Daily Archives: June 6, 2020

Rights Groups Condemn Attack on Aid Workers in Cameroon

Rights groups in Cameroon have condemned increased attacks on aid workers and hospital staff in the country’s troubled western regions.  The groups blame both government troops and anglophone rebels fighting to create an English-speaking state in majority French-speaking Cameroon.

Ernestine Maika, a 33-year-old nurse, has just arrived in the French-speaking town of Bafoussam. She says she was rescued by Cameroon military in the English-speaking northwestern town of Ndop after separatist fighters seized a vehicle in which  she was transporting medical supplies. Maika says it was the third time she has been attacked in three weeks.

“The torment is too much, unbearable,” said Maika. “We are being killed, arrested, kidnapped. It is not fair. I just want to plead because the pain is too much. Humanitarian workers and nurses and medical staff should be allowed to do their work. I just want to plead that they be allowed to go out there and save lives.

The Cameroonian military confirmed that on Wednesday (June 3), four separatist fighters were killed in a gun battle after they attacked health workers in Ndop.

The government said attacks on health workers and humanitarian staff members  have intensified since April, when it launched a $150 million plan to build 115 hospitals, 40 bridges, 400 wells and water taps, 600 kilometers of rural roads, 45 markets and 17,000 private homes destroyed by the separatists.  Human Rights Watch Thursday reported renewed attacks on aid workers.

Iliaria Allegrozzi, senior central Africa researcher for the organization, says aid workers have been victims of kidnapping, killing, kidnapping, extortion and various forms of abuse. She says food and nonfood aid items have been looted or destroyed.

“These attacks do not only impact the lives and well-being of those working at the front line in very challenging conditions but also disrupt the provision of life-saving assistance and services to 2 million people depending on humanitarian assistance and over 600,000 internally displaced,” said Allegrozzi.

Allegrozzi did not immediately confirm the number of health workers attacked but blamed both separatist fighters and the military for the atrocities.

Cameroon government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi speaking on state media CRTV blamed separatists for the atrocities and said the military has remained professional.
Sadi says the crimes against aid workers are committed by separatist fighters who are determined to destroy government efforts aimed at returning peace to the restive English-speaking regions. He says the country can only count on the military to restore harmony and consolidate the achievements made so far in the peace process.

Separatists have blamed the military for the abuses on social media, but have warned humanitarian or aid workers against offering assistance in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions without obtaining what the separatists call an express authorization from their government.

The United Nations has expressed what it calls grave concern over the interruption of aid delivery to hundreds of thousands of people in need, following the escalating attacks against aid workers in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.

The unrest has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced over 500,000 according to the United Nations.  Fifty thousand others are seeking asylum in neighboring Nigeria.

 

 

 

Source: Voice of America

US, France Confirm Death of Key al-Qaida Emir in Africa

The United States says there is no doubt that the long-time leader of a key al-Qaida terror group affiliate in North Africa is dead.

Officials with U.S. Africa Command Saturday confirmed the death of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the emir of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), citing an independent assessment of a June 3 operation led by France.

“This mission is a collective win,” U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman Colonel Chris Karns told VOA.

“This was a great example of cooperation and partnership to get after a common threat,” he said, praising France’s commitment to fighting both al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked terror groups in Africa.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly first announced Droukdel’s death in a series of tweets late Friday.

“On June 3, French army forces, with the support of their local partners, killed the emir of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalek Droukdel, and several of his closest collaborators, during an operation in northern Mali,” she said.

French forces had been hunting Droukdel, a key figure within North African jihadist circles, for years. Various reports had placed him in Tunisia or the mountains of northern Algeria, although he also had been active in Mali.

The French, along with partner forces, finally caught up to Droukdel this past week with help from the U.S., which provided intelligence and surveillance support to “fix the target,” according to AFRICOM.

The long-time AQIM emir rose to power after starting out as an explosives expert for the Algerian-based Armed Islamic Group (GIA) before assuming control of the group that was to become AQIM in 2004.

U.S. officials designated Droukdel in 2007, blaming him and AQIM for a series of deadly attacks and bombings, including one on a bus belonging to a U.S. company in Algiers and a bombing at the Algerian prime minister’s office and at police facilities that killed 33 people.

Starting in 2011, Droukdel proved support to Ansar Dine, a Malian terror group, and helped it engineer a take-over of parts of Mali until French forces intervened two years later.

U.S. officials said, more recently, Droukdel, had been seeking to expand the amount of territory under his control and increase recruiting while plotting to ramp up attacks across the region.

“This definitely is a blow to AQIM and certainly degrades their ability to plan and carry out operations,” Africa Command’s Chris Karns said.

Even with Droukdel’s death, however, French, U.S. and African officials remain concerned that AQIM and other jihadist terror groups are growing, taking advantage of economic and political turmoil across parts of West Africa and the Sahel.

As part of an effort to counter that, France, along with Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad, created a combined force this past January. Public sentiment has soured, though, and some critics blame French forces for failing to do more to restore stability.

France has about 5,100 troops in the region and has been urging other Western countries to do more.

Already, French officials say European allies have pledged to send 100 special forces to aid in the counterterrorism efforts. And Parly, the French defense minister, promised there will be no let-up.

A separate French operation, on May 19, led to the capture of Mohamed el Mrabat, a veteran jihadist with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. And more operations are to come.

“Our forces, in cooperation with their local partners … will continue to track these (terrorists) down without respite,” Parly said.

French calls for greater assistance in the fight against terrorism in Africa have been joined by the U.S., though officials in Washington have said they are looking to drawdown the U.S. military in presence in Africa in order to focus more on countering threats posed by powers like Russia and China.

Earlier this year, the U.S. began by withdrawing combat troops stationed in Africa, replacing them with military trainers.

French officials, however, have urged the U.S. to keep some forces in Africa, stressing that some U.S. assets cannot be replaced, including the intelligence and surveillance capabilities that help lead to the death of AQIM’s Droukdel.

Members of the global coalition to defeat IS also have expressed a desire to focus additional efforts in Africa, but planning has been delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

In a communique issued following a virtual meeting Thursday, coalition members promised to move ahead with those efforts, with a focus on “capacity building … upon the request and prior consent of the countries concerned, and be coordinated with existing efforts and initiatives.”

 

 

Source: Voice of America

Somaliland Leader: Mogadishu Is Biggest Challenge to Our Recognition

Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi says authorities in Mogadishu pose the biggest challenge for the autonomous region’s fight for recognition as an independent state, 29 years after the region broke away from Somalia after the overthrow of military ruler Siad Barre.

In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Somalia service that aired Saturday, Bihi called on the international community to recognize Somaliland’s independence, saying the only solution for Somaliland is for Somalia’s leadership and the international community to accept “the reality of two independent nations.”

“Since Somaliland announced its independence from Somalia, we have done everything that we could to earn a recognition. We rule in democracy, we have peaceful and functioning institutions, and economically we are not a burden to the world, yet we have no recognition and did not see anyone saying we do not deserve it,” Bihi said.

Broke away in 1991

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, broke away from Somalia in 1991 and has continued its effort to be a separate country ever since, but it has not been internationally recognized.

The government in Mogadishu, however, wants the country’s northern territory to be part of a single Somali state.

“We face the biggest fight from the government in Mogadishu, which uses its international recognition and support to fight Somaliland, whether it is economic pressure, instigating violence within Somaliland or spreading a propaganda war,” Bihi said.

Unlike the southern part of Somalia, Somaliland has had relative peace for 29 years, but it is often accused by rights organizations of making arbitrary arrests and being tough against journalists.

“We do not arrest anyone without court trials or due process. We rule in democracy where the rights of our people are respected.” If the incidents alleged by rights groups happen, “it is a mistake and we are ready to correct it,” Bihi said.

Female singers and journalists are among people still in Somaliland jails.

After VOA Somali aired Bihi’s interview, detained journalist Abdimalik Muse Oldon, who was arrested in April 2019, was released in Hargeisa. The journalist told VOA he was let go with a presidential pardon.

Somalia-Somaliland talks

Strong positions on both sides — separation versus unity, enshrined in each of their constitutions — and the lack of compromise have made negotiating Somaliland’s independence an insurmountable task.

In June 2012, however, delegates from the two sides held their first formal talks in London, which ended with no progress. Then, Turkey mediated another round of talks, which stalled.

The European Union has been pushing for the resumption of the talks, but most recently, in February 2020, Bihi and Somali President  Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for the first major face-to-face talks between the leaders.

“In our recent meeting in Addis Ababa, we have agreed to continue talks and end our issues through talks, but we still need impartial international mediation,” Bihi said in the VOA interview.

In Mogadishu, delivering a speech that was briefly interrupted by loud whistling, boos and hisses, Abdullahi also said Mogadishu was ready for talks.

“President Bihi of Somaliland had accepted our talks to be resumed and I hope we will solve everything through peaceful and consensus means,” Somalia’s president said.

Protests

Members of parliament who interrupted the president’s speech were protesting the government’s failure to address promises made, including security, and proper preparations for the upcoming elections.

The president reaffirmed in his speech that Somalia’s elections would not be delayed.

Somaliland, has not been part of Somali elections since its independence declaration and has its own electoral system.

 

 

Source: Voice of America