Sahel

North Nigeria: 400,000 displaced in 'urgent need'

More than 400,000 people in northeastern Nigeria, who have been forced to flee their homes due to ongoing violence by militant Islamist group Boko Haram, are in "urgent need" of assistance, humanitarian agencies say. This number is likely to increase as attacks against civilians escalate. "There's a major crisis going on in the northeast, and it's not being recognized for the crisis it is," said Sarah Ndikumana, country director for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Nigeria. "Since late August, the insurgency movement has been aggressively and progressively taking Adamawa State over and establishing their presence, and what this means is that hundreds of thousands have fled." This has left "countless" people without access to food, water, shelter, medical care and other basic necessities.

Burkina Faso: regime to identify Sankara remains

Three weeks after an uprising in Burkina Faso sent long-ruling president Blaise Campaore fleeing into exile, hopes for a civilian-led transition to free elections were dimmed this week as the military held on to powerful posts in a new cabinet. Lt. Col. Isaac Zida will be both prime minister and defense minister. Four other ministries, Interior, Sports, Environment, and Mines, will also be headed by military men. Civilian interim President Michel Kafando will also serve as foreign minister. In a bid for popular support, the interim regime has announced new efforts to verify the burial place of slain revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara. Speaking in Burkina Faso's national sports arena during the formal handing over of power to Kafando, the new civilian leader said to loud applause: "I.. decided that investigations to identify the body of Thomas Sankara will no longer be subject to a decision of the courts but will be the responsibility of the government."

Boko Haram seizes five Nigerian towns

Over the past five days, Boko Haram has seized five towns in Nigeria's northeast, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of residents fleeing for safety as it continues its quest to establish a "caliphate" in the country. The towns captured include Bara in Yobe state, Banki and Bamain Borno state, and Madagali and Gulakwere in Adamawa state. Boko Haram forces were driven from Bama, in Borno state, after intense aerial bombardment by Nigeria's air force Sept. 7. Tension is mounting in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, amid fears that the insurgents are mounting an offensive on the city. Further territorial gains by Boko Haram could worsen a dire humanitarian situation. Thousands of refugees have sought sanctuary in Maiduguri, and the UN estimates that 9,000 fleeing violence have arrived in Cameroon in the past ten days, with another 2,000 crossing into Niger, which has already taken in 50,000 refugees since May 2013. (The Punch, ThisDayLive, Nigeria; Leadership, Nigeria, via AllAfrica, Sept. 7; The Economist, Sept. 6)

Sudan arming Libyan Dawn rebels?

The Libyan government—now exiled to the eastern city of Tobruk—expelled the Sudanese military attaché on Sept. 6, charging that a Sudanese military transport loaded with munitions illegally entered Libyan airspace bound for Tripoli's Mitiga airport. The weapons were discovered when the plane stopped to refuel at the southern oasis town of Kufra, and were presumably intended for the Islamist-led Libyran Dawn rebels that are now in control of Tripoli. "Sudan is interposing itself by providing arms to a terrorist group that is attacking the headquarters of the state," said a government statement. "This also represents a clear violation of international resolutions, and the latest UN Security Council resolution." Sudan confirmed sending the plane but insisted the weapons were intended for legitimate border forces patrolling the southern desert. "The plane did not carry any material for armed groups in Libya," Sudan's army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid told the local TV channel Shouruq. (The Guardian, Sept. 7; Libya Herald, Sept. 6)

Mali: French pursue jihadis; talks open with MNLA

Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)

Boko Haram steps up Cameroon raids

Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram's is increasingly troubling the remote Far North Region of Cameroon, which has seen several attacks in recent months, with foreigners also abducted for ransom. This month, heavily armed men suspected to be Boko Haram fighters attacked Bonderi village, five kilometers from the border with Nigeria, and stole a military vehicle, four motorbikes and weapons from the gendarmerie base there, government officials told IRIN news agency. Another group of suspected Boko Haram gunmen also raided a gendarmerie border post in Zina town on July 8, three days prior to the Bonderi attack, and stole guns and ammunition. In June, two teenage sons of a Muslim cleric were kidnapped in Limani border town. The attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of a police officer and wounded another on July 18, have occurred despite the deployment in June of 1,000 additional soldiers to the Far North.

#BringBackOurGirls: Obama sends in the drones

The United States has deployed 80 troops to Chad to assist in efforts to find the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls, who are believed to have been absconded across the border. "The force, made up largely of Air Force personnel, will conduct surveillance flights and operate drone aircraft but will not participate in ground searches," the Washington Post informs us. While the deployment was announced by President Obama in a "War Powers Notification" letter sent to House and Senate leadership, the troops are actually there to maintain the drones—not to actually tramp through the forests in search for the missing girls. The drones are ostensibly unarmed and only for surveillance purposes. (Mashable, May 21)

Mali: jihadis step up attacks on Tuaregs

The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced Feb. 11 that they have abducted a team of Red Cross workers in Mali who had been reported missing days earlier—the latest in a wave of new attacks by the jihadist militia. (Al Jazeera, Feb. 11) MUJAO was also blamed for a Feb. 7 attack that left least 30 Tuaregs dead at Tamkoutat, 80 kilometers north of the desert city of Gao. A young girl and a woman were among those killed in the road ambush. Initial reports had attributed the killings to a cycle of reprisals in ethnic violence between the Peul (Fulani) and Tuareg in the area. Authorities later said  the attackers were actually MUJAO militants. (Reuters, Feb. 9; AFP, Feb. 7)

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