Nigerian Gunmen Attack Jail, 575 Detainees Missing

Gunmen attacked a jail in Nigeria’s Oyo State late Friday and freed more than 800 inmates by force, the third such major attack this year, prison service said in a statement Saturday.


The prison service said the attackers were heavily armed and after an exchange of gunfire with prison officers, gained entry to the prison yard by blasting the walls with dynamite.


Some 575 inmates, who were all awaiting trial, were missing while 262 escapees had since been recaptured, it said, adding that the jail housed only 64 convicts, who did not escape.


“While all the awaiting trial detainees were forced out of custody, the cells housing the convicts and the female inmates were not vandalized,” the prison service said.


Nigeria is struggling with security problems across its vast territory, including a spate of abductions of students for ransom by criminal gangs in the northwest and an Islamist insurgency in the northeast.


The jail attack in Oyo follows similar attacks in Imo state in April where more than 1,800 inmates were freed, while another 266 prisoners were forcibly released in Kogi state last month.


Source: Voice of America

UN Says Hunger Hits Cameroon’s Troubled Western Regions

The U.N.’s World Food Program says thousands of destitute people in Cameroon’s crisis-prone western regions are going hungry and their situations may become worse if the separatist crisis there continues. Chris Nikoi, WFP regional director for west and central Africa is visiting hungry community members – most of them farmers chased from their farms by Cameroon’s separatist conflicts who are pleading to be spared from fighting between the military and separatists.


Hundreds of civilians in the town of Bamenda Thursday welcomed Nikoi in their English-speaking town in Cameroon’s restive North-West region.


Among those who came out was 59-year-old farmer Clifford Tayong. Tayong said he asked Nikoi to thank the WFP for the assistance the U.N. body has been giving people suffering as a result of the separatist crisis in Cameroon’s western regions.


Tayong said besides rice and vegetable oil, the WFP gave him and his three children $60 in August. He said his family again received $80 from the WFP in September. Tayong said he used the money to buy school supplies for his children. He said he also bought two roosters and eight hens to start a poultry farm that will enable him to earn money and take care of his family.


Tayong said he lost all his beans and corn when his one-hectare farm was burned down in the English-speaking Bafut Subdivision near Bamenda. He said the military accused him of giving food to separatist fighters and torched his farm.


Tayong and many others who fled the separatist crisis recounted their suffering to Nikoi. They pleaded to be spared from the fighting and said they wanted to return to their villages.


Nikoi said thousands of Cameroonians chased from their towns and villages by the separatist crisis are now very poor and hungry.


“I can’t help thinking about the women and the men and the stories about their farms being torched and to the point where the little dignity that they are able to retain in their lives is because of the monthly little assistance that they are having from the World Food Program, so I am living here proud of what we are doing to sustain people’s lives,” he said.

Nikoi said famine looms should the separatist crisis persist and force farmers to stay away from their fields. He said the WFP is assisting 280,000 civilians in the English-speaking North-West region.


Most of those receiving WFP assistance are displaced persons living with disabilities, pregnant women or people whose houses have been burned.


Farmers say their farms, houses and plantations have been destroyed by both government troops and separatist fighters. They say separatist fighters torch houses and farms of people suspected of collaborating with government troops, while government troops destroy the properties of people suspected of supporting the rebels.


Both the Cameroon military and separatists have always denied that their troops target civilians, their farms, plantations or houses.


Cameroon Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Gabriel Mbairobe said farmers who return to their farms will be given seed and fertilizers at reduced prices. He said the military will protect displaced people who return to places where there is relative peace.


The WFP reports that as part of its crisis response operations, it distributed 1,608 metric tons of food to 199,000 beneficiaries in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions. The U.N. also reports that as part of its malnutrition prevention program the WFP provided 48 metric tons of specialized nutritious foods to 8,100 children aged 6 to 59 months and to 5,500 girls and pregnant women.


According to the U.N., 4.4 million of the 25 million Cameroonians need humanitarian assistance, and more than 1.9 million were food-insecure between June and August.


The separatist crisis has forced more than 750,000 people to flee their homes since the conflict erupted in late 2017, according to the U.N. Ongoing armed clashes, civilian casualties and the burning of houses, hospitals and other infrastructure are causing further displacement, suffering and hunger.


Source: Voice of America

At Least 20 Killed as Somalia Troops Battle Moderate Islamist Militia

At least 20 people were killed and more than 40 wounded on Saturday when a moderate Islamist group clashed with Somali government troops over control of a town in central Somalia, according to witnesses and regional officials.


The clashes started at dawn Saturday morning when government troops, who have been amassing on the outskirts of Guri-El, a central Somali town some 400 kilometers north of the capital, Mogadishu, attacked bases held by Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) rebels.


According to residents, both sides used heavy artillery, mortars, machineguns, and vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns during a fierce battle in the streets.


Speaking on condition of anonymity, military officials from the opposing sides told VOA that both sides suffered fatalities.


A senior official with the Somali National Security Agency, Col: Abdirisaq Mohamud Yusuf, told VOA that the regional commander of Somali’s Danab Brigade, Abdiladif Feyfle, was among the dead.


Danab or “lightning” brigadiers are U.S.-trained Somali commandos.


“I can confirm that three of our soldiers were killed and more than 10 injured during the fighting,” Ahmed Shire Falagle, Galmudug’s regional state information minister, told VOA’s Somali Service. “I also know that a significant number of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a militia were killed, although I cannot give exact number.”


Falagle also said government troops ultimately took control of the town and that opposing combatants retreated.


“We have driven the militia out of the town and now they are firing back from the outskirts,” he said.


But witnesses who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal said that government forces managed to hold control of only the police station, the district headquarters and several ASWJ administrative buildings.


“None of the two sides is in full control [of the town] yet,” one witness told VOA. “We can hear heavy gunfire and shelling. The government soldiers are positioned at strategic bases at the heart of the town.”


VOA phone calls to several ASWJ officials went unanswered.


A moderate Sufi sect, ASWJ previously assisted Somali government troops battling al-Shabab Islamist extremists, temporarily striking a regional power-sharing deal with the Somali government. Saturday’s fighting followed a simmering dispute over ASWJ’s representation in local, state and national government.


Mogadishu has been denying the group’s request to have power as an Islamic entity, saying its members should peacefully seek power through their respective clans. It also wanted the group’s militia to be integrated into national forces.


In February of last year, Somali troops seized towns previously under ASWJ control, including Guri-El.


Earlier this month, the Islamist group took control of Guri-El unopposed after forcing Somali government troops to withdraw.


In an interview with VOA Somali at the time, the group’s chief, Sheikh Shakir, said it wants to take control of towns and regions to better protect them from al-Shabab extremists.


Since then, tension has been building as government troops began amassing military reinforcement near the town.


The U.N. said on Thursday over 100,000 people had been displaced in Guri-El because of the military buildup.


Efforts to mediate differences by local elders and regional leaders failed, leading to Saturday’s bloody battle.


The fighting comes two days after Somalia’s president and prime minister said they had struck a deal to speed up the country’s long-delayed election process and to end a simmering feud that threatened to plunge the Horn of Africa nation into a fresh crisis.


The two men had been deadlocked over top security appointments and dismissals that were triggered by the mysterious disappearance of a female Somali spy who has long been declared dead by the country’s National Intelligence and Security Agency.


Experts warn that continued political instability and renewed fighting with the moderate Islamist group could benefit al-Shabab.


Source: Voice of America

Somali Filmmaker Wins Top Prize at Burkina Faso Film Festival

Somali filmmaker Khadar Ahmed won the top prize at the FESPACO film festival in Burkina Faso on Saturday for “The Gravedigger’s Wife,” which he wrote and directed.


The 40-year-old was not at the ceremony to receive the Golden Stallion award, but his work bested 16 other African films for the top prize. The films in competition were made by directors from 15 African countries.


This year’s international jury was led by Mauritanian producer Abderrahmane Sissako, who won France’s coveted Cesar in 2015 for “Timbuktu.”


The Golden Stallion, said Sissako, was “for any African filmmaker, the best prize you can have, a source of great pride.”


The festival, first staged in 1969, is held every two years in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.


The event is closely followed by the U.S. and European movie industries, which scout the event for new films, talent and ideas.


Its top prize is named after the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, a mythical beast in Burkinabe mythology.


The event was originally set for February 27-March 6 but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Voice of America

US Envoy Meets Sudanese Leaders, Reaffirms Support for Democracy

A U.S. envoy underlined Washington’s support for a democratic transition to civilian rule in Sudan on Saturday during talks with the head of its ruling council and the prime minister, the U.S. embassy in Khartoum said.


It tweeted that Jeffrey Feltman, special envoy for the Horn of Africa, had also urged all sides to recommit to working together to implement Sudan’s constitutional declaration, signed after a 2018-2019 uprising that resulted in the removal of president Omar al-Bashir.


Feltman met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council, and his deputy General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.


Tensions between the civilian and military leaders who now share power have soared in the wake of an attempted military coup in September, which the army said it had foiled.


As an economic crisis deepens, a coalition of rebel groups and political parties have aligned themselves with the military, which has accused the civilian governing parties of mismanagement and monopolizing power, and are seeking to dissolve the Cabinet.


In response, hundreds of thousands demonstrated in several parts of Khartoum and other cities on Thursday against the prospect of military rule. Several Cabinet ministers took part.


In a statement after the meeting with Feltman, Burhan praised American support for Sudan’s transition to democracy and said the military was keen to protect that transition.


Source: Voice of America

FM Demeke Hold Talks with Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen conferred with UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees (Operations) Rauf Mazou on Friday at his office.


During the occasion, Demeke briefed Rauf Mazou on the current status of refugees in Ethiopia, including the dramatic increments of internally displaced people due to the actions of the TPLF.


Demeke recalled the atrocities that Eritrean refugees in Tigray had faced in the hands of the TPLF and the status of the newly built refugee camps for Eritrean refugees in the Amhara region.


He  also expressed concerns over the activities of some of the Ethiopian refugees in Sudanese camps who exploited their refugee status to escape responsibility for the crimes that they committed in Ethiopia and to resume their assaults on the country.


The High Commissioner on his part noted  Demeke’s concern and pledged to cooperate with the government to address the issues and further share responsibilities in supporting refugees in Ethiopia.

Source: Ethiopia News Agency

DPM & FM Demeke Confers with EU Special Envoy for Horn of Africa

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen held discussion with European Union (EU) Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber.



The two had discussions over the situation in the northern part of Ethiopia and ways of giving renewed impetus to the relationships between Ethiopia and the EU.


Speaking about the situation in northern Ethiopia, Demeke stressed the commitment of the government to translate the roadmap to hold an all-inclusive dialogue into reality through discussions with stakeholders in the country.


He also briefed her on the government’s commitment to facilitating the humanitarian aid supply to all affected areas in the region.


Building upon the misinformation campaign, he said, some corners of the international community are accusing the federal government of obstructing the aid supply to Tigray.


Demeke further explained the destructive acts of the TPLF in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions and in blocking aid from reaching people in occupied territories.


The special envoy, for her part, appreciated the government’s initiative to ease up the challenges that the country is facing right now.


She further expressed the Keen interest of the European Union to scale up relationships with Ethiopia.


Appreciating the visit of the special envoy and the EU’s concerns over matters in Ethiopia, Demeke stressed Ethiopia’s firm convictions to resist biased and unwarranted attacks that threaten its sovereignty.


Source: Ethiopia News Agency