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Ethiopia to Close Two Refugee Camps Damaged in Tigray Conflict

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Ethiopia is going ahead with plans to close two camps run by the United Nations’ refugee agency in Tigray region, saying one is too close to the Eritrean border and the other is in an inhabitable location.

Hitsats and Shimelba camps were heavily damaged in Ethiopia’s conflict in the northern region and the 20,000 refugees that sheltered there fled to nearby towns or to other refugee camps.

“Hitsats is in an arid area, in the Dedebit desert. It is not conducive to livelihood, not comfortable for the refugees,” Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs Director General Tesfahun Gobezay told reporters on Tuesday. Shimelba is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border.

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Guidelines by the UN refugee agency recommend that camps should be at least 50 kilometers or a day’s journey from national borders and potentially sensitive areas such as military bases. “But again, sometimes that’s just not possible,” said Chris Melzer, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In January, satellite images showed the two camps had been destroyed extensively. Neither the UN nor ARRA have assessed the damage. Of the 19,200 Eritrean refugees that had been sheltering there, 4,600 have been relocated to Adi Harush and Mai Aini camps, Gobezay said.

Moving them to Mai-Aini and Adi Harush may be in their best interest, given “all the current options and circumstances,” the UN said in a statement.

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“Considering the reports of attacks on Hitsats and Shimelba, the reports of abductions, destruction, looting, and killing of humanitarian staff, UNHCR concurs with the decision that the two camps can no longer be considered safe, and that the search for alternative and more secure sites is reasonable,” it said.

Ethiopian federal troops entered Tigray in response to an attack on Nov. 4 and toppled the region’s dissident ruling party that had set itself in opposition to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since he came to power in April 2018. While the government announced victory on Nov. 28, the region’s leader has vowed to continue with the fighting that has killed thousands of people, displaced hundreds of thousands more and threatened to destabilize the Horn of Africa.

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Ivory Coast police rescue 68 children working on cocoa farms

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FILE PHOTO: A farmer prepares to cut cocoa pods at a cocoa farm in Agboville, Ivory Coast April 24, 2017. REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

Police in Ivory Coast have rescued 68 children working on cocoa farms, most of whom were trafficked from neighbouring Burkina Faso, authorities said.

The West African country is the world’s top cocoa producer and has close to 1 million children working in the sector despite years of efforts to end child labour.

At a care centre in the southwestern region of Soubre, one of the rescued children told Reuters his father had brought him from Burkina Faso at the age of 13 to work on his uncle’s cocoa plantation and had left him there.

“I’ve been working in cocoa for two years, since I arrived in Ivory Coast,” said the shy Nounfo, who was found by the police splitting open cocoa pods with a machete.

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Police said Nounfo’s family links were not clear to the purported uncle who was among about 25 suspected traffickers arrested and now facing up to 10 years in prison.

The issue could weigh on exports to the European Union, which is considering new laws to ban the import of commodities linked to human rights abuses.

The operation involved around 100 police officers last Thursday and Friday and was the first since 2014 in Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

More action is hampered by a lack of funding, said Luc Zaka, a police commissioner in charge of the special unit on child labour.

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“We lack the means to be more efficient and to achieve the expected results, but each time we are in the field we manage to save children and arrest suspects,” he said.

Brahima Coulibaly, a member of the national monitoring committee on child labour, said authorities will conduct operations in another region in a few months.

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UGM: Governor imposes curfew from 7pm-6am in Rivers

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Nyesom Wike

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has imposed a new curfew aimed at curbing attacks on government forces by those described as “Unknown Gunmen (UGM).”

Seven policemen were killed last week Friday in a new attack by unidentified gunmen who had killed at least 12 government forces in attacks on police formations.

“As a further step towards enhancing our collective safety we have reviewed the existing night time curfew across the 23 Local Government Areas, which will now start from 7 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. until further notice from tomorrow 11th May 2021,” said Wike in a state-wide broadcast on Monday.

The governor also ordered law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with any person or group who violates or attempts to violate the curfew.

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Meanwhile, government forces blocked all roads leading to their facilities across the state, causing a traffic jam that left many people stranded and forced to walk a long distance before reaching their places of business and homes.

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ISIS imposes taxes, recruit children in northern Nigeria

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"The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point"

Images, posted on social media on Saturday, show members of the Islamic State terrorist group collecting taxes and recruiting children in northern Nigeria.

Children are recruited by terrorists under the guise of a humanitarian gesture by distributing them each N500 (five hundred naira), as well as food, shows images posted on Twitter by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgium reporter, analyst and historian.

“The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point,” Ostaeyan said in Saturday’s report, which confirmed reports that earlier claimed that ISIS had infiltrated Nigeria.

The United States, alongside others, had said that Islamic State was trying to infiltrate the oil-rich African country already being ravaged by Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani herders.

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