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Archive for June 7th, 2012

There will be no blanket amnesty for anyone now,” says Unganda’s Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

Uncertain future: LRA members are no longer entitled to automatic amnesty

KAMPALA,  – Contrary to widespread expectations and public pronouncements, the Ugandan government has pulled the plug on controversial legislation which since 2000 has granted blanket amnesty to more than 26,000 members of armed groups, most notably the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The Act was passed as part of efforts to end hostilities in northern Uganda and bring the LRA to the negotiating table. Over the following six years, several detailed accords were drawn up but LRA leader Joseph Kony repeatedly refused to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.

“There will be no blanket amnesty for anyone now,” said Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek, who on 23 May used his prerogative to allow significant sections of the Amnesty Act to lapse.

“The rebels have to go through the courts and legal process. The courts will evaluate each individual case and decide whether to prosecute or grant amnesty,” he told IRIN.

Onek explained that the move followed a judicial review of the act, which found it to be in contravention of both domestic and international law. New legislation on justice and accountability will be drafted over the coming year, he said.

Sections of the Act relating to the reintegration and resettlement of those granted amnesty over the past 12 years remain in force, while the mandate of the Amnesty Commission has been extended for a year to facilitate these activities. But it will no longer have the power to issue amnesty certificates to rebels who surrender and renounce their armed struggle.

Members of some 29 armed groups have benefited from amnesty to date, about half of them from the LRA, which is now thought to have just a few hundred fighters active in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.

Atrocities

Director of Public Prosecutions Richard Buteera told local media his office was only interested in prosecuting senior LRA commanders who had committed atrocities, and that lower-level forcibly recruited members should have no fear about leaving the armed group.

The amnesty lapse has a direct bearing on the cases of two senior LRA members: Caesar Acellam Otto, a commander who was apprehended in CAR on 12 May and who subsequently insisted on his eligibility for Amnesty; and Thomas Kwoyelo a mid-level commander captured in DRC in 2009.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for children and armed conflict, has called for Acellam – “one of the worst perpetrators of child rights violations” – to be prosecuted rather than given amnesty.


Photo: Telesphor Turyamumanya/IRIN
Soon for the dock: LRA commander Caesar Acellam Otto is unlikely to have his wish for amnesty granted

This “would send a strong message to the LRA leadership that they will be held accountable for their actions”, she said.

In 2011 Kwoyelo was the first person to be prosecuted in the new International Crimes Division of Uganda’s High Court, even though he was in theory eligible for amnesty.

Kwoyelo never received an amnesty certificate, however – the contracts of the amnesty commissioners had lapsed at the time. He remains in detention despite a constitutional court ruling ordering his release.

Mixed reactions

Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance analyst at Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project, told IRIN he believed the process of ending blanket amnesty had been irregular.

“It was unconstitutionally done by politicians and technocrats without putting in mind the lives” of those still held captive by the LRA.

“The lapse of blanket amnesty means there is no more opportunity for those fighting against the government to renounce rebellion,” he said.

“There will [now] be selective prosecution. It will all depend whether the state has interest in an individual case or not and what evidence is available. This will contravene the rule of law,” he added.

The Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative, which continues to campaign for a negotiated rather than military resolution to the LRA conflict, also expressed dismay at the development.

“The Act has been fruitful. It has been encouraging those who were taken by force to manoeuver ways of escaping from the bush in order to benefit from the law,” said Initiative member and bishop John Baptist Odama.

“If they stop the law, many of those people will perish in the bush with nowhere for them to go [to surrender],” he said.

“Parliamentarians, especially those from LRA-affected areas, should [push] for the continuation of the law,” he added.

Betty Aol Ochan, a member of parliament for the northern town of Gulu, echoed the bishop’s view, saying: “If it [the Act] is stopped, we are going to discourage them to come out. This will also worsen the situation.”

But fellow member of the Acholi Parliamentary Group Lowila Oketayot disagreed: “I believe there is a beginning and end of everything. We need to weigh the pros and non-pros of the Act. We can’t continue for eternity.”

Lt-Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, the commander of Uganda Land Forces, told IRIN: “Those [LRA members] who have been serious have [already] surrendered. I don’t think there are still rebels out there who want to surrender.”

Rebecca Amuge Otengo, the state minister for northern Uganda, said people should not confuse reconciliation with impunity.

“It’s better the Act has expired. I believe in reconciliation but not impunity. Whoever does something should be made to answer,” Otengo told IRIN.

so/am/cb
source www.irinnews.org

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Football: European Championships Period – JUNE 2012

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

TIME-TABLE Football 2012 European Championships kick-off AND results;

  1. Date: 08. June: Group A:    Poland versus Greece: 1-1
  2. Date: 08. June: Group A:    Russia versus Czech Rep: 4-1
  3. Date: 09. June: Group B:    Holland versus Denmark: 0-1
  4. Date: 09. June: Group B:    Germany versus Portugal: 1-0
  5. Date: 10. June: Group C:    Spain versus Italy: 1-1
  6. Date: 10. June: Group C:    Ireland versus Croatia: 1-3
  7. Date: 11. June: Group D:    France versus England: 1-1
  8. Date: 11. June: Group D:    Ukraine versus Sweden: 2-1
  9. Date: 12. June: Group A:    Greece versus Czech Rep: 1-2
  10. Date: 12. June: Group A:    Poland versus Russia: 1-1
  11. Date: 13. June: Group B:    Denmark versus Portugal: 2-3
  12. Date: 13. June: Group B:    Holland versus Germany: 1-2
  13. Date: 14. June: Group C:    Italy versus Croatia: 1-1
  14. Date: 14. June: Group C:    Spain versus Ireland: 4-0
  15. Date: 15. June: Group D:    Ukraine versus France: 0-2
  16. Date: 15. June: Group D:    Sweden versus England: 2-3
  17. Date: 16. June: Group A:    Greece versus Russia: 1-0
  18. Date: 16. June: Group A:    Czech Rep versus Poland: 1-0
  19. Date: 17. June: Group B:    Portugal versus Holland: 2-1
  20. Date: 17. June: Group B:    Denmark versus Germany: 1-2
  21. Date: 18. June: Group C:    Croatia versus Spain: 0-1
  22. Date: 18. June: Group C:    Italy versus Ireland: 2-0
  23. Date: 19. June: Group D:    Sweden versus France: 2-0
  24. Date: 19. June: Group D:    England versus Ukraine: 1-0

Group A

Country W D L GD Pts
Czech Rep. 2 0 1 -1 6
Greece 1 1 1 0 4
Russia 1 1 1 2 4
Poland 0 2 1 -1 2

Group B

Country W D L GD Pts
Germany 3 0 0 3 9
Portugal 2 0 1 1 6
Denmark 1 0 2 -1 3
Netherlands 0 0 3 -3 0

Group C

Country W D L GD Pts
Spain 2 1 0 5 7
Italy 1 2 0 2 5
Croatia 1 1 1 1 4
R. of Ireland 0 0 3 -8 0
 

Group D

As It Stands

Country W D L GD Pts
England 2 1 0 2 7
France 1 1 1 0 4
Sweden 1 0 2 0 3
Ukraine 1 0 2 -2 3


Finals:

  1. Date: 21. June:    Quarter finals 1:    Czech Rep. versus Portugal:  Goals scored 0-1
  2. Date: 22. June:    Quarter finals 2:    Germany versus Greece: Goals scored 4-2
  3. Date: 23. June:    Quarter finals 3:    Spain versus France: 2-0
  4. Date: 24. June:    Quarter finals 4:    England versus Italy: 0-0 (Italy wins on penalties: 4-2)
  5. Date: 27. June:    Semifinals 1: Portugal  versus Spain: 0-0 (Spain wins on penalties 4-2)
  6. Date: 28. June:    Semifinals 2: Germany versus Italy: 1-2
  7. Date: 01. July:    Final game:    Spain versus Italy:

Racism:

 

This is sad for world football.

End

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Greater growth with Public-Private Partnerships in infrastructure, says NBF

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

  • By Julie Cunningham, Infrastructure Africa Business Forum

The South African government has made 2012 the year for infrastructure, on the basis that the build programme will alleviate poverty, inequality and unemployment.  

Stanley Subramoney, Chairperson of the NEPAD Business Foundation and Deputy CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes that government’s focus on infrastructure is correct. “What we find as a nation is that we are now competing across the globe and competing aggressively with other emerging economies. The key to survival is our ability to drive down the cost of business and to make sure we get our goods to market as cheaply and soon as possible. So building an efficient logistics infrastructure to get our products to market is crucial.”

Subramoney believes it’s important for government to think laterally about current projects and to build infrastructure that leverages long-term and sustainable economic growth. “The key to these projects must be the ability to stimulate business, create jobs, grow  the economy and support long-term development. So a word of caution is that as we start to roll out these projects, some of the measurable will have to be our ability to generate jobs, especially our ability to generate more small-to-medium-enterprises,” says Subramoney.

South Africa’s current skills shortage poses a major challenge to the rapid roll-out of government’s build programme, but working with the private sector can bring in the necessary skills as well as additional funding. Subramoney believes government should prioritize working with the private sector in its roll-out of infrastructure projects. “As we go forward, there has to be a smart partnership with the private sector. The private sector in SA is robust, they have got the skills, but they also have the ability to bring in skills from the outside. I would encourage that as we start to dive deeper into these projects, that we look at stronger and smarter partnerships to make sure that the best skills in the world are made  available in the country ” he says.

The private sector is a ready and willing partner to government’s infrastructure projects, but they would need certainty says Subramoney. “What the private sector needs from government’s side is a partnership, more certainty and government’s willingness to work with them on a medium to long-term basis. I think this will provide a lot of stability to the private sector, it’ll allow them to shape their business plans, it’ll allow them to invest, to employ more people and to train them  and hopefully help government fight this battle against poverty and unemployment.”

The 2012 Infrastructure Africa Business Forum will provide both public and private sector stakeholders the opportunity to explore partnerships that will build this key sector of the economy and maximise economic growth, not only in South Africa, but across the continent. The conference is hosted by the NEPAD Business Foundation, in partnership with Siyenza Management.

 In this exciting time in South Africa, the conference is an opportunity not to be missed, says Subramoney. “It’s a coming together of people in the infrastructure space, whether they are in building, construction, funding, suppliers and other stakeholders. It’s up to them to come together and to take advantage of the opportunities unfolding in the sector. This is a unique opportunity, so we urge stakeholders to attend it, to embrace it and hopefully leave it enriched.”

Siyenza Management’s Managing Director, Liz Hart says, “We are delighted to be partnering with the NEPAD Business Foundation to host the annual Infrastructure Africa Business Forum event.  The purpose is to create added value for corporates to participate in the various infrastructure projects in Africa and this business forum provides the perfect platform to find out more about the projects, how to access these industry specific markets and to improve their bottom-line.”

The forum will also address the policy and regulatory framework to boost investor confidence and find a way speed up the pace of infrastructure developments at ground level. New potential areas to provide financial assistance as well as access to finance to the infrastructure players will also be explored.

Says Hart, “The partnership between the NBF and Siyenza provides added value in that this will bring the public sector closer to the forum as well as tapping into the work that the NEPAD Business Foundation is already currently working with.”

Key sectors to be featured at the 2012 event include: Power & Energy, Transport – Roads / Rail / Ports / Air, Water & Sanitation, Agriculture and ICT & Telecommunication.

Siyenza Management recently hosted its fourth annual Africa Energy Indaba where Minister of Energy, Ms.Dipuo Peters was the keynote speaker. The event was presented by the South African National Energy Association (SANEA) in association with the World Energy Council (WEC), and as such the forum has achieved the highest level of endorsement from the WEC and is the leading energy event in Africa. At that event, 250 delegates were in attendance and an exhibition was hosted with 85 exhibitors drawn globally. The NBF and Siyenza are confident of repeating the level of interest with the Infrastructure Africa Business Forum 2012.

The 2-day business forum will bring together Africa’s senior business leaders, policy makers, regulators and media to advance debate and champion delivery of Africa’s infrastructure requirements.

 

Ends

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Judges in Tunisia accused of corruption

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

The Tunisian people have demonstrated in large numbers, accusing the country’s judges of corruption. They want to see the judges quit their post and be tried on corruption charges.

Tunisia got a new government after the ouster by demonstrators of the country’s president who have since fled to safety in the neighbouring country. This is what many terms – the Arab spring revolution, because many other countries in the region followed suit ousting their leaders. 

Libya, Yemen and Egypt has successfully done so. The Syrian regime is still fighting it out with the demonstrators and rebels. The present leaders have the intention to survive under all circumstances.

Many countries in Africa have been labeled authoritarian and judges in those countries under fire to resign.

In Kenya, the government following the promulgation of the new constitution in August 2010 has managed to streamline the judiciary. The country’s judges and magistrates are now being vetted and those who do not qualify in proving they are able to hold office during the vetting process will be sent home.

This process may take place in Tunisia if the demonstrators there get their way in demanding for clean up in their judiciary.

End

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Making Muslim aid more effective: Donate meat during religious festivals?

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

Charity in kind: Muslims often donate meat during religious festivals

DUBAI,  – Between the foreign aid of oil-rich Gulf States and the billions of dollars spent by Muslims in “mandatory” alms and charity every year, the Muslim world is by all accounts a huge reservoir of potential in the world of aid funding.

But players in Muslim aid say much of the money spent on aid and charity here is mismanaged, wasted, lacking in strategy or ineffective. (See IRIN’s in-depth article on this)

Here are a few new attempts to change that:

Madad: Created by a 30-year-old Egyptian activist who participated in the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak, Madad is a private, social start-up business which aims to shift some of the estimated 5-20 billion Egyptian pounds (US$825 million – $3.3 billion; statistics are not consistent) spent by ordinary people on charity every year towards more sustainable development. The idea is to scour Egypt’s governorates and estimated 40,000 NGOs, and identify those which run successful, sustainable projects that support livelihoods and work towards the Millennium Development Goals. Madad would then highlight those projects through online platforms, so that donors can make more educated decisions about how to spend their money and track the funds once spent. It will start small with a few projects it has already identified, and expand its coverage as its networks grow, with the aim that NGOs will eventually come forward themselves, looking for exposure. The word `madad’ in Arabic means supply; its CEO, Samed Awad, sees it as the supply not only of money, but of resources, visibility, awareness and knowledge, to both donors and NGOs. The commercial launch is scheduled for the beginning of 2013.

The International Waqf and Zakat Organization: A concept first introduced to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) by the Malaysian government in 2005, the International Waqf and Zakat Organization is meant to become a global fund where `zakat’ (mandatory alms) could be pooled and spent more strategically on long-term objectives. Still in the making, the project does not yet have buy-in from many countries which see `zakat’ management as a sovereign responsibility.

The Hasanah Trust Fund: Created by the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists last month, the Hassanah Trust Fund hopes to become a sustainable mechanism through which money can be collected from governments and the private sector and then linked with UN agencies or NGOs with a strong track record in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and food security.

Awqaf New Zealand: Millions of sheep are estimated to be slaughtered every year during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Instead of simply distributing their meat to the poor, Awqaf New Zealand, an NGO set up in 2011, aims to create a sustainable cycle out of the process by using all parts of the animal to produce revenue that goes back to the poor. Some of the meat is canned for future distribution by aid agencies. The wool and skin go to refugees (along with training, sewing machines and medical insurance) to make relief blankets (sold back to aid agencies at low cost), or items like moccasins that help refugees in the West preserve their heritage. In the future, Awqaf New Zealand plans to use the bones to make Halal gelatin and, possibly, the blood for fertilizer.

Care by Air: An initiative of Maximus Air Cargo, based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Care by Air is a not-for-profit collection of airways and transport companies which have agreed to give empty space to humanitarian organizations and charities at cost. According to the International Air Transport Association, there are four million tons of empty space on aeroplanes every week. Filling 0.0003 percent of that space would provide meals for five million people, Care by Air says.

LiveFeed: Using the popularity of musician Sami Yusuf to raise awareness among a younger generation of Muslims, the LiveFeed campaign, launched in December 2011, continues to raise money for the World Food Programme to respond to the drought in the Horn of Africa. The video of his single, “Forgotten Promises”, has been viewed by more than one million people on YouTube and has reached at least another 1.7 million through his Facebook and Twitter feeds. “People in the Middle East really want to do good,” Yusuf told IRIN. “They just need an opportunity and a means.”

Corporate `waqf’: In Malaysia, Johor State’s investment corporation, Johor Corporation, has partnered with the state’s Islamic Religious Council to manage a corporate waqf (religious endowment), to which all of its members can contribute a certain percentage of the shares or equity of their company. The returns fund hundreds of thousands of medical treatments for poor people at Waqaf An-Nur Hospital and its corresponding clinics. According to one local expert, the fund has more than doubled to over 500 million Malaysian ringgits ($157 million) in the last 10 years.

Collective `waqf’: Another new innovation in the age-old tradition of religious endowments is collective `waqf’, in which several people’s contributions are pooled together to create a single `waqf’. British NGO Muslim Aid is in the process of launching a legacy-giving scheme which will allow people to give a portion of their wealth in their wills to charitable causes to be managed by Muslim Aid.

Variations on Islamic microfinance: Muslim NGOs like Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Misr al-Kheir and Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia have been using no-interest microfinance for several years now, but others are now experimenting with micro-loans (as little as $20) and group-lending, in which a loan is given to several people who are equally responsible for paying it back, increasing the peer pressure and thus improving the pay-back rate.

Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (OCFA), UAE: Operational since 2009, the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid has been tracking the flow of aid out of the United Arab Emirates. The first of its kind in the region, the office is leading the way in aid transparency among Gulf donors and providing information with which to set policy. It is also training other donors in the region to do the same. “Muslim countries should really focus more on sustainable development projects, rather than being reactive to humanitarian crises,” OCFA Director-General Hazza Alqahtani told IRIN, insisting that the Muslim world needs to deliver more “efficient aid”.

Muslim aid structures: Several groups have emerged in the last few years helping to represent Muslim organizations working in aid. Founder of Islamic Relief Hany El Banna created both the Humanitarian Forum, which encourages dialogue and coordination between aid agencies from the Muslim world and the wider humanitarian system; and the Muslim Charities Forum, which has played a large role in lobbying Muslim scholars to expand definitions of Islam-acceptable charity. The OIC in 2008 created a Humanitarian Affairs department which is increasingly playing a role in coordinating aid among member countries, especially in disaster zones where Muslim aid workers may have better access.

ha/cb
source www.irinnews.org

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Political impasse deepens: Life is getting tougher for ordinary Nepalese

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2012

Life is getting tougher for ordinary Nepalese

KATHMANDU, – Most Nepalese face an uncertain economic future and the possibility of political unrest after Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) failed to agree on a new constitution on 27 May.

“I’m really worried about the rise in prices, which is already too much for us. I was hoping for the first time that things would improve here,” Laxmi Chettri, who works in a hotel and is the sole support of her bed-ridden husband and two children, told IRIN.

“Where can I go for help now? Who do we turn to?,” asked Shanta Tamang, 30, who migrated to the capital, Kathmandu, to find work but can barely feed her three children on the less than US$30 per month she earns as a cleaner.

Nepal plunged deeper into political crisis when the 601-member CA, tasked with drafting the next constitution, failed to reach an agreement on the contentious issue of federalism in the Himalayan nation’s future, and missed the fourth deadline since the CA was established in 2008.

There has been no effective government for more than five years since a decade-long civil war between Maoist and government forces, which left over 13,000 people dead, ended in 2006.

In response, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, a member of the dominant Maoist party, called for fresh elections to be held in November 2012, a move that was strongly opposed and led to calls for his resignation.

“We are seriously concerned about the prime minister’s unilateral decision to call for elections,” said Jhalnath Khanal, chairman of the Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party.

Poor most affected

The impact of the stepped-up political instability on millions of Nepalese, many of whom are already living below the poverty line, is worrying. The Central Bureau of Statistics notes that 25 percent of the country’s 30 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, surviving on less than $1 per day.
 
“Prices will naturally increase and make the lives of the poor more difficult. The government has taken a back seat, and the current crisis will have a negative impact on our economy,” economist Pranab Budathoki, who also heads the Nepal office of the non-profit Local Interventions Group, told IRIN.
 
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) considers three and a half million Nepalese moderately to severely food insecure, and counts the country among the poorest in South Asia.
 
In 2011 the biggest price increases were in vegetables, which went up by 47 percent, while cereal and grains rose by 10 percent. In 2012 the price of mansuli, the most common type of rice and a staple component of the Nepalese diet, is $0.62 per kg, compared to $0.34 per kg in 2008.
 


Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Ordinary Nepalese protest against the country’s ongoing political instability

Political unrest and strikes are expected to occur in the coming months, bringing temporary price spikes that are likely to exacerbate the country’s 10 percent inflation rate, setting up a spiral of economic uncertainty and the fear of a return to conflict.
 
The Far West, the country’s poorest region, experienced almost 30 days of strikes between April and May, organized by various politically affiliated ethnic groups, and resulted in major price increases in the price of basic foodstuffs, cooking fuel and other commodities.
 
More than 46 percent of the Far West population live below the poverty line, according to the government’s 2011 Nepal Living Standards Survey.
 
“The prices increased because there was shortage of supply and the transport became very expensive,” said Ravindra Shrestha, a local food trader in Bardiya District, nearly 700km southwest of the capital. Much of the landlocked nation’s imports come from or via neighbouring India.
 
“We experienced more than 30 percent price hikes in rice, lentils, sugar and oil,” said Dipendra Pandey, a food trader from Dadeldhura, a remote hill district in the Far West region.
 
The World Bank noted in 2011 that Nepal’s economy – with only 3.5 percent real GDP – continued to suffer from political uncertainty, but hoped an accelerated political transition would reduce this.
 
For ordinary Nepalese struggling to get by, the prospects of that happening any time soon look bleaker. “There is nothing I can hope for now,” said 20-year old Urmila Chaudhary.
 
UN reaction
 
On 29 May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his disappointment that Nepal’s Constituent Assembly had expired without the adoption of a long-awaited constitution, and called on all parties to work together in the national interest to ensure that the achievements of recent years would not be lost.
 
Nepal had entered an “uncertain constitutional and political period”, a statement by his spokesperson noted, and the government and political leaders, as well as leaders of various communities, need to demonstrate the courage and wisdom to come together to address the challenges the nation faces.
 
Ban’s spokesperson pointed out that “As an immediate priority, a political consensus on the way forward is essential to ensure stability and continuity.”
 
nn/ds/he source www.irinnews.org

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