MIYA HELPING CRANES FLY HIGH

When the draw for the group phase of the African FIFA World Cup� qualifiers was made, Uganda was given little chance of qualifying for Russia.

Farouk Miya though, will have none of it and dismisses any suggestions that he is the star player out of hand. There is no star player in our team. That makes our team so strong. It is the unity that binds us and moulds us into a team, he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview.

Ugandan fans might see it differently though. Drawn against former World Cup finalists Togo in the second round of the qualifiers, Uganda did much of the hard work in the first leg in Lome, winning 1-0. A near capacity crowd of 40,000 packed the Mandela Stadium in the Ugandan capital of Kampala for the return leg. And again the Cranes emerged victorious, this time 3-0.

Having qualified for the group phase, Uganda was drawn into Group E, where they faced Ghana, Egypt and Congo. As the bottom seed in the group, not many gave the side a chance. We were the underdogs. But that does not mean we did not believe in our chance, said Miya.

Their opening match in Tamale, saw the side return to east Africa with a more-than-credible goalless draw against the Black Stars. Some five weeks later, Congo travelled to Uganda, only to be beaten 1-0. Thus, after two matches played, Uganda has four points � second only to Egypt who have six. Ghana has just a point, while Congo is yet to get off the mark.

Astonishingly, Uganda is the only African side not to have conceded a single goal thus far in their World Cup qualifying campaign. Their record reads: played four, won three, drawn one, lost none; goals scored: five, goals conceded none. And of those five goals, all but one were scored by Miya, which in turn is why fans are giving him much of the credit.

Confidence and belief

“As a team, we grew stronger when we beat Togo. They have already played at the World Cup and we gained in confidence when we advanced at their expense. Even when we were drawn into the same group as Egypt and Ghana, not to forget Congo, we still believed that we could go through to the World Cup.

The 19-year-old, who plays his club football in Belgium for Standard Liege, whom he joined from Vipers SC, says qualifying for the World Cup would be huge � not only for the team, but for the whole country. We have the support of the whole of Uganda and we so much want to go to Russia for our fans. Qualifying for the World Cup would be a tremendous achievement.

With back-to-back fixtures coming up against the leading Pharaohs, Miya is aware that the team will have to be at their best. The task will presumably not have been made any easier by the fact that coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic left the country a few weeks before the matches to join South African Premier League club Orlando Pirates. In his place, Moses Basena and Fred Kajoba will lead the team into battle against Egypt as interim coaches.

New direction for Cranes

Miya does not believe the change-over will have a detrimental effect on the team. Both coaches know the players and know how we play. I do not think there will be much of a difference and I certainly do not think that the team will be weaker as a result of our coach leaving.

Like his team-mates, Miya is indebted to the Serbian Sredojevic, for leading the team to the CAF Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year. It was the first time the side qualified since 1978 and provided the young � but experienced � striker a chance to play at the continental level for the first time.

That already was like a dream come true. It was a great feeling to be able to play there. We lost at the finals in Gabon against Ghana and Egypt, so having drawn with the Black Stars in the qualifiers shows that we are stronger now than we were then.

Miya, who is known as ‘Muyizi Tasubwa’ (A hunter who cannot miss), scored Uganda’s only goal at the finals in Gabon, in a 1-1 draw against Mali. His goals in the World Cup qualifiers could take the team to an even bigger stage: The World Cup.

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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Confessions of a Boko Haram Defector

MAIDUGURI/WASHINGTON � The way Bana Umar tells it, VOA and other broadcasters helped convince him to leave Boko Haram.

Until the night of August 18, Umar was a fighter for the Islamist radical group, living at a camp in the vast Sambisa Forest, one of the group’s long-time strongholds in northeastern Nigeria.

The experience was certainly exciting. Umar says he served as a bodyguard for a commander, Abu Geidam, who he describes as very close to Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s best known leader.

And he saw action across Nigeria’s Borno State. “I have been to war about six times,” he says. “I fought in Wulari. I fought in Bita. I participated in the fighting around Chad. I was in the group that repelled Nigerian soldiers whenever they ventured into Sambisa.”

But his conscience was just as active as his gun. When asked if what Boko Haram does is good and right, he says it is not, because the group attacks people “mercilessly and unjustly,” and in his view, manipulates Islam to its own violent ends.

Radio prompted him to make an escape plan. Umar says he heard promises from the Nigerian chief of army staff, General Tukur Buratai, that defectors from Boko Haram would be welcomed, not punished. And he heard how Boko Haram’s deadly ambushes and suicide bombings were received in the outside world.

“Many of us listened to radio stations like BBC and VOA,” he says. “I listened to these radio stations frequently to the extent that when I laid down to sleep I would be thinking of what I heard. I realized that all our activities were evil. We killed. We stole. We dispossessed people of their properties in the name of religion. But what we are doing is not religion. Finally I got fed up with the group.”

Umar is now in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, after fleeing the Boko Haram camp. He described his experiences this week in an interview with VOA Hausa Service reporter Haruna Dauda. His comments, translated from Hausa, provide insight into how the militants recruit and retain fighters and are managing to survive in the face of a multi-nation offensive.

Persuaded to join, scared to leave

Umar is 27 years old and hails from Banki, a town on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Until 2014, he made his living as a cell phone repairman and burning CDs.

But that year, Boko Haram overran the town. Umar says his friend, Abu Mujaheed, lured him into becoming a member of the group. All Nigerians are infidels, and only the followers of Abubakar Shekau are true Muslims, Mujaheed said. Join and you can fight to kill all the infidels.

Umar joined, but says he quickly got scared and wanted to run. He didn’t, he says, because Abu Mujaheed told him he would be killed if he tried to escape.

Asked this week if that was true, Umar said there is no doubt about it. “Even mere rumor or allegation that someone is contemplating leaving the group would lead to the killing of the person,” he says.

He says Boko Haram also discouraged defectors by telling them General Buratai’s promise of amnesty for any escapee was a ruse.

There are more than 1,000 Boko Haram members who would like to leave the group, Umar says. “There are many people that were abducted from their home towns who don’t know the way back to their places of origin. They [Boko Haram leaders] preach to such people not to leave, as if it was divine for them to be there.”

He adds: “Even some original members of the sect now want to leave because soldiers have intensified the war against them unlike in the past.”

All Boko Haram members must take new names when they join the group, and Bana Umar’s name was changed to Abu Mustapha. He says he became a fighter, not a commander. He said the militants were living in the Jimiya section of the Sambisa Forest, which, according to him, was the headquarters for Boko Haram.

At one time, he implies, living conditions were decent. In 2014, Boko Haram ruled large parts of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, and could operate almost at will.

Now, he says, “Life is difficult. It is not what it used to be in the past. Food is difficult for everyone.”

Some militants grow their own food, he says. “But even when you farm, your leader could take all your farm produce from you in the name of religion. You are always told that your leader has rights over all you have and yourself,” he says.

Boko Haram leaders also use religion as a prod to violence, he says.

“They use religion to tell us to kill with the promise of going to paradise. Leaders quote profusely from the Quran and the sayings of the prophet [Mohammed] to support their arguments. As they explain to make us understand their own point of view as the absolute truth, we must keep saying Allah is great, Allah is great. Then we would go out to kill,” he says.

A call to ‘repent’

Boko Haram has killed at least 20,000 people across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger since it launched its insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Attacks and bombings continue, even though the joint task force sponsored by those countries and Benin has stripped Boko Haram of nearly all the territory it once controlled, which leader Abubakar Shekau said would form the base of a “caliphate.”

With the weight of the group’s deeds bearing down on him, Bana Umar felt a growing need to flee. He didn’t act, however, until someone else encouraged him to believe what General Buratai promised.

He escaped on the night of August 18 with that person — the wife of his commander, Abu Geidam. On the 20th, they turned themselves in at a Nigerian army base in Maiduguri.

Asked what he would say to Boko Haram fighters still in the Sambisa Forest, Umar says: “I am calling them to repent, especially those who want to come out but are afraid… Let people know that soldiers would not do anything to whoever voluntarily repents. I came out and no one harms me. Not one single soldier lays his hand on me.”

Nigerian officials are currently debriefing Bana Umar, as they do with all Boko Haram members who leave the group voluntarily. When they finish, he will be reintegrated into Nigerian society, although not in his hometown of Banki. He will be taken to another location where he isn’t known, to make a fresh start.

Source: Voice of America

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Afghanistan redux, mind your language, and Angola’s First Family

President Joao Lourenco – can he escape “the family”?

It’s no surprise, Angola’s next president is going to be Joao Lourenco. The big question is can the party loyalist and former general usher in any real change in Africa’s third largest economy after his electoral victory? Angola has a per capita GDP of $6,800. But, run as a “crony petro-state”, its social indicators are appalling and economy in free-fall. Lourenco has promised to crack down on corruption. Although not known for personally having sticky fingers, he is part of the system. He is the hand-picked successor to José Eduardo dos Santos who has ruled for close to four decades and will remain head of the ruling MPLA party. Dos Santos’s billionaire daughter Isabel heads Sonangol, the state oil company, and his son José Filomeno runs the country’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund. Lourenco is generally depicted as the candidate for continuity. Yet he will need resources to build his power base, and so the transition may have real impact on the dos Santos family’s business interests. The Financial Times suggests the showdown could come with Isabel, whose job “puts her in control of much state revenue”. And the family could fight back. Rebecca Engebretsen writes in African Arguments that President Filipe Nyusi was elected in Mozambique also on an anti-corruption platform, but has since been troubled by leaks connecting him to prominent fraud cases during his time as a minister. What is clear is that change is unlikely to come overnight in Angola.

Cameroon’s deepening language divide

On a recent visit to Yaoundé, an IRIN journalist was rash enough, over lunch in a modest eatery, to raise Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis with the head of an NGO that works with the country’s youth. When the man suggested the main problem lay not between the restive Anglophone minority and French-speaking majority, but between the Anglophones and President Paul Biya, a women at a neighboring table, who turned out to work in Biya’s office, kicked up an almighty fuss and seemed set to have the man arrested. So sensitive is this 10-month-old crisis which has paralysed education, led to strikes in two English-speaking parts of the country, and seen dozens of activists and even bishops detained pending trial in military courts, that it cannot be discussed in public. Yet it continues to fester. At least six schools were set on fire over the past week, reportedly for failing to stick to a declared education strike. Earlier in the year, markets and government buildings were targeted. The government blames emerging separatist groups. Dialogue is moribund. According the International Crisis Group’s latest report on the issue, “ahead of presidential elections next year, the resurgence of the Anglophone problem could bring instability.” The report added that small secessionist groups that emerged this year are taking advantage of the situation to radicalise the population with support from part of the Anglophone diaspora. While the risk of partition of the country is low, the risk of a resurgence of the problem in the form of armed violence is high, as some groups are now advocating that approach.”

A man. A plan. Afghanistan

“It was 2 or 3 in the morning. I was woken up by gunfire. It was so loud. There were people screaming. My children were scared. My youngest was only a few months old. We all ran down to the basement. It was the safest place in the house. It was terrifying.” So begins Doctor Marzia Salam Yaftali in this BBC Outlook feature linked to US President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops will remain in Afghanistan for the long haul. Doctor Yaftali is describing the situation the last time the Taliban tried to retake their northern former stronghold of Kunduz. It was 2015 and she was the gynaecologist in the city’s last public hospital. Those weeks under siege were an extreme time, but the danger of a repeat and more is still real. Two years on the Taliban have made more gains in other parts of the country and half the country is now back under their control. Trump’s new Afghan policy was criticised as more of the same and light on strategy and detail. But if it means Yaftali and her patients are safer, they won’t complain, and Washington’s renewed pressure on Pakistan is going down well in Kabul too.

In Islamic State’s crosshairs

So-called Islamic State’s loss of territory does not mean it has been defeated, but instead presents several new challenges, argues Megan Stewart in an article for Sustainable Security. When rebels control territory and civilians, they move from being roving bandits to stationary bandits, “incentivised to provide some form of governance”. The rise of IS was linked in part to the Iraqi state’s inability to deliver services. So without IS, “people’s needs might not only go underserved, triggering a humanitarian crisis,” says Stewart, but the governance vacuum could be filled by “equally ruthless and dangerous actors” such as al-Qaeda. She argues that civilians may also increasingly become targets, either as victims of deliberate acts of terror, or “collateral damage” as IS resorts to guerrilla tactics. “In sum, as IS transitions from controlling territory to a more clandestine network, civilians’ lives and livelihoods remain in the crosshairs. Weak rebel organisations and rebel organisations that lack territorial control are more likely to engage in terrorism and indiscriminate violence,” she notes.

Did you miss it?

The death toll in Sierra Leone has risen to approximately 500 from recent mudslides. The event is tragic, but also characteristic – rapidly urbanising areas in West Africa and beyond all face similar vulnerabilities as Freetown. Equally characteristic has been the response, from sporadic relief to political tours of affected sites. How do we move beyond short-term intervention and mitigate everyday risks? What should the priorities be for reducing the effects of both small- and large-scale disasters? This week we explored the lessons to be learned for disaster risk reduction. Researchers from Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge have a few findings and suggestions for collaboration between governments, humanitarian actors, and the civil society.

wp/am/ag/oa

TOP PHOTO: Isabel dos Santos – Africa’s richest woman

isabel.jpg News Aid and Policy Conflict Human Rights Politics and Economics Cities This week’s humanitarian cheat sheet IRIN GENEVA Angola Cameroon Sierra Leone Afghanistan Global Iraq Syria

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Uncategorized

Afghanistan redux, mind your language, and Angola’s First Family

President Joao Lourenco – can he escape “the family”?

It’s no surprise, Angola’s next president is going to be Joao Lourenco. The big question is can the party loyalist and former general usher in any real change in Africa’s third largest economy? Angola has a per capita GDP of $6,800. But, run as a “crony petro-state”, its social indicators are appalling and economy in free-fall. Lourenco has promised to crack down on corruption. Although not known for personally having sticky fingers, he is part of the system. He is the hand-picked successor to José Eduardo dos Santos who has ruled for close to four decades and will remain head of the ruling MPLA party. Dos Santos’s billionaire daughter Isabel heads Sonangol, the state oil company, and his son José Filomeno runs the country’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund. Lourenco is generally depicted as the candidate for continuity. Yet he will need resources to build his power base, and so the transition may have real impact on dos Santos business interests. The Financial Times suggests the showdown could come with Isabel, whose job “puts her in control of much state revenue”. And the family could fight back. Rebecca Engebretsen writes in African Arguments that Filipe Nyusi was elected in Mozambique on an anti-corruption platform, but has since been troubled by leaks connecting him to prominent fraud cases during his time as a minister. What is clear is that change is unlikely to come overnight in Angola.

Cameroon’s deepening language divide

On a recent visit to Yaoundé, an IRIN journalist was rash enough, over lunch in a modest eatery, to raise Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis with the head of an NGO that works with the country’s youth. When the man suggested the main problem lay not between the restive Anglophone minority and French-speaking majority, but between the Anglophones and President Paul Biya, a women at a neighboring table, who turned out to work in Biya’s office, kicked up an almighty fuss and seemed set to have the man arrested. So sensitive is this 10-month-old crisis which has paralysed education, led to strikes in two English-speaking parts of the country, and seen dozens of activists and even bishops detained pending trial in military courts, that it cannot be discussed in public. Yet it continues to fester. At least six schools were set on fire over the past week, reportedly for failing to stick to a declared education strike. Earlier in the year, markets and government buildings were targeted. The government blames emerging separatist groups. Dialogue is moribund. According the International Crisis Group’s latest report on the issue, “ahead of presidential elections next year, the resurgence of the Anglophone problem could bring instability.” The report added that small secessionist groups that emerged this year are taking advantage of the situation to radicalise the population with support from part of the Anglophone diaspora. While the risk of partition of the country is low, the risk of a resurgence of the problem in the form of armed violence is high, as some groups are now advocating that approach.”

A man. A plan. Afghanistan

“It was 2 or 3 in the morning. I was woken up by gunfire. It was so loud. There were people screaming. My children were scared. My youngest was only a few months old. We all ran down to the basement. It was the safest place in the house. It was terrifying.” So begins Doctor Marzia Salam Yaftali in this BBC Outlook feature linked to US President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops will remain in Afghanistan for the long haul. Doctor Yaftali is describing the situation the last time the Taliban tried to retake their northern former stronghold of Kunduz. It was 2015 and she was the gynaecologist in the city’s last public hospital. Those weeks under siege were an extreme time, but the danger of a repeat and more is still real. Two years on the Taliban have made more gains in other parts of the country and half the country is now back under their control. Trump’s new Afghan policy was criticised as more of the same and light on strategy and detail. But if it means Yaftali and her patients are safer, they won’t complain, and Washington’s renewed pressure on Pakistan is going down well in Kabul too.
 

In Islamic State’s crosshairs

So-called Islamic State’s loss of territory does not mean it has been defeated, but instead presents several new challenges, argues Megan Stewart in an article for Sustainable Security. When rebels control territory and civilians, they move from being roving bandits to stationary bandits, “incentivised to provide some form of governance”. The rise of IS was linked in part to the Iraqi state’s inability to deliver services. So without IS, “people’s needs might not only go underserved, triggering a humanitarian crisis,” says Stewart, but the governance vacuum could be filled by “equally ruthless and dangerous actors” such as al-Qaeda. She argues that civilians may also increasingly become targets, either as victims of deliberate acts of terror, or “collateral damage” as IS resorts to guerrilla tactics. “In sum, as IS transitions from controlling territory to a more clandestine network, civilians’ lives and livelihoods remain in the crosshairs. Weak rebel organisations and rebel organisations that lack territorial control are more likely to engage in terrorism and indiscriminate violence.”

Did you miss it?

 The death toll in Sierra Leone has risen to approximately 500 from recent mudslides. The event is tragic, but also characteristic – rapidly urbanising areas in West Africa and beyond all face similar vulnerabilities as Freetown. Equally characteristic has been the response, from sporadic relief to political tours of affected sites. How do we move beyond short-term intervention and mitigate everyday risks? What should the priorities be for reducing the effects of both small- and large-scale disasters? This week we explored the lessons to be learned for disaster risk reduction. Researchers from Urban Africa: Risk Knowledge have a few findings and suggestions for collaboration between governments, humanitarian actors, and the civil society.

wp/am/ag/oa

TOP PHOTO: Isabel dos Santos – Africa’s richest woman

isabel.jpg News Aid and Policy Conflict Human Rights Politics and Economics Cities This week’s humanitarian cheat sheet IRIN GENEVA Angola Cameroon Sierra Leone Afghanistan Global Iraq Syria

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Uncategorized

Lake Chad Basin: integrating gender dimensions to fight terrorism

Lake Chad Basin: integrating gender dimensions to fight terrorism. Image: UNODC18 August 2017 – Terrorism continues to pose a major threat to peace and security in Central Africa, in particular the Lake Chad Basin region. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram commit grave violations of human rights through killings, abductions, early and forced marriage, rape, and sexual slavery. Women and girls are increasingly used as suicide bombers, messengers, spies, smugglers, recruiters, providers of funds.

With a view to assisting States in strengthening the effectiveness of their criminal justice responses to terrorism and ensuring that women’s rights are respected amid growing terrorism threats, UNODC and the
Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently organized a sub-regional workshop on “Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism” in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

In line with the
United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (UNGCTS), the three-day workshop sought to equip participants with a deeper understanding of how men and women may experience counter-terrorism laws and practices differently.

Speaking about challenges, a women’s rights activist from Niger said: “Boko Haram has been very effective at using existing patriarchal structures and gender roles to its advantage,” adding: “It is high time that governments catch up and understand how applying gender perspective can assist their fight against terrorism.”

On that point, Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights said: “Gender integration means asking the right questions: what are women’s experiences of terrorism and under counter-terrorism responses?” This included asking what justice and remedies meant to them, and designing programmes like reparation and rehabilitation.

“It is critical taking into account women’s specificities when deciding for or against detention and on conditions of detention; as well as when identifying programmes such as de-radicalization or disengagement, to direct women associated with or victims of Boko Haram to,” she added.

Throughout the workshop, participants and UNODC experts also discussed the ways to move forward in addressing sexual violence committed by terrorism groups.

Hadiza Abba from UNODC Country Office in Nigeria said: “Terrorism investigations have to be conducted in a gender sensitive manner. Investigating sexual violence by terrorist groups requires expertise on interviewing women and girl victims, and undertaking measures to protect them, which may be lacking in investigation teams specialized on counter-terrorism.”

She also drew participants’ attention to the need to look beyond counter-terrorism legislation when handling cases of sexual and gender based violence by Boko Haram.

Participating in the workshop were representatives of criminal justice institutions, ministries and civil society organizations of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Representatives from the African Union also attended the event, exchanging information about their respective experiences through working groups.

UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch’s work in Central Africa includes strengthening legislative and policy frameworks, enhancing knowledge and skills to investigate and prosecute cases, as well as mechanisms for regional and international cooperation.

The workshop, funded by Japan, is a part of UNODC’s capacity building support initiatives for Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. It aligns with the Office’s previous training sessions related to gender equality among law enforcement and justice authorities in the region. It therefore affirms UNODC’s willingness to strengthen its efforts towards gender mainstreaming into its substantive work in West and Central Africa.

Further information:

UNODC and Terrorism Prevention in West and Central Africa

UNODC Training Module on Human Rights and Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism

UNODC Sahel Programme

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