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Cameroon’s conflict keeps schools shut

Schoolchildren have become pawns in the fierce conflict between Cameroon’s mainly French-speaking government and separatist fighters demanding independence for the country’s English-speaking heartlands.

The separatists are enforcing a lockdown across cities, towns and villages in the North-West and South-West regions to ensure schools remain shut for a fourth academic year in a row.

The regions are heavily militarised, with troops battling insurgents who use hit-and-run tactics.

Schools were due to open on 2 September – instead parents and children have been fleeing their homes in their thousands as they fear an escalation of the conflict.

Children abducted

Most schools in the two regions – including in villages – have been empty for three years, with buildings covered by long grass.

In some areas, the government deployed troops to guard classrooms but with the army being the main enemy of the separatists, this increased the risk of attacks by separatist gunmen.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, says the ban on education has affected about 600,000 children, with more than 80% of schools shut and at least 74 schools destroyed in the troubled regions.

In one incident, 80 pupils, their principal and a teacher – who defied the lockdown – were kidnapped last year, before being released about a week later.

Separatist fighters denied involvement, but the government blamed them for the abductions.

The conflict has its roots in the government’s decision to increase the use of French in schools and courts in the mainly English-speaking regions in 2016.

It triggered mass protests and morphed into a rebellion the following year as some civilians – angry that the government deployed troops to crush the protests – took up arms.

Thousands of people – civilians, separatists and soldiers – have been killed and more than 500,000 displaced.

The economy is also in ruins, with businesses going bankrupt and workers not being paid.

Child soldiers

Worst of all, children have been orphaned and some of them have gone into the bush to join one of the many armed groups that have emerged to fight for what they call the independent state of Ambazonia.

What was once unthinkable has become a reality: Cameroon – like some other African states – now has child soldiers.

They blame government troops for the deaths of their parents and have vowed to take revenge.

The separatists have targeted schools, more than anything else, because they are the softest of targets, and because they want to thwart the government’s efforts to make children – the next generation of English-speaking Cameroonians – fall under greater French influence.

In the past, separatists ordered lockdowns for a day – usually on a Monday. Anyone who defied the order were branded “sell-outs”, and risked being assaulted and even killed. This time, the lockdown will be for two and possibly three weeks.

Bamenda – the biggest English-speaking city with a population of about 400,000 – has been in lockdown since last week, while in other areas the lockdown started this week.

In the days leading up to the lockdown, transport fares more than doubled as thousands of people fled villages, towns and cities for safer areas in mainly French-speaking Cameroon – including the capital, Yaoundé, and the commercial heartland of Douala.

This has worsened the humanitarian crisis, with some people stranded at bus stations in the two cities because they have nowhere to go.

Despite this, some government officials have buried their heads in the sand – the North-West governor, Adolphe Lélé L’Afrique, described those fleeing as holidaymakers returning to their homes before the start of the new academic year.

With such an attitude, many people are in despair, wondering whether there is a future for them – and more importantly their children – in mainly English-speaking Cameroon or whether they should emigrate.

I myself moved to Canada in January, as Bamenda – where I lived – became too dangerous for me to work as a journalist.

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International

Indonesia Deports 36 Igbo Boys After Prophet Odumeje’s Crusade

Not less than thirty six (36) Nigerians who are of Igbo extraction have been reportedly deported from Indonesia after controversial Onitsha-based clergyman, Prophet Chukwuemeka Odumeje recently visited and held a crusade in the country.

The church program was reportedly organized by some Nigerians living in Jakarta and it allegedly began with spraying of money which is said to be part of the Anambra-based Pastor’s style of ministration.

Post Views: 48 Not less than thirty six (36) Nigerians who are of Igbo extraction have been reportedly deported from Indonesia after controversial Onitsha-based clergyman, Prophet Chukwuemeka Odumeje recently visited and held a crusade in the country. The church program was reportedly organized by some Nigerians living in Jakarta and it allegedly began with spraying of money which is said to be part of the Anambra-based Pastor’s style of ministration. READ ALSO: Xenophobia: “I Will Bring Down South Africa”, Weird Nigerian Prophet Vows [VIDEO] In their usual practise, Odumeje and his disciples turned the crusade ground into a money spraying festival. Their flamboyant display of wealth however caught the attention of the authorities who raided the venue and reportedly arrested some persons, and subsequently deported about 36 of them who were domiciled in the country illegally. More to follow…

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International

HOW ISIS LEADER DIED DURING US RAID

President Donald Trump on Sunday said that elusive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed, dying “like a dog,” in a daring, nighttime raid by US special forces deep in northwest Syria.
Trump told the nation in a televised address from the White House that US forces killed a “large number” of Islamic State militants during the raid which culminated in cornering Baghdadi in a tunnel, where he set off a suicide vest.
“He ignited his vest, killing himself,” Trump said.
“He died after running into a dead end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said, adding that three of Baghdadi’s children also died in the blast.

Trump said that the raid — which required flying more than an hour by helicopter in both directions from an undisclosed base — had been accomplished by help from Russia, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
Special forces “executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style.”

At its height, Islamic State-controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared state known as a caliphate, characterized by the brutal imposition of a puritanical version of Islam.
In addition to oppressing the people it governed, Islamic State planned or inspired terrorism attacks across Europe, while using expertise in social media to lure large numbers of foreign volunteers.
It took years of war, in which Islamic State became notorious for mass executions and sickening hostage murders, before the caliphate’s final slice of territory in Syria was seized this March.
The death of Baghdadi comes as a big boost for Trump, whose abrupt decision to withdraw a small but effective deployment of US forces from Syria caused fears that it would give Islamic State remnants and sleeper cells a chance to regroup.

Trump took a storm of criticism, including from his own usually loyal Republican Party.
In keeping with his liking for showmanship, Trump had teased the news late Saturday with an enigmatic tweet saying merely that “Something very big has just happened!”
Scorched Vehicle

A war monitor said US helicopters dropped forces in an area of Syria’s Idlib province where “groups linked to the Islamic State group” were present.
The helicopters targeted a home and a car outside the village of Barisha in Idlib province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain but relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information

The operation killed nine people including an IS senior leader called Abu Yamaan as well as a child and two women, it said.
An AFP correspondent outside Barisha saw a minibus scorched to cinders by the side of the road, and windows shattered in a neighbour’s house surrounded by red agricultural land dotted with olive trees.
A resident in the area who gave his name as Abdel Hameed said he rushed to the place of the attack after he heard helicopters, gunfire and strikes in the night.
“The home had collapsed and next to it there was a destroyed tent and vehicle. There were two people killed inside” the car, he said.

From the outskirts of Barisha, an inhabitant of a camp for the displaced also heard helicopters followed by what he described as US-led coalition air strikes.
They “were flying very low, causing great panic among the people,” Ahmed Hassawi told AFP by phone.
Another resident, who gave his name as Abu Ahmad and lives less than 100 meters away from the site of the destroyed house, said he heard voices “speaking a foreign language” during the raid.
The area of the night-time operation had been cordoned off by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate controlling Idlib.
Between the trees, bulldozers could be seen at the site, clearing out the rubble.
– ‘Joint Intelligence’

Turkey, which has been waging an offensive against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria in recent weeks, had “advance knowledge” about the raid, a senior Turkish official said.
“To the best of my knowledge, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi arrived at this location 48 hours prior to the raid,” the official told AFP.

The commander-in-chief of the SDF, who have been fighting IS in Syria, said the operation came after “joint intelligence work” with American forces.
Trump also said that Iraq had been “very good” over the raid.
He said no US soldiers were wounded, despite “doing a lot of shooting” and “a lot of blasting.” The only US casualty was a military dog in the tunnel with the trapped Islamic State leader.
Long pursued by the US-led coalition against IS, Baghdadi has been erroneously reported dead several times in recent years.$25 million reward

Baghdadi — an Iraqi native believed to be around 48 years old — was rarely seen.
After 2014 he disappeared from sight, only surfacing in a video in April with a wiry grey and red beard and an assault rifle at his side, as he encouraged followers to “take revenge” after the group’s territorial defeat.
His reappearance was seen as a reassertion of his leadership of a group that — despite its March defeat — has spread from the Middle East to Asia and Africa and claimed several deadly attacks in Europe.
The US State Department had posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
In September, the group released an audio message said to be from Baghdadi praising the operations of IS affiliates in other regions.
It also called on scattered IS fighters to regroup and try to free thousands of their comrades held in jails and camps by the SDF in northeastern Syria.

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International

Under U.S Law, IPOB NOT a terrorist group – USA

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is not viewed as a terrorist organization by the United States.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Nigeria, Russell Brooks made this known to PUNCH news.

He said, “The United States Government is strongly committed to Nigeria’s unity. Important political and economic issues affecting the Nigerian people, such as the allocation of resources, are worthwhile topics for respectful debate in a democracy.

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