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Archive for July 25th, 2012

Norway commemorates terror victims

Posted by African Press International on July 25, 2012 Elizabeth Mbaire Koikai __ Elizabeth Mbaire Koikai __

By Elizabeth M. Koikai

Last Sunday Norway came together as a nation to commemorate the 77 victims of a bomb and gun massacre that shocked the peaceful nation one year ago. The incident plunged the entire nation into mourning. Most Norwegians are still finding it hard to come to terms with the unspeakable tragedy that struck the country.

Anders Behring Breivik, a 33-year-old far right fanatic admitted to the July 22, 2011 attacks. He planted a bomb at the government district in Oslo that killed eight people, and went on a  shooting rampage that left 69 people dead at the left-wing Labour Party’s youth camp, on Utoya island. Hundreds of others were also injured. 

In the wake of the disaster, Norway’s leaders responded with a call for more democracy and tolerance, affirming the country’s values.

In a wreath-laying ceremony at the bomb site, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Breivik had failed in his goal of destroying Norway’s commitment to being an inclusive and  multicultural society.

–The Norwegian people answered by embracing our values. The perpetrator lost. The people won,  he stated.

As thousands of people gathered around the nation to commemorate the victims of  July 22,2011 attacks, Police officials beefed up security in the country ahead of all the events that took place on Sunday, but the security was not overbearing, probably to show that Norway was still an open society. Survivors and families of victims gathered for a private ceremony on the island, while Norway’s royal family and government leaders attended a church service in Oslo’s cathedral.

Thousands of people including the Prime Minister,some members of parliament and the Prince and Princess of Norway,were among those who attended a memorial concert Sunday evening in down town Oslo. Artists that performed that evening included both national and International singers. A special appearance was made by the legendary rock star Bruce Springsteen, who performed “We Shall Overcome” a protest song that became a key anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 50’s and 60’s.


Want related articles: Search “Breivik” on this site




*API bring you a video interview with the government of Norway as soon as we get it done. ” A follow-up video interview”


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Press conference by ICC Office of the Prosecutor at Serena hotel Nairobi

Posted by African Press International on July 25, 2012

Kenya case in the limelight

 Four Kenyans are to appear at the ICC on the 10th and 11th of April next year 2013. Mr William Ruto and Joshua Sang will appear in the court for their trial on the 10th, while Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Francis Muthaura are scheduled to appear the next day, the 11th.

On Thursday, tomorrow July 26, 2012, at 2:30 p.m. (Nairobi local time), the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hold a
press conference in relation to the situation in Kenya, at the Serena
hotel in Nairobi, Kenya – (Allamanda room). 

In attendance will be Mr. Phakiso Mochochoko, Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division and Ms Shamiso Mbizvo, Associate International Cooperation Adviser.


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Fighting in capital adds to growing displacement challenge

Posted by African Press International on July 25, 2012

 A Syrian family which fled to Aarsal just across the border in Lebanon

BEIRUT/DUBAI,  – Fighting in the Syrian capital Damascus has added to a growing problem of displacement within Syria, with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) now estimating that 1.5 million people are displaced across the country.

Thousands of people fled their homes in the capital this week after rebels fighting the government engaged in sustained battles in parts of Damascus for the first time in 16 months of conflict.

“It was clear that if we stayed longer, we probably would not have another chance to leave,” said Hazrid*, an activist and computer engineer from central Damascus, who fled to a rural area north of the capital when fighting escalated on 19 July. “When I left, things were already getting dangerous, especially at the exit roads. There is disorder all over the place. The streets were full of people trying to escape the city. We’ve seen burned vehicles on the road, a tank and a bus, and four cars that were totally wrecked.”

On 19 July, SARC opened 18 shelters in safer parts of Damascus and its surroundings, and already, “a few thousand” people have arrived in those centres, Khaled Erksoussi, SARC head of operations, told IRIN.

Many more are staying with friends and relatives, aid workers say, and those with the means have fled the country altogether – with an estimated 18,000** crossing into Lebanon in two days this week, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Tareq*, a young lawyer from central Damascus, said he stayed despite feeling unsafe, because he had nowhere else to go.

“Most people we see on the streets are from towns like Homs, Hama or Dera’a,” he told IRIN. “They are trying to get out of the city because they consider any place better than Damascus now. You can see the sadness on their faces. They are just standing outside, waiting for the mercy of God.”

The humanitarian impact of the crisis could soon spiral out of control, if the fighting in the capital continues.

“If a huge number of people come to shelters, nobody could cope with that,” Erksoussi said.

As the main aid agency on the ground, through which all assistance must be channelled, SARC has only been able to reach 900,000-950,000 – or less than two-thirds – of the displaced, Erksoussi said. SARC estimates another 2.5 million people have been otherwise affected by the conflict. “We didn’t even [get to them] yet.”

Challenges to the response

He blames the gap on a lack of funds.

“There is a lot of attention on Syria,” he said, “But from the humanitarian point of view, nobody is really putting his hand in his pocket and putting his money where his mouth is.”

He said donors are still reluctant to support SARC’s work in Syria – instead funding operations supporting refugees in surrounding countries, where the situation is not as dire.

While the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) agrees more funding is “urgently” required – only one-fifth of its US$180** million appeal has been received – aid workers say operational capacity has been another problem.

In al-Nabak, for example, where an influx of displaced people has roughly doubled the population to 80,000, the local sub-section of SARC was “completely unprepared for the scale of this”, according to Paul Stromberg, deputy representative of UNHCR in Syria. “It’s really a question of capacity.”

UNHCR and others have been trying to support SARC with additional staff, warehousing, computers for registration, techniques for distribution and assistance in the distribution of items, he said.

After many months of negotiations, the government agreed in June to allow select UN agencies, international NGOs and community-based organizations to take part in a humanitarian response plan. But many distributions of relief items have been slow to get started.

Security is also a blockage. “To set up in some of these places is really high risk,” Stromberg said.

UN agencies have imported armoured cars to Syria to help them move safely, but until now, SARC has not been able to access the old town of Homs, for example.

''People are afraid. Nobody knows what is going to happen, so everybody started storing bread at home''

Secondary displacement

Secondary and tertiary displacement is an increasing problem, as conflict has followed some people to their areas of refuge.

Among those displaced by recent fighting in Qudsiya and Dummar in rural Damascus were displaced people from other governorates who had sought shelter there, according to a 5 July OCHA bulletin.

This past week, SARC was forced to evacuate some of its shelters and move the displaced to a second area.

In this context, SARC is encouraging people who had fled to the capital earlier in the conflict to return to their areas of origin if it is safe to do so, “because now all of the heat is on Damascus”.

Many have already begun doing so. Yesterday evening, activists in Homs reported that four buses of displaced locals had returned to the city.

But such returns are not always possible – and not only because of sustained violence.

“Many people’s homes have been damaged,” UNHCR’s Stromberg told IRIN. “Beyond the psychological effect is the ability to go back to a place with running water, electricity and where they can find the basic necessities.”

The return of the displaced is aggravating the humanitarian situation in cities like Homs, where food and medical supplies are already heavily strained.

“First, Homs was shelled; now Damascus is shelled,” Waleed*, an activist in Homs, told IRIN. “I am sure that we will receive a lot more people in the next few days. There is no safe place left in Syria.”

But he said many people are turning to homes destroyed by heavy bombardment. “We are now preparing shelters where we can put them up, in schools, churches and mosques,” he said.


The displacement has put a strain on local resources and infrastructure, with many towns doubling their population by taking in displaced people.

“With displacement increasing and resources dwindling, tension is reportedly growing between the displaced and their host communities,” OCHA wrote in its 5 July bulletin.

SARC’s Erksoussi said he expected the rise in violence in Damascus to be temporary. Many families have stocked up on food in their homes in case of such an event, he added.

But residents say shortages of supply are increasing quickly in Damascus, where shops had still been comparatively well stocked until the outbreak of fighting.

“You will still find bakeries that sell bread, but huge amounts of people are crowding in front of them,” said Tareq, the young lawyer. “People are afraid. Nobody knows what is going to happen, so everybody started storing bread at home.”

Longer-term trouble

The future may hold other problems. Many of the displaced have sought shelter in dozens of schools across the country, and may have to be relocated come the start of the school year in September.

“There are concerns that are very urgent in the next month or two,” UNHCR’s Stromberg said.

Throughout this week’s violence in Damascus, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) furnished five schools with mattresses and household items to house people in need of shelter. Asked what would happen when the school-term started, spokesperson Cecilia Goin answered: “It’s one day at a time.”

SARC is discussing with the Ministry of Education the possibility of keeping the schools open to displaced people past the start date of the school terms, and squeezing students into the remaining schools.

“We will have to try to manage somehow,” Erksoussi said. “The solution must not be putting people in camps.”

UN agencies are also concerned about a possible lack of clean or adequate water, and disruption to things like refuse collection.

“It’s now in many areas 37-40 degrees,” Stromberg said. “If people aren’t able to wash and there isn’t adequate sanitation, that’s a problem that will cause a number of knock-on problems in the heat.”

Some aid workers have already started warning that there is only a short window of time to put in place preparations for winter. But, for Erksoussi, there are many more immediate concerns: “When we reach this bridge, we will cross it. It’s a crisis situation, I cannot plan that much.”

Still, he warned that recovery programmes – like the rebuilding of homes and counselling for traumatized students – must be built into the aid effort, so displaced people can eventually go home; and children can go back to school.

*Not a real name




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Water fights spark concern over refugee influx

Posted by African Press International on July 25, 2012

 Water woes for residents and refugees alike in Yemen s capital

SANA’A,  – Somali refugee Asmaa Abdullah, 35, and her three children, have been struggling to get water for more than a year in the run-down Safia neighbourhood of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

“We arrive at al-Usaimi water tap [supported by a charity] before locals, but are pushed to the end of the queue. Sometimes I queue for three or four hours to fill my container.”

But Abdullah says she dares not argue for fear that she might get beaten up.

Water shortages, which have been worsening since serious political unrest began in February 2011, are causing friction between locals and refugees in Sana’a, according to the police.

“Arguments and scuffles between African refugees and local citizens over water have become a daily scene in this slum [Safia],” said Mohammed al-Behish, head of Safia police station, adding that many water disputes go unreported.

“Last week, a Somali woman came to us, bleeding from her nose, claiming she was beaten up by three Yemeni women. In the same week, a local resident reported to us that his daughter was hit by two Ethiopian women at the tap,” al-Behish said.

The slum-dwellers queue at the tap to get water free: Most cannot afford trucked-in water, the price of which has doubled in the last 14 months, Yahya al-Sanabani, a long-term adviser to parliament’s utilities’ committee, told IRIN.

In Safia, where it is estimated a quarter of the 65,000 residents are Africans, the state water supply system gets cut off for more than 10 days at a time, said Khalid al-Kharbi, a local water company official.

''The worst thing is that these African refugees or immigrants concentrate in densely populated cities such as Sana’a, which is expected to run out of water in less than a decade''

Residents receive water for a few hours every 10 days, al-Kharbi told IRIN. “Many women and children are sneaking into mosques at prayer times to fill their containers,” he added.

Government concern

The government recently expressed concern about overburdened public services caused by the daily arrival of 160-200 refugees and immigrants from the Horn of Africa.

The Interior Ministry said the number of African immigrants and refugees in Yemen exceeded one million, and that more than 50,000 new arrivals, mostly from Ethiopia and Somalia, entered Yemen in the first half of 2012.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), however, put the total number of refugees officially recognized by the government at 220,000.

In 2011, some 75,651 Ethiopians, 27,350 Somalis, and 153 persons from other countries arrived in Yemen by boat, said Edward Leposky, an external relations officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yemen. “This trend has continued in 2012,” he added.

“The worst thing is that these African refugees or immigrants concentrate in densely populated cities such as Sana’a, which is expected to run out of water in less than a decade,” said parliament committee adviser al-Sanabani.

Ame Abdi Shaboo, chairman of the Oromo Refugee Committee, told IRIN that refugees and immigrants from the Horn of Africa have no choice but to head for the cities. “Most of them work as domestic helpers or car cleaners to earn a living; this work cannot be found in rural areas,” he said.

Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. A 2012 Rural Water Sector Survey showed that 30 percent of water supply systems were not working, said a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“On average, 140 cubic metres of water are available per person per year in Yemen, compared to an average 1,000 cubic metres per person in the Middle East and North Africa region,” it said.

Sana’a has been predicted to run out of economically viable water by 2017.



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