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To be a parent in the Lake Chad region today is to live with two permanent fears. The first is that you’re unable to provide your family with the most basic elements to ensure their survival – food, water, shelter and healthcare.

The second is that your family may be taken away from you in the blink of an eye, either kidnapped, killed or lost in the chaos. This is what happened to Saratu. When the sound of gunfire reverberated through the town of Baga, north-east Nigeria, everyone fled for their lives. They had no time to pack possessions.

Saratu’s mother searched for her children. She found Saratu alone and crying. She took her to the lakeside and put her on a boat with others escaping the fighting. She ran back to look for her other children. By the time she found them, the boat had already left with Saratu.

Governments and humanitarians are meeting in Berlin this week to galvanise the response to the humanitarian emergency in Africa’s Lake Chad region. The high-level conference comes one week after UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited Nigeria. While May’s visit highlighted the ongoing ties between the UK and Nigeria, very few people are aware of the humanitarian emergency in the north-east of the country.

Since 2009, conflict has crippled parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. Around 2.4 million people have been forced from their homes, some multiple times. It is one of the most complex, devastating and far-reaching emergencies in 21st century in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet it receives scant attention.

Decimated healthcare
In order to understand the situation, you need to look at the underlying issues. The lack of basic infrastructure, even prior to the conflict, meant that access to health care was limited.

When fighting erupted in north-east Nigeria, healthcare workers fled and what few health facilities existed were abandoned. Many have subsequently been attacked – it’s estimated that more than half of healthcare facilities have been damaged. So you have a situation where an already weak healthcare system has been further decimated by violence. The result is an overwhelming demand for healthcare in areas that are difficult to access due to insecurity.

Climate change

If you want to see how climate change can wreak havoc on lives, take a look at Lake Chad itself. The lake, which straddles the four countries, has shrunk by 90 per cent since the 1960s, in part due to climate change. The entire region is getting drier. Rains are irregular and farmers can no longer depend on them. This has given rise to cyclical malnutrition. 

The insecurity in the region has compounded the food shortages. Fishermen can seldom access the lake, pastoral land has become unsafe, while farms have become inaccessible.

The upshot is that people can no longer provide for themselves and economic activity has ground to a halt. Lactating mothers and children under five are the most vulnerable. Emergency relief can help in the short term, but the damage has already been done. On one of my last trips to Nigeria, we visited villages where there were barely any children aged under five.

This is no natural phenomenon, no freak of nature. The truth is much sadder: most children under the age of five had simply perished due to a lack of food. Our focus, together with the Nigerian Red Cross, is to help communities provide for themselves: tools and seeds; cattle vaccinations, nets for fishermen; cash as capital for new businesses. With independence comes dignity. 

African solidarity

Conflict, in short, has exacerbated an already dire situation. Yet the Lake Chad region is also a place of great humanity. More than 90 per cent of those who have fled their homes have been welcomed into local communities, communities that are among the poorest in the world. It’s African solidarity at its best and an example for the rest of the world to heed. It’s our job to support these communities as well as those who have been displaced.

And what of Saratu?
Her story is intertwined with that of a lady called Hawa, who also fled Baga. As a refugee in Chad, Hawa took care of six children. Two were hers and four were children separated from parents. One day she found Saratu alone on a boat, crying. Saratu spent one year living in a makeshift camp under the loving care of Hawa. Eventually, the ICRC was able to reunite her with her step sister, using only names and photos.

This is far from an isolated example. The Red Cross is currently looking for around 17,000 missing people in Nigeria alone, including 7,100 children. In Saratu’s story you have a microcosm of the crisis: indiscriminate violence; the flight to safety; families torn apart; resilience and survival; the best of humanity.

The pledging conference in Berlin is right to highlight the need to address the root causes of the crisis and a more joined-up approach to humanitarian and development programming.

Ultimately, however, what people need more than anything is peace. They want to stand on their own feet. We owe it to the likes of Saratu and Hawa to at least afford them the opportunity to do so.

Mamadou Sow is the ICRC’s operations coordinator for Africa. He tweets @MamadouSowICRC​ 
INDEPENDENT

President Buhari has assured Nigerians of his administration’s commitment to return the country to the path of peace and prosperity. He also said it was wrong to blame leaders alone for the present state of affairs in the country.

The President, who spoke at the graduation ceremony of Senior Course 40 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State, assured of his administration’s efforts to take Nigeria to higher. “May I assure you of this administration’s effort to return our country on the path of peace and prosperity,” he said.

Buhari, who recalled his campaign promises during the last general elections, assured of his administration’s commitment to return the country to the path of peace and prosperity. He said: “I made three key promises to Nigerians. First is to address the various security challenges facing our country; second, to reposition our economy and third to fight the serious challenge of corruption, which had eaten so deep into the very fabric that sustain our nation.

“On the issue of security, we recognize that security challenges abound in all countries of the world, including Nigeria. I am certain, with the consistent efforts of our security agencies; these challenges shall be considerably mitigated and minimized.”

The President said the citizenry cannot be absolved of the blame as well in the nation’s woes. His words: “The change we desire in Nigeria actually starts with us as individuals. In Nigeria, there is the tendency to lay the blame for the state of affairs in the country on the doorsteps of leaders alone.

“Yes, leaders have a major role to play in providing direction and the enabling environment. However, the citizens’ role also is vital in attaining meaningful transformation of any society.” The President hailed the military for their sacrifice, saying:

“Over the years, the Nigerian Armed Forces have provided the appropriate response to the numerous security challenges facing our country. “Their response to Boko Haram insurgency, militancy, kidnapping, activities of separatists and armed militias, amongst others, have been very commendable.

“The military has also committed huge resources towards stability of the West African sub-region and world peace in general. “Our efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which stabilized the West African sub-region readily come to mind.

“More recently, our armed forces have also contributed to the peace in The Gambia, Mali and South Sudan. “It, therefore, goes without saying that a force that is extensively committed to the maintenance of local, national, regional and world peace needs to be adequately prepared to confront security challenges as they emerge.”

Buhari said his administration will give attention to training in the military. His words: “It is pretty obvious that our dear nation is having its fair share of security challenges. “However, it is important to reiterate that capacity building remains the bedrock of combat ready, effective and efficient military.

“Incidentally, our tri-service training institutions, especially the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, have been playing critical roles in this regard.b“These institutions, as well as the single-service training institutions, must continue to be provided with the requisite support to enable them to discharge their obligations.

“To this end, the Federal Government will continue to give priority to the training and welfare of officers and men of our armed forces. “This is not only because we salute their courage and sacrifice for the safety and stability of our country, but because the armed forces of Nigeria have continued to be the bastion of our unity.”

The President also said he was delighted to observe that amongst the graduating students are 11 international officers from various African countries. He, therefore, called for partnership among African countries to tackle security challenges facing the continent.

Grainy video circulating on social media this week shows two women — one with a baby on her back and another holding hands with a young child — walking across a dirt patch. Armed men walk behind them, and one yells in French “You are B.H., you are going to die.”

The men blindfold them and force them to kneel. Then they raise their rifles and shoot them.

Since the video began to be shared widely this week, questions have arisen over who the perpetrators and victims are, and where and when it was recorded. The Washington Post was unable to verify where the video was filmed or who appears in it.

But Amnesty International released a statement this week saying that its experts have “gathered credible evidence that it was Cameroonian soldiers depicted in a video carrying out the horrific extrajudicial executions of two women and two young children.” The human rights group says the video was probably shot in Cameroon's far north region, where Cameroonian forces have been fighting to push back Boko Haram extremists over the past several years.

The Post was unable to reach the Cameroon Embassy in Washington for comment, but Issa Tchiroma Bakary, a spokesman for the Cameroonian government, told reporters this week, that “the video … is nothing but an unfortunate attempt to distort actual facts and intoxicate the public."

“Its sincerity can be easily questioned,” he said of the video, calling it “fake news.” Reuters reported that Bakary also said the weapons and uniforms did not line up with those worn by soldiers in Cameroon's far north region.

The Cameroonian government said it would carry out an investigation, but Amnesty International has expressed fears it will not be impartial as the government has already not dismissed the video as not depicting their soldiers. In its statement this week, Amnesty also said that “both the weapons and uniforms of the soldiers in the video are indicative of the Cameroon army.”

In a phone call with The Post, Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International's Lake Chad researcher who covers Cameroon, said there are a number of key details that make the human rights group think the video was recorded in Cameroon and features Cameroonian soldiers as the perpetrators. She said in addition to their analysis of the uniforms and weapons, “the landscape really meshes” with scrubland in northern Cameroon, and the armed men are heard speaking Cameroonian-accented French. She said they accuse the women in the video of belonging to B.H., a common nickname in the region for Boko Haram.

“It's one of the worst videos I've ever watched, and I've watched many videos coming from perpetrators in the Boko Haram conflict, but this is really shocking,” she said. “Two kids are killed — one baby boy and one girl maybe 6 or 7 years old maximum.”

A presidential election is scheduled in Cameroon for October, and this week, longtime President Paul Biya announced he will run for a seventh term. Biya, 85, has been in office since 1982. Lately, the military has been struggling against extremists in the country's far north and against separatists in Cameroon's Anglophone regions.

Amnesty International has on other occasions accused authorities in Cameroon of abusing civilians in its fight against Boko Haram extremists. Last year, the group released a report documenting the arbitrary arrests and torture of civilians by authorities in northern Cameroon.

Allegrozzi said in relation to the execution video, “this dismissal by the Cameroonian authorities is pretty concerning.

“They said they'd open an investigation and already dismissed it as fake news without proving anything,” she said. “What we have seen in Cameroon is a climate of total impunity where any crime can be committed and no one will be held accountable.”

The peace agreement signed Monday between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Asmara has brought joy and gratitude among the people of the two countries. The text notably states that “the war that existed between the two countries has come to an end… a new era of peace and friendship is beginning.”

“My father died during the war between these two countries. He sacrificed his life for peace. I wish he were here today to see that. Dr. Abiy taught us what love really means, I would have been happy if he was alive and saw that,” Ethiopian university student, Selamawit Difiraw said.

This is the case, for example, of Eritrean migrants living in Tel Aviv, Israel, who are not convinced that life will improve in their country of origin because of the dictatorship that they believe still prevails there.

“I am not satisfied with this peace agreement. Why? Why? If you say why? because this peace agreement does not include the Eritrean people. This peace agreement was concluded between the Eritrean dictator and the Ethiopian government. If it does not concern the Eritrean people, we will not accept it and we will not go back because the dictator is still there. So our problem in Eritrea is not because of the border, our problem is because of the dictatorship," an Eritrean migrant based in Israel said.

According to the United Nations, Eritrea has implemented a radical policy at its borders to prevent people from fleeing.

The bilateral agreement with Ethiopia announces, among other things, the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and the implementation of the international agreement on respect for the border.

Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, is clearly not ready to leave office as he has confirmed his candidacy for presidential polls slated for October 7th this year.

This will be his seventh consecutive mandate which will also extend his reign till 2025. It will, however, be the fifth universal suffrage with multiple candidates.

The octogenarian who is considered one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders made the announcement via his social media handles on early Friday morning.

“Dear Compatriots in Cameroon & the Diaspora, Aware of the challenges we must take up together to ensure a more united, stable & prosperous Cameroon, I am willing to respond positively to your overwhelming calls. I will stand as Your Candidate in the upcoming presidential election,” his post read.

Paul Biya of Cameroon, became President in November 1982, having served as Prime Minister since June 1975

Predecessor: Ahmadou Ahidjo
Presidential reign: 36 years. 43 years (PM and presidential era)

Our neighboring country Tanzania has started to build its own helicopters in a project that will see the first batch of such choppers taking into the sky sometimes in 2018.
The prototype model, a two-seater aircraft is already in its final stages of completion at the Mechanical and Engineering Department of the Arusha Technical College (ATC), a school which runs a fully-fledged factory producing various forms of machinery.

“We are complementing President Magufuli’s industrialization policy in pioneering the first locally made helicopters that will be available to ordinary residents at affordable prices,” wrote Tanzania Daily News quoting Engineer Abdi Mjema, who is behind the ATC chopper project.

“We had initially intended the two-seater helicopter to be used for surveillance, rescue and agricultural purposes. However, as the project takes shape, we may increase the airframes to carry more people for serious transportation,” said the engineer. The helicopter is currently 50 per cent complete and features the popular gasoline-powered VW flat engine on board. The motors, manufactured by Volkswagen in Germany, are the same used to make the ‘Robinson’ helicopters in the United States.
tanzania helcopter
“Once we get the aviation authority approval, we shall complete the most sensitive part of the helicopter — mounting the main rotor.This should be ready in three week’s time,” said Eng Mjema, adding that Arusha will set history as the first region to fly the first-ever Tanzanian manufactured helicopter in July 2016.

With a non-pressurised cabin, the Prototype ATC helicopter has a flying ceiling of 400 feet for starters, taking into consideration that Arusha is already at a higher altitude.
The engineer also added that the technical college can manufacture up to 20 helicopters per year. ATC will see an upgrade from being an ordinary technical college to being a fully-fledged factory, dealing in vehicle and heavy machinery repair and manufacturing.

The Tanzanian government is committed to helping the school achieve this dream and others.

On Saturday, a modern hydraulics laboratory worth $400,000 was launched at the college. The facility will be used for practical training in civil and irrigation engineering courses.
The laboratory will also be equipped with the latest technology that would ensure we train competent engineers.

An exposé aired last week at the Accra International Conference Center in Ghana and on BBC has been the source of controversy among Ghanaians. The exposè, led by investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, reveals the extent to which African football officials are susceptible to corrupt influences. The revelations have so far produced some serious consequences: The Ghana Football Association (GFA) has been dissolved. Its president, who is shown in the exposè taking $65,000 from undercover journalists disguised as investors in order to help them secure a deal with the GFA, has resigned. With everyone in Ghana talking about this saga, one voice has been noticeably quiet.

President Akufo Addo came into office in January 2017. Since then, he has been on a mission to change the mindset of dependency among Africans that has retarded the continent`s ability to grow through its own peoples`engineering and to alter the way Africans are perceived by the rest of the world.

At home, Mr. Akufo Addo has formed one of the largest and most ambitious governments Ghana and Africa have ever seen. His government has set out to fundamentally transform the structures of  the Ghanaian economy from a state of stagnation and dependency on raw materials  to a value-added economy that yields employment for Ghana `s idle mass. His government has also prioritized the fight against corruption in a way few African governments have. For the first time in Ghana's history, there is an Office of Special Prosecutor -- an independent agency tasked with investigating cases of corruption involving the country`s elected officials. This is a remarkable accomplishment for the small West African country and a defining moment of Mr. Akufo Addo`s young presidency. And it is precisely this that makes what the former GFA boss said about the president in the recent exposè so baffling.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas

In the exposè, the former GFA boss appears to suggest that the president of the Republic of Ghana was in need of money in order to dig himself out of the financial hole the 2016 presidential campaign had left him. After informing the supposed investors of the president`s alleged state of financial desperation, the former GFA boss added, ``if you are able to give money to the president of the country, the vice president, you are finished.`` Mr. Nyantakyi advised the supposed investors to give millions of dollars to the most powerful man in the country and his deputy in order to facilitate their entry into the Ghanaian market. It has been alleged that it was this portion of the revelation that so concerned Mr. Akufo Addo that he immediately reported the former GFA boss to law enforcement.

However, the president`s seemingly swift action was in fact predictable. The exposè had not only been scheduled for public viewing before the president saw it, but enough people had knowledge about its content that to fail to get ahead of it would have been political suicide. Furthermore, if a picture says a thousand words, a video says a million. The allegations against him are so serious that anything less than a swift and decisive action would have given the impression that the former GFA boss had something on the president.

In fairness to Mr. Akufo Addo, we have no reason to believe he would have acted differently if the exposè was never going to see the light of day. It is also worth mentioning that although the former GFA boss was direct in his suggestion to the supposed investors that they bribe the president and seems to indicate that the president was financially desperate, the veracity of his claim remains unproven. It is possible that the former GFA boss said so in order to ingratiate himself with the supposed investors and to prove to them that he was an insider with privileged information and access to the most powerful man in Ghana. When most people will disclose all their most sensitive information before they open up about their finances, the former GFA boss appears credible as an insider when he divulges information that one would suspect only those in Mr. Akufo Addo's inner circle could know.

For some partisan critics of the president, mere allegations against him are enough to make him guilty. However, for some partisan supporters of the president, he can do no wrong. But there are some honest, non-partisan and fair-minded individuals in the middle who believe that while mere allegations alone are not enough, not all of them are created equal. They would not expect the president to deign to respond to every allegation labeled against him especially by partisan pundits on the airwaves. However, they do expect to hear from the president when it involves arguably the second most powerful man in African football and a man he appears to have a close relationship with.

To the following questions the president must respond and must do so immediately: Did he personally accumulate large amounts of debt during his run for the presidency? Has he paid them off and if so, where did he get the money? Is he still in debt and if so, how does he intend to pay it off? Who financed his debt during the presidential campaign and did he sell his houses to finance his campaign expenditures? President Akufo Addo owes the Ghanaian people answers to these questions. If the president was forced to sell his houses and to accrue large amounts of debt in order to finance his election bid, that could make him liable to blackmail by his creditors and vulnerable to corrupt influences. It also raises serious concerns about Ghana's campaign finance system.

Football remains the most important sport in the country and I feel particularly sorry for the millions of fans and workers whose celebrations and livelihoods have been stolen from them by those who would rather broker a cedi than an honest game. But I suspect they will get through this difficult time with the belief that things will get better in the near future. However, what no Ghanaian can any longer afford to endure is yet another corrupt government.

In the short time since Mr. Akufo Addo has been in office, he has managed to convince many cynics that good government is possible in Africa and that politics can still be a source of good. He reminded us all that to ``guarantee an Africa beyond aid, Africa must breed a new generation of leaders who are,`` among other things, `` committed to governing their peoples according to the principles of democratic accountability.`` Perhaps it is time he heeds his own words and make himself accountable to the Ghanaian people. Whether or not Ghana can emerge from a state of political hopelessness to hopefulness depends heavily on his actions in the days and weeks to come.
By Mohammed Adawulai

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