Daily Archives: February 10, 2018

Rising Temperatures, Terrorism Threaten Cameroon’s Food Security

Cameroon says its northern border with Nigeria and Chad and most of the Lake Chad basin face a food crisis because of desertification and the Boko Haram conflict that stopped farmers from doing their work.

Thousands of school children selected from all local primary and secondary schools planted trees on the outskirts of Garoua, capital of the northern region of Cameroon. Didier Djonwe, an official of Cameroon’s Ministry of Secondary Education, says the children were invited to plant trees because temperatures have been rising to up to 48 degrees Celsius from 42 degrees Celsius in the past couple of years.

Djonwe said by planting trees the children will understand that it is a citizen’s duty to protect the environment and keep it healthy for living, both for themselves and future generations.

Djonwe said each school in Garoua is expected have students water the trees on a schedule until the rainy season begins.

Up to 90 percent of rainfall in Garoua comes from June to September and evaporation, the government says, has been very high, with harsh, hostile and fragile climatic conditions.

Sali Seini of Cameroon’s National Action Plan for the Fight Against Desertification, said Garoua is one of the towns in northern Cameroon witnessing the worst effects of desertification and land degradation.

He said more than eight million hectares of arable land has either been completely destroyed or is losing its fertility to a level that it is becoming impossible to grow crops, which is a very serious handicap to agricultural production. He said all the degraded soil should be restored through tree planting and the construction of water wells and boreholes where possible.

Vicious circle

Seini says the phenomenon has worsened over the years, triggering a vicious circle of environmental degradation, leading to poverty, food insecurity and mass migration in dry areas.

Hanson Langmia, Cameroon Country Director for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature says the situation is getting serious because of decreasing rainfall and water shortages and wild fires and the cutting of trees for fuel.

“Our rivers will dry up and a lot of things will happen and we will face the impact. The heat we are facing is because the ozone layer that is supposed to be protecting the earth is being destroyed by overexploitation of our resources and the release of gases that are destroying the ozone layer,” Langmia said.

Cameroon reports that 40 percent of its northern border with Nigeria and Chad has been affected by desertification and it has resulted in famine threatening 30 percent of the 3 million people of the far north region, including over 80,000 Nigerian refugees and 100,000 internally displaced persons.

The central African state says the situation may grow worse because the Boko Haram insurgency has prevented farmers from working their land and as a result, food production has dropped.

The situation is also bad in neighboring states of the Lake Chad Basin that depended on Cameroon for their food supply as the insurgency has moved.

Source: Voice of America


PRETORIA– South Africa’s Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has noted the charges by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) against former acting National Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane.

On Thursday, Phahlane and his wife — who is also a South African Police Service (SAPS) member, Beauty Phahlane — appeared before the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Court.

Phahlane is accused of fraud and corruption for allegedly taking kickbacks to secure police tenders for a company during his tenure as head of the police’s forensics division.

They face six counts of corruption and fraud for allegedly accepting gratifications, discounts and motor vehicles from the third accused, Durandt Snyman, a car dealership owner from Pretoria East.

The Phahlanes, according to the charge sheets, were in possession of six cars between 2011 and 2017, which were alleged to be have been bought from or sponsored by Snyman.

The State is alleging that Phahlane received them as kickbacks for securing tenders when he was heading the Police Forensic Division.

The couple and Snyman were granted R10,000 bail each and the matter was postponed to March 12.

In a statement, Minister Mbalula said the recommendation for Phahlane to step aside from his duties was meant to give the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) space to do its work without any interference.

At this point, we now are obligated to allow the court process to go ahead without any hindrance and for justice to be done. As a Ministry, we shall not be offering commentary that could be seen prejudicial in the matter as it continues in court, said Mbalula.

The Minister said SAPS is obligated to offer assistance to IPID in the conduct of its lawful constitutional mandate.


Observers Call for Deeper Diplomatic Engagement in the Sahel

A draft of a Pentagon report on the attack in Niger that killed four American soldiers, four Nigerien soldiers and an Nigerien interpreter last October calls for a smaller, more cautious U.S. military presence in West Africa, according to sources who spoke to The New York Times.

That could emphasize the need for deeper diplomatic and political engagement in the Sahel, given ongoing security challenges and difficulties in funding and coordinating a regional task force.

Militant groups

Details about who is responsible for the October 4 attack have been difficult to confirm. However, U.S. and Nigerien forces blamed Islamic State fighters shortly after the ambush in the Tillaberi region of Niger.

The Sahel region faces numerous security challenges, with jihadist militant groups expanding across lawless regions of Niger and Mali. Without state security forces to stop them, local militants have proliferated.

There is almost no Malian administration on the other side of the border. I mean, right now it’s extremely problematic for the Malian forces to get out of the main cities in the north, so they are almost not in a position to go up to the border, said Jean-Herve Jezequel, the West Africa deputy project director at the International Crisis Group, an organization working to prevent global conflict.

Jihadist militants may claim allegiance to IS or al-Qaida, but they often have weak connections to major terrorist organizations. These groups attract young men with few prospects, who pick up guns to survive, often with no ideological reasons to fight, Jezequel said.

Mediating dialogue

Jezequel sees two ways forward: increasing the military presence � an option that looks less likely given the Pentagon’s new report � or deepening political and diplomatic engagement.

You have elements that are not hard-core jihadi fighters, who don’t want really to fight the state. What they’re looking for is a position in their own society, and sometimes they’re looking for [an] exit strategy, Jezequel said.

That creates space for dialogue, Jezequel added, so long as there’s coordination with the military and at least a temporary halt on attacks.

The Pentagon’s recommendation comes after significant political fallout in the U.S. following the Niger attack, with some members of Congress raising sharp questions about why the American presence in the Sahel has grown to 1,300 personnel and whether enough oversight has been exerted.

The newly formed regional G5 Sahel joint task force, meanwhile, has been hamstrung by low funding and disagreements among member states about who’s contributing what, underscoring the need for an immediate solution to West Africa’s deteriorating security situation.

For Jezequel, that means expanding the Western presence by increasing financial assistance and mediating dialogue between different regional actors.

In the past there have been a lot of misunderstandings between Mali and Mauritania, for instance, Niger and Mali sometimes, so there is a need to restore some form of common understanding � of trust � between the states, he said.

Source: Voice of America