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Archive for April 26th, 2013

One on One with Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Norway Mr Onour Ahmed Onour

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2013

African Press International and Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Norway H.E. Onour Ahmed Onour discuss the political situation in his country, the insecurity within the border between South Sudan and Sudan, the insecurity and killings in Darfur, the International Criminal Court‘s indictment of President Al Bashir. Also the relationship between Kenya and Sudan in relations with the ICC indictments of the leaders in both countries, namely President Al Bashir (Sudan) and President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto respectively. The deputy ambassador also speaks out about the bilateral relations between Norway and his country Sudan which he says is useful to both countries.. - SUDAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO NORWAY MR ONOUR AHMED ONOUR – SUDAN DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO NORWAY MR ONOUR AHMED ONOUR

According to the Deputy ambassador the relationship between his country Sudan and the government of South Sudan has improved of late. His government with the help of former South African President Thabo Mbeki has initiated talks now taking place in Addis Ababa between the government of Sudan and the SPLM-N rebels.
On the question of Darfur the Deputy ambassador denies that there is a huge crisis. He was reacting to an article written by Mr Eric Reeves of the United States where he writes ” There is in Darfur no end in sight for conflict, murder, rape, assaults on displaced persons camps, agricultural and village destruction, brutal extortion schemes and continued violent human displacement.”

Direct Interview with the Deputy Ambassador H. E. Onour Ahmed Onour:

Mr Reeves claims further that the primary targets of the mayhem is overseen by the National Islamic Front / National Congress Party regime in Khartoum targeting civilians from African tribal groups, who are forced to survive tenuously in an increasingly chaotic Darfur. He continues to point out that it is the cruelest of counter-insurgency strategies since the military opponents of the regime are rebel groups that refuse  to accept a peace agree farmers and landholders.”

According to Mr Reeves, Khartoum seeks to subdue Darfur by means of war of attrition in which impunity, chaos and inter-ethnic violence serve the regime’s ultimate military and political purposes.

The Sudanese Deputy Ambassador dismisses Mr Reeves allegations, saying he is being alarmist.

In the question of the ICC and indictment of President Al Bashir, Mr Onour says the court is there to be used to punish African leaders citing that in Kenya the newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto face the same fate, The Deputy Ambassador says that the trend is scary because it seems the court is used by the west to punish African leaders and now no one knows who the next target in Africa will be, adding that the Sudan government does not recognise the International Criminal Court.


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Calls for the tackling of unrest

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2013

ABIDJAN,  – After recent attacks in Côte d’Ivoire’s volatile western region in which more than a dozen people were killed, the authorities announced new security measures, but observers say more than a military response is required.

In the latest spate of armed raids in March, at least 14 civilians and soldiers were killed. The region saw some of the worst fighting during the country’s 2010-2011 post-election conflict. In 2012, at least 10 civilians and seven UN peacekeepers were killed. Weeks later gunmen raided and torched the last remaining internally displaced persons (IDP) camp hosting some 5,000 people.

At the start of 2012 there were 186,000 IDPs in Côte d’Ivoire, most of them in the country’s western region. An estimated 45,000 people remained displaced by the end of 2012.

Ethnic rivalries, and disputes over land that are worsened by political rivalry, have turned western Côte d’Ivoire into a tinderbox. Mistrust and enmity have often degenerated into violence. Greater efforts are needed to reconcile communities, restore confidence and address grievances, say observers.

“The government must fully appreciate this problem and bring a lasting solution,” Francis Niangoran, a lecturer at Abidjan’s Sainte-Marie Teaching Institute, told IRIN. “Aid groups are faced with recurrent population displacements, organizing their return, distributing relief aid – it’s a vicious circle.”

While on a visit to the west following the attacks, Interior and Security Minister Hamed Bakayoko announced an emergency security plan to bolster troop numbers, set up attack brigades and equip them with modern radios as well as build an additional police station.

“When you travel across the region, you see ill-equipped soldiers. They don’t even have radios. The telephone network is also unreliable and they cannot use their mobile phones,” said Séraphin Zégnan, who fled the western Petit Guiglo area to the commercial capital Abidjan after an attack in the area in 2012.

Army chief Soumaila Bakayoko, also visiting after the attacks, said a permanent military base would be set up in the region. In 2012, the government formed a 600-strong force to secure the western region. The force is backed by both the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire and the UN mission in neighbouring Liberia.

“The government has the will to end the instability in the west – only it seems to lack the military capacity to achieve that. The western region is a difficult zone to secure and there is need for better trained and better equipped troops,” said Rodrigue Koné of the Centre for Research and Action for Peace (CERAP), an Ivoirian organization.

Others are also sceptical about the military efforts.

“Moving from a security plan to an emergency security plan is to play with words rather than having a real will to resolve the problem. It is proof that the government is unable to contain the situation. It doesn’t know where and how to tackle the problem,” said Niangoran.

The Interior and the Defence Ministries declined to comment.

A matter of trust

Alexandre Neth Willy, secretary-general of the Ivoirian Human Rights League (LIDHO), told IRIN that the use of drones as recently requested by Côte d’Ivoire’s UN ambassador Bamba Youssoufou “will not be sufficient to solve the problem. The confrontations, recriminations and hatred are deeper [in the west] than in the rest of the country.

“On the one hand there’s a need to build confidence among the people themselves and on the other between the people and the army.”

CERAP’s Koné said: “Today the majority of the people in the west consider the army as the government’s militia. They have not overcome the events of the post-election crisis and the army has not been able to gain their confidence.”

He argued that the government should work to forge an army with a national outlook following the deep divisions caused by the post-election unrest.

Who are the gunmen?

Residents of the region – an area covering 73,000sqkm and home to nearly seven million people, or a third of the country’s population – say that apart from gunmen attacking from neighbouring Liberia, there are several armed groups operating inside the region with bases in the forests.

These militias fought for current President Alassane Ouattara during the violent dispute with his erstwhile election opponent Laurent Gbagbo, they say.

“The most famous of these armed groups is headed by Amadé Ourémi, a Burkinabé, who with his 1,000 fighters, is extending his area of operations without the slightest response from the authorities,” said Fabien Dotonin, an administrator in the western Duékoué District.

“The authorities in Abidjan make threatening statements about dislodging him. But once they come to the west, they neatly avoid talking about the problems caused by Ourémi or even meeting him, yet this is a typical case which if resolved will help a great deal in easing the security crisis,” he added.

Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan on 4 April said all those occupying government forests will be expelled by the army, but so far no action has been taken.

aa/ob/cb  source

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Bearing brunt of CAR crisis

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2013

BANGUI,  – Sporadic armed clashes, looting of orphanages, recruitment into armed groups, and widespread school closures have made life perilous for children in the Central Afric an Republic (CAR) in the wake of a 24 March rebel coup by the Séléka alliance.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 2.3 million children are directly affected by the breakdown of law and order and the interruption of basic services.

On 12 April, 14 children were wounded in the capital, Bangui, when a rocket-propelled grenade fell on a playing field. Two days later, a rocket landed on a church, killing seven people, including three infants, and wounding 11 children – three of whom had to have their legs amputated.

“It’s scandalous that children are being caught in crossfire as they go about their daily lives, playing football or going to church,” said Souleymane Diabaté, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative in CAR.

“Children who fall sick with basic diseases” such as malaria are also in need of medical attention, said Ellen Van Der Velden, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission in CAR.

Yet healthcare provision outside of main hospitals has been unpredictable. “In some areas [of Bangui] the health centres are functional, in others they are closed, again in others minimal services are being delivered. The situation may change quite quickly. One day a [health] centre could be operational, the next it can be closed,” said Van Der Velden.

Children’s homes targeted

A Bangui centre for street children, run by the Voix du Coeur (Voice of the Heart) Foundation, “suffered a lot during these recent events,” according to its director, Ange Ngassenemo.

“Two children died and several were injured during the looting. We were also visited by Séléka, on the pretext of looking for young thieves, and they also looted what little the children had,” added Ngassenemo.

“We call on the state to help us. Couldn’t they get us running water for the children, who need to wash themselves and their clothes…”

“We unfortunately don’t have the necessary means. This situation is becoming harder and harder as more and more children come here, and taking care of them becomes a crushing burden for our little organization,” he said.

“We call on the state to help us. Couldn’t they get us running water for the children, who need to wash themselves and their clothes… We estimate there are about 6,000 street children in Bangui. If they come to us and we send them away, it becomes dangerous and is not a viable solution. It would be better to help us help them,” he added.

On April 13, armed men thought to be part of Séléka looted a Bangui orphanage run by SOS Children’s Villages, after letting off their weapons to intimidate staff members.

“The children were hiding under their beds. Staff members were in tears when they spoke to me,” said the city’s archbishop, Dieudonné Nzapalainga.

“There are no guns in these houses. There are just children. What’s happening? This was no weapons search, it was looting. Shooting in the air, scaring people to death… I am outraged by this situation,” he said on Radio France Internationale.

Recruited by all sides

Various armed groups continue to recruit children, according to UNICEF, which warned in a 12 April statement that such practices violated international law.

More than 2,000 children, both boys and girls, were associated with armed groups and self-defence organisations before conflict resumed in December 2012, the agency said, adding that the practice continued after the fall of Bangui.

“Recruiting children is both morally unacceptable and forbidden under international law,” said UNICEF’s Diabaté.

“We have called on the new leadership in CAR [Séléka ] to ensure that all children associated with armed groups should be released immediately and protected from further violations [of law],” he said in the statement, adding that those now in power had demonstrated their intention to do just that.

“UNICEF is committed to working with them to ensure that there is an immediate halt to new recruitments and support a process of identification, verification and reintegration of children.”

This paediatric medical centre operated by the NGO EMERGENCY was one the few places children could access emergency care in Bangui during the crisis surrounding a rebel coup in late March 2013

According to Amy Martin, who heads OCHA’s Bangui branch, “The presence of child soldiers is evident amongst the ranks of Séléka.”

“Recruitment into the national army was ongoing a few weeks ago but is less evident now,” added Martin.

Out of school

Insecurity has forced thousands of children and teachers from schools in Bangui, and has interrupted educations in regions in the east and north of the country.

“Schools have remained closed in Bangui and elsewhere since March. There is vacation soon, so families who can afford to hire tutors for catch-up courses will do so over vacation. [But] not everyone can afford this,” said Martin.

The education ministry remains sceptical about the re-opening of schools with insecurity still rife. “The children are understandably at home because the security situation demands it,” said Education Minister Marcel Loudegue.

Schools are also among the properties that have been looted since the rebel takeover, with teachers, like civil servants, remaining unpaid.

In a 23 April statement, UNICEF warned that hundreds of thousands of students are at risk of missing out on the entire school year, “with half the country’s schools shuttered.”

UNICEF’s Diabaté said: “The new government must prioritize protection of and investment in the country’s education system, in order to respect and fulfil children’s basic right to education and to provide this generation of children with hope for a healthy future.”

Literacy levels are low in the CAR, with over one million children out of school in total, according to UNICEF.

cd-k/am-aw/rz  source

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Undocumented migrants struggle to access healthcare

Posted by African Press International on April 26, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Europe’s financial crisis and rising xenophobia are complicating access to medical treatment for undocumented migrants, according to a&nbs p;new report by the international NGO Médecins du Monde (MdM).

“Soaring unemployment rates, rising child poverty, people losing their homes because of insolvency every month… The social systems in Europe are quaking under the strain,” the authors say. “The crisis has generated austerity measures that have had a deep impact on all social safety nets, including healthcare provision.”

“The economic crisis, rising unemployment and lower levels of social protection all too often lead to the finger being pointed at groups that were already facing social exclusion before the crisis, eg, sex workers, migrants and Roma [a marginalized ethnic community,” they added.

Because migrants from countries with high HIV prevalence represent a significant number of diagnosed HIV cases in the European Union (EU), analysts fear that their exclusion from healthcare could lead to public health problems. In 2010, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that approximately 35 percent of new heterosexual infections in the EU were diagnosed in migrants from sub-Saharan Africa; around 60 percent of these cases were reported in Belgium, Sweden and the UK.

Poor access to care

“Undocumented migrants with HIV/AIDS are one of the most vulnerable groups in Europe today. Undocumented migrants have very limited access to healthcare services, receiving only emergency care in many EU member states,” Elisabeth Schmidt-Hieber, communications officer for the NGO Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, told IRIN. “Those with HIV/ AIDS often face insurmountable barriers to accessing prevention, diagnosis and treatment, both of the virus and of other illnesses arising from their health condition.”

Language barriers, integration problems and poor socioeconomic status make migrants even more prone to exclusion from healthcare.

Although a few countries, such as Italy, make a clear commitment to providing life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to undocumented HIV-positive migrants who need them, most countries do not. A 2012 ECDC report notes that antiretroviral therapy (ART) is not available to undocumented migrants in 16 EU and European Economic Area countries. According to the MdM report, in 2012, the Spanish government reduced public health expenditure from 10.6 percent of the national budget in 2009 to 6 percent in 2012. Spain has since excluded adult undocumented migrants from public healthcare. The country no longer provides HIV/AIDs, cancer, renal failure or hepatitis treatment for undocumented migrants.

In Sweden, HIV and AIDs testing and treatment is only available to undocumented migrants after the full cost has been paid. There is also no access to hepatitis testing or treatment. However, after many complaints from human rights groups, the Swedish government decided to review its healthcare regulations for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

There are a few exceptions. In Portugal, antiretroviral drugs are considered so important that they are immediately available to everyone, including undocumented migrants. By contrast, healthcare in general is available only after three months of residence. In 2012, the UK changed its policy on the provision of ARVs to include all people living in the UK, regardless of immigration status.

According to the MdM report, healthcare is being used by some countries to regulate migration flows. In Germany, although access to HIV treatment is provided, civil servants are required to report undocumented migrants seeking health services to the immigration department. Because of this, many avoid any treatment for themselves or their children, even though they are entitled to it. MdM reported that between 22 and 36 percent of vulnerable patients –including undocumented migrants, sex workers and drug users – had quit looking for medical care.

Undocumented migrants have limited access to healthcare (file photo)

The European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG), an organization focusing on drug development, treatment literacy and treatment advocacy, told IRIN that there are signs in some countries that migrants – even those living with HIV – are being deported more actively than before. Through a joint project called REVA, the Swedish police have joined hands with the Migration Board and the Prison and Probation Service to increase the number of deportations. Random identity checks have made many migrants afraid to leave their homes – further limiting their access to care.

Anti-immigrant sentiment, policies

“There is a more active policy of sending back. This [is] clearly to avoid paying [for] HIV drugs… especially if the country of origin has access to certain drugs,” Koen Block, the executive director of EATG, told IRIN.

Rising unemployment due to the economic crisis has also led to an increase in anti-immigrant attitudes. In 2012, the Racist Violence Recording Network reported 87 incidents of racist violence against refugees and migrants in Greece, for example.

In February, the Belgian Public Centre for Social Welfare in Antwerp, headed by a member of the right-wing N-VA party, decided that it would no longer automatically reimburse undocumented migrants living in the city for ARVs, unless they promised to return to their country of origin as soon as possible. Civil society groups who oppose the plan say it is against the law.

Analysts say that these measures, aimed at cost-saving, are counterproductive. “Indirect costs are rising as illnesses become aggravated and chronic as the result of delayed treatment, overcrowding of emergency services and inefficient public health policy,” Frank Vanbiervliet, MdM’s European project coordinator, told IRIN.

According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Human Rights, in 2012, irregular migrants were entitled to emergency healthcare in 20 out of 27 EU member states. Portugal and Greece consider HIV an emergency.) In nine out of the 20 countries – Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Slovenia – irregular migrants are provided with access to emergency healthcare free of charge. In Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Poland and Sweden, undocumented migrants are entitled to emergency healthcare, but have to pay for it.

In Greece, undocumented migrants have no access at all to healthcare except for emergency care, but only until the condition has been stabilized. Although HIV is considered an emergency, it is unclear what “stabilization” means, says the MdM report.

However, critics say that the term “emergency” is too vague and is already causing confusion. “Do you merely define it as a life-threatening condition that needs attention within the hour to prevent death? What about the woman that is six months pregnant and comes to the hospital with heavy cramps – she also mentions that she has already lost a child before. What about someone with type II diabetes and high blood pressure who risks a serious cardiovascular complication within the next months?” Vanbiervliet asked.

“Merely allowing access to ’emergency care’ puts us in an impossible position as health professionals. We ask for all EU member states to implement the opinions of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, which means changing restrictive legal frameworks so that everyone can access all forms of essential preventive and curative healthcare,” he added.

lam/kr/rz  source


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