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Archive for January, 2015

UN Scribe backs regional troops against Boko Haram

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

UN Scribe backs regional troops against Boko Haram

The U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has expressed support for the establishment of a Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to fight Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East region.

Ban made the expression while addressing newsmen on Saturday, on the sidelines of ongoing African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the AU Peace and Security Council at its 484th meeting, held on January 29 at the level of Heads of State and Government, adopted a resolution to establish an initial 7,500 troops to combat the Boko Haram insurgents.

The resolution was sequel to a proposal presented to the council by countries in the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the Republic of Benin.

The LCBC countries – Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad – made the proposal for the continent to raise troops that could defeat the terrorist group currently expanding to borders of Cameroon and Chad.

It is believed that no fewer than 13,000 persons had been killed, while more than one million others displaced, since the group began attacks on villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in 2009.

Ki-moon said: “I strongly support the AU’s decision to establish a Multi-national Joint Taskforce, which is consistent with the UN Human Rights Policies.

“Regional and international efforts must focus on protecting communities in Northern Nigeria and across borders.

“The more than one million internally displaced people and refugees must be able to return home. We must stop the advance of this terrorist group.

“Once again, I repeat my call for immediate and unconditional release of those who have been abducted, particularly the girls from Chibok.“

He noted that collaboration on peace and security had been one of the most important elements of the U.N. partnership with the AU.

He disclosed that more than 80 per cent of U.N. peacekeeping operations were deployed in Africa.

“The U.N. Assembly in 2006 adopted a global counter terrorism strategy. Under this, we have established implementation taskforce and I, myself, established counter terrorism centres,’’ he said.

According to him, addressing terrorism and extremism will uphold and respect human rights and protect the dignity of human lives.

The UN scribe said that Boko Haram, ISIL and all other terrorist groups had committed unspeakable brutality against humanity, adding that regional countries alone could not handle the situation.

“Therefore, I am asking that those terrorists should be addressed by regional and international coordination and cooperation.

“At the same time, the military means may not be the only solution. There should be a very careful analysis of the root causes why this kind of terrorist and violent extremism is spreading; it is another very important aspect.

“I am urging the whole international community which has capacity and influence to join hands as the U.N. is ready to fully cooperate with the AU,’’ he said.

Ban Ki-moon expressed support for Nigeria and other African nations holding elections this year.

“The AU has strong record of supporting democratic transitions. The AU and U.N. will work together to support member states to organize peaceful and credible polls.

He urged African leaders and others around the world to respect constitutional and legal power limits by listening to their people and respect their aspirations being expressed through democratic processes.

Sierra Leone at the 24th AU Conference in Addis Ababa

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Sierra Leone is presently taking part in the ongoing 24th Summit of the African Union , which is being held  in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The present Summit  is being held under the theme “Women’s Empowerment Year and Africa Development for the concretisation of Agenda 2063″.

We bring you a pictorial display of Sierra Leone’s representation at the Summit.












In Addis, Mugabe becomes AU Chair

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has been named as chairman of the African Union.

The 90-year-old was elected by his fellow heads of state to replace Mauritania’s Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz in the role, which rotates between the continent’s five regions.

“By electing me to preside over this august body, with full knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies ahead, I humbly accept your collective decision,” Mugabe said as he was appointed at the AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Africa’s longest-serving leader is still viewed with respect by many on the continent after he led Zimbabwe to independence, however, he is subject to travel bans in the European Union and US.

He was given a rare invitation to an EU-Africa summit in Brussels last year, but boycotted it after his wife was refused a visa.

Video: Mugabe celebrates 90th birthday

When he initially took power he was seen as promoting reconciliation, but controversial land reforms that forced out white farmers from 2000 onwards drew ire in the West.

Since then, he has increasingly been accused of human rights abuses and vote-rigging as his ZANU-PF party has clung on to power.

UNMEER Chief Hails AU Contribution to Ebola Fight, Calls for Continued Global Support

Friday, January 30th, 2015

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed

Yesterday , at a meeting of global stakeholders to review progress on the Ebola response, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) called on all leaders to maintain commitment until the goal of zero cases is reached.

At the United Nations – African Union Stakeholder Meeting on Ebola, being held as part of the 24th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed addressed government representatives, principals from regional bodies, and bilateral and civil society partners, thanking them for their support thus far in the fight to stop the Ebola outbreak, and urging them to keep up their efforts.

“The situation is still perilous. There is still Ebola in more than 25 of the 66 districts, counties and prefectures in the region,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed. “I ask you all to maintain support until the task is completed.”

To date, there have been 22,057 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease reported in the three most affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – with 8,795 deaths.

The outbreak is unprecedented in the world’s history, but so too has been the response, with over 70 nations, hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of people directly involved in the fight to stop the spread of Ebola. Ould Cheikh Ahmed specifically highlighted the role of the African Union, which offered to mobilize 1,000 health workers from around the continent to support the affected countries.

“The response efforts show that Africa has valuable assets that it can apply to support responses to outbreaks,” he said. “The epidemic has turned, and we are now beginning to see an overall decline in the number of new cases…Stopping this outbreak still requires significant additional efforts. “

On 21 January, the United Nations launched a new appeal of $1 billion to help fund the Ebola response through to June 2015. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said this will go a long way to supporting cross-border strategies, and integrated response and recovery efforts.

“Let us minimize the time needed to end the outbreak and the suffering that it causes,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed. “Let us revive the fabric of society. And let us learn and apply lessons so that it does not happen again.”

The purpose of the meeting was to convene a range of stakeholders working on the global and continental Ebola response, to review progress and make proposals to guide work going forward. Specifically, the meeting focused on proposals for the socio-economic recovery of the affected countries. A set of proposals will be presented to the Heads of State by the AUC Chairperson at the Summit tomorrow, and lead the way for the European Union High Level Conference on Ebola on 3 March.

At AU Summit, UN Secretary General assures African leaders of more support to end Ebola

Friday, January 30th, 2015



30 January 2015 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today assured African leaders gathered for a summit in Addis Ababa of the support of the United Nations in helping the countries affected by Ebola “build back stronger than ever,” while the head of the UN development agency tasked with leading the Organization’s recovery efforts urged the world to stay the course in aiding hard-hit West Africa.

“Ebola must be confronted as both a health crisis and a crisis that has stopped development in its tracks,” said UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark at a briefing she hosted in New York Thursday for UN Member States. “It is incumbent on us all to support the three countries make the serious development setbacks as short lived as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General, who had tasked UNDP with leading the initiatives of the UN system on Ebola-related recovery, addressed a roundtable on the Ebola outbreak on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit which opened today in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Lauding the AU for being on the frontlines of the Ebola response, Mr. Ban told the participants that: “We are now at a critical stage. Some may even call it a turning point.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the number of new Ebola cases recorded last week in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone fell below 100 for the first time in seven months, as it announced that the battle against the deadly virus has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.

The UN chief today reminded the world that “Ebola will not be gone from any country, until is gone from every country,” and that “success in the affected countries will also mean repairing the damage caused by Ebola.”

“Children need to go to school, farmers need to return to their fields, markets and businesses must reopen,” he added.

Saying he was “greatly encouraged by the solidarity shown by Africa –its Governments, businesses and people,” Mr. Ban wished every success in the AU’s efforts to defeat Ebola and help the affected countries build back stronger than ever. “I assure you of the United Nations’ support,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) reported that the Director of Operations for Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, visited Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to assess existing emergency coordination structure. There, he met with UNDP and UNMEER colleagues, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other response partners to discuss details of a potential intervention to enhance humanitarian response in the Ebola-hit countries.

UNMEER also said efforts were underway to re-open schools in Liberia next week.

“Preparation of school infection prevention and control kits to facilitate the safe reopening of more than 4,000 schools in Liberia began in advance of their opening scheduled for next week,” according to the Mission.


Ambassador Eddie Turay apologizes to President Ernest Koroma

Friday, January 30th, 2015




Subsequent to my appearance on the “Podium” programme on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, on 7th January 2015, I have concluded that it is necessary for me to issue this Press Release so as to address the apparent ambiguity and misunderstanding some of my comments on said programme have inadvertently caused.

In this connection, let me at the onset unequivocally register my unwavering support for overall government policy and the prodigious stewardship of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, on all matters, including the imposition of a ban on the use right hand vehicles.

I wish to also make it unambiguously clear that as an incumbent senior government official, I have steadfastly sought to uphold and defend all government policies, and with specific reference to the imposition on the use of right hand vehicles, I have been an ardent supporter and communicator of this policy to the sizeable Diaspora Sierra Leone community in the United Kingdom, where I serve.

In light of the two preceding declarations, I unreservedly apologize to His Excellency the President, the Government and people of Sierra Leone, for any appearance of deviation, real or otherwise, from the principles articulated therein as a consequence of my comments on the Podium.   Any such perceived deviation from the above, must be viewed as an honest attempt on my part (even if it was miscalculated) to suggest plausible means to augment the implementation of government policy, including the capture of strongly expressed views of the Diaspora Sierra Leone community in the United Kingdom.

Let me conclude by making it emphatically clear that I am not nor have I ever been opposed to the policy on the use of right hand vehicles.

Last, let me take this opportunity to thank the President copiously for his steady leadership, remarkable foresight and perseverance in the midst of the unprecedented challenges we continue to face as a nation.




Edward M. Turay

High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to the United Kingdom


28th January, 2015

Ebola will not be gone in any country until it is gone from every country

Friday, January 30th, 2015

david Nabarro 2

Speech by David Nabarro, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola

136th Executive Board Special Session on Ebola
25 January 2015

Mr Chairman, Your Excellencies,

Thank you very much indeed, and I’d like to thank Members of the Executive Board as well for the opportunity to be here and speaking with you today. I’d like to address my remarks to the people and members of government and partners who are from the countries touched by the Ebola outbreak. I’d like to acknowledge the presence of fellow keynote speaker here Rebecca Johnson, whom I met in Hastings, Sierra Leone, in December.

I’d like to acknowledge Member of the Executive Board from Liberia, MoH, thank you for your leadership, sir. And also I’d would like to acknowledge the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone who is sitting in the back, and also I believe representation of Guinea. Thank you for being here.

To Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, thank you for your extraordinary leadership and also for the opportunity to be here today. I would really like to appreciate the 24 / 7 hard work and commitment of officials from throughout WHO and the whole UN system as I start my remarks.

The Heads and staff from NGOs and other partner organizations, welcome, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, to ladies and gentlemen of the reporting press and to all colleagues engaged in this and other public health emergencies.

UN Secretary-General’s message

In this talk, I’m going to start by referring to a message that was sent yesterday to this meeting by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General and I’m then going to focus on the extraordinary number of organizations and professionals involved in the response, the changing response strategy, and future challenges.

“As we strive to end the outbreak, we must also draw the right lessons for the future.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

In the Secretary-General’s message to this Special Session, he says a number of important remarks, but I am just going to extract a few paragraphs: He says: “The people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been severely affected, and they have asked the world to come to their assistance.

A diverse coalition of governments, civil society organizations, development banks and philanthropic foundations continues to help the affected countries stop the spread of this cruel disease.

The United Nations system, combined with the strategic perspective of the World Health Organization, has had a central role in mobilizing and deploying funds and resources, through the essential short-term coordination provided by the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.

Thanks to national leadership and community action, backed by the material, human and financial support from the international community, the number of new cases is declining. But ending the outbreak will require sustained commitment from the global coalition of actors. The United Nations system – with technical leadership of the WHO – will continue to work closely with the affected governments and all partners in the global response to achieve this objective”.

The Secretary-General continues:

“As we strive to end the outbreak, we must also draw the right lessons for the future. Migration, urbanization, population growth and growing pressure on natural habitats mean that increasing numbers of people are exposed to animal-to-human transmission of disease.

Although the world has successfully addressed threats such as SARS and avian influenza, this latest – and largest ever – Ebola outbreak has highlighted weaknesses, not just in the fragile developing nations but also in the global institutional machinery for identifying and quickly neutralizing health hazards.

We must ensure that the UN system has the capacity to prepare for and respond to future outbreaks, and that healthcare systems around the world have the capacity to withstand such shocks.

“I count”, says the Secretary-General, “on the vision and expertise of the WHO Executive Board not only to consider the steps needed to end the transmission of Ebola in West Africa but to adopt policies and structures to prepare for future pandemics and outbreaks. I also urge United Nations Member States to ensure that this indispensable World Health Organization has the resources it needs to do its work. I wish you a constructive and fruitful meeting”.

The full text of the Secretary-General statement is available online, I’ll ask that it can be made accessible via the WHO website as well.

Now to be more personal about what I have seen and been involved in since I started working as the UN system’s Special Envoy on Ebola. I was asked to do this job by the WHO Director-General and the Secretary-General of the United Nations on August 8th last year. Some of you know that I have worked here in WHO in emergencies and also with the United Nations on pandemics, but for me this latest assignment have been the most challenging and difficult that I have ever had.

Endemic Ebola virus disease in the human population of any country would have extreme societal, economic and political consequences. So from my perspective all of us involved in this response must commit to ensuring that the disease is fully eliminated in human populations and exists only in its animal reservoirs.

And at the same time, better defences must be established against the re-emergence of all manner of health risks – Ebola Virus Disease and beyond. And research on vaccines and treatments will be particularly helpful in future – especially for reducing health worker infections. But in the meantime, it is basic public health techniques that must be adopted.

My experience to date tells me that, for responses to have their greatest chance of success, they must be strategic, strong and speedy, they must be based on pre-arranged roles and responsibilities and they must use already-established systems. It is really difficult to establish new ways of working from scratch in the middle of an emergency, and we found that to our cost I think, in this latest outbreak.

There are three other principles that I think are important:

  • people and their communities must be at the centre of the response – and they must own it;
  • secondly, national authorities should be directing the response with the help of intergovernmental bodies, and they should never feel that they are losing control of the response;
  • because a range of international actors will help when there is a crisis, coordination will be vital for all to have maximum impact. And because diseases do not respect borders, Member States should enable the response always to be implemented seamlessly across borders and boundaries.

From then to now: the current situation

Since early 2014, local community leaders, health workers, government officials and the national governments of affected countries have been leading the response to an expanding Ebola outbreak with unfailing support from international groups.

I would like – particularly – to mention non-governmental groups like Medecins Sans Frontieres, national Red Cross Societies who have been particularly prominent, but there are many other faith-based and secular groups who have quietly have been engaged for many months. The World Health Organization was involved in the response consistently from the start.

In August when it became clear that the outbreak was advancing rapidly within Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – and extending sporadically into other nations – the United Nations system drew on the WHO Roadmap to develop what we call the STEPP strategy which is described in your documents.

International assistance was stepped up

The Peace and Security Committee of the African Union initiated its response initiative AESOWA (eventually offering up to 1000 volunteers); the UN Secretary General called for the whole of the UN system to support the response and – with WHO – set up the Public Health Mission (that Margaret Chan mentioned) UNMEER. This was endorsed by the UN General Assembly at the end of September under the chairmanship of its President Sam Kutesa, Foreign Minister of Uganda, and deployed early in October.

Following an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council, under US chairmanship, many donor governments and the European Union offered extraordinary financial, material, human and political support.

There have been major commitments by many – I would like to mention some though I know it is risky because I am bound to leave many out – but I’d like to start with the African Union and ECOWAS, who were there right from the start, the World Bank and the African Development Bank, who took extraordinary initiatives way beyond their mandates, and then the United States, France and the United Kingdom, who took high risks, for major engagement strategies in the three countries.

Major assistance has come from the European Union, Germany, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Japan: many poor nations have also provided generous support that reflects extraordinary generosity given the other demands made on the resources at their disposal.

For many contributors, like China, this was their largest ever contribution to an international emergency. The Cuban Brigade was quickly dispatched bringing in more than 260 personnel. Philanthropic Foundations, especially the Paul Allen, Gates and Children’s Investment Fund Foundations, offered exceptional contributions too. The business sector mobilized to provide a wide range of support. The contributions of the UN Secretary-General Ebola Response Multi-Partners Trust Fund were appreciated.

To back up the pioneering and dangerous work of national responders, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network was fully mobilized.

Many teams of international medical personnel were recruited to help, major training programmes were initiated to encourage infection prevention and control, and special facilities for treating responders with Ebola (as well as for evacuating infected international personnel) were established. None of these were easy tasks. Overall it is an extraordinary response that has already involved more than 70 nations, hundreds of organizations, thousands of people and has cost at least $4 billion dollars to date.

And all of this has been achieved despite extensive restrictions on travel to and from the affected regions: we thank and pay tribute to the governments, companies and volunteer staff who have worked so hard to maintain air links throughout this period and to keep them safe.

The response has been carried out under the full gaze of national and international media, they have highlighted challenges, explored the complexities, identifying the trade-offs and enabling hundreds of millions of people throughout the world to be fully engaged in a health emergency, in the unfolding outbreak and in the response.

To encourage coordination of this multiple set of actors, the UN Secretary-General (in early September 2014) encouraged the establishment of a multi-partner Global Ebola Response Coalition. It just had its 15th weekly meeting and produced its report on the outlook for 2015 (on the UN Ebola Response website at

After 5 months of extraordinary and intense effort we now see that widespread changes in people’s behaviour, plus people’s better access to treatment and safer, dignified burials for all, have reduced risks of Ebola transmission and case numbers are declining.

But the situation remains perilous. Many communities are still reticent about being involved – they do not understand and are frightened of the outbreak: they do not trust those involved in the response.

Adjusting the response

The task of “getting to zero” requires a great deal of painstaking effort and really does mean careful detection work – building the confidence of the community, searching out people with the virus, caring for them and preventing them from passing on the disease to others.

And at the same time, its central services must be revived but it has to be done in ways that reduce the risks to workers and clients alike. Restarting education and basic health care in the context of an Ebola outbreak, even a declining one, is particularly challenging.

Members of the Executive Board and others who are engaged in this meeting,

I plead with you now to engage fully in the continuation of this strategy. This outbreak has not finished, it is very dangerous when we talk about it in the past tense. Although there are many less cases now than there were five months ago, as the Minister of Health of Liberia will testify, getting back, getting things working again, and getting to zero is going to be a hard and expensive, and human-resource intensive, task.

Please, stay engaged. Please contribute to the increasing number of flexible responses. Please help us to make sure that they are coordinated. Please let us adjust the response to the special conditions of urban areas like Monrovia, rural communities and border areas too.

Let’s always stay focused on the wellbeing of people who’ve got the disease, of their relatives and of the responders. Let us remember that hundreds of health workers have been seriously ill as a result of Ebola and too many have died. All people who have survived the disease, as well as their families, and relatives and orphans of those who have died, need to be able to access immediate and long-term support.

Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us do everything we can to avoid complacency. Let’s have a motto; “Ebola will not be gone in any country until it is gone from every country.”

The United Nations systems just completed its latest overview of needs and requirements, and it won’t surprise you to hear us saying that the whole UN system, including WHO, requires an extra $1 billion for 2015 for its role in ending the virus.

So, Mr Chair, Madame Director-General, on this extraordinary day, when we are looking at the conduct of the response and at the same time looking at the future, let us all recognise just what an extraordinary effort has been mounted by this world. How amazingly the different organizations and communities have dovetailed their work.

Let us recognize the leadership of the presidents of the affected countries, Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Alpha Condé of Guinea and also I.B. Keïta (Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta) of Mali, for what they themselves have managed to do.

Let us recognize the contribution of their people – particularly their health workers, and let’s make certain that for them, for those who died, for those who have been infected and survived, for all who suffered, we will now learn the lessons that are necessary.

Our objective should be that next time – and there will be a next time – we can do it so much better, with so much less cost and so much more resilience in the communities that are affected.

Thank you very much indeed.

Why is Boko Haram advancing in Nigeria ?

Friday, January 30th, 2015
Nigeria’s military decline: Boko Haram is capitalising on the rot at the core of Nigeria’s army

by Eleanor Whitehead

Feb 01, 2015

Wounded eagles

Goodluck Jonathan and John Kerry

In a small hospital in the Diffa region of south-east Niger, a roomful of Nigerian soldiers wait patiently for medical staff to change their bandages. Their bullet wounds seep blood onto the floor of the whitewashed chamber. The air is heavy with the smell of disinfectant.
These are just a handful of the roughly 300 Nigerian forces that retreated across the border in November 2014, after militant Islamist group Boko Haram attacked the town of Malam Fatori in Nigeria’s north-east. Now, lying three to a bed in a foreign country, they are silent and defeated. A stronger image for the hopelessness hanging over the nation’s army could scarcely exist.
Fifteen years ago, Nigeria’s military was regarded as one of the most proficient in Africa and served as a stabilising force throughout the region. But today corruption and a lack of resources limit its ability to respond to the growing threat posed by Boko Haram, which wants to establish a caliphate in Nigeria. Mutinies and retreats like this one have become common among poorly-armed soldiers scared for their lives.
The army’s strength dates back to Nigeria’s 1967-1970 civil war. As the government fought to prevent Biafra’s secession, forces grew from around 10,500 at the start of the war to 250,000 by 1970, according to, a military portal.
Subsequently, a series of military governments, large oil revenues and ambitions to be a regional power have all been cited as factors contributing to the country’s military strength. This culminated in successful interventions in brutal civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Understanding exactly when the decline began is difficult, even for the government. Its proud military culture means those on the inside are unwilling to expose the army’s weaknesses. But it was the deployment to Mali in 2013—as part of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali organised by the Economic Community of West African States—that first exposed their problems to the world.
Nigeria was one of several west African countries that sent 3,000 soldiers to help regain control of Mali’s north from Islamic extremists. “When the Nigerians said they’d send troops, we all breathed a sigh of relief,” recalled one Western diplomat based in Abuja, the capital, who requested anonymity. “But they turned up—quite literally, in some cases—without boots or guns. That was a real wake-up call.”
Since then, the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east has shone further light on the military’s problems. “It is unarguable now that there is a rotten core within the army,” the diplomat said.
Nigeria’s army faces a litany of problems and its forces are spread too thin fighting them. Although about 100,000 serve in the military, its priorities are divided between fighting Islamist insurgents in the north, controlling militancy and oil theft in the southern Niger Delta, and calming tribal conflict in the country’s middle-belt, said Kayode Akindele of the pan-African investment management firm 46 Parallels.
These competing interests have limited deployment in the north-east to about 15,000 troops, Mr Akindele said. This may not be significantly more than the number of rebels fighting for Boko Haram, according to Jacob Zenn, an analyst for the Jamestown Foundation, a US-based think-tank.
Weapons are another major constraint. Maintenance is poor and commanders report that supplies of functioning equipment have plummeted since the 1990s. Until 2014 the air force had no helicopters equipped for night operations, Mr Akindele said.
On paper, funding is not a problem. In 2013 Nigeria spent $2.4 billion on defence, an almost four-fold increase since 2005, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But paltry oversight of military spending means funds designed to buy hardware, or pay soldiers’ salaries, are misappropriated.
Officers in charge choose what to do with the money, a second Western diplomat told Africa in Fact. “In the north, soldiers are not getting paid or fed and are not receiving ammunition. That’s a by-product of corruption.”
Additionally, Boko Haram’s hit-and-run tactics are hard for a standard military force to counter. “The army is built for face operations [traditional front-line warfare], not for this type of guerrilla warfare,” Mr Akindele said. Nigerian soldiers also lack their jihadist enemies’ fierce ideological motivation.
Morale among Nigerian troops is at rock bottom: the press has reported several rebellions in the past year, and armed forces regularly retreat across borders to escape the better-equipped and more determined insurgents.
“Every time there is a fight on the frontier, we see them here,” said a doctor tending to wounded Nigerian soldiers in Niger’s Diffa region. In August 2014 nearly 500 troops withdrew into Cameroon, according to Cameroonian military reports.
Ethnic and religious sympathies, as well as personal interests, appear to have bred some collusion with Boko Haram. In August independent Australian hostage negotiator Stephen Davis, who attempted to secure the Chibok girls’ release, accused Nigeria’s former army chief of staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, of funding the sect. The Nigerian government has charged various soldiers and commanders with desertion, mutiny or involvement with the terrorists. In September a military court in Abuja convicted 12 soldiers of mutiny and attempted murder after they opened fire on their commander in north-eastern Borno state. They were sentenced to death.
London-based watchdog Amnesty International has accused Nigerian forces of multiple human rights abuses, ranging from the arbitrary arrest and detention of the wives and family of senior Boko Haram members, to the murder of civilians. “The same communities are now being terrorised in turn by Boko Haram and the military alike,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s secretary-general, said in a report released in August 2014.
Western nations, including the UK and US, say these allegations limit the military assistance they can provide Nigeria. In response, the Nigerian government argues that it has been forced to turn to non-traditional partners, such as Russia, to procure weapons, according to media reports.
Although many of these behaviour and resource problems have plagued the Nigerian army for several years, they have only emerged with the attention that Boko Haram has brought. To curb the risk of rebellion, leaders have intermittently withheld funds from the armed forces. For example, military leader Ibrahim Babangida cut funds to the air force after the failure of a rumoured coup in 1985 involving planned aerial bombardments, according to Mr Akindele.
When former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo became head of the new civilian government in 1999, he sacked hundreds of officers who had benefited politically from the previous military regimes, Mr Akindele recalled. “A lot of capacity was taken out in that one fell swoop, which, you could argue, they have not been able to replace,” he said.
The government and armed forces are slowly trying to reform. The military trials of recent months are “unprecedented in Nigerian history”, Mr Akindele pointed out. In January 2014, the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, replaced the leaders of the air force, army and navy, as well as the heads of the federal police force and the State Security Service, the country’s secret police. This major overhaul of the military high command suggests that the government is “looking for people they are confident are telling the truth”, the diplomat said.
Sadly, no quick solution to Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency looks likely. But it will certainly require much more than a military response. Part of the terrorists’ motivation lies in protest against the official neglect of Nigeria’s desperately poor north-east, which shows little sign of abating under the current leadership. The most likely solution to the insurgency would be a government that delivers, is transparent and performs proper oversight of military spending.
For many, though, it is too late. “In Nigeria, when I hear guns I am afraid, because I know…the army will not protect me,” said Rekia Abakar, a middle-aged refugee who fled fighting in Borno state and has settled in Niger with her children. “Here I feel better, because I am protected.”
Eleanor Whitehead is a reporter at the Financial Times, focusing on business, policy and development. She has travelled extensively and has a particular interest in sub-Saharan African consumer markets. Her work is also published inBusiness Day, Forbes andThe Independent.

Military takeovers in Africa: When will the AU bare its teeth?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

by Brian Klaas

Feb 01, 2015

Coup decay

Ousted Burkina Faso leader Blaise Compaoré

It was late 1987 when Blaise Compaoré became president of Burkina Faso in a coup d’état. Michael Jackson was atop the charts with his album “Bad” and the Berlin Wall would stand for another two years.
Twenty-seven years later, Mr Compaoré lost power the same way he had taken it. Burkina Faso’s military hijacked a wave of popular protest and toppled the long-time strongman from his Ouagadougou throne on November 1st 2014. Mr Compaoré’s convoy of tinted-window sport-utility vehicles snaked south-west to Côte d’Ivoire, following the path to exile trampled by so many post-independence African leaders chased from office at the barrel of a gun.
As news spread of the departure of “Beau Blaise”, as he was known, euphoric celebrations filled the streets. But in the blur of the following days’ hangover, another realisation set in: who had taken his place? Had Burkina Faso traded one bad government for a worse one?
So long as the military remains in power—or the military at least retains the post of prime minister—the answer is yes. Burkina Faso’s recent coup, like all illegal takeovers, is a disaster for the country. Zapping decades of dictatorship may appeal to Africans desperate for a lightning strike of political change after protracted stagnation. Unfortunately, the damage inflicted by a coup d’état in a single day almost always takes years, sometimes generations, to repair.
The average putsch throws national economies into recession for three full years, according to coup expert and political scientist Jay Ulfelder, former director of the CIA’s Political Instability Task Force. On top of the drop in growth rates, illegal regime change often prompts international isolation, a severe drop in foreign investment, and the loss of international aid that is often crucial to funding social support programmes.
Prior to Madagascar’s 2009 coup, for example, the government relied on international donors to cover 40% of its bills, according to its 2008 budget. After the takeover, a coordinated isolation campaign yanked that money away from Madagascar—eliminating $4 out of every $10 from the government’s planned expenditures. The country faced total quarantine from the global stage—even though the military handed control back to a civilian (albeit unelected) almost immediately.
The African Union also suspended Madagascar for almost five years. During that period essential donors such as the US and France cut off bilateral aid, and the World Bank closed its multilateral aid tap.
The damage persists more than five years later, as Madagascar’s growth rate—above 7% in 2008, according to World Bank figures—has still not come close to its pre-coup levels, only reaching 2.1% in 2013.
Madagascar is not alone on the continent. While governments are overthrown everywhere in the developing world, Africa is uniquely afflicted.
A coup d’état is an unconstitutional transfer of power originating from within the state, usually involving the military. This is in contrast to a rebellion or civil war, which involves groups of fighters that are distinctly outside the state apparatus. Between 1960 and 2013, 386 alleged, planned, failed and successful coups d’état disrupted the African continent—an average of more than seven per year, according to the Center for Systemic Peace, a non-profit think-tank based just outside Washington, DC.
Power-hungry presidents have sometimes pointed to “alleged” and “planned” coups against their regimes as a pretext to crack down on internal opposition. For example, in 1991 Tunisia’s ruthless strongman, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fabricated a plot by Islamists and a few hundred military officers that he viewed as major threats. He used the pretext of this conspiracy to jail and torture hundreds of men from both rival groups. As a result, accurate counting of coups that includes “alleged” and “planned” attempts is problematic.
Leaving aside these take-over attempts, in the 54 years since most of Africa became independent, 85 successful coups, including the recent one in Burkina Faso, have removed the ruling regime—an average of 1.6 per year since 1960.
Moreover, the absolute numbers are high relative to other regions. The Center for Systemic Peace reports that Africa has been home to 53% of all coups d’état in the world—a distinctly disproportionate share.
So we know that takeovers happen in Africa with alarming frequency. But have the trends changed over time?
Throughout the first three decades of African independence, “successful” coups took place at almost metronomic intervals: 20 in the 1960s, 19 in the 1970s and 20 in the 1980s. During the wave of democratisation in the 1990s, fewer governments (14) were overthrown, but military takeovers still persisted as a common way for regimes in Africa to rise to power.
Illegal takeovers have declined in the new millennium with just seven “successful” coups. But they may be making a comeback as militaries have taken over five governments in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010: Burkina Faso in 2014; Egypt, 2013; Guinea-Bissau, 2012; Mali, 2012; and Niger, 2010. In addition to these clear-cut examples, the Arab spring’s unconstitutional transfers of power demonstrate the sometimes murky distinctions between coups and revolutions. The 2011 transfer of power in Egypt is rarely called a coup, but this classification is debatable because Egypt’s military retained de facto authority. The Libyan case is far clearer and was certainly not a coup. The regime was toppled by outside intervention and a series of militias that were not part of the state apparatus.
Regardless of their frequency or how they are counted, one major change has made it less tempting for soldiers to seize power in Africa: the international community, at the urging of the African Union, is taking a much firmer stance against regimes that arrive in power by unconstitutional means.
Until 1997 the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had a policy of non-interference in the affairs of member states. After all, long-standing incumbents had written the rules and were not eager to have a supranational body dictate their internal affairs.
That precedent began to change when the army deposed the president of Sierra Leone in May 1997. The OAU’s secretary-general, Salim Ahmed Salim, condemned the coup and demanded that the international community repudiate the subsequent government. They did: Nigerian troops of the west African intervention force, Ecomog, drove out the rebels and paved the way for the reinstatement of the deposed president, with about 100 casualties, according to press reports.
Three years later, the continent’s leaders signed the Constitutive Act of the African Union—a replacement for the Organisation of African Unity. The Act’s article 30 censures illegal takeovers and establishes that “Governments which shall come to power through unconstitutional means shall not be allowed to participate in the activities of the Union.”
This was a major change from the previous policy of non-intervention. It compelled the African Union to suspend the memberships of Madagascar (2009), Mali (2012), Egypt (2013) and the Central African Republic (2013, still in effect), owing to their unconstitutional transfers of power. A strict reading of the African Union’s article 30 should have led to the suspension of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia in 2011 as the new governments were certainly not put in place using constitutional means. But, if they had been barred, these countries would have each earned reinstatement (at least initially) by their attempts to hold elections.
Coup leaders can now be certain of the immediate costs: perpetrating a coup is a nearly sure-fire way to lose membership in the club of African states (though alarmingly, Burkina Faso and its coup leader and new prime minister, Yacouba Isaac Zida, a lieutenant-colonel, seem to be getting away with it). Worse, it also is likely to lead to a complete loss of bilateral assistance and international recognition (again, Burkina Faso may be a troubling exception). The spoils of many African governments are still alluring but that attraction is diminished when aid dollars are shut off completely and diplomatic ties are severed.
As a result, the battlefield in the aftermath of coups has now changed; it is no longer about securing non-intervention after unconstitutional takeovers. Instead, African leaders that seize power illegally are now playing a branding game, trying to label their palace revolutions as “popular insurrections” aiming to “restore democracy” rather than military takeovers.
This tendency is as old as African coups themselves. As Ruth First, a South African coup scholar, put it in 1970, “It is as though, in the army books and regulations by which the soldiers were drilled, there is an entry: Coups, justifications for; and beside it, the felicitous phrases that coup-makers repeat by rote.” But at least back then, everyone knew it was a farce and did not take the coup justifications seriously.
That marketing was on display in Burkina Faso in November 2014 when soldiers deposed a civilian leader who had won four disputed elections. They welcomed the protestors’ labelling the event the “Black spring”, hoping to attract the goodwill that was generated by the Arab spring. Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets calling for the ousting of Mr Compaoré. But as soon as the military deposed a civilian and made a soldier the prime minister, the event became a textbook coup. Now, they are trying to package it as a “civilian transition”. A man in uniform, however, would not be guiding a genuine civilian changeover.
Therein lies the paradox: many people in Burkina Faso may be elated at the demise of the Compaoré regime, just as many people in Egypt were recently delighted to see General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian military overthrow Muhammad Morsi in 2013. But both events were steps backward, not forward. On a continent that has been rife with military takeovers since independence, the time has come to intensify, not lessen, the pressure on regimes that seize power in unconstitutional ways.
The African Union threatened Burkina Faso with suspension if it did not return to civilian rule swiftly, but backed off when the military agreed to cede power to a civilian-led transition. That is too lenient. This regime change is unconstitutional and contravenes article 30, which binds the AU to immediately suspend Burkina Faso until it holds fresh elections. This “civilian transition” is a sham.
If the AU wants to stop coups it must respect its own rules, which deem military takeovers unacceptable transgressions, even if the deposed government was unpopular.
Until the African Union proves it has teeth, military takeovers will persist on the continent. Soldiers were once tantalised by coups that propelled them to power without any negative consequences. Today, despite more penalties, soldiers are still tempted. Why? Because as in Burkina Faso, the AU is looking the other way.
If unconstitutional takeovers are to be made aberrations of the past, armies that depose governments must face isolation, sanctions and loss of aid until clean and fair elections are held. In Burkina Faso, that message has been lost and the African Union has been duped.
Brian Klaas us a Claredon scholar at Oxford University. His research focuses on democracy building in Africa through improving elections and preventing violent conflict. He has also worked with Somali-Americans as the policy director for the campaign of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. 

President buoys Sierra Leone Army

Friday, January 30th, 2015


30 January 2015

The Chief of Defence Staff, Senior Officers, Officers, Men and Women of the RSLAF, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Twenty-two months ago on 25th March 2013, I bade you farewell as you left our shores to join AMISOM in Somalia. Today I am here again welcoming you back to our beloved country Sierra Leone. I indicated in my address then that you were embarking on a journey of charitable gallantry, a journey to showcase how a transformed nation and its transformed military could be a force for democracy, peace and healing.

I want to reaffirm that you have shown the world that you are a transformed military capable of contributing to world peace and security. You are indeed the pride of our nation.
We are aware of the challenges you faced in Somalia. But those challenges were neither the making of the RSLAF nor my government. We prepared LEOBATT 2 to replace you in record time but the sudden outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease forestalled that plan.

As your Commander-In-Chief, I personally empathized with you. I therefore wrote letters to the African Union, the United States of America and United Kingdom Governments to do everything humanly possible to bring you home.

Fortunately you are back home but unfortunately LEOBATT 2 would not replace you because of the Ebola outbreak. But victory against this evil disease is in sight; and the RSLAF has been very integral to this coming victory. This is why I want to use this moment to salute the RSLAF. You are brave warriors, and with you by our side we shall always be assured of victory, peace, security and healing. On behalf of the nation, and in my own name, I thank you, I salute you, I honor you.

We remain committed and united in the fight against terrorism of human terrorists and viral terrorists like Ebola. And we will win; we will emerge victorious and sustain ourselves as symbols of global peace, recovery, and growth.

You have contributed immensely to the promotion of peace in Somalia. We know that the country still has numerous security challenges, but you have been central to the peace enjoyed today in most of Somalia. We will stay true to the memory of your gallant contribution by continuing to support the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and United Nations Support Office to AMISOM (UNSOA) for peace to take its firm root in that country.

I salute you, my gallant soldiers, ensuring peace and healing have always been huge challenges, but this country shall always honor your selfless dedication and devotion to duty. We shall honor your loyalty to the democratic order, for all over the world today the celebrated soldier is one who is loyal to the democratic government of the people. You are celebrated today because you have shown that fidelity, and your commitment.

As disciplined and seasoned fighters, you have indeed come to face another war, which I think is fiercer than the one you experienced in Somalia. RSLAF, particularly LEOBATT 2, National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), British Forces (BRITFOR), United Nations Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER), China, the United States of America, ECOWAS, the African Union, your sister security forces and other international bodies have done very well and are very committed to breaking the chain of further spread of the Ebola Virus disease. Let me at this point extend my deepest appreciation to the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Nigeria, ECOWAS, the African Union, United Nations, and other International partners for their invaluable support in the fight against the dreaded Ebola virus.

Victory against this evil disease is in sight, and as your Commander-in-Chief, I shall continue to lead this fight until we kick the last of this evil virus out of our country. I am energized because I know my gallant soldiers are with me; I salute you again, I salute our brave and committed health workers. I should reiterate that LEOBATT 2 has done very well by exhibiting professionalism in fighting the Ebola Virus Disease. They have shown great resilience, and I will do everything possible to ensure that they go on Peace Support Operations. They will surely make us proud again if given the opportunity.

RSLAF is professional and becoming very capable by the day. You are making this nation proud. That is why I will continue to support you and improve your welfare. I remain committed to providing decent accommodation that befits your status. The Gondama Barracks in Bo is almost complete. Wilberforce project is far advanced whilst the procurement process for Kambia Barracks is at the concluding stages and the contractor will be announced shortly. As your Commander-In-Chief, I will ensure sustainable terms and Conditions of Service.

Concluding, let me announce to all Sierra Leone, to all the world, that LEOBATT 1 are men of genius and honour. You deserve the honour and respect of the people of this country, you are great, you are loyal, you are gallant.

God Bless You, God Bless Sierra Leone.

©SHCU 2015

State House Freetown's photo.
State House Freetown's photo.
State House Freetown's photo.
State House Freetown's photo.
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