DAKAR (IDN | GIN) – Illegal timber smuggling is devastating the lush Casamance region of Senegal and could strip it completely within two years, predicts Senegalese environmentalist and former minister Haidar El Ali.

Casamance in southern Senegal contains the country's last remaining forests, an area of 74,000 acres that could be depleted by 2018 as smugglers feed the demand for rosewood furniture in China, said El Ali.

Exporting timber from Senegal is illegal, so traffickers smuggle it to neighbouring Gambia for shipping to China.

- Photo: 2020

Brutal Attacks on Bilingual School in Cameroon

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – A long-running conflict between Cameroon’s French and English-speaking communities brought new horror on October 24 with an attack on the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the city of Kumba, in the country’s Southwest Region, by armed terrorists taking the lives of six children and leaving over a dozen seriously injured.

Communications Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi called it “a terrorist act of unbearable cruelty and barbarity”.

African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the attack in a statement on Twitter: “There are no words of grief nor condemnation strong enough to articulate my full horror at the brutal attack targeting primary schoolchildren … as they sat learning in their classroom.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), whose staff were treating some of the wounded, described the attack as “a reprehensible and indecent act”.

“Civilian structures including schools and hospitals must not be targets,” said Alberto Jodra Marcos, MSF emergency coordinator in the region. “What happened yesterday is beyond anyone’s comprehension,” he told the French news agency AFP.

“There is anger, but there is also fear regarding what is going to happen now. The violence is going to intensify, and the civilian population will be in the middle of it, unfortunately,” he added.

On October 25, a small crowd of people, mainly women, gathered to march and protest the killings.

Some children reportedly jumped from second-story windows. Videos circulating on social media appeared to show adults rushing from the school with children in their arms, surrounded by wailing onlookers.

The country’s northwest and southwest regions have been gripped by conflict since separatists declared independence in 2017 after decades of grievances at perceived discrimination by the French-speaking majority.

According to Human Rights Watch, both armed groups and government forces are guilty of widespread human rights abuses. Freedom of expression, association, and assembly continued to be curtailed after President Paul Biya, 86, won his seventh term in October 2018, in elections marred by low voter turnout and allegations of fraud.

Also speaking out was the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee which in a resolution urged Cameroon to initiate “a credible, inclusive, good-faith effort to end the armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions by addressing the root causes of the crisis and grievances and seeking nonviolent  solutions  to  resolve  the conflict, including possibly involving an independent mediator in negotiations.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, described by the UN as “the worst atrocity” since the resumption of the school year earlier this month.

It was not clear if the attack was linked to a continuing struggle between government forces and armed groups in the English-speaking west seeking to form a breakaway state.

“At least eight children were killed as a result of gunshots and attack with machetes. Another twelve were wounded and taken to local hospitals,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

At least eight children were killed, and a dozen wounded after attackers stormed a school in southwestern Cameroon with guns and machetes, the United Nations said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 27 October 2020]

Photo: An attack on the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the city of Kumba, in the country’s Southwest Region, by armed terrorists taking the lives of six children and leaving over a dozen seriously injured. Source: Netzfrauen.

IDN is Flagship Agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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