Benin + 14 more

West Africa: Humanitarian situation report 28 Dec 2007

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Situation Report
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SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS

- Four French tourists killed in Mauritania

- An anti-tank mine exploded in southern Niger

- The Niger government warns against sabotage acts

- Hostages detained by rebels are to be released on 28 December

- Mali and Guinea make efforts to bring durable solutions to border conflict

- Agricultural production decrease in Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal

- Disarmament launched in Côte d'Ivoire

- Avian flu detected in Benin

- Future opening of an OHCHR office in West Africa

- Dear cost of living cause violent protests in Senegal

- Nigerian Senate threatens to overturn the Bakassi accord

- Ghana Flash Appeal to assist flood affected people is funded at 51%, while Burkina Faso's appeal is only at 3.1%

- 2008 west Africa CAP is launched on 18 December 2007

1- SOCIO-POLITICAL AND SECURITY SITUATION

Insecurity in Mauritania: four French Tourists killed in Aleg

Four French tourists were killed and another one seriously injured on 24 December near Aleg, 250 km east of Mauritania's capital Nouakchott. The killing was reportedly committed by three people (including two Salafists reportedly linked to Al Qaeda) who were said to have been last seen near the Mauritania-Senegal border. Two among the runaways were previously arrested in 2006 for their belonging to the Algerian Salafist group for the predication and the combat (GSPC), which has been ever since re-baptized the Al Qaeda branch in the Islamic Maghreb (BAQMI).

Five people have also been arrested in Mauritania since the attack, including Mohamed Elmoustapha Ould Abdel Kader, known as "Abou Elghassem", who had also been arrested in 2006 for his belonging to a terrorist group. He reportedly hosted the assailants and provided them with the vehicle that was used to undertake the attack. Mauritanian, Senegalese and Malian authorities have deployed maximum means to find the runaways. But according to Malian authorities, the search will not be easy as Mali shares a 2000 km-long border with Mauritania, going from Kayes to the boundaries of the Sahara Desert.

According to the media, four Mauritanian military were killed on 27 December and their vehicle kidnapped by an unidentified armed group near El-Ghallawiya, some 700 kilometres north of Nouakchott. The assailants who targeted the vehicle of the military garrison of El-Ghallawiya also took away the weapon mounted on the vehicle. The media say assailants could be members of GSPC who led an armed attack against a military base in north-eastern Mauritania in 2005, killing 15 soldiers and injuring 17 others.

Insecurity in Niger: an anti-tank mine causes death in Maradi

An anti-tank mine exploded on 10 December near l'Université Libre of Maradi in southern Niger, killing one person and injuring two others. The mine exploded not far from the centre of Maradi when a small truck transporting food items and passengers ran over it. The truck was wrecked by the explosion According to the Governor of the region who confirmed the accident to UN System (UNICEF, WFP and OCHA) the injured were immediately taken to the regional hospital of Maradi. A psychosis prevails among the populations. Since the day the accident occurred, patrols were planned by security and defence forces. The police regional direction addressed a request of CFA 2,629,000 to the UN system for organising the patrols.

On 1 December, Niger authorities warned populations in northern Niger against sabotage and terrorism acts planned by Tuareg rebels. According to the Niger minister of Interior and Security, the "Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice" (MNJ), a rebel group very active in the north since February planned to infiltrate urban centres in order to undertake sabotage acts. The climate is very tense in the north, and peaceful demonstrations were held in some towns in the region to protest against mine usage and rebel-related insecurity, according to public radio and television. A 10 kg anti-tank was reportedly defused by chance on 22 November in an important fuel depot in Dosso, 140 km south of Niamey. The government asked the army to better secure strategic sites and reinforce checks on the road. In addition, security at the capital's airport was reinforced, according to the media.

End of November, President Mamadou Tanja prolonged for another three months the "state of warning" that reinforce the powers of the army in the conflict zone. According to a press release published by the Niger ministry of defence, seven civilians would have been killed on 11 December by Nigerien soldiers in an military blunder, after clashes between rebels and an army unit near Tiguidit, 80 km south east of Agadez.

A group of hostages expected to be released in Mali

A group of hostages detained since late August in northern Mali by an armed group said to be under the rule of the Tuareg rebel chief Ibrahim Ag Bahanga will be freed on Friday 28 December following an agreement obtained on Wednesday. In a communiqué published on 26 December, the Presidency of the Republic stated that such a happy outcome is the fruit of efforts made by the Malian Government, assisted by friend and brother countries.

The hostages will be handed over by an Algerian delegation in an official ceremony due to be held in Tinzaouatène, in north-eastern area of Kidal. Another group of hostages is also expected to be handed over by Libya in the coming days or months. The hostages that are to be released on Friday are part of some 50 people kidnapped end of August in the area of Tinzaouatène. Algeria that is assisting in the mediation first secured a peace agreement signed between ex-Tuareg rebels and Malian authorities in July 2006 in Algiers.

Mali and Guinea joint efforts to solve border conflict

Following the incidents that opposed on 6 November people from the border village of Siradiouba (Mali) and those of Dalakan in Mandiana (Guinea) and that made five deaths including a gendarme and 13 injured, Malian and Guinean experts from the joint technical commission for the materialisation of the border met in the Malian capital Bamako to exchange on means and ways to determine the border. At present, it is only marked off by a watercourse. Similarly, The Guinean minister of Interior and Security visited Bamako on 23 and 24 November to hold a meeting with officials in the ministries in charge of border issues in the two countries. At the meeting they recommended the justice system in both countries to pursue people who committed crimes at the border and their accomplices. They also demanded that security forces be given adequate communication means. The Malian and Guinean Primes ministers saluted the efforts made by ministers in charge of border issues for a durable solution of the conflict.

The Nigerian Senate threatens to overturn the Bakassi agreement

The Nigerian senate called for a review of the 2006 agreement in which Nigeria agreed to transfer ownership of the disputed Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon. The resolution issued by the senate on 22 November questioned the validity of the agreement saying that the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, failed to bring the treaty before the national assembly for ratification. Since independence, the two nations have contested the 2,300-kilometre border from Lake Chad to the Bakassi Peninsula. Both countries have also claimed the rights to the oil-rich maritime area near the peninsula until the ruling in 2003 by the International Court of Justice decided that it too belonged to Cameroon. The two countries signed a final agreement on the hand-over in May 2007, and Nigeria is set to give the remaining 18 percent of Bakassi it controls to Cameroon by August 2008. On 21 November, 21 Cameroonian military were killed by unknown assailants.

High cost of living triggers violent protests in Senegal.

On 21 November, young street vendors poured into the streets of Senegal's capital Dakar, protesting a move by Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade to force them off Dakar's streets in an effort to improve traffic flow Demonstrators set fire to cars and shattered windshields, destroyed traffic lights, and pillaged public buildings. Police responded with tear gas and arrested around 200 people. The same day, members of Senegal's 18 unions took to the streets in a previously planned and authorised march protesting the high cost of living. Union representatives who demanded a reduction in food and housing prices, an increase in salaries, and support for struggling businesses saw their march banned at the last minute by local authorities, which led to clashes with the police. Senegal has not seen such violent protests since President Wade came on power in 2000.

MAP - Niger: Floods and Insecurity Incidents since September 2007 (as of 13 Dec 2007)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.