Ebola, jihadis main threats for Africa in 2015

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Nairobi, Dec 20: Outbreak of the Ebola virus, jihadi attacks and other humanitarian and health-related crises will be the major threats to political stability and economic progress in sub-Saharan Africa, in 2015.

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea Conakry and Sierra Leone has infected more than 18,600 people so far; killing 7,000 of the victims and creating a public health emergency that has crippled the economies of the three countries.

Ebola

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in a recent report, cast light on the drop in sales in local markets, the decrease in restaurant and hotel-related expenditures and the departure of expatriates, resulting in much less revenue for these countries.

A month ago, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had announced that Ebola could be contained by mid-2015 with "adequate" international response.

The world will also have its eyes on Nigeria in 2015, a year that will witness presidential elections in the country, which has had to face debilitating attacks by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

Deputy Director of African Affairs in the International Crisis Group, EJ Hogendoorn, told EFE that "it seems to be the closest election in recent years, and it is likely that the elections will be marred by violence."

The conflict with Boko Haram, which has caused thousands of deaths and about a million people being internally displaced, will be the main challenge that the Nigerian government will have to face to ensure transparent and credible elections.

This month, Nigeria's electoral commission expressed concern over the difficulty of guaranteeing that displaced persons, who are entitled to vote, will be able to participate in the electoral process.

It said that the situation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) could possibly give rise to complaints from the opposition parties whose electoral strongholds are located in the northeast of the country, which is also the region where the Boko Haram is entrenched.

"The chances of a spillover of the Nigerian crisis to the neighboring countries are low, and in any case, they would have minimal effects," Hogendoorn said, in reference to the attacks launched by the Boko Haram in Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Somalia, on the other hand, has recently appointed its tenth prime minister of the last decade; although its internal disputes do not allow it to focus on what should be its main objective, which is ending the hegemony of the Al Shabab terrorist group.

In spite of losing much of its strength since the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) arrived in the country, the jihadi group still poses a major domestic threat, as well as being a problem for Kenya.

In addition to the fragile political framework and the general lack of security, Somalia also faces a new humanitarian crisis that threatens the survival of nearly three million people.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Philippe Lazzarini warned early this month that UN agencies in 2015 will need $863 million to meet the increasing humanitarian needs in this country.

In the Central African Republic, on the other hand, the scarcity of food and water is a big cause for concern. The country is still enmeshed in a major humanitarian crisis a year after falling into turmoil, a crisis that will certainly continue throughout the next year.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 2.5 million children, who represent more than half of the country's population, are in a very precarious situation due to insecurity in the rural areas.

UNICEF estimated that there are 430,000 internally-displaced persons in the Central African Republic and another 424,000 refugees living in Chad, Cameroon, Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

All these are countries that cannot cope with the constant influx of refugees, mostly women and children, fleeing occurrences of violence.

--IANS/EFE

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