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Muslims around the world are marking the entry into an Islamic New Year as September 11, 2018 was officially declared the first day (1st Muharram) of the year 1440 Hijri. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar.

According to the calendar used across most of the Arab world, Muslims have entered the year 1440 Hijri. It is referred to as the Hijri Calendar because it began with the Hijra, or hegira, i.e. the Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina (in present day Saudi Arabia).

Muhammad and a number of Muslims at the time migrated to Medina due to persecution by the disbelievers. The first Muslim state was established in Medina till he returned to Makkah after a conquest years later.

The occasion comes with very little celebration as compared to January 1st in the case of the Gregorian calendar. Except for Muslim dominant nations, it is a normal day across most secular countries.

In parts of northern Nigeria for instance, state governments have declared the day a holiday to allow residents observe the day as such.

The Saudi Press Agency, SPA, and the Islamic Society of North America, ISNA, all declared September 11 as the official date for the start of the New year. SPAsaid in an article: “The Supreme Court has announced that tomorrow, Tuesday is the first day of Muharram,1440 H corresponding to 11th September 2018.

“It said in its statement that the crescent of the month of c 1440 H was not sighted on Sunday evening 29/12/1439 H, there for the Supreme Court decided that Monday 30/12/1439H shall be the completion of the month of Dhu-AlHijjah and Tuesday 1/1/1440H is the first day of Muharram according to the Umm Al-Qura calendar.”

As per Islamic traditions, Muslims have two main celebrations annually in the mould of Eid-ul-Fitr (Post Ramadan feast) and Eid-ul-Adha (feast of sacrifice).

Difference between Hijri and Gregorian calendars

Unlike the Gregorian which has 365/366 days, the Islamic year has minimum 354 days. This is because the Hijri Calendar follows the movements of the moon. The Hijri Calendar is consistently less by 11 days comparative to the Gregorian.

Gregorian calendars, which are most widely used across the world and even alongside the Islamic one in most of the Arab world, on the other hand measure time beginning with the year 0 A.D.

A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which means “In the year of our Lord.” The Hijri Calendar has years marked by A.H., which stands for Anno Hegirae, “In the Year of the Hijra.” The hegira took place in A.H. 1.

The Hijri Calendar is the official calendar in many predominantly Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia. In other countries, Muslims refer to the Gregorian Calendar for most dates and consult the Hijri Calendar only for religious purposes.

The similarities between the Islamic and Gregorian calendar are that; both have 12 months each of seven days in a week. The slight day variations are that the first day of the week is Sunday (Yawmul Ahad) whiles Monday is seen as the first on the other side.

In a bid to boost investment and tourism in South Africa, the Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday announced that changes in some immigration rules, including agreeing visa waiver agreements with more countries.

The changes are part of a broader economic turnaround programmeannounced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week as his team seeks to drag Africa’s most developed economy out of recession.

“We play a critical economic role in admitting over 10 million international visitors to South Africa annually, which includes tourists, business travelers, investors and neighbours,” Gigaba told reporters.

The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign nationals who are minors to carry documentation which proves parental consent and certificates of birth, we will rather strongly recommend that the parents of these minors carry the documentation.

“Millions of jobs are sustained by the economic activity generated by these travelers.”

Visa waivers

Visitors from India and China, highlighted by Ramaphosa as important investment growth areas, will have travel regulations relaxed from next month, including allowing applications for 5-year multiple entry visas.

Gigaba said negotiations were also being finalized to conclude visa waiver agreements with more than a dozen countries across Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Qatar and the UAE.

Visa requirements for minors

Much-criticized rules on traveling minors will be simplified, he said.

“The key changes will be that rather than requiring all foreign nationals who are minors to carry documentation which proves parental consent and certificates of birth, we will rather strongly recommend that the parents of these minors carry the documentation,” Gogaba said.

In June 2015 new rules were implemented requiring parents to carry an unabridged birth certificate for accompanying children and consent letters from parents who were not traveling.

The tourism industry said the regulations, which came into effect during Gigaba’s previous tenure as home affairs minister, were hurting business.

Tourism contributes more than 400 billion rand ($28 billion) to South Africa’s economy, or around 8 percent of GDP.

“These changes will be implemented ahead of the festive season. We’ll also train immigration officials on the revised regulations to ensure smooth implementation.”

REUTERS

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame told delegates at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that Africa’s global position must change in response to recent positive developments on the continent.

Kagame, who is also the African Union chairperson, was the first African head of state to address the UNGA General Debate on Tuesday.

He cited key milestones across the continent over the past 12 months including signing of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, cessation of hostilities among countries in the Horn of Africa and the progress made by Zimbabwe to deal with political and economic challenges.

The current two-track system of governance where some players are more important than others is not sustainable.

‘‘The trend on our continent is toward closer and more productive cooperation both through the African Union and our Regional Economic Communities,’‘ Kagame said.

‘‘The United Nations Security Council must work with the African Union to monitor progress made by countries in the Horn of Africa.’‘

Kagame pointed out that while progress has been made to mitigate conflict on the continent, work still needs to be done to ‘harmonise overlapping initiatives’ and ensure that ‘signed agreements are respected’.

He asked the United Nations to continue working with the continent to resolve crises in Central Africa Republic, Libya and South Sudan among others.

Security Council

Kagame, who said the three representatives of Africa at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) would be presenting a resolution shortly, asked delegates to work towards reducing the imbalance of power at the United Nations.

With only five permanent members at the powerful UNSC including United States, China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, the rest of the members of the UN have always called for more equal representation.

‘‘The current two-track system of governance where some players are more important than others is not sustainable,’‘ Kagame warned.

Similar sentiments had been earlier shared by the Turkish president who told delegates at UNGA that the system of giving more power to countries that contribute more financially cannot achieve true justice.

The UNSC which has 15 members, including 10 non-permanent members who are elected to serve two-year terms by the General Assembly, is the only U.N. body that can make legally binding decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorize the use of force.

U.N. Security Council hails Eritrea’s diplomatic efforts in Ethiopia, Djibouti

Soldiers in Buea have shot dead two unarmed boys at Campaign Street Two, Great Soppo, Buea.

A witness narrates,  » I saw the military passed as I was carrying water downstairs and then they shot about four times. I thought they were shooting in the air then I heard people crying and went out and saw two corpses. They are just boys from the quarter ».

Relatives of the victims are in shock after today’s ghost town day morning shootings.
The incident happened around 9:00 am. The two boys are said to be working at a carwash and where at their job site where they were gunned.

« The military asked them to identify themselves which they did. And then the soldiers told them to run away…Unfortunately, the same soldiers shot at the boys as they obeyed the instructions, » a local told Mimi Mefo infos.

Author: Mimi Mefo

Source: mimimefoinfos

Since the end of 2016, Cameroonian citizens in the country’s English-speaking regions have been calling for more equitable representation in government and more respect for English—one of the country’s two official languages—in courts and schools. English has been increasingly marginalized, creating a society where knowledge of French is a necessity to attend the country’s top schools, receive government appointments, or conduct business.

Anglophones are also protesting the fact that more government resources are allocated to Francophone regions. In 2017, the two Anglophone regions were allocated a combined $153 million of the country’s Public Investment Budget, while the country’s south—the home region of President Paul Biya, who has been in power for more than three decades—was allocated more than $225 million, despite having a far smaller population, according to 2012 data.

What began as peaceful protests by lawyers, teachers, and everyday citizens has devolved into a near-civil war.

What began as peaceful protests by lawyers, teachers, and everyday citizens has devolved into a near-civil war.

The hands of those fighting back are certainly not clean—there are credible reports of ambushes on military and police officers, kidnapping of local officials, and extortion of businesses for financial support—but what has allegedly happened at the hands of Cameroon’s most elite military force, and members of the country’s other armed forces, is far more alarming.

Hard reporting has been difficult to come by and sporadic given the government’s grip on power and its tendency to cut off internet access in Anglophone regions for prolonged periods—150 days in 2017 alone.

But for months, there have been widely circulated videos of individuals in military uniforms—both those of the Cameroonian army and those of the government’s elite military guard, the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR)—committing a vast array of violent acts against civilians, including burning dozens of villages in Anglophone regions, torture, and indiscriminate killing.

In one video, men in military fatigues can be seen setting village houses ablaze before walking away to let them burn to the ground.

In one video, men in military fatigues can be seen setting village houses ablaze before walking away to let them burn to the ground.

Another shows individuals in BIR uniforms beating a man with a two-by-four. And in July, videos surfaced showing military officers executing women and children.

After initial cries of “fake news,” the government ultimately acknowledged its veracity. Sadly, these are not anecdotes; there is a vast library of documented atrocities—and with presidential elections less than a month away, the violence is likely to get worse.

The conflict in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions is rooted in the country’s colonial past and path to independence, and it cannot necessarily be resolved by outside powers. But the U.S. government could put a unique type of pressure on Cameroon’s leaders simply by enforcing U.S. laws already on the books.

The so-called Leahy Law, passed in 1997 and named for its chief advocate, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, essentially bars the Departments of State and Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that have credible accusations of human rights violations made against them. From a growing number of press reports, firsthand accounts, and on-the-ground videos, it’s clear that the BIR and the military more broadly are violating Cameroonians’ human rights.

From a growing number of press reports, firsthand accounts, and on-the-ground videos, it’s clear that the BIR and the military more broadly are violating Cameroonians’ human rights.

These are exactly the types of forces the Leahy Law was designed to target.

The BIR has always been a bit of an outlier when compared with its counterparts from other branches of the armed forces: It’s well funded, receives training from the United States, and is led by a retired Israeli military officer. The BIR doesn’t even report to the country’s defense minister, taking orders instead directly from Biya

Author: CHRISTIAN FREYMEYER

Source: foreignpolicy

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• New video shows gendarme’s decapitated head
• 160 members of security forces killed by armed separatists 
• More than 260 security incidents perpetrated by both the armed separatists and security forces in 2018

The brutal attacks against ordinary people and security forces are further proof of the horrific escalation of violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, Amnesty International said today.

The organization’s forensic experts have authenticated two videos which were received late last week. In the first video, an individual identifies himself as being a member of the armed separatist’s group “Ambazonia Liberation Forces”. The same video shows images of a gendarme’s decapitated head.

In the second video, which is believed to be a continuation of the first clip, a voice can be heard saying that the armed separatists had taken the gendarme’s rifle, which Amnesty International identified as an AK Chinese Type 56, a model that is ubiquitous in the region.

The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa

“The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

According to Amnesty International’s forensic experts, the gendarme had bruises on his head, which was laid on a blood-soaked white cloth with what could be his genitalia placed nearby.

Amnesty International is not yet in a position to independently confirm the exact location of where the videos were shot, but analysis suggests it might be in the area of Belo, in the North West region which has been badly affected by the crisis. Belo is also close to Njinikom, a town and commune in the North West Region of Cameroon, where the armed separatist’s group “Ambazonia Liberation Forces” is known to operate.

“By also attacking and kidnapping students and teachers, we have reasons to believe many other lives of ordinary people are now at risk with the violence carried out by some members of the armed separatists groups. This must immediately stop,” said Samira Daoud.

400 ordinary people killed

As a result of the violence in the Anglophone regions, up to 400 ordinary people have been killed since a year by both the security forces and the armed separatists.

Amnesty International has also recorded more than 260 security incidents since the beginning of the year, ranging from clashes between armed separatists and security forces, kidnappings of members of the general population and the killing of security forces by armed separatists. The incidents also include unlawful killings by the security forces and the destruction of private properties by both sides.

“Perpetrators from both sides who have attacked and killed people or destroyed their properties must not continue to walk free. The authorities in Cameroon must commit to urgently, promptly, independently and effectively investigating these crimes,” said Samira Daoud.

Since the start of the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions in late 2016, Amnesty International has documented the deaths of more than 160 members of the security forces at the hands of armed separatists. However, the death toll could be much higher as attacks go underreported.

On 3 September, in the town of Bafut in the North West region, armed separatists kidnapped seven students and the head of the Presbyterian Comprehensive Secondary School (PCSS), who was tortured and seriously injured while in captivity. The hostages were released in the following days and the head of the school was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Also around 10 September, armed separatists attacked the positions of soldiers stationed near the well-known St. Joseph’s College Sasse in the town of Buea, causing an intense exchange of fire between them and the security forces. People living around told Amnesty International that they have heard heavy gunfire for a few hours on the night of the incident.

Violence will only fuel further incidents, crimes and untold suffering. The government must act immediately against this in an attempt to restore peace in the Anglophone regions

Samira Daoud

“With the upcoming elections in Cameroon, we have reason to fear a further upsurge in violence. We may well see an escalation in the number of security incidents and increased activity by armed separatists threatening to disrupt the electoral process at all costs in the Anglophone regions,” said Samira Daoud

“Violence will only fuel further incidents, crimes and untold suffering. The government must act immediately against this in an attempt to restore peace in the Anglophone regions.”

Background

In its June 2018 briefing, A turn for the worse: Violence and human rights violations in Anglophone Cameroon, Amnesty International highlighted a series of acts of violence committed by armed separatists in the two Anglophone regions. The document featured cases of ordinary people, including teachers and traditional chiefs, who were assaulted and abducted by armed separatists.

The June briefing also documented how security forces have burnt down villages, indiscriminately killed, arrested and tortured dozens of people during military operations which have displaced thousands of civilians both within the Anglophone regions and in Nigeria.

Author: Samira Daoud

Source: Amnesty International

Before Anglophone teachers and lawyers went on strike, before several mass protests in major English-speaking towns, before the Cameroonian government started arresting and imprisoning protesters,  Nti was a farmer and waterside worker helping boat drivers offload their bags of cocoa and other goods.

After several attempt to get into the police, army and customs, Nti felt he had no chance of landing a job in his village near the city of Mamfé in Cameroon’s southwest region. His elder brother who had a degree also had difficulties getting a job.

Many young men in the English-speaking regions like Nti have similar stories of struggle and frustration. Today, both 22-year-old Nti and his brother have joined thousands of other separatists fighters caught up in a deadly wave of violence with government security forces since November last year.

As of May this year, the crisis has displaced at least 180, 000 people, including more than 21,000 who fled to Nigeria. Nigerian emergency officials and NGOs estimate that the number might be as high as 50, 000.

What started as a strike by lawyers and teachers in late 2016 to protest the use of French in courts and schools in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest and south-west regions has morphed into a vicious crisis.  At least one person was shot dead on the first day of the protests in November 2016. Then  on 1 October, 2017 when the new state of Ambazonia was declared by separatists, Amnesty International say at least 17 people were killed during demonstrations.  And in November 2016, security forces arrested some 100 people in the city of Bamenda and many people treated with bullet wounds in hospital in the city of Bamenda, capital of the northwest region.

“We only started peaceful demonstrations, but the government started jailing us every day and becoming violent,” says Michael, a fighter with one of the rebel groups.

“This is something that could be settled with dialogue, yet the troops chose to use force against us. It was never a gateway for peace because boys will raise to fight back.”

Michael’s younger brother was arrested and is still in jail following the declaration of the independence for the new state called “Ambazonia” by separatist in October last year.

Nti, 22, says most young men join self-defence separatist groups out of frustration.

Nti, 22, says most young men join self-defence separatist groups out of frustration. (Linus Unah/TRTWorld)

Cameroon has a population of about 24 million people, some 20 percent are Anglophones. The country is divided into ten administrative, semi-autonomous regions of which two are predominantly English-speaking regions.  Majority of the population in the Anglophone regions often complain of lack of job opportunities, economic development and the predominance of French and French-speaking  people in official documents, and public offices.

The journey towards an insurgency

Though long-standing grievances resulting from a deep-seated feeling of discrimination have often pervaded the Anglophone community as far back as the 1980s, calls for either greater autonomy or secession have grown louder and more ferocious since late 2016.

The roots of the conflict run deeper.

Three years after British and French troops sent Germans away from Cameroon in 1919, the country’s 80 percent was administered by the French and 20 percent by the British. The British administrative zones were further divided into Northern and Southern Cameroons.

After French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 to become the Republic of Cameroon, the UN sponsored a plebiscite that allowed the British territories to either join Nigeria or French Cameroon. British-administered Northern Cameroon joined Nigeria, but the Southern Cameroons — now splintered into present-day northwest and southwest regions – joined French Cameroon to form the newfangled Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961.

But the lure of federalism was stifled by a constitutional referendum that, in 1972, saw Cameroon change to a unitary state to become the United Republic of Cameroon. This disillusionment was further compounded by current president Paul Biya, who, after coming into power in 1982, changed the name of the country to the Republic of Cameroon. Mr Biya, who is now 85, announced that he will run for re-election next month. Currently, only three out of 33 Cameroonian generals and six of the 63-person cabinet members are Anglophones.

 ‘Joining the struggle’

Nti, the separatist guerilla,  spends most of his time in camps tucked away in the forest, while trekking for several days and clambering mountains as his group takes on the army. When he joined the separatist fighters in October last year, his parents protested and his mother would occasionally quarrel and harangue him whenever he came home for a short visit. But now, he says, they are used to his being fighter and only pray for him.

Nti belongs to the Ambazonia Defence Forces, which is fighting government-backed security forces alongside a slew of other self-defense groups such as Ambazonia Restoration Army, The Tigers of Ambazonia, and Southern Cameroons Defense Forces, most of whom are under the aegis of the Ambazonia Self-Defence Council.

“What do you want us to do?” he asks, adding: “We cannot sit back and watch the army kill our families and relatives and burn down our villages without reacting; so I joined the struggle out of annoyance.” Nti’s eyes rolls around almost like a predator in search of prey. He takes several seconds and sometimes minutes to reflect before he talks.

After using satellite imagery to evaluate 131 villages, Human Rights Watch said in a report in June that “several hundred homes showing signs of destruction consistent with arson in 20 villages of the South-West region alone.” The report further maintained that testimonies from villagers showed that security officials were responsible for the burnings.

Cameroonian refugees in Agbokim Waterfall village wait outside a centre to receive assistance.

Cameroonian refugees in Agbokim Waterfall village wait outside a centre to receive assistance. (Linus Unah/TRTWorld)

At one of the banks of several rivers flowing through the border area in Nigeria’s southeast, John bantered with his friends. Their talk segued from was a farmer and owner of a roadside petrol stall before the crisis uprooted people from their villages and turned boisterous towns into ghost towns. He said he “joined the struggle” because Cameroon is “designed to favour French people over us.”

John, 24, said he tried taking entrance examinations (widely known as concours) into the police. He says he spent more than $400 in getting required documents, buying physical stamps, and paying officials who promised to help him in the north-western Cameroon city of Bamenda.

But, in the end, nothing came of it.

“I watched as all the money I laboured to save from my hustle went down in vain,” he says, his eyes welling up with tears. “Then when the crisis started, I just knew I was going to join the fighters because we were getting frustrated and cheated by the [Francophone] every day.”

Most fighters TRT World interviewed often call the battle with Cameroonian soldiers a struggle, so it is common to hear them say “I joined the struggle”.

“It is a struggle to better our lives and free our land from the French Cameroon who have been marginalizing us for many decades,” 26-years-old Michael, who is with the Ambazonia Defence Forces, explains. “When somebody comes to your house, kills your mum, kills your dad, kills your sister, what will you do?”

Before joining the ranks of fighters, Michael, who has a General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, has written at least ten concours for the army, police, gendarme, the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (an elite combat unit of the Cameroonian army), customs, health personnel training institution, and more.

“When you put all these things together you can see why it is easy to become frustrated,” he  says.

Both sides have been accused of grave human rights violations. In June, Amnesty International released a report which found that security forces carried out arbitrary arrests, torture, unlawful killings, and destruction of property, including burning down villages in Anglophone regions.

The report, which is based on interviews with over 150 victims and eye-witnesses as well as satellite images, documents how armed separatists killed security forces and attacked some 42 schools between February 2017 and May 2018 for not participating in a boycott of schools in the Anglophone regions. Rebel fighters have also been accused of kidnapping and attacking civilians.

“Their heavy-handed response will do nothing to calm the violence – in fact it is likely to further alienate Anglophone communities and fuel further unrest,” Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa, says of the military crackdown.

 Though 22, Nti’s furrowed forehead and calloused hands tell of his sojourn in the forest, sleeping in tarpaulin-covered camps with a cook and TV to help them keep abreast of happenings around them. After recruitment, fresh fighters received rapid series of trainings in kickboxing, handling guns and explosives, among others.

Nti uses a dane gun, and he says most fighter use this old-fashioned rifled musket and some use handguns and locally-manufactured hunting rifles.

But since the Cameroonian soldiers are not only well trained but also heavily armed with assault weapons, separatist fighters know better than to go to battle without any form of magic or protection.  Locally known as the Amba-boys or Amba warriors, separatist fighters also  wear amulets and necklaces for protection. This magic – which is known as Odeshi – is usually prepared by local medicine men and helps  separatist fighters stave off  bullets from the army.

“We all have Odeshi [charm],” Nti tells TRT World, as he ambles to a nearby thick undergrowth. He pluck a stem from a grass and boldly declares: “This is one of the leaves we use in preparing the Odeshi.”

Despite the use of Odeshi, some of the fighters who spoke to TRT World still have reverence for God. “Every morning when we wake we pray before we sing the Ambazonia national anthem,” Nti reveals.

“We even have a pastor in our camp. The government has declared, so we must use everything we have to fight back and save our people from oppression.

Author: LINUS UNAH

Source: trtworld

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The united nations high commissioner for refugees, UNHCR says it will be collaborating with the cross rivers state government to begin relocation of Cameroon refugees living in host communities to a more permanent settlement.

The settlement located in Adagom community in ogoja local government area of cross rivers state with a capacity to accommodate four thousand refugees is expected to provide the refugees a safe heaven away from the crisis area.

Adagom settlement is where over four thousand of the twenty-five thousand Cameroon refugees in cross river state have been relocated, from the host communities where they had lived for the past ten months… Elias Enu, Lovelyn Etta And Eyon Sheba are among the refugees.

They narrate their ordeals after losing everything they had in Cameroon when the crisis erupted

With thousands of refugees still in host communities spread across eight local government areas of cross river state, south Nigeria  and the influx of more refugees expected from Cameroon, there is a need for more support from humanitarian actors to augment the efforts of the united nations humanitarian commission for refugees and the cross rivers state government

These refugees are hopeful that more help will come especially in the area of education for their children and opportunities for better means of livelihood to feed their families.

Source: AIT

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