Mi­grant cri­sis: Tripoli de­mands help

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

Thirty years ago, Mr Buhari’s 15-month mil­i­tary regime was characterised by a hard-line crack­down against so-called “in­dis­ci­pline” and cor­rupt prac­tices, which some­times crossed the line into abuse of power.

But he has said things will be dif­fer­ent this time round, with decades of mil­i­tary rule aban­doned since 1999 in favour of multi-party democ­racy, par­lia­ment and the con­sti­tu­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, the 72-year-old cau­tioned how­ever that there was a need to “tem­per high ex­pec­ta­tions on the part of those who are ex­pect­ing mir­a­cles to hap­pen”.

But across the coun­try many hope he can fol­low through on his elec­tion pledge of sweep­ing change to stop the rot in Africa’s most pop­u­lous na­tion.

On a bus from Oshodi to Ag­bado in the La­gos sub­urbs, un­em­ployed 27-year-old uni­ver­sity ac­coun­tancy grad­u­ate Solomon Abe­gunde said he ex­pects the new ad­min­is­tra­tion to cre­ate jobs.

In Kano, north­ern Nige­ria’s big­gest city, pri­vate se­cu­rity guard Awwalu Maidawa, 41, wants an end to the Boko Haram in­sur­gency which has claimed at least 15 000 lives since 2009. TRIPOLI — Europe can­not halt the deadly traf­fic of African mi­grants across the Mediter­ranean un­less it ends a boy­cott of forces that have seized power in the Libyan cap­i­tal and helps au­thor­i­ties there cope, the de facto gov­ern­ment in Tripoli said.

Chaos and civil war since NATO war­planes helped top­ple dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gaddafi in 2011 have turned the North African coun­try into the launch­ing point for hu­man traf­fick­ers smug­gling tens of thou­sands of peo­ple across the Mediter­ranean.

Libya’s rulers have rounded up thou­sands of Europe-bound African mi­grants in makeshift detention cen­ters.

But of­fi­cials say they have no room to hold the mi­grants, no way of fight­ing smug­glers and no hope of guard­ing vast desert fron­tiers to pre­vent thou­sands more peo­ple try­ing to reach the sea.

“We tell you: come and talk and co­op­er­ate with us, the na­tional sal­va­tion gov­ern­ment,” Mo­hamed al-ghi­rani, for­eign min­is­ter in the gov­ern­ment based in the cap­i­tal Tripoli, told Reuters in his of­fice over­look­ing the Mediter­ranean.

“If Europe doesn’t co­op­er­ate, then af­ter (some) years Europe will be com­pletely black. Europe will change from a white Europe to an African Europe,” he said.

The lack of any uni­fied author­ity in Libya has pre­vented vir­tu­ally all in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to re­spond to the migration cri­sis. An EU team help­ing to train and ad­vise Libyan bor­der guards evac­u­ated the coun­try.

Nearly all Euro­pean coun­tries have with­drawn their em­bassies from Tripoli and refuse to rec­og­nize Ghi­rani’s gov­ern­ment, which took con­trol of the cap­i­tal in heavy fight­ing last year. In­stead, they rec­og­nize a rump gov­ern­ment now based in the east.

Af­ter 800 mi­grants drowned in the ship­wreck of a fish­ing boat last month, Euro­pean lead­ers agreed at an emer­gency sum­mit to strengthen naval pa­trols off the Libyan coast to fight the smug­glers.

But Ghi­rani said such ef­forts were point­less un­less Europe be­gan co­op­er­at­ing with his gov­ern­ment’s forces on the ground.

“Now we can­not do any­thing. The state is weak,” he said. “We need lo­gis­tics, in­telli-

gence, air­craft.”

House­wife Ha­jara Sani hopes for in­vest­ment in ed­u­ca­tion, with 10.5 mil­lion chil­dren out of school — the most in the world — and lit­er­acy lev­els low, par­tic­u­larly in the Mus­lim north.

Musa Mo­hammed, a 33-year-old auto me­chanic, wants im­proved power sup­ply, now at an all-time low of just 1,327 megawatts -- be­low lev­els dur­ing Mr Buhari’s last time in of­fice.

La­gos beer dis­trib­u­tor Abo­laji Odumesi hopes to see Mr Buhari

UN­FIT FOR HU­MAN BE­INGS Ghi­rani said Libya had de­tained more than 16,000 mostly African mi­grants in over­crowded detention cen­ters. Some were be­ing housed in aban­doned schools and other public build­ings.

At a detention cen­tre in Ghar­boulli east of Tripoli, al­most 100 peo­ple shared one cell with a sin­gle toi­let. Men were seg­re­gated from women, some of whom were preg­nant, ly­ing on mat­tresses next to each other on the floor.

De­tainees are al­lowed to leave the crowded cell only briefly to meet vis­i­tors.

“This place is not fit for hu­man be­ings. We don’t get fresh air in the cell and many are sick,” said 24-year old Eritrean Mussie Tolde who has been held for two months since the Libyan navy stopped the crowded boat on which he tried to reach Italy.

Au­thor­i­ties strug­gle to pro­vide med­i­cal care for de­tained mi­grants, many of whom ar­rive ex­hausted or un­der­nour­ished from weeks in over­loaded trucks driv­ing across the Sa­hara, said the cen­ter’s deputy direc­tor,

Faraj Ab­dul­lah. tackle cor­rup­tion in the oil sec­tor, which ac­counts for 90 per­cent of for­eign earn­ings but is dwin­dling due to fall­ing global crude prices.

Else­where there are calls to di­ver­sify the econ­omy, in­crease tax­a­tion to boost gov­ern­ment cof­fers and tackle poverty that the APC says blights the lives of some 110 mil­lion of Nige­ria’s more than 170 mil­lion peo­ple.

Al­most ev­ery­one talks of cor­rup­tion, which the aus­tere Mr Buhari be­lieves has made the coun­try a


High hopes “One of the first things he (Mr Buhari) has to do is as­sem­ble a com­pe­tent strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions team to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions,” said po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Chris Ng­wodo.

“He has to be able to tem­per the level of ex­pec­ta­tion but with­out be­ing a damp squib. It has to be skil­fully man­aged.”

To be sure, Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary has the up­per hand against Boko Haram but there is still work to do to main­tain the peace.

On most other fronts, how­ever, the in­com­ing gov­ern­ment has an up­hill task.

To tackle the fuel cri­sis, Mr Buhari, who once headed a gov­ern­ment oil agency, has to con­vince fuel im­porters hold­ing out for claimed gov­ern­ment sub­sidy ar­rears by shut­ting de­pots, that they will be paid, said Ng­wodo.

In the longer term, he needs to tackle “the ab­sur­dity of an oil-pro­duc­ing na­tion that im­ports fuel”, build do­mes­tic re­finer­ies and elim­i­nate fuel sub­si­dies that are open to cor­rup­tion, he added.

“It’s a pity that Buhari has come at the wrong time,” said Debo Adeni­ran, of the Coali­tion Against Cor­rupt Lead­ers lobby group.

“The Jonathan gov­ern­ment has mis­man­aged the econ­omy with a lot of bag­gage too heavy for Buhari to carry. I still can­not fathom how the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion is go­ing to get the funds to im­ple­ment its pro­grammes.”

On the bus to Ag­bado, Abe­gunde is still con­fi­dent. “To whom much is given, much is ex­pected,” he said.

“Buhari has no ex­cuse to fail be­cause we gave him our votes with the hope that he would turn things around... We can­not con­tinue like this. Things have to change.”


Sup­port­ers of Muham­madu Buhari cel­e­brate his elec­tion victory in La­gos last month.

Libyan Navy boat car­ries il­le­gal mi­grants who at­tempted to flee the coast to Europe back to Tripoli on 5 May.

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