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Archive for June 19th, 2013

Nigeria: Displaced Fulani families in Birnin Gwari district due to bandit attacks

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2013

Displaced Fulani families take shelter in a school in Kaduna‘s Birnin Gwari district

KANO,  – Incessant deadly attacks on Fulani settlements and villages in northern Nigeria by armed bandits – made up partly of disgruntled Fulani who themselves have lost cattle – are threatening herds and upping tensions in northern Nigeria.

Gangs of heavily armed bandits prowl the vast Dajin Rugu forest which spans several hundred square kilometres across Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states and Niger State in central Nigeria, according to Fulani leaders.

In February 2012 alone, over 23,000 Fulani herders poured into Cameroon from Nigeria’s northeastern state of Taraba, following deadly clashes with farming communities, according to the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), an umbrella association of Fulani herders. The gangs steal herds, loot and burn homes, and assault women in the attacks, according to Fulani leaders.

Many of the armed bandits are Fulanis who have joined gangs involved in cross-border armed robbery and cattle-rustling in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal and Mali.

“Twenty years of conflict has bred criminals among the Fulani who have lost their cattle. All they know is herding, and without cattle, life is devoid of meaning,” said Saleh Bayeri, national secretary of MACBAN. “So they turn to highway robbery and raiding the herds of their kinsmen whom they begrudge for not coming to their aid in their predicament.”

“Ugly trend”

Thousands of herders in northern Nigeria’s Kaduna State have fled their homes since 8 June 2013 following raids by cattle rustlers over May and June that killed at least 16 people, according to officials and local vigilantes. On 13 June armed bandits launched a pre-dawn raid on Kwasa-Kwasa village in Birnin Gwari District of Kaduna State, killing five people, including two soldiers and three local vigilantes guarding the village against possible attacks, Adamu Sarkin-Noma, head of a vigilante group in the village, told IRIN.

“This ugly trend is compounding the dilemma of the Fulani herders who are caught in a vicious cycle of conflict, with farmers over-grazing land that has forced thousands of nomads to flee into neighbouring Cameroon, along with their cattle,” Bayeri said.

The level of violence – both between these gangs and between Fulani nomads and farmers – has been stepped up over recent years as guns proliferate.

Timeline of recent raids
13 June 2013: Bandits raid Kwasa-Kwasa village in Birnin Gwari District of Kaduna State, killing five people, including two soldiers and three local vigilantes, Adamu Sarkin-Noma, head of a vigilante group in the village, told IRIN.
8 June 2013: Bandits attack three villages in Birnin Gwari District, Kaduna State, killing seven residents and carting away over 300 cattle , according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). The attacks displaced 3,000 residents who are now sheltering in a primary school, NEMA’s northwest Nigeria spokesperson, Musa Illallah, told IRIN.
19 May 2013: Around 2,000 residents of six nomadic villages in Faskari District, Katsina State, abandoned their homes after raids by gunmen in which four people were killed and scores of cattle were stolen in the latest of a series of raids by cattle rustlers, according to Shehu Hammayidi, a community leader from Unguwar Tsamiya, a nomadic village in Katsina State.
5 January 2013: Thirty gunmen on motorcycles gunned down seven people in raids on Makera and Usi villages in Birnin-Magaji District, Zamfara State, in retaliation for killings of their gang members, according to government officials.
12 June 2012: Scores of motorcycle-riding bandits shot dead 23 residents of Dangulbi village in Dansadau District, Zamfara State, in an early morning raid which the authorities described as a reprisal killing for the deaths of suspected bandits by the village’s vigilante group.
14 October 2012: Following the killing of 20 people in an attack on Dogon Dawa village in Birnin Gwari District by bandits (in retaliation for killings of suspected bandits by local vigilantes), the Kaduna State government deployed a military battalion to seek out bandits hiding in the forest.

Some of the gangs have sponsors who supply them with arms in return for a share of the spoils, Ali Kwara, a local hunter in northern Nigeria involved in combating armed robbery and cattle rustling, told IRIN. Weapons are readily available on the black market in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram (BH) leader Abubakar Shekau has, in several video messages, made reference to the ethno-religious killings in Plateau State, including the attacks on Fulani nomads, and has threatened to avenge the killings of Muslims in the region. Although BH has carried out bombings on churches and some Christian neighbourhoods in Jos (Plateau’s capital), none was linked to the nomads-farmers conflict.

However, BH claimed rersponsibility for the 8 July 2012 attack on a funeral of some 50 Christians killed in reprisal attacks by suspected Fulani nomads the day before in Gashis District, Plateau State. Many people, including the Nigerian government dismissed BH claims as cheap propaganda.

Vigilante gangs

Villagers in the affected areas, particularly Zamfara and Kaduna states, have formed vigilante gangs to combat the bandits. Kwara runs a vigilante outfit that hunts down bandits across the north alongside the police. “Looking at the sophisticated guns the Fulani bandits are using in their operations it is clear they have sponsors and some of them are among the elite in society, including MACBAN,” he told IRIN.

According to Kwara, much of the cattle rustling is controlled and funded by a cartel including chiefs, politicians and lawyers who can provide legal aid to the bandits in court when arrested.

Bayeri agrees with Kwara. “It is a fact that in some areas Fulani leaders are complicit. This is why we want to be involved in the government effort at combating this menace by exposing them.”

Kwara also accused police of supplying weapons to the bandits in return for money. “On many occasions armed robbers we arrested mentioned the names of their arms suppliers, including policemen who we reported to the police authorities.”

But some of the vigilante groups have also been accused of carrying out extra-judicial killings of suspected bandits, which in turn, lead to reprisal killings.

Call for joint military, police unit

More coordinated efforts by the local authorities and security forces is needed to try to temper the violence, said Kaduna State information commissioner Saidu Adamu. “A military battalion is grossly inadequate to patrol the vast forest. We are in touch with Zamfara, Katsina and Niger state governments to forge a common front in dealing with this security threat,” he told IRIN.

Shehu Hammayidi, a community leader from Unguwar Tsamiya, a village in Faskari District, Katsina State, urged the Nigerian government to establish a special joint military and police unit on cattle rustling as an effective approach to quelling the violence.

But any efforts that do not involve MACBAN will not work, warned Bayeri, saying that only it can mobilize community surveillance to track bandits on the scale needed.

“These criminals are a transnational syndicate of renegade Fulani nomads who know the forest very well, and no amount of military deployment can check their activities without the involvement of MACBAN,” he said.

MACBAN knows who some of the criminals are and is willing to expose them, he said, but has been rebuffed by local authorities whom, he says, mistakenly blame all of MACBAN for being complicit in the violence.

aa/aj/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Foreign Minister Eide critical of new Russian bill against gay “propaganda”

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2013

“I am concerned by the fact that the Russian State Duma recently passed a bill that prohibits the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” aimed at under-18s. This is yet another example of respect for minorities being eroded in Eastern Europe,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

The bill was first presented to the State Duma in January. Before it can become law, it must be passed by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

“I am concerned that the bill, in practice, criminalises the provision of information about homosexuality and openness about gay relationships. It contributes to the marginalisation of sexual minorities in Russia, and in specific cases it may come into conflict with fundamental human rights. Human rights apply to all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Mr Eide.

Developments in Russia must be viewed in the context of the situation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community (LGBT) in Eastern Europe in general. Similar bills were presented in Lithuania in 2010 and in Ukraine in 2012. The Council of Europe has adopted clear recommendations to member states on measures to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and on ensuring the freedom of association and of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and organisations.

“As a member of the Council of Europe, Russia has an obligation to respect sexual minorities. Norway has raised this issue directly with the Russian authorities and in meetings of the Council of Europe,” Mr Eide said.

Norway also provides financial support for strengthening the Council of Europe’s efforts to protect the rights of sexual minorities.

 

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The service made led to an increase in promiscuity

Posted by African Press International on June 19, 2013

The service made led to an increase in promiscuity

KAMPALA,  – A mobile phone-based health programme designed to improve access to sexual health information and boost safe sex in rural central Uganda had the opposite effect, according to the findings of a Yale University study published in May.

The programme, designed by Google and the Grameen Foundation‘s AppLab and provided free of charge by mobile phone firm MTN, allowed users in 60 central Ugandan villages to text questions on sexual and reproductive health to a server and receive pre-prepared responses from a database.

“Quantitative survey results allow us to reject the hypothesis that improving access to information would increase knowledge and shift behaviour to less risky sexual activities. In fact, we find that the service led to an increase in promiscuity and no shift in perception of norms,” says the study, a partnership between Yale University, NGO Innovations for Poverty Action, Google, the Grameen Foundation and the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology.

“We find no increase in health knowledge regarding HIV transmission or contraception methods and no change in attitudes. Rather than seeing reductions in risky sexual behaviour, we actually find higher incidence of risky sexual behaviour and more infidelity, although more abstinence as well.”

The assumption was that access to HIV knowledge changes attitudes towards safer sexual practices, but the study found that the platform instead increased infidelity from 12 to 27 percent among participants.

Possible reasons for the unexpected results include the fact that participants did not use the service in a sustained manner after the initial marketing period; many complained that the quality of the search algorithm in the local Luganda language was unsatisfactory; and the service sometimes returned inappropriate answers. In addition, respondents said they had no funds to get tested and seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, which hampered their ability to act on advice the service provided.

Complaints

Some women complained that they found it hard to stand up to their husbands, and those who demanded safe practices such as condom use or HIV testing were often denied sex – and refusal to have sex with a spouse on the basis of information from the service sometimes led men to have extra-marital affairs. “Once he wants sex, he means it, yet the woman is dodging him around [because she became aware of the risks], so he decides to get another one to satisfy his desires,” said one study participant.

“The findings of the study suggest that we should think very carefully about the impact of new information-based interventions and test them carefully… As the study shows, results can be unexpected and interventions should be carefully vetted,” Pia Rafller, one of the authors of the report at Yale University’s department of political science and a partner of Innovations for Poverty in Action, told IRIN via email.

“The findings do show that the reality is more complicated than at times we like to think, that information can have a different impact on different types of people, and that information-based campaigns need to be very carefully designed and tested in order to yield the desired effects,” she added.

She noted that the net effect of the intervention was not necessarily negative, pointing to results that showed an increase in abstinence and an improved ability by participants to assess their level of risk.

A number of studies have found that improved knowledge is linked with safer sexual practices, but some researchers have found that better HIV-related knowledge does not always lead to safer sexual practices.

“I don’t think the findings suggest we should abandon such campaigns in the future. They suggest we need to design and test them carefully and that there can be positive and negative effects for different people at the same time,” Raffler said.

so/kr/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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