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Archive for April, 2013

African Hero Nelson Mandela ageing well.

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years by the apartheid regime of South Africa. He survived the prison life. On his release, he was elected the country’s president. He ruled for one term and retired. His life history is amazing.

Now at 94 years old, he has been admitted to hospital a number of times this year. He is now back home from the hospital. He is still receiving medical attention.

Born in 1918, Mandela is a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. The first black African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representive, multiracial election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically a democratic socialist, he served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997. Internationally, Mandela was the Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999.

A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League. After the Afrikaner nationalists of the National Party came to power in 1948 and began implementing the policy of apartheid, he rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign, was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch and oversaw the 1955 Congress of the People. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961 but was found not guilty. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961, leading a bombing campaign against government targets. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robin, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990. Becoming ANC President, Mandela published his autobiography and led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish Multi-racial elections in 1994 in which he led the ANC to victory. He was elected President and formed a Governemnt of Natonal Unity. As President, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki, subsequently becoming an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Controversial for much of his life, right-wing critics denounced Mandela as a terrorist and communist sympathiser. He has nevertheless received international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, having received over 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Federation and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect within South Africa as the “Father of the Nation” and is often known under his Xhosa clan name of Madiba.

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Kenya: Presidential election petition – Supreme Court Judges ruled against Raila Odinga who wanted Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as President nullified

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta i the elections on 4th of March 2013 went to court seeking to nullify the elections. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy President Ruto. The two were sworn in as president and deputy president on the 9th of april.

This leaves Raila in the cold. It was his third time trying to get elected as Kenya‘s president. When the next presidential elections come in 2017, Raila will be old to get elected since he will be clocking 73 years old.

Click here to read the ruling against Raila’s wishes to nullify the elections listed as nr. 1 and how Raila lost the the petition listed as number 2. : >

  1.  www.africanpress.me/ – Kenya Supreme Court: Full Judgement on Presidential election petition – april-16-2013.pdf
  2. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000082727&story_title=how-raila-lost-petition-at-the-supreme-court&pageNo=1

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African Political Parties Form Continental Council, Elect Zambian as Chair

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga,
A two-day conference of major political parties from 34 African Countries came to a close in Khartoum, Sudan, with the formation of a continental body -The Council of African Political Parties – as a platform for a more active engagement in the continent’s social, economic and political initiatives and challenges.
The constitutive conference formally launched the Council at the end of the marathon meeting and break away committees and formed a 30 member Executive Committee consisting of six members each drawn from Eastern, Central, Southern, Western and Northern Regions of Africa.
Zambian Justice Minister Winter Kabimba who is also the Secretary General of the ruling Patriotic Front was elected the first chairman of the Council for a four-year term.
The Council’s headquarters and secretariat will be in Khartoum, Sudan with the country providing the Secretary General to steer the organization in realizing its goals and objectives , which they said will include complementing the efforts of the African Union in building peace, security and continental integration.
President Omar Al-Bashir formally opened the Conference with a call to African states to choose its global partners carefully adding that some had shown unchecked greed for the continent’s natural resources.
Al-Bashir, who is also the leader of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) recalled the struggles by the founding fathers of Africa adding that it was time the political parties to mobilize the people towards peace and sustainable development to ward off unwarranted external influence.
The conference, which was attended by representatives from the two major parties from 34 African countries discussed and adopted recommendations contained in 4 key working papers prepared over the lasts even months since the initiative was mooted.
The presentations dwelt on four key areas: The conceptual framework of the Council outlining the nature and objectives of the conference, the role of African political parties in enhancing democracy, development and integration, Africa and the
technological revolution and Statute of the Council of African Political parties.
The issue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) dominated the conference with both direct and indirect references to it as “a tool by the Western Countries to intimidate” African leaders and states.
The Deputy leader of the Sudanese ruling party NCP Dr.Nafie Ali Nafie said ICC had been rejected by Africans adding that the recent polls in Kenya, which saw two indicted politicians Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto elected president and deputy president respectively was “a vote against ICC”.
The conference was attended by observers which included a powerful delegation from the Chinese Communist Party along with representatives of the Asian Political Parties Council, representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean African Union and diplomats from different countries accredited to Sudan.

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Mozambique’s first HIV vaccine trial underway

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

HIV vaccine trial underway

MAPUTO,  – Mozambique has completed its first HIV vaccine trial and is set to embark on a second, a demonstration of the country’s increased HIV research capacity.

Last month, Researchers at Mozambique’s Polana Cancio Centre for Research and Public Health completed a trial evaluating the safety of an HIV vaccine candidate. The study was conducted through the UK HIV Vaccine Consortium’s Tanzania and Mozambique HIV Vaccine Programme (TaMoVac). Preliminary results from the Phase I trial indicated the vaccine was safe, but researchers say it will be months before they know if the vaccine produced an immune response in participants.

The country also launched its second HIV vaccine trial, this one of a Phase II HIV vaccine candidate, also through TaMoVac, this week. As part of this multi-site study, which is taking place in both Mozambique and Tanzania, Mozambique will recruit 20 percent of the 200-patient sample.

According to Ilesh Jani, director general of Mozambique’s National Institute of Health, the studies, while small, mark important first steps towards bolstering clinical trial and research capacity for diseases such as HIV and malaria. These diseases, along with malnutrition, continue to drive death rates in the country.

“We should be in the driver’s seat, not sitting in the back of the car waiting for someone to find the answer,” Jani told IRIN/PlusNews. “We need to get involved and take leadership to find the solutions.”

“Maybe we don’t yet have the capacity to develop these products in the lab, but we have the capacity to test them and accelerate discovery,” he added.

Larger HIV vaccines trials in the pipeline

The centre – which is located on the outskirts of the capital city, Maputo – aims to help the National Institute of Health understand the health concerns of the country’s increasingly peri-urban population.

“Maybe half of Mozambique will be living in peri-urban areas in the next 10 years,” Jani said. “It’s a setting where we don’t completely understand the determinants of health.”

Understanding these determinants will require household mapping and an HIV prevalence study. Researchers at the centre expect that this study will show an HIV prevalence rate of at least three percent in the local community.

If this is true, Polana Cancio could become a clinical research site for larger, more advanced HIV vaccine trials. Nationally, Mozambique has an HIV prevalence rate of about 11 percent, according to UNAIDS.

The centre will also be conducting a study into common causes of fever.

Jani added that, while it might not be possible for the all the products tested by the centre to enter the market patent-free, he hopes that products tested at the centre – and found to be effective – will be affordable for use in countries like Mozambique.

llg/kn/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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AFRICAN MEDIA AND MALARIA NETWORK ASK GOVERNMENTS TO STEP UP WAR AGAINST MALARIA

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga, 
As the World marks Malaria Day, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership(RBM) is set to launch a three-year campaign under the theme “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.”
The campaign is to help strengthen political will and generate the funding needed to continue averting deaths in malaria-endemic countries.
According to sources mapping progress against key milestones on the road to 2015 shows how the collective efforts of the global malaria community contribute to creating a healthier and more prosperous world.
The source adds that the RBM campaign will help mobilize the resources and support the malaria fight through 2015 and beyond.
The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), a Network with membership in 10 African countries engaged in malaria control advocacy, believes the global malaria community is doing the right thing by taking stock of the promises and realities of ending malaria deaths at the targeted date of 2015.
According to Mrs Charity Binka of Ghana who is also the AMMREN CEO, many African countries missed the 2010 Abuja targets to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by half.
Binka pointed out that with less than two years to meeting the 2015 targets of further reduction of 75% in morbidity and 50% reduction in mortality, countries are now scaling up efforts to at least sustain the modest gains made over the last decade.
The CEO said her AMMREN is of the view that the gains made in malaria control are fragile and could easily be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for decision-makers, donors and the communities.
According to her ,this is because the efforts and resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years will have an impact on whether or not the malaria map will keep shrinking or expanded by the malaria parasites.
While commending, governments, donors, health officials and other key players for efforts made in past decade to bring down malaria morbidity and mortality figures, she said AMMREN is of the view that the widespread negative practice of the treating malaria without diagnosis is likely to hinder the acceleration of the control efforts.
Over 80% of cases of malaria is still being treated without diagnostic testing in many malaria –endemic countries in Africa according to WHO.
The world health body reveals that the universal diagnostic testing will ensure that patients with fever receive the most appropriate treatment, and that antimalarial medicines are used rationally and correctly.
AMMREN is now calling for the scaling up of diagnosis before treatment and a massive deployment of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to ensure that appropriately diagnosed cases are treated promptly and correctly.
Some African countries have made significant gains in this regard. The WHO indicates that 60 African governments were providing ACTs free of charge to all age groups as at 2010.
The network is of the view that there must be a scaling up of these laudable efforts so that millions of African who still lack ready access to appropriate treatment will be covered to ensure that every confirmed malaria case gets treated.
It is also asking for a focused attention on preventive activities through the use of treated bed nets. This is because in the fight against malaria, prevention is the best of all options. The higher the number of people using bed nets, the bigger the rate of reduction in malaria cases.
It shares in the optimism of African scientists, the donor community and stakeholders, that malaria can be pushed out of Africa this century.
However, this optimism must be measured against promises made about 13 years ago, when 40 African Heads of State made a declaration in Abuja, Nigeria to reduce the malaria burden on the continent by setting targets.
Many countries have missed the 2005 and 2010 targets and also likely to miss the 2015 targets unless conscious efforts are made increase access to essential malaria interventions such as diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The continued existence of taxes and tariffs on commodities for malaria control in some countries shows lack of commitment towards dealing with malaria.
Taxes and tariffs and non-tariff measures make these life-saving products unaffordable to the poor and vulnerable.
Despite challenges, in the last decade, there have been some investments in new tools such as long lasting insecticidal nets, rapid diagnostic tests, indoor residual spraying and ACTs. The scaling up of these activities has resulted in modest progress as some countries are now moving from control activities to malaria elimination.
Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2009, according to a Roll Back Malaria report, have joined other countries in their region to form a sub-regional malaria elimination initiative known as Elimination 8.
The Gambia, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe and Madagascar have also secured global funds to prepare for elimination. And since 2007, countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has shown the intent to eliminate malaria.
“As of 2010, the total number of reported cases of malaria in Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland were relatively low raising hope of elimination,” the report added.
With talks of malaria elimination slowly making its way to the front burner, the question of malaria vaccines, as an additional tool must be given urgency and supported by all stakeholders to ensure that it is quickly incorporated into the National Immunization Day schedule once a vaccine receives licensure.
So far the RTS,S, appears to be most promising malaria candidate vaccine. If all goes well the vaccine could be available for targeted use in the next couple of years for young children.
Indeed there is hope on the horizon and AMMREN will continue to lead in providing accurate and timely information on malaria as part of its effort to wipe out the disease from the face of the globe. AMMREN also urges other African journalists to join in the malaria elimination crusade.
Kicking out malaria from Africa is a responsibility of governments, identifiable organizations, communities and individuals. April 25 should be seen as a day of renewal of commitment to work towards a malaria free society.
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Kenya: Former Justice and education minister who was elected Senator Mutula Kilonzo on 4th of March died Saturday

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2013

Mutula Kilonzo who was the Makueni senator is dead. Reports say he died in his sleep. He was found by his workers after 10.00 am in the morning lying in bed with foam filling the mouth and his nose. In the room, the investigators say they found vomit on the floor and the sink, meaning, he woke up to vomit before he went to bed where he later died without alerting any of his family members.

He was alone in his room after he went to sleep having arrived to his ranch from Nairobi. The rest of his family is said to have remained behind in Nairobi.

He died in his farm bordering Maanzoni lodge on Mombasa road. Teams of experts (policemen and pathologists) rushed to the area immediately his death was known.

It is not known what killed him. There are speculations that he may have been poisoned.

Investigations are now ongoing in order to establish the cause of death

Mr Kilonzo was a brilliant lawyer who always spoke his mind. Earlier this year, he decided to forgive a young woman who had been charged in court for threatening to kill him. The woman who was his house help had sent him a sms saying she had been instructed to do so by her underground bosses who wanted Kilonzo dead. Kilonzo appeared in court and instead of testifying against the woman, he told the court that he did not want the case continued but instead should be discontinued because he had decided to forgive the woman.

The judge discontinued the case.

Our condolences goes to the family members and friends during this trial moment and may his soul be blessed to rest in peace.

 

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A Key Report on Darfur by UN Panel of Experts Consigned to Oblivion

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2013

  • Eric Reeves, USA

To understand the surging violence in Darfur over the past year, a lengthy and highly authoritative “unofficial” report covering most of 2011, from former members of the UN Panel of Experts onSudan (Darfur), is critically important. Why does the UN continue to keep it confidential? The answer lies in the incompetence and political bias of successors on the Panel, and the failure of the “unofficial” report to square with the highly distorted UN/African Union narrative about Darfur.

 

Reporting on Darfur by non-Sudanese news organizations has picked up significantly in recent months as violence accelerates dramatically, massive new human displacements occur continually in all three major regions of Darfur, and large-scale fighting continues between the Khartoum regime’s regular Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), along with its militia allies, and rebel forces that have become stronger and more aggressive. These dispatches have come from Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the IRIN. Although not allowed into Darfur for a number of years, journalists are finding that enough information is making its way out that reporting has become obligatory. To be sure violence in Darfur has long continues, at much higher levels than the UN and African Union have reported, either via the UN/AU “hybrid” Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) or the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator George Charpentier set the terrible precedent of refusing to speak honestly about humanitarian and security conditions on the ground, declaring with an utterly shameful mendacity:

“‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].” (“UN Accused of Caving In to Khartoum Over Darfur: Agencies said to be reluctant to confront Sudanese government about obstructions to humanitarian aid effort,” January 7, 2011) (all emphases in all quotations have been added)

This statement was and is patently untrue, and was contradicted at the time by UN officials speaking on and off the record, and by non-UN relief workers in confidential interviews. But Charpentier set the tone, and international non-governmental humanitarian organizations were forced to follow suit or face expulsion by the Khartoum regime—a regime that has expelled a great many organizations over the years, and made the work of many others impossible.

The UN and AU continue their disingenuous ways, but no longer do we see such deeply misleading reporting as appeared in The New York Times just over a year ago. With a dateline of Nyuru, West Darfur (less than 20 miles north of the major town of Mornei), the Times dispatch (“A Taste of Hope Brings Refugees Back to Darfur,” February 26, 2012) provides an astonishingly misleading account of realities in Darfur:

“More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year, the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled.”

A UN official cited in the dispatch declared simply: “there are pockets of insecurity in Darfur.”

“‘It’s amazing,’ said Dysane Dorani, head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission [UNAMID] for the western sector of Darfur. ‘The people are coming together. It reminds me of Lebanon after the civil war.'”

“On a recent morning, thousands of Nyuru’s residents were back on their land doing all the things they used to do, scrubbing clothes, braiding hair, sifting grain and preparing for a joint feast of farmers and nomads. Former victims and former perpetrators would later sit down side by side together, some for the first time since Darfur’s war broke out, sharing plates of macaroni and millet—and even the occasional dance—in a gesture of informal reconciliation.”

In fact, what is “amazing” is not the returns, many of whom do not, in fact, stay in areas to which they have “returned” because of security concerns; the UN makes no mention of these, although Radio Dabanga has repeatedly. What is truly of note is the number of newly displaced civilians—more than 1.2 million since UNAMID took up its mandate on January 1, 2008 (see Appendix One). Some fifty thousand people have recently not returned from but fled to eastern Chad from Darfur, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees and Doctors without borders/Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), increasing the number of Dafuri refugees in eastern Chad from 280,000 to 330,000 (see Appendix One). For those interested in the realities of Darfur—instead of the UN propaganda to which the Times correspondent succumbed during his highly controlled visit to one location in West Darfur—Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune have long reported in detail on developments relating to both security and humanitarian conditions. In a series of contemporaneous articles, Radio Dabanga offered detailed research and interviews with people from the Nyuru region that completely undermined the credibility of the Times’ claimed findings. Highly informed Darfuris with whom I spoke and communicated directly expressed their disbelief that a distinguished American newspaper could so misrepresent the situation in Darfur.

It should be noted in this context that Radio Dabanga has become a truly extraordinary resource, offering both a substantive and textured sense of what is occurring on the ground in Darfur. Developed by Darfuris, operating out of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Radio Dabanga has an astonishing number of contacts on the ground in Darfur, including sheikhs, omdas, nazirs, camp leaders, and the leadership of the various rebel factions. The standards of their journalism continue to improve at a rapid rate, with particularly valuable instruction coming from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which has co-produced Radio Dabanga since its initial reporting in late 2008. For every disingenuous, misleading, or mendacious declaration by the UN and AU leadership, Darfuris have been able to respond in their own voices.

But there was in fact also much in the “unofficial” report from the former members of the Panel of Experts that sharply and directly contradicted the UN’s politically motivated official accounts, especially from eastern regions of Darfur. From January 2011 through August 2011 three members of the UN Panel of Experts on the Sudan (Darfur) conducted the last professional investigation as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (March 2005): (1) monitoring the arms embargo on Darfur and (2) monitoring compliance with the Security Council “demand” that the Khartoum regime cease all aerial military assaults on Darfur. Following their resignation from the Panel in August and September 2011, weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) prepared a last, extensive report on their findings. This document has, unfortunately, not been widely circulated outside the UN (where it remains “confidential”), even as it remains the most authoritative account we have from any international investigators on the ground in Darfur. It also provides a clear warning of what was to come in the following two years. What appears now a vast and incoherent mélange of violence has a great deal more intelligibility if we examine closely this highly detailed, professional, ground-based research from 2011. 

The Document

In a significant scoop, the highly authoritative Africa Confidential provided the first account of the report in April 2012 (along with the URL for the report itself):

“UN clash over Beijing bullets claim: UN experts’ reports differ over Darfur arms violations,” Africa Confidential, 13th April 2012:

“A seismic diplomatic row is rumbling at United Nations headquarters in New York over the circulation of a damning report by former UN experts pointing to the supply of Chinese-made ammunition to the Sudan government for use against civilians in Darfur. The row exposes fresh divisions on Sudan at the UN Security Council and disarray in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office. It may also unpick Beijing’s careful diplomacy as it seeks to realign its relations between Sudan and South Sudan.

“The report, which is circulating clandestinely at UN headquarters, was written by three of the original members of the UN’s Panel of Experts, which monitors violations of the UN arms embargo in Darfur. It argues that the Darfur crisis, far from winding down as Khartoum and some press reports suggest, is worsening, with new incidents of ethnic cleansing, arms deliveries and aerial bombing. Africa Confidential has obtained two separate reports on Darfur (available to download at the end of this article), one commissioned by Ban’s Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, which is highly conservative in its findings, and a more forthright, detailed unofficial version by the three specialists who resigned from Pascoe’s appointed Panel on Darfur in 2011.

“Weapons experts Mike Lewis (Britain) and Claudio Gramizzi (Italy), and Darfur and Chad specialist Jérôme Tubiana (France) resigned, Africa Confidential has learned, after Pascoe’s department declined to take seriously their complaints about the standards of competence and neutrality on the Panel. The trio have now sent their own report—with lengthy annexes—to the Security Council. This unofficial report details Sudan army ammunition found in Darfur that appeared to be Chinese-made. Some may have been made in the Sudan Technical Centre, a Sudanese military company in Khartoum. The findings upset China, which says the report is not an official document and should not be given a hearing. Diplomats from the United States and Britain are nonetheless backing the report in private.”

I have also written previously (April 17, 2012) about this report and its striking contrasts with the “official” UN Panel of Experts report submitted by the highly politicized Panel that succeeded that of Gramizzi, Tubiana, and Lewis. This “official” report is, by comparison, a travesty:

[1] The “official” Panel of Experts offered only a very superficial account of events in eastern Darfur, especially in the Shangal Tobay region, where violence flared viciously in the wake of Minni Minawi’s defection from the Khartoum regime in late 2010. But the Panel experts who resigned investigated much more fully, spent much more time on the ground in the region, and interviewed a much greater range and number of witnesses. On the basis of this extensive research, they concluded that the attacks on Zaghawa civilians were deliberate (Minawi is the Zaghawa leader of the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi, or SLA/MM) and that the evidence was sufficiently compelling to characterize the violence as “ethnic cleansing” by the Khartoum regime and militia proxies.

[2] The “official” Panel of Experts offers only a few weak conclusions—and even less research—about violations of the UN arms embargo on Darfur (again, monitoring this embargo and the ban on offensive military flights are the primary mandates for the UN Panel of Experts on Darfur, per UN Security Council Resolution 1591). For its part, on the basis of wide and impressively deep research, the “unofficial” Panel of Experts finds overwhelming evidence that weapons and ammunition manufactured after 2005 in Russia and China continue to make their way to Khartoum and then onto Darfur. Unsurprisingly, resistance to discussion of the “unofficial” Report comes primarily from these two veto-wielding members of the Security Council.

[3] Nowhere is the contrast between the two reports greater than in the broader generalizations drawn about insecurity on Darfur. Again, it must be stressed that in character and quality of field research, depth of analysis, annexes, footnotes, and time on the ground, there is simply no comparison between the two reports. Indeed, the official report of the UN Panel of Experts has five factitious and skimpy annexes. The fifth is simply make-work—a “Summary of the Outgoing Communications Sent by the Panel of Experts” (e.g., we learn that on “February 18 Ethiopia [was contacted] for visa assistance”).

By contrast the report of the Experts who resigned has twenty-eight key annexes. It also has more than 150 detailed footnotes for references. For its part, the “official” Panel of Experts typically provides trivial and often meaningless sourcing, a large majority of them baldly citing UNAMID (e.g., Footnote 50, on the important subject of carjackings over the past four years has simply, in toto, “UNAMID source”; Footnote 46 declares equally baldly, “Figures provided by UNAMID”). Indeed, the entire report by the “official” Panel of Experts reads like an uninspired, uninformed, and dismayingly listless political exercise, allowing the UN and AU to check off a box on the “to do list.”

The conclusions drawn about human security are correspondingly, and unsurprisingly, at odds in the two reports. On the basis of what is finally paltry evidence from the ground, the “official” Report concludes that:

“there has been a clear and relatively positive change compared to the [security] situation in the previous years. Significant and tangible changes have taken place in the political and security situation. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) has set in motion a peace process that has been garnering support from the Darfur population at large.”

These conclusions are simply preposterous: all evidence suggested that even at the time of this statement violence was significant and expanding; it has continued to escalate dramatically. And reports from Darfuri leaders in the camps make clear that the Doha agreement is a dead letter, a blue-print for nothing other than the perpetuation of the status quo. This “agreement” is purely expedient UN political posturing in the face of a situation in which it has made no progress either diplomatically or in providing human security. Indeed, the Sudan Tribune reports April 25th, 2013 that relations between Khartoum and the one small rebel group to sign the peace “agreement” in July 2011 (el-Tigani Seisi’s “Liberation and Justice Movement”) are on the verge of collapse—a collapse that cannot be averted by the recent signing on to the agreement by a justice and equality movement splinter group.

By contrast, the report from the Experts who resigned notes:

“Nonetheless, from their [the authors’] experience and direct observation elsewhere in Darfur, and from information and testimonies gathered from sources in Darfur, Khartoum and countries neighboring the Republic of Sudan, the Members of the Panel consider that some elements emerging from the Shangal Tobay case-study represent a reliable illustration of more generic trends of the recent evolution of the conflict in neighboring areas of the same region [i.e., the area of Shangal Tobay, between el-Fasher and Nyala and east], straddling the border between North and South Darfur. Members of the Panel also found that the most intense violence in Darfur during their mandate happened in those areas of eastern Darfur, and in particular Shangal Tobay area.” [ ]

“Members of the Panel found that government officials and forces under the control of the Government of Sudan had a primary role in the violence in Shangal Tobay” [though, they note, some officials also tried to stop the violence].”

The scandalous lack of even desk research by the “official” Panel of Experts is constantly in evidence. So too is the inadequacy of desk research, given the reporting patterns of UNAMID. The “unofficial” report, for example, notes that,

“…events [the former members of the Panel] witnessed alongside UNAMID personnel were not fully reported in UNAMID Patrol Reports or Situation Reports.”

The largest conclusion of the “unofficial” Report of the Experts on Darfur is reflected in the violence that has been exploding in Darfur since last July:

“UNAMID forces have not been able to protect Zaghawa or other civilians, including those already living in IDP camps, from attacks, harassment, and displacements, some of which took place just in front of Shangal Tobay UNAMID team site.”

These Experts also note that the failure to understand sufficiently the “chain of violence” in Shangal Tobay was due to “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report some incidents.” This has been true for years and includes the dramatically inadequate and misleading reporting by the AU and UN leadership (again, see Appendix Two for some of the most telling examples). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Secretariat as a whole, in various reports on UNAMID and Darfur, have been either spectacularly credulous or disgracefully disingenuous. One revealing example: in the first two reports on Darfur and UNAMID in 2012, Ban’s report mentions not a single incident of sexual violence—not one—even as the epidemic of rape continues unabated; reporting by Radio Dabanga also makes clear that UNAMID refuses to respond to threats or acts of rape.

This “under-reporting or deliberately omitting to report” has contributed greatly to the failure of the international community to understand the dynamics by which violence has escalated to the point where there is simply no security anywhere in Darfur, and mass civilian displacements from violence are reported on an almost daily basis. This comparison of the two reports will be continued in subsequent briefs. Of particular significance for this period, the “unofficial” report of the Panel of Experts estimates that approximately 70,000 people were newly displaced from the greater Shangal Tobay/Khor Abeche region during their time on the ground in 2011:

“This cycle of violence provoked one of the most significant displacements that Darfur has experienced since the height of the conflict between 2003-2005, with the reported registration of around 70,000 new IDPs…. Most of those new displaced persons belong to the Zaghawa group.”

Presently human displacement is surging throughout Darfur and into Chad; MSF reports some 50,000 new refugees in eastern Chad in recent weeks, including 40 percent of the major town of Umm Dukhum in West Darfur. Altogether, many hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes within Darfur over the past months and years into highly uncertain circumstances, amidst rapidly decreasing security 

 

Despite overwhelming evidence of a rapidly deteriorating security environment—posing a wide range of acute dangers for civilians, both in the camps and rural areas—the UN and African Union continues to minimize the scale of current violence, as it has done for many years now; this is true even as UNAMID’s performance continues to deteriorate and morale falls. It is especially revealing that the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and its Undersecretary Hervé Ladsous, continues to claim that circumstances on the ground actually permit a draw-down of peacekeeping forces. There is evidently no inclination within UN DPKO to continue funding at present exorbitant levels a peacekeeping force that is performing so poorly, given other acute needs for peacekeepers around the world.

Realities

The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) has very recently offered not only a more realistic assessment of the total number of displaced—2.3 million in Darfur and Chad—but cites an estimate by the International Monitoring Centre:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.” (April 19, 2013)

Many additional tens of thousands of people have been displaced since violence began to accelerate so dramatically last July, producing a figure of newly displaced that dwarfs highly dubious UN claims about the number of “returning” displaced persons (see Appendix One). An epidemic of rape continues to surge throughout Darfur amidst a climate of complete impunity; displaced persons camps are increasingly attacked or subject to brutal, often violent extortion schemes by militias and the feared Abu Tira (Central Reserve Police); major roads are too insecure for travel except with the heaviest of armed escorts. Relief efforts are ever more endangered, and there is a steady increase in reports of food shortages, food inflation, lack of clean water and primary medical care, and a lack of livelihoods. In many cases, returns by displaced persons to their villages and lands is impossible because they are now occupied by Arab pastoralists—typically armed and threatening—including groups from Chad and Niger.

Indiscriminate aerial bombardment continues unabated, particularly in the Jebel Marra region, but in a great many other locations in Darfur. UNAMID confirms virtually none of these, in part because it is so frequently denied access by the security forces of the Khartoum regime. Humanitarian access—both because of insecurity but also because of Khartoum’s denial of access—continues to deteriorate rapidly. Assaults on camps and even in towns have become more frequent and more indiscriminate. Basic services, including water and always sparse electricity, continue to be degraded. And there is no end in sight to the violence. But current realities have a history, and our most detailed account for 2011 comes from the reporting work of Mike Lewis, Claudio Gramizzi, and Jérôme Tubiana. §

§ The report of the former members of the Panel of Experts, with its highly defined mandate, is amply supplemented by a report from the Small Arms Survey by Claudio Gramizzi and Jérôme Tubiana. They have provided a remarkably full overview of this violence in a report from the Small Arms Survey (Geneva): “Forgotten Darfur: Old Tactics and New Players,” (July 2012). Their report is based on field research conducted from October 2011 through June 2012, and supplemented by extensive interviews, a full desk review of available reports, and a wide range of communication with regional and international actors.

APPENDIX ONE: Displacement, “returns,” and current trends (a compendium of reports; see also, “How many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are there in Darfur?” Dissent Magazine [on-line], April 28, 2011):

It is important to realize that the UN, in totaling the number of returning IDPs, takes no obvious account of those who must abandon their attempt to regain their lands and way of life. For example,

“[Seven] families who came back to the Guldo region [West Darfur] in the framework of the Sudanese Government’s voluntary repatriation initiative were found in an extremely worrying state. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga that they were part of 25 families who left Kalma Camp (South Darfur) as a part of the Voluntary Return program. However, the journey was too dangerous, and 18 families were forced to travel back to their original camp in South Darfur. Furthermore, they reported to Radio Dabanga that the remaining families did not receive any support from the province of West Darfur, even though it organized the deportation. They now call for international action to save these families, who are currently in a critical state.” (Radio Dabanga, July 26, 2011, “Voluntary Repatriation: 7 families found in a critical state”)

Displacement and returns have been central issues in Darfur since the beginning of major fighting in 2003. Darfur Humanitarian Profile No. 34 (representing conditions as of January 2009) was the last that OCHA produced. Its release in March 2009 came just as Khartoum was expelling thirteen distinguished international humanitarian organizations and closing three important Sudanese relief organizations—altogether roughly half the humanitarian capacity in Darfur. This last Profile found that there were “nearly 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur.” An accompanying graph showed a slow but steady increase, much of it clearly the result of massive civilian destruction and attacks such as had occurred in the Muhajeriya area of South Darfur (October 2007) and the regions north of el-Geneina in West Darfur (February 2008), the latter described in brutal detail by one of the last meaningful UN human rights reports on Darfur (March 20, 2008):

“Military attacks in Sirba, Silea and Abu Suruj (8 February), involved aerial bombardments by helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft, accompanied by ground offensives by militia and SAF. Consistent information gathered by UNAMID Human Rights Officers indicated that these actions violated the principle of distinction stated in international humanitarian law, failing to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Moreover, the scale of destruction of civilian property, including objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population, suggests that the damage was a deliberate and integral part of a military strategy. Information on extensive pillaging during and after the attacks was also gathered. In addition, consistent and credible accounts of rape committed by armed uniformed men during and after the attack in Sirba were collected.”

Such reports worked to explain the steady rise in IDPs that had featured prominently in news and human rights reporting on Darfur; both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center used the 2.7 million figure. But OCHA issued a massive (and unexplained) “correction” in July 2010, tied to no public or private report. As of July 2010 OCHA referred to 1.9 million IDPs—800,000 people had suddenly become “undisplaced” . The only “source” offered by OCHA for this radical downsizing of an intensely distressed population was buried in a terse footnote, referring simply to work by the intergovernmental International Organization for Migration (IOM): “IOM Sudan (2009).” There was no indication of precise date, title, researchers, links, or anything that would allow a reader to understand what was signified by this reference.

The IOM did not announce a publication or completed study on displacement in Darfur; nor did OCHA subsequently explain what IOM had uncovered that justified such an enormous decline in the population considered “displaced.” IOM’s 2009 annual report makes no reference to research on IDPs in Darfur, although the report does note that Khartoum prevented IOM missions from traveling to South Darfur for much of the year (in summer 2010 Khartoum expelled two senior IOM officials for no reason).

What had happened? Since 2009, many within the humanitarian community in Darfur had thought some recalibration of IDP numbers was necessary, for a variety of reasons: double-counting of people registered in two locations; manipulation within the camps of UN World Food Program ration cards; the many deaths (but of course also many births) that had occurred in the camps; and confusion over whether a person already displaced counted for one or two “IDPs” if displaced a second time.

But the new IOM “figure” was relevant for the year 2008, not 2010, even less for 2011, 2012, and 2013. Moreover, during the period of study IOM’s database was significantly incomplete. For example, only 488,997 IDPs were registered with IOM in South Darfur, a region with half of Darfur’s total population (6.5 million). Some camps and concentrations of IDPs had never been registered. This was not an issue of bad faith on the part of IOM, which was simply doing the best it could with limited data (including data from the UN World Food Program). For the beginning of 2008, a figure of 1.9 million was at least representative of the data available to IOM. IOM made clear to OCHA that the figure was a work-in-progress with very significant limits; OCHA ignored this and peremptorily reduced the figure on the basis of the “IOM Sudan (2009)” reference. IOM had no intention of the figure of 1.9 million IDPs replacing earlier assessments, precisely because of the issues that are raised here, according to former IOM officials.

The Data Extant

To gain any true sense of scale of displacement in Darfur, we should also bear in mind UN and other figures for total displacement, of all kinds, in the immediately preceding years.

• OCHA estimated that 300,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2007;

• OCHA estimated that 317,000 Darfuris were newly displaced in 2008;

• In 2009—the year of humanitarian expulsions—OCHA promulgated no figure of its own, but the Canadian “Peace Operations Monitor” found evidence suggesting that “over 214,000 people were newly displaced [in Darfur] between January & June [2009] alone  Given the reports of violent displacement that followed June 2009, a total figure for the year of 250,000 seems conservative;

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre collected data suggesting that in 2010 approximately 300,000 people were newly displaced. The OCHA Sudan Bulletin (January 7 – 13, 2011) reported that the “overall number of people displaced during the December 2010 fighting in the area of Khor Abeche stands at 43,000.” 300,000 newly displaced for the year again seems a conservative figure;

UN IRIN (Nairobi) reports, March 16, 2011:

“Tens of thousands of people continue to flee their homes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur for the safety of internally displaced people’s camps after recent fighting between government forces and armed militias. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 66,000 IDPs have arrived in camps in North and South Darfur since January. At least 53,000 are in and around North Darfur State’s Zam Zam IDP Camp.”

On March 27, 2012 Radio Dabanga reported a finding by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (these are precisely the sorts of stories—accounts from UN humanitarian agencies—that so rarely figure in international reporting on Darfur):

“The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN said on Monday [March 26, 2012] that about 3,000 people from the areas of Dar Es Salam and Zam Zam camps in North Darfur have been displaced to Kalimdo and other areas with El Fasher. The FAO said that the displaced people are in need aid, food and medicines.”

• Radio Dabanga reported, April 2, 2012:

7,000 flee after government forces raze villages in North Darfur

“More than 7,000 people have fled their homes in North Darfur after government forces and militants reportedly burned down their villages last week. ‘7,000 have left the villages of Adam Khatir, Nagojora, Hamid Dilli, Amar Jadid, Koyo and Duga Ferro near Donki Hosh and fled to the surrounding areas where there is no food, water or shelter,’ said a newly displaced witness to Radio Dabanga from a safe area. ‘They attacked us for three days, from Tuesday until Thursday evening. They burned down five villages, looted more than 20 and destroyed water wells and pumps,’ added the witness. She appealed to the UN and humanitarian organisations to protect them and provide them with desperately needed assistance.”

• Radio Dabanga reported, April 16, 2012:

5,000 South Sudanese forced out of Darfuri camp (Sharef [South Darfur] 16 Apr 2012)

“South Sudanese citizens living in a camp in the Sharef area of East [formerly South] Darfur had their homes burned down and destroyed on Monday by a group of militia. Witnesses told Radio Dabanga their camp was completely looted yesterday including the clothes they were wearing. They said today the militants came back and indiscriminately burned down their homes forcing the traumatised camp residents out into the surrounding areas.”

UN OCHA reported, April 29, 2012:

“According to IOM [the International Organization for Migration], some 3,400 newly displaced people have been verified and registered in Zamzam IDP camp, North Darfur. These newly displaced people fled their homes because of inter-tribal fighting between Zaghawa and Birgid tribesmen in Alauna village (approximately 25km north of Dar el Salam, North Darfur) that started on 22 February.”

August 5, 2012: a report from a highly reliable and experienced source on the ground in North Darfur (received via e-mail):

“Kutum town has been overrun by Arab militia since last Thursday [August 3, 2012]…all of the INGOs [International Nongovernmental Humanitarian Organizations] and UN offices in the area have been thoroughly looted and their staff relocated to el-Fasher. All of the IDPs from Kassab IDP camp have been displaced [approximately 30,000 civilians—ER]. The markets in Kutum and in Kassab have both been thoroughly looted.”

Radio Dabanga reported, August 9, 2012:

“Representatives of the Kassab and Fatta Barno camps in North Darfur, revealed on Wednesday that the situation in both camps remains critical and over 70,000 IDPs fled so far. UNAMID promised to provide support to both camps within 24 hours.”

Radio Dabanga reported, September 30, 2012:

“[M]ore than 2,000 people who fled the recent attacks around Hashaba have arrived to Ba’ashim area, north of Mellit, North Darfur, on Sunday, 30 September. Sources told Radio Dabanga that these people traveled for three days by foot, hiding around mountains and valleys when it was light and moving only by night. This way, sources explained, the victims could avoid being found by pro-government militias.

“Witnesses said these people are suffering from fatigue, adding that they barely ate or drank anything during the three days they traveled. Upon arrival in Ba’ashim, a remote area, most people were transferred to Mellit city where there are enough facilities to support them, sources explained. They added that the 2,000 people who arrived in Ba’ashim represent only one fourth of the victims who fled the Hashaba attacks.”

UN IRIN reported February 8, 2013:

“The Darfur-based Radio Dabanga reported on 6 February that some 16,000 newly displaced people had arrived in the North Darfur towns of Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra following threats by rival tribal militias. Many of the displaced are living on the streets with no humanitarian support.”

Reuters (AlertNet), reported (February 13, 2103):

“The latest violence left more than 100 people dead and forced some 100,000 to flee their homes in what aid agencies say is the largest displacement in recent years inside Sudan’s troubled western region of Darfur. The United Nations said in mid-January it was alarmed by confirmed reports of killings of civilians, as well as the burning of more than three dozen villages.”

Radio Dabanga reported (March 19, 2013):

“Some 4,000 people in South Darfur were displaced after having their villages ‘burnt by aerial bombings by the Sudanese air force’ during last week’s battles.” 

Radio Dabanga reported, March 26, 2013:

“A Nertiti camps activist disclosed on Tuesday [February 26, 2013] that between 23,000 and 25,000 families [likely over 100,000 civilians] have arrived in the area fleeing the battles between government and rebel forces in [formerly West] Darfur that erupted on 23 December last year. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, he noted that some 15 or 20 families continue arriving in the camps every day from Golo and the Jildu garrison area in West Jebel Marra, where much of the fighting took place. Nertiti is already home to more than 42,000 displaced persons according to the UN OCHA.”

Radio Dabanga reports, April 23, 2013:

“Pro-government militias reportedly attacked 300 civilians who were fleeing battles between government forces and rebels in South Darfur on Monday. The displaced were heading to El Salam camp near the state’s capital which has received ‘7,000 families’ [perhaps more than 30,000 civilians] since March.”

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported, April 26, 2013:

“TISSI, CHAD/NEW YORK, APRIL 26, 2013—Violent clashes in Sudan’s Darfur region have driven approximately 50,000 people across the border into southeastern Chad since early March, where a lack of food, water, shelter, and basic services is developing into a humanitarian crisis, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.”

UN IRIN reported, April 19, 2013:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements—most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.”

Radio Dabanga reports, April 26, 2011:

2,200 families fleeing Sudan army, rebels battles arrive in camp (KALMA CAMP)

“In line with “preliminary assessments” at least 2,200 families have arrived in a South Darfur camp over the last month due to clashes between Sudanese and rebel troops in two states of the region.”

NB: the IRIN figure in its April 19 dispatch evidently includes much of what is excluded from the commonly cited UN figure of “1.4 million internally displaced in Darfur”:

330,000 refugees in Chad;

300,000 IDPs registered in camps, but not registered for feeding by the UN’s World Food Program; it is this population that when omitted yields the figure of 1.4 million displaced that OCHA itself has done far too much to promulgate without qualification.

• Recently displaced persons who figure in no census—perhaps as many as 200,000, judging from reports from the UN, Radio Dabanga, and other sources (see above);

• Those displaced but living with host families or villages, not in camps; early in its reporting, the UN Darfur Humanitarian Profiles estimated this figure to be as high as 600,000.

This readily available data, in aggregate suggests that more than 1.2 million civilians have been newly displaced since January 1, 2008, the official beginning of UNAMID’s mandate. Indeed, the figure may be much greater than 1.2 million. Yet despite these data, most news reports continue to cite a figure of “1.4 million” as “remaining displaced” in Darfur; this is a gross misrepresentation of realities on the ground. Even so, the new UN/AU Joint Special Representative Aichatu Mindaoudou claims on the basis of this figure that “the numbers of people affected by violence had decreased each year between 2008 and 2011.” It did not take Ms. Mindaoudou long to learn the mendacious ways of UNAMID (see Appendix Two below).

 

UN and African Union misrepresentations of Darfur’s realities

[ It is worth noting here that the spokesman for UNAMID, Aicha Elbasri, resigned on April 23, 2013, as Radio Dabanga and the Sudan Tribune reported:

“The spokesperson of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Aicha Elbasri, announced her resignation on Tuesday eight months after her appointment, saying she was blocked from accessing information. ‘I resigned from my post because I wasn’t receiving the support I needed in terms of access to information in a timely manner, including the accurate and up-to-date information the media was asking for,’ Elbasri told Radio Dabanga.”

A “rogue’s gallery” of UN and AU commentary:

• August 2009 statement by departing head of UNAMID forces Martin Agwai: “as of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur, [but rather] very low intensity engagements.”

[In 2009 data suggest that some 250,000 Darfuris were newly, and typically violently displaced—ER]

• Departing UN/AU special representative to UNAMID, Rodolphe Adada (August 2009):

“‘I have achieved results’ in Darfur. [ ] ‘There is no more fighting proper on the ground.’ ‘Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur. Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur—a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses.”’ 

• UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Georg Charpentier offered a similarly optimistic assessment of Darfur in early 2011: “We are seeing a ‘trend of decreasing overall violent incidents in Darfur.'” (January 20, 2011)

• In a truly despicably moment of mendacity, Charpentier declared: “‘UN humanitarian agencies are not confronted by pressure or interference from the Government of Sudan,’ [Charpentier said in a written statement to the Institute for War and Peace reporting (IWPR)].” (January 7, 2011)

• A year and half ago former JSR Ibrahim Gambari gave a statistical account of UNAMID’s success: “Our figures have shown that the number of armed attacks in all three Darfur states has fallen by as much 70 percent over the past three years, which has resulted in more displaced people returning to their homes.” (Radio Netherlands International, September 14, 2011)

• In an interview with Radio Dabanga (May 20, 2012), the spokesman for the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Christopher Cycmanick, “described the security situation in Darfur as ‘relatively calm.'”

• Former JSR, “I am gratified to note that barely 31 months on, all the objectives I set out to meet have largely been met.”

Fearing no contradiction, UN and AU officials—including senior UN officials in New York—have deliberately and disastrously understated the scale of insecurity and humanitarian need in Darfur.

End

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Norway demands release of two kidnapped Syrian bishops

Posted by African Press International on April 29, 2013

“I am concerned about reports that the two top church leaders in Aleppo, Bishops Ibrahim and Yazaji, have been kidnapped. We have contacted the leader of the Free Syrian Army, and asked them to do all they can to find those responsible and ensure that the two bishops are released,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

The Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo, Boulos Yazaji, have been kidnapped by an unknown armed group in Syria. They were abducted on their way from the Turkish border to the city of Aleppo.

“The two bishops are key leaders for Christians in Syria. The fact that church leaders are now being kidnapped shows just how relentless the civil war in Syria has become,” said Mr Eide.

The Norwegian authorities have contacted the head of the Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idris, and asked them to do all they can to find those responsible and ensure that the church leaders are released. There are a large number of armed groups in Syria that support different parties to the conflict. The Free Syrian Army is a network that includes most of the military opposition forces and cooperates with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

“Christians in Syria are in a vulnerable position, and it is important for Syria’s future to avoid divisions between religious groups. I urge those responsible for this action to release the bishops immediately, and I also urge all those involved in the war to dissociate themselves from actions that target religious leaders,” said Mr Eide.

 

End

 

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ONLINE MAPPING SYSTEM HELPS FIGHT MALARIA BY TRACKING MOSQUITO RESISTANCE TO INSECTICIDES USED TO PREVENT MALARIA.

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga,

The first online mapping tool to track insecticide resistance in mosquitoes that cause malaria has been launched .

The interactive website, called IR Mapper (www.irmapper.com), identifies locations in more than 50 malaria-endemic countries where mosquitoes have developed resistance to the insecticides used in bed nets and indoor residual sprays.

IR Mapper incorporates the just-released World Health Organization (WHO) revised criteria for reporting insecticide resistance which is designed to detect it earlier.

With the most comprehensive and up-to-date information, the IR Mapper helps direct which vector control tools should be deployed in areas of high resistance.

Malaria is a deadly disease transmitted to people through infected mosquitoes. It kills a child every 60 seconds yet it is preventable and curable.

Progress has been made against the disease due largely to wide scale use of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying (IRS). But the rapid spread of resistance in malaria-carrying mosquitoes to insecticides used in bed nets and sprays threatens current malaria control efforts.

Resistance among Anopheles malaria vectors has been reported in 64 countries, with parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and India of greatest concern.

“Deployment of the most appropriate insecticide based vector control interventions including nets and IRS needs to be informed by up-to-date data on insecticide resistance in the malaria vector species,” said Dr. Nabie Bayoh, an entomologist at KEMRI/CDC in Kisumu, Kenya. “Until now, data has been scattered throughout different databases and has come from a variety of sources. This has made prompt decision-making difficult. IR Mapper has helped to address this” he added.
IR Mapper consolidates published data on insecticide susceptibility and resistance mechanisms from 1959 to 2012. It includes reports from the President’s Malaria Initiative, National Malaria Control Programmes and other reputable institutes.
Resistance is usually measured by putting mosquitoes in a tube lined with insecticide-treated paper. Mosquitoes land on the paper and absorb the insecticide – some may die and some may survive.

A population is considered susceptible if almost all die. Until recently, resistance was confirmed by survival of more than 20 percent in this test.

The new guidelines from WHO reduced this threshold value to 10 percent, meaning that resistance will be reported earlier. This change is an indication of the concern insecticide resistance is causing globally.

IR Mapper data aligned with the new WHO thresholds is presented in a user-friendly format on interactive maps. The mapping function allows filtering and projection of data based on a set of user-directed criteria.

For instance, users can examine the resistance status of single or multiple Anopheles species to one or more insecticides within their region of interest.

This can be the basis for a “go” or “no go” decision on a particular insecticide for deployment on nets or in sprays. Data can also be viewed for specified time periods, to identify any existing trends in resistance over time.

Data consolidation for IR Mapper was conducted by Vestergaard Frandsen and KEMRI/CDC. The map interface was developed by ESRI Eastern Africa and is powered by JavaScript.

END.

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Oslo the 26th April 2013: Tanzanian’s Celebrated UNION Day – Their ambassador to the Nordic countries attended the Occassion

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2013

The name “Tanzania” derives from the names of the two states, Tanganyika and Zanzibar, that united in 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which later the same year was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania.

 

 

The President is Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, elected in 2005. The country changed its capital from Dar es Salaam in 1996, moving it to Dodoma, where the country’s parliament and some government offices are located. The main coastal city of Dar es Salaam was the capital between independence and 1996. Now the city is Tanzania’s principal commercial city and seat of most government institutions.

Tanzania, which is officially known as the United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordering Uganda, Rwanda,KenyaBurundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro mountain is Africa‘s highest.

The country is divided into many regions, with five of them on the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar.

For our readers and viewers who want to sing along, just click on the video above – video nr 2 in the middle and sing along when the people in the video start singing the anthem in Kiswhaili language and it goes like this:

 

“MUNGU IBARIKI AFRIKA”

Mungu ibariki Afrika

Wabariki Viongozi wake

Hekima Umoja na Amani

Hizi ni ngao zetu

Afrika na watu wake.

  • Chorus:

Ibariki Afrika, Ibariki Afrika

Tubariki watoto wa Afrika.

Mungu ibariki Tanzania

Dumisha uhuru na Umoja

Wake kwa Waume na Watoto

Mungu Ibariki Tanzania na watu wake.

  • Chorus:

Ibariki Afrika, Ibariki Afrika

Tubariki watoto wa Afrika.

In English language it goes like this:

 

“GOD BLESS AFRIKA”

God Bless Africa

Bless its leaders

Wisdom Unity and Peace

These are our shield

Africa and its people.

  • Chorus:

Bless Africa, Bless Africa

Bless the children of Africa.

God bless Tanzania

Preserve Freedom and Unity

His sons and daughters

God Bless Tanzania and its people.

  • Chorus:

Bless Africa, Bless Africa

Bless the children of Africa.

 ——————————————————————

Mungu ibariki Afrika is the national anthem of Tanzania. The anthem is the Swahili language version of Enoch Sontonga‘s popular hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika that is also used as Zambia‘s anthem (with different words) and part of South Africa‘s.[1] It was formerly also used as Zimbabwe‘s anthem. The word Mungu in Swahili means God and the title of the anthem therefore translates as God bless Africa.

In Finland the same melody is used as the children’s psalm Kuule Isä Taivaan (Hear, Heavenly Father). In this form the song has found its way to the common book of psalms used by the major church of Finland.

End

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A mini-documentary that highlights the problematic presentation of Africa in Western media.

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2013

  •  by Edith Waringa

Africa In Western Media 

Imagine Africa contributing AID for one of the richest countries on the planet, Norway? Freezing Cold kills, as much as hunger killing whenever a country does not take care of her people. If all you saw in the news about the western country Norway was the freezing people you would think that it is so all the year round. Just the same as alarming stories about Africa by western media. Africa is rich of resources and the story must be told objectively. This video is made by students at the university of Oslo with financial AID from the Norwegian government to send a message to the world that Africa should be covered objectively by western media.

This is a very enlightening piece of information to those interested in seeing Africa with the African eyes and in a positive way with emphasis of the good things in the continent.

Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?

If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.

The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on.

The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.

The video is made by The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (www.saih.no). With the cooperation of Operation Day’s Work (www.od.no). With funding from The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and The Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU). Music by Wathiq Hoosain. Lyrics by Bretton Woods (www.developingcountry.org). Video by Ikind Productions (www.ikindmedia.com) Music Producer Kurt Pienke. Full credits here:http://www.africafornorway.no/updates…

Translation:
Arabic: Rami Jawhar

Uploaders’ Comments (Edith Waringa Kamau)


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  • Esther Neema 

    Esther Neema 1 day ago

    Well that is true but there are also those who don’t. The ones that stay here long enough have learned to hustle. They have learned to bargain as well. There as “Mzungu who took a girl for a date and she came with her friends. He refused to pay for the friends and paid just for his date. In every country there are some corny people, it takes smart people to survive. Am not saying that it’s good to hustle tourist, it is a disgusting practice, but there are other things that are amazing.

    Reply ·   in reply to michael hoory (Show the comment)
  • michael hoory 

    michael hoory 1 day ago

    hi edith in all honesty i am shocked at the amount of litter in kenya and slum housing and lack of maintainances of public utilities,.ok u got banks and offices and expensive hotels in kenya 400euros pernight , but will kenyans ever wake up and realise the austraila gets about 28million tourists per annum.,.stop hustling tourists,.plzzzzzz

    Reply ·  
  • michael hoory 

    michael hoory 1 day ago

    sorry too say i have to agree with you ,,.very much neglect by leaders,,.if you get a chance look up aquaphonics videos on yotube for the future new technology of africa,.,.

    Reply ·   in reply to James Kojwang (Show the comment)
  • michael hoory 

    michael hoory 1 day ago

    sorry to say this to you but i wish kenyans would stop chasing tourists money,.u know its costs over 4500 euros per person for a weeks safari holiday in kenya,.and the ordinary kenyans think we muzungo are all laoaded,.

    Reply ·   in reply to Esther Neema (Show the comment)
  • Xoco Late 

    Xoco Late 1 day ago

    Keep on working on that Edith. The great job you’re doing has to be developed. Encouragements. Thanks again for representing and standing for Africa.

    Reply ·  
  • njue sly 

    njue sly 2 days ago

    Awesome

    Reply ·  
  • Tirus Kariuki 

    Tirus Kariuki 2 days ago

    Africa is rising and we the youth will continue telling the African story…the TRUE African story.Good work and we are proud of you Edith

    Reply ·  
  • Thomas Njoroge 

    Thomas Njoroge 2 days ago

    Thanks so much for this. I have struggled with this for ten years and I am going to share this on facebook to see if my friends in USA agree. I first came to vermont from nairobi and wondered whether I was in the right place. I went to college to take A$P 1 and 2 and a classmate asked me whether we go to school in Africa. I am sure he did not know, but to this day I still don’t know how to answer that question. I worked hard and passed with an A, then honors in NY nursing programme. Media ???

    Reply ·   in reply to Edith Waringa Kamau (Show the comment)
  • Kimathi Muthuri 

    Kimathi Muthuri 3 days ago

    Truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Reply ·  
  • 10sheeko

    10sheeko 3 days ago

    This has been flagged as spam show

  • 10sheeko

    Comment removed

    Author withheld

    Reply ·  
  • Esther Neema 

    Esther Neema 3 days ago

    Very grateful for this, yes there is poverty, yes there are issues, and so are there in every country, but there also is so much beauty in Africa. we need to learn to sell that, and not misery, we need to learn to be self healing and do things for ourselves and not expect that selling a bad image should bring us money. We have so much to trade other than our poverty. we are a beautiful people. Such will inspire alot of Kenyas to tell the positive stories much as much as we do all the others

    Reply ·  
  • Gilbert Kiplagat 

    Gilbert Kiplagat 3 days ago

    good job Waringa, am proud of my mamaland, proud of you too. you have a great voice!

    Reply ·  
  • Stephen Machua 

    Stephen Machua 3 days ago

    Hello Edith Waringa Kamau, You have just summarised my passion for Africa in 9 minutes, i love it. I am passionate about positivity in Africa, follow me on twitter @stephenmachua lets join hands.

    Reply ·  
  • Tabbytha Mwendwa 

    Tabbytha Mwendwa 3 days ago

    Good job!

    Reply ·  
  • kenyamusica 

    kenyamusica 3 days ago

    Waringa… BigUp Girl. You are Awesome…. Keep the spririt… You are surely in a mission for Change.Thanks for representing all of us out here in da states. Bring more stuff to light. Cheers!!

    Reply ·  
  • Margaret Muru 

    Margaret Muru 4 days ago

    welll i get what you mean !! well done waringa

    Reply ·  
  • qtblaque 

    qtblaque 4 days ago

    kudos Waringa, all da african students u featured are great! We should all be proud of who we are.

    Reply ·  
  • qtblaque 

    qtblaque 4 days ago

    is dat why jang’o men die/ are on a spree to marry kiuk women, 2 make them feel better about themselves???AFRICA is beautiful, na muache kupenda vitu za bure dats y u don’t prosper in nyanza/ western

    Reply ·   in reply to James Kojwang (Show the comment)
  • James Kojwang 

    James Kojwang 4 days ago

    what say you of our devastatedly devided country between the kikuyu and luos like you and western kenyans suffering vis a vis the kikuyu elite determined to rule kenya forever? Your view of africa is ddifferent from REAL AFRICANS SUFFERING EVERYDAY from hunger poverty of thought an d basic necessities. DONT LIE TO THE WORLD….WE ARE SUFFERING AND DYING IN AFRICA!!!!!!!!!

    Reply ·  
  • GraduateGamers 

    GraduateGamers 4 days ago

    WE, more like you, your wife and children! get your lazy ass to work

    Reply ·   in reply to James Kojwang (Show the comment)
  • Scott Burke 

    Scott Burke 5 days ago

    Very nice work, Edith. I’ve been to Africa many times, including Kenya, and I couldn’t agree more with your piece. Keep going with this, whether more doco’s / writing etc, there’s so much more here. Quick — and sad — story: I send clients to Kenya (and other places), and one of them, a middle-aged American woman, told me she actually had fears of being raped after she got off the plane. Unreal. Anyway looking forward to more of your work.

    Reply ·  
  • jeff mokaya 

    jeff mokaya 6 days ago

    Africa needs to tell it’s own success story.

    Reply ·  
  • jeff mokaya 

    jeff mokaya 6 days ago

    Good work Edith.

    Reply ·  
  • Hellen Konyango 

    Hellen Konyango 6 days ago

    Great video Edith! I have also encountered some of the misconceptions living in New York. I’m always asked whether we speak English in Kenya and where I learned to speak it so well having not grown up in the U.S.

    Reply ·  
  • RaaMaale24TV

    RaaMaale24TV 6 days ago

    This has been flagged as spam show

  • Louisa Angoni 

    Louisa Angoni 6 days ago

    Well done Edith…..

    Reply ·  
  • Sura Mbaya 

    Sura Mbaya 6 days ago

    That said, Edith, there are number of great websites where Africans are sharing their stories on technology innovation, on business deals on great government policy. We need to give these websites more support, increased traffic, tweet about them and share them with others. We need to talk positively about our continent in our everyday conversations. We need to challenge those stereotypes every single day just as you are doing. Good stuff and godspeed!

    Reply ·  
  • Sura Mbaya 

    Sura Mbaya 6 days ago

    Edith – I admire your effort. I live both in the US and Kenya and I always get these stares from Americans when they realize that I know all about the stuff going on in the states. They marvel at my education and the fact that I went to one of the top schools in their country. I am also in an industry where we handle huge deals – a lot of Americans cannot fathom the fact that these deals are being closed in Africa. I agree – A lot of this has to do with the media’s depiction of Africa.

    Reply ·  
  • kahurialive 

    kahurialive 1 week ago

    I like this… I went to school in rural PA and was once asked if we had airports in Africa! I was thrown off at how much Americans don’t know about Africa! In a haste I responded that I took a canoe across the Atlantic and they believed it! In hindsight I probably did Africa a disservice but oh well…

    Reply ·  
  • Kate Rose 

    Kate Rose 1 week ago

    Edith, this is such a great piece! Reveals so many misconceptions and a real need for more stories from Africans themselves. Get it!

    Reply ·  
  • qd4wrong 

    qd4wrong 1 week ago

    I can totally relate to this I am Kenyan too and you can’t believe how many times I get asked if my christian name is my actual name or its just a name I picked up when I got to the US or if I had eaten cake or worn these types of clothes when I was in Africa. it is just ridiculous. Great video Edith!

    Reply ·  
  • qd4wrong

    Comment removed

    Author withheld

    Reply ·  
  • Edith Waringa Kamau 

    Edith Waringa Kamau 1 week ago

    Thanks for the feedback! Really appreciate.

    Reply ·  
  • Daniel Nyakora 

    Daniel Nyakora 1 week ago

    Is that Sophia!! This is cool!

    Reply ·  
  • TheFaradiah 

    TheFaradiah 1 week ago

    Yes!! Yes to having an African cable news channel!! We will tell our own stories…besides, kitanda usichokilalia hujui kunguni wake.

    Reply ·  
  • ruthwangia 

    ruthwangia 1 week ago

    Waringa Kamau,Great Job!

    Reply ·  

End

 

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President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife Margaret enjoying themsleves at the Drama Festivals in State House Mombasa

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2013

Finalists in 2013 Kenya drama festivals entertaining President Kenyatta and the first lady Margaret Kenyatta in Mombasa State House yesterday Saturday the 27th.April

Meet the narrator himself and listen to his personal story.

The young form two secondary school students impressed the President with his narrative as it touched on devolution message that the Jubilee manifesto has given priority.
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End

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Public Service Commission of Kenya: Applicants for the post of Principal Secretary

Posted by African Press International on April 28, 2013

  1. www.africanpress.me/ The final list of Shortlisted applicants for the post of Principal Secretary in the Government of Kenya

  2. www.africanpress.me/ The final list of the Applicants for the post of Principal Secretary in the Government of Kenya

 

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Humanitarian work in NW Pakistan hampered

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD,  – Delivering humanitarian aid in northwestern Pakistan has recently been hampered by attacks on schools, aid workers and polio vaccination teams, and bureaucratic procedures for aid projects are making matters worse. 

International and national humanitarian agencies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) often face long delays waiting for local officials to grant the relevant permits.

Since 2005, procedures to obtain No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for projects and travel have made it more difficult to deliver vital aid, and in at least one case, led directly to the cancellation of projects.

Relief and recovery projects in FATA and KP require project NOCs, while international staff, including UN workers, also require travel NOCs to move around.

“We had applied for a project implementation NOC to begin a project in livestock in the Kurram Agency to the FATA Disaster Management Authority in February, and had planned the project in December last year, but have still had no response,” said Anwar Shah, CEO of the Peshawar-based national NGO Shid, which works in livestock, livelihood and education.

“Now the local livestock authorities in Kurram say it is too late to start – so everyone suffers.”

Hearing reports of delays, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) set about getting a more comprehensive picture by gathering data from agencies operating in the area.

“The problem is not a new one. It has been there for some time, but now rather than just anecdotal accounts, we are trying to properly monitor the situation and create a database to engage the authorities on this issue based on evidence,” Christina Alfirev, OCHA humanitarian affairs officer in Islamabad, told IRIN.

Of the 18 humanitarian agencies who submitted data on NOC project requests in January and February, related to 27 projects, 21 were still being processed; only five had been approved and one had been rejected without explanation, as of early March.

“There is a desperate need for more projects, more development here. So many people are jobless, and need help”, Abdul Wali, Swat District

Average processing time for project NOCs in KP as of the end of February was found to be 53 days and 66 days for FATA instead of the six weeks indicated by government authorities. One NGO had to wait 118 days for an NOC.

The OCHA bulletin published 4 April 2013 says the delays are “hampering the provision of critical services” and calls on local authorities to speed up the paperwork “to enable timely assistance to people in need in KP and FATA.”

The bulletin says one emergency project had to be cancelled because of delays, while another had to be reduced in scope.

The paper trail

Humanitarian projects in KP need an NOC from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), and must be requested at least six weeks in advance.

Expatriate staff also need an NOC for travel; and in February the Home Department in KP said applications should be made “at least 6-8 weeks prior to the visit”, something one international humanitarian worker, who asked not to be named, told IRIN that if implemented, “means regular visits to projects are nearly impossible.”

Donors have been expressing concern to the government about the delays these moves could create if implemented, and there are some indications the authorities may be prepared to revoke the policy.

Applications go to the home department of the provincial government in Peshawar, and then can often follow a trail of authorizations and approvals from various military units, as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence.

“A key reason for the new procedures is security concerns. The government is worried a foreign worker or local NGO worker may be harmed, and this brings it a bad name. I think recent events like attacks on polio workers are a factor in the decisions taken,” said a PDMA official in KP who preferred anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the press.

The delays witnessed by agencies in the last few months are also affecting relations with donors, some of whom do not transfer funds until project NOCs have been issued.

“The Project NOC is valid for six months. Then the same game starts again. At this time I have been waiting now more than six weeks for the extension of an NOC,” said the aid worker, adding that donors usually extend a project’s lifespan, though without increasing budgets, which means they are almost inevitably reduced in size, something donors do not always understand.

“Right now one of our donors is very unhappy,” he said.

Permit mission creep

Alfirev said project implementation permits date back to the 2005 earthquake which killed 73,000 people in the north: “The procedure was put in place by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority set up by the government after that disaster, and was really intended to coordinate the many agencies working in the quake zone and prevent duplication. The process worked smoothly then.”

All organizations working on relief and early recovery activities in KP/FATA are required to either apply for Project NOCs for projects lasting up to six months, or apply for a Memorandum of Understanding for projects lasting more than six months.

Since 2005, there have been a series of additions to the list of documents and information needed when making NOC requests.

The latest came in February this year with the government’s announcement of a 6-8 week requirement for travel NOCs, against the normal 5-7 working days.

The Home and Tribal Affairs Department issued new directives for travel NOCs for 10 (out of 25) KP districts – Malakand, Swat, Upper and Lower Dir, Buner, Shangla, Chitral, DI Khan, Tank and Hangu. The Law and Order Department issued a similar directive covering FATA.

Humanitarian agencies are hoping the new time-scale will be officially reduced to the previous 5-7 working days, and as yet it does not seem the 6-8 week policy is being applied on the ground.

“Since 2008, the humanitarian community has raised US$1.38 billion in funding for people affected by violence in northwestern Pakistan. In order to ensure that the assistance is delivered to the people in need, we depend on the government to facilitate humanitarian operations and ease bureaucratic hurdles,” said Lynn Hastings, OCHA country director .

Aid workers say the delays are making it more difficult to deliver aid to KP and FATA. “People suffer when there are delays,” said Shah of Shid NGO.

In Mingora, the principal town in KP’s Swat District, Abdul Wali, 45, who lost his farm in the 2010 floods, told IRIN: “There is a desperate need for more projects, more development here. So many people are jobless, and need help.”

kh/jj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Engaging with armed groups

Posted by African Press International on April 27, 2013

COTABATO,  – For Chris Rush, of the Swiss-based NGO Geneva Call, nuance is everything when engaging with armed groups. Although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army (NPA) are both fighting insurrections on the same Philippines island of Mindanao, the choice of terminology is a tender issue when it comes to the use of such phrases as “armed non-state actors (ANSAs)”. 

“The Maoists reject the word ‘ANSA’ as they see themselves having attained a situation of dual power and of having established a revolutionary government… while the MILF are more positive about the term, as they feel it provides some sort of political acknowledgement,” Rush, the senior programme officer for the Philippines, told IRIN.

The Moro, the island’s indigenous Islamic population, have fought for independence in their Mindanao ancestral homeland for about 40 years in various guises, and are on the cusp of reaching an agreement with the Philippine government for a semi-autonomous state, to be known as Bangsamoro, that could end one of the country’s longest-running conflicts.

Rush has engaged with the MILF and its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and other stakeholders for the past six years to provide a mechanism for the MILF-BIAF to support humanitarian laws. Armed groups are automatically excluded from signing international treaties prescribing humanitarian norms.

There is a genuine affability between Rush and the MILF when they meet at Camp Darapanan near Cotabato on Mindanao, where the archipelago’s largest armed group has about 12,000 combatants in more than 20 heavily guarded command bases. Talks with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other officials range beyond the armed group’s commitment not to use anti-personnel mines to issues touching the prospective peace agreement.

High aims

Geneva Call’s engagements with armed groups have strategic, long-term objectives relating to policy and practice, rather than focusing on more immediate problems like securing access to assist vulnerable populations, as is the case with many humanitarian actors. Rush said the importance of dealing with the same personalities consistently “cannot be overstated… but saying that there is only one right way to approach an armed group I would avoid, as it depends on what you are seeking to achieve.”

“Saying that there is only one right way to approach an armed group I would avoid, as it depends on what you are seeking to achieve”

A document by Geneva Call to provide a format for armed groups to subscribe to humanitarian norms was first devised for anti-personnel mine usage. The MILF signed the Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action in 2000, during an upsurge in the conflict.

Much of the nationalist struggle took place in the Bangsamoro homeland. Because landmines harm indiscriminately and remain lethal after peace agreements are signed, the MILF-BIAF favoured a ban on anti-personnel mines, but prior to the Deed of Commitment there were no available mechanisms to formalise it, Rush said.

In many respects the Deed mirrors the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), a state protocol ending the use of anti-personnel mines and requiring the destruction of weapons stockpiles, which entered into force in 1999. The Philippine government was among the MBT’s first signatories.

A progress report on a 2012 Framework Peace Agreement between the MILF and the government, and its stance against the use of anti-personnel mines, was presented at two recent BIAF rallies. Rush was a guest speaker and drove home the point that “[anti-personnel] landmines are an issue of conflict, but also of peace”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Coalition Against the Use of Child Soldiers, and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), among others, had also approached the MILF about International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and human rights law, and adhering to international humanitarian norms in their conduct of war.

Geneva Call was introduced to the MILF by the Philippines Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), the local branch of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

Geneva Call has developed two more Deeds of Commitment for armed groups – one for the protection of children from armed conflict, another covering the respect and rights of women – and is commencing negotiations for adoption of the latter by the MILF. “We are fighting for the cause of self-determination… you have to conform to international standards,” Murad Ebrahim told IRIN.

Humanitarian norms

Jesus Domingo, of the government’s foreign affairs department, told IRIN he became involved in the MILF commitment not to use anti-personnel mines through the department’s work in humanitarian affairs and disarmament in 2007. “The process was very much between MI [a shorthand for MILF] and Geneva Call, but we encouraged it and applauded it, as we welcome armed non-state actors embracing IHL and other international norms.”

The government assented and then stood back. “We respected their [Geneva Call’s] independence… and for them to be successful they must have the confidence of not only us, but also of MI,” Domingo said. The MILF signing the Deed “was a plus”, and “It certainly contributed to the building of confidence… Geneva Call were not directly part of the peace process, but we saw them as part of the overall spectrum.”

The proposed peace agreement could allow for an autonomous region in Mindanao with tax-raising powers and a share of the profits from the island’s mineral resources, with the government retaining control over defence, foreign affairs and monetary policies. Sharia law may be applied, but only to Muslims in relation to civil cases, while criminal cases will be the domain of existing courts. Once the agreement is confirmed, it would go to the Philippines Congress for approval, followed by a plebiscite in Bangsamoro.

“During the early stages of the struggle we were using anti-personnel mines as a defence for our camps,” Murad Ebrahim noted. “There are those commanders who said we did not need to sign this commitment but, ultimately, if we continued to use landmines, our people suffer.”

A civilian is questioned at a checkpoint of the armed group, near Tarragona, in Davao Oriental province on the Philippines island of Mindanao

He said the 2001 Tripoli agreement between the MILF and the government to resume peace talks, which included provisions for the respect of human rights and IHL, and a commitment not to use anti-personnel mines, “gave us the image of having respect for international law”.

An analyst who declined to be identified told IRIN the commitment to end the use of anti-personnel mines gave the armed group a “wider level of respect… It brings more good than bad, and more credibility [among the international community] for armed non-state actors.”

The MILF was formed in 1977 after Sheikh Salamat Hashim split from the secularist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which had begun its separatist war five years earlier. The Philippines government reached a peace agreement with MNLF in 1996, and in the following year signed an interim peace agreement with the MILF.

Peace processes

The long-running conflict has seen an estimated 150,000 people killed so far, amid a host of proposed and rejected peace agreements. Two million people have been displaced since 2000, of which about 22,000 remain displaced today.

Domingo said, “There were separate tracks [of discussion] with the different Muslim groups [MNLF and MILF] in Mindanao,” as well as efforts to resolve conflicts with other armed groups, such as the NPA and “the breakaway communist movements.” These discussions covered social, economic and political reforms, consensus-building, separate negotiated settlements with each armed group, reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation, and the protection of civilians during conflict.

One government source, who declined to be identified, told IRIN: “There are strong rumours of a breakthrough with the NPA. It may be weariness, or… [a sense of] ‘Hey, let’s not get left behind by history’.”

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines, political representatives of the NPA, signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the 1990s. Some observers say they may believe this encompasses the banning of anti-personnel mines and could be why they have not signed a Deed.

A 2008 peace agreement gave the MILF control over more than 700 areas in the south that they considered their ancestral domain, but this was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and hostilities resumed. In the course of the fighting the Philippines government accused the BIAF of using anti-personnel mines and Geneva Call launched a verification mission.

Verification

In 2009 Geneva Call concluded that some of the explosive devices used against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were activated by remote control and therefore not prohibited under the Deed’s provisions. Others may have been victim-activated – set-off by trip wires or by downward pressure and therefore be in violation of the Deed – but there was not enough evidence to attribute responsibility. “The military would have lik s

ed more definitive conclusions,” Domingo commented.

“It was not possible to definitively conclude that its forces had no involvement in the incidents, so it was not a zero-sum game”

Rush noted that “Although perhaps not completely satisfied, the government did accept the findings… [but] the MILF were also a little disappointed that it was not possible to definitively conclude that its forces had no involvement in the incidents, so it was not a zero-sum game.”

The verification report showed that disavowing anti-personnel landmine use was just a first step towards the “actualization of obligations”, and armed groups sometimes needed assistance to achieve this. “So they [MILF-BIAF] drafted General Order Number 3, and we assisted… [with] advice and through working with them and our local partner, the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, to disseminate the Order to their forces on the ground,” Rush said.

Domingo said the Order was seen as “a real earnest effort by MILF to educate its combatants about not using landmines”, and added to “the very upbeat” feeling the government has about the Bangsamoro peace process

 

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