West News Wire: African leaders convened in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on Friday for a summit to address the continent’s expanding humanitarian needs, as well as heightened violent extremism, climate change issues, and a string of military coups.
Leaders urged for enhanced mobilisation to address a humanitarian crisis that has displaced millions and left more than 280 million people malnourished.
Djibo, a town in northern Burkina Faso near the border with Mali, desperately needs assistance.
The city in the Sahel region the vast area beneath the Sahara Desert has been besieged by rebels since February, preventing people and products from coming in and out and cutting off water supplies. Few drivers want to run the terrorist obstacle course. Residents are suffering with no food or water, animals are dying and the price of grain has spiked.
“The goods are not arriving anymore here. Animal and agricultural production is not possible because the people cannot go back to their villages,” U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator Barbara Manzi told The Associated Press from Djibo this week. “Unless (a solution) is found, it’s going to be really a tragedy for the entire group of people that are here.”
Djibo has been at the epicenter of the violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands and displaced nearly 2 million people. While Djibo and Soum province where the town is located experienced periods of calm, such as during a makeshift ceasefire between jihadis and the government surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the truce didn’t last.
Since November, insecurity in the region has increased. Militants have destroyed water infrastructure in the town and lined much of Djibo’s perimeter with explosives, blockading the city, say locals.
The town’s population has swollen from 60,000 to 300,000 over the last few years as people flee the countryside to escape the violence.
Blockading cities is a tactic used by militants to assert dominance and could also be an attempt to get Burkina Faso’s new military junta, which seized power in January, to backtrack on promises to eliminate the militants, said Laith Alkhouri, CEO of Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory, a group that provides intelligence analysis.
“Militants resort to blockading when they see an opportunity to gain incentives in negotiating with the government and simultaneously send a message to their base that they are in control. It’s a bargaining card and a winning one,” he said.
A U.N. team flew in briefly to assess the situation. The AP was the first foreign media to visit the town in more than a year.
“Today there is nothing to buy here. Even if you have cash, there is nothing to buy. We came here with four donkeys and goats and some of them died because of hunger. We were forced to sell the rest of the animals and unfortunately prices of animals have decreased,” said cattle owner Mamoudou Oumarou.