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Archive for October 7th, 2009

Work in Afghanistan is dangerous for NGOs

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2009

In Brief: Afghan NGO workers in the firing line

Photo:
Work in Afghanistan is dangerous for NGOs (file photo)

KABUL, – In the first nine months of 2009, 18 Afghan NGO employees have been killed and six wounded in security incidents, according to a report by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO). Eight were killed in 42 incidents from July to September.

Criminal murders, IED [improvised explosive device] attacks, and ambushes by armed opposition groups are the leading cause of casualties among NGO workers this year, said the 6 October report.

Taliban and other armed opposition groups were responsible for 70 percent of the attacks, the remainder being carried out by criminal gangs, it said.

ANSO, which is funded by the European Commission, Norway and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, provides security information to NGOs operating in Afghanistan.

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West Africa ranks third after Southern Africa and North Africa on the 2009 Mo Ibrahim index of African governance

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2009

In Brief: Liberia fares better in governance index

Photo: Christopher Herwig/UNMIL
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (file photo)

DAKAR, – West Africa ranks third after Southern Africa and North Africa on the 2009 Mo Ibrahim index of African governance assessing governanceacrossthecontinent’s fiveregions, spanning 53 countries.

The index, released on 5 October, assesses performance on safety of populations and the rule of law, participation in political processes and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development in each country.

Cape Verde, ranked second overall, is the highest-scoring West African country. Liberias score has increased the most in West Africa since 2005. Its score is a reflection of the high participationin its post-conflict political process, Mo Ibrahim Foundation head of research, Hania Farhan, told IRIN. But Liberia is still brought down by poor human development indicators, having made little progress on education, she added.

Guinea fell substantially in the safety and rule of law category a direct reflection of the shift in power to the junta, according to Farhan, with personal safety dropping sgnificantly.

Mauritania, which saw a military coup in August, also scored low on personal safety, Farhan said.

The index was created in recognition of the need for a robust tool for civil society to track government performance in Africa.

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Congolese citizens who had been living in Cabinda and the town of Soyo were among those deported by Angolan authorities

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2009

DRC: Congolese “brutally deported” from Angola

Photo: IRIN
Cabinda town square in Angola (file photo): Congolese citizens who had been living in Cabinda and the town of Soyo were among those deported by Angolan authorities

KINSHASA, – Thousands of Congolese citizens are being deported from Angola to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under alarming circumstances, say humanitarian workers.

“The deportees have nothing with them, everything was taken; there are cases of violence, rape and sexual abuse,” said Severine Flores, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Many of the deportees travelled to the DRC town of Boma, in Bas-Congo province.

“For the moment, most of the deportees are being accommodated by other families and are spread out in the town,” said Flores, adding that reliable statistics of their numbers were not available. However, she added that according to local NGOs, almost 18,000 people had been deported since July. Thousands of Congolese in Angola are deported every year.

According to the UN-run Radio Okapi, close to 25,000 other Congolese had fled mistreatment in Angola since the start of the year. The Congolese Minister for Social Affairs said an official mission has been set up to investigate.

Congolese citizens who had been living in the Angolan town of Soyo and in the Cabinda enclave were among those deported. Some 5,000 reportedly crossed the border last weekend. “They were chased by all kinds of security forces: soldiers, police, even immigration officers, who took away everything the Congolese were carrying,” Jean-Pierre Larandja, an Angolan in Cabinda, told IRIN by telephone.

“Things are bad,” one of the deportees told Radio Okapi. “They are attacking us Congolese. Some people are seriously wounded; people have been killed by machete, with guns. As soon as they see you have a bundle on your head they hit you.

“As I talk to you now, my foot is injured. All the Congolese who live there want to leave,” he said, adding that ordinary Angolans, as well as security forces, had joined in the attacks, “breaking into our homes, making off with our goods and beating us”.

In reaction, DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende said the Congolese immigration service had in the past week begun to deport Angolans from DRC.

“We cannot accept that the Congolese are deported without dignity even if they are living there illegally. They are thoroughly searched, sometimes even [strip-searched]. Some people have had their stomach pumped,” said Mende. Many Congolese work in diamond mines in Angola.

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Protesters in Guinea during a nationwide strike in 2006, carrying a sign calling for change

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2009

GUINEA: Timeline since independence

Photo: Maseco Conde/IRIN
Protesters in Guinea during a nationwide strike in 2006, carrying a sign calling for change (file photo)

DAKAR, – Guineans are reeling from a 28 September deadly military crackdown on demonstrators that witnesses call “indescribably brutal”.

The latest violence stunned even a nation with a long history of military repression of civilians an era Guineans had hoped would pass with the death of 24-year leader Lansana Cont and arrival of Moussa Dadis Camara in December 2008.

Here is a timeline of some events since independence from France in 1958.

5 October 2009 – France states its support for initiatives by mediator BlaiseCompaor,mediator in the Guinea crisis; encourages the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the UN Commission on Human Rights to set up an international commission of inquiry into the 28 September violence

5 October 2009 – Burkina FasoPresident Blaise Compaor, designated by the Economic Community of West African States as mediator in Guinea, visits the capital Conakry, calls for a meeting between the junta and political leaders

2 October 2009 – The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, names Burkina Faso President BlaiseCompaor mediator in the Guinea conflict

2 October 2009 – Junta holds a ceremony to bury the bodies of the 57 people it says died in 28 September violence, but scuffles break out as hundreds of Guineans search in vain for family members thought to be detained or killed

2 October 2009 – Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara says presidential elections in Guinea will go forward as planned in January 2010

1 October 2009 – National political parties and civil society forum issue a statement calling for a number ofitems including an international peace force andthe immediate release of people detained during the 28 September unrest; the forum rejects junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara’s call for a government of national unity, declaring that internal dialogue is now impossible

30 September 2009 – Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara calls for a government of national unity

30 September 2009 – UN Security Council expresses concern about the violence in Guinea

29 September 2009 – Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara blames 28 September violence on “opposition” demonstrators and “uncontrolled elements” in the military

28 September 2009 – Guineans assemble in a national stadium to protest the candidacyof junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara, defying a ban by authorities on a planned rally.Soldiersviolently crack down on demonstrators, according to witnesses shooting and stabbing people and raping women and girls; human rights organizations say at least 150 killed and more than 1,000 injured

22 September 2009 – International contact group on Guinea welcomes a decision by the African Union expressing concern about whether junta members keeping to a commitment not to run in presidential elections; contact groupexpresses “grave concerns” about delays in the electoral process and the deterioration of the political, human rights and security situation in Guinea

22 September 2009 – Supporters of Moussa Dadis Camarademonstrate in the capital Conakry

19 September 2009 -Leaders of political parties and civil society call for a 28 September rallyto protest Camara’s candidacy

17 September 2009 – Peace and Security Council of the African Unionthreatens sanctions against junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara “and all other individuals, both civilian and military” whose activities run counter to a commitment that no members of the rulingNational Council for Development and Democracy would be a presidential candidate. AUexpresses “deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Guinea” and “strongly condems the repudiation” of this commitment by Camara

23 August 2009 – Coalition of civil society organizations, unions, political parties, religious groups call on Guineans not to allow junta to confiscate power

19 August 2009 – Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara tells journalists whether he runs for president “is up toGod

17 August 2009 – Ruling National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD) accepts recommendation by civil society organizations, political parties, unions and religious groups to hold presidential election in January 2010, legislative election in March 2010

13 August 2009 – Junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara announces the formation of a national transitional council, called for by national and international groups in March

June 2009 – Following debate over the feasibility of holding elections in 2009, civil society organizations, political parties, religious groups and unions form a committee to evaluate election timetable

March 2009 – International community calls on CNDD to work with political parties, civil society organizations, unions to form a transitional council

March 2009 – Ruling CNDD says it will hold presidential election by end of 2009

February 2009 – Junta arrests son of deceased president Lansana Cont, Ousmane Cont, as part of a crackdown on suspected drug traffickers

January 2009 – The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rejects a military-led transition in Guinea and bars junta members from attending meetings of any decision-making bodies

January 2009 – An international contact group on Guinea is formed, including representatives of ECOWAS, the African Union Commission, the European Union, the Mano River Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the UN Security Council

25 December 2008 – Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souar and other government officials turn themselves in at Alpha Yaya Diallo army barracks, CNDD headquarters

25 December 2008 – Moussa Dadis Camara announces presidential elections would be held after a two-year transition and he would not be a candidate

24 December 2008 – Moussa Dadis Camara proclaims himself president and head of the new National Council for Democracy and Development

23 December 2008 – In the early morning hours government officials announce that President Lansana Cont died the previous evening; confusion reigns as soldiers announce on state media they have dissolved government and taken over, while Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souar insists the government is intact

June 2008 – Police launch protests over salary arrears, provoking deadly clashes with military

May 2008 – Soldiers mutiny over pay, with several soldiers and civilians killed or injured in the unrest; Lansana Cont eventually dismisses defence minister


Photo: Nancy Palus/IRIN
Billboard of Guinea’s junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara in the capital Conakry

May 2008 – Lansana Cont sacks Prime Minister Lansana Kouyat and names political ally Ahmed Tidiane Souar , in a move Human Rights Watch said dealt a serious blow to hopes that mass protest and people power could bring reform

May 2007 – Soldiers stage protests over salary arrears and living conditions

February 2007 – Following strike and unrest Lansana Cont names Lansana Kouyat as consensus prime minister

January 2007 – In January Guineans massively heed another union call for a national strike; hundreds are killed in crackdown by military

2006 – Union-led national strikes paralyse country; several students are killed by security forces in protests over cancelled exams

2005 – Presidential motorcade of Lansana Cont fired upon in the capital Conakry

2003 – Lansana Cont re-elected in an opposition-boycotted poll

2001 – A referendum changes the constitution to allow president to run for a third term and increase the term from five to seven years; opposition rejects the vote as rigged, calls for boycott

2000-01 – Guinean army fights off incursions by rebels at borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone

1998 – Lansana Cont wins presidential election,which opposition denounces as rigged

1996 – Army mutiny. Loyalist troops eventually repulse attacks on the presidential palace

1993 – Lansana Cont wins Guineas first multi-party election, which is boycotted by opposition groups and marred by demonstrations

1990 – Guineans vote for new constitution, with a call to end one-party military rule

1989 – Conflict in neighbouring Liberia forces thousands to flee into Guinea; between 1989 and 2002 Guinea would receive some 750,000 refugees from the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, thousands more from Cte dIvoire after that countrys 2002 rebellion

1984 – President Ahmed Skou Tour dies in March; Lansana Cont takes power in a coup in April

1970 – Dissidents attack Guinea in an unsuccessful attempt to bring down President Ahmed Skou Tour; the incident is seen as intensifying Tours repression of opponents

1965 – President Ahmed Skou Tour cuts relations with colonial power France, until 1975

1958 – Independence, with Ahmed Skou Tour as president

[Timeline originally posted 24 August 2009, updated 28 September 2009, 6 October 2009]

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Swans were assumed to be always white, until the discovery of black swans in Australia

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2009

GLOBAL: Beware of black swans!

Photo: The Pacific Basin Consortium for Environment and Health
Swans were assumed to be always white, until the discovery of black swans in Australia

JOHANNESBURG, ) – Predicting the impact of climate change requires studying changes in the long-term averages of daily weather patterns and many other factors, and can be a tricky business.

Scientists use climate models that simulate the possible impact of variables like radiation, moisture content, and the movement of air and temperature over a given period of time to help project what could happen.

To make forecasting the possible impact of climate change as comprehensive as possible, and make the connection between current events and future consequences clearer, scientists and academics have been expanding the list of variables such as sea level rise and even food price increases and malnutrition statistics.

“The lesson is to understand what models do,” said Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein

''They [models]show you a very simplified picture of what may happen under very tightly proscribed conditions''

International Centre at Tufts University in the US. “They show you a very simplified picture of what may happen under very tightly proscribed conditions. They do not predict the future!”

Models show “what will happen if the variables looked at behave as expected – i.e., all other things being equal, and our predictions over the changes in variables being right – this is what will happen,” he explained.

“Where models fall down is if the accrual variables affecting the future turn out to be ones they [scientists] have not mapped. So, what if conflict triggered by climate changes turns out to be a big issue [in future]? What if the relationships between the variables change as a different future evolves?” Walker commented.

“So, for instance, models that 30 years ago were used to predict savings rates in the US are now useless because the relationship between what people earn, what they want to buy, and what they saved has been radically changed by the introduction of credit cards. Pre-credit card models don’t work,” he pointed out.

“Finally, it is an irritating reality that much change in history has not been driven by the predictable events, but by the unpredicted – the big, unexpected events. This is referred to as the ‘Black Swan Theory’.”

Swans were assumed to be always white, until the discovery of black swans in Australia. “By definition we do not know what black swans will come along to render our predictive models useless,” he said, nevertheless, modelling was still a “good tool for demonstrating that there is no business as usual!”

Walker recently used various models to project the likely rise in humanitarian spending over the next 20 years as the frequency and intensity of natural disasters increased.

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