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29 million in Sahel need humanitarian assistance — UN

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The United Nations and NGOs said Tuesday that a record 29 million people need humanitarian assistance in the Sahel, noting “unparallelled” insecurity and hunger across six countries in the war-torn African region.

In Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and north-eastern Nigeria, five million more people than last year are in need of aid, according to a statement.

Much of the semi-arid Sahel — a vast region that stretches along the southern rim of the Sahara from the Atlantic to the Red Sea — has been plagued by violence for years.

Islamist militants launched a brutal insurgency in northern Mali in 2012, for example, overtaking a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg separatists.

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France intervened to beat back the jihadists, but they scattered and regrouped, taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Chad and the Sahel regions in the north of Cameroon and Nigeria are also gripped by conflicts with Islamist fighters.

A record 29 million people across the region need humanitarian assistance, the UN said in a statement, which was also signed by NGOs Norwegian Refugee Council and Plan International.

Some 5.3 million people have been displaced by Sahel-wide insecurity, it added, noting that thousands of schools had closed and 1.6 million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.

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“We’ve seen hunger jump by almost a third in West Africa — to the highest levels in the best part of a decade,” the statement quoted Chris Nikoi, a regional director of UN’s World Food Programme, as saying.

He added that soaring food prices linked to violence is driving hunger and malnutrition.

Calling the crisis “unparallelled,” the statement urged more funding to address the humanitarian situation.

“Behind the numbers and data, there are stories of human suffering,” the statement quoted Julie Belanger, a regional director the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as saying.

“Without sufficient resources, the crisis will further escalate, eroding communities’ resilience and putting millions more children, women and men at risk,” she added.

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Africa

UN offers to help catch Mali jihadists behind amputations

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UN peacekeepers in Mali on Thursday offered to help bring to justice jihadists behind the amputation of suspected thieves’ hands and feet, an apparent revival of a practice that had all but vanished.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, local sources in Tin-Hama in eastern Mali said armed men drummed up a crowd on May 2, a market day, and cut the right hands and left feet off three men they paraded as thieves.

The gunmen are believed to have belonged to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), one of the main jihadist groups active in the Sahel region, the UN’s Minusma force said in a statement.

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“This kind of corporal punishment carried out by armed groups outside of any legal order is a serious infringement of human rights,” Minusma chief El-Ghassim Wade said.

UN forces stand ready to “support continuing enquiries by Malian authorities to fight impunity and ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice,” he added.

Minusma also said it was deploying “significant security resources in the affected areas to step up protection of populations”.

The amputations “recall the horrors of the 2012 crisis” when jihadists and Touareg rebels took control of much of Mali’s north, the UN statement added.

At the time, various jihadist groups conducted public amputations, stonings, floggings and executions in major northern cities under their hardline interpretation of Islamic law.

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Since 2012, jihadist insurgents have spread across Mali’s centre and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence.

UN, African and French forces have failed to put an end to the insurgency.

Unidentified men killed one soldier when they attacked a Malian anti-terrorist unit near Tominian in the country’s centre late Wednesday, while the troops killed three of the assailants, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

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IPOB backs new directive by Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader

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PHOTO: Protesters with the flag of "Ambazonia"

Nigerian Biafra separatist group— Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has backed the May 20 directive to “stay at home” from Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader, Dr Cho Ayaba.

Ayaba, the leader of Ambazonia, ordered a lockdown on May 20, 2021 in the English-speaking region of Cameroon, saying it was to mark the day that Cameroonian government forces began killing civilians in the region.

“The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, under the global command of our Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hereby, directs all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to fully comply with the directive. Biafra and Ambazobia share a lot in common, and we are prepared to give them all the necessary support and solidarity in their struggle for independence,” said IPOB in a statement issued on Monday.

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The Biafra group, in the statement signed by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, further said, it “urge all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to close shop on May 20, and remain indoors in full compliance with the sit-at-home order by the leader of our sister country. We equally advise all Biafrans intending to travel to Ambazonia on that day to shelve the trip until after the exercise. Biafra and Ambazobia have enjoyed a robust relationship in our struggle for self determination.

“Ambazobia has adopted 20th of May every year in honour of the victims of the genocidal killings in Ambazonia by the terrorist Republic of Cameroun. This was the day the Paul Biya-led murderous regime in Camaroun launched military onslaught and occupation of Ambazonia.

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“The genocidal killing was however, challenged four years ago through stiff resistance and great sacrifices by patriotic Ambazonians. Consequently, the people of Ambazonia have decided to henceforth, observe 20th of May as a day to commemorate the Resistance and defeat of their enemy, the Cameroonian forces.

“We equally note with delight, the directive by the leadership of the Ambazonian liberation movement to all Ambazonians, to observe May 31 Biafra Remembrance Day sit-at-home order in honour of our fallen heroes. This show of solidarity between both countries is amazing, and will be sustained until and even after our independence is realised. Both countries shall continue to explore other opportunities to promote peaceful cooperation and regional security and economic advancement.”

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Eid: Buhari asks Nigerians to pray against insecurity

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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday called on citizens to unite and pray against the insecurity ravaging the country.

The president made the appeal in a message to Muslims around the world as they marked Eid Al Fitr after the completion of a month of fasting.

According to Garba Shehu, the president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, he said;“Unity and solidarity among all citizens, Muslims and Christians are imperative especially at a time when our country is faced with multiple challenges which are surmountable only when we come together as one.

“It is important that we remember how we share, through our faiths, common bonds that should serve to unite us and not allow ourselves to succumb to those who seek to divide us, using our two great religions, for their own selfish advantages.

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“We should jointly pray against the tragic incidents of kidnapping and banditry and the desperate quest for political power expressed through blackmail against the existence of our country as a united entity.

“We must resist the temptation to retreat into our communities. I urge our political and religious leaders as well as traditional rulers to encourage our citizens to turn towards one another in love and compassion.”

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