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Archive for May, 2013

Global Leaders Call for Accelerated Progress on Family Planning at Women Deliver 2013

Posted by African Press International on May 31, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga.
 
Melinda Gates, Babatunde Osotimehin and others highlight progress in expanding contraceptive access
 

On the second day of Women Deliver 2013, the largest conference on girls and women of the decade, global leaders announced progress and new commitments toward expanding contraceptive access for women in developing countries. They also outlined plans for sustaining this momentum in the years to come.

 
The day’s events built on commitments and energy generated at the landmark July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where global leaders pledged more than US $2.6 billion to provide 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries with voluntary access to contraceptive services, information and supplies by 2020. Speakers at Women Deliver 2013 discussed strategies to reach women and girls in developing countries who do not want to become pregnant, but lack access to contraceptives.
 
“Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity and quality of life,” said Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates. “When women have access to contraceptives they’re healthier, their children are healthier, and their families thrive.”
 
At the morning plenary session—led by Melinda Gates and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director and Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) Co-Chair Babatunde Osotimehin—government leaders from Africa and Asia highlighted concrete examples of progress on family planning and reaffirmed commitments to further expanding contraceptive access:
·         Senegal’s Minister of Health Dr. Awa Coll-Seck discussed the country’s dramatic progress in eliminating contraceptive stock-outs since the national family planning program’s roll-out in November 2012, doubling the budget to CFA 200 million with plans for further increases in 2015.
·         The Philippines’ Secretary of Health Dr. Enrique T. Ona discussed the country’s historic passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, after a nearly 15-year battle.
·         The First Lady of Zambia, Her Excellency Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, highlighted Zambia’s stalwart commitment to expanding family planning access in the country, which launched its national family planning program last month.
·         Indonesia’s Minister of Health Dr. Nafsiah Mboi announced the government’s increase in funding for long-acting reversible contraceptives, as part of its redoubled efforts to regain momentum on family planning access after recent plateaus.
·         National Coordinator for Malawi’s Safe Motherhood Initiative, Mrs. Dorothy Ngoma, discussed the government’s efforts to considerably strengthen the family planning component of safe motherhood efforts countrywide.
 
“These countries show that we can make an impact on women’s access to reproductive health if we rally the necessary political will and financial commitments,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Expanding access to contraceptives is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to save lives and ensure the health and wellbeing of future generations.”
 
Continued advocacy will be needed to ensure that governments sustain and increase their commitments to family planning and to girls’ and women’s health and rights more broadly. In addition to a high-level plenary on innovative advocacy strategies, Global Poverty Project (GPP) CEO and Co-Founder Hugh Evans announced the new advocacy campaign It Takes Two, led by GPP in partnership with Women Deliver. This campaign aims to motivate young men and women to take action in support of family planning services and information, and to hold governments accountable for their FP2020 commitments.
 
The day’s conversations helped set the stage for Thursday’s discussions on the critical role of girls and women in the post-Millennium Development Goal framework. Speakers  include United Nations Development Program Administrator Helen Clark, Former President of Finland Tarja Halonen, High-Level Task Force on ICPD Member HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sowa, among others.
 
 
END.
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ICC underlines impartiality, reiterates commitment to cooperation with the African Union

Posted by African Press International on May 31, 2013

The Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues the following statement in light of reports on discussions concerning the ICC at the recent Summit of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia:

“The International Criminal Court acknowledges and respects the African Union’s important role as the continent’s main regional organization. As an impartial international judicial institution, the ICC, including its independent Office of the Prosecutor, strives to maintain good working relationships with all relevant international and regional bodies, including the African Uni= on. The ICC’s relationship with Africa is all the more important considering that 34 African countries are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC . In addition, the majority of the Court’s current investigations were initi= ated following referrals or requests from the African States in question.

The ICC operates strictly within the mandate and legal framework created by= the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the Court, and cannot take politic= al factors into account. Decisions are taken independently on the basis of the law and the available evidence and are not based on regional or ethnic considerations. Judges are the guarantors of the fairness of proceedings before the Court, from the authorisation of investigations to the confirmation or= non-confirmation of charges and decisions on guilt or innocence.

It must be recalled that cases before the ICC are not only about the suspects or the accused; they also concern the thousands of victims affected by the events under the ICC’s jurisdiction, many of whom are represented in the various proceedings with the help of legal assistance provided by the Court.

The ICC does not replace national jurisdictions; it only complements them when necessary. The Rome Statute defines the criteria for deciding whether cas= es should be tried before the ICC or in a national judicial system, and this determination is made through a judicial process by independent judges of the ICC. In all proceedings before the ICC, suspects as well as concerned States have the possibility to address these matters in accordance with the Rome Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

While the Rome Statute gives the United Nations (UN) Security Council powers of referral and deferral in relation to the ICC, the exercise of these powers by the Security Council is governed by the UN Charter. The ICC is autonom= ous from the United Nations and does not participate in the Security Council’s decision-making. However once the Security Council refers a situation to the ICC, the investigation and proceedings that may arise from that situation are governed by the Rome Statute and the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICC and are not influenced by the Security Council or any other external body.

The Presidency stresses that the ICC is an independent institution that has a specific, judicial mandate created by States determined to end impunity a= nd to contribute to the prevention of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. The ICC counts on the continued sup= port and cooperation of its States Parties in accordance with the Rome Statute and remains fully committed to a constructive and cooperative relationship with the African Union.”

End

Source ICC

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Kenya: Girl child education should be taken seriously

Posted by African Press International on May 31, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal,API Kenya

EDUCATION stakeholders in Nyanza Region have been urged to join hands in educating girl child so as to improve their future lives.

West Gem County Assembly member Mr. Jared Abayo said girl child education is much sensitive that needs a lot of attention by both the parents and teachers.

www.africanpress.me/ School girls in Kenya

http://www.africanpress.me/ School girls in Kenya

He adds that for many years girl child education have not been given first priority as compared to boy child across the country especially in rural areas.

This, he said has made the performance of girl child to lag behind due to negligence by education stakeholders especially parents and even some of the teachers in various schools.

Addressing parents, students and teachers at Nyagondo Secondary school during the education and price giving day, Abayo decried the high rate of school drop out especially girls in the region.

www.africanpress.me/ School girls in Kenya

http://www.africanpress.me/ School girls in Kenya

“Most of these girls drop out of school due to lack of school fees, lack of clothing, unwanted pregnancy and poverty that force them to streets to provide for their siblings,” says Abayo.

This Abayo said call for immediate intervention by the government to find an amicable solution to the problem saying education is the only way to change the lives of these young girls.

However, he further challenge children to embrace education by maintain self-discipline at the highest level for the betterment of their education.

Abayo pointed out inadequate teachers, lack of equipment and infrastructure as the major challenges that children are facing in most schools across the region.

This has resulted to poor performance and called upon the government through the ministry of education to increase the teacher and student ratio in schools so as to improve education sector in the country.

END

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Kenya: Worried Parents from Nyanza region – Are teachers able to handle laptop challenges in class?

Posted by African Press International on May 31, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal,API Kenya

PARENTS from Nyanza Region have called the government to equip teachers with the Information and Communication Technology skills in readiness for the laptops that are yet to arrive in the country by November this year.

www.africanpress.me/ - Nyanza Parents Association chairman Mr. Jackson Ogweno

http://www.africanpress.me/ – Nyanza Parents Association chairman Mr. Jackson Ogweno

Nyanza Parents Association chairman Mr. Jackson Ogweno said the laptops will only be effective if teachers have the necessary skills to train the pupils joining class one.

This follows the promise by the Jubilee government that all pupils joining class one shall be given a laptop for their studies. Cabinet Secretary for Education Prof. George Godia recently said that laptops will be brought in phases as from November 2013.

While addressing the press in his Kisumu office Ogweno said it is shocking that about 80% of teachers are computer illiterate and called for immediate action by the government to implement the project fully.

He argued that despite the past education skills in most schools laboratory the move by the government to equip class one pupils will transform the education through E-learning.

Ogweno commended President Uhuru Kenyatta for introduction of laptop project in schools saying this will lead to massive development in the education sector.

However, he stated that this now call for additional employment of teachers to meet the current demands in schools across the country.

 

END

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Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi chats to Yutaka Yoshizawa, Japan’s ambassador to South Africa, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD.

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

This Friday on Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi chats to Yutaka Yoshizawa, Japan’s ambassador to South Africa, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the former prime minister of Niger, who is currently CEO of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development, also known as NEPAD.

www.africanpress.me/ - Dr-Ibrahim-Mayaki

http://www.africanpress.me/ – Dr-Ibrahim-Mayaki

 

“As the Tokyo International Conference on African Development kicks off, we’ll look at how Africa can best benefit from its current economic boom,” says Redi. “In just ten years Africa has become one of the most dynamic regions in the world. A combination of natural and human resources has fuelled huge investments from both traditional and emerging powers. But can we turn this current boom into a repeat of Asia’s economic miracle?”

What role has NEPAD played in driving Africa’s growth? Why is NEPAD’s strategy for ongoing growth focused on national partnerships, development finance, and ownership? Is the era of aid dead? What can the lions of Africa can learn from Asia’s tiger economies?  What role did education play in driving Asia’s economic boom and how is this being repeated (or not) in Africa? Who actually benefits from economic booms and can the wealth distribution be managed?

 

During the discussion with the two prominent personalities, Redi will ask the important questions on this week’s episode of South 2 North, which premieres at 19:30 GMT on Friday, 31 May 2013. The same will be screened Saturday at 14h30, Sunday 04h30 and Monday 08h30. This is a very interesting event that should not be missed.

Here below you can Catch up on last week’s episode, where Redi discussed Africa’s cultures of ‘magic’ and healing.

End

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Unwanted pregnancies in Syria – Rise in incomplete abortions and STIs

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

A baby in Turkey’s Islahiye camp for Syrian refugees

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 250,000 Syrian pregnancies this year
  • Deteriorating neonatal care in Syria
  • Rise in incomplete abortions and STIs
  • “Compensating lives” in refugee camp

ZA’ATARI CAMP, JORDAN, 29 May 2013 (IRIN) – When aid workers with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) speak to women inside Syria – many of them displaced from their homes and living in cramped collective shelters – they say they would rather do anything than get pregnant.

“No one wants to be pregnant in the shelters… That’s universal wherever we go,” said Laila Baker, UNFPA representative in Syria. “There is no place to take care of the baby and it’s another mouth to feed.”

In addition, they fear the delivery process will face complications, as access to antenatal care and safe delivery services, including emergency obstetrics, is now extremely limited in the country.

Yet, UNFPA estimates that some 250,000 women in Syria and in refugee settings will become pregnant by the end of 2013.

After more than two years of conflict, Syria’s healthcare system has broken down, hospitals have been destroyed, medical personnel have fled the country, supply routes have been disrupted, and in many places, family planning tools are not readily available.

Fadia Salameh found out she was pregnant after arriving in Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees in northern Jordan. The medical centre in her home town in the suburbs of Hama, “which witnessed heavy shelling”, had no more contraceptives in stock, so she stopped taking birth control pills.

“Our village ran out of everything – food, bread, and medicine,” she told IRIN from the camp, where she sought help from a UNFPA clinic.

In 2012, UNFPA in Syria distributed nearly 1.5 million family planning pills, 40,000 injectables, 45,000 intrauterine devices (IUDs), and 21,000 condoms in governorates affected by the conflict. But the shipments are irregular and do not meet the high level of need.

Mobile UNFPA teams also visit shelters, providing women’s health care and distributing vouchers that women can use to get free maternal health and emergency obstetric services at a clinic of their choice.

The Syrian Ministry of Health has remained active throughout the crisis, and some maternity wards and teaching hospitals are still offering obstetric or maternal health care.

“Conjugal room”

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) face additional challenges related to family planning and unsafe sex as a result of the crowded living conditions, especially in common shelters. UNFPA estimates there will be 1.65 million women of reproductive age living as IDPs by the end of 2013.

While they may not want to have children, displaced married couples do still want to have sex, even requesting that aid agencies set up what they called a “conjugal room” in one shelter in Rural Damascus, for privacy.

UNFPA has not yet been able to conduct a survey to establish the scale of the problem, but at least in the capital Damascus, a growing number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have been detected in routine visits to clinics, Baker said.

“We are really concerned that unwanted pregnancies and STIs may become an issue where they were not in Syria,” she told IRIN. “And when you do have an unwanted pregnancy or an STI, you do not [necessarily] have access [in Syria] to the care you need.”

Maternal and infant mortality

Before the conflict, 96 percent of deliveries in Syria (whether at home or at the hospital) were assisted by a skilled birth attendant, but previously strong registration systems have since broken down.

As such, figures are not available, but Baker suspects maternal and neonatal deaths are also on the rise.

Partners told Baker of two women in the central city of Homs who died in recent months after giving birth without anaesthesia. The drugs had run out and could not be replaced because it proved too hard to get them across frontlines. Doctors operated on one woman post-mortem to save her baby girl. She is now four months old and being raised by her grandmother. The fate of the second baby is unknown.

Births by Caesarean section are 3-5 times higher than in normal conditions, Baker said: women schedule them in advance to try to avoid having to rush to hospital in unpredictable and often dangerous circumstances.

In one hospital in Homs, 75 percent of all babies are delivered using the surgical procedure. Women often have to walk or take the bus home within hours of the operation, because of general insecurity and fear of not being able to get home. Their husbands usually do not accompany them for fear of arrest while in hospital.

But even with the advance planning, they can run into problems. On 5 May, mortar shells reportedly hit the main referral hospital for maternal health in Syria, located in Damascus, seriously damaging it, just as one woman was lying on an operating table, prepared for a C-section.

As recounted to IRIN by Elizabeth Hoff, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Syria who visited the hospital shortly after the shelling, the woman panicked, pulled out her catheter tube and I.V. fluid therapy, and ran. Two other women aborted in shock.

Women are admitted to hospital for no more than eight hours, because of the increasing number of patients and insufficient beds, Hoff said.

Late last year, WHO said doctors had been reporting a rise in “incomplete abortions”. Abortion is illegal in Syria, so instead women take pills that do not always work.

“They don’t see how they are going to face a pregnancy because of all the difficulties, and another child to cater for when they can hardly cater for those they have,” Hoff told IRIN at the time.

“Compensating lives”

But just across the border, in the dusty, burgeoning Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, birth trends are quite different.

Many women say the camp conditions are “not suitable” to have children; an online campaign by the Syrian women’s group Refugees not Captives calls on refugee women to postpone pregnancies until they return to Syria.

But others want to “compensate lives” lost in the conflict.

“We are not going to stop having children because of [the conflict],” said Um Ahmad, a mother of seven, while waiting in a queue to be seen by a doctor. Two of her brothers were killed, she said, “and that is why I want to stop using the IUD to give birth again…

At a makeshift clinic for displaced people in northern Syria, this baby shows symptoms of intestinal distress

“If Syrians stop having children while [so many are being killed], the nation will vanish,” she told IRIN.

Every day, a crowd of Syrian women and girls forms outside a UNFPA-supported reproductive health clinic, seeking advice on family planning and fertility, as well as pregnancy tests and health check-ups.

“We are recording high rates of pregnancies daily,” said midwife Munira Shaban. “[We do have] clients come to seek help as they want to become pregnant. The numbers increase as the camp grows bigger.”

The clinic sees about 90 women a day, and one third of them come with pregnancy-related inquiries, whether they be tests or treatment, according to gynaecologist Reema Dyab.

All forms of family planning are available in the clinic, Dyab said, but “the demand for this service is low… Most of our patients have asked for help in treating problems preventing pregnancies, and the majority indicated they wanted to stop using contraceptives,” she told IRIN.

Some women said they were pressured by their in-laws to have more children.

“They expect me to have more babies now, because my husband lost two of his brothers in the war,” said Um Khaled*. “I am expected to give them back all males that were lost.”

Newly-born babies often carry names of relatives who died in the conflict, refugees said.

Many pregnancies at Za’atari camp also involve child mothers, Dyab warned.

The clinic, run by the Jordan Health Aid Society, registered 58 pregnancies involving mothers below the age of 18 during the last week of February alone.

(Before the uprising in Syria, 11.6 percent of girls aged 15-19 were married).

Raising awareness

STIs have not broken out in the camp, but the chances that people are having unsafe sex are “high”, Dyab said.

“Women tell us that their husbands refuse to use condoms, which is very common in this cultural context. Even if some people take condoms, it does not mean they are used correctly.”

Heather Lorenzen, a reproductive health officer at UNFPA in Jordan, said although it is challenging to tackle issues of sexual and reproductive health in the camp due to cultural sensitivities, aid agencies are trying to raise awareness. For example, UNFPA holds seminars about early marriage and family planning methods in the camp.

“This is an opportunity for women to learn about services available and decide what is suitable for them,” she told IRIN.

She said it is important to compare the current situation with reproductive health norms in Syria before the conflict erupted.

“If we look back, birth rates have been high over the past years in Syria. Early marriages have been high in Syria, so it is difficult to see if pregnancy rates increased as a result of the war or if early marriages have become a coping mechanism.”

*not a real name

aa/ha/cb source http://www.irinnews.org.

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The Collapsing Sudanese Economy

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

[This essay was written in early January 2013; little has changed in the macroeconomic picture for either Sudan or South Sudan.  Recent mutual threats of an oil stoppage would of course dramatically increase the economic crisis depicted here, and which is already threatening of peace in a range of ways.  Inflation continues its relentless rise in Sudan, despite “official figures” suggesting otherwise.  The connection between fighting in Jebel Amer (North Darfur) and the Khartoum regime’s desperate need of foreign exchange currency has become steadily clearer–May 28, 2013]

December 2012 commentary on the purported “coup attempt” in Khartoum provided little in the way of consensus about how serious the “coup” was or precisely who was truly involved or how far planning had moved to an actual attempt. The timing may have been governed by President al-Bashir’s health and an inevitable diminishing of power (he has throat cancer, according to multiple sources); what the stance of the military is or will be on the occasion of a transition is unclear.  Official comments from officials in Khartoum were contradictory and showed no commitment to provide an honest account.  What can’t be doubted is that the events, insofar as we can discern them, reveal growing domestic unhappiness with the current regime, which after 23 years in power has still failed to bring peace or broadening prosperity to Sudan.  The public discontent of last June and July may now be coming to fruition.

But to date political commentary has generally failed to provide a comprehensive account of how current struggles in Khartoum take place in the context of an economy that is in free-fall.  There is some acknowledgement of distress over high prices, shortages, and lack of employment; but there has been relatively little in the way of fuller and more probing assessment of  how far advanced the economic collapse is—or what the consequences of such a collapse will be in shaping Sudan’s political future.  But any analysis of current political machinations and maneuvering will be meaningless without an understanding of how a series of critical choices—military and economic—have been forced on the regime as a whole.  These choices are inevitably interrelated, and how they are made will define the future of greater Sudan.

Discussion of Khartoum’s political elite often relies on a traditional division of the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party into “moderates and “hardliners”; this is better cast, in my view, as a distinction between variously pragmatic elements within the regime who cohere in their views to a greater or lesser degree, depending on international pressures. The analytic task at hand is to capture how current economic circumstances will govern the survivalist political instincts that are common to all these ruthless men.  The advantage of a focus on “pragmatism” is that it highlights how “unpragmatic” so many recent actions and decisions have been in the economic sphere, and how these decisions actually increase the threat to regime survival.  These brutal men may control the press, the news media, the security forces and the army—at present.  But the impending maelstrom of economic disarray will bring to bear pressures that many in the regime and the military clearly have not anticipated or do not fully understand.

An overview of factors precipitating the collapse of the Sudanese economy would include the following.

[1]  A recent assessment found that Sudan is the fourth most corrupt country in the world (only Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia rank lower); corruption eats at the heart of economic growth, derails rational capital expenditures, and breeds resentment.  It has long been endemic in Sudan, and its current ranking reflects that fact.

[2]  The IMF’s most recent assessment has found that Sudan’s is the worst-performing economy in the world.  This in itself is simply extraordinary for a country with so many natural resources, including vast tracts of arable land.

[3]  The best barometer of the extent of economic collapse is the revised figure for negative growth (contraction) of the economy: the April 2012 prediction from the IMF was -7.3 percent for 2012; most recently the figure stands at -11.2 percent, a depression by some measures, strongly suggesting a continuing downward spiral.

[4]  The most current (October) estimate of Sudan’s rate of inflation is 45.3 percent, up from 41.6 percent in September, 22.5 percent in March, and 15 percent in June 2011.  In fact, this figure is already dated by the weeks intervening between data collection and present prices—and certainly understates the rate of inflation for essential commodities such as food and fuel.  The official year-on-year inflation rate for food is 48.6 percent; The Economist notes (December 1, 2012) that “the price of fool, Sudan’s traditional bean breakfast, has risen from $0.33 to $1.16.,” over 300 percent.  The inflation rate for fuel is just as high as that for food generally, with ripple effects throughout the economy.

Moreover, Yousif el-Mahdi, a Khartoum-based economist, estimated in September (2012) that the real overall inflation rate was closer to 65 percent—this when the official rate was still 42 percent.  He is far from alone in believing that in the past, the actual inflation rate has been consistently understated; but when the bad news comes fully home, it will inevitably make those holding Sudanese pounds even less trusting of the currency. [Based on a number of reports and assessments, my own current estimate (May 2013) is roughly 75 percent annually–ER]

In fact, Sudan is rapidly approaching the point at which hyper-inflation will govern economic calculations and transactions, sending the pound into free-fall as desperate bank depositors and others with cash holdings in pounds  convert to a hard currency or valuable commodities (gold, silver, even food) at almost any exchange rate.  Once hyper-inflation sets in, it is almost impossible to reverse expectations of yet more hyper-inflation, particularly if there are no resources with which to back the currency under assault.  The cash economy in Sudan will grind to a halt.  Here it seems appropriate to recall that former President Jaafer Nimieri was brought down rapidly in 1985 amidst protests generated largely by hyper-inflation.

It should also be borne in mind that Khartoum has leveraged its oil resources as much as possible, and owns only a very small percentage of the two oil development consortia operating in Sudan and South Sudan (in the form of Sudapet’s 5 percent stake, which has been challenged by Juba).  Sales of additional concession blocks have generated little income, and nothing has been held in reserve.

Gold exports have been much in Sudan news, but the quantities being talked about by the regime—and thus the hard currency purportedly to be received—have been greeted with considerable skepticism.  Reports seem to come exclusively from the regime-controlled news media in Khartoum, and have an air of desperation about them.  In any event, increased gold production alone cannot begin to reverse current trends in the near- or medium-term.

[5]  The cutting of fuel subsidies from the budget—demanded by the IMF as a condition for debt relief—has been largely abandoned in the wake of Arab Spring-like demonstrations last summer; these expensive subsidies will again represent an enormous part of the non-military/security budget, even as the expense receives no honest reckoning in public comments by the regime.  Yet budgetary realities have become ever more grim, as the Sudan Tribune notes (December 7, 2012):

“The Sudanese government tabled its draft 2013 budget before parliament this week which projects 25.2 billion Sudanese pounds (SDG) in revenues and 35.0 billion SDG in expenses leaving a deficit of 10 billion SDG ($1.5 billion) which equals 3.4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The deficit will be financed up to 87% (7.6 billion SDG) from domestic sources including 2 billion SDG from the central bank.

But the central bank has no real money, only what it prints in the way of Sudanese pounds that are rapidly declining in value.  As of December 2, 2012, $1.00 bought 6.5 pounds—a record low, and a further 3 percent decline from the previous week (the black market rate was about 5 pounds to the dollar early in the year, suggesting a decline of approximately 30 percent).  The official exchange rate is approximately 4.4 pounds to the dollar.

And while the IMF continues to insist that Sudan should cut fuel subsidies further—beyond what was cut in June—the Fund acknowledges that to do so will incur public anger and more instability of the sort seen last June, July, and August.

[6]  The reason for the continuing decline in the value of the pound is a lack of foreign exchange reserves, the direct consequence of having no oil export income.  As a result, imports purchased with Sudanese pounds are not simply more expensive—in some case prohibitively so—but harder to obtain at all, given the lack of available foreign exchange currency. Food imports are hit particularly hard, as are businesses that depend on imported parts or services.  Sudan imports some 400,000 tons of sugar annually (it is a key source of calories for many in the north); these imports will only grow more expensive, pushing the inflation rate for this particular commodity well above 50 percent.

Efforts to secure US$4 billion in foreign exchange deposits from rich Arab countries have largely failed, with the exception of Qatar, despite various claims by regime officials that large hard currency deposits have been made into the Central Bank of Sudan.  While providing temporary relief from “black market” speculation against the Sudanese pound, the long-term effect of such dishonest claims about foreign currency infusions is to diminish further the regime’s credibility about all matters financial and economic.

[7]  The oil sector as a percentage of GDP has declined precipitously following Southern secession.  Oil now provides only 20 – 25 percent of revenues going to the regime; and beyond this massive loss in revenues, the oil sector now accounts for only 3 – 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), down from about 15 percent, according to the IMF.

Oil production is also being consistently overstated by Khartoum in order to suggest that more foreign exchange will be received than is the case.  The “Medium-Term Oil Market Report 2012” by the International Energy Agency (IEA) puts current production in Sudan at 70,000 barrels per day, rising to 90,000 bpd in 2014 and dropping back to 60,000 in 2017.  And yet long-time Sudanese oil minister and NIF/NCP stalwart Awad al-Jaz claims that Sudan is currently producing 120,000 bpd, which may rise to 150,000 bpd by the end of 2012.  Gross misrepresentation of data is nothing new for the regime, but such transparently motivated manipulation of key figures is a sign of just how desperate the economic crisis is, and how urgently Khartoum feels the need to be perceived as having or receiving more hard currency than is credible.

Notably, in its April 2012 semi-annual World Economic Outlook, the IMF changed the classification of Sudan: from an oil exporter to an oil importer, making nonsense of al-Jaz’s claim.

[8]  The agricultural sector, long neglected by the regime, cannot provide enough food to avoid substantial imports; disabled by cronyism and a lack of commitment  over many years, the agricultural sector is collapsing along with the rest of the economy.  Much of the arable land between the White and Blue Niles has silted and become unusable, even as a once enviable irrigation infrastructure has badly deteriorated.  Large tracts of valuable farm land have been sold or leased to Arab and Asian concerns to provide food for their own domestic consumption.  There is simply no strategic emphasis on self-sufficiency in food, even as Khartoum counts on the UN to provide Sudan with huge quantities of food every year. As Agence France-Presse reported earlier this year (February 27):

“‘The economic situation is deteriorating further and further,’ and the economy is in crisis, says University of Khartoum economist Mohamed Eljack Ahmed. [Of Khartoum’s ‘rescue plan’] economists say the plan seems unworkable in the short term. Ahmed says agricultural infrastructure, once the country’s economic mainstay, has collapsed and neither farmers nor industrialists have an incentive to operate.”

[9]  The NIF/NCP for years has survived in large measure because it controls the security services (often overlapping) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF); estimates of what percentage of the national budget is devoted to the security services and the army vary, but range as high as 70 percent, with “over 50 percent” the closest to a consensus figure; this makes finding spending cuts in non-military sectors of the budget extraordinarily difficult.  Moreover, these military and security personnel are now being paid in Sudanese pounds that are rapidly loosing their purchasing power, and this will breed intense resentment, defections, and possibly participation in civilian insurrection.

[10]  Resentment is also felt by those in the vast—and very expensive—patronage system that has provided the regime with political support.  The patronage system has been key to regime survival.  It was built-up during the early take-over of banks and the most lucrative parts of the Sudanese economy following the NIF coup of 1989, and then extended further by the rapid increase of oil revenues that began in 1999.  Now the patronage system is simply unaffordable, and the disgruntled within it can no longer be counted on to provide political support when it is most needed.

[11]  The demographics of the “Arab Spring” are the same in Sudan as they are in the rest of the Arab world, especially in the regions in and around Khartoum: there are a disproportionately large numbers of people under 30 years of age, many educated but with little prospect of employment commensurate with their education, or indeed any form of employment at all.  They are especially vulnerable to economic hardship.

[12]  Massive external debt—estimated by the IMF at US$43.7 billion in 2012—is on track to reach US$45.6 billion in 2013, again according to the IMF.  This represents 83 percent of Sudan’s 2011 GDP.  Such debt—largely in the form of arrears accrued under the present regime—cannot be serviced by the present Sudanese economy, let alone repaid.  It is a crushing burden on the economy, and yet Khartoum shows no sign of adhering to IMF recommendations for obtaining debt relief,  Moreover, the regime’s military actions throughout Sudan should work powerfully against debt relief among the Paris Club creditors who own most of this debt.  Certainly it would be unconscionable to negotiate debt reduction with a regime that devotes so much of its budget to acquiring the means of civilian destruction—in Darfur, in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul declared in October that there is growing “international acceptance to write off Khartoum’s … external debt.”  The efforts of Western, African, and Arab civil society should be to make debt relief under present circumstances thoroughly unacceptable for politicians in Washington, London, Berlin, and Paris.

Current Minister of Finance Ali Mahmud Rasul also declares, despite these grim realities, that “the 2013 budget shows that we have overcome the secession of South Sudan.”  But former Minister of Finance Abdel Rahim Hamdi—whatever his own role within the regime during the 1990s—felt compelled to speak out about the current extraordinary mismanagement of the economy.  Sudan Tribune reports his broadest assessment: the current regime “is no longer able to manage the economy and lacks solutions to handle the crisis.”  Hamdi noted that “conflicting economic policies [have] led to soaring inflation levels and astronomical increases in prices. Speaking at the Islamic Fiqh Council, Hamdi pointed out that 77 percent of revenues goes to cover salaries and wages as well as federal aid to states.”  He was  also scathing in his assessment of projected revenues, which the regime has consistently oversold in a ploy to keep the psychology of inflation from taking hold (e.g., in celebrating artificially high estimates of gold production, boasting of hard currency transfers from Arab countries that never materialize).  Current Minister of Finance Rasul speaks to none of this.

For those not living in the world of self-serving mendacity from which regime pronouncements about economic development emerge, the truth is conspicuous: the economy is in a complete shambles, and hyper-inflation is relentlessly approaching. The brute economic realities outlined above cannot be talked away or cajoled into more palatable form.  Indeed, if the current budget needs—including a substantial continuation of subsidies for fuel—are not met with real revenues, the regime will be compelled to turn on the printing presses and create an even more precipitous decline toward hyper-inflation.

Why Does Khartoum Pursue Policies so Destructive of the Economy?

Despite the already acute and growing danger of complete economic implosion, the regime persists with immensely expensive and unproductive policies, including war in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile, as well as hostile actions along the North/South border, and the supplying of renegade militia groups inside South Sudan.  For a regime that is ruthlessly survivalist, this makes no rational sense: current economic realities are diminishing the chances that the regime will survive.  So why is it persisting in policies and actions that work against a resumption of transit fees for oil originating in South Sudan and passing through the northern pipeline to Port Sudan?  Why is the regime creating a situation in which the generous transit fees that Juba is willing to pay have been forgone?  This seems even more peculiar, given the grasping nature of Khartoum’s greed, revealed earlier this year when Southern engineers discovered a covert tie-in line to main oil pipeline, capable of diverting some 120,000 bpd of Southern crude.  This subterfuge has not been forgotten by the South, and only makes more exigent the question: why has Khartoum put oil transit revenues in jeopardy?

At full capacity—350,000 bpd—these pipeline revenues could do a great deal to close the yawning budget gap that Khartoum faces; and this is on top of Juba’s agreement to assist Khartoum financially during a difficult transition and also to allow the regime to keep the more than $800 million sequestered during the stand-off over transit fees (the amount of oil was peremptorily calculated by Khartoum on the basis of its outrageous $36/barrel fee proposal).  What keeps Khartoum from finalizing the deal on oil transport, thereby creating further doubts in the minds of Southerners that this pipeline will remain a viable means of export?  Why does Khartoum continue to wage a brutal economic war of attrition against South Sudan, which should be its largest and most important trading partner?  The reality of lost oil income is inescapable:

Prior to [the secession of South Sudan], about three-quarters of crude production came from the south and accounted for more than 85 percent of Khartoum’s export earnings, which reached $7.5 billion in the first half of 2011, according to the World Bank.  ‘They’ve lost that (oil) income. It’s gone for good,’ an international economist said, declining to be identified.”

Here again the common distinction between “moderates” and “hardliners” is better understood as referring to differences within a regime that is at various times more and less pragmatic, or at least has very different views of what is “pragmatic.”  Ali Osman Taha, for example, is often cited as a “moderate” because of his central role in the Naivasha peace talks; it is rarely remarked that in February 2004, a year before those talks  would culminate in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Talks, Taha left Naivasha to “address the Darfur crisis.”  As anyone who followed the course of events through 2004 and into 2005 knows, this was the period marked by the very height of genocidal violence and destruction.  An October 24, 2004 report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service notes:

“In February 2004, First Vice President Ali Osman Taha, the government [of Sudan’s] chief negotiator [in Naivasha], told the mediators that he had to leave the talks to deal with the Darfur problem. In February 2004, the government of Sudan initiated a major military campaign against the Sudan Liberation Army and Justice and Equality Movement and declared victory by the end of the month.  Attacks by government forces and the Janjaweed militia against civilians intensified between February and June 2004, forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee to neighboring Chad.

As we know now, many tens of thousands of people were also killed by the violence of this period, and the killing continued long after Taha’s intervention, with total  mortality now in the range of 500,000.[22] The number of internally displaced persons would, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, grow to 2.7 million.  The UN High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 280,000 Darfuris remain in eastern Chad as refugees.  That Taha the “moderate” played such a central role in the Darfur genocide is far too infrequently acknowledged, suggesting again that within the NIF/NCP “pragmatism” may take many forms.

After much shifting in language and positions, Khartoum would now have the world believe that it will uphold the agreement on oil transport only if Juba agrees to various “security arrangements.”  But of course just what these arrangements are keeps changing, even as Khartoum ignores the most fundamental requirement for security in both Sudan and South Sudan: a fully delineated and authoritatively demarcated border.  This of course should have been achieved in the “interim period” of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (January 9, 2005 to July 9, 2011).  That it was not is almost entirely the fault of Khartoum, which evidently thought—and still thinks—it can extort borderlands from the South and incorporate them into Sudan.  The military seizure of Abyei (May 2011) was simply the opening salvo.  Military ambitions may in fact extend to seizing more Southern oil fields and arable land.

More recently, Khartoum’s demanded “security arrangements” have come to include Juba’s disarming of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North, an utterly preposterous notion—indeed, so preposterous that it must be viewed as a means of stalling negotiations. In this respect it is very similar to Khartoum’s initial proposal of a US$36/barrel transit fee proposal during negotiations on that issue: this was not an opening gambit, not a serious proposal from which compromise could be reached.  It was meant to halt negotiations and indeed resulted in Juba’s decision to shut down oil production altogether.

So, too, the current “security arrangements” proposal is meant to put a hold on negotiations by demanding what the South cannot possibly offer or provide, even as senior officials in Khartoum continue to insist that they will not negotiate with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, insisting that the “alliance” between Juba and the SPLM/A-N must first be ended.  And yet no evidence of substance is offered to suggest any military alliance.  We may understand why the NIF/NCP wishes the army of South Sudan to disarm northern rebels, primarily in the Nuba: Abdel Aziz al-Hilu’s forces are manhandling SAF troops and militias, chewing up entire battalions and parts of some brigades and in the process acquiring a great deal of ammunition, weaponry, fuel, and other supplies (despite this, Ahmed Haroun—indicted war criminal and governor of South Kordofan—insists that the SAF will achieve victory soon).  But  does anyone living in the real world think that Juba will help to disarm the SPLA-North?  These are former comrades in arms, deeply connected by the years of suffering and fighting together, and by a deep mutual suspicion of Khartoum.  In the absence of any substantial  evidence that Juba is aiding the rebels in the Nuba in a significant way, we must conclude that something else is going on here.

It is important to remember that while the regime has been in power for 24 years, individual members and factions of this regime have relentlessly jockeyed for power, often ruthlessly pursuing their own interests, and have found themselves on occasion in significant ascendancy or decline.  The most recent example appears to be Salah Abdallah “Gosh,” once head of the extremely powerful National Intelligence and Security Services; further back, we have the sharp split between al-Bashir’s cabal and Islamic ideological leader Hassan al-Turabi in the late 1990s.  But ambition within the regime’s central cabal has never, in any quarter, been “moderated” by a desire to do what is best for the people of Sudan.

The most notable recent ascendancy is that of key senior military officials in decision-making about war and peace; this too has gone insufficiently remarked, despite very considerable evidence that on a range of issues, military views have prevailed.  The nature of this ascendancy, and the motives behind it, were first emphasized by Sudan researcher Julie Flint in an important account from in August 2011, based on an extraordinary interview with an official in Khartoum.  The official, whose account has been corroborated by other sources, warned that a silent military coup was already well under way in Khartoum before the seizure of Abyei (May 2011). There seems little doubt that if this official’s account is accurate, and there has in fact been a successful military coup from within, then there will be very little room for civilians in the new configuration of power when it comes to issues of war and peace:

“[A] well-informed source close to the National Congress Party reports that Sudan’s two most powerful generals went to [Sudanese President Omar al-] Bashir on May 5, five days after 11 soldiers were killed in an SPLA ambush in Abyei, on South Kordofan’s southwestern border, and demanded powers to act as they sought fit, without reference to the political leadership.”

“They got it,” the source says. “It is the hour of the soldiers—a vengeful, bitter attitude of defending one’s interests no matter what; a punitive and emotional approach that goes beyond calculation of self-interest. The army was the first to accept that Sudan would be partitioned. But they also felt it as a humiliation, primarily because they were withdrawing from territory in which they had not been defeated. They were ready to go along with the politicians as long as the politicians were delivering—but they had come to the conclusion they weren’t. Ambushes in Abyei…interminable talks in Doha keeping Darfur as an open wound….  Lack of agreement on oil revenue….”  “It has gone beyond politics,” says one of Bashir’s closest aides. “It is about dignity.”

How well borne out by subsequent developments is this assessment?

When the senior and quite powerful presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie signed on June 28, 2011 a “Framework Agreement” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, it seemed for a moment in which war in the Nuba and Blue Nile might be averted.  Three days later President al-Bashir emphatically renounced the breakthrough agreement, declaring after Friday prayers (July 1, 2011) that the “cleansing” of the Nuba Mountains would continue.  This was clearly a declaration made at the behest of the generals, specifically Major General Mahjoub Abdallah Sharfi—head of Military Intelligence—and Lt. Gen. Ismat Abdel Rahman al-Zain— implicated in Darfur atrocity crimes because of his role as SAF director of military operations, he is identified in the “Confidential Annex” to the report by the UN panel of Experts on Darfur (Annex leaked in February 2006).

These men and their military colleagues are the ones whose actions have ensured that Abyei will remain a deeply contentious issue in growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan; certainly they knew full well the implications of taking military action in Abyei—military action that directly contravened the Abyei Protocol of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This action ensures that Abyei will continue to fester and may yet lead to confrontation if—as is likely—both the African Union and the UN Secretariat and Security Council continue to temporize over the AU proposal on the permanent status of Abyei, a proposal subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council but rejected by Khartoum.  And as long as Abyei festers, negotiations over other issues are made gratuitously more  difficult, and it becomes ever less likely that sustained oil transit revenues from use of the northern pipeline will resume.  After losing almost a year’s worth of oil revenue, the South will certainly proceed with plans for an alternative export route.  Khartoum’s sequestration of  almost a billion dollars of oil revenues due to the South since independence (July 9, 2011) left Juba feeling deeply uneasy about any viable long-term arrangement with the current regime, despite the decision to allow Khartoum to keep the oil revenues it had illegally sequestered.

From the standpoint of a rational management of the economy, the military decisions made have been consistently disastrous.  This is true whether we are speaking of genocidal destruction (and economic collapse) in Darfur; renewed genocide in the Nuba Mountains, which has prompted a ferociously successful rebel military response; massive civilian destruction and displacement in Blue Nile; the military seizure of Abyei; the extremely ill-considered assaults on forces of the SPLA-South in the Tishwin area of Unity State in March/April of this year; support for renegade militia groups in South Sudan; the growing assertion of unreasonable claims about the North/South border; and the repeated bombings along the border over the past year and a half, including the “Mile 14″ area of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.  This is an extraordinary catalog of offensive military actions.  And none of them reflects a concern for economic problems that may well bring down the regime.  On the contrary, these decisions represent a bitter, vengeful desire to “get even” with South Sudan for exercising its right to self-determination.  But vengeance will not rescue the failing northern economy, and absent the resumption of oil transport income, the economy will continue in free-fall, with hyper-inflation daily more likely.  Normal corrective measures in economic policy are impossible in the context of current military commitments; corrections that would in any event have been highly challenging in light of the precipitous cut-off of oil revenue are now unavailable.

So long as decisions about war and peace are being made in Khartoum by the generals, without regard for the effects of continuing and renewed fighting on the broader economy, Sudan will remain both brutally violent and ultimately untenable under present governance.

International Response

There is one decision the international community, and Paris Club members in particular, can take, which is not to engage in any discussions of or planning for debt relief for Khartoum until the regime disengages from all military campaigns that target civilians, and ceases military actions so indiscriminate as to ensure widespread civilian destruction such as we have seen most recently in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, previously in Abyei, and for very nearly ten years in Darfur.  The international banking system as well as international financing resources should do nothing that will convince Khartoum it may escape paying a heavy price for its continuing atrocities in these regions.  For its part, the regime continues to speak confidently about its prospects for international debt relief.  It’s hard to know whether this proceeds from expediency—even the artificial prospect of partial debt relief would help the northern economy immensely—or cynicism: the international community has capitulated before Khartoum’s demands, has accepted the validity of its commitment to signed agreements, on so many occasions that the regime may calculate it will prevail yet again.

This must not happen.  The international community has failed greater Sudan for too many years now, has accommodated a murderous, finally genocidal regime in Khartoum since June 1989, and now is a moment for moral clarity and principled decision: will the world fund this regime?  Will it accept massive atrocity crimes in Sudan in the interest of something other than the well-being of the Sudanese people themselves?

Civil society in those countries most significantly represented in the Paris Club are obligated by these circumstances to lobby their governments to state publicly that the unqualified priority in Sudan policy is ending civilian destruction throughout greater Sudan. Unequivocal evidence that this “priority” obtains in national policies must be demanded; despite the excessive caution that typically governs the imposition of multilateral sanctions, such are what vast numbers of people from greater Sudan wish, as do many well-informed friends of the region.

It is a simple “ask”: no debt relief for a regime that continues to commit atrocity crimes against civilians on a wide scale.  This debt was accrued in large measure by profligate military expenditures on weapons that are even now being deployed against hundreds of thousands of noncombatant civilians.  Yet as simple and apparently reasonable as such an “ask” is, there are very good historical reasons to believe that it will be refused; rather, some factitious “occasion” will be found to provide Khartoum with a financial life-line—a decision defined by its expediency, not its moral intelligibility.  There could be no more irresponsible use of international economic and financial resources.

– Scott Ross served as lead editor for this article

*Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

 

 

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Kenya: Kisumu Court Upheld the Petition challenging the election of Kisumu West MP

Posted by African Press International on May 30, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

Kisumu Law Court has upheld the petition challenging the election of Kisumu West Member of Parliament Olago Aluoch following his prayer for the dismissal of the case citing delays of bond payment by the petitioner.

Justice Hillary Chemitei dismissed the request on the ground that the petitioner Rosa Buyu made the payment within the stipulated time.

The Judge said April 19, 2013 being the last day to remit payment the petitioner did not breach the law as claimed by the respondent.

Olago had earlier argued that the petitioner Buyu represented by lawyers Stephene Mwanesi and Millicent Ogutu deposited the checks late.

Because April 19, 2013 fall on Friday he argued that technically the cheque will take three days to mature.

Buyu presented 2 bankers cheque of Ksh. 250,000 as the security for case challenging the election of Olago. An affidavit by Buyu through her lawyer Millicent Ogutu states that the deposit was made on April 19, 2013 in line with Election Act.

The Act states that payment for the bond should be made within ten days this therefore Justice Chemitei find it necessary for the case to proceed.

However, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) lawyer Jude Ragot seek for judge’s permission for application in the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling on payment of the bond by the petitioner. The application was also requested by Olago.

Chemitei allowed the request by the respondents saying the petition has to proceed citing that the cases has to be concluded within 6 months as by the Election Act.

Buyu through her lawyer Mwanesi supported the prayer by respondents saying the case will proceed until the Court of Appeal will issue an order to stop the case.

 

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Does President Obama’s half-brother use IRS status to fund polygamy?

Posted by African Press International on May 29, 2013

No evidence of support for poor while wives live large at resort

Published: by WND

abongo-barack-obama

NEW YORK – Funds contributed in the United States to a 501(c)3 foundation run by President Obama’s older half-brother, Abongo “Roy” Malik Obama, have been diverted to support Malik’s multiple wives in Kenya, an expert on Islamic extremism has charged.

Walid Shoebat, an Arabic-speaking former Muslim Brotherhood member, has detailed his allegations in a 22-page investigative report titled “New IRS Scandal: Islamic Extremism and Sex Slaves: Report Reveals Obama’s Relatives Run Charities of Deceit,” published on his website

After a thorough examination of available evidence, Shoebat explained to WND his allegations against the Obama family tax-exempt foundations:

“When Malik Obama and Sarah Obama raised money in the United States as the respective heads of foundations claiming to be charities, not only did the Internal Revenue Service illegally grant one of them tax-deductible status retroactively, but these foundations have supported – to varying degrees – illegal operations that acquire funding for personal gain, philandering, polygamy and the promotion of Wahhabism, the brand of Islam practiced by Al-Qaeda.”

For the past two years, long before the current IRS scandals became public, WND has been reporting irregularities in two IRS-approved 501(c)3 organizations operated in the U.S. by Obama’s half-brother and step-grandmother in Kenya:

WND reported in September 2011 the Barack H. Obama Foundation apparently received IRS approval one month after an application was submitted in May 2011. The IRS determination letter June 11, 2011, granted a highly irregular retroactive tax-exempt approval only after the group came under fire for operating as a 501(c)3 foundation since 2008 without ever having applied to the IRS.

In October 2012, WND reported a separate foundation, the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation, created on behalf of Obama’s step-grandmother in Kenya, has transferred funds, 90 percent of which are raised from U.S. individuals and corporations, to send Kenyan students to the top three most radical Wahhabist madrassas in Saudi Arabia.

Since its founding in 2008, the Barack H. Obama Foundation, operating out of a commercial mail drop in Arlington, Va., has solicited tax-deductible contributions on the Internet, listing addresses and telephone numbers both in the U.S. and Kenya, without disclosing the group lacked an IRS determination letter.

In September 2011, the IRS confirmed to WND that the Barack H. Obama Foundation had received a determination letter in June 2011, awarding the group tax-exempt 501(c)3 status retro-actively to 2008

Tax-exempt polygamy?

On March 3, 2013, Andrew Malone, reporting for the London Daily Mail, documented that Malik’s youngest wife in Kenya, Sheila Anyano, 35 years his junior, had spent the past two years living with three of Malik’s other wives at the “Barack H Obama Foundation rest and relaxation center,” a restaurant complex that profits from visitors drawn by the family’s connection to the American president.

According to the Daily Mail, members of his extended family in Kenya have accused Malik, a practitioner of Islam and a polygamist, of being a wife-beater and philanderer. Malik is accused of seducing Sheila, the newest of his estimated 12 wives while she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl – a crime in Kenya where the legal age of consent is 18.

Malone tracked down Sheila’s mother, Mary, who explained to the reporter that Malik Obama had “secret trysts” with the girl after spotting her attending prayers at the mosque he has built in Kogelo, the family’s ancestral.

Sheila, now age 20, told Ambrose that marrying Malik, now age 55, was the “worst decision” of her life and confirmed that she and Malik kept their marriage “a secret” since she was 17.

“At first he was good, after he started speaking to me at the mosque,” Sheila told the Daily Mail. “But he has changed. Marrying him has been the biggest mistake of my life. He beats me, but mostly he’s just nasty and quarrelsome.”

Several sources report the “center” where Malik Obama houses his multiple wives is a “hotel” with a restaurant.

The Egyptian independent daily newspaper Al-Masry Al Youm, on Nov. 6, 2012, reported a meeting conducted in the only hotel in Kogelo, calling it the “Barack H. Obama Recreation and Rest Center.”

A Smithsonian Magazine article published in May 2011 distinguished the Barack H. Obama Recreation and Rest Center from then open and operating Kogelo Village Resort, a 40-bed hotel and conference center owned by Nicholas Rajula. The article noted Malik Obama, “the president’s half-brother and the oldest son of Barack Obama Sr., who had eight children with four wives,” had “invested a large sum in the soon-to-open Barack H. Obama Recreation Center and Rest Area in Nyag’oma Kugelo.”

On Jan. 18, 2013, the Christian Science Monitor noted Malik Obama was running for political office in Kenya. He lost running on a campaign slogan that played on his half-brother’s electoral success in the United States.

“Just as it is in the United States, I want it here,” he Malik told the Monitor.

The paper said he was speaking in his office in a recreation center he set up with the Barack H. Obama Foundation, described as “a charitable organization he founded to build houses for women and orphans.”

Shoebot charged that Malik Obama is abusing non-profit funds.

“There is no evidence to suggest that Malik is building any houses in Kogelo for widows and orphans as claimed,” Shoebat said.

Neither is there evidence that the Mama Sarah Foundation has built any homes for widows, orphans and HIV/AIDS victims.

“The only evidence where monies were spent involves the Barack H. Obama Recreation and Rest Center in Kenya, which housed Malik’s 12 wives in a facility that includes a restaurant and a mosque with a madrassa,” he said.

“While building mosques is legally considered charity, evidence shows the entire funding came directly from entities and individuals from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain,” Shoebat said. “There is nothing of charitable nature to show for all the funds Malik raises from the United States. To date, there is no evidence for any accomplishments toward building homes for orphans, widows and AIDS victims in Kogelo or anywhere else in Kenya.”

Limited financial reporting

An IRS Form 990-EZ required for tax-exempt organizations was filed on May 23, 2011, only days before the IRS determination letter was sent.

Barack H. Obama Foundation, Form 990-EZ, filed May 23, 2011, page 1

The Form 990-EZ appears to have been hand-written by Abongo Malik Obama himself, complete with an unorthodox page of calculations evidently included to back up the amounts entered into the form.

The Form 990 reported the foundation had received $24,250 total gross income for 2010, derived from contributions, gifts and grants.

“We were not very successful this year because of limited contributions,” Malik reported on the Form 990. “The Foundation sponsored a Youth Tournement (sic) and embarked on construction of community bridges.”

The Form 990 listed Samuel Andika Obiero of Arlington, Va., and Andrew Mboya of Hackensack, N.J., as directors, in addition to Abongo Malik Obama.

GuideStar.org, the private website that posts IRS documents of non-profit organizations, indicated that no audited financial statements were available for the Barack H. Obama Foundation.

GuideStar listing for Barack H. Obama Foundation, May 28, 2013

The website homepage of the Barack H. Obama Foundation prominently features a photograph of Barack H. Obama Sr. and a statement that the foundation is “a fully tax-exempt (501(c)(3) charitable organization.”

Homepage of the Barack H. Obama Foundation http://www.barackhobamafoundation.org/

Born in Kenya to Kezia

Born in Kenya, on March 15, 1958, Abongo Malik “Roy” Obama was the first child born to Barack Obama Sr.

The son of Kezia, Obama Sr.’s first wife, Malik was only 18 months old when Barack Obama Sr. arrived in New York Aug. 8, 1959, on a BOAC flight in transit from Kenya to begin his undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

Having abandoned Kezia in Kenya, Obama Sr. subsequently married Stanley Ann Dunham, Barack Obama Jr.’s mother, while in Honolulu.

In September 1962, Obama Sr. headed to Cambridge, Mass., without Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Jr. to begin graduate studies in economics at Harvard University.

Malik Obama, best man at the wedding of Barack H. Obama, Oct. 3, 1992

As WND previously reported, Barack Obama Sr., on Aug. 17, 1962, in an Immigration and Naturalization form to extend his time of temporary stay in the United States, listed Roy Obama as his only child, neglecting to list Dunham as his wife or Barack Obama Jr. as his son.

Convert to Islam

Malik is a major character in President Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams from My Father.”’

A key passage in the book concerns Obama’s reactions when Malik joins Barack to be the best man at his wedding to Michelle.

Noting that Malik had converted from Christianity to Islam, Obama wrote on page 441 that Malik had “sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”

Obama continued: “Abongo’s new lifestyle has left him lean and clear-eyed, and at the wedding, he looked so dignified in his black African gown with white trim and matching cap that some of our guests mistook him for my father.”

Pointedly, Obama observed that Malik was “prone to make lengthy pronouncements on the need for the black man to liberate himself from the poisoning influences of European culture.”

Malik was featured in a family portrait taken in one of Obama’s earlier trips to Kenya, as U.S. senator, in 2006.

Obama family portrait taken in Kenya. Abongo “Roy” Malik Obama stands to Barack Obama Jr.’s immediate left

Malik surfaced during the 2008 presidential campaign, dressed in African garb and holding a photograph of Barack Obama in African garb.

Abongo “Roy” Malik Obama displays a 1980s-era photograph of Barack Obama in Kenya

WND has determined that he has a valid Social Security number, issued in Washington, D.C., between 1985 and 1987, and associated with both the names “Roy Obama” and “Abongo Malik Obama,” names that he appears to use interchangeably in the U.S.

A private investigative report commissioned by WND shows Malik Obama has been identified since 1988 with 22 different rental addresses in the Washington, D.C., area, including in Prince Georges County and Montgomery County, Maryland.

According to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, Malik Obama, a frequent traveler between the U.S. and Kenya, has declared himself to be the “president” of Nyangoma-Kogelo, the family’s ancestral village in Kenya.

WND was not able to determine the legal status of Roy Obama to live and work in the U.S.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/05/obama-half-brother-uses-irs-status-to-fund-polygamy/#oyf8ychvI3AAeBMg.99

End

Source WND News Online, USA

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Almost all the countries of the world have signed up to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Posted by African Press International on May 29, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – Talks have begun on giving a global treaty on land degradation more teeth. 

Almost all the countries of the world have signed up to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and are now in discussions to create a protocol or legal instrument to make the treaty operational.

Melchiade Bukuru, chief of UNCCD’s liaison office at the UN headquarters in New York, told IRIN talks on a protocol have gained momentum.

The UNCCD secretariat had first tabled the idea for the protocol at theRio+20 conference in 2012, and the proposed protocol was discussed at recent scientific meetings of the Convention. This is viewed as significant progress, as things often move slowly in multilateral forums.

The protocol is aimed at achieving Zero Net Land Degradation (ZNLD) and the UNCCD hopes it will help make the Convention operational in the manner that the Kyoto Protocol did for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in attempting to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Ian Hannam, chair of the Sustainable Use of Soils and Desertification Specialist Group at the World Commission on Environmental Law, which falls under the International Union for Conservation of Nature, along with the group’s co-chair, Irene Heuser, and its previous chair, Ben Boer, have been campaigning for a protocol since 2012.

“A new legal instrument could take the form of a global policy and monitoring framework,” said Hannam and his co-campaigners in a statement. “It has also been proposed that such a protocol could incorporate the setting of ZNLD targets by individual countries, for example as a percentage of arable land in their jurisdiction, or regions within their jurisdiction.”

The UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol got countries to set time-bound targets to reduce harmful warming emissions. But it had the benefit of credible scientific data as its foundation – such as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the rate at which they were warming it. Data and studies on this information are still evolving, but the basis has been established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The UNCCD is pushing for the creation of similar body – an Intergovernmental Panel on Land and Soil (IPLS) – as a global authority providing credible and policy-relevant scientific information to help countries make informed decisions on dealing with land degradation and desertification (LDD).

At present credible scientific data on the extent of the problem is scarce, said a team of scientists in a report commissioned by the UNCCD in 2012.

Five global assessments in the last four decades have provided degradation estimates ranging from 15 percent to 63 percent of global land, and 4 percent to 74 percent of the Earth’s drylands.

“We need the attention of policy-makers, including those who are indirectly in charge of the Convention, such as a minister of finance [who allocates national funds], to understand the relevance of sustainable land management… in the context of national development – food security…”

The numbers have varied because different methods and factors were used in the calculations.

Nevertheless, in the two decades between 1981 and 2003, over 20 percent of the Earth’s surface – on which 1.5 billion people live – has lost its ability to produce, based on the best interpretations of satellite imagery. But this data lacks country-specific details.

“It is the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] which built the foundation and the momentum of climate change in all political discourses and policies,” says Bukuru, underscoring the importance of a scientific panel.

“There is still some resistance [from some member countries], but the majority of countries support its establishment.”

In the interim, he said, countries can use the services of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES) created in 2012. The IPBES will assess the state of the planet’s biodiversity, its ecosystems, and the essential services they provide to society.

Bukuru said the UNCCD has in the meantime entered the “realm of measurability” in respect of its protocol.

In 2009 all the countries that are party to the UNCCD agreed to a set of indicators, such as the extent of land cover under a nation’s jurisdiction, and the number of people living above the poverty line in the areas affected by LDD. The countries have begun reporting back on the indicators since 2012, as is mandatory.

Explaining the relevance of the data, Bukuru said that the map of poverty usually coincides with that of degraded lands in most developing countries, except in oil-producing ones.

A 2009 review led by Zafar Adeel, director of the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), also called for a scientific panel to be set up. “The UNCCD has not had this benefit [of credible science], and many of its founding assumptions are now challenged. It was believed that the Sahara was advancing remorselessly, whereas satellite measurements and careful field studies show that advance and retreat are cyclical.”

Financial backing

The UNCCD has also initiated a process to “put a price tag on action or inaction against land degradation, desertification and drought, and it turns out to prove that action is less expensive than inaction,” says Bukuru.

A report on one such effort informed a recent scientific meeting of the Convention that land degradation is costing the international community some US$490 billion per year, but some of the studies cited in the report used different ways of assessing degradation and there was not enough data available on some aspects, says Wagaki Mwangi, spokesperson for the UNCCD.

”We need the attention of policy-makers, including those who are indirectly in charge of the Convention, such as a minister of finance [who allocates national funds], to understand the relevance of sustainable land management… in the context of national development – food security, energy security, climate change adaptation, or poverty alleviation.”

The idea is to come up with a sound cost-benefit analysis like the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, presented in 2006 by Sir Nicholas Stern, head adviser to the UK government on the economics of climate change and development. The review put a monetary value on the impact of climate change and the global failure to take action now, which drew the attention of heads of state and finance ministers to the issue.

The UNCCD is supporting a global initiative – the Economics of Land Degradation, involving the European Commission, the Centre for Development Research (Bonn), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), UNU-INWEH and Germany – to establish a robust scientific basis for the development of sustainable land-use strategies, while a cost-benefit analysis would help create awareness.

Funding for projects to address land degradation and the impact of droughts has been improving, but is still too little. Mohamed Bakarr, of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the main funding mechanism of the UNCCD, said at the moment only US$320 million was available for the 144 countries eligible for funding for projects. The money is not distributed equally between the countries but according to criteria that take various factors into consideration.

jk/he  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Kenyan High School High Jump – Kenya the country of high class track runners

Posted by African Press International on May 29, 2013

This is at a high school track meet in the Rift Valley of Kenya in the town of Mosoriot. February, 2013.

If anyone watching this video wants to help get these athletes proper facilities. Please contact us on africanpress@getmail.no and we will surely connect you.

Look here at the high jump facility. Imagine if the facility was of high quality?

End

 

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Kenya: Child labour hit Counties in Nyanza Region due to poverty.

Posted by African Press International on May 29, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

At the age of 11 Joyce Adhiambo*, a resident of Homabay Town, wakes up at 4.30 am each day and tramps to a nearby river to fetch water for his bosses before embarking to firewood. Adhiambo also helps prepare and serve the family with meals and sweeps the whole compound among other chores.
Surprisingly, Adhiambo has no shoes but a half-heel chopped off red flappers which she uses to protect her cracked feet. She narrates that she found herself in this horrible situation four years ago at a tender age of 8 years after she lost both of her parents due to HIV.
After the death of her parents Adhiambo was adopted by her aunts in Homabay but her stay there was short-lived. Circumstances forced her to quit the place due to harassment from family members.
The poor girl while at her aunt’s place, she was forced to sleep on an empty sack.  Narrating to this scribe, the young girl said was often beaten up on the slightest provocation of her aunt who forced her to feed on leftovers that dropped from the family table.

 

Now Adhiambo is a young domestic worker who does know her fate. The child labor, which is now broadly defined as the employment of minors, is often a harsh and most exploitative condition among children.
But the vice has remained in practical both in developing and even industrial countries. The human cost of child labour leaves the victims gaunt, crippled, illiterate and sick.
International Labour Organization (ILO) that was founded in 1919 has since transformed into special agency of the United Nations (UN).The introduction of child labour conventions by ILO among members, including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all kinds of work. While others including a higher minimum age for particular employment, medical examination and regulation of right work.
In early 21st Century, ILO was compelled to add the worst forms of child labour to its list including slavery, debt bondage (where children work to pay off loans owed by parents) prostitution and forced military services.
A growing concern now in Homabay County has been the increase in prostitution among young girls in urban areas especially in drinking spree. Some of the children have been forced in the ugly practice due to abject poverty.
The 1997 UNICEF report concerning child labour stated most employers try to hire workers who are easier or cheap to exploit. It was also estimated that over 3 million minors in Kenya engage in child labour, usually working under hazardous conditions.
The report also highlighted that the most vulnerable and weakest workers are children usually paid less than the adults and are often ignorant on their rights or how to protest against poor working environment.
“Poverty plays an enormous role in the phenomenon. Desperate for money, poor families around the world including Kenya are forced to push minors to increase overall income among the families. “The report read in part.
The poor families, the small contributions of child’s income or the assistance can make a huge difference between a bare sufficiency and hunger, the survey reveals.
In various towns of Homabay County, a stroll in the streets at night leaves one gasping for breath over the ages of girls frequently visiting clubs at night for prostitution.
A study carried town in seven districts in Kenya in 1997 by child Welfare Society of Kenya indicated that child prostitution is widely practiced in big towns. Some victims were as young as 11 years old. Malindi and Mombasa peaked underage children selling sex.
In Nairobi, the number of street children has risen to 60,000 with the Government estimating their numbers to grow at 10 percent annually. The children are often involved in drug trafficking, assault, theft, trespass and property damaging.
A survey carried out in 1996 in a lower class estate in Nairobi found that 30% of households employed children. In 1997 the figured dropped by 12%.

And in Homabay, about 30 children are in the streets in search for food with majority being young girls. Kisumu City is not spared either with about 30% who are at the age of going to school.

 

According to business fraternity street children have now become a menace as they steal from them to have a bit due to hardship they undergo.
In Kenya, a study of girls working as housemaids found out that 25 girls aged 9-16 years, 18 were HIV positive. Most of the girls had worked in homes had reported sexual abuse in all or most of them.
Statistics available in labour officer in Homabay region indicates that more than 15,000 underage girls in the region have been lured or forced into commercial sex work by wealth men.
According to Mary Achieng, a child rights activists in Homabay County, says that apart from prostitution, a high percentage of underage children in the region are involved in stone crashing, charcoal kilns and bricking making as others are employed as housemaids.
On the other hand, a survey in six districts in Homabay County reveals that most children drop out of school due to a rigid curriculum to an extent they prefer to look interesting jobs.
And in Kisumu City, Children are not spared either with some going sleepless night along the streets hawking boiled maize to earn a living.
Meet Josephine Atieno (not her real name), a former class 5 who had to drop out of school after the death of her parents to provide for  her younger siblings.
Atieno now sells boiled maize throughout the night at bar parks, clubs and stage especially to bar goers, bodaboda and matatu operators who lure them to sexual activities.
According to Atieno, she is just one of the examples of children hawking various food stuffs to have a meal on the table, a spot check by the writer shows that a good number of boys and girls are full in the streets across the Nyanza region.
Some of the children are sent to collect scrap metals by dealers only to be attacked by the owners who seriously assault them.
The hardship has now forced a good number of children to the streets in various counties such as Kisii, Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, Siaya and Nyamira thereby increasing the number of street children in the region.
Some of the children have now embarked on Commercial Sex at various clubs I the streets of Kisumu, Homabay Kisii among others without proper knowledge of HIV.
In every 20 of the girls in the social areas 10 are miners who have dropped out of school because of poverty and death of their parents.
According to these children, they are not in such kind of activities because they want but due to pathetic conditions and difficulties they are undergoing.
A spot check in Kisii, Migori and Nyamira the story replays the same scenario with some being used by drug peddlers to sneak drugs to their destinations.
This exposes them to greatest danger of drugs. This is rampant especially in Migori as it borders Kenya and Tanzania. The same story replays in Rachuonyo North District with children involved in fishing and harvesting sand to make a living. Some risking their lives by going inside the caves.
But along the lake shore of Lake Victoria children are fishing just to feed their siblings with some spending money they get to buy sex from commercial sex workers in these beaches.
This now calls for immediately concerned by the Children Department in the 6 Counties to ensure the well-being of children are catered for, this is according to various activists based in Kisumu and Homabay.

 

In tackling the poverty level in the counties, Governor Homabay Cyprian Awiti said his government is set to allocate about 30% to eradicate poverty through loaning the residents to start-up small business activities to earn a living. This now call for solidarity among the governors in Nyanza region to fight poverty so as to reduce cases of child labour, this according to Awiti.
 

END

 

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South Sudan’s humanitarian needs remain enormous

Posted by African Press International on May 29, 2013

South Sudan’s humanitarian needs remain enormous

JUBA,  – A 2005 deal to end decades of civil war in southern Sudan led many to hope that conflict-related humanitarian relief would gradually give way to the peace dividend of development aid and economic growth. Eight years later, emergency needs in the now-independent South Sudan remain overwhelming, with aid agencies calling for more than a billion dollars to tackle them in 2013.

“One key question,” Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer wrote in the May edition of Humanitarian Exchange magazine, is “how we can continue to respond to emergencies without losing sight of longer-term development needs”.

It is a difficult balance to strike, said Jok Madut Jok, South Sudan’s undersecretary for culture and heritage. He joined Lanzer on a panel organized last week by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). “The need for humanitarian action has become the face of the whole country” and draws the majority of the donor funding, Jok said.

That is largely because, after less than two years of independence, South Sudan’s humanitarian needs remain enormous.

The 2013 Consolidated Appeal (CAP) for the country, which combines requests from 114 different NGOs and UN agencies, predicts at least 4.6 million people – out of the estimated population of 11.8 million – will require assistance this year. That includes more than 4.1 million people who need food assistance and 350,000 refugees from places like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It will cost $1.16 billion to assist 3.3 million of those people this year, the organizations estimate.

But government officials and aid agencies say they want to do more with the money than just meet immediate needs. They are calling for a shift towards concurrently promoting long-term development, like improving infrastructure and building the capacity of local communities, so the country will eventually be able to escape the cycle of humanitarian crises.

Balancing humanitarian response and development

Kuol Manyang Juuk, the governor of Jonglei State, has been at the forefront of one of the country’s major humanitarian crises; for more than a year, Jonglei-based rebel leader David Yau Yau has been attempting to overthrow the government. As many as 190,000 people in the state required humanitarian assistance in 2012, according to the UN.

“In supporting the world’s newest country, we need to help South Sudanese avert crises, not merely respond to them.”

Still, Juuk told IRIN, he does not want to see aid agencies restricted to delivering emergency health and nutrition services. He wants them to help his government build roads. “We need to connect counties and communities,” he said at the ODI panel.

By linking communities and encouraging trade, these projects would provide jobs and ease tensions as people – especially youth – become more invested in maintaining stability. “That’s the main thing. If we don’t do it, hostilities will continue,” he said.

This emphasis, Lanzer wrote, must be adopted across all of South Sudan.

By focusing too exclusively on humanitarian responses, actors “fail to address the underlying causes that undermine sustainable livelihoods, agricultural production and economic growth, and perpetuate the pattern of emergency. In supporting the world’s newest country, we need to help South Sudanese avert crises, not merely respond to them.”

Lanzer said the UN is promoting concurrent humanitarian and development responses. As aid agencies distribute food, for example, they are encouraged to link up with other groups to develop school feeding programmes, which keep children in school, or to use food assistance as a stimulus to get communities to build roads. While the main focus is delivering food to the millions of food-insecure South Sudanese, these programmes can be “a springboard to address some of the underlying challenges,” Lanzer said.

Shrinking funding

It is easier to obtain money to respond to crises than funding for long-term development work, Lanzer noted. More than half of all official development assistance South Sudan receives is slated for humanitarian projects, he said.

And even that money might be drying up, according to Nick Helton, the coordinator for the South Sudan NGO Forum Secretariat.

South Sudan’s size and lack of physical infrastructure make it difficult for aid workers to reach some of the most remote communities. This contributes to the size of the country’s CAP, which is the second highest in the world behind Somalia’s. Helton says South Sudan is “seeing some fatigue in the donor community because of high operating costs.” So far, only 45 percent of this year’s CAP has been funded.

All of which makes the need for concurrent development work even more pressing: In their 2013 Humanitarian Implementation Plan, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) said the cost of providing assistance is unlikely to shrink without long-term development projects to reduce the scale of the country’s humanitarian need.

The concurrent humanitarian-development approach jibes with what South Sudanese want, Jok said. While international reports about South Sudan focus on food shortages and ethnic conflict, local and national governments, working with aid agencies, are actually making progress towards improving road networks and cell phone coverage. School enrolment has grown from 300,000 in 2005 to 1.8 million last year. People are working to improve their situations and begin rebuilding, Jok said. “We are a society that can weather these crises.”

These concurrent programmes must be implemented more broadly, according to Lanzer. “No one is suggesting” the country’s humanitarian needs will end within the next year or two, he said. “But it has to be on our radar screen.”

ag/rz/am source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Thousands of international leaders and advocates call for investments in women’s health and rights at Women Deliver 2013.

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga, Kenya
Today, more than 3,000 world leaders, policymakers and advocates representing over 150 countries  convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Women Deliver 2013, the decade’s largest meeting focused on girls’ and women’s health and rights.
The conference will  feature more than 100 sessions with talks by some of the world’s leading voices on girls’ and women’s issues, including Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chelsea Clinton, Board Member of the Clinton Foundation; Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Foundation (UNFPA); and Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
 
Malaysian Prime Minister Honorable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak led the opening ceremony on the first day of the meeting.
The Women Deliver 2013 conference will focus on themes including:
·         the economic and social benefits of investing in girls and women;
·         how to achieve the goal of reaching 120 million more women with voluntary family planning services by 2020; and
·         the need to place girls and women at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.
During the meeting, organizations such as the World Bank, the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization will release major new research and reports focused on the benefits of investing in girls and women.
“Women Deliver 2010 was critical in showing that investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the economy and good for society,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who gave opening remarks at Women Deliver 2010 and later that year launched the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. “Women Deliver 2013 will be an opportunity to keep up the pressure and to affirm our plans for the period ahead.”
Women Deliver 2013 takes place at a critical time, just days before the Secretary-General will receive recommendations for the post-2015 development framework. Conference speakers and attendees will call for action to ensure that girls and women are prioritized in the lead-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline and beyond.
  END.

 

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Libya now helping the Syrians with refuge

Posted by African Press International on May 28, 2013

MISRATA,  – Two years ago Syrians in the relative security of their own country watched the unfolding crisis in Libya descend into a devastating civil war. 

Since then the tables have turned, and many of those same families find themselves in Libya after fleeing the Syrian conflict, which has left an estimated 6.8 million people (around a third of the population) in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.Most of the Syrian community in Libya, estimated at around 110,000 by government officials, are believed to have arrived over the past 18 months after having fled the Syrian conflict.

Shavan, a Syrian ethnic Kurd, arrived in Libya in January. “Alone, I left Syria at the end of 2011 leaving my wife and my daughter. I was looking for a place to live far away from the hell of conflict,” Shevan said.

After what he says was a difficult year in Lebanon, where he struggled to pay his living costs, he went back into Syria to pick up his family and then left for Libya.

The flow of Syrians to Libya, while far lower than the numbers seen arriving in Syria’s neighbours, started almost as soon as the Libyan revolution ended in October 2011.

Some come by air from Lebanon or Turkey, but most have arrived by road, heading through Jordan and then across the Sinai to the Libyan-Egyptian border town of El Salloum (in Egypt).

In the initial stages, Syrians with a passport could enter without a visa, but the rules have been tightened since the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi in September 2012, after which only families, not single men, were allowed in.

Visa-less travel

From January this year, the coastal border crossing from El-Salloum to Musaid (Libya) has been closed to all non-Libyans without a visa, according to information from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Alongside this measure, the Libyan minister of interior invited his “Syrian brothers” who had previously entered the country without a visa, to register at any passport office to get a government letter confirming their asylum seeker status.

But it is still possible to get across the border without a visa. One Syrian who had recently entered Libya near El Salloum, and asked not to be named, told IRIN: “Smugglers charge US$500 to take Syrians across the border to Libya. I also saw some Syrian women who were using sex work to pay for their transit.”

“Suspicions about Syrian secret service infiltrations led the majority away from the operational centres managed by Syrian charities” Emmanuel Gignac, UNHCR Libya

Local NGOs in Libya run by Syrians were the first to provide relief, but many Syrian refugees have been reluctant to receive such aid.

“Suspicions about Syrian secret service infiltrations led the majority away from the operational centres managed by Syrian charities,” the head of the UNHCR in Libya, Emmanuel Gignac, told IRIN.

UNHCR registration

After an initial delay, UNHCR started formally registering Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in September 2012.

By the end of April 2013, around 8,000 Syrians were registered with UNHCR as asylum seekers, though because of UNHCR’s lack of a formal legal agreement with the government, the asylum seekers cannot advance to the agency’s refugee status determination (RSD) process.

The majority of Syrian asylum seekers in Libya are in the second city, Benghazi, due to its proximity to the Egyptian border.

Large Syrian communities are also in Tripoli, mainly in the Suq Al Jumua, Janzoor and Hasham areas, while ethnic Kurdish Syrians in the capital have established a base on the outskirts in Ben Ghashir.

Syrian charities provide support and some aid. “You can ask their help to register your kids in the local schools or to get medical assistance,” Bilal*, originally from the Syrian town of Hama, told IRIN.

The delivery of items such as blankets, mattresses and kitchen cooking sets is carried out regularly by Syrian organizations along with the Libyan organization Al Wafa and international agencies like UNHCR, the Danish Refugee Council and the Italian NGO CESVI.

Visiting UNHCR teams also assist the Syrians in Tripoli and Benghazi. The agency has opened a Centre for Community Development for vulnerable cases, and set up a hotline for Syrian asylum seekers.

The call centre receives around 40 phone calls a day – often appeals for medical or cash assistance, according to UNHCR associate RSD officer Valda Kelly.

The presence of Syrians in Benghazi has created some tension, and recently the city’s commission in charge of regulating foreign labour, immigrants and refugees called on the national government and congress to reduce the number of people coming into the country to avoid security, economic, political and social risks.

Why Libya?

Despite the distance from their home country, many Syrians cited a lower cost of living and greater job opportunities as the reason for travelling to Libya, rather than the more common Syrian refugee hubs like Jordan and Lebanon. Some also had spent time in Libya before the Arab Spring, when most foreign nationals were evacuated.

But living costs remain a challenge for many in the Syrian community: “I pay 600 dinars (US$465) a month for an apartment and I barely earn 900,” Ali who had fled from Duma, on the outskirts of Damascus, told IRIN. 

The poverty of many has given rise to practices seen elsewhere in the region: “Syrian women have been offering themselves as brides to the Libyans because they have no alternative for their survival,” said Mohamed, a Syrian refugee living in the coastal town of Misrata.

Other Syrians in Misrata confirmed this was happening. “In Benghazi Syrian girls are called `sheep’ for their low price. Even regular men already with one wife can afford a new young wife,” another Syrian told IRIN.

Shiite fears

Many Syrians told IRIN the Libyans had been welcoming. Ahmad, a Libyan civil engineer working for an Italian company in Misrata, told IRIN: “They are our brothers as they still suffer what we have experienced. They have every right to remain in Misrata.”

Local officials in Misrata told IRIN there are about 5,000 Syrian refugees in the town.

Misrata, known as a base for anti-Gaddafi militia activity, is awash with Gaddafi-era weapons, and locals say a blind eye is turned to Syrians buying the weapons for export.

Some local reports in Libya say former revolutionary fighters in Libya, particularly from Benghazi and Misrata, have been travelling in the opposite direction to join the anti-government forces in Syria.

Not everyone is welcoming though. “Because of my Kurdish name, I was threatened often at ordinary checkpoints because Libyans thought I was not a Sunni Syrian but a Shiite,” said Shavan.

Syria’s now two-year conflict began when people, largely of the Sunni majority, began protesting on masse against President Bashar al-Assad, of the minority Alawite sect (Shia), and has become increasingly sectarian as the violence has increased.

*not a real name

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

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