death of scores of refugees and humanitarian workers in Rann could not be justified under any circumstance.

The governor, who described the incident as unfortunate, however, said it was a painful price that came with war.

The governor, in a statement on Wednesday, also applauded the efforts made by various stakeholders to evacuate the victims.

This is just as the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Haruna Mshelia, said 54 survivors admitted in hospitals had been stabilised.

Shettima said, “It is most unfortunate and wasn’t meant to happen. Nothing can justify this tragedy but going down memory lane, incidents of friendly fire are unfortunately as old as history of wars in the world.

“There are many incidents of friendly fires since the 1st and 2nd World Wars down to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and other parts of the world.”

“It is gratifying that nobody made any effort to hide anything or sweep things under the carpet. In years gone by, people would have resorted to blame games. I am happy that rather than blame game, information was made public with sincerity, mistakes were accepted and focus was channelled into the evacuation and rehabilitation of victims.”

Mshelia explained that 32 persons were receiving treatment at the State Specialist Hospital; 16 victims were admitted in the 7th Division Military Hospital in Maimalari Barracks while six persons were hospitalised at the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.

In its own reaction, the Arewa Consultative Forum commiserated with the families of the victims of the Rann tragedy.

The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Muhammad Ibrahim, in a statement in Kaduna, on Wednesday, called on the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the incident.

It stated, “ACF is saddened by the tragedy caused by the Nigerian Air Force jet that mistakenly bombed an Internally Displaced Persons camp at Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area in Borno State.

“In as much as the ACF appreciates the effort of NAF in its aggressive operation to flush out the Boko Haram insurgents, caution and diligence must be exercised to avoid such tragedy.

“It therefore calls on the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate this unfortunate accident.”

The group also condemned the University of Maiduguri twin bomb blasts which claimed the lives of a professor and four others.

Also, the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, commiserated with the families of the victims of Tuesday’s “accidental” air strike.

The governor, who said it was strange that the military could “mistakenly” bomb an IDP camp that it created and aware of the location, called for thorough investigation by both the military authorities and the international community to ascertain what actually happened.

Criticising Buhari for jumping into conclusion that the air strike was a mistake, the governor averred that by making that statement, the President had already foreclosed investigation, which, he argued should have preceded his conclusion.

Fayose, in a statement on Wednesday by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, maintained that “it is obvious that the Federal Government is still deceiving Nigerians on its handling of the Boko Haram insurgency because it is strange that the same Boko Haram that they said had been defeated were the ones they claimed the military wanted to attack with fighter jet.”

UNICEF backs FG’s probe plan

The United Nations Children’s Fund said it supported the decision of the Federal Government to probe the bombing of the IDPs’ camp in Rann.

The agency’s Communication Specialist, Media and External Relations, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku, in a statement, in Abuja, quoted UNICEF’s Director for Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, as saying it welcomed the decision to investigate how the incident happened.

He said, “UNICEF is deeply concerned by the loss of lives in Tuesday’s tragic incident in Rann, Borno State. Our thoughts are with all those who were injured.

“UNICEF stands in solidarity with our humanitarian colleagues, and the dangerous conditions they work in. The aid workers who lost their lives were working to save others.

“UNICEF remains committed to deliver aid to the more than four million children and their families in the region, who are in desperate need of help.

“We welcome the Nigerian government’s decision to investigate how this shocking incident came to pass.”

Story by: John Alechenu, John Ameh, Olusola Fabiyi, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Olalekan Adetayo, Friday Olokor, Olaelye Aluko, Afeez Hanafi, Godwin Isenyo and Kayode Idowu.

Copyright PUNCH.               
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.