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UN says millions may die of starvation in Somalia’s drought

Lowcock says about $700 million is needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops.

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UN says millions may die of starvation in Somalia's drought
A young girl stands at the fence of camp Kabasa while trying to collect food. Photo: Gioia Forster/ AFP

A United Nations emergency relief co-ordinator has said if international aid is not sent quickly to Somalia by the end of summer, more than 2 million men, women, and children could starve to death because of drought.

U.N. Undersecretary-General, Mark Lowcock says about $700 million is needed after a rainless season that has killed both livestock and crops.

On Tuesday, Lowcock said U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund had allocated $45 million to cover water, food shortage and other daily needs in Somalia as well as parts of neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya that were also affected by drought.

He also said more than 3 million out of Somalia’s 15 million people are struggling to meet up to minimum food requirements, and the shortages have worsened now than this past winter.

“What was forecast to be an average rainy season in Somalia is now one of the driest on record in over 35 years,” he said. “Communities that were already vulnerable due to past droughts are again facing severe hunger and water scarcity and are at risk from deadly communicable diseases.”

Internally displaced people (IDP) gather in the Shingani District of the Somali capital Mogadishu to collect food rations being distributed to families. (Photo by Abdirazak Hussein FARAH / AFP)

Aid by the U.N complements combined government efforts from the three countries to assist their people, with emphasis on internally displaced persons, and those living with disabilities. 

Somalia currently has a depleted humanitarian fund, and if financial aid is delayed, the cost of saving lives on the margin of death will get higher, Lowcock said, adding that the next option then will be to turn to expansive, therapeutic feeding programs.

Lowcock said; “We could have a quick response now, which would be cheaper, reduce human suffering and more effective, or we can wait for a few months until we get all those horrible pictures on our TV screens and social media of starving kids.”

Lowcock, who heads the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs, said that in past decades droughts came about every six years but recently they have hit every two or three years.

“There’s not really any question in my mind that these more frequent droughts are related to global warming and climate change,” he said. “So the only middle- and longer-term response is to look at alternative livelihoods — a different way to make a living.”

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East Africa News & Stories

DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeastern region

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one

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DR Congo military kills 16 militiamen in northeast region
Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The military in DR Congo said on Tuesday that sixteen militiamen have been killed in the northeastern part of the country, an area where ethnic violence has left at least 160 dead and forced hundreds of thousands to flee in the past two weeks.

A spokesperson for the military said militia positions were targeted in Walendu Pitsi sector, killing 16 militiamen and capturing one.

“At the moment, operations are concentrated around the Kpadruma locality where there is violent fighting,” Lieutenant Jules Tshikudi, a provincial army spokesman, told reporters.

He said;

“The soldiers of the armed forces of the DRC have chased attackers from several localities which they were occupying and sowing insecurity.” 

He also added that four AK47 rifles were recovered.

Lieutenant Tshikudi did not reveal the name of the group that was targeted, but there have been repeated outbreaks of violence between different ethnic groups in that area.

Between 10 and 12 June, there was a flare-up in violence in the Djugu region in DRC’s volatile Ituri Province which led to the deaths of at least 160 people, local authorities said. Earlier death tolls put the figure at somewhere between 50 and around 70.

The UN refugee agency has voiced deep concerns over the developments, which it said had seen “multiple attacks” involving the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups since early June.

The agency has said the recent wave of violence in the area has forced more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, with “large-scale displacement” reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories, with people fleeing unrest in Djugu territory especially.

The region which is known to be rich in gold, has experienced extreme violence before, with deaths numbering tens of thousands due to clashes between the Hema and Lendu form the periods of 1999 to 2003.

The DRC counts an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people. Ituri and North Kivu province, just to the south, are battling with a major epidemic of Ebola that has claimed more than 1,400 lives since August last year. Both provinces are in the eastern part of the DRC, where the country shares its border with Uganda.

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Kagame calls out the West’s ‘human rights superiority complex’

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country

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Kagame criticises West's 'human rights superiority complex'
Photo credit: AFP

In an interview with French TV broadcaster, France24, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame has termed criticisms of his country’s human rights record as “rubbish” and “ridiculous”.

Kagame said compared to what it was 25 years ago, Rwanda is now a different country.

He challenged the host of the program to look at what he called Europe’s failing human rights record, particularly the way migrants have been treated.

“[Europe] is violating people’s rights, with this problem of people being bundled and sent back to sink in the Mediterranean and so many being mistreated in your own country”, he said.

He further added that criticisms from the West were tinged with a superiority complex:

“You really need to stop this superiority complex nonsense about human rights.

“You think you are the only ones who respect human rights, all others are about violating human rights. No, we’ve fought for human rights and freedoms for our people much better [than] you people who keep talking about this nonsense.”

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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief with national funeral service

The country has been left reeling after Saturday’s violent foiled coup plot

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Ethiopia pays tribute to slain military chief with national funeral service

Ethiopia on Tuesday held a funeral service for its army chief who was assassinated by his bodyguard over the weekend, an incident believed linked to an alleged coup bid in northern Amhara state.

Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed wept and mourners wailed as the coffin of Seare Mekonnen, draped in the Ethiopian flag, was carried to the front of a room filled with soldiers in military fatigues, in footage carried by state media.

Related: Police in Ethiopia kill suspected coup plotter

Ethiopia has been left reeling after this weekend’s violence, a massive blow to Abiy who has embarked on an ambitious project of economic and political reforms in the nation.

However, his efforts have unleashed ethnic violence and turmoil as different groups jockey for resources and power.

On Saturday, what the government described as a “hit squad” entered a meeting of top Amhara officials and opened fire, killing regional president Ambachew Mekonnen, his top adviser and the state’s attorney general. 

A few hours later in Addis Ababa, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) away, army chief, Seare was shot dead by his bodyguard. A retired general visiting him was also killed.

Related: Ethiopia mourns death of army chief, top officials after failed coup attempt

The government said he was coordinating the response to the “attempted coup” at the time. 

Abiy’s office also said it appeared to be a “coordinated attack” without giving more details.

Ethiopian authorities have pinned the blame on Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige, who was gunned down by police while on the run on Monday.  

Asaminew was only released last year from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot, under a mass prisoner amnesty that began under former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn and continued under his reformist successor Abiy.

Related: Ethiopian army chief, regional president shot dead in Amhara coup attempt

Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.

The motives of Seare’s assassin meanwhile, are completely unknown.

Internet services were down on Tuesday across Ethiopia for a fourth consecutive day.

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