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UN warns of threats to civilians following resurgence of ‘deadlier, well-armed’ M23 rebels in DRC

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The United Nations has warned of threats to the civilian population in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following the resurgent of a ‘deadlier and well-armed’ M23 rebel group.

The head of UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC known as MONUSCO, Bintou Keita, who raised the alarm on Wednesday, said the return of the rebel group which has morphed from a ragtag militia group to a sophisticated and structured rebel group and the manner in which they go about their activities have raised serious concerns.

The resurgent M23 possesses firepower and equipment, which is increasingly sophisticated, specifically in terms of long-range fire capacities, mortars, machine guns, as well as precision fire against aircraft.

“During the most recent hostilities, the M23 has conducted itself increasingly as a conventional army, rather than an armed group,” Keita said while addressing the UN Security Council.

She added that In the past three months, the UN has recorded nearly 1,000 deaths and scores of injuries in the DRC provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri because of attacks by M23 group in clashes with security forces which ultimately lead to civilian casualties.

“Should the M23 continue its well-coordinated attacks against FARDC and MONUSCO with increasing conventional capabilities, the mission may find itself confronted by a threat that goes beyond its current capabilities,” she said.

The M23 was defeated by Congo’s army (FARDC) and UN peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO) in 2013 and they fled the country into neighbouring Rwanda where they regrouped and in November 2021, its forces began to reemerge, becoming better equipped, deadlier and more sophisticated.

Congolese officials have continued to blame Rwanda for allegedly giving support to the group which claims to be protecting the Tutsi minority in eastern DRC, while Rwanda’s government which is Tutsi-led has denies any link to the rebel group.

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US air strikes targets al-Shabaab Islamists in Somalia

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Several US air strikes have taken out several al-Shabaab commanders and their strongholds in Somalia, according to state media reports on Wednesday.

A statement by Somalia state own media said US military carried out air strikes against the al-Shabaab fighters in the central Hiran region on Tuesday, killing several fighters and their commanders.

The report said the air strikes followed a request from the Somali government following renewed attacks by the rebel group in different parts of the country.

A statement by the US-Africa Command based in the Horn of Africa country said airstrikes in June and July killed seven jihadist fighters flatter an increased in attacks on government targets in recent months by the insurgents.

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Sierra Leone: Parliament passes law to protect locals from land grabs

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The parliament in Sierra Leone has passed two laws that is widely believed will boost the rights of rural landowners and women.

The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act, both enacted on Monday, will protect against land grabs by big mining and agribusiness firms.

The new laws empower local landowners to negotiate the value of their land with investors and prevent it being leased out without their express consent.

An official of international legal advocacy group, Namati, Eleanor Thompson, said “to our knowledge there is not a legal regime anywhere, in either hemisphere that grants such robust rights to communities facing harm.”

The move is also praised by Gerben Haringsma who is the director of SOCFIN, the biggest agribusiness company in Sierra Leone, called it a “dream of NGOs”.

“Certainly, it will block any investment… It makes things very expensive and we are all prone to enormous blackmail by various communities.” Haringsma remarked.

Sierra Leone has a history of sometimes deadly conflict between local communities and foreign companies that have cleared huge tracts of land for palm oil and sugarcane plantations in recent years.

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