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Archive for April, 2012

Locked up and forgotten: Who will help them?

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2012

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Making things work: Timeline of key events under new president

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2012

Abdurabu Mansour Hadi at the time he took office

SANA’A,  – Two months after Yemen’s new government was sworn in, violence in the south appears to be increasing with attacks and kidnappings blamed on militants, while more than 10 million people are food insecure and almost half a million internally displaced. The UN says at least 800,000 children are acutely malnourished.

The new president, Abdurabu Mansour Hadi, is struggling to restructure the army and rid it of relatives of former president Abdallah Saleh on the one hand, and key opposition leaders (his former adversaries) on the other. Meanwhile, the protests continue. Below is a timeline of key events during Hadi’s first 60 days in office:

25 February: At least 26 Republican Guard soldiers killed and more than 10 injured at a presidential palace in Mukalla city, Hadhramaut Governorate, just one hour after Hadi takes office.

27 February: Ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh officially hands over power to Hadi at a ceremony in Sana’a in the presence of foreign diplomats and Yemeni dignitaries.

1 March: Thirty killed in sectarian clashes between Houthi-led Shia fighters and members of the Islamist Islah Party in Hajjah Governorate.

2 March: Tens of thousands of protesters take to streets in Sana’a and other main cities on so-called “Friday of Restructuring the Army”, demanding the removal of Saleh’s relatives from their military and security posts.

4 March: Four soldiers killed in clashes with Islamic militants in Beidha Governorate, some 250km southeast of Sana’a.

5 March: Islamic militants storm a military camp in Abyan Governorate, leaving 185 soldiers dead and dozens of others injured; they loot heavy weapons including a tank and artillery pieces.

8 March: Seven killed in clashes between army members and Houthi fighters in Amran Governorate.

9 March: Tens of thousands of protesters take to streets in 14 governorates, demanding Hadi begin restructuring the divided army. Twenty-six Islamic militants killed in air raids in Beidha Governorate.

11 March: Gunmen in Marib Governorate attack the country’s main power plant and blow up an oil pipeline.

12 March: One killed, six injured in clashes between police and armed members of the Southern Movement (SM) in Hadhramaut Governorate.

13 March: Eight people, including four Republican Guard soldiers, killed and more than a dozen injured in a car suicide bombing in Beidha Governorate.

16 March: Tens of thousands rally in Sana’a and other main cities, demanding removal of Saleh’s relatives from top posts in the military and security institutions, and the abolition of the law granting immunity to Saleh.

18 March: Hundreds of thousands demonstrate in Sana’a and other main cities, commemorating the first anniversary of “Friday of Dignity” when 52 protesters were killed in Sana’a.

19 March: Three killed and another dozen injured in clashes between police and SM gunmen in the southern city of Aden.

22 March: Ten killed, several injured in landmine blasts in Kusher District, Hajjah Governorate, following clashes between Houthi fighters and armed tribesmen.

23 March: Hundreds of thousands protest in Sana’a and other main cities on so-called Friday of “Executing killers of protesters is our demand”.

26 March: President Hadi makes a surprise visit to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, to get support for implementation of transitional reforms.

31 March: More than 28 soldiers killed, dozens injured or held captive by Islamic militants in Lahj Governorate.

1 April: Seven soldiers ambushed, killed by Islamic militants in Hadhramaut.

7 April: Hadi begins to remove some of Saleh’s relatives and defected leaders from their posts.

10 April: More than 100 soldiers killed in an attack by Islamic militants in Lawdar, Abyan. Another seven killed on the highway between Marib and Shabwa governorates.

13 April: Tens of thousands of protesters in Sana’a and other main cities demand that Hadi remove other relatives of the ex-president from key posts in the military and security institutions.

15 April: Dismissed Air Force Commander Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, who is a half-brother to the ex-president, given a 48-hour deadline to hand over to his successor Rashad al-Janad. The decision is supported by EU diplomats who meet Hadi. Tariq Saleh, nephew of the ex-president and commander of the Presidential Guard, refused to be moved to an Armoured Division in Hadhramaut.

16 April: Hundreds of Saleh supporters demonstrate in Sana’a, demanding his return to power. Speaking in front of hundreds of young supporters, Saleh said: “No one may surrender himself to death or liquidation”, giving a signal that his relatives should not be removed from their senior army and security posts.

17 April: Dismissed commander al-Ahmar prevents demilitarization committee from accessing the Air Force Headquarters to arrange a handover to his successor. The issue is transferred to the UN Security Council, which is supervising the transition in Yemen.

18 April: UN Envoy Jamal Binomar visits Yemen to discuss the power transition process.

20 April: Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets in most Yemeni cities demanding the prosecution of military leaders who refused Hadi’s orders on their dismissals.

24 April: Dismissed Air Force Commander Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar hands over to his successor.

Sources:

IRINnews reports on Yemen
www.barakish.net

www.newsyemen.net

www.yementimes.net

www.al-tagheer.com
www.aljazeera.net

Saeeda TV station
Ministry of Interior
www.yemenfox.net
Yemen Today TV station
www.hajjah.net

www.marebpress.net

Yemen Polling Centre (local think-tank)

ay/eo/cb
source www.irinnews.org

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Cruelty: Rebels cut off Victor Vandi’s left leg during the civil war

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2012

Rebels cut off Victor Vandi’s left leg during the civil war (file photo)

DAKAR,  – Sierra Leoneans are relieved that former warlord and President of Liberia Charles Taylor has been convicted by the Special Court of Sierra Leone on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Taylor was convicted today by the UN-backed court in The Hague, capital of The Netherlands, of acts of terrorism, murder, violence to life, rape, sexual slavery, outrages to personal dignity, cruel treatment, the use of child soldiers, enslavement and pillage. He has denied the charges.

President of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, Taylor was accused of supporting the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) who killed, raped and injured tens of thousands of people during Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.

Abioseh, 31, who was used as a sexual slave or “wife” of an RUF commander during the conflict, told IRIN from Makeni, central Sierra Leone, that “Taylor got what he was due – now we have seen justice and can move on.”

The verdict will not make her daily life or that of other survivors any easier. The father of one of her three children is an ex-RUF commander, and the associated stigma means she has never married and now struggles to provide for her children.

The RUF were known for their brutal violence, using machetes to cut off people’s limbs, training and coercing thousands of children to injure and kill civilians, and perpetrating widespread sexual violence and rape. An estimated 27,000 Sierra Leoneans were disabled or had one or more of their limbs amputated during the conflict.

The verdict “marks a watershed for efforts to hold the highest level leaders accountable for the greatest crimes, and for the victims of Sierra Leone’s brutal armed conflict”, Annie Gell, an attorney at the Human Rights Watch International Justice Programme, told IRIN.

This is the first time since the Nuremburg trials in 1947, after World War II, that a former head of state has faced a judgement in an international court, and should be a “wake-up call to leaders everywhere that those in power can be held to account for their crimes”, said Gell.

''I will reflect on the suffering we suffered today, but I want to forget – we have known all along Charles Taylor is guilty. Today is just another day where we must find food''

Many Sierra Leoneans see Taylor as accountable for atrocities committed during the civil war. His trial, held in The Hague due to stability concerns in Sierra Leone, has taken almost five years. So far eight more people associated with the three main warring factions have been tried and convicted by the court in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, and are serving sentences in Rwanda.

Mixed reactions in Liberia

Reactions to the verdict in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, have been mixed, with some Taylor supporters angry that he has been singled out.

Though only on trial for his actions relating to the violence in Sierra Leone, Taylor also played a key role in bringing neighbouring Liberia into the civil war in the late 1980s, but no such judicial process has taken place there. Instead, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was rolled out but its recommendations have not been implemented, partly because some of them are so controversial. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was one of 50 Liberians recommended for subjection to public sanctions – in her case for providing financial support to Charles Taylor.

While the survivors of the violence in Sierra Leone maybe pleased with the verdict, many also stress that practical assistance to help them rebuild their lives is just as important. Those who were sexually abused, wounded or injured during the war were promised reparations to help them move on, but many have yet to receive help, and the amounts are too small to make any significant difference, survivors have told IRIN.

James Kpomgbo, whose arm was cut off during the war, told a reporter in Freetown after the verdict had been announced: “I will reflect on the suffering we suffered today, but I want to forget – we have known all along Charles Taylor is guilty. Today is just another day where we must find food.”

aj/he
source www.irinnews.org

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Salome Matakwei, widown of militia leader Wycliffe Matakwei is still a hated woman

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2012

Salome Matakwei, widown of militia leader Wycliffe Matakwei

MT ELGON, – Between 2006 and 2008, a self-styled militia, the Sabot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), carried out an insurgency to correct what its leaders said were injustices committed during a land distribution exercise which began in 1972 in Chebyuk, in the western Kenyan district of Mount Elgon.

In the process, however, SLDF engaged in rape, murder and the physical punishment of those in the region it saw as enemies, according to local human rights NGO the Independent Medico-Legal Unit. Hundreds of people were displaced.

The military intervened with “Operation Okoa Maisha” (Operation Save Lives), which left an estimated 1,000 people dead; 300 others went missing, amid allegations of torture committed by both sides.

Six years after the insurgency and the military intervention, Salome Matakwei, 38, the wife of SLDF leader Wycliffe Matakwei, who was killed by the army, told IRIN her story.

“Wycliffe kept on telling he was not happy with the way the land was distributed in Chebyuk settlement scheme, and he kept on telling me that he would do something about it.

“I didn’t know he was forming a militia group, but most of the time, he would be away from home telling me he was attending some important meetings, and I believed that the meetings were really important. I didn’t know they were meetings meant to plan how to kill people.

“He commanded people who killed others’ husbands and sons, and raped people’s wives.

“Many women, just like me, are now left widows. I am not sad that I am a widow, but I feel sad for the other women whose husbands were killed by the military and SLDF, because my husband is responsible for all of it.

“Some people still hate me and when I go to the market they talk and say I should not talk to them because it is my husband who knows why their husbands were killed. I am not bitter with them because he [my husband] took their husbands away by starting the war.

“I try to explain to them that I have nothing to do with it. I don’t even know how to organize a small fight. I couldn’t have helped my husband organize that conflict [insurgency].

“I don’t want to sit back and watch them suffer and now I have decided to form self-help groups, and through these groups we engage in income-generating activities like keeping livestock and chickens.

“These women need to put food on the table for the children left behind by their dead husbands.

“We also move around the community preaching peace. I live with some of the children whose parents were killed during the conflict and when the military came.”

ko/am/cb
source www.irinnews.org

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Chinese killing method: Woman kills man by squeezing his testicles over parking dispute

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2012

Woman kills man by squeezing his testicles over parking dispute A female scooter rider killed a man by squeezing his testicles over a parking dispute, in Haikou City, Hainan Province, China. The 41 years old woman rode her scooter to an elementary school in Meilan District, to pick up her child. When she tried to park her scooter in front of a shop, she was rejected by the 42-year-old male shop owner.

The two parties soon fell into a quarrel, and then the physical confrontation began. The furious woman called up her husband and brother to come help her, which resulted in a fight.

During the fight, the middle aged woman managed to grab the man’s testicles, and squeezed them till he finally collapsed on the ground. The man was immediately rushed to the hospital, but unfortunately died. ..

 

END

Source chinanews

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TB infection control measures lacking

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2012

TB infection control measures lacking

MBABANE,  – Hospitals are not protecting their workers from tuberculosis (TB) infection, say nurses in Swaziland, who recently staged a rare public demonstration to draw attention to how vulnerable they are to this highly infectious disease.

Nurses attached to the National TB Hospital in Swaziland’s commercial hub, Manzini, are blaming inadequate infection measures at the hospital for the risk they face. TB is one of the primary killers and the main opportunistic disease in people living with HIV and AIDS. In a country with the world’s highest HIV prevalence, 80 percent of HIV-positive people are co-infected with TB.

A study conducted in neighbouring South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province has found that the incidence of extensively drug-resistant (XDR-TB) and multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB is six to seven times higher among health care workers than among non-health care worker patients. There are no official figures for health care workers infected with TB in Swaziland.

Health personnel warn that government’s inaction could make things worse. “Government is killing us with its negligence. We just buried one of our sisters [another nurse] who died of TB. She contracted TB at the hospital where she worked,” Abigale Dube, a nurse and member of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SDNU), told IRIN/PlusNews.

There are no national guidelines on TB infection control measures in the country’s health care facilities, and nurses say this makes matters worse.

“What we gathered is that in the other hospitals, nurses have contracted multidrug-resistant TB because they are exposed to the disease on a daily basis. This can only mean their working environment is unsafe,” said Nurses’ Union General Secretary Nathi Kunene.

A nationwide strike attended by all nurses would ensue if issues like poor ventilation, unhygienic conditions and a lack of protective gear were not addressed, Kunene said.

Swaziland has the world’s highest TB infection level, and a 2010 survey found that 7.7 percent of all TB cases involved multidrug-resistant TB, putting it among the countries with the highest rates of this variant of the disease.

According to a recent report on MDR-TB in Swaziland, “the high prevalence of drug resistance in a country already facing a huge epidemic of TB and HIV shows an urgent need for major interventions in terms of detection, treatment, and infection control”.

Health services are being overwhelmed by the number of patients. “There is a shortage of nurses in Swaziland. The country does not pay well compared to other countries, and we have nurses trained here who are doing quite well in Europe, where they are in demand,” said Nurse Dube

“The reason they don’t stay here is the same reason that the remaining nurses are in danger – no money to make the hospitals safe places to work, so there will be fewer nurses as they grow sick and die.”

The Ministry of Health has responded to rising TB rates by “decentralizing” TB care from Mbabane, the capital, and Manzini to some regional health facilities, so that patients do not have to take long bus trips to receive treatment.

Even with 15 clinics nationwide now offering free TB testing, the number is still inadequate, and transport costs and user fees at health facilities are still a major hurdle for patients.

The National TB Programme announced this week that Swaziland’s TB response has received a US$19.4 million boost from the Global Fund to fight Tuberculosis AIDS and Malaria. One of the areas that will be strengthened is infection control measures at healthcare facilities.

“Following the declaration of TB as an emergency, the country has already geared to working in an emergency mode in the fight against the epidemic,” it said in a statement. “The funding will go a long way in addressing TB challenges.”

jh/kn/he source www.irinnews.org

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Dorothy Dyton and her husband, Dyton Gerard have lost their land and their livelihood

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2012

Dorothy Dyton and her husband, Dyton Gerard have lost their land and their livelihood

BANGULA, – Dorothy Dyton, her husband and seven children used to make a living farming just over a hectare near the town of Bangula in southern Malawi’s Chikhwawa District.

Like most smallholder farmers in Malawi, they did not have a title deed for the land Dyton was born on, and in 2009 she and about 2,000 other subsistence farmers from the area were informed by their local chief that the land had been sold and they could no longer cultivate there.

Dyton and her neighbours did not immediately accept the devastating change in their circumstances. They had already been removed once from the land during former President Hastings Banda’s regime in the 1970s and had not been allowed to return until Banda’s regime ended in 1994 and the cattle ranch established there by his political ally, John Tembo, had ceased to function.

After receiving the go-ahead from the district commissioner, they continued to farm the land for another season. But in 2010, as they prepared to plant, they were met by a police van and the chief, Fennwick Mandala, who warned them not to come back. The next day, the farmers again set out for their fields, but this time they were met by tear gas and rubber bullets and that night six of them were arrested and charged with trespassing.

Since that time, said Dyton, “life has been very hard on us.” With a game reserve on one side of the community and the Shire river and Mozambique border on the other, there is no other available land for them to farm and the family now ekes out a living selling firewood they gather from the nearby forest. The three oldest children have had to drop out of school to help their parents.

“People aren’t getting enough to eat,” said Isaac Falakeza, another community member. “Some are doing piece work on other people’s gardens, others are harvesting water lilies. You can see how malnourished the children are.”

User rights only

In Malawi, like most other countries in the region with the exception of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, more than 60 percent of land is customary, meaning that it is mostly untitled and administered by local chiefs on behalf of the government, with local communities merely enjoying user rights.

The system has led to many abuses, with some government officials and chiefs selling off customary lands and dispossessing smallholder farmers who are already competing for dwindling arable land as Malawi’s population increases.

''There’s nothing [farmers] can do because they’re not in any way protected by the law''

“There’s nothing [they] can do because they’re not protected in any way by the law,” said Blessings Chinsinga, a lecturer at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, who is researching the political economy of land grabs and land reform in the country.

In a research report co-authored by Chinsinga, he notes that the issue of “land grabs” in Malawi dates back to Banda’s transferring of large parcels of land from smallholder farmers to the estate sector, largely to the benefit of political elites, men like John Tembo who helped sustain his regime.

Stalled land reform

Following the ousting of Banda and the transition to democracy, the government set up a Commission of Inquiry on Land Reform the findings of which formed the basis of a new land policy in 2002. The policy attempts to address smallholder farmers’ lack of security of tenure by allowing them to register their customary land as private property, but the legislative changes needed to implement the policy have not gone through parliament and the land reform process has effectively stalled.

“Politicians own massive tracts of land; they benefited from the previous system, so they’re reluctant to adopt a new legislative framework that would correct the land imbalances,” commented Chinsinga.

In recent years, the government of recently deceased president Bingu wa Mutharika focused public investment on boosting the productivity of smallholder farmers through its farm input subsidy programme. The programme was credited with several years of bumper maize harvests, but as Malawi went into financial crisis last year, the sustainability of the programme was called into question and the number of beneficiaries was reduced.
 
Critics of the programme, like international NGO Grain, point out that “all the fertilizers and seeds in the world cannot make much difference for the great mass of farmers in Malawi, who do not even have enough land to grow the food their families need.”

Green Belt Initiative

A 2010 report by Grain, noted that Malawi’s lack of land reform had resulted in increasingly inequitable distribution of land, with large tracts of farmland ending up in foreign hands. In 2009, the government allocated 50,000 hectares of farmland to the government of Djibouti, reportedly in exchange for assistance constructing an inland port in Nsanje. The details of this and other such deals are shrouded in secrecy, according to Chinsinga who has focused his research on land transfers relating to the government’s Green Belt Initiative (GBI).

Another programme championed by Mutharika, the GBI aims to acquire 340,000 hectares of irrigable land along Lake Malawi and the banks of the Shire river with the goal of increasing agricultural production and national food security. Several foreign companies have acquired land under the auspices of the programme which, according to Chinsinga’s paper, “views customary land as an unlimited reservoir that can be targeted for conversion for privatization”.

Rather than increasing food security, the paper suggests that, “land transfers under the GBI could have tremendous negative implications on livelihoods, food security and social justice”.

Illovo Sugar

Chikhwawa District is already dominated by sprawling sugar plantations owned by South African sugar giant Illovo Sugar. According to several sources, Illovo is intent on expanding its presence in the area and enjoys government support because of the much needed foreign exchange it generates.

The 2,000 hectares of land once farmed by Dyton and her neighbours is now owned by a company called Agricane, which is leasing it to Illovo for sugar cane production. Agricane’s country director, Bouke Bijl, explained that his company bought the land from a bank which had acquired it from John Tembo after he defaulted on a loan.

Like Chief Mandala, he described Dyton and other farmers who complain they have been dispossessed, as trouble-makers with no ancestral claims to the land. “There was a directive from the District Commissioner that they shouldn’t have been there and should make way for development but they chose not to understand that,” he said, referring to the 2010 standoff between the farmers and security personnel.

Ironically, Agricane’s core business is providing technical support to clients, many of them international donors who are implementing community development projects. Bijl noted that the company’s biggest challenge in carrying out such projects was the issue of land tenure. “We’re seeing a lot of projects collapse because the communities have never been prepared sufficiently to deal with it,” he told IRIN.

He added that once the land outside Bangula starts generating a profit, a trust fund will be established to support community development in the area, and donors will be approached to fund irrigation schemes that would benefit local smallholder farmers.

ks/cb
source www.irinnews.org

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Displaced in west feel “forgotten”

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2012

Nahibly IDP site in Duékoué

Duékoué,  – President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire promised paved roads, an end to power cuts and water shortages, better mobile phone coverage, and a new university in the country’s west as part of an “emergency plan” to develop a region that has been steeped in violence and insecurity for a decade. But for some displaced Ivoirians still unable to return to their homes, the promises ring hollow.

Ernest Téhé, 46, a displaced person living in Nahibly camp near the western town of Duékoué, told IRIN he feels the displaced have been forgotten. Some 30,000 people fled to the Catholic Mission in Duékoué after a massacre in March 2011. Earlier this year most of those still at the Catholic Mission were moved to Nahibly, where 4,500 people are currently sheltering.

“We haven’t even been counted as part of the population,” said Téhé. “No authority has come to say, ‘The president is coming. Come, explain yourselves, your concerns – what do you need? What do not need? What’s preventing you from returning home?’”

Most displaced families told IRIN they could not return to their homes because they were destroyed, or because their farms were taken over by other groups and are now being guarded by armed guards or “dozos”.

Téhé comes from a village 5km outside of Duékoué but he has not returned home because his fields were taken over during his absence. “It’s because we’re Guéré,” he says, referring to his ethnic group, whose members overwhelmingly supported the former president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Much of the long-term inter-community conflict in the west is rooted in issues of land tenure, as members of different ethnic groups claim ownership to the same land.

President Ouattara recognized that the west is still very unstable, with forests “infested with armed persons”, which is “not acceptable”. Nonetheless, during his visit to the towns of Toulépleu, Bloléquin and Duékoué he repeated calls for the displaced to return home, and called on Ivoirians to leave it to the justice system to punish those who have committed crimes. He stressed that he is the president of all Ivoirians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region.

Security: “More needs to be done”

Constant Bohé, president of the committee for returnees in the Carrefour neighbourhood of Duékoué, says he thinks security is no longer a problem in his area. “In our neighbourhood there is no problem, it’s in the surrounding villages that there are armed persons,” he told IRIN.

Olivier Mette Aubin, 50, president of a youth forum in the region, says “more needs to be done”, even though security has improved a lot. “We need security reinforced along the border so that people feel at ease.” He has not heard of any recent attacks, but there have been threats. “There are still militia groups on the other side [of the border], and people fear they could attack at any time.”

The United Nations has reported continued cross-border attacks near the town of Tai in southwest Cote d’Ivoire. The latest incident occurred south of Tai on 25 April, killing six people. In September 2011 some 20 people were killed in an attack near Tai.

In March the UN missions in Côte d’Ivoire (ONUCI) and Liberia (UNMIL) announced they were launching border patrols to ensure the safe return of refugees, and prevent the flow of weapons and cross-border attacks. However, a UN military official, who asked to remain unnamed, said after the announcement they were only devoting 34 troops to patrol the porous 450 mile-long border.

Security Sector Reform (SSR) and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) have been slow to roll out. Thousands of illegal weapons are circulating in the country, even though the UN constantly gathers weapons and ammunition.

The Commission for Truth, Dialogue and Reconciliation, launched in September 2011, is still in the “preparation phase” and aside from a mourning ceremony in March, Ivoirians have not seen many signs of it in action.

The president brought a message of reconciliation to towns that were hard-hit in post-election violence last year after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara. “I want everywhere in Côte d’Ivoire, every town in every region, to have clean water, electricity, telephone and television, and this should be done before the end of the year,” Ouattara said during his three-day tour of the region – the first since his inauguration in May 2011.

The villages would not be forgotten, he stressed, promising to install electricity production units in all villages with more than 500 inhabitants. “This region has suffered a lot from the different crises we have gone through in the last ten years,” he said. “We have to make sure the divisions of the past do not ever repeat themselves.”

Many of the towns Ouattara visited opposed his election last year but the president, at least outwardly, received a warm welcome in each town he visited.

“We wanted peace. Peace has come,” says Agnes Zran, 56, from Man in the Dix-huit Montagnes region of the west, who lost a child and her father during “the crisis”, as it is called here. “Now we want him [the president] to help rebuild the dilapidated west.”

lb/aj/he
source www.irinnews.org

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The White House confirms: Obama to clear the air on his Birth certificate

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2012

The White House has now told API that President Obama is willing to come clean on the issue of his birth place and the birth certificate.

The American people who feel they have been misled on the issue will soon get the truth. Revealing the truth just months before the Presidential elections in November will most probably ruin the chances for re-election but the source says the President is ready to deal with it.

The White House source says the timing to come clean now is not based on threats of any kind, but observers, however, believe that Obama has realised that the truth may soon fall in the hands of his challenger the Republican candidate Romney who may use the information during the debate when the two meet.

During the release of the details on where he was born and which real birth certificate he holds, the White House says, the President will not address the press, but that the information will be published on the White House website.

This move will serve all purposes in confirming what API has always informed the readers about.

API has been promised an interview with the White House spokesman on the matter. Our readers will soon be treated to a rare occasion when a video recorded interview on the birth certificate issue is released.

End

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More than 80 percent of drugs used by Kenyans are generics

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2012

More than 80 percent of drugs used by Kenyans are generics (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – Kenyan HIV activists say a ruling by the High Court that the definition of “anti-counterfeit” in the 2008 Anti-Counterfeit Act is too broad will save millions of lives and protect the right to life of citizens.

The case filed by three people living with HIV in July 2009 argued that sections 2, 32 and 34 of the Act contained ambiguities, which, if misinterpreted or abused, would be detrimental to Kenyans’ access to essential generic medicines.

High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi found that the Act failed to clearly distinguish between counterfeit and generic medicines. She called on parliament to review these ambiguities that could result in the arbitrary seizure of generic medicines under the pretext of fighting counterfeit drugs.

Like many low- and middle-income countries, more than 80 percent of the drugs used by Kenyans are generic and largely manufactured in India. The judgement also ensures that government agencies cannot interfere with the importation and distribution of generic medicines.

“The right to life, dignity and health of people like the petitioners, who are infected with the HIV virus, cannot be secured by a vague proviso in a situation where those charged with the responsibility of enforcement of the law may not have a clear understanding of the difference between generic and counterfeit medicine,” she said in her judgement.

“As an interested party, this judgement was a victory for us because the judge specified that protecting intellectual property rights cannot override the interests and rights of the individual – it’s a powerful message,” Jacinta Nyachae, executive director of local NGO, the AIDS Law Project (ALP), told IRIN/PlusNews. “She [Judge Ngugi] found that the wording of the Act was unconstitutional and a threat to the right to life, dignity and health.”

With advice of the Attorney General, the minister concerned will be expected to amend the Act to reflect the judgment.

UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé welcomed the decision. “A vast majority of people in Kenya rely on quality generic drugs for their daily survival. Through this important ruling, the High Court of Kenya has upheld a fundamental element of the right to health,” he said. “This decision will set an important precedent for ensuring access to life-saving drugs around the world.”

Kenya has not had a case where patients were denied access to generic drugs as a result of the Act, but ALP’s Nyachae noted that generic drugs bound for Africa had been held in Europe in the past, which formed the basis for the case. In 2009 a shipment of drugs headed to Nigeria was held at The Netherlands’ Schipol Airport on the grounds that they violated patent rights.

Uganda and Tanzania currently have draft anti-counterfeit bills. “We are working to ensure that the text of the law is not as vague as that of the Kenyan Act,” Nyachae noted.

''We hope to see a ripple effect, where countries will pick up on this ruling and adapt it to protect their own citizens''

James Kamau, coordinator of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, said the judgement is historic and protects not just Kenya, but the entire eastern African region.

“Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and so on – all the countries that depend on Kenyan ports to import their drugs – have now been shielded from the threat of being denied access to vital generics as a result of the ruling,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “We hope to see a ripple effect, where countries will pick up on this ruling and adapt it to protect their own citizens.”

“Even in Kenya this judgement is not just important for people living with HIV, but to all 42 million Kenyans, who depend on generics to treat all kinds of illnesses,” Kamau said. “It extends well beyond ARVs [antiretrovirals] and to drugs for opportunistic infections and all other diseases.”

kr/he
source www.irinnews.org

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Ibu Sutria along West Java’s heavily polluted Krukut River, along which millions live

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2012

Ibu Sutria along West Java’s heavily polluted Krukut River, along which millions live

JAKARTA,  – Heavy pollution of river water by household and industrial waste in the Indonesian province of West Java is threatening the health of at least five million people living on the riverbanks, say government officials and water experts.

Poor sanitation and hygiene cause 50,000 deaths annually in Indonesia, with untreated sewage resulting in over six million tons of human waste being released into inland water bodies, according to an ongoing study by the World Bank.

Ibu Sutria, 53, lives in a wooden shack on the banks of West Java’s Krukut River, which runs approximately 20km south from the capital, Jakarta, to the city of Depok. “Sometimes the river is clean, sometimes it’s dirty,” she said. Sutria suffers from regular bouts of stomach ache and diarrhoea, and says the river is constantly flooded.

“People use the river for a toilet and children play in it because they have nowhere else to swim.” She and others in her community use nearby ground water to wash themselves because they think it is cleaner than river water.

Pak Jumari, 35, is a leader of a community group living along the Ciliwung River, which runs north for 97km from the West Java city of Bogor. Since 2010 he has been using a boat to keep his own section of the Ciliwung clean by scooping out rubbish. “We find many detergents and soaps in the river, “he said. “We no longer use it for washing or drinking.”

Fishermen on the Ciliwung use “blast fishing” – bombs made of kerosene and fertilizer to kill fish so they are easier to catch – which has worsened pollution. Nevertheless, his community still fishes in the river, with few reported ill effects, he said.

Reasons for pollution

The Deputy Minister of the Indonesian Environment Ministry, Hendri Bastaman, told IRIN that pollution in West Java’s rivers is worsening, particularly in the Ciliwung and Citarum, where five million people live along the riverbanks.

“Much of the waste is dumped into rivers from households,” said Bastaman. “People are using these rivers as personal toilets. We’ve also found mercury in river water, which we suspect is coming from companies or those running small-scale mining activities close to the rivers.”

Health risks

Muhammad Rez Sahib, advocacy coordinator of KRuHA, a Jakarta-based coalition of more than 30 Indonesian NGOs focusing on safe water access, said none of the capital’s rivers could be viewed as safe for human use.

“Even the water suppliers in Jakarta don’t use the water here because it is so polluted,” he said. “Instead, they use water from the Citarum River, which is also heavily polluted. Even after this water is treated it’s still unsafe to drink.” The Citarum flows north from Bandung, the capital of West Java, for approximately 300km to the Java Sea.

Safe water alternatives for poor communities are “few and far between” Sahib noted. “Many will turn to use ground water, but due to a poor sewage system and open defecation, 90 percent of ground water in Jakarta is contaminated by E.coli bacteria. Many infant deaths are caused by this bacteria – E.coli is the main threat to human life from these rivers.”

Edward Carwardine, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Indonesia, noted that in West Java the use of “improved water” – obtained from taps, boreholes, covered wells and springs – falls below the national average, with only half of the population (approximately 20 million) able to access it.

“When families don’t have access to improved water sources, disease is much more likely,” said Carwardine. “Nearly a quarter of all deaths amongst children under five in Indonesia are caused by diarrhoeal disease.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nationwide more than 20,000 children in this age group die every year from diarrhoea.

Dengue fever and malaria, both spread by mosquitoes that thrive in stagnant water, account for an additional 3 percent of overall child deaths, according to Carwardine, who said more focus is needed to end the widespread practice of defecating in the open.

The Environment Ministry’s Bastaman said the government is using educational campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of unsafe water and to end defecation in rivers.

“For the Ciliwung we have a 10-year plan to restore the river’s health,” said Bastaman. “But for the Citarum, it’s impossible to get it back to the way it was prior to being polluted. The pollution is just too much.”

mw/pt/he
source www.irinnews.org

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Few pregnant women in the DRC are offered the full package of services for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2012

Few pregnant women in the DRC are offered the full package of services for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (file photo)

KINSHASA, – Poorly integrated maternal health services, a lack of human resources and a serious shortage of money for treatment mean the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is unlikely to meet the global plan of eliminating mother-to-child transmission by 2015.

“It is a catastrophe. An HIV test during antenatal visits is not automatic – the information may be given but the tests may not be available, or the treatment may not be available,” said Thérèse Kabale Omari, the director for Kinshasa Province of Femme Plus, an organization that works with women living with HIV in seven provinces of the DRC.

Only one laboratory in the country is equipped to carry out polymerase chain reaction tests for early infant diagnosis. “When an HIV-positive mother has a baby in [the southern province of] Kasai-Occidental, the centre must send the sample to Kinshasa, the capital of DRC. Getting results back can take weeks, and these women often don’t live near the health centre,” Omari said.

According to 2011 government statistics, just 5.6 percent of HIV-positive pregnant Congolese women receive ARVs to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies, but the official estimate puts the mother-to-child transmission rate at 36.8 percent.

Major problems

nationwide shortage of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs after the closure of some HIV projects and reduced funding for others means Omari is often forced to negotiate with doctors for HIV-positive women to be accepted in local treatment programmes. “I have to plead with them to prioritize pregnant women when someone dies or drops out off treatment,” she said.

“If you help someone to find out their HIV status, then you should have a way to treat them if they test HIV-positive, but today we can’t give women that assurance,” Omari noted. Dr John Ditekemena, country director of the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), says while the DRC has strong policies and strategies for fighting HIV, and for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), a severe lack of resources means they cannot be fully implemented.

“A main problem is coverage – many pregnant women who are tested will not return to the same facility for delivery. The DRC is a huge country with very limited resources – human resources, logistics, problems with the supply chain coordination – and the disastrous situation of the health infrastructure mean we won’t be able to reach the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission by 2015,” he said.

Femme Plus’s Omari noted that ‘free’ treatment was rarely completely free. “For example, the HIV test may be free, but you have to pay for the patient card, for the syringe they use if you need some treatment, for transport – the costs add up and few women can afford them,” she said.

Mariam, in her 20s, was diagnosed with HIV while she was pregnant a year ago, but has not started on ARVs because she cannot afford the US$15 it costs to get a CD4 test, which measures immune strength. She has since had her baby but the child has not been tested for HIV.

Mariam’s husband travelled to the southeastern city of Lubumbashi shortly before she was diagnosed and has not returned. She suspects he has left her and their children for good. To make ends meet, she sells plastic bags of drinking water on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital, but the money she makes is barely enough to feed her family, let alone pay for health care.

“I have not been tested and I think I am getting sick because I have noticed an itchy rash all over my arms recently,” she told IRIN/PlusNews. “I have two other children who are healthy but the baby gets sick often – I am worried.”

''If you help someone to find out their HIV status, then you should have a way to treat them if they test HIV-positive, but today we can’t give women that assurance''

Ramping up PMTCT

EGPAF and its partners, under a project known as Projet Intégré de VIH/SIDA au Congo – Integrated HIV/AIDS Project (ProVIC) – supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), are assisting 24 maternal health facilities in five provinces of the DRC. Separately but also funded by PEPFAR, EGPAF is supporting 53 sites in Kinshasa and 17 in Lubumbashi as part of the “Malamu” project – meaning ‘good’ in the local Lingala language – to accelerate the pace of PMTCT in the DRC.

“The idea is to have a network of sites where women can receive the full package of PMTCT services, which will help improve coverage,” said Ditekemena, adding that the project was working to build up other areas of PMTCT such as male involvement and counselling on infant feeding.

“If you invite 100 women to the antenatal clinic with their husbands, only 10 or 12 will show up – we are extending the hours of service to allow men to come in after work or at the weekend,” he added. “Mother and infant follow-up is difficult if she is not counselled properly, especially if she does not have a support system around her – spouse, family, community.”

The ProVIC project aims to see 50,000 pregnant women tested for HIV and get their results in 2012, while the Malamu project aims to test 30,000 women.

“Slowly, step by step, we can increase coverage and improve the quality of care,” said EGPAF’s Ditekemena. “Perhaps by 2019 we will have eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission in the DRC.”

kr/he
source www.irinnews.org

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*”Where is Heglig?” — A brief addendum*

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2012

  •  By Eric Reeves

The location of Heglig/Panthou in relation to the North/South border at the
time of Sudan’s independence (January 1, 1956) continues to be misrepresented by not only the Arab League and African Union, but now
(implicitly) by the UN Security Council, which has introduced the threat of
sanctions against Khartoum and Juba if the African Union vision of how
peace is to be achieved is not followed.  Let us recall first the view of the African Union, which on April 14, 2012 “noted with alarm, the *occupation
of the Heglig *by the forces of (South Sudan) ….” (all emphases added)

The U.S State Department followed suit, “strongly condemn[ing] the *military
offensive, incursion to Southern Kordofan state*, Sudan, by the SPLA today
[April 12, 2012].”  Not to be outdone, the European Union, through EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton asserted that “*the move by the South
Sudanese armed forces to occupy Heglig is completely unacceptable*.”
Associated Press reports that in Cairo (April 27) the Arab League *condemned* South Sudan’s ‘military aggression’ *against an oil-rich border region claimed by Sudan while also* supporting Sudan’s right to defend itself*.”

I offered an extensive correction to these peremptory and misguided claims,
implicit and explicit, on April 14, 2012<http://www.sudanreeves.org/2012/04/14/where-is-heglig/>.  What
is added here are two additional notes:

[1]  The *Small Arms Survey* in its April 27 report on Heglig http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/facts-figures-heglig.php>
reminds us of crucial historical facts:

“Heglig, which is known as Thou (or Panthou) in Dinka, was one of the
territories depopulated by militias during the second civil war, when Sudan
used paramilitary Popular Defence Forces (PDF) to clear southern residents
from areas around oil-producing sites. For many Dinka at the border,
accepting Sudan’s possession of these territories is tantamount to accepting the ethnic clearings of the 80s and 90s.”

More importantly, on the precise location of Heglig in relation to the North/South border at the time of independence (January 1, 1956),* Douglas
Johnson*—distinguished historian of Sudan and a member of the Abyei
Boundaries Commission established by the Abyei Protocol—has offered me
his own unsurpassably authoritative account of the issue.  He indicates
(most importantly) that* there is no map extant that unambiguously locates
Heglig vis-à-vis the 1/1/56 North/South border*:

“The 1:250,000 Sudan Survey maps, which are the most detailed, and on which all other maps are based, shows the provincial boundary as it was
established in 1931, but they do not show any place with the name Aliny,
Panthou, or Heglig.  There are ‘clumps of Heglig’ marked on the map, both
east and west of the boundary line, but no villages of any sort or locations with any of those place names.  I attach a detail.” [  ]

“Until the line of the 1956 border is agreed and re-established on the ground, we won’t have an answer to the question of which side of the border Heglig is on.” (email received April 26, 2012)

It is important to recall again that the July 2009 Abyei boundary ruling by
the Permanent Court of Arbitration did *not* place Heglig in northern Sudan
or South Sudan; it simply said that Heglig lies to the east of Abyei:

“The eastern boundary of the area of the nine Ngok Dinka chiefdoms
transferred to Kordofan in 1905 runs in a straight line along longitude 29°
00′ 00″ E, from latitude 10° 10′ 00″ N south to the Kordofan—Upper Nile
boundary as it was defined on 1 January 1956.”

This ruling did nothing to settle where the “1 January 1956 border” actually lies.  It had no mandate to make such a determination, and did not attempt to do so.  This elemental fact has escaped virtually all international actors, in large part because Heglig has been robustly controlled militarily for a great many years by virtue of Khartoum’s militia proxies and ethnic cleansing of precisely the sort *Small Arms Survey* reports.

Declarations and resolutions that presume to judge the location of Heglig/Panthou prior to a negotiated delineation of the 1/1/56 North/South
border will inevitably embolden Khartoum in its ongoing campaign of aerial
bombardment against civilians in the unambiguously sovereign territory of
South Sudan, and deepen the skepticism of Southern leaders about international impartiality.  War is made more, not less likely.


Eric Reeves, Smith College
Northampton, MA  01063

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Verdict in Charles Taylor case

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2012

Norwegian government reaction to Taylor verdict:

The Special Court for Sierra Leone pronounced judgment in the case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. “This is the first time since the Nuremberg trials that a former head of state has been convicted by an international court. The judgment is an important milestone in the effort to combat impunity for the most serious international crimes,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The court found unanimously that Charles Taylor was guilty of having aided and abetted war crimes and crimes against humanity and of other serious violations against international humanitarian law in Sierra Leone in the period 1996-2002. The judgment is not final and may be appealed.

The case against Charles Taylor is the Special Court’s last major case connected with the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leona.

“With today’s verdict, the Special Court for Sierra Leone is on the way to being the first of the modern-day international criminal courts to complete its mandate,” said Mr Støre.

 

end

source mfa.norway

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South Sudan should act responsibly

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2012

By Thomas Ochieng in Kenya                                        
 

The new state of South Sudan was proclaimed by many as long overdue. This was seen as the best way to deal with the long conflict that both states Sudan and south Sudan suffered from, a new beginning was envisaged for the  two twin nations, where they were still to co exist side by side as brother and sisters

The survival and development of this new African state is dependent on the support both technical and financial from the world community but most importantly the role that Sudan plays to the development of the young state is of paramount importance. During the Independence Day celebration in Juba the President of Sudan his Excellency Omar Bashir and his Excellency Salva Kiir pledged to forge a path of mutual interest and cooperation as the people
of theses states have lived and worked together as one. This is a commitment
that should not be in vain for peace and prosperity of the two states. One may
ask is this the case of late?

The recent provocation to war by the news state of South Sudan should be viewed in the context of going against the commitment made to the world for the sake of peace taking into account the years of instability and destruction that engulfed this region for to long a time. The president of South Sudan should not yield to the pressure from the hardliners who still view the role of the state in the context of conquering new territories as if the nation is still in a guerrilla struggle. The war that the new stat should wage is fighting, poverty, hunger, diseases, under development and illiteracy, these are massive battles that cannot and should not afford any sideshows. By proclaiming and being granted an independent status by the community of the world and being recognized by bodies such as the United nations, Africa union and recently becoming a member of the IMF means that business cannot be as usual, this new nation must behave responsibly and where there are miss understandings which will occur time to time, the use of peaceful resolution means such as dialogue and arbitration is the norm, in civilized world war is never the first and the available option to solve problems.

This is the stand taken by the world community of nations including the United States, European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League and the Africa Union have all called upon South Sudan to resist the provocation tendencies such as the recent seizing of Heglig,its reassuring though that the military deployed from Juba to the region is withdrawing by the express orders of president Salva Kiir after the deployment of heavy military power from Sudan, this unwarranted confrontation should have been avoided because the cost of war will be too costly for the South Sudan to bear after
all those lost years.

 

Ends

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