The role of women in leadership positions is critical to the future of a peaceful Niger according to the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
Ms Mohammed was speaking at a meeting with the Nigerien president, Mahamadou Issoufu, on Saturday in the capital Niamey which was part of a joint United Nations -African Union (UN-AU) mission to the country.
“I stressed to the President the importance of women’s participation and leadership in preventing conflicts,” she said. “I also underlined the need to include women in all national and regional responses to the ongoing environmental, humanitarian and development challenges that Niger and the Sahel region face.”
The deputy UNchief is leading the UN-AU visit to Niger, which includes many of the most senior women in the UN, the African Union, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, as well as the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Margot Wallström.
A key focus of the two-day trip is women’s participation and leadership in conflict prevention, including violent extremism.
The security situation in Niger has worsened since 2015, when the first attack was launched by Boko Haram extremists in Diffa in the east of the country – an attack which displaced some 300,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children.
The presence of Boko Haram, whose goal is to create an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria, has been particularly harmful to women and girls who have experienced what the UN has called “staggering and multiple forms of sexual and gender-based violence.”
Insecurity which has caused displacement, and climate change, including insufficient rains, have led to a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Niger. The number of people in need of assistance has reached 2.3 million in 2018, an increase of 400,000 over 2017.
Moreover, the country is currently hosting some 165,000 refugees the majority from neighbouring north-eastern Nigeria, the epicenter of Boko Haram activities.
Sahel Support Plan
Niger is one of ten countries which are part of the UN Support Plan for the Sahel, a region which stretches from Chad in central Africa to Mauritania and Senegal in the west.
The plan, which was presented by Ms. Mohammed on the margins of the AU summit held in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott last month, aims to build lasting peace in the ten focus countries. It also prioritizes economic growth, women youth and job creation.
Ibrahim Thiaw, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Sahel was part of the UN–AU joint visit to Niger.
“There are certainly significant challenges in this region, but there are also opportunities,” he told UN News in the Nigerien capital, Niamey. “The degradation of the environment, insecurity due to extremism and terrorism are both deep-rooted problems. However, the region has enormous potential due to its natural resources and cultural assets as well as, of course, its people.”
The UN Security Council is due to hold a debate on the Sahel region on Wednesday.
The ten focus countries in the Sahel Support Plan are: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
‘Full scale’ humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia’s Tigray
A “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported on Tuesday.
More than 27,000 have now crossed into Sudan through crossing points in Kassala and Gedaref states, as well as a new location further south at Aderafi, where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend, according to UNHCR.
The scale of the influx is the worst that part of the country has seen in over 20 years, according to the agency.
“Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since 10 November, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground,” said Babar Baloch, UNHCR spokesperson, briefing reporters in Geneva.
“Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings”, he added.
According to news reports, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has indicated the military operation that was launched in response to the reported occupation of a Government military base by Tigrayan forces nearly two weeks ago, would continue, although he said it was now in its “final phase”.
‘Needs continue to grow’
UN agencies, along with relief partners have ramped up assistance – delivering food rations, hot meals and clean water, as well as setting up latrines and temporary shelters. They are also supporting the Sudanese Government in its response. But the needs continue to grow.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is also supporting other humanitarian workers in its response, providing fuel for vehicles and generators in remote locations. The UN Humanitarian Air Service, managed by WFP, has also increased flights from three times per week to daily flights for aid workers.
Since Saturday, UNHCR has relocated 2,500 refugees from the border to Um Raquba settlement site, in eastern Sudan. There is however, a “critical need” to identify more sites so that refugees can be relocated away from the border and can access assistance and services, said Mr. Baloch.
‘On standby’ in Tigray
Meanwhile in the Tigray region of Ethiopia itself, lack of electricity, telecommunications, fuel and cash, continue to severely hamper any humanitarian response, the UNHCR spokesperson said.
“After nearly two weeks of conflict, reports of larger numbers of internally displaced grow daily, while the lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move in goods to the region, remain major impediments to providing assistance,” he said.
UNHCR and partners are on standby to provide assistance to the displaced in Tigray, including basic items, when access and security allow.
The conflict is also a major ongoing concern for the Eritrean refugee population of nearly 100,000 in Tigray, who are reliant on assistance from UNHCR and partners.
“Potential for further displacement of refugees inside the country is increasingly a real possibility … The humanitarian situation as result of this crisis is growing rapidly” he warned, reiterating UNCHR’s call for peace and urge all parties to respect the safety and security for all civilians in Tigray.
Russia to Build Naval Facility in Sudan
Emerging from the first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi a year ago, Russia will make one huge stride by establishing a naval facility in Sudan. This marks its maritime security presence in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea region. Sharing a northern border with Egypt, Sudan is located on the same strategic coastline along the Red Sea.
According to the executive order, the published document says “the proposal from the government of the Russian Federation to sign an agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Sudan on creating a facility of the Navy of the Russian Federation in the territory of the Republic of Sudan be adopted.”
It also authorizes “the Defense Ministry of Russia to sign the aforementioned agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation.” The document stipulates that a maximum of four warships may stay at the naval logistics base, including “naval ships with the nuclear propulsion system on condition of observing nuclear and environmental safety norms.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved the draft agreement on establishing a naval logistics base in Sudan and gave instructions to submit the proposal to the president for signing. The draft agreement on the naval logistics facility was submitted by Russia’s Defense Ministry, approved by the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee of Russia and preliminary agreed with the Sudanese side.
As the draft agreement says, the Russian Navy’s logistics facility in Sudan “meets the goals of maintaining peace and stability in the region, is defensive and is not aimed against other countries.”
The signing of the document by the Russia president shows the positive results of negotiations, the possibility of constructing a naval base in the region, over the years with African countries along the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.
During a visit by then-President of Sudan Omar al-Bashir to Moscow in November 2017, agreements were reached on Russia’s assistance in modernizing the Sudanese armed forces. Khartoum also said at the time it was interested in discussing the issue of using Red Sea bases with Moscow.
On the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Russia had a naval base in Somalia during the Soviet days. Currently, Djibouti hosts Chinese and American naval bases. China’s military base in Djibouti was set up to support five mission areas. India is another Asian nation that has increased its naval presence in Africa. In order to protect its commercial sea-lanes from piracy, it has established a network of military facilities across the Indian Ocean.
Will South Sudan follow its northern neighbour’s lead?
As the world watches to see whether President Trump accepts the US election results, few have noticed thatcivil war is looming in Ethiopia, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he was sending troops to the Tigray province. This imperils not only Africa’s second most populous state but its neighbours, Sudan and South Sudan, as well.
Sudan has had a good run recently and is in a better position to weather any regional conflict. In a surprise movelast month, President Trump announced Sudan’s removal from the US State Sponsors of Terrorism List (SST)in exchange for normalising relations with Israel. The US is understood to have sweetened the deal with a raft of economic and political incentives, including humanitarian assistance and high-level trade delegations. It would also support Sudan in its discussions with international finance institutions on economic and debt relief.
Since the toppling of President Bashir in 2019, the new transitional government, led by Prime Minister Hamdok, has focused on reviving Sudan’s economy and managing its $60bn debt burden. Hamdok faces a severe economic crisis, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic, high inflation and the worst flooding in decades, that has affected more than 800,000 people and destroyed homes and large tracts of farmland just before the harvest. Food, bread and medicine are in short supply.
Thesanctions removal means that Sudan can now expect substantial assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bankand unlock investment into its fledgling economy.
This is good news for Sudan. But where does it leave its neighbour, South Sudan?
The international community had high hopes for South Sudan when it announced independence in 2011. But its optimism was misplaced. It never understood the Sudanese conflict that began with British colonialism and erupted after the British left in 1956. It wasn’t just a war between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudanese rebels. Nor was it a fight between the Islamic North and the Christian South. It was a fight over resources and power.
South Sudan continues to fight. After its first post-independence civil war in 2013 and its endless cycle of violence and retribution, South Sudan is now as unstable as it was before it seceded from Sudan. To accommodate the different factions and keep old military men in power, the South Sudanese government and bureaucracy is peopled with those loyal to the former rebels.
Few have the skills needed to manage the country properly. They have squandered their oil opportunity, through mismanagement and corruption. With falling oil growth demand, oil is unlikely to remaina sustainable revenue source. This will challenge the South Sudanese economy which is 90% reliant on oil.
South Sudan is also facing multiple sanctions. In 2014, the international communityimposed travel bans and asset freezes, as well as an arms embargo. In 2018, the EU designated sanctions against individuals involved in serious human rights violations, alarmed by “the outbreak of a destructive conflict between the Government of South Sudan and opposition forces in December 2013.” Most recently, the US added First Vice President of South Sudan, Taban Deng Gai to its Global Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in the disappearance and deaths of human rights lawyer Samuel Dong Luak and SPLM-IO member Aggrey Idry.
If US foreign policy towards Sudan was driven by religious and ideological interests in the 1990s and 2000s, what we are now seeing is a shift to transactional diplomacy. There is no reason to think that President Biden would change course.
South Sudan is watching closely. It may be why it has instructed a US lobbying firm to allegedly lobby for their own sanctions removal. It is also why it welcomed a peace deal between Sudan and five rebel groups in September, paving the way for increased oil export cooperation with its neighbour.
But stability in the youngest African state is fragile. Even with a recently signed peace agreement between former foes, President Kiir and Vice-President Machar, violence is always lurking. South Sudan is plagued with the same environmental challenges of flooding and poor harvests. The fighting in Ethiopia will not help.
As South Sudan looks to the North, it will see a New Sudan, unshackled by the weight of its history and benefitting from international goodwill. Will this encourage South Sudan to look forward instead of back? Or will it unleash demons from the past?
Let’s hope that the international community pulls itself away from Trump’s horror show and starts paying attention to East Africa. It may be a long winter.
A Dangerous Interregnum
Authors: Zlatko Hadžidedić and Adnan Idrizbegović* Less than two months are left for the transition of government in the United...
Top 3 Effective Strategies for Using Push Notifications
A lot of businesses are actively using push marketing to raise their sales, attract more customers, and build a strong...
“Living On Mountains”: Antecedents of a Dignified and Secure World Order
“One must become accustomed to living on mountains, to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter of politics and national egotism beneath...
Assassination of top Iranian Nuclear Scientist: A big Tragedy
On the sad incident of the assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, the UN spokesman said, “We urge restraint...
The complex puzzle of Canberra-Beijing ties, as diplomacy takes a back seat
Australia and China seems to be engaged in a repulsive tariff war targeting each other’s goods. Canberra is struggling to...
Greece and UAE’s Strategic Cooperation: A New Regional Equilibrium in the Making
The agreement on Joint Cooperation in Foreign Policy and Defence between Greece and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a...
COVID-19 crisis highlights widening regional disparities in healthcare and the economy
The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people and economies has highlighted widening regional disparities in access to healthcare and...
Green Planet3 days ago
Fisheries, Food Security and the Issues of Climate Change and its effect on the Indo-Pacific
Health & Wellness3 days ago
Global HIV toll likely to be far higher owing to COVID-19
South Asia3 days ago
Theorizing The teesta River Water Dispute
Europe2 days ago
Great Powers Competition in Moldova
Diplomacy1 day ago
Africa Today3 days ago
Quality and standards: Game-changers for the post-COVID recovery of African economies?
Europe2 days ago
Building Europe’s Future
Reports3 days ago
Cash flow the biggest problem facing business during COVID-19 crisis