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Conflicts

Transitional Justice In Tunisia – A Painful but Necessary Step Forward

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Recent public hearings of  saw a painful period of collective introspection for the country’s people.

Tales of humiliations, torture, and rape committed over a near-60 year period—starting at around the time of Tunisia’s independence from France—were broadcast in eight live public hearing sessions from November 2016 to March 2017.

According to Refic Hodzic of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), transitional justice processes generally take place in polarized contexts, in which there is resistance to change.

This has proven true in Tunisia, where the TDC and its chair have been the target of attacks by political and media leaders, mainly those linked to the old regime, over their operating costs and financial management.

Some have also criticized the choice of victims in the public hearings, arguing that the majority are Islamist activists, though, given that Islamists were the main oppressed group under the old secular regime, their over-representation here makes sense.

The hearings are the only publicly visible component of the commission, which has received 62,641 cases to date. It was established following the Tunisian revolution, which led to the removal of long-standing president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and initiated the wider Arab Spring.

Tunisia was unique among Arab nations in seeing a peaceful transition to a democratic system.

Six years into this process, Tunisia has successfully written a new constitution, held two rounds of free and fair legislative elections, and democratically elected a president. It is now following the lead of other countries who have gone through major political upheavals.

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Based on investigations, testimony-gathering, and archival research, truth commissions were instrumental in the successful transitional periods of countries such as Argentina, Peru, and South Africa.

The TDC will produce a final report covering the period from 1955-2013, during which the successive oppressive administrations of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali turned Tunisia into a police state under one-party-rule.

The regimes imposed routine restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, and association, and relied heavily on intimidation, arbitrary arrests, beatings, torture, residential restrictions, and travel controls, alongside systemic corruption and economic marginalization.

Among the many women who spoke at the recent hearings was Latifa Matmati. Although her husband Kamal Matmati was killed in 1991, she only learned of his fate in 2011. For 20 years, she brought clothes to the police station where she believed he was held captive; for 20 years, the police did nothing to stop her.

Sami Brahim, meanwhile, told of his experience of abuse and torture while in jail: “All the prisoners were stripped, the young and the elderly. For an entire week, everyone was kept naked.”

He said that he was ready to forgive his torturers, but that forgiveness must be accompanied by an explanation of why he was subjected to these activities.

After giving the floor to the victims, the TDC does indeed plan to have torturers testify, to explain the mechanisms that fueled the repression.

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The hearings were an eye-opening experience for many Tunisians who didn’t know such abuses were taking place. Under the old regimes, information was tightly controlled and only those affected or linked to the victims were aware of what was going on.

According to Salwa El Gantri, ICTJ’s Head of Office in Tunisia, it is “difficult to make those who were never victims, who never had any links to victims, understand victims’ suffering and victims’ rights.”

The public hearings’ main purpose is thus to ensure those detached to hear the truth directly from the victims.
Despite millions tuning in via television, radio, and social media, it is still too early to assess the real impact on Tunisian society.

Beyond a widely shared sense of high emotion, the reactions have been diverse. While most Tunisians appreciated learning about the abuses directly from their victims, some have argued that it was the wrong time for the hearings to occur, as Tunisia faces more pressing issues, such as a stagnating economy, high corruption, and continuous terrorist attacks and other security threats.

While no one can deny the urgency of the various challenges Tunisia is facing and will continue to face for the next few years, compromise on the full implementation of the transitional justice is only likely to diminish efforts to prevent human rights abuses from repeating.

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Successful democratic transitions require deep change to occur on multiple fronts and concurrently.
As its work continues it will be of paramount importance for the TDC to assess the effectiveness of its operations and make any necessary improvements.

It should also keep up and even increase its communication efforts. This will help restore and maintain its credibility and relevance among the public, and challenge negative perceptions on the transitional justice process, as well as reform and democratization more broadly.

The successful creation of the pillars of the democratic transition was a remarkable achievement in a region crippled by an acute lack of individual freedoms, unemployment, corruption, war, and terrorism. To stay on track, ambitious reforms will be necessary.

Continued progress on transitional justice can help in this process, by improving the institutions that were once complicit in the abuses, primarily the police and judiciary.

If nothing else, the public hearings have successfully initiated a constructive national debate on these issues. They have also made some degree of contribution to repairing the population’s trust in justice and the ongoing transition.

Following his public testimony, Sami Brahim reported receiving thousands of letters and messages of support, while one of the TDC commissioners, Ibtihel Abdellatif, described the hearings in terms of a seismic event—“not an earthquake that destroys, but an earthquake that builds.”

This article was originally published by the Global Observatory of the International Peace Institute.

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Conflicts

Wagner Group linked to African prisoner recruitment

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The US has warned African countries against working with the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary outfit, due to its role in recruiting prisoners, including Africans, to fight in Ukraine. Last week, the US sanctioned people and entities linked to the Wagner Group for their involvement in this recruitment.

In response, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, sent a letter to US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen proposing to open a branch in the US. Despite the letter’s apparent trolling, the US is determined to continue its sanctions in order to “degrade Moscow’s capacity to wage war against Ukraine”.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has designated three individuals, as heads of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, under E.O. 14024, for their role in facilitating the recruitment of Russian prisoners into the Wagner Group. One such case was that of Zambian student Lemekhani Nyirenda, who died in battle in Ukraine in September. Russian officials only informed Zambian authorities about his death in November. A Tanzanian student, Nemes Tarimo, was also buried in Dar es Salaam recently. Tarimo was reportedly recruited from prison with the promise of payment and commuting his seven-year term for an undisclosed offense.

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Although some African countries have not directly condemned Russia for recruiting their nationals to fight in Ukraine, only Tanzania has officially warned its citizens against fighting in foreign wars. Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign affairs minister, Sergey Lavrov, has visited several African nations, including South Africa, Angola, and Eritrea, in an effort to secure support for Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

At a White House briefing on Friday, Vedant Patel, the US State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson, warned that African countries that work with the Wagner Group are compromising regional peace and security. He stated that countries that partner closely with Prigozhin and the Wagner Group “find themselves susceptible to deeply destabilizing activities” that can harm not only their own country but also the wider region.

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The US sanctions against the Wagner Group also include five entities that form part of the group’s key infrastructure, including an aviation firm, a propaganda organization, and front companies based in the Central African Republic, China, Luxembourg, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Ambazonia

Ambazonia – Cameroon’s denial of Canadian mediation criticized

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Tibor Nagy, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and a long-term US diplomat, has expressed his disappointment at the government of Cameroon’s denial of authorizing Canadian mediation in the Ambazonia crisis. In a tweet, Nagy wrote that the denial shows a split in the Biya regime and indicates that both sides are positioning for a post-Biya government.

Nagy’s statement comes amid growing concerns about the ongoing conflict in the Ambazonia region of Cameroon, which has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, displacement, and political unrest. The conflict, which began in 2016, has been fueled by decades of marginalization and neglect of the English-speaking regions of the country by the predominantly French-speaking government in Yaoundé.

As a seasoned diplomat with years of experience in African affairs, Nagy is well-acquainted with the complexities of the Cameroonian conflict. His statement reflects the views of many observers who believe that the government’s denial of Canadian mediation is a disappointing and concerning development in the ongoing crisis.

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The denial of Canadian mediation is particularly significant because it demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to engage in a constructive and meaningful dialogue with the people of Ambazonia. It also indicates that the government is not interested in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict and is instead opting for a more confrontational approach.

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Nagy’s statement also highlights the importance of international pressure in bringing about change in Cameroon. He suggests that without significant pressure, the regime is unlikely to make any voluntary changes. This highlights the crucial role that international actors can play in promoting peace and stability in the region.

In conclusion, Nagy’s statement serves as a wake-up call for the international community to pay closer attention to the Ambazonia crisis and to take action to support the people of the region. As a former US diplomat, Nagy’s perspective carries weight and serves as a powerful reminder of the need for the international community to take a more proactive role in addressing the ongoing conflict in Cameroon.

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Conflicts

Islamic State-affiliated ADF kills 15 in DR Congo

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Soldiers fighting in DR Congo

Bunia, DR Congo – A series of violent attacks on villages in eastern DR Congo, believed to be carried out by Islamic State-affiliated ADF rebels, have left at least 15 people dead, according to local officials. This latest round of violence comes just one week after a similar attack that resulted in the deaths of over 20 people.

“There were simultaneous attacks this Sunday between 4:00 and 5:00 am on three villages…,” said local official Dieudonne Malangai. “In Manyala village we found seven bodies… at Ofay, there were eight dead, including seven women,” Malangai reported to the press, and indicated that the final death toll might be higher. A humanitarian source confirmed seven fatalities in Manyala and “at least eight” in Ofay.

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Despite the efforts of local security forces, these attacks have continued to occur on a regular basis in the region. Many local residents have grown increasingly frustrated and tired of the ongoing violence, with Malangai stating, “We are tired of giving the death toll day after day.”

ADF fighters have also been blamed for last week’s raids in the neighboring province of North Kivu, which cost at least 23 lives. In the same province, at least 14 people were killed in a bomb blast at a pentecostal church.

Islamic State portrays the ADF, which has its roots in Rwanda, as its central African incarnation. In an attempt to stem the violence, the government in May 2021 declared a state of alert in North Kivu and Ituri, replacing civil administrators with police and troops. However, despite these efforts, the attacks continue to occur with regularity, leaving local residents feeling vulnerable and unprotected.

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In addition to the loss of life, the attacks have also had a devastating impact on the local economy, with many businesses and farms being destroyed. This, in turn, has led to widespread poverty and food insecurity in the region.

The ADF, which has been active in the region since the 1990s, is known for its brutality and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The group’s tactics have been widely condemned by the international community and human rights organizations, but the government’s efforts to combat the group have so far been ineffective.

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The continued violence in eastern DR Congo is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for a sustainable solution to the ongoing conflict. The government must take immediate action to protect civilians and bring an end to the violence. The international community must also provide support to help stabilize the region and provide aid to those affected by the conflict. Only by working together can we hope to bring peace and stability to this troubled region.

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Ambazonia

Cameroon – Ambazonia Silent War May Escalate -JIHA

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Dead bodies of Ambazonians killed by Cameroon soldiers

The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is one of Africa’s newest struggles for liberation. The crisis emerged from legal and education grievances in 2016 and rapidly escalated into a secessionist political conflict that is threatening the unity of the country, with the potential to degenerate into a complex emergency. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

In an exploratory, qualitative, analytical, and descriptive case study research tradition involving document/content analysis, the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework was applied to investigate the potential of the Anglophone crisis. The research found that 72.5% of the variables in all the complex emergencies fall within the relevant to extremely relevant ranking criteria. Furthermore, the establishment of a nexus between the Anglophone crisis and a natural hazard-induced disaster suggest an escalation of the crisis to an unbearable level.

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The Anglophone crisis has been compounded by the high probability of a novel eruption at Mt. Cameroon coupled with the eminent threat of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This further heightens the potential for the crisis to cumulatively evolve into a CDE in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The existential challenges in providing humanitarian assistance in the conflict region are immense, and by applying the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework, this article concludes with an early warning for an impending CDE that could heighten humanitarian challenges unless there is foresight and goodwill by relevant actors to immediately commence a process of adequate contingency planning.

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In conclusion, the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is a complex and rapidly evolving situation that has the potential to degenerate into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a CDE. It is important for relevant actors to take immediate action and begin adequate contingency planning to mitigate the potential humanitarian challenges that may arise.

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Biafra

MNK Speaks From Captivity Urges IPOB To Remain Resolute

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Barrister Aloy Ejimako visited the detained leader of IPOB Mazi Nnamdi Kanu at DSS headquarters in Abuja earlier today. According to him, incarceration is tough but Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is tougher. He said Kanu urges Biafrans to be tough and maintain their ground. In his own words, I had the opportunity to visit with #MNK, and the topics covered during our meeting were incredibly enlightening. Firstly, we discussed the appeal that is currently pending before the Supreme Court. MNK shared his thoughts on the matter and his hopes for a favorable outcome.

Furthermore, I was able to update MNK on the latest cases I had filed on his behalf last week. The situation of detention can be incredibly difficult, but MNK’s strength and determination in the face of adversity is truly impressive. He urged all of us to maintain our positions and be just as tough as he is.

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It was particularly striking to hear Onyendu express his steadfast commitment to the Biafra restoration movement. He emphasized the importance of continuing to push for this cause, even in the face of obstacles and challenges.

Additionally, I filed a suit against the Attorney General of the Federation, Malami, last week. The suit aims to put an end to any further defamatory publications that Onyendu #MNK jumped bail. Such publications are highly prejudicial and injurious to MNK’s other cases pending in various courts, and it is essential that they come to an end.

Overall, my visitation with MNK was incredibly valuable, and I left feeling inspired and motivated to continue fighting for his rights and the Biafra restoration movement. It is clear that Onyendu is a remarkable individual who is dedicated to his cause and determined to overcome any obstacles in his path.

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Furthermore, MNK also spoke about the importance of unity and solidarity within the Biafra restoration movement. He emphasized that it is essential for all members of the movement to work together and support one another in order to achieve our common goal. He also urged us to be vigilant and stay informed about the latest developments in the movement, and to take action when necessary.

MNK’s words were incredibly powerful and provided a much-needed boost of inspiration and motivation. His determination and resolve in the face of adversity is truly admirable and serves as a reminder of the importance of standing up for what we believe in.

It was a privilege to be able to speak with MNK and hear his thoughts on the current state of the Biafra restoration movement. His words will undoubtedly inspire others to join the cause and fight for the rights of the people of Biafra.

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In conclusion, the visitation with MNK was a valuable and enlightening experience. It was clear that MNK is a strong and determined individual who is committed to the Biafra restoration movement. His words were powerful and inspiring, and serve as a reminder of the importance of standing up for what we believe in. The fight for Biafra restoration is one that requires unity, solidarity and determination, and with a leader like MNK at the helm, we can be confident that we will eventually achieve our goal.

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Central Africa

Mass graves of 49 civilians found in DR Congo

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Congolese mass grave of 49 civilians

UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have uncovered mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians following a series of attacks blamed on a local armed group, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO). The graves were found in two villages in northeastern Ituri province, about 30km (19 miles) east of the town of Bunia.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the United Nations, told reporters in New York on Wednesday that 42 victims, including six children, were discovered in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi.

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“Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries,” he said. The UN is calling for an investigation to establish if the mass graves and the attacks are linked. The UN regional peacekeeping operation, MONUSCO, is also supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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Ituri, a restive province bordering Uganda, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks, after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu community triggered reprisal attacks from CODECO, which claims to represent the ethnic group. The Lendu and Hema communities have a longstanding feud, which led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.

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Haq also warned of a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in Ituri, saying that at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 wounded and 84 people abducted since December during attacks attributed to the CODECO and Zaire militias. More than 1.5 million people in Ituri province have also been displaced by the fighting. The UN is urging for the protection of civilians and for all parties to respect human rights.

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Burkina Faso

Armed groups in Burkina Faso target civilians, 50 women kidnapped

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50 woman kidnapped burkina faso

Armed groups in Burkina Faso are increasingly targeting civilians, according to the country’s military leader, Captain Ibrahim Traore. He made the statement after about 50 women were kidnapped in the restive Soum province in the West African country on January 12 and 13.

Some of the women managed to escape and have recounted their ordeal, which included being forced to walk through the bush for a whole day, and being made to shepherd stolen sheep to disguise the kidnappings.

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According to the escapees, the gunmen forced them to walk through the bush for a whole day, and assembled them again the next morning, it was at this moment that some of them decided to take a risk and managed to escape.

One of the survivors said, “I managed to hide in a ravine with another [woman],”. “We got back to the village at nightfall. Others returned the following morning.”

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Captain Traore also said that the terrorist groups are switching tactics and focusing on civilians. He said, “Today, another phase has been launched by the terrorists,”.

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Biafra

Fulani Terrorists Continues Their Genocidal Massacre In Ebonyi

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People slaughtered by Fulani Terrorists in Ebonyi State on 4th of june 2021

Again, Fulani Terror herdsmen sponsored, armed, and guarded by Nigeria Fulani-led federal government has continued their genocidal massacre of Biafrans in Ebonyi.

According to a  viral video online, a reporter can be heard saying that the Fulani Terrorists are not relenting in the quest to kill everyone in Ebonyi state.

This is about the 4th time in the last 6 months that Fulani terrorists have gone on the large-scale slaughter of Ebonyi people.

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He called on Eastern Security Network(ESN) to come to the aid of the Ebonyi people.  ESN was formed by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to safeguard Biafrans against marauding Fulani terrorists.

However, the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi has been against the formation of ESN and has been working assiduously to eliminate ESN personnel from Ebonyi instead of supporting them.

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This led to the creation of the Ebubeagu Security Network to fight the ESN in Ebonyi and other Eastern states. Ebubeagu has never and does not have the capacity to confront Fulani Terror Herdsmen wielding automatic assault rifles given to them by the Nigerian government.

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Mali

Window Of Opportunity For Peace In Mali ‘Slowly Narrowing,’ Warns Secretary-General

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un in mali

20 September 2017 – Speaking at a ministerial meeting at United Nations Headquarters, Secretary-General António Guterres today voiced concern over the delayed implementation of the peace agreement in M

“We meet less than a year before the next presidential election,” said Mr. Guterres, stressing that the coming months will be an opportunity for Malians and their institutions to show their dedication to peace and the rule of law.

Noting that municipal elections in November last year were not held in all regions and suffered a low turnout, he encouraged the Malian authorities to ensure the success of the presidential election.

He added that numerous delays and slow implementation of critical provisions of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali are always a cause of concern, including the postponement of the review of the Constitution.

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Delays in security sector reform related to the redeployment of the reformed and reconstituted Malian defence and security forces in the centre and north are also to be noted.

Mr. Guterres added that a number of achievements were recorded in recent months encompassing security, development, reductions in community violence, efforts to prevent the recruitment of youth.

“Yet the country’s achievements – that are remarkable – remain fragile, especially in light of the recent confrontations between armed groups and recurring attacks,” he went on. “Trust is being tested but we welcome the signature, earlier today, of a ceasefire agreement between the two signatory movements which also re-emphasizes their commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement.”

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New institutions, processes and laws have yet to translate into significant improvements in the daily lives of Malians, the Secretary-General stated, adding that inclusivity, especially of women, youth and other under-represented social groups, remains insufficient, and constraints to humanitarian access persist.

“The window of opportunity for the Government to provide long-awaited peace dividends is slowly narrowing,” said Mr. Guterres.

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The UN chief also urged the international community to ensure unity of purpose in financially and logistically supporting regional undertaking, such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force, to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime because, if successful, the Force can not only contribute to an enabling environment for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali to fully implement its mandate but also advance progress in the Malian peace process.

But the most sustainable solution remains the strengthening of Mali’s own security architecture, Mr. Guterres said, stressing that the absence of a comprehensive strategy for security sector reform needs to be urgently addressed.

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Mauritania

Mauritanian Minister Highlights Country’s Successful Efforts To Combat Terrorism

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19 September 2017 – In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih, welcomed the progress made in the fight against terrorism and migration through an approach based on dialogue and opennes

After heavy fighting in 2010 and 2011, and despite a complex regional situation, Mauritania has faced the threat of terrorism successfully. “We have strengthened our defensive capacities while respecting human rights and putting in place a policy of sustainable development,” he explained. In addition, Mauritania has succeeded in building a constructive dialogue with the opposition and civil society, improving governance and reforming institutions, particularly with regard to women’s rights.

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Mauritania, he continued, has reformed its legal frameworks on the basis of international agreements, in particular, to better combat terrorism. To this end, he noted the conclusion of agreements with some groups in order to allow their members to reintegrate into society in a productive way.

Mauritania, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has eradicated illegal migration from its territory, the Minister continued. “We also set out a roadmap on the fight against terrorism, including through a social assistance program,” he said, adding that repatriation programmes have also been implemented for migrants, in order to enable them to return to the country under favourable conditions.

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The Minister also spoke about the problems caused by climate change in the Sahel region. In this regard, he encouraged all parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change to honour their commitments in order to limit the impacts of the phenomenon.

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