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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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Africa

Russia-Ukraine Crisis: An Additional Challenge Affecting Africa’s Development

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image source: war.ukraine.ua photo: Albert Lores

Marking its 20th year of transformation from Organisation of AfricanUnity (OAU) to African Union (AU), the 54-member continental organisation, said in an official message circulated to all Heads of State and Government that Russia-Ukraine crisis is eroding economic achievements that have accumulated down the years throughout Africa. 

Russia-Ukraine crisis has considerably changed the existing geopolitical, state and institutional order, and making it more difficult for the collective capacity and parameters toward building Africa. The Russia-Ukraine crisis poses numerous complex challenges in many African countries.

“More recently, Africa has become the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine. By profoundly upsetting the fragile global geopolitical and geostrategic balance, it has also cast a harsh light on the structural fragility of our economies,” the statement said.

“The most emblematic sign of these fragilities is the food crisis following the climatic disorders, the health crisis of COVID-19, amplified today by the conflict in Ukraine. This crisis is characterised by a shrinking world supply of agricultural products and a soaring inflation of food prices. So, what to do in the face of all these challenges?” it further emphasised.

In the light of the seemingly endless Russia-Ukraine crisis and global instability, Africa is particularly confronted with massive youth unemployment and the persistent precariousness of the women of the continent are other challenges that call for urgent responses, because this category of the African population no longer accepts to be a passive spectator of its destiny. 

In addition, to all these constraints, the current economic crisis which is burdened by the debt, the climate and energy crisis, in turn, affects food prices through the exorbitant cost of transport, while the health crisis following the outbreak of COVID-19, weakens the production capacities of the various economic sectors.

The African Union statement has also acknowledged the challenges posed by all-year round terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crime (human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms trafficking). Terrorism, in particular, is constantly gaining ground. Today, many States devote a good part of their resources and energies to fighting or protecting themselves against this phenomenon, thus depriving vital sectors such as health and education of the resources they need.

“The continent is also faced with the disasters generated by bad governance, which can no longer be concealed by the demand for transparency imposed by a population that is increasingly open to the world through the new information and communication technologies,” it further said.

The African Union, however, expresses hope that through a series of actions and strategic mechanisms, African countries world be able to overcome development difficulties and deficiencies.

Then there is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which entered into force in 2021, making Africa the largest common market in the world and accelerating continental integration. It reinforces the measures taken in terms of free movement of persons and goods. 

But much depends on the collective determination and solidarity demonstrated, to face the challenges in a united and resolute manner, by the African leaders. It depends on the strong mobilisation of African leaders and the effective coordination provided by the African Union.

Reports show that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has twisted the situation in many African countries and are now among the most vulnerable in terms of ensuring food security. In response to the food crisis, it hopes to achieve by building resilience in food security on the African continent – strengthening agri-food systems and health and social production systems to accelerate socio-economic and human capital development.

As far as the resources allow, the African Union will continue addressing health, education, infrastructure, energy, science and research, the sectors whose promotion and realisation are necessary conditions for the development of Africa.   

The results have not always matched the targetted ambitions. From the focussed pooling of all energies and geographically dispersed resources will emerge a new Africa, “the Africa we want” which has understandably become the resounding guiding slogan.

There is only one condition: to identify and point out, without complacency, the evils that plague current actions and hinder the effective implementation of decisions, treaties, conventions and strategies in order to provide them with the appropriate treatment. Forward Africa !

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Africa

Time is short for Sudan to resolve political crisis

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Photo: Masarib/Ahmed Bahhar

Time is short for Sudan to reach a solution to its protracted political crisis, the Special Representative for the country told the Security Council on Tuesday, warning that if the impasse is not urgently overcome, the consequences will be felt beyond national borders, impacting a whole generation.

The crisis facing Sudan is entirely homegrown and can only be resolved by the Sudanese,” Volker Perthes, who is also Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told Council members. 

Envoys of the trilateral mechanism facilitating intra-Sudan talks – the United Nations, the African Union and regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – have stressed that it is up to the Sudanese, particularly the authorities, to create an environment conducive to the success of any negotiations.

Detainees released

Outlining developments since March, he said authorities have released 86 detainees across the country, including high profile officials affiliated with the work of the Dismantling Committee and activists from the Resistance Committees.

Violence by security forces against protestors also appears to have decreased overall, although violations still occur.

At least 111 people reportedly remain in detention in Khartoum, Port Sudan and elsewhere.  On 21 May, another protestor was killed by security forces, bringing the number of those reportedly killed to 96.

To build trust, accountability needed

“If the authorities want to build trust, it is essential that those responsible for violence against protesters be held to account,” he stressed.

A growing number of Sudanese parties and eminent national figures have come forward with initiatives to solve the political crisis, he said, while several political coalitions have formed new alliances around common positions.

Against this backdrop, he said the trilateral mechanism held initial talks with key components of Sudanese society and politics throughout April, among them, political parties and coalitions, representatives from resistance committees, youth, the military, armed groups, Sufi religious leaders, women’s groups and academics. 

He said the aim was to canvass the views of the stakeholders on the substance and format of a Sudanese-led and owned process of talks.

While almost all have shown willingness to engage with facilitation efforts, some key stakeholders continue to reject face-to-face talks with other counterparts or prefer to participate indirectly.

Charting a way out

Forging shared understandings around these issues will help chart the way out of the crisis and address the institutional vacuum after the coup,” he said.

On the security front, he said recent events in West Darfur, including the destruction and displacement in Kerenik and violence in Geneina between 22 and 26 April, have again exposed deficits in the State’s ability to provide security and protection for civilians.

The Permanent Ceasefire Committee, chaired by UNITAMS, has launched an investigation into possible ceasefire violations, following the submission of formal complaints by the parties.

In Darfur, high risk of violence

The risk of a new outbreak of violence remains high,” he cautioned.  Ultimately, protection of civilians requires that the causes of conflict are addressed, including issues of decades-long marginalization, land issues and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

In the meantime, physical protection must be a priority for the Sudanese authorities and for the local/state governments in Darfur.

18 million face acute hunger

He said food prices in April jumped 15 per cent compared to March and remain 250 per cent higher than respective prices in 2021.  The combined effects of political instability, economic crisis, poor harvests and global supply shocks are having a “disastrous” impact on inflation. 

The number of Sudanese facing acute hunger is projected to double to 18 million by September.

Noting that most Sudanese stakeholders realize that the geopolitical environment is becoming more challenging, and the international gaze is deflected from Sudan, he said: “Too much is at stake, too many hopes and aspirations impacted”.  He urged the Sudanese to seize this opportunity to make progress.

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Africa

Russia Renews its Support to Mark Africa Day

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Russia has renewed its unique confidence that “it will be able to ensure the development and implementation of many useful and innovative projects and initiatives in various fields for the benefit of both countries and peoples, in the interests of strengthening security and stability in Africa and around the world.”

In a speech, on behalf of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, read by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on May 25 when the continent marks Africa Day, further noted the change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.

Putin, in addition, acknowledged that “African states have achieved a great deal together over the past two decades. They have developed mechanisms for a collective response to local conflicts and crises, and are consistently promoting regional integration processes in various formats. Africa enjoys growing prestige on the global stage and plays an increasingly important role in resolving important issues on the international agenda.”

Later talking about Russia-Africa relations, Lavrvo told the gathering that Russia would continue to provide comprehensive support and to expand mutually beneficial cooperation. Russian-African relations are traditionally friendly and are making good progress.

Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa. 

Russia has played a leading role in decolonisation and in consolidating decolonisation processes, as well as drafting UN resolutions. Unfortunately, some of them have been sabotaged by former metropolises to this day. We stand in solidarity with your demands for the complete liberation of Africa from the last vestiges of colonial legacy.

This year marks 20 years since the Organisation of African Unity was transformed into the African Union. That change marked the emergence of a multilateral pan-African platform on a qualitatively higher level of interaction in the political, socioeconomic and other spheres.

“Russia has always been and will remain a reliable partner and friend to the countries of Africa. Today, we are confronted with certain Western countries’ unscrupulous attempts to constrain our engagement with Africa. I’m referring to the all-out hybrid war against Russia declared by Washington and its European satellites in connection with the special military operation in Ukraine,” he added.

According to him, it is not so much about Ukraine, which is used as a bargaining chip in the global anti-Russian game. The main problem is that a small group of US-led Western countries keeps trying to impose the concept of a rules-based world order on the international community.

Lavrov suggested that Africa must not succumb to Washington’s discriminatory pressure. There are attempts to reverse history and subjugate the peoples of the continent again grossly violate the sovereignty and independence of the states of the region, and jeopardize the entire system of international relations, which is based on the principle of respect for the sovereign equality of states in the Unted Nations’ Charter.

He called on the African Union (AU) to persistently demand that the West lift illegal unilateral sanctions that undermine the transport and logistics infrastructure necessary for world trade, which creates risks for vulnerable segments of the population. 

Russia and Africa will work together to maintain and expand mutually beneficial bilateral ties in the new conditions without external interference. It is important to facilitate the mutual access of Russian and African economic operators to each other’s markets, to encourage their participation in large-scale infrastructure projects. All these tasks are at the center of attention in the preparations for the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit. 

Reports show that the Russia-Ukraine crisis has twisted the global economy and many African countries are among the most vulnerable in terms of ensuring food security. Some states of the continent are critically dependent on the import of agricultural products from Russia, therefore will make some deliveries, including food, fertilizers, energy carriers and other goods, of great importance for maintaining social stability and achieving the milestones stipulated by the Sustainable Development Goals approved by the United Nations.

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