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Conflicts hinder Niger, Mali locust control: UN food agency
by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) June 5, 2012

Political insecurity and conflicts in North Africa are hindering efforts to control swarms of desert locusts that threaten crops in Niger and Mali, the UN's food agency said on Tuesday.

"Croplands in Niger and Mali are at imminent risk from desert locust swarms that are moving southward from Algeria and Libya," the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said, warning locusts had already been found in north Niger.

"Locust control efforts in the region are being hindered by continued insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border. Political insecurity and conflict in Mali could also hamper monitoring and control," it said.

Locust infestations were first reported in southwest Libya near Ghat in January 2012 and in southeast Algeria.

While the Rome-based agency had warned in March that swarms could arrive in Niger and Mali by June, it said Tuesday that persistent rains and the resulting boom in vegetation had accelerated the process.

"How many locusts there are and how far they move will depend on two major factors -- the effectiveness of current control efforts in Algeria and Libya and upcoming rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa," said FAO officer Keith Cressman.

"In a normal year, Algeria and Libya would have been able to control most of the local swarms and prevent their movement towards the south," he said.

"But insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border is getting in the way of full access by local teams and by FAO experts," he said, adding that Libya's capacity to carry out controls had also been affected.

Niger last faced desert locust swarms during the 2003-05 plague that affected farmers in two dozen countries.

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Contentious Angolan troops begin Guinea-Bissau pullout
Bissau (AFP) June 6, 2012 - Angolan troops, whose presence angered local soldiers and prompted a coup in April, on Wednesday began leaving Guinea-Bissau, an AFP journalist witnessed.

An Angolan cargo plane left Bissau mid-morning carrying men, tanks and heavy weaponry while an Angolan ship which arrived on Tuesday night loaded armoured vehicles and containers as it prepared to leave for Luanda.

An officer with an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mission ECOMIB which is replacing the Angolan mission, said the withdrawal will take place over "five days, at the rythm of the Angolan government."

"There are no major obstacles, the operation is going well in a cordial arrangement between the Angolans and ECOWAS," he added.

An Angolan diplomat said the departure of the Angolan troops signaled "the end of military co-operation" with Guinea-Bissau.

In addition, Luanda would not replace ambassador Feliciano Antonio Dos Santos who left in April.

The 600-strong Angolan force arrived in March 2011 as part of a bilateral military agreement.

However in a country where decades of conflict between army and state have led to coups, assassinations and chronic instability, it was seen as a personal protection force for government, and prompted an April 12 coup.


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Somali soldiers train for urban combat in rural Uganda
Bihanga, Uganda (AFP) June 4, 2012
Somali soldiers patrol a quiet village as locals sit on the terrace of a cafe, chatting and reading newspapers, when suddenly rebels armed with assault rifles appear and ambush them. The soldiers evacuate their wounded and take up positions while they wait for reinforcements. The scene is far from the sandy streets of Somalia's war-torn seaside capital Mogadishu. The Somalis are at the B ... read more

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