News & Current Affairs

September 18, 2008

UN admits Darfur troop shortfall

UN admits Darfur troop shortfall

A Unamid peacekeeper talks to civilians in Darfur (UN image from 2006)

Unamid had hoped to deploy 80% of 26,000 mandated troops by 2009

Only half the troops intended for a joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force for the Sudanese region of Darfur will be deployed by 2009, the UN says.

Alain Le Roy, the new head of UN peacekeeping, said only 13,000 of the 26,000 troops authorized for the Unamid force would arrive by the end of 2008.

Unamid took over peacekeeping duties in the war-ravaged Darfur province last January from a 7,000-strong AU force.

It had planned to have more than 20,000 staff deployed by the start of 2009.

But by last month it had only 8,100 troops and fewer than 2,000 police on the ground.

In July, Unamid’s commander, Nigerian Gen Martin Agwai, expressed optimism that 80% of the force could be deployed by year’s end. That optimism was echoed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But Mr Le Roy said: “I think 80% sadly has been, as far as I know so far, a bit optimistic.”

He said the arrival of Thai and Nepalese units in Darfur had been delayed, adding that he expected an additional 3,000 troops and police to be on the ground by the end of November, primarily from Ethiopia and Egypt.

In July, seven Unamid peacekeepers were killed and 22 injured when they were attacked by heavily armed militia in northern Darfur, prompting the UN to move its non-essential staff to locations outside the country.

Some 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur since 2003, while more than two million people have fled their homes, the UN estimates.

Sudan’s government denies mobilising Arab Janjaweed militias to attack black African civilians in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003.

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August 15, 2008

Nigeria cedes Bakassi to Cameroon

Nigeria cedes Bakassi to Cameroon

Bakassi villagers

Thousands of people have moved from their homes in Bakassi

Nigeria has handed over the potentially oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, bringing an end to a long-standing dispute over the territory.

The handover ceremony was moved from the peninsula’s main town to Calabar in Nigeria amid security concerns.

Over the past year about 50 people have been killed in clashes.

The majority of the local population considers itself Nigerian, but an international court ruled in favor of Cameroon in 2002.

There are unconfirmed reports that militants have attacked a boat traveling to Abana, the main town on the Bakassi peninsula.

Unresolved pain at Bakassi handover

Nigerian security sources said between three and seven people were killed when militants ambushed the boat as it made its way from Cameroon.

Correspondents say security had been beefed up ahead of the ceremony.

On the Cameroonian side, there have been celebrations as people moved back into the peninsula.

In recent years, at least 100,000 people have moved from the peninsula to Nigeria, local leaders say.

The International Court of Justice ruling was based on an early 19th century colonial agreement between Britain and Germany.

Nigeria challenged the ruling, but finally agreed to relinquish the territory two years ago.

“The gains made in adhering to the rule of law may outweigh the painful losses of ancestral homes,” said the head of the Nigerian delegation at the ceremony, Attorney General Mike Aondoakaa.

Part of the territory was handed over to Cameroon two years ago.

Revellers

A spokesman for Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua said the process was “painful… for everyone including the president”, but added that Nigeria had made “a commitment to the international community and we have a responsibility to keep it”.

Map

Cameroon said the final handover would mark “the end of a crisis”.

On the beaches of the northern part of the island there were parties and celebrations as Cameroonians prepared to go into the last section to be turned over to them.

“We are going straight to the place, and we’re going to be happy,” one reveller told in Bakassi.

But in Nigeria there is still bitterness about the deal.

“The government has abandoned its duties,” said Kayode Fasitere, the lawyer acting for some displaced from Bakassi who sought to have the handover delayed.

The transfer of Bakassi had been described by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as “a model for negotiated settlements of border disputes”.

A group of Bakassi leaders have been seeking compensation from the Nigerian government.

About 90% of the area’s population, estimated at up to 300,000, is made up of Nigerian fishermen.

About 30,000 of the residents have moved out to an area in Cross Rivers State set aside for them, but it has no access to the sea, campaigners say.

Bakassi has a rich fishing culture and people say the handover has destroyed their way of life.

The Bakassi peninsula juts out into the Gulf of Guinea close to the Niger Delta.

Its offshore waters are thought to contain substantial oil fields – untapped because of the border dispute – which Nigeria and Cameroon will now work together to explore.

August 8, 2008

Nigerian advises against 86 wives

Nigerian advises against 86 wives

Baba Mohammed Bello Abubakar

Mr Bello Abubakar says he does not go and find women, they come to him

Nigerian Mohammed Bello Abubakar, 84, has advised other men not to follow his example and marry 86 women.

The former teacher and Muslim preacher, who lives in Niger State with his wives and at least 170 children, says he is able to cope only with the help of God.

“A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them,” he told the BBC.

He says his wives have sought him out because of his reputation as a healer.

“I don’t go looking for them, they come to me. I will consider the fact that God has asked me to do it and I will just marry them.”

But such claims have alienated the Islamic authorities in Nigeria, who have branded his family a cult.

Ganiat Bello Abubakar
When you marry a man with 86 wives you know he knows how to look after them
Wife Ganiat Bello Abubakar

Most Muslim scholars agree that a man is allowed to have four wives, as long as he can treat them equally.

But Mr Bello Abubakar says there is no punishment stated in the Koran for having more than four wives.

“To my understanding the Koran does not place a limit and it is up to what your own power, your own endowment and ability allows,” he says.

“God did not say what the punishment should be for a man who has more than four wives, but he was specific about the punishment for fornication and adultery.”

‘Order from God’

As Mr Bello Abubakar emerged from his compound to speak to the BBC, his wives and children broke out into a praise song.

Mohammed Bello Abubakar of Bida and some of his wives

Some of Mr Bello Abubakar’s wives are younger than some of his children

Most of his wives are less than a quarter of his age – and many are younger than some of his own children.

The wives the BBC spoke to say they met Mr Bello Abubakar when they went to him to seek help for various illnesses, which they say he cured.

“As soon as I met him the headache was gone,” says Sharifat Bello Abubakar, who was 25 at the time and Mr Bello Abubakar 74.

“God told me it was time to be his wife. Praise be to God I am his wife now.”

Ganiat Mohammed Bello has been married to the man everyone calls “Baba” for 20 years.

When she was in secondary school her mother took her for a consultation with Mr Bello Abubakar and he proposed afterwards.

“I said I couldn’t marry an older man, but he said it was directly an order from God,” she says.

She married another man but they divorced and she returned to Mr Bello Abubakar.

“I am now the happiest woman on earth. When you marry a man with 86 wives you know he knows how to look after them,” she said.

No work

Mr Bello Abubakar and his wives do not work and he has no visible means of supporting such a large family.

Inside "Baba's" house

Many of the wives live three to a room, some have seven children

He refuses to say how he makes enough money to pay for the huge cost of feeding and clothing so many people.

Every mealtime they cook three 12kg bags of rice which all adds up to $915 (£457) every day.

“It’s all from God,” he says.

Other residents of Bida, the village where he lives in the northern Nigerian state, say they do not know how he supports the family.

According to one of his wives, Mr Bello Abubakar sometimes asks his children to go and beg for 200 naira ($1.69, £0.87), which if they all did so would bring in about $290 (£149).

Most of his wives live in a squalid, unfinished house in Bida; others live in his house in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

He refuses to allow any of his family or other devotees to take medicine and says he does not believe that malaria exists.

Hafsat Bello Abubakar
They were sick and we told God and God said their time has come
Wife Hafsat Bello Abubakar

“As you sit here if you have any illness I can see it and just remove it,” he says.

But not everyone can be cured and one of his wives, Hafsat Bello Mohammed, says two of her children have died.

“They were sick and we told God and God said their time has come.”

She says that most of the wives see Mr Bello Abubakar as next in line from the Prophet Muhammad.

Indeed, he claims the Prophet Muhammad speaks to him personally and gives detailed descriptions of his experiences.

It is a serious claim for a Muslim to make.

“This is heresy, he is a heretic,” says Ustaz Abubakar Siddique, an imam of Abuja’s Central Mosque.

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