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Over 8,000 Cameroonian refugees flood Nigeria as military tackles separatists – UNHCR1 minute read

UNHCR said it “expects further arrivals as refugees inform that more people are still in remote border areas and could be on their way trying to reach Nigeria.”

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Cameroonian refugees, including women and children gather for a meeting at Bashu-Okpambe village in Boki district of Cross Rivers State in Nigeria, on January 31, 2018. - Cameroonian forces have crossed into neighbouring Nigeria to conduct operations among citizens, where thousands of people have fled from Cameroon's restive anglophone regions, local sources and state officials said January 31, 2018. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP)

The United Nations refugee agency on Thursday raised an alarm that nearly 8,000 Cameroon refugees have fled to eastern and southern Nigeria in the past two weeks, as violence flared between security forces and separatist groups in the country.

The spike in refugees, coming in the run-up to last weekend’s general elections, brings the total number of Cameroonians who have fled to Nigeria to almost 60,000, the UNHCR said.

UNHCR said it “expects further arrivals as refugees inform that more people are still in remote border areas and could be on their way trying to reach Nigeria,” a Reuters report quoted the statement as saying.

“Refugees reported fleeing violence and some even arrived across the border with gunshot wounds,” it said. “According to new arrivals, most come from areas near the border and have trekked across savannah and forests to reach Nigeria,” the UN agency said.

Conflict between Cameroon’s army and English-speaking militias seeking to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia began after the government cracked down violently on peaceful protesters complaining of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority.

The insurgency has forced half a million people to flee their homes and presented President Paul Biya with his biggest challenge since he took power nearly 40 years ago.

In December, Cameroon’s parliament granted special status to two English-speaking regions to try to calm the conflict, but the separatists said only independence would satisfy them.

The roots of Cameroonian English speakers’ grievances go back a century to the League of Nations’ decision to split the former German colony of Kamerun between the allied French and British victors at the end of World War One.

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Politics

Lesotho Prime Minister resigns, to leave office in July

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

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Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane./Yahoonews

Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane has announced his resignation. He also failed to show up at a court on Friday for a trial that involved himself and the first lady over the death of his ex-wife.

In a televised speech in the capital in Thursday, Maseru, the 80-year old PM said the decision has been the hardest he’s made in his career and promised to step down in July despite pressure by members of his party.

“Today I wish to reiterate my announcement to retire from office. I might still have the necessary zeal and fervor to continue serving my people and country, but the truth is that at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I use to be a few years ago”, he said.

He appealed to all Basotho “not to intentionally misconstrue my announcement to retire from office,” as being linked to his ongoing trial.

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

“My fellow countrymen and women it is very unfortunate that some have deliberately decided to distort my decision to retire either motivated by hate or for political gain”, Thabane added in an AFP report.

The Prime Minister was on Friday charged with the murder of 58-year old Lilopelo Thabane, who was murdered in June 2017 by unknown assailants. But he was absent from court and his son said he had gone to South Africa to see a doctor.

“He’s not fled the country, he has gone to South Africa to see a doctor,” Potlako Thabane told Reuters by telephone.

The couple was embroiled in a bitter divorce. Months after assuming office. Thabane married Lesotho’s current first lady, Maesaiah Thabane.

The 48 year old is also facing trial over the murder. She returns to court on March 17.

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Politics

‘Nigeria too important to be on US travel ban’, seeks removal -Interior minister

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola told the visiting US Ambassador.

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Nigeria's Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mary Beth Leonard during a working visit to the minister's office in Abuja on Thursday Feb 20th, 2020 where they discussed issues on the Visa Reciprocity Policy vis-a-vis; Length of Visa Validity, Partial Refund for Rejected Visa Applications, Use of Dropbox amongst others./Twitter: @raufaregbesola/OgundiranDolapo

The Nigerian government has asked the United States to remove it from the list of countries whose citizens are banned from accessing certain categories of visas for long stay or permanent residency by the new policy which took effect on Friday, Feb. 21.

Nigeria’s interior minister, Rauf Aregbesola made the request to drop the ban to the U.S. ambassador in Abuja, a ministry statement said on Thursday.

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Aregbesola said, according to the statement quoted by Reuters.

“We are positive that (the) visa restriction is a temporary one, it will soon be put behind us,” he said, adding that Nigeria had complied with most of the concerns raised by the United States.

The statement did not say how U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard responded to the request, but it said she assured Aregbesola of “her country’s determination to continue to collaborate with Nigeria”.

U.S. President Donald Trump included Nigeria and five other countries in an expanded version of his travel ban list early this month, sparking outrage from many of them.

U.S. officials have said the six countries failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, necessitating the new restrictions.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the biggest country on the list whose citizens will be suspended from U.S. visas that can lead to permanent residency.  

The original travel ban, issued in 2017, barred nearly all immigrants and travellers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations.

The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in 2018.   

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East Africa Politics News

President Kiir, Machar agree to form South Sudan unity government on Saturday

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar, First Vice President-nominee said.

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President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar pledge to power-sharing deal
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar in a previous reconciliation meeting in Kampala, Uganda brokered by President Yoweri Museveni. /AFP

Former rebel and opposition leader, Riek Machar said he has agreed to form a unity government with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to meet Saturday’s deadline, following talks at state house on Thursday.

Before the announcement, it had been unclear if the Feb. 22 deadline would be met as key benchmarks of the 2018 peace agreement had not been fulfilled. The deadline had elapsed several times without an agreement between the two sides.

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar said.

Kiir confirmed the agreement, a Reuters report said.

“We have agreed to form the government,” he said after the meeting, adding that he will appoint Machar as first vice president on Friday.

“We are going to discuss the security arrangement for the protection of all opposition forces and members,” Kiir added.

All the members of the opposition will be given protection, he added. “And if there are things we have not agreed upon, we had agreed to resolve them. We shall finalise them incoming days,” Kiir said.

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