Top of the Morning: Unrest in Burundi; Record Number of Syrian Refugees; Global Food Prices Warning

Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service–DAWNS Digest

Former Rebel Group Declares War in Burundi

Remnants of a former Hutu rebel group, which had laid down its arms in a 2009 peace deal, is resuming armed conflict against the government of Burundi. This has the potential to turn into something quite serious. “An ex-leader of Burundi’s former rebel National Liberation Forces on Monday claimed responsibility for a weekend attack near the capital and announced the creation of a new FNL faction. ‘We have decided to take up arms against the government under the new banner of FNL-Ubugabo burihabwa,’ Aloys Nzabampema, the group’s ‘chief of staff’, said in a statement. His statement claimed responsibility for a Sunday evening attack on a military base on the outskirts of Bujumbura in which, he said, rockets were fired towards the airport. Burundi army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza acknowledged an attack ‘far from the airport’ but said it was done by a ‘group of bandits’ who were quickly repelled. A diplomatic source told AFP that the 300-500 fighters who have taken to the bush pose a threat to the country’s stability and that ‘they may not worry [the capital] Bujumbura, but they have the power to destabilise.’” (AFP

Some deeper context from Think Africa Press, which examines the roots of this tenuous situation. (Think Africa Press

Number of Syrian Refugees Hits Record High

The U.N. refugee agency says 100,000 refugees fled Syria in August alone, the highest monthly total since the uprising began. “The escalating fighting in Aleppo and earlier in Damascus has intensified the refugee crisis in Syria. In August, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 30,000 people had fled to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in the space of a week. Chief UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said the total number of refugees from Syria who had either been registered or were awaiting registration was now 235,300, with 103,416 people seeking asylum in August alone. But the unregistered numbers that have entered countries bordering Syria are thought to be even higher. Turkey says it has taken in more than 80,000 people and another 8,000 are waiting at the Syrian border.According to the Jordanian government, up to 183,000 Syrians have entered the country since the uprising began and refugees are arriving at a rate of around 1,000 a day. The UN says the situation is precarious, with aid agencies struggling to prepare camps for them.”  (BBC

UN Agencies Issue Global Food Prices Warning

The three Rome-based UN Agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural  Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) issued a joint statement on rising food costs. “The current situation in world food markets, characterized by sharp increases in maize, wheat and soybean prices, has raised fears of a repeat of the 2007-2008 world food crisis. But swift, coordinated international action can stop that from happening. We need to act urgently to make sure that these price shocks do not turn into a catastrophe hurting tens of millions over the coming months. Two interconnected problems must be tackled: the immediate issue of some high food  prices, which can impact heavily on food import-dependent countries and on the poorest people; and the long-term issue of how we produce, trade and consume food in an age of increasing population, demand and climate change. In responding to those challenges, we are better placed today than five years ago. We have developed new policies and new instruments, like the United Nations High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security and AMIS, the G20’s Agricultural Markets Information System, which improves transparency in global markets. We also have the AMIS-related Rapid Response Forum, set up to facilitate coordinated policy responses by the major world producers and traders of key cereals and soybeans in the event of market upheavals.” (FAO