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UN Secretary-General arrives Libya to drive political transition1 minute read

I have just arrived in Libya, totally committed to support a Libyan-led political process leading to peace, stability, democracy and prosperity

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits Libya to boost the country's political transition. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Libya Wednesday ahead of a conference aimed at paving the way for elections to help end years of chaos in the country. 

“I have just arrived in Libya, totally committed to support a Libyan-led political process leading to peace, stability, democracy and prosperity for the Libyan people,” Guterres said on Twitter. 

The UN has announced an all-party conference expected for April 14-16 in western Libya to draw up a roadmap towards elections and out of the turmoil it has faced since a 2011 uprising.

The national conference aims to fix dates for legislative and presidential elections in the North African state, which has been torn apart by military, political and tribal feuds since the NATO-backed ouster of longtime ruler Moamer Kadhafi.

Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, is rejected by a rival administration in the east of the country that is backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

Unity government leader Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar agreed at a February meeting in Abu Dhabi to work towards organising elections.

“To avoid any major confrontation and to create the conditions to stabilise the situation in Libya, it’s essential to unify the institutions of Libya,” Guterres said in Cairo before flying to Tripoli.

“We hope that the conversations that took place between Sarraj and Haftar in Abu Dhabi and the understanding will be an important step to guarantee that, and that this can be consolidated by a national conference.”

The visit by Guterres was the first by a UN Secretary General to Libya since 2014.

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Shared values and aligned interests – how Australia is supporting global action on COVID 19

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Despite the physical distance between our two nations, we have much in common. Our lands are richly endowed with natural resources but we also see nature at its most cruel. From the drought stricken Lake Chad region, to devastating bushfires in Australia, we both understand the havoc of such catastrophic events on our citizens. Now faced with a global pandemic that respects no borders and affects all our citizens it’s clear our interests are more aligned than ever. 

Ours is not an aid relationship but one based on equality, a mutual commitment to multilateralism and recognition of the importance of global trade for the prosperity of our citizens. We are both modern democratic nations with a bright future. There is an energy that reflects our countries’ optimism and determination to be good global citizens. We are both committed to harnessing wisely our natural wealth and talents for the prosperity of our people. And we are both proud multicultural societies. Ensuring global security, peace and prosperity for all our citizens underpins both our foreign policy agendas.

Australia, a founding member of the UN and Commonwealth, has and will continue to provide core funds to international organisations, including WHO.Ensuring multilaterals have the core financing that enable them to sustainably operate in Africa is critical to ensuring global security and prosperity. It is through these institutions that we believe global challenges that affect us all are best addressed.  This is why we focus our aid investments to Africa through our multilateral partners.

And it’s through financial contributions to these international organisations that we are working with global partners to support efforts to tackle COVID-19.  We have contributed AUD 170 million to global partners working on the development and deployment of vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. We are long-term funders of global health emergency, preparedness and response programs including AUD 35 million to WHO and the United Nations’ Emergency Response Fund. But it doesn’t stop there. We provide core funding to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Centre for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations among many others. It’s through these core funds that the sustainability of international institutions to work in Africa is secured. 

Through our active board membership in these international organisations we ensure Africa benefits. Through our steering group membership of the World Bank Pandemic Emergency Finance Facility we enabled USD 15 million to be allocated to Nigeria’s COVID-19 response activities. Through our seat on the Executive Board of WFP, we ensured Africa received timely allocation of resources to deal with COVID-19. Ensuring resources are delivered where they are most needed, whilst improving accountability to affected populations, is a key objective of our membership to these multilateral boards.

So it should be no surprise that when the time is right, Australia supports an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak to clarify the facts around its genesis, global spread and the WHO’s response. An honest and independent assessment of events will be critical as we emerge from the pandemic and seek to improve our response to future crises. The World Health Assembly resolution on the ‘COVID-19 Response’ is an important step in that process. Both Australia and Nigeria’s leadership in co-sponsoring this EU led resolution, is testament to our shared values.

A key priority for both our countries is the development of an effective vaccine that is affordable and easily accessible to all.On May 4 our Prime Minister pledged over AUD 350 million to COVID-19 research and development with the aim to accelerate development and deployment of universally available vaccines, therapeutic drugs and diagnostic tests. At the same time, Australia’s top scientists are working with international partners to research, develop and test vaccines and treatments. Our scientists, universities and research organisations are some of the best in the world, which is why Australia is the world’s third most popular destination for international students.

Our focus on trade not aid will help contribute to Nigeria’s sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Australia’s two way trade with Africa is over AUD 11 billion and has the potential to be significantly more. We have an open and globally integrated economy, making us a trusted partner for trade and investment. Our geographic location provides a gateway to do business in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region. An increasing number of Nigerian students recognise the quality of Australian universities, and the networks throughout Asia that an Australian degree provides.

Our economies have complementarities that make us natural partners. Extractives and agriculture are major industries in both our countries. In Nigeria there are already Australian companies supporting the development of the mining sector – a sector key to the Government’s priority of diversification of the economy and one in which there is significant potential for job creation over many years. Our similar climates mean we understand the practicalities of farming in harsh conditions and have the technology to maximise productivity. Through our scholarship program we have helped build technical capacity in the mining and agricultural sectors, ensuring our engagement is one on a level playing field. 

As global power is shifting, Australia and Nigeria have much to offer each other. Be it through increasing our two way trade potential, our continental positions and influence, or through our aligned priorities in the international system – to shape and protect rules and norms, to guard against threats to international peace and security, to protect the international environment for the prosperity of our nations, to reduce global poverty and respond to humanitarian crises, or now more than ever to reduce the potential for pandemics and other international health risks to our citizens. 

Claire Ireland is the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria 

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Nigerian Army chief warns against foreign interference in Boko Haram, ISWAP fight

The Nigerian army recently clamped down on aid agencies working in the northeast of the country, accusing them of being used as tools for financing terrorist activities.

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Nigerian Army chief, Lt. General Tukur Buratai./TheWillNigeria

Nigerian Army chief, Lt. General Tukur Buratai on Monday warned foreign countries, agencies and mercenaries against meddling into the country’s national security isaues, especially the fight against Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP).

“All local and foreign interests are advised to exhibit more commitment and restraint on issues of our national security and avoid taking sides. Furthermore, all actions and utterances must be tailored towards supporting the national cause with a view to restoring peace and tranquillity to our beloved country,” Buratai said in an army statement.

The army chief described as “the kicks of a dying horse” recent attacks by Boko Haram and ISWAP saying that the military was prepared to route out the terrorists and their collaborators.

“The recent moribund activity of Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province insurgents is synonymous with the kicks of a dying horse gasping for the last breath,” Buratai said.

Although the Army did not give the names of the agencies, it advised both local and foreign interests to tailor their actions and utterances towards supporting the national cause with a view to restoring peace and tranquillity in the country.

The army assured that the counter-insurgency operations in the Northeast and other parts of the country are still on course, local media reported.

The statement signed by the Nigerian Army Operations Media Coordinator, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, “reassured Nigerians that the Counter Insurgency operations in the North East and indeed other ongoing operations against our common enemies across the country are still on course with current indicators revealing tremendous successes across the various theatres of operation.”

The army authorities commended troops at the war front for their renewed zeal in counter-insurgency operations and cross-border terrorism by Boko Haram, ISWAP and other elements.

“After a careful review of the Nigerian Army operations in the North East, it is pertinent to state that Headquarters Nigerian Army has gladly observed the renewed zeal and determination by troops to take the counter-insurgency operations to its logical conclusion with outcomes favourable to Nigeria and Nigerians as evident in the recent decimation of many Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province criminals, including some of their top commanders amidst several arrests of the insurgents’ logistic suppliers and collaborators, numerous capture of the criminals’ arms and ammunition as well as rescue of many captives from the bondage of the insurgents,” Buratai stated.

The army chief assured troops that their sacrifices and that of m fallen colleagues will never be in vain reiterating the unreserved commitment of the Nigerian Army to defend the country.

He warned “all enemies of Nigeria and Nigerians who take delight in the sufferings of our innocent citizens that the day of reckoning is at their door steps. All well-meaning Nigerians especially those in the North East and friends of Nigeria elsewhere are enjoined to fully support the counter insurgency operations as well as the fight against all forms of criminality across the nation”.

The Nigerian army recently clamped down on aid agencies working in the northeast of the country, accusing them of being used as tools for financing terrorist activities.

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Nigeria’s dark secret haunts new generation, 50years after Biafra war

Biafran flags, an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun, still make appearances on the front of buildings in Enugu state as hardline separatists continue to demand independence.

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A young Biafran soldier during the civil war that lasted between 1967 - 1970./Tumblr

It’s fifty years since Nigeria ended its civil war that left about two million people dead after the old eastern region or Biafra tried to secede from the rest of the West African country.

Diekoye Oyeyinka, 33, has been billed as one of the most promising Nigerian writers of his generation. 

He went to some of the finest schools in his West African homeland but says that like the majority of his classmates he “didn’t know about Biafra until I was 14”.

When he did begin to find out about the brutal civil war that nearly tore Nigeria apart, it was not in the classroom.

Instead it was a schoolmate in his dormitory who showed him a separatist leaflet demanding Nigeria’s southeast break away from the rest of the country.

Before then Oyeyinka had known nothing about how leaders from the Igbo ethnic group declared the independent state of Biafra in 1967.

He knew nothing of the conflict that resulted and the 30 months of fighting and famine estimated to have cost over a million lives before the secessionists surrendered 50 years ago in January 1970.

“We’ve had a very brutal history, the older generation went through a lot of trauma,” Oyeyinka told AFP.

“We just sweep it under the carpet, pretending nothing happened. But without knowing our history we will repeat the same mistakes. Our history is a succession of deja-vu.”

It was to try to break this cycle of ignorance that Oyeyinka wrote the novel Stillborn – a historic epic about Nigeria from the days of British colonial rule in 1950 to 2010.

In it the civil war is the pivotal event.

– ‘Our history, our conflict’ -Unlike other famed Nigerian writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her novel Half Of A Yellow Sun, or Chinua Achebe’s memoir There Was A Country, Oyeyinka is one of the few non-Igbo writers to have dwelt on the conflict.

“An Igbo friend got angry at me and said ‘You can’t write about us, it’s our conflict’,” he recounted. 

But Oyeyinka insists that all Nigerians need to be made aware of what happened.

“We need to address these traumas ourselves, as a country, otherwise we are a tinder box ready to explode.”

While in the rest of Africa’s most populous nation many know little about the history of Biafra, in the former capital of the self-proclaimed state at Enugu the memory of those years lives on. 

Biafran flags — an iconic red, black and green with a rising golden sun — make appearances on the front of buildings and hardline separatists still demand independence. 

The security forces — deployed heavily in the region — are quick to stamp out any clamour for a new Biafra.

At the end of the war in 1970, Nigeria’s war leader Yukubu Gowon famously declared there would be “no victor, no vanquished” as he sought to reunite his shattered country. 

The  leader of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, went into exile for 13 years before being pardoned. He returned to Nigerian politics but was detained for 10 months in prison.

Leading Nigerian intellectual Pat Utomi says that many Igbos — the country’s third biggest ethnic group after the Hausa and the Yoruba — still feel marginalised.

One key event was when current President Muhammadu Buhari — then a military chief — seized power in 1983, and stopped the only Igbo aspirant to get close to leading Nigeria since the war from becoming head of state.  

“In the early 1980’s, people had forgotten about the war, but this succession of poor leadership brought bitterness among the new generations,” Utomi said.



– ‘More divided’ -Nowadays any incident — from the closure of the only airport in the southeast last year to the sacking of Igbo shops by customs officials in economic hub Lagos — can cause grievances to flare. 

“It’s important to deal with history, to write it down. In Nigeria, we try to cover it up,” Utomi said. 

“We are more divided today than we’ve ever been before the civil war. We learnt nothing from it.”

In order to try to heal the rifts Utomi helped organise a “Never Again” conference aiming to bring together key cultural and political figures to discuss the lessons of the Biafra war half a century after it ended.  

He is also a patron of the “Centre for Memories” in Enugu, a combination of a museum and library where visitors can come and “dig into history”. 

– ‘History is essential’ -History itself has been absent from Nigerian schools.

The current government reintroduced it only from last term as an obligatory subject for pupils aged 10 to 13, after more than a decade off the curriculum. 

“Teaching history is essential to build our identity as a country, and defend our patriotic values,” said Sonny Echono, permanent secretary at the education ministry. 

But schools still remain woefully short of qualified history teachers and there is no unified narrative about the civil war which does not figure in the lessons. 

“We need to teach the war in our schools,” said Egodi Uchendu, a history professor at University of Nsukka, in the former Biafra territory. 

“Eastern Nigeria is completely different from how it was experienced in other parts of the country. We need to bring in the different angles to it.” 

Chika Oduah, a Nigerian-American journalist, has crossed the country to collect hundreds of testimonies of the victims and combatants of the Biafra conflict which she publishes on her website Biafran War Memories.

She says that for many of those she interviewed it was the first time they had retold the horrors of the period. 

“A 70-something former soldier… broke down crying, when he told me how he lost his brother during the war,” she said. 

She herself only learnt at the age of 17 that her mother as a child spent two years in a camp for displaced people. 

“Our parents wanted to move on, not look at the past,” Oduah insisted. 

“But we need to talk about it, otherwise we won’t heal”.


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