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IRIN - West Africa





 



Shifting relationships, growing threats: Who’s who of insurgent groups in the Sahel

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:55:24 +0000

In the six years since a separatist rebellion broke out in northern Mali in January 2012, armed groups in West Africa’s Sahel region have grown considerably in both number and the complexity of their ever-evolving relationships with one another. Some of Mali’s armed groups signed a peace accord in 2015. But implementation of its provisions has been very slow, while insecurity - especially in the central region - continues to deteriorate with the emergence of new jihadist elements, which are also active near the borders in Burkina Faso and Niger. Meanwhile, in Nigeria and some of its neighbouring states, Boko Haram is still causing havoc almost a decade after it started its insurgency. Here’s a brief overview of the key non-state armed actors in the region: Signatories to Mali’s 2015 peace accord   These comprise two opposing camps: Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (The Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA) A loose coalition of former rebel movements with shared interests, such as self-determination (full independence is no longer on their official agenda). Azawad was the name given to the short-lived and unrecognised state in northern Mali in 2012 by the separatist Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA). The CMA also includes the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), and the Haut Comité pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA).   La Plateforme des groupes armées (The Platform of Armed Groups) This is a diverse range of nominally pro-government groups, which purport to defend Mali’s territorial sovereignty and sometimes fight alongside the regular army. They also have their own individual interests. The Platform comprises the Groupe d’autodéfense touareg Imrad et alliés (Tuareg Imrad Self-defence Group and its Allies, or GATIA), a branch of the MAA, and the Coordination des mouvements et Front patriotique de résistance (Coordination of Movements and Patriotic Resistance Front, or CM-FPR). Since the peace accord was signed, clashes have frequently broken out between the two camps, delaying the deal’s implementation, worsening the plight of civilians, and playing into the hands of jihadist groups. In 2016, CMA and Platform members were implicated in 174 cases of abuses against civilians, and a further 72 in the first quarter of 2017, according to the human rights division of the UN stabilisation mission in Mali, MINUSMA. Tensions eased somewhat between two camps after they signed a ceasefire in September 2017. Non-signatories and dissidents Former rebels unhappy with the way in which the CMA is handling the peace process, especially its emphasis on the Kidal region and the Ifoghas confederation of Tuareg clans, have formed several new entities based on geography and community. Congrès pour la Justice de l’Azawad (Congress for Azawad Justice, or CJA) in the Timbuktu region Mouvement pour le Salut de l’Azawad (Movement for Azawad Salvation, or MSA) in the Menaka region Branche dissidente de la CM-MPR (Dissident wing of the CM-MPR)   The exclusion of these new groups from some mechanisms of the peace process, despite their military strength and the portion of the population they represent, calls into question its relevance, given that the context it was signed in has since changed so significantly. In early February 2018, GATIA said it was impossible for the terms of the peace accord to solve Mali’s crisis in its current form, and called for inclusive dialogue on all of the deal’s shortcomings.   Jihadist and related groups   Jamaat Nosrat al-Islam wal-Mouslimin (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, JNIM or GNIM).   In March 2017, the main jihadist groups in the Sahel – Ansar Dine, the Macina Liberation Front, Al-Mourabitoun, and the Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – announced they had formed an alliance under the banner of this new entity.   JNIM bills itself as the official branch of al-Qaeda in Mali. As such, it consolidates that group’s presence in the Sahel and puts Sahel players, especially Ansar Dine, firmly on the global[...]



EXCLUSIVE: Oxfam sexual exploiter in Haiti caught seven years earlier in Liberia

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 10:00:20 +0000

The man at the centre of a sexual exploitation scandal at aid agency Oxfam was dismissed by another British NGO seven years earlier for similar misconduct, IRIN has found.   A former colleague reveals that Roland van Hauwermeiren was sent home from his job in Liberia in 2004 after her complaints prompted an investigation into sex parties there with young local women. Despite this, van Hauwermeiren was recruited by Oxfam in Chad less than two years later and went on to work for them in Haiti, and then in Bangladesh for Action contre la Faim.   The Swedish government’s aid department, alerted in 2008, also missed an opportunity to bring his behaviour to light and even went ahead that year to fund Oxfam’s Chad project, under his management, to the tune of almost $750,000.   Last week, The Times reported that van Hauwermeiren was ousted from Oxfam for sexual exploitation and abuse when he worked in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Oxfam’s deputy CEO, Penny Lawrence, has since resigned, and the charity has faced a deluge of criticism, both for the abuse itself and its handling of the staff member. It now faces an enquiry by the charity regulator.   Agencies in the humanitarian sector face serious challenges in tackling sexual exploitation and abuse, and some argue, at least today, that Oxfam’s safeguarding procedures are stronger than those of many other aid agencies.   Repeat offender   Seeing the Times article about van Hauwermeiren, Swedish civil servant and former aid worker Amira Malik Miller was shaken to read about the Haiti case, which pertained to alleged parties and orgies in 2011, seven years after her own experiences of him in Liberia. She couldn’t believe he was still active in the aid world, especially after she had blown the whistle on him and his colleagues, not once but twice.   “Oh my God, he’s been doing this for 14 years,” she remembers thinking. “He just goes around the system… from Liberia to Chad, to Haiti, to Bangladesh. Someone should have checked properly,” she told IRIN.   On two previous occasions, she thought she had done enough to stop his predatory behaviour.   Malik Miller told IRIN how her initial complaints way back in 2004 led to van Hauwermeiren being pushed out of his job as Liberia country director of UK charity Merlin, a medical group now merged with Save the Children. An internal investigation into sexual exploitation and misconduct led to his departure, several Merlin staff members confirmed.   Formal complaint   In 2004, Malik Miller was being briefed in London for a new job: assistant to the Liberia country director and reporting officer there for the medical group Merlin. She had been warned by a colleague that there might be some “dodgy” things going on; she says it was clear they were related to sexual behaviour.   Soon on the plane to the West African country, she was picked up at the airport personally by her new boss: van Hauwermeiren. Initially grateful for his hospitable gesture, her confidence quickly evaporated after he took a call during the drive and said to the person on the other end: “It’s a green light”. She told IRIN it was “really uncomfortable” as she “definitely felt that it was about me”.   Positioned in van Hauwermeiren’s Monrovia office as the most junior expatriate staff member, Malik Miller couldn’t help but notice unusual patterns in his workday. “He was away a lot,” she explained, often returning to work with fresh clothes or wet hair.   Assigned to stay in one of two guest houses rented by Merlin, she shared one nicknamed “London” with several colleagues, while van Hauwermeiren and a medical manager were in another called “Brussels”.   One weekend morning, two or three weeks into her assignment, Malik Miller found one of her housemates, the financial manager, joking with and fondling a young Liberian woman in the kitchen. The woman appeared young, she said. Immediately, she took him aside and explained she wasn’t going to tolerate sex work in the hou[...]



Peace in northeastern Nigeria requires justice for military crimes not just Boko Haram atrocities

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 18:01:20 +0000

One day the Boko Haram insurgency will come to an end. When it does, there will be a painful time of reckoning. But for lasting peace to come to northeastern Nigeria, one important fact must be acknowledged from the start: there are perpetrators and victims on many sides. After eight and a half years of conflict, no one knows when the guns will fall silent. Government declarations of victory are still routinely followed by the jihadist group committing yet another violent outrage. Boko Haram is proving hard to defeat. It has survived a split between Abubaker Shekau (the ranting leader seen on the YouTube videos) and a rival faction led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi that is aligned with so-called Islamic State. It has weathered the food shortages that have affected rural communities across Borno State. And it has resisted a sustained offensive by the Nigerian military targeting its strongholds in the Lake Chad region and the Sambisa Forest, further south. The brutality of Boko Haram – its killings, torture, rapes, and abductions – are well known. But the Nigerian military and a pro-armed forces vigilante group called the Civilian Joint Task Force, or CJTF, are also accused of committing human rights violations – well documented by Amnesty International. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has identified eight possible cases of crimes against humanity in relation to the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. These include six possible cases against Boko Haram and two against the Nigerian security forces.  There have been various negotiation efforts between the government and elements within Boko Haram. This has involved talking to both factions of the insurgency, and has resulted in the release of two batches of the Chibok school girls. Justice for whom? If these negotiations were to go a step further and result in a ceasefire and peace agreement, or if somehow the Nigerian military finally found the skill and commitment to “win” the war – what would peace look like? There would certainly be a demand for accountability and justice, but justice for whom? The challenge of transitional justice in Nigeria is illustrated by a scoping paper by the Centre for Democracy and Development. It identifies the several categories of victims and perpetrators – and the issue is complicated. Appearing on both sides of the ledger – as both victims and perpetrators – are the Nigerian military, the CJTF, Boko Haram ex-combatants, government officials, and civilian collaborators. Within the military, for example, the rank and file see themselves as not only victims of Boko Haram, but also of corrupt government officials and senior officers who have lined their pockets with the resources that should have been spent on fighting the insurgency. In researching the report, I asked a lot of people in the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa what transitional justice should entail on the day peace returns. Can’t trust Boko Haram What was clear is that there is a great deal of anger towards Boko Haram. That includes those the government is trying to reintegrate through its Operation Safe Corridor demobilisation programme. The overwhelming opinion was that all insurgents – even those who have surrendered – should be prosecuted. It’s a powerful emotion, especially among the displaced. The sentiment commonly heard amounts to this: “we are suffering in IDP camps, with little food and only basic services, while the perpetrators are in a rehabilitation camp, drinking bottled water and sleeping under mosquito nets.” Many believe the ex-combatants are not at all repentant: they surrendered merely out of hunger, or to save their lives – because they had run afoul of their Boko Haram commander or been out-gunned by the military. The common denominator was: “Boko Haram can never change, they cannot be trusted.” Army crimes The armed forces and the CJTF are also clearly seen as complicit in rights violations and should be held to accou[...]



How weavers in Burkina Faso are now on Europe’s migration front line

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 14:19:05 +0000

Speed, endurance, dexterity and an eye for colour: just some of the skills needed when weaving on a loom. Eveline Ouédraogo masters them all. Without visible effort, this Burkinabé woman rapidly moves her feet over the pedals, her hands manoeuvring 40 brightly coloured coils of thread.   With each thread going back and forth, Ouédraogo, 37, earns a little bit more. Every fling on the loom brings her children a step closer to a better future: one the EU hopes – as the funder of the micro-enterprise where she works – will keep them at home rather than migrating north.   Ouédraogo is employed by the Association Zoodo pour la Promotion de la Femme, and the fabric they produce has featured in international fashion magazines. “Did you know there’s even a picture of Beyoncé wearing our fabrics?” said Ouédraogo, well within her rights to boast.   The association’s small workshop on the outskirts of the capital, Ouagadougou, is supported by the Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI), a programme run by the International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the UN and the World Trade Organisation.   Major fashion brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney are linked by EFI with artisans in poor countries, supporting the idea of “fashion as a vehicle for development”.   Ouédraogo earns two to five euros per metre depending on the complexity of the fabric. On a good day, she can weave up to one and a half metres – making just a little over the average wage in Burkina Faso.   Investing in people   Last year, the EFI received €5 million from the multi-billion-dollar EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) to expand its programmes in Burkina Faso.   The fund, launched in 2015, aims to tackle the root causes of outward migration through development aid, security and peacebuilding support, as well as financing for migration management.   But in a country like Burkina Faso where remittances from migration represent real financial benefits for families, are projects like EFI – or more traditional EU rural development assistance – enough to dissuade young people from taking the risk of travelling to Europe?   Some €3.3 billion has been pledged to the EUTF, according to the European Commission. Burkina Faso is one of 21 sub-Saharan African countries contributing to migration flows to Europe that is benefitting from the fund, to the tune of €84 million.   Simone Cipriani, founder and head of EFI, believes the EUTF’s job creation strategy makes sense. “With this project, I think we will stabilise some jobs here, and tens, if not some hundreds, of people will decide to stay,” he told IRIN.   By investing in new technology and expanding the customer order book, he believes the “hundreds of jobs” EFI supports could be transformed into “almost 2,800 jobs”.   However, the evidence suggests that while increasing prosperity at home may encourage some people to stay, it also enables many more to leave. Cipriani acknowledged this. “People in Europe sometimes forget that people here in Africa have the freedom to go and migrate,” he added. Saskia Houttuin/Sarah Haaij/IRIN Workshop at Association Zoodo pour la Promotion de la Femme   Take Christiane Zoungrana. Five days a week the 42-year-old wheelchair-bound weaver pushes herself to work to help provide for her family. She has no plans to migrate, but her eldest son has recently been talking a lot about leaving.   Zoungrana would prefer to keep him as far away as possible from the dangers of the desert and Mediterranean, but he can’t seem to find a job. “If he really wants to go, I’ll help him,” she said, seeing the potential positive of having the means to employ someone to take care of her in the future if he made a success of himself elsewhere.   Migration hotspot   Burkina Faso is a poor, agriculture-based country. It historically provided workers to neighbouring ec[...]



Why some Malians join armed groups

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 14:14:44 +0000

More than two years after some of Mali’s armed groups signed a peace accord, insecurity in the country is both escalating and spreading. When the latest chapter in Mali’s long history of insecurity first broke out in 2012 it was initially restricted to the north, but in recent years the violence committed by a wide range of groups has been growing in the centre of the country. In the third quarter of 2017, “the security situation worsened and attacks against MINUSMA [the UN mission in Mali] and Malian defence and security forces increased and intensified,” UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote in his latest update to the Security Council on 26 December. “Terrorist groups… appear to have improved their operational capacity and expanded their area of operations [leading to] an increase in the number of casualties owing to terrorist attacks,” even if attacks between parties to the peace accord have stopped, he added. “The peace process has yielded but a few tangible results,” Guterres concluded. According to Ibrahim Maïga, a researcher with the African Institute for Security Studies, “we have entered a new phase of the war.” “It is much more unpredictable than in 2012. It is much more diffuse. Before it was focused on urban centres, now it is happening in rural areas and the pockets of insecurity are much more numerous,” he told IRIN. The “non-state armed actors” – to use the jargon of conflict analysis ­– behind this violence are many in number and raison d’être, while alliances and splits come and go. Broadly, these groups fall into four categories: The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) – a loose coalition of armed movements with shared interests in issues such as self-determination and territorial control. The Platform of Armed Groups – a diverse range of nominally pro-government armed groups. Violent extremist organisations, many of which fall under the umbrella of the Jamâ’ah Nusrah al-Islâm wal-Muslimîn (Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims or JNIM.) Other groups, notably local self-defence units which are not aligned to the above.   The multiplicity of these groups, their constant evolution, and insecurity in areas where they operate makes it impossible to determine how many Malian citizens are within their ranks. None of the organisations IRIN spoke to wanted to provide even a rough estimate. Some sense of the scale of the phenomenon can be gleaned from proposals about how many members of the groups which signed the 2015 accord are set to be integrated into the regular security forces. The government puts the figure at 4,900; some of the signatories insisted it should be as many as 14,000. Jihadist forces and self-defence units were not party to the accord. One area that has been researched extensively is why Malian citizens decide to join armed groups. And, according to the results of several field surveys, “radicalization” and immediate monetary gain barely figure as “pull” factors. Instead, what emerges is a picture in which taking up arms is often a considered response to deteriorating circumstances. “There is a multitude of factors, almost as many motives as there are members” of armed groups, explained Maïga of the ISS. Youths, aged between 18-35, “make up the largest proportion of the groups, of their fighting forces. Without youths, it’s hard to be an active, dangerous group,” he said. More than two-thirds of Mali’s 18 million inhabitants is under the age of 24. In 2016, ISS interviewed dozens of former members of Malian jihadist groups to assess their motives, which the research group determined fell into 15 broad categories: Personal reasons, education, protection, social, ethical, influence, economic, family-related, political, religious, psychological, coercion, environmental, cultural/community/sociological and unknown. The ISS findings are in line with those of other organisations that conducted similar [...]



One year on, victims of Gambian dictator demand justice

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:49:12 +0000

Ayeshah was just 14 when her father went missing in 2005, never to be seen again. He was a relative of Gambian autocrat Yahya Jammeh, but he had made the fatal mistake of telling the president “what he was doing to people was wrong,” Ayeshah told IRIN. When her aunt tried to search for her brother, she too “disappeared”. The family learnt much later on, from listening to a dissident radio broadcast, that they had both been killed. They believe the murders were carried out on Jammeh’s command, by his assassin team known as the Jungulars. Her father, Haruna, was Jammeh’s cousin and had been working as a farm manager on the then-president’s sprawling estate in his home village, Kanilai. “My father was more like an older brother to Jammeh. People warned him not to work for him, but he believed his own blood would not harm him,” Ayeshah said. “I had to say my dad had travelled [many Gambians take the ‘back way’ out to Europe],” she added. “The only thing I want now is for Jammeh to face justice. I want him to stand up in court before all the people he has harmed.” Since Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea a year ago, the victims of his brutal rule have been driving the demand for justice. Ayeshah is just one of many who feels she and her family will only get a sense of closure for their ordeal when the former dictator is tried and prosecuted. In October, an umbrella group of victims joined forces with national and international human rights organisations to form the “Jammeh2Justice” coalition, with the goal of bringing Jammeh and his accomplices to account for the human rights violations perpetrated under his 22-year regime. Lessons learnt The Jammeh2Justice coalition is following the lead of the successful prosecution in Senegal of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity in 2016. To learn how they managed it, members of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations met with the Chadian victims that led that campaign. “This meeting was so important to the Gambia victims,” said Ayeshah. “When those people came, it gave us confidence. They said ‘No matter how long and how hard you have to fight, you will get justice’.” Jason Florio/IRIN The family of murdered journalist Ebrima Manneh are still looking for answers The April 2017 meeting was convened by human rights lawyer Reed Brody, who worked with the Chadian victims for 18 years to help bring Habré to trial. Brody is now working with the Gambian victims on behalf of Human Rights Watch, adopting the same painstaking approach that eventually led to Habré’s conviction, albeit, he hopes, in a much shorter timeframe. “We start from a very different place; we start with the lessons learned,” he told IRIN from his home in New York. “One of the most important lessons is that you have to tell the victims’ stories and put them at the centre; you talk about people who were killed and tortured rather than this abstract idea of prosecuting a dictator.” Since leaving The Gambia on 21 January last year following his electoral defeat and a military intervention by West African countries to enforce the result, Jammeh has been a guest of Equatorial Guinea’s strongman President Teodoro Obiang. Brody hopes to generate a groundswell of international support that will put enough pressure on Obiang to give Jammeh up for extradition. In an interview with Radio France Internationale broadcast last week, Obiang – in power for 38 years – refused to be drawn on the question of surrendering Jammeh to an African court, replying simply: “if there is a request, I will analyse it with my lawyers”. The other prong to Brody’s work is to build up the legal case against Jammeh, to show direct responsibility for crimes. In the Habré case, the discovery of police files containing[...]



Five migration trends to watch in 2018

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:10:56 +0000

2017 saw a host of new and quickly deepening humanitarian crises from Southeast Asia to Africa. But behind this rising tide of forced displacement was an isolationist and xenophobic political backdrop that could render 2018 even worse, especially given the lack of diplomatic leverage and leadership required to resolve intractable conflicts.   In the United States, President Donald Trump spent his first year erecting bureaucratic walls to keep out immigrants and refugees, while calling for a physical wall along the southern US border. In Europe, far-right candidates threatened to upset a host of elections. And, as North Africa acted as a holding cell, conflicts in both the continent's east and centre escalated while humanitarian budgets shrank, driving up the numbers of internally displaced and urgent protection needs.   “What distinguishes conflicts of today is that they’re unending,” Demetrios Papademetriou, co-founder and president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, told IRIN. “None of the conflicts we see today are anywhere near being resolved, because the resolutions are extremely complex. They involve religion, power, control of resources. No refugee-producing conflict today will be resolved in the near future.”   UN member states are hammering out the details of two global compacts – one on refugees and one on migration – to be adopted at this year’s General Assembly in September. But few are optimistic that they will be game-changers for better global refugee and migration governance in the years to come.   So, while this year promises to be even more difficult, here are five key questions on migration policy the answers to which will shape how 2018 really plays out for some of the world’s most vulnerable people:   Will the EU continue its harmful deterrence policies? A dramatic decline in sea crossings from Libya to Europe in 2017 sounds on the surface like a success. But this year is likely to expose the kinds of human rights abuses the EU is willing to tolerate to keep externalising its migration responsibilities.   Like the 2016 EU-Turkey accord – which choked off the Aegean Sea route but led to more than 10,000 asylum seekers being detained on Greek islands and returns to unsafe countries – Italy’s deals with Libyan groups have come with a human cost: abuse for up to one million migrants languishing in detention centres, often with ties to militias. Despite an international outcry, mainly due to CNN footage of what appeared to be slave auctions, little is likely to change before Italy's general election in March.   Towards the end of 2017, the EU and the African Union put together a repatriation plan to send migrants back to their countries of origin or other transit countries, such as Niger, with the help of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration.   “The bigger question is what happens to people when they’re back in Niger,” Minos Mouzourakis, policy researcher at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles in Brussels, told IRIN. “The EU is talking about resettlement as an option, but that doesn’t mean the same people being evacuated to Niger will have access to durable solutions. What is the actual objective? Are we just returning people to another transit country and calling it an evacuation, or are we giving them avenues to other legal options like resettlement?”   Migrant returns are paid for through programmes like a 3.3 billion-euro "emergency trust fund" originally billed as development aid for North Africa.   In late December, 162 refugees and migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen were brought to Italy from Libya under the EU-AU plan. But if the troubled inter-EU relocation programme is any indication, infighting may prevent the bloc from implementing a meaningful plan for resettlement from Africa.   Will the US lead the way [...]



A dozen shades of khaki: counter-insurgency operations in the Sahel

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 14:19:36 +0000

In 2011, several African states warned about the likely consequences of an international military intervention in Libya aimed at toppling Muammar Gaddafi. Now, six years after his death, security in the Sahel region has never been worse. In a domino effect, from 2012, the spillover from the Libyan crisis bolstered the Tuareg rebellion in Mali, which in turn facilitated a jihadist incursion, which, after briefly being halted by France’s Operation Serval, arose from the ashes stronger than ever and spread across neighbouring states. “Mali’s roots were rotten, it just needed a breeze to make it collapse,” summarised a former Malian minister recently. In Mali, the state is now hardly present across much of the country. In mid-December, barely a quarter of state agents were in their posts in the six northern and central regions. According to an opposition party tally, 2017 was Mali’s most deadly year since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita came to power in 2013. Yet the Sahel region has never been so militarised; it is rife with insurgencies and counter-insurgency forces of various stripes. Relative veterans from France and the United States have recently been joined by troops from Italy and Germany, and by a new regional coalition, as well as by forms of warfare new to the region. Presented as solutions by their political masters, the military missions detailed below are seen by others as pouring fuel on the fire, and as simplistic responses to complex problems. United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) Created in April 2013, this UN mission, now consisting of 13,000 troops, was supposed to stabilise northern regions of Mali after the lightning assault launched against jihadist groups there three months earlier by France’s Operation Serval (see below). Instead, MINUSMA faced a resurgence of these groups outside major urban centres and found itself exposed to mobile and seasoned guerrillas. They proved to be beyond the mission’s capabilities to control, and, arguably, peripheral to its mandate. “The UN deployed [here] without a peace accord, which is normally a precursor for a peacekeeping mission,” MINUSMA chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif told IRIN. “On the other hand, the idea that MINUSMA came here to fight terrorists has always been a major misunderstanding between Malians and MINUSMA, and unfortunately one that still exists.” Annual revisions of the mission’s mandate aimed at making the force more reactive have failed to silence critics. Both within and outside Mali, questions have been raised about the utility of spending more than a billion dollars in a single year when the mission has proved unable to fulfil its core tasks of protecting civilians and defending human rights. The killing of civilians during demonstrations by peacekeepers and accusations of rape have helped to sour pubic opinion of MINUMSA. The mission’s relations with the Malian government have frequently been strained, not least over the neutrality MINUSMA has shown towards certain rebel groups, a stance Bamako viewed as impeding the state’s recovery of its sovereignty over the entire country. The force’s limitations have frequently been highlighted. The latest report on Mali by the UN secretary-general, for example, noted that, “the lack of armoured troop carriers, especially of vehicles protected against landmines, remains a major obstacle to the mission's operations”. The previous report, issued in September, said MINUSMA’s civilian protection mandate had been compromised by the “absence of adequate air assets”. Both publically and in private, MINUSMA officials have made no secret of their frustration at being used as a punching ball and cash cow by Malian politicians. Harandane Dicko/MINUSMA Another prominent component of the force’s mandate is[...]



Ten humanitarian crises to look out for in 2018

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 17:01:28 +0000

From the Rohingya to South Sudan, hurricanes to famine, 2017 was full of disasters and crises. But 2018 is shaping up to be even worse. Here’s why. The UN has appealed for record levels of funding to help those whose lives have been torn apart, but the gap between the funding needs and the funding available continues to grow. And what makes the outlook especially bad for 2018 is that the political will needed to resolve conflicts, welcome refugees, and address climate change also appears to be waning. What a difference a year, a new US president, and a German election make. Here’s our insider take on 10 crises that will shape the humanitarian agenda in 2018 (See 2017’s list here): IRIN’s editors sketch out the gloomy-looking horizon for next year Ten humanitarian crises to look out for in 2018 AFP_Yemeni_air_raid_000_lr1oi1.jpg Feature Migration Conflict Health GENEVA IRIN Africa West Africa Cameroon East Africa DRC Central African Republic South Sudan Americas Venezuela Colombia Asia Bangladesh Afghanistan Myanmar Global Middle East and North Africa Libya Syria Yemen Syria’s sieges and displacement As Syria heads towards seven years of war and Western governments quietly drop their demands for political transition, it has become increasingly clear that President Bashar al-Assad will stay in power, at least in some capacity.   But that doesn’t mean the violence or suffering is over: pockets of resistance are still being starved into submission and being denied aid – nearly three million Syrians still live in areas the UN defines as besieged or “hard to reach” (see: eastern Ghouta right now), while chemical weapons are deployed to horrifying effect.   There’s talk of reconstruction where the fighting has fizzled out, be it in areas brought under the government’s control or in cities like Raqqa, which is now controlled by Kurdish forces but has a mixed population that is beginning to come home, to utter destruction.   Investors are lining up for a slice of the rebuilding pie. But an average of 6,550 Syrians were displaced by violence each day in 2017. So what of the 6.1 million and counting displaced inside Syria – many sheltering in tents or unfinished buildings and facing another long winter – not to mention the 5.5 million refugees abroad? Will they have a say in how Syria is rebuilt? With reconstruction already a major bone of contention in peace talks and the EU planning to get involved in 2018, how this plays out is important and worth watching. Congo unravels You know the situation is bad when people start fleeing their homes, and it doesn’t get much worse than the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here, violence in its eastern provinces has triggered the world’s worst displacement crisis – for a second year in a row. More than 1.7 million people abandoned their farms and villages this year, on top of 922,000 in 2016. The provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Kasai, and Tanganyika are the worst affected and the epicentres of unrest in the country.   New alliances of armed groups have emerged to take on a demoralised government army and challenge President Joseph Kabila in distant Kinshasa. He refused to step down and hold elections in 2016 when his constitutionally mandated two-term limit expired – and the political ambition of some of these groups is to topple him. These rebellions are a new addition to the regular lawlessness of armed groups and conflict entrepreneurs that have stalked the region for years. It is a confusing cast of characters, in which the army also plays a freelance role and, as IRIN reported this month, as an instigator of some of the rights abuses that are forcing civilians to flee[...]



New e-book released: IRIN’s reporting on climate change and food security

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 07:59:16 +0000

Over the last two decades, 200 million people across the world have been lifted out of hunger. But as climate change brings more frequent and severe weather shocks such as droughts and floods, and makes rainfall patterns less predictable, these gains are under threat. Throughout 2017, IRIN has been exploring the impact climate change has had on a large group of people who are extremely vulnerable to its effects and yet play a negligible role in causing it: smallholder farmers in Africa. Agriculture is Africa’s biggest employer. But mean temperatures are expected to rise faster in the continent than the global average, decreasing crop yields and deepening poverty. IRIN has now completed a reporting project – conducted with support from the Open Society Foundations – to outline the challenges that global warming is triggering, and to explore what local communities are doing to adapt and reduce their vulnerability. The project covers four countries – Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe – with the goal of sharing lessons learned so that small-scale farmers everywhere can be better supported as their challenges multiply. It provides a platform for policy discussion, and for the voices of those men and women on the front lines of climate change to be heard. We have compiled all the articles into an e-book, which you can download here. It contains field reporting on: climate-related problems and threats such as desertification in Nigeria, soil salination in Senegal, and the lack of technical support available to smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe; the range of responses and solutions adopted by farmers and governments; and how livestock-raising communities in the Kenyan county of Turkana are facing up to one of the worst droughts in living memory. The document also includes three fact files full of key information about how adaptation finance works; the relationship between climate change, food security, and adaptation; and the specific climate challenges faced by pastoralist communities. am/ag maize_oxfam.jpg Special Report Solutions and Innovations Climate change Food New e-book released: IRIN’s reporting on climate change and food security IRIN PARIS Africa West Africa Senegal Nigeria Southern Africa Zimbabwe Kenya Français [...]