FRW news in brief

    | April 28, 2014

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    1-African Court stresses State obligation to protect journalists

    The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruled recently in the case of murdered journalist Norbert Zongo. The editor and publisher of L’Independent in Burkina Faso was killed 16 years ago near Sapouy, about 100 kilometres from the capital, Ouagadougou.

    The journalist’s body was found badly burned and with bullet wounds. At the time of his death, Mr. Zongo was investigating the torture and killing of David Ouedraogo, an employee of President Blaise Campaore’s brother. A presidential commission decided later that Mr. Zongo’s murder was politically motivated, but no-one has been brought to justice.

    In 2011, Mr. Zongo’s widow took the case to the African Court. Its decision sets a precedent; the court stated that the government of Burkina Faso had failed to hold those responsible to account and seek justice for Mr. Zongo’s family.

    This case will reverberate around Africa. As the court stated: “The assassination of a journalist intimidates the media, has a chilling effect on free expression, violates the human rights of journalists, endangers truth, and should not be allowed.” 

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    2-West Africa: Food crisis continues in Sahel

    The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently stated that 20 million people in the Sahel are facing food shortages this year.

    This comes on the heels of the 2011-12 drought and resulting food crisis, which affected 18 million people and caused a 26 per cent decline in cereal production compared to the previous season.

    According to the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, nearly 70 per cent of produce traded by ECOWAS member states goes to countries outside the ECOWAS zone and trade less than ten per cent to ECOWAS member states. A senior economist with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that expanding trade amongst ECOWAS members is essential to avert future food crises.

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    3-Burkina Faso: Fighting childhood malnutrition

    Severe acute malnutrition in Burkina Faso has decreased to less than ten per cent of the population. But thirty per cent of Burkinabé are still chronically malnourished, according to government statistics.

    Over the last 20 years, there has been a reduction in the numbers of malnourished children, though more than 30 per cent are still affected by stunted growth. The government strategy to combat childhood malnutrition has been to improve access to nutrition-led health care programs in rural areas.

    The country’s 2010 Demographic Health Survey reports that access to health is limited outside urban areas, and that awareness of the importance of nutrition is lacking. The study found that one in five urban children under the age of five is stunted, while the number jumps to one in three in rural areas.

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    4-Nigeria: Attacks cause food shortages

    Nigeria’s National Economic Council, or NEC, has warned that the country is facing food shortages due to violent attacks in 17 states.

    The NEC has condemned attacks against farmers. Such attacks prevent them from working on their land, and may lead to food insecurity across the country. Hundreds of farmers have been killed and thousands displaced in open battles between farmers and pastoralists in 17 states.

    The NEC is calling for an emergency meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan to find a solution to the problem before food shortages occur. One governor labelled the attackers “mercenaries” because some of them wear military uniforms.

    The NEC has set up a technical committee to make recommendations on how to stop the ongoing conflicts.

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