UNHCR: Conditions Deteriorate for Somalis in Dadaab Refugee Camps

The U.N. refugee agency warns humanitarian conditions are deteriorating for tens of thousands of Somalis in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps as unrelenting drought grips the Horn of Africa and funding dries up.

More than 80,000 Somalis fleeing conflict and drought have arrived in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps over the past two years, more than 24,000 since September.

This is exacting an enormous burden on the local communities and refugees already living in the camps, which house an estimated 230,000 refugees.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, reports refugees, especially those who have arrived since the end of September are in urgent need of assistance.  It says shelter for the new arrivals is running out.  This is forcing many to live in makeshift shelters, with limited or no access to clean water and sanitation.

To make matters worse, UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said a cholera outbreak at the end of October has infected more than 350 people, mainly children.  He said the spread of cholera is declining thanks to the efforts of health partners.  However, the risk of further infection remains.

“UNHCR is providing new arrivals to Dadaab with clean drinking water and extending sanitation and hygiene facilities to the outskirts of the camps.  We are also providing targeted protection services for the most vulnerable to ensure their needs are met.  Malnourished children are being screened and admitted to stabilization centers,” said Cheshirkov.

He notes the UNHCR also is assisting nearby host communities.  It is rehabilitating boreholes, providing generators for water pumps, and trucking in water.  While tending to the immediate needs of the refugees and local populations, he said the UNHCR, and the Kenyan government are seeking long-term solutions for this intractable problem.

Kenya has been hosting more than half a million refugees and asylum seekers in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps and urban areas for over three decades.  This is the second largest number in Africa after Ethiopia.

Cheshirkov said neither voluntary repatriation to Somalia nor resettlement in third countries of asylum are viable solutions currently.

“What we are focusing on now is to find ways for refugees to become self-reliant in Kenya.  And that includes through education, through vocational training and through access to financial services so that people can access businesses.  So that they have a prospect as a longer-term solution is found to their plight,” he said.

In the meantime, the UNHCR warns its life-saving operations for more than 257,000 drought-affected people in Kenya is foundering for lack of financial support.  It notes only half of an appeal issued in June for $11.1 million has been met.

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Kenya Concerned by Cholera, Measles Outbreaks at Congested Refugee Camp

Aid groups say measles and cholera outbreaks at Kenya’s congested Dadaab refugee camp have killed at least five people and sickened more than 400.  The outbreaks come as thousands of Somalis have been arriving at the camp this year to escape record drought back home, stretching camp resources.  Juma Majanga reports from Dadaab refugee camp in northeast Kenya.

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25,000 Tons of Ukraine Grain Reach East Africa

The first shipment of grain as part of Ukraine’s own initiative to supply countries in need arrived Monday in Djibouti for delivery to neighboring Ethiopia amid the region’s worst drought in decades. 

Ukraine’s embassy in Ethiopia confirmed that the “Grain from Ukraine” shipment of 25,000 tons is separate from a United Nations World Food Program effort that has funded humanitarian grain shipments from Ukraine. 

A second ship with 30,000 tons of wheat will be heading to Ethiopia next week, while a third vessel is being loaded with 25,000 tons of wheat bound for Somalia, an embassy statement said. 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last month announced the initiative aimed at helping “countries the most struck by the food crisis.” Ukraine has said it plans to send more than 60 ships to Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Kenya, Yemen and other countries. 

Millions of people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are going hungry during a drought following the fifth straight failed rainy season, while conflicts in Ethiopia and Somalia have worsened the crisis. 

Ethiopia has not yet commented on the new grain shipment from Ukraine. But Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in August criticized reports of a U.N. effort to ship grain from Ukraine to Ethiopia as an attempt to paint “a picture that we are starved.” 


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Report: Guards Massacred 83 Tigrayan Prisoners at Camp in Southern Ethiopia

A published report says Ethiopian guards and villagers massacred 83 Tigrayan prisoners at a camp in southern Ethiopia last November in what the report calls the deadliest killing of imprisoned soldiers since the Tigray war started more than two years ago.  

The Washington Post said the previously unreported killings occurred Nov. 21, 2021, at a camp near the town of Mirab Abaya that housed more than 2,000 detained Tigrayan soldiers.  

Witnesses told the Post that between 16 and 18 guards at the camp opened fire on prisoners late that afternoon, prompting many to flee into the bush, chased by Ethiopian soldiers. 

The report said after running for an hour, some escapees came across some locals and begged them for help. Instead, a mob of at least 150 people attacked the Tigrayans with machetes, sticks and stones.  

Witnesses said members of the mob were incorrectly told the Tigrayans were prisoners of war who were responsible for the deaths of local men in the military.  

The Post said none of the soldiers killed had been combatants against Ethiopian forces. 

The attacks happened at a time when Tigrayan forces were advancing toward the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Prisoners interviewed for the story speculated that the attacks were triggered by fear or desire for revenge.  

The bodies of the 83 Tigrayans were dumped in a mass grave outside the prison camp, according to witnesses. 

“They were stacked on top of each other like wood,” said one. 

The Post said it interviewed more than two dozen people, including prisoners, medical personnel, officials and local relatives, for the story that was published Monday. 

The war between Ethiopia’s central government and the northern Tigray region broke out in November 2020. The sides are currently working out details of a cease-fire agreement. 

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Burkina Faso Bans French State Broadcaster in Blow to Press Freedom

Press freedom groups have condemned Burkina Faso’s halting of broadcasts by French media outlet Radio France International (RFI). Ouagadougou’s military leaders linked the ban to RFI reporting that the junta describes as false. Critics say the military is seeking to control news and information as it struggles against worsening insecurity.

Burkina Faso is the second West African country, after Mali, to take the French broadcaster off the air. Both countries are under military rule.

In a statement, the Burkinabe military junta says Radio France International made false reports pertaining to an alleged foiled coup attempt last week and had given voice to Islamist militants. 

In the wake of the ban, announced Saturday, RFI issued a separate statement saying it “strongly deplores” the authorities’ actions and will “explore all avenues to restore RFI’s broadcasting.” RFI also cited its unwavering commitment to the freedom to inform and to the “professional work of its journalists.”

Jonathan Rozen is with the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by and investigating the suspension of French broadcaster RFI in Burkina Faso. It’s unfortunate that as people in Burkina Faso and across the Sahel grapple with insecurity, authorities have chosen to deny access to a prominent source of news and information,” he said.

Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, says the authorities’ decision will prevent other journalists from reporting on terrorism and could be illegal.

Sadibou Marong is RSF’s West Africa director.

“CSC is the media regulator, which according to the law has the prerogative to suspend or sanction the media. Unless the law has been changed this is also a violation of the media regulation laws,” said Marong.

Burkina Faso has been at war with militants linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida for more than six years. As the violence has worsened, so has political instability, with the country enduring two military coups this year, one in January, one in September. Both juntas have promised to resolve the country’s security problems.

Andrew Lebovich is an analyst with Clingendael Institute, a Netherlands-based research group. He says the current junta led by Ibrahim Traoré is under increasing pressure to produce results. 

“Attacks have continued, and the junta is still significantly under threat and still faces I think important pressures. I think political pressures, but also pressure even potentially within the military, so there’s a lot for them to balance right now and I don’t think they’ve shown real signs of success yet,” he said.

The action against RFI comes after a number of anti-French protests across the country in recent months. Some blame Burkina Faso’s military partnership with its former colonizer for the failure to stop the violence.

Earlier this year, France announced it would downsize its counter-insurgency military operation in the Sahel and regroup and recast itself under a European umbrella.

Across the western Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, fatalities caused by conflict have increased by more than 50 percent this year, according to information from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. 

(Lisa Bryant in Paris contributed to this report.)

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Corruption-Weary South Africans React to Latest Presidential Scandal

Cyril Ramaphosa is not South Africa’s first president or leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party to be dogged by allegations of corruption.  While graft claims do not surprise most South Africans, analysts say it is taking a toll on the ANC’s popularity.  Zaheer Cassim reports from Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Cameroon Welcomes US Indictment of Suspected Separatist Sponsors

Cameroon’s government is praising U.S. authorities for arresting three Cameroonian Americans accused of supporting separatist violence in the country’s western regions. The three, arrested a week ago and indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, allegedly raised funds to abduct persons and use weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country.

Cameroon’s government has for years been urging the U.S. and Europe to crack down on separatists operating outside the country. Government forces have been battling separatist groups for five years.

John Billy Eko, inspector general in Cameroon’s External Relations Ministry, said the arrest of the three Cameroonian-born U.S. citizens indicates the U.S. has come to understand that some people who sponsor the separatist conflict live in America.

“We remain cautious and vigilant because the indictment is perhaps only the first phase of a judicial process which began with our government’s persistence in convincing American authorities to take action [against separatist sponsors],” he said. “So, we await trial and sentencing. There are many, many more unindicted co-conspirators and accomplices in the United States and elsewhere who were not cited in this indictment.”

Cameroonian lawyers in the U.S. say they have filed complaints against 200 Cameroonians and American citizens of Cameroon origin in the U.S. who are suspected accomplices to separatist violence.

Armed groups seeking to separate two predominantly English-speaking regions from Cameroon and its French-speaking majority launched their military campaign in 2017.

Eko said that since then Cameroon has appealed to friendly nations to take actions against separatist supporters working within their national territories.

On November 28, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the charges against Claude Chi, Lah Nestor Langmi and Francis Chenyi, all Cameroonian-born U.S. citizens in their 40s. The three arrested defendants are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a conspiracy to kidnap persons and use weapons of mass destruction in Cameroon.

The U.S Department of Justice says in addition to more than $350,000 the defendants raised through voluntary donations, the three men conspired with others to kidnap civilians in Cameroon and hold them for ransom.

It says in some instances, U.S. citizens were extorted for ransom payments to secure the release of their kidnapped relatives living in Cameroon, with ransom payments subsequently transferred to separatist fighters to fund their operations.

“We have examined the case filed into court by the United States prosecutor. We had previously condemned kidnapping for ransom and the use of Ambazonia forces for personal benefit,” said Capo Daniel,spokesperson of the Ambazonia Governing Council, one of the chief separatist groups. “This war remains the primary cause of the chaos and the emergence of criminal gangs and cartels that seek to use Ambazonia to legitimize their criminal activity.”

Before last week’s indictment, Christopher John Lamora, U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, had condemned abductions for ransom and attacks on education.

“I have seen a lot of videos where people are calling for violence, where people are suggesting that killing students and preventing them from going to school is somehow a valid approach to resolving social concerns. It isn’t,” said Lamora, speaking to Cameroon state broadcaster CRTV. “The people in the diaspora, be they in the United States or elsewhere, who have been calling over the past several years for violence to stop. There is no question about that.”

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison for the material support charges, up to three years in prison for receiving money from a ransom demand charge and up to 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy charge, according to the U.S Department of Justice.

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Sudanese Generals, Pro-Democracy Group Sign Framework Deal

Sudan’s ruling generals and the main pro-democracy group on Monday signed a framework deal until elections but key dissenters have stayed out of the agreement.

The deal pledges to establish a new, civilian-led transitional government to guide the country to elections and offers a path forward in the wake of Sudan’s stalled transition to democracy following the October 2021 coup.

The deal — the first of at least two planned accords — was signed by Sudan’s two ruling generals, Abdel-Fattah Burhan and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, and the leaders from the country’s largest pro-democracy group, Forces of Freedom and Change, at the Khartoum Republican Palace.

However, several of Sudan’s key dissenting political forces have boycotted the deal, including Sudan’s grassroots pro-democracy network, known as the Resistance Committee, which has continually refused to negotiate with the ruling generals.

According to the draft, the deal envisions Sudan’s military step back from politics. The agreement also stipulates that the “revolutionary forces” that signed the deal will decide upon a new prime minister to oversee a two-year transition, a 24-month period that begins after a premier is appointed.

In response to the signing, the pro-democracy Resistance Committee leaders called for demonstrations against the agreement.

The deal is roughly based on a draft transitional constitution proposed Sudan’s Bar Association in September. It does not address details concerning thornier political issues, such as a transitional judiciary system and the implementation of military reforms, which have been left for a follow-up accord.

Sudan has been plugged into turmoil since its leading military figure, Gen. Burhan, mounted the October 2021 coup that upended the country’s former democratic transition after three decades of autocratic rule by Omar al-Bashir. The former leader was toppled in April 2019 following a popular uprising.

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