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Archive for May 5th, 2013

Is the Situation in Darfur Today “Alarming”?

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

  • by Eric Reeves

Khartoum’s deputy ambassador to Norway, Mr. Onour Ahmed Onour, dismisses my recent account of Darfur as “alarmist.” This would suggest that Mr. Onour sees no “alarming” facts to be reported, no soul-destroying accounts from Darfuris to be trusted, and no worrisome humanitarian reports of significance. I defer for the moment questions about the honesty of National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in its public statements—on conditions in Darfur and elsewhere—and focus simply on what has been very recently reported by the most authoritative sources to which the international community has ready access.

Displacement has been extremely high over the past year, exceeding a quarter of a million people. The UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), one of the best sources of news about Sudan, reported on April 19, 2013:

“An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced by Darfur’s decade-long conflict. A number of peace agreements – most recently the 2011 Doha Document for Peace in Darfur—have failed to halt the intermittent clashes between the government and rebel groups in the region…. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (http://tinyurl.com/cqp8rrz), more than 150,000 people were displaced by renewed violence in Darfur in the first three months of 2013.”

The displacement of 150,000 people in three months I regard as highly “alarming.” These civilians are in addition to the many tens of thousands who have been displaced in North Darfur, especially in Jebel Amer and the Hashaba region in the months following August 2012; they are also in addition to the very recent and accelerating displacement in various regions of South Darfur (Darfur’s most populous state), and there is yet further recent displacement into eastern Chad from West Darfur.

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

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

While reports from humanitarian organizations are regularly dismissed by Khartoum, MSF in particular has a reputation for scrupulous statistical accuracy. Such a refugee flow I find distinctly “alarming,” given the conditions into which these people are fleeing.

On the question of mortality in Darfur, the Khartoum regime continues to insist that “only” 10,000 people have died during the ten years of conflict in Darfur. According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED; Brussels, Belgium), the figure in late 2009 was approximately 300,000. This is also the figure promulgated by the UN, but the CRED report—while lacking key data on violent mortality—is a thoroughgoing professional estimate. (Olivier Degomme and Debarati Guha-Sapir in “Patterns of mortality rates in Darfur conflict,” The Lancet, January 23, 2010 (pages 294-300,http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961967-X/abstract )

I find a figure of 300,000 dead—overwhelmingly civilians from the African tribal populations of Darfur—”alarming” in the extreme. My own estimate—indebted to the CRED report but based in part on data available only subsequent to the appearance of the CRED report—is approximately 500,000.

Rape is reported by Radio Dabanga on a virtually daily basis; indeed, it is clear that an avalanche of sexual violence continues to sweep across Darfur, affecting women and girls of all ages. Khartoum has always denied the existence of rape in Darfur, and the regime’s record of non-prosecution is consistent with this view. But the epidemic was reported early on, in detail, by MSF-Holland; and for their labors, two senior officials of the organization were arrested by Khartoum (the offending report? “The Crushing Burden of Rape: Sexual Violence in Darfur,” MSF-Holland, March 2005). In March 2009, the French and Dutch sections of MSF were expelled on charges of “espionage.”

So how seriously are we to take Khartoum’s word, its denials, its various assertions? There are so very many statements that are demonstrably false that it’s difficult to know which to cull out. But the assertion that I am an “alarmist” over Darfur might be usefully judged against such claims as made by Khartoum following the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) bombing of Yida refugee camp in Unity State (South Sudan) in early November 2011; there could hardly be a better demonstration of the regime’s capacity for mendacity:

“Sudan Armed Forces spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad vehemently denied any links to the raid. ‘This information is completely false. We didn’t bomb any camps or any areas inside the borders of South Sudan,’ he told the AFP news agency. ‘What is going on in South Sudan belongs to the southerners. We don’t have any links to this.’” (Agence France-Presse, November 10, 2011)

Khartoum’s ambassador to the UN was equally mendacious:

“Sudanese Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told journalists after a Security Council meeting on the matter Friday that the reports were ‘fabrications’ and ‘there was no aerial bombardment.’” (Associated Press [UN/New York], November 11, 2011)

And yet the details of the bombing attack were fully confirmed. There were, in fact, several journalists present in Yida at the very time of the bombing, including those of the BBC and Reuters, as well as representatives of the nongovernmental humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, with a long history in Sudan. All confirmed that the refugee camp was hit by four bombs, one of which did not detonate: that bomb landed just outside a school where some 200 students were present. The UN High Commission for Refugees also condemned the bombing attack on Yida in unequivocal terms, on the basis of its own separate investigation (November 11, 2011).

How can we take seriously any claim by a regime capable of such outright lies? such demonstrable falsehood? And these lies have been countless, including about Darfur. The international community is well aware of this, but chooses expediently to ignore such outrageous behavior.

Certainly if we really want to know about conditions in Darfur we would do better to rely on Radio Dabanga—based in The Netherlands—which has established itself as a highly credible journalistic source, with an extraordinary number of contacts on the ground, including sheiks, omdas, nazirs, camp leaders, humanitarians, and rebel leaders. With able assistance from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), it has become without question our most reliable source of information about what is occurring on the ground in Darfur. Many of their recent headlines are deeply “alarming,” and any honest reckoning of Darfur’s realities must take these dispatches seriously. The following are just some of those that have appeared in the past week alone:

•2,200 families fleeing Sudan army, rebels battles arrive in camp
(KALMA CAMP, April 26, 2013)

•Deadly air strike ‘hits area south of Nyala’, South Darfur
(NYALA, 29 April 2013)

Camp residents protest against repeated attacks and lack of protection, N. Darfur
KABKABIYA (28 April 2013)

Militants rape and beat two women near Kabkabiya, N. Darfur
KABKABIYA (28 April 2013)

Camp market closed ‘indefinitely’ after attacks by militants, W. Darfur
SIRBA (28 April 2013)

‘Abu Tira’ forces loot displaced inside Central Darfur camp
BINDISI (25 Apr.)

300 people fleeing South Darfur’s battles ‘attacked’ by militias
NYALA (24 April 2013)

Militias ‘from Umm Dukhun’ loot police, citizens in Darfur
BINDISI (22 April 2013)

40%’ of Umm Dukhun’s population fled Sudan to Chad
UMM DUKHUN (24 April 2013)

‘Abu Tira’ forces shoot dead sheikh of Darfur camp
TAWILA (23 April 2013)

Two rape attempts in one day near North Darfur camp
KUTUM (22 April 2013)

10 West Darfur camps without food rations for 2 months
EL GENEINA (22 April 2013)

Pro-government militia ‘kill 18 civilians’ in Muhajeriya and Labado, East Darfur
MUHAJERIYA / LABADO (21 April 2013)

The tenor of these dispatches has not changed for several years, though their number is increasing; and this is what should “alarm” anyone who truly cares about the people of Darfur. My own most recent and detailed account, using the reports of Radio Dabanga and a wide range of other credible sources, can be found at: http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=3838. Yes, Mr. Onour, my “alarm” could not be greater.

 

 

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Norwegian Hege Grostad 27 years old who sells sex to finance her studies says it is not prostitution

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

Sex-purchase law has made the situation of sex workers in Norway much worse than it should be. Girls are chased from hotel to hotel, and pursued by the police even if they are not doing anything illegal. Ms Hege who says she is an escort girl wants the law against selling of sex and pimping to be repealed.

She has argued her point in the social media now for quite sometime.

Ms Hege spoke to a Norwegian daily news VG where she admits that there are many different fates in the prostitution market but believes that the hope among sex workers is the same: Requires respect., adding that there is no need to criminalize prostitution because those who are determined to see sex will still manage to do so.

She says by coming out openly, she is helping others in the same situation as herself.

 

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Mozambique’s first HIV vaccine trial underway

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

African Press International (API)


HIV vaccine trial underway

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

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

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

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

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

African Press International (API)

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

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According to the Deputy ambassador the relationship between his country Sudan and the government of South Sudan has improved of late. His government with the help of former South African PresidentThabo Mbeki has initiated talks now taking place in Addis Ababa between the…

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MISA REGIONAL STATEMENT ON WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

Posted by African Press International on May 5, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) is deeply concerned about the rate at which media freedom and freedom of expression violations are occurring within the southern African region.

“We are particularly concerned that some of these violations have resulted in the death of journalists and others have resulted in severe body and psychological injuries,” MISA states.

In this regard, our hearts go out to the families of Daudi Mwangosi and Issa Ngumba, who lost these two journalists in September 2012 and January 2013 respectively. “We know they are missed. Our hearts also go out to many other African and global journalists whose blood has been spilt because somebody somewhere did not understand or chose to disrespect the sacrosanct duty of a journalist in society,” MISA reveals.

Indeed, we carry in our thoughts many other journalists who have suffered injuries in the course of doing their work. Absalom Kibanda, a senior Tanzanian editor who was brutally attacked outside his Dar-es-Salaam home in March this year is but one of them.

The editor was attacked as he returned from work. His attackers, who are said to have been wielding guns, pulled him out of his vehicle and brutally assaulted him severely, leaving him unconscious. Kibanda had some of his teeth and nails plucked out and his left eye was pierced with a sharp object. He eventually lost the eye and has now been given an artificial eye.

Speaking with MISA ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Kibanda, who is recovering as an out-patient in Johannesburg, was in high spirits and showed tremendous signs of recovery, given the circumstances under which he was left by his attackers.

It is this kind of resilience that inspires us to work even harder in defending media freedom and freedom of expression within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and, by extension, across the rest of the world.

The Union is energized by the many journalists, editors and media practitioners who continue to speak truth to power, putting their lives under considerable risk but unashamed spurred by the convictions of truth, fairness and accuracy.

In light of these developments MISA supports the United Nations (UN) Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Research shows that a staggering number of journalists and media workers have been killed while performing their professional duties. It is reported that in nine out of ten cases, the perpetrators of these crimes are never prosecuted.

Impunity, which may be understood as the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice, perpetuates the cycle of violence against journalists and must be addressed.

As we commemorate this day, World Press Freedom Day, MISA is proud to have an association with journalists, editors, media practitioners and free expression activists who understand both their rights and responsibilities in society.

We continue to encourage adherence to codes of ethics and to the maintenance of high standards of reporting, which is what those who consume our products and services expect, edition after edition.

However, these expectations cannot be fully met if the environment within which the practice of journalism must occur is unsafe or is being deliberately made hostile to media freedom and freedom of expression.

In this regard, we call upon relevant stakeholders, including governments, law-enforcement agencies, policymakers and the public at large, to account for the critical importance of the media’s role in society whenever designing interventions.

MISA is taken aback by cases of governments which fail to necessitate an enabling environment for media freedom and freedom of expression to thrive. We are taken aback by law enforcement agencies who allow themselves to be put in the pockets of powerful political or commercial interests for purposes of stifling media freedom and freedom of expression.

Some members of the public who are reluctant to appreciate the role of media in society, especially during protest actions, also take us aback as we experienced in South Africa at the beginning of this year.

As such, the safety of journalists in society is a collective matter. Hence, MISA will continue to build alliances and support efforts towards securing a safe environment for journalists, media practitioners and free expression activists.

 

 

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