Category Archives: West Africa

Cameroon – revolt by English-speakers indicates wider opposition to Biya

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

23 Feb 2017 <!––>  /  by Liesl Louw-Vaudran

For three activists from western Cameroon who joined a call for the recognition of their linguistic preferences, last week didn’t bring any good news. The lawyer, teacher and journalist have been locked up since mid-January, and their case before a military tribunal was again suspended on 13 February, to 23 March. Cameroonian jails are notorious for not being easy on their inmates.

The arrests of Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi came amid a crackdown against Cameroonians from the Anglophone regions who participated in anti-government protests these past few weeks. The three, who are among at least 100 people arrested, are charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the Internet in northwest and southwest Cameroon, the two affected Anglophone regions of the country (out of a total of 10), has been cut off completely for over a month. This decision is estimated to be costing the country US$1.39 million. The organisation Access Now has appealed to the Internet service providers to ignore a directive by the government in Yaoundé and to re-establish the connections.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, a well-known rights group, has also been banned since civil society groups and students took to the streets in mid-November last year; and local independent media have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between stone-throwing youths and the police, as well as stay-aways and boycotts.

The main gripe of these groups is that the bilingual principle enshrined in the constitution is not respected. Instead, English-speakers feel they are forced to assimilate and accept what the predominantly Francophone majority dictates.

The crisis has historical roots. Cameroon went from being a German colony, to two separate colonial territories ruled by France and Britain after World War I up until independence in 1960. Following a plebiscite in 1961, the British part was reunited with the French Cameroon. The Francophone authorities that have ruled the country since then have pursued a centralised system of government after a brief period of federalism that officially ended in 1972, following a referendum.

Teachers and students say that the central government should send Anglophone rather than French-speaking teachers to schools in the two regions where English dominates. Lawyers also complain that the British Common Law, used in British Cameroon during colonial times, should be maintained in the region. The use of French in the administration limits access and discriminates against those who speak English, they argue.

Some analysts also emphasise that the revolt in the northwest is symptomatic of a larger problem of governance and a state characterised by corruption and inertia. Between 2000 and 2009, northerners – predominantly Muslims – also complained of marginalisation and the absence of the state.

In 2008, protests against soaring food prices rocked the country, as it did periodically since the 1990s. This also led to a violent crackdown by the government.

‘There have been many missed opportunities by the government to handle this issue adequately,’ says Fonteh Akum, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, who has previously written on the Anglophone zones in Cameroon.

Attempts at implementing a federal system where Anglophones would have their own courts with effective administrative decentralisation have been undermined by ‘irresponsibility and corruption,’ he says. A decentralisation framework already exists, but has been selectively implemented.

‘The government initially argued   that this was a non–issue and that these are secessionists. They refused to acknowledge that Anglophones have legitimate claims,’

Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural, but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ Mbembe, a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, told ISS Today.

Anglophones are treated like second-class citizens who don’t benefit from the oil revenues that are situated in their region. Very few important government positions are occupied by Anglophones. ‘There has never been an Anglophone minister of defence or finance. People complain that the administration doesn’t speak their language’.

However, Mbembe says the calls for secession by civil society groups and on social media is ‘very dangerous’. These started in the mid-1990s, with the first call for secession by the Southern Cameroon National Council. ‘The cost of secession is just too great,’ says Mbembe, who believes that Africa should move towards greater pan-Africanism instead of dividing in small ‘micro-states’.

He says the regime of President Paul Biya, who has been in power for 35 years, is characterised by ‘inertia, indifference and abandonment’.

Opinions differ as to how much support there is for the Anglophone cause in the rest of Cameroon. Some say that in the initial stages of the protests, Francophone Cameroonians supported the calls by trade unions and students. These were seen as legitimate. However this sympathy has waned due to some radical views – expressed on social media – that a ‘genocide’ is being planned against western Cameroonians. The majority Francophone inhabitants also reject the secessionist claims.

Yet there have also been expressions of solidarity with the Anglophone cause countrywide. Following the African Cup of Nations victory by the Cameroonian Lions last month, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa, who is Francophone from Yaoundé, dedicated the African Cup to ‘our brothers from Bamenda’ [the capital of northwestern Cameroon]. ‘We need a united Cameroon,’ he said in a message widely circulated on social media. ‘I am from Bamenda, for you,’ he concluded in English.

Thus far, there has been little reaction from the international community. The African Union (AU), apart from one statement expressing concern over the situation, hasn’t been involved in any efforts to calm the situation in western Cameroon. It is likely that the AU is adopting a wait-and-see attitude, and will only act if the situation worsens.

What matters most to the international community is that Cameroon remains stable and continues to be part of the global fight against terrorism. (The government has joined forces with Nigeria, Chad and Niger to root out Boko Haram.)

For now, the instability, characterised by various waves of contestation, is up to Cameroonians to handle. Biya (84) is set to stand for re-election next year – and the expectation is that he will win another mandate, despite the growing popular displeasure with his rule.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Consultant

UN asks f9or $4bn for famine relief in Africa and Yemen

Reuters

By Rodrigo Campos | UNITED NATIONS

UNITED NATIONS More than $4 billion is needed by the end of March to help nearly 20 million people who risk starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Citing armed conflicts and climate change as part of the reasons for the food emergency, Guterres led a call for $5.6 billion in funding for humanitarian operations in the four countries this year, of which $4.4 billion are needed by the end of next month “to avert a catastrophe.”

“Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far,” said Guterres, about two cents for every dollar needed.

“We are in the beginning of the year but these numbers are very worrying.”

Armed conflicts are having devastating humanitarian consequences, said Guterres, calling climate change a “key enhancer” of the humanitarian problem.

Last week, the U.N. World Food Programme’s chief economist told Reuters more than 20 million people in the four countries were at risk of dying from starvation within six months.

U.N. chief Guterres said Wednesday women and girls are disproportionately affected by the crisis and nearly half a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition.

“Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan,” Guterres said. “Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are facing a tragedy.”

Yemen, where more than 10,000 people have died as part of a two-year-long conflict, is facing the largest food insecurity emergency in the world, Guterres said, with an estimated 7.3 million people needing immediate help.

Earlier on Wednesday, a senior U.N official said more than seven million people face starvation in Nigeria’s insurgency-hit northeastern region and around Lake Chad.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Gambia – Jammeh’s spy boss linked to killings and torture is arrested

Al Jazeera

Gambia arrests ex-intelligence boss linked to abuse

Spy chief Yankuba Badjie has been accused of overseeing kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and rape.


Barrow has promised to end human rights abuses in the country during his inauguration on Saturday [Reuters]

Police in The Gambia have arrested the country’s former head of the national intelligence agency and his deputy, both accused of overseeing killings, kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, torture and rape during their time in office.

Spy chief Yankuba Badjie and director of operations Sheikh Omar Jeng were detained on Monday and being investigated for potential abuses of power, spokesman Foday Conta told the DPA news agency on Wednesday.

The arrests were part of new President Adama Barrow’s attempts to re-establish democracy in the small West African nation, a police spokesman said.

Opinion: Gambia, a lesson for African dictators

Badjie took over at the intelligence agency in 2013, with Jeng as his deputy.

According to rights group Human Rights Watch, the state intelligence as well as government paramilitary forces targeted journalists, political opponents and the LGBT community over a period of two decades under the rule of longtime President Yahya Jammeh.

In January 2015, the former government was also accused of forcible disappearances of friends and relatives of coup plotters, including elderly people and at least one minor.

READ MORE: Gambians ready to rebuild their country \’from scratch\’

Barrow has released dozens of opposition activists from prison since replacing Jammeh last month.

Jammeh caused weeks of political impasse by refusing to accept the result of the December presidential election.

International pressure, including the threat of a regional military intervention, led Jammeh on January 21 to finally accept his election defeat and fly into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Hundreds of thousands welcomed Barrow’s return to Gambia days later.

Barrow has pledged to reverse Jammeh’s repressive policies and promised to keep The Gambia in the International Criminal Court and rejoin the Commonwealth.

Source: News agencies

Africa – why are there still famines?

BBC

Women hold their babies as they wait for a medical check-up at a Unicef-supported mobile health clinic in Nimini village, Unity State, South SudanReuters

The United Nations has declared a famine in parts of South Sudan, the first to be announced anywhere in the world in six years. There have also been warnings of famine in north-east Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Why are there still famines and what can be done about it?

What is happening in South Sudan?

UN agencies say 100,000 people are facing starvation in South Sudan and a further 1 million there are classified as being on the brink of famine. This is the most acute of the present food emergencies. It is also the most widespread nationally. Overall, says the UN, 4.9 million people – or 40% of South Sudan’s population – are “in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance”.

“Many families have exhausted every means they have to survive,” says the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization representative in South Sudan, Serge Tissot.

The basic cause of the famine is conflict. The country has now been at war since 2013 and more than 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

As World Food Programme country director Joyce Luma says: “This famine is man-made.”

“The people are predominantly farmers and war has disrupted agriculture. They’ve lost their livestock, even their farming tools. For months there has been a total reliance on whatever plants they can find and fish they can catch,” says Mr Tissot.

Crop production has been severely curtailed by the conflict, even in previously stable and fertile areas, as a long-running dispute among political leaders has escalated into a violent competition for power and resources among different ethnic groups.

As crop production has fallen and livestock have died, so inflation has soared (by up to 800% year-on-year, says the UN) causing massive price rises for basic foodstuffs.

This economic collapse would not have happened without war.

What does the declaration of famine mean?

The UN considers famine a technical term, to be used sparingly. The formal famine declaration in South Sudan means people there have already started dying of hunger.

More specifically, famine can be declared only when certain measures of mortality, malnutrition and hunger are met. These are:

  • at least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortages with a limited ability to cope;
  • acute malnutrition rates exceed 30%;
  • and the death rate exceeds two persons per day per 10,000 persons.

Other factors that may be considered include large-scale displacement, widespread destitution, disease outbreaks and social collapse.

The declaration of a famine carries no binding obligations on the UN or anyone else, but does bring global attention to the problem.

Map showing scale of malnutrition

Previous famines include southern Somalia in 2011, southern Sudan in 2008, Gode in the Somali region of Ethiopia in 2000, North Korea (1996), Somalia (1991-1992) and Ethiopia in 1984-1985.

The possibility of three further famine declarations in Nigeria, Somali and Yemen would be an unprecedented situation in modern times.

“We have never seen that before and with all of these crises, they are protracted situations and they require significant financing,” World Food programme director of emergencies Denise Brown told the Guardian. “The international community has got to find a way of stepping up to manage this situation until political solutions are found.”

What can be done in South Sudan?

In the immediate term, two things would be necessary to halt and reverse the famine: More humanitarian assistance and unimpeded access for humanitarian agencies to those worst affected.

Camp for displaced people in South SudanAFP   Many South Sudanese are living in makeshift camps, having been displaced by the fighting

UN agencies speak of handing out millions of emergency livelihood kits, intended to help people fish or grow vegetables. There has also been a programme to vaccinate sheep and goats in an attempt to stem further livestock losses.

But, says Ms Luma, “we have also warned that there is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in the absence of meaningful peace and security”.

The areas where a famine has been declared are in parts of Unity State seen as sympathetic to the rebels.

Unity state, South Sudan

Some UN officials have suggested President Salva Kiir’s government has been blocking food aid to certain areas. There have also been reports of humanitarian convoys and warehouses coming under attack or being looted, either by government or rebel forces.

Although it denies the charges, President Kiir has now promised “that all humanitarian and development organisations have unimpeded access to needy populations across the country”.

But apart from that, there has been no indication that the huge suffering of civilians will prompt South Sudan’s warring parties to stop fighting.

Why are there food security crises elsewhere?

The common theme is conflict.

Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia are all places where fighting has severely disrupted stability and normal life.

In Yemen, a multi-party civil conflict has drawn in regional powers, causing widespread destruction, economic damage and loss of life.

Nigeria and Somalia have faced insurgencies by extremist Islamist groups Boko Haram and al-Shabab, respectively, leading to large-scale displacement of people, disruption of agriculture and the collapse of normal trading and market activities.

Yemenis collect water from a donated source amid continuing disruption of water supply in the impoverished coastal village on the outskirts of the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, on February 20, 2017AFP   Yemenis have suffered disruption to water supplies

In some cases, conflict has compounded pre-existing problems.

Yemen has long-standing water shortages and successive governments have been criticised for not doing more to conserve resources and improve the country’s ability to feed itself. (Even before the conflict started, nearly 90% of Yemen’s food had to be imported, Oxfam says.)

In other cases, shorter term climatic factors may be relevant.

South Sudan and Somalia have both been affected by a months-long drought across east Africa.

How is it different for more stable countries?

In Kenya, the government has declared a national disaster because of the drought and announced a compensation scheme for those who have lost livestock.

The Kenya Red Cross has been making cash payments, distributing food vouchers and aid and helping livestock owners sell off weakening animals before they die.

In pictures: Kenyans share their dinner to save livestock

This kind of ameliorative action is much less possible or likely in countries riven by war.

A mother feeds her malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, NigeriaAP   The Islamist insurgency in north-east Nigeria has left the area on the brink of famine

UN assistant secretary general Justin Forsyth told the BBC: “Nobody should be dying of starvation in 2017. There is enough food in the world, we have enough capability in terms of the humanitarian community.

“In South Sudan, [the UN children’s agency] Unicef has 620 feeding centres for severely malnourished children, so the places where children are dying are places we can’t get to, or get to only occasionally. If there was access, we could save all of these children’s lives.”

The US-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies says 19 African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Of these, 10 are experiencing civil conflict. Eight of these are autocracies and the source of 82% of the 18.5 million Africans who are internally displaced or refugees, the ACSS says.

Nigeria – Buhari says he needs a longer period of rest

Punch

Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said results of the series of medical checkups he carried out in the cause of his medical vacation had shown that he needed a longer period of rest.

He said this necessitated his staying back in London, United Kingdom longer than initially planned.

The President said this in a four-paragraph statement made available to journalists by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.

Adesina did not disclose how long the President’s “longer period of rest” will take.

READ ALSO: Buhari, make your health condition public

He, however, thanked Nigerians for their prayers and good wishes while assuring them that there is no cause for worry.

The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari thanks millions of Nigerians who have been sending good wishes and praying for his health and well-being in mosques and churches throughout the country.

“The President is immensely grateful for the prayers, show of love and concern.

“President Buhari wishes to reassure Nigerians that there is no cause for worry.

“During his normal annual checkup, tests showed he needed a longer period of rest, necessitating the President staying longer than originally planned.”

Nigeria – Osinbajo discusses rice and wheat production with ministers and governors

Punch

Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja

The Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday presided over a meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat as part of the Federal Government’s efforts aimed at enhancing food security.

Those who attended the meeting included four state governors — Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa); and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).

The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, also attended.

Bagudu later told State House correspondents that the meeting reviewed the government’s wheat programme and what could be done to increase production.

He said, “This is the meeting of the Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat and we reviewed the wheat programme and what we can do more to support states in order to increase production of wheat.

“We also want to ensure that our farmers who have responded to the call are supported in terms of getting good price for their output in order to sustain their interests.

“We reviewed where we are with rice production. The Acting President noted with satisfaction all the efforts by different stakeholders to attain sufficiency in the shortest possible time.

“The Acting President assured us that the Federal Government would continue to support the drive towards self-sufficiency in food security. He said the government, of necessity, would support the farmers, the millers and other stakeholders involved in the value change.”

When asked to confirm the claim that Nigeria is the second largest producer of rice in the world, the governor said he did not have the data.

He, however, said farmers had responded and about 32 states had shown readiness to increase production.

“I think we have done very well. We have remarkable increase in the number of states that have produced wheat from the last season.

“Last season, we had about five states but today we are hearing reports from about 11 states and the increase in output per state is quite significant as well.

“So, we believe that with sustained trajectory that we are seeing, we will be able to achieve our self-sufficiency,” he added.

Copyright PUNCH.               

UN warns of famine in Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria

Al Jazeera

UN demands action as famine looms in three countries

Call for action comes day after aid agency and government officials declared famine in parts of South Sudan.

21 Feb 2017 07:55 GMT

Famine has been declared in two counties of South Sudan, the calamity is the result of prolonged civil war [AP/Kate Holt]
Famine has been declared in two counties of South Sudan, the calamity is the result of prolonged civil war [AP/Kate Holt]

Almost 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year as famine looms Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, the UN children’s agency said.

The warning comes a day after government officials and the UN declared famine in parts of South Sudan.

In Yemen, where war has been raging for nearly two years, 462,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, while 450,000 children are severely malnourished in northeast Nigeria.

Fews Net, the famine early warning system, said some remote areas of Nigeria’s Borno state have been affected by famine since late last year.

The disaster is likely to continue, it said, as aid agencies are unable to reach those in need.

Drought in Somalia, meanwhile, has left 185,000 children on the brink of famine but that figure is expected to reach 270,000 over the next few months, said UNICEF.

READ MORE: Famine declared in part of South Sudan’s Unity state

In South Sudan, over 270,000 children are malnourished and a famine has just been declared in parts of Unity State in the north of the country, where 20,000 children live.

Aid agencies only describe a crisis as a famine when at least 20 percent of the population has access to fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of food a day and acute malnutrition affects more than 30 percent of the area’s children.

Another reason to declare a famine is when there are two hunger-related deaths per 10,000 people, or four child deaths per 10,000 children every day.

UNICEF director Anthony Lake appealed for quick action.

“We can still save many lives,” he said.

UN Security Council ambassadors are due to travel to northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger next month to draw international attention to the humanitarian crisis triggered by the conflict with Boko Haram fighters.

South Sudan famine: Millions suffering food shortages

Source: News agencies

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