Saturday, March 8, 2014
Trade between Cameroon and Nigeria has stagnated following the closure of the border in an attempt to prevent Islamist terrorists from launching attacks from Cameroonian territory.
In the past, Islamist militants from the Nigerian Boko Haram sect used Cameroon as a haven from which to carry out hit-and-run attacks on Nigeria which frequently resulted in deaths and destruction of property.
The closure of the border has led to a sharp fall in food exports like sorghum, rice and onions to Nigeria on one hand, while basic commodities imported from Nigeria like fuel cannot enter Cameroon.
Communities at the Cameroonian border town of Amchide have been greatly affected as much of their livelihood depends on cross-border trade.
Businessman Mokom Nevielle told DW that trade was at its lowest since Boko Haram made its presence felt in the border town.
"Ever since those Boko Haram people attacked us here, everything is at a standstill. Look at those bullet-riddled walls," said Nevielle. "Ever since the Nigerian soldiers came here they have been stopping us from crossing, so we can no longer sell and we do not know what to do."
Amchide - a ghost town
In the streets of Amchide, merchants who constitute ninety percent of the population have given way to patrol teams of Cameroon's military. Both the Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers on their respective sides of the border look nervous.
The Nigerian military was deployed there in mid-February 2014 to stop Islamist extremists using the porous border zone between the two countries to prepare attacks.
Fuel vendor Moustapha Bakari says this has had disastrous consequences not only for merchants but also for the residents of northern Cameroon who depend on fuel imported from Nigeria.
"Fuel is now very expensive. A litre now costs 600 CFA francs ($1.3, 90 eurocents). Customers are refusing to pay, so it is no longer a profitable business," he told DW.
The only currency exchange market that serves traders between the two countries is no longer operating. Nchoutou Soule, who makes a living from it, said business was at a standstill.
"We normally do money changing from the CFA franc used in Cameroon to the Nigerian naira and vice versa. But for some time now, we do not have customers," he said.
Fongot Edwin, a senior customs officer in Cameroon says his staff are finding it difficult to meet revenue targets. He is happy that the central government has provided them with semi-automatic weapons to fend off any attacks by Boko Haram. "Most of our colleagues now carry the Kalashnikov type of gun," he said.
Spiralling prices for commodities
At the Amchide motor park, transport fares have increased by up to seventy percent due to fuel shortages. Shoe vendor Halirou Kakoy says such an increase is unprecedented during the eleven years that he has lived there.
"Everything is becoming expensive, the price for a pair of slippers has doubled and so no one wants to buy. Nothing is moving here," he said.
Huge quantities of agricultural produce are now piled up in Cameroon because of the sealed borders. Onions cultivated there can no longer be exported so farmers are becoming poorer and poorer. Businessman Jean Paul Ndam fears for the future.
"I believe that in the days ahead there will be serious food shortages in the north of Cameroon," said Ndam. "We are expecting disastrous consequences since we can no longer import."
For its part the Nigerian army says it was exercising emergency powers because it was imperative to seal off the border between Cameroon and parts of Nigeria tom prevent illegal crossings.
But for now the people in Amchide hope that the situation will get better soon so they can resume their cross-border trade with their neighbors in Nigeria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of seeking to destabilise his country by supporting insurgent groups and providing them with financial support.
In an interview with French television channel France24, Mr Maliki said the two countries had effectively declared war on Iraq.
"They are attacking Iraq through Syria, and in a direct way," he said.
Mr Maliki also accused Saudi Arabia of supporting global "terrorism".
Iraq has been going through a period of renewed violence in recent months, driven principally by widespread discontent among the country's Sunni minority and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Mr Maliki, who belongs to the Shia majority, said accusations that he was marginalising the Sunnis came from sectarian groups with links to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
In the past, he has blamed unnamed regional countries for destabilising Iraq.
Last year, Iraq saw the highest death toll since 2007, according to the United Nations.
According to UN figures, the violence in 2013 killed 8,868 people.
A key part of the Soviet Union’s Cold War strategy for fighting the West was to deny the United States and its allies the moral authority to lead the world in a struggle against Communism and tyranny. The Soviets recognized that by causing Western societies to doubt their morality and the justness of their cause, they would curtail the ability of Western leaders to confront Soviet aggression.To this end, the Soviets sought to co-opt the postwar anticolonialist movement and transform the aspiration of colonial possessions to achieve national self-determination into an anti-Western prejudice. The Soviets believed that by subverting third-world independence movements in this way, they could convince the West, including the United States, that it lacked the moral authority to lead the world in international affairs.Rejecting Israel’s right to exist, and castigating it as an imperialist, racist enclave was a key part of the Soviet strategy. Israel was an anti- colonialist state par excellence. The Zionists had fought against both the Ottoman and British empires to secure an independent Jewish state. On the other hand, the Palestinians sided with the Nazis and their goal of global conquest, and they created the pan-Islamic and pan-Arab com- mitment to destroying the only non-Islamic and non-Arab state in the Middle East.
Warning shots have been fired as a team of international military observers was turned back from entering Crimea.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that no-one was hurt in the incident at Armyansk.
It was the third time the OSCE has been prevented from entering Crimea, now in the control of pro-Russian forces.
In another development, Russia's deputy foreign minister has held talks with Ukraine's ambassador in Moscow.
The foreign ministry gave no details but said the talks on Saturday between deputy minister Grigory Karasin and ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko were held in an "open atmosphere".
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At the scene
The troops of Ukrainian air defence base A2355 are nervous, and who can blame them?
They've had to surrender all their weapons, and late at night pro-Russian forces attempted to ram the camp gates with an army lorry.
The precise identity of these armed men is unclear: are they Russian soldiers or simply, as Moscow insists, "self defence volunteers"?
Whoever they are, since they are armed and the Ukrainians inside the base are not, they could easily take it any time they want. All the Ukrainians have to stop them is a stinger contraption - a row of metal spikes to burst tyres.
The Ukrainians never know what will happen next. They look exhausted and mentally drained. As much as anything they seem to be the victims of a campaign of psychological intimidation.
Also on Saturday, US President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande warned of "new measures" against Moscow if it failed to make progress on defusing the crisis in Ukraine.
The French presidency said that, in a phone call, the two leaders insisted on the "need for Russia to withdraw forces sent to Crimea" and "to do everything to allow the deployment of international observers".
It was not clear what "new measures" could entail.
In other developments:
- Russian news agencies carried a statement from a defence ministry official saying that Moscow was considering halting foreign inspections of its strategic weapons arsenal - designated under international arms control treaties - as a result of US and Nato responses to the Ukraine crisis
- Poland's foreign minister said the country's consulate in Sevastopol had been "reluctantly" evacuated as a result of "continuing disturbances by Russian forces there"
Witnesses travelling with the OSCE said several shots were fired in the air as a convoy of vehicles approached a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian forces on a road leading from mainland Ukraine into the Crimea peninsula.
An OSCE spokeswoman said that the mission was withdrawing to the nearest big city, Kherson, to decide on its next steps.
The Vienna-based OSCE was invited by Ukraine's interim government, but Russian separatist authorities in Crimea say it does not have permission to enter the region.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the crisis in Ukraine was "created artificially for purely geopolitical reasons".
He confirmed that Russia had contacts with Ukraine's interim government but said Kiev was beholden to the radical right.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Saturday, he said: "We are ready to continue a dialogue [with the West] on the understanding that a dialogue should be honest and partner-like, and without attempts to make us look like a party to the conflict. We didn't create this crisis."
Ukraine's crisis began in late November when President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a landmark deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.
After weeks of protests in which more than 100 protesters were killed, Mr Yanukovych fled Ukraine and opposition leaders formed an interim government.
Russia effectively took control of Crimea - where its Black Sea Fleet is based - more than a week ago.
Crimea's pro-Russian leadership has set a date of 16 March for a referendum on joining Russia. Kiev says the vote would be illegal.
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- 21 Nov 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych abandons deal on closer ties with EU in favour of closer co-operation with Russia
- December 2013: Pro-EU protesters occupy Kiev city hall and Independence Square
- 20 Feb: At least 88 people killed in 48 hours of bloodshed in Kiev
- 21 Feb: President Yanukovych signs compromise deal with opposition leaders
- 22 Feb: President Yanukovych flees Kiev. Parliament votes to remove him and sets elections for 25 May
- 27-28 Feb: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Crimean capital Simferopol
- 1 March: Russian parliament approves President Vladimir Putin's request to use Russian forces in Ukraine
- 6 March: Crimea's parliament asks to join Russia and sets referendum for 16 March
Dozens of military trucks transporting heavily armed soldiers arrived at a military airfield at Gvardeiskoe north of Simferopol on Saturday, AP news agency reported.
Licence plates and numbers indicated they were from the Moscow region, the report said, and some towed mobile kitchens and what appeared to be mobile medical equipment.
Russia denies sending troops to Crimea, but supports "local defence forces" protecting the largely ethnic-Russian population.
Also in Simferopol, a public ceremony was held for the swearing-in of the first unit in the pro-Russia "Military Forces of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea". Witnesses said about 30 armed men, ranging in age from teenagers to a man who appeared to be about 60, were sworn in at a city park.
Pro-Russian soldiers tried to seize a Ukrainian military base outside the biggest city, Sevastopol, overnight on Friday but no shots were fired and they pulled back.
The BBC's Ben Brown visited the base on Saturday and said that Ukrainian forces still inside were "nervous".
Western states have accused Russia of violating Ukrainian sovereignty in Crimea and both the US and EU have threatened Moscow with sanctions.