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Archive for May 4th, 2013

A long road ahead for justice in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted by African Press International on May 4, 2013

ABIDJAN,  – Wary of a backlash, Côte d’Ivoire’s government has hesitated to charge its own supporters of crimes committed during the 2010-2011 poll violence, something that has raised doubts about its commitment to impartial justice, say analysts. 

The government’s National Commission of Inquiry into the conflict has accused both the Côte d’Ivoire Republican Forces (FRCI – now part of the army) and fighters loyal to deposed president Laurent Gbagbo, of crimes. It said FRCI was responsible for 727 deaths while Gbagbo’s forces killed 1,452 people.

In June 2011, two months after taking power, President Alassane Ouattara set up the Special Inquiry Unit – a special court – to try violence suspects. Prosecutors have charged more than 150 Gbagbo supporters but just a handful from FRCI.

Analysts argue that this lack of even-handedness is due to Ouattara’s weak grip on the army which is largely made up of fighters who backed him during the poll chaos. Many of the fighters are also loyal to Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader and now the National Assembly president.

Christophe Kouamé, head of the Ivoirian Civil Society Convention, said the slow pace of justice was because “social divisions are so deep that the president is certainly wary of rekindling conflict.”

“The one-sided approach to accountability is likely due in part to the president’s still tenuous hold over the entire military,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in an April report.

“Pursuing justice may prove to be deeply unpopular, including among segments of the population who believe that the forces loyal to President Ouattara who committed serious crimes were justified in doing so,” it added.

Only recently did the government go after its loyalists. In April, the trial of 33 FRCI troops – charged with crimes against the population, including premeditated murder, voluntary and involuntary homicide and theft – opened before a military court in the commercial capital Abidjan. Two soldiers were handed prison sentences on 2 May.

Other moves against FRCI members seem likely following the April exhumation of bodies from 57 mass graves across Abidjan. Thirty-six of those graves, containing the bodies of people killed during the post-election violence, are in the city’s Yopougon District which was a Gbagbo stronghold.

FRCI has also been accused of atrocities in the west. In March, a judge tasked with investigating a July 2012 attack on a camp for the displaced in the west of the country visited the scene to identify mass graves. According to the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), there are 13 mass graves in 12 different sites containing the bodies of people who were summarily executed during the attack.

HRW West Africa researcher Matt Wells said the trial of the soldiers was “an important step forward in Côte d’Ivoire’s fight against impunity. But the Ivoirian authorities need to also pursue the more sensitive cases involving FRCI for which victims have seen no justice, particularly the grave crimes committed during the post-election crisis.”

A good start?

Observers and rights groups have urged the government to be even-handed in pursuing justice, to avert the threat of unrest. However, achieving equitable justice in Côte d’Ivoire is a long and difficult process, warned Kouamé.

“We should be realistic. Côte d’Ivoire has a long way to go. We are not going to change things in one or two years,” he told IRIN.

“The fact that the government is taking responsibility for the killings committed by the forces that supported it is a good thing. This is a good start.”

To attain fair justice, the government should target foot soldiers and low-level commanders in both the Ouattara and Gbagbo camps, and then work its way through the chain of command, Florent Geel of FIDH’s Africa bureau, told IRIN.

Such an approach would help “build the confidence of the victims in the system and also develop the experience and the expertise of the local judicial authorities to be able to go up the chain of command,” said Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at HRW.

“We are not asking for perfect justice immediately. Impatience will not help. But there is need for political will to move things forward, as well as concrete and visible proof that things are moving forward,” said Geel, stressing that the government “must demonstrate that people who committed crimes must be made accountable”.

However, another analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government should instead go after senior commanders in both camps.

“You can’t try every Tom, Dick and Harry,” said the analyst. “The authorities should target top and middle-level people and focus on people that were in a position of command, [involved in] policy-making and financing.”

Transitional justice

More than a decade of violence and instability has heightened impunity and weakened the justice system in Côte d’Ivoire. “Impunity and lack of justice have led many people to conclude that there is no solution other than taking up arms,” said Geel.

Justice Minister Gnenema Coulibaly recently told reporters that the government inherited a dysfunctional justice system and announced a broad plan to reform the sector by 2015.

“A transitional justice process is vital for any country recovering from a situation like Côte d’Ivoire’s to ensure guarantee of non-repetition,” said Mohamed Suma, head of the International Centre for Transitional Justice office in Côte d’Ivoire.

“The risk of not doing anything is too much for the country,” he told IRIN.

In the second half of 2012, Côte d’Ivoire was rocked by a series of attacks targeting army bases, police stations and other targets in Abidjan and elsewhere. The government blamed the deadly raids on Gbagbo supporters exiled in Ghana and Liberia, but they deny responsibility.

In March, at least 14 people were killed in a spate of attacks in the country’s volatile western region where long-standing land and ethnic disputes have repeatedly sparked violence.

Simone Gbagbo

Côte d’Ivoire handed over Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2011 for trial over crimes he allegedly committed during the post-election violence that claimed at least 3,000 lives, but it is yet to surrender Gbagbo’s wife, Simone, despite the court’s arrest warrant issued in November 2012. Simone Gbagbo is charged with crimes against humanity.

The government is concerned that Simone would be able to get in touch with former regime officials if she is out of its hands, a Western observer told IRIN on condition of anonymity.

“The authorities have two options: they can surrender Simone Gbagbo or challenge the admissibility of her case before the ICC. They have done neither,” said HRW’s Singh.

“It is okay to try her in Côte d’Ivoire if she can get a fair trial and if the ICC agrees that the national authorities have the ability to do so, but they have to respond.”

om/ob/cb source


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Climate change-resilient coffee in Uganda

Posted by African Press International on May 4, 2013

KAMPALA, 3- In Uganda, a new pilot project seeks to understand the threat climate change poses to coffee, which will enable growers to enhance the crop’s resilie nce to extreme weather events.

Coffee contributes about US$400 million of Uganda’s total annual export revenue, directly or indirectly employing at least two million people. But coffee production, like other export crops in Uganda, is mainly rain-fed, making it vulnerable to climate variability.

“The economy of Uganda remains largely dependent on a few agro-commodities (coffee, tea, cotton), predominantly rain-fed and grown by smallholders with limited external inputs, making the country highly sensitive to climate risks,” Julie Karami Dekens, the International Institute for Sustainable Development‘s (IISD) project manager for climate change and energy, told IRIN via email.

The six-month pilot project, which was launched on 5 April, is a collaboration between Uganda’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC), the local Makerere University and IISD.

The programme will explore climate vulnerabilities across the coffee value chain – the movement of coffee from farming to processing to marketing – with a view to expanding these assessments to other agricultural value chains. It reflects growing recognition that climate change will have far-reaching effects across the agricultural, administrative and economic sectors.

“Climate change is a multi-sector challenge, which calls for concerted efforts of not only the environment sector, but also the trade sector,” Norman Ojamuge, MTIC senior commercial officer, told IRIN.

Value chain development

According to a recent government briefing on the project, value chain development is crucial to the growth of agricultural commodities. But limited work has been done to understand the impact of climate risks along the levels of value chains. The project hopes to help bridge this gap.

A separate 2013 study, Climate Risk Management for Sustainable Crop Production in Uganda, noted: “There is a need to understand how climate risks are distributed and transmitted (or not) among all the stakeholders of value chains (not just at production level) to identify solutions that benefit all actors along the value chain and opportunities for investments.”

Incorporating climate change into agriculture will mean that “there will be a coherent and thorough integration of climate change adaptation and the associated disaster risk management agendas and structures. into sectoral and national strategies,” said Betty Namwagala, the executive director of the Uganda Coffee Federation.

Climate risks

Climate risks facing coffee production in Uganda include the increased prevalence of pests and diseases. For example, coffee leaf rust has been reported in many arabica coffee growing areas, with the black twig borer pest emerging as a threat in robusta coffee growing areas.

“If climatic events, such as exceedingly high temperatures, occur during sensitive periods of the life of the crop, for example during flowering or fruit setting, then yields will be adversely affected, and particularly if accompanied by reduced rainfall, thereby reducing incomes of all sector players”

There has also been a fluctuation in coffee production in Uganda over the past 40 years, a situation attributable to climate variability, reduced soil fertility and mismanagement, according to Uganda’s Coffee Development Authority (UCDA).

Droughts and floods are also challenges.

“Water stress in the dry season affects the physiological activity of the arabica plant, causing a reduction in photosynthesis,” explained Namwagala.

“Some farmers have lost their plantations and lives to landslides that are attributed to climate change. Areas that depend on rain-fed agriculture may sometimes require irrigation, and taking into consideration the nature of our producers, many have abandoned their farms since they cannot afford irrigation or access to sources of water that can support irrigation,” she added.

“If climatic events, such as exceedingly high temperatures, occur during sensitive periods of the life of the crop, for example during flowering or fruit setting, then yields will be adversely affected, and particularly if accompanied by reduced rainfall, thereby reducing incomes of all sector players,” she said.

David Mafabi, a coffee farmer in the eastern Uganda district of Mbale, said: “Coffee production depends on nature. We suffer if there is too much [rain] or drought. As a result of drought, coffee does not mature well, and the harvest will be disappointing.”

Climate change can affect links further up the value chain, as well.

“More frequent or intense extreme weather events may deteriorate infrastructure such as storage facilities and roads, leading to reductions in crop quality and limited access to markets,” said IISD’s Dekens.

Development planning

The management of these climate risks is key to development planning.

Uganda’s development strategy relies heavily on exports – including coffee – to achieve the country’s ‘Vision 2040’ national development plan that aims to transform the nation from a low-income country to a competitive upper-middle-income country with a per capita income of about $9,500.

At present, some of strategies being used to minimize the negative impacts of climate hazards on coffee production include the breeding and selection of more disease-resistant and drought-tolerant varieties. Through the UCDA, coffee farming is also being introduced into new areas, especially in northern Uganda, to boost production and to test potential growing locations.

Coffee farmers are also adopting best practices such as crop diversification, intercropping and agroforestry. Still, further support in managing climate risk is still needed.

According to IISD’s Dekens, “Further studies are required assess the economic impacts of climate hazard[s] on coffee production. It is difficult to differentiate the costs associated with the impacts of climate risk on coffee production from that of other factors, such as reduced soil fertility and mismanagement, which also contribute to reduce coffee production in Uganda.”

so/aw/rz  source


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Obama announces nominations: Secretary of Commerce and a US Trade Representative

Posted by African Press International on May 4, 2013

President Obama with Mike Froman and  Penny Pritzker in the Rose Garden, May 2, 2013.

 By Colleen Curtis, USA

President Barack Obama announces the nominations of Penny Pritzker as Secretary of Commerce, and Mike Froman as U.S. Trade Representative, in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama began a three day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica Friday, where he will meet with leaders to discuss ways the U.S. can deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America –- relationships that create jobs and growth here at home, and offer our businesses growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad.

Before he left the country, the President spoke in the Rose Garden and announced his intention to nominate two “outstanding individuals” to his Cabinet.

Penny Pritzker is President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Commerce. The President praised the Chicago businesswoman, who was a member of his Jobs Council. “Penny is one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders,” he said.

She’s got more than 25 years of management experience in industries including real estate, finance, and hospitality. She’s built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur. She knows that what we can do is to give every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs.

And Penny understands that just as great companies strengthen the community around them, strong communities and skilled workers also help companies thrive.

President Obama’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative, a Cabinet-level position, is Mike Froman, one of his top national security and economic advisors for several years. The President highlighted the work Froman has done organizing international trade summits. “He’s been a key negotiator alongside Ron Kirk on those trade agreements for South Korea, Colombia, and Panama, which support tens of thousands of American jobs,” said President Obama.

“He has won the respect of our trading partners around the world, the President continued. “He has also won a reputation as being an extraordinarily tough negotiator while doing it. He does not rest until he’s delivered the best possible deal for American businesses and American workers. He’s fought to make sure that countries that break the rules are held accountable.”

And Mike believes, just as I believe and just as Penny believes, that our workers are the most competitive in the world, so they deserve a level playing field. And Mike’s going to continue to fight for that level playing field in his new role, as he helps to move forward trade negotiations with both the Asia-Pacific region and Europe, and will also continue to advise me on a broad range of economic issues.

The President also thanked Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and outgoing U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for their service.



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