The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that an estimated 23,000 persons in the northwestern part of Nigeria, have been forced to seek safety and security in Niger in the last one month (April) due to the violence in the region.
According to a statement issued by the UNHCR on Tuesday, this takes the total number of refugees fleeing that part of the country to take sanctuary in neighbouring Niger, to more than 60,000 since the first influx, in April last year.
“Since April 2019, people have fled relentless attacks by armed groups in the Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states of Nigeria. Most found refuge in Niger’s Maradi region,” the statement read.
“Fearing and fleeing the same insecurity in the border areas, an additional 19,000 Niger nationals have become displaced inside their own country”.
The UNHCR further explained that the latest influx of refugees, which involves mainly desperate women and children, follows attacks in Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during the month of April.
“Several villages in several Local Government Areas were attacked by gunmen.
“The deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Kankara, Danmusa and Dusi-ma Local Government Areas in Katsina State and prompted airstrikes by the Nigerian Armed Forces,” the statement added.
According to the UNHCR, those fleeing speak of extreme violence unleashed against civilians, murders, kidnappings for ransom and pillaging and looting of villages and despite border closures due to COVID-19, they are still being allowed to seek protection in Niger.
Meanwhile, there’s now an urgent need for water, food and access to health services, as well as shelter and clothing.
But the agency says it is working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 7,000 refugees to safety, in villages 20 kilometres away from the border, where water, food, shelter, access to health and other essential assistance can be provided.
This, according to them, will also ease the pressure on host communities in border areas, where basic infrastructure and services are lacking.
Two policemen and four other people were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday after a deadly clash at a public food donation in central Ghor province, officials said.
Hundreds of people had gathered outside the governor’s office in the provincial capital Firozkoh, where a Qatari group was distributing aid.
It was not immediately clear why the gathering turned violent, but officials blamed armed men in the crowd.
“The protesters opened fire on the police,” the provincial governor’s spokesman Aref Haber said.
“Four civilians, including an employee of a local radio and two policemen were killed,” he said, adding that 19 people were also wounded.
He said the protesters also beat security personnel and an investigation into the incident was underway.
The interior ministry confirmed the death toll in a statement, saying “some illegal armed men in the mob attacked the government building”, which prompted police to fire into the air to disperse the crowd.
Abdul Rahman Akshan, the deputy head of Ghor’s provincial council, also confirmed the incident and the death toll.
Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the attack was “shocking” and announced that the “government was seriously investigating the incident” in a Facebook post.
The aid group was distributing food to about 1,000 local families. Food drives are a common practice in the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Afghanistan is battling a growing coronavirus outbreak that has exacerbated problems with food access in the impoverished country.
Youths in Kaduna State on Tuesday took to the streets to protest over the killing of five persons allegedly by police officers in Trikania community of Kaduna South local Government Area.
The five persons were killed in a violence that broke out in the area on Monday after the police and some members of the local vigilante group popularly known as the Civilian JTF attempted to disperse some traders.
According to them the traders had violated the state’s lockdown order and they resisted the efforts of the security agencies to disperse them, which then resulted in resulted in the tragedy.
While members of the community insist that the deceased died as a result of gunshots from the police, the police insist that they had no hand in the killing. Four other persons were also injured in the violence but are currently undergoing treatment.
Since March 26, Kaduna State has been on total lockdown as the government imposed a 24-hour curfew in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the state.
While there has been total compliance with the order in the city center, it has been serially violated in many satellite towns in the state.
Thirteen people have been killed and more than 150 injured in sectarian violence that erupted in India’s capital New Delhi for the third day, a hospital official said Tuesday.
“I can now confirm 13 deaths. At least 150 people have come to our hospital with injuries,” Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital official Rajesh Kalra told AFP, adding that a dozen people were in critical condition.
“We are still receiving some people with injuries, most of them firearm injuries today.”
The Lagos State Police Command has arrested 17 suspects for cultism and violence in the Ijora Badia and Ikorodu areas of the state.
A statement on Sunday by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bala Elkana, revealed that the suspects were arrested in batches of five and 12.
Elkana explained that two rival cult groups armed with dangerous weapons engaged themselves in a battle for supremacy at Iso Isu in Ijora Badia and inflicted various degrees of injuries on each other on Friday last week.
He said the police got a distress call and mobilised police operatives from Ijora Badia Division and Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants from the Command Headquarters to the area where five suspects were arrested.
Cameroon voted Sunday in polls overshadowed by a partial opposition boycott and separatist violence that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Elections for the central African country’s legislature and local councils are taking place for the first time in seven years, after two postponements.
They are unlikely to ruffle the enduring rule of President Paul Biya, one of the world’s oldest and longest-serving leaders, who has held a tight grip on power for 37 of his 86 years.
As voting began large numbers of police and soldiers were seen deployed on the streets of Buea, the capital of the Southwest Region, one of two provinces gripped by bloody separatist violence.
But the polling stations in the city were almost deserted an hour after they opened at 8am (0700 GMT).
The main opposition party, the Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) is refusing to field a single candidate.
The boycott will all but guarantee a crushing victory for the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC in its French initials), which in the outgoing legislature had 148 out of 180 seats.
The other large opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), which currently has 18 seats, will take part in Sunday’s vote, going back on a threat to snub it.
In the capital Yaounde, it appeared that enthusiasm for the vote was subdued, with no crowds outside polling stations as they opened in the district of Briqueterie.
“I want to do my duty as a citizen,” said Abdias Lah, one of the few voters to cast an early ballot.
– ‘Spiral of violence’ –
Cameroon is struggling with two conflicts.
In the two English-speaking regions — the southwest and northwest — the armed forces are battling separatists who want to secede from the majority French-speaking country.
The 28-month conflict has claimed more than 3,000 lives and caused more than 700,000 people to flee, according to tolls compiled by NGOs.
Amnesty International said there has been a “surge in violence” by the Cameroon military in the weeks leading up to the vote, resulting in killings and the displacement of thousands in the English-speaking regions.
“In recent weeks, brutal military operations have been conducted while crimes committed by armed separatists continue unabated. Civilians are finding themselves trapped in a spiral of violence,” said Fabien Offner, Amnesty’s Lake Chad Researcher.
The SDF traditionally draws much of its support from the anglophone regions but now fears that it has been outflanked by the radicals — and says its candidates there have come under attack.
Similar worries are being voiced for the safety of polling stations in Cameroon’s Far North region, which has been battered by Boko Haram jihadists crossing from Nigeria.
The government on Friday announced that all of Cameroon’s borders would be closed until Monday, and shops and drink outlets had to close on polling day.
– City power – MRC leader, Maurice Kamto, spent nine months in jail after his defeat in 2018 presidential elections and is now abroad.
“We could have had a few seats in parliament and some town councillors, but how would that enable us to influence events in Cameroon?” Kamto said in an interview with AFP in Paris last month.
Given the seemingly inevitable outcome of legislative vote, most media attention has focused on the municipal elections that are also taking place.
Some cities, including Douala, the country’s economic hub, could swing to the opposition, according to some forecasts.
City chiefs are to gain powers under measures taken in December to decentralise some authority out of Yaounde.
The reforms have been triggered by the anglophone crisis although they fall far short of meeting the separatists’ demands.
“The stakes (on Sunday) are local,” said Stephane Akoa, a researcher at the Paul Ango Ela think tank in Yaounde.
The Lagos State Police Command says it has arrested 86 suspects for cultism and violent attacks in the Ikorodu area of the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bala Elkana, stated in a statement that the arrests were made in two batches.
“On 25/1/2020 at about 0600hour, acting on credible intelligence, the Special Strike Force on Social Miscreants established by the Commissioner of Police Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu psc arrested 21 cult suspects at Adamo community, Imota.
“The suspects who belong to two rival cult groups, Aiye and Eiye confraternity, mobilised from Emure and Adamo communities to unleash terror on residents of Adamo community and environs,” he said.
Elkana explained that the arrest was carried out in joint operations with operatives from Imota Police Station, Rapid Response Squad, Special Anti-Robbery Squad, and Area N Command.
According to him, this is a follow up to the operations carried out at Ijede where 65 cult suspects were arrested.
The command’s spokesman said 11 assorted pistols of different types with a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from the suspects.
“The suspects confessed to be responsible for series of violent attacks, murder and armed robbery incidents recorded in Ikorodu area of Lagos State,” he added.
Elkana stated that the suspects would be charged to court and the police commissioner has reaffirmed the commitment of the Command to addressing the menace of cultism and youth gangsterism in the state.
According to the returning officer, some gunmen gained access into the collation centre and carted away with all the electoral materials, including all the ballot papers and result sheets.
Meanwhile, the candidate of the Action Alliance (AA) candidate in the Imo North Senatorial District, Ndubuisi Emenike, has been killed.
Emenike was said to have been shot dead by an operative of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on Sunday.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Imo, Orlando Ikeokwu, told reporters that the politician was killed during a celebration party held in honour of the winner of the Okigwe North Federal Constituency supplementary election, Miriam Onuoha.
Onuoha contested the election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
At least 11 people were killed in fighting between militiamen and traders in a restive district of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, two security officials and an imam said Thursday.
Between 11 and 14 people died after clashes erupted late Wednesday, the security sources said, while the imam, Awad Al Karim, said “16 bodies” had been brought to the local Ali Babolo mosque.
The fighting began after traders in a mainly Muslim district called PK5 took up arms to oppose taxes levied by militia groups, the imam said.
Bursts of automatic fire and explosions were heard on Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning, according to an AFP journalist who was in a neighbouring district.
Bili Aminou Alao, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA, said a rapid response force had been sent to the area.
“Part of the market and some vehicles have been burned,” he said.
“Between 40 and 50 shops have been burned down, as well as four or five houses,” said Patrick Bidilou Niabode, head of the CAR’s civil protection service.
Voluntary firefighters put out two fires which had been spreading in the market but were unable to tackle a blaze at two houses because of heavy gunfire, he added.
The CAR is one of the world’s poorest and most volatile countries.
It has been gripped by sporadic violence since 2014, after its then-president, Francois Bozize, was ousted in a coup.
Fierce fighting erupted between predominantly Christian and Muslim militia, prompting the intervention of former colonial power France, under a UN mandate.
Attempts to broker a lasting peace have repeatedly broken down and most the country lies in the hands of armed groups, who often fight over the country’s mineral resources.
PK5 is a powder keg district. It became a haven for many Bangui Muslims at the peak of the Christian-Muslim clashes.
In April 2018, MINUSCA, responding to appeals by local traders, launched an anti-militia operation named Sukula (“Clean-up” in the CAR language of Sango).
The operation ended bloodily with the death of about 30 people and a hundred wounded, sparking a wave of anger among local people.
The CAR’s long conflict has forced nearly a quarter of the country’s 4.7 million people to flee their homes.
The United Nations estimated in September that two thirds of the population depends on humanitarian aid to survive.
The country is ranked next-to-last after Niger on the 2018 UNDP’s Human Development Index, which compares longevity, education, and income per capita. Life expectancy is just 52.9 years.
Algerians awaited the outcome Friday of a widely unpopular presidential election marred by attacks on polling stations and the lowest turnout in the country’s history.
The election had been championed by the army as a way of restoring stability almost 10 months into a protest movement that in April ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82, after two decades in office.
But on polling day Thursday, protesters defied a heavy police presence to hold a mass rally in the heart of the capital Algiers and smaller demonstrations in provincial cities.
The electoral authority said its chairman Mohamed Charfi would release the results at 11 am (1000 GMT), an announcement that could prompt tens of thousands of election opponents to pour out onto the streets in new protests.
All five of the candidates in Thursday’s vote were widely rejected by protesters as “children of the regime”.
Among them are two of the ousted leader’s former prime ministers — Abdelmajid Tebboune, 74, and Ali Benflis, 75 — and a former minister, Azzedine Mihoubi.
If none of the five hopefuls wins a majority, Algerians will be asked to return to the polls on a date still to be set between December 31 and January 9 for a second-round runoff that could trigger further unrest.
No exit polls were published but a spokesman for Tebboune said his candidate had won an outright majority.
Turnout at record low
On Thursday, a record six in 10 Algerians abstained, Charfi said, the highest rate for a multi-party election since independence from France in 1962.
Tens of thousands rallied in central Algiers, where police with water cannon and helicopters tried to disperse protesters.
“The people want independence,” demonstrators chanted after breaking through a police cordon and filling the streets outside the Central Post Office, their rallying point through more than 40 weeks of protest.
AFP reporters saw a group storming a polling station in the capital, suspending voting there for about half an hour before police pushed them out again.
Late in the afternoon, an AFP reporter saw police using baton charges to disperse remaining protesters.
After dark, witnesses reported ongoing scuffles between police and protesters in the Belouizdad neighbourhood close to the city centre.
In the mountain region of Kabylie, home to much of the country’s Berber minority and historically opposed to the central government, protesters ransacked polling stations and clashed with police, residents said.
In the city of Bejaia, two polling stations were attacked. In Tizi Ouzou, security forces fired teargas to disperse a crowd who had surrounded a government building, triggering a standoff into the night in which several people were wounded.
‘Mired in crisis’
In central Algiers, young protesters slammed those casting their ballots as “traitors of the nation”.
That earned a sharp rebuke from one man in his 80s: “I fought for the right to vote, so I’m voting for my country.”
Other voters said they had turned out because after nearly a year of turmoil it was time for a return to stability.
“I am voting because I am afraid that the country will get mired in the crisis,” said Karim, a 28-year-old civil servant.
Sid Ali, a 48-year-old merchant in Algiers, said: “I support the Hirak (protest) movement but it needs to end. I lost 70 percent of my turnover and many traders are in my situation.”
‘No to the system’
Whoever wins will struggle to be accepted by the electorate in the North African country, where many citizens see the government as inept, corrupt and unable to manage the flagging economy.
The “Hirak” street movement kicked off when Bouteflika announced in February that he would seek a fifth term in office.
Protesters have stayed on the streets ever since, demanding the total dismantling of the system that has ruled Algeria since independence.
The military high command, which long wielded power from the shadows, has been forced to take a more visible role and has pushed for the election as a way to withdraw behind the scenes again.
Demonstrators have vented their anger at army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as Algeria’s de facto strongman since Bouteflika stepped down.
A previous poll set for July was scrapped for lack of viable candidates and interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s term technically ended five months ago.