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Archive for June, 2013

Bridging the gap between relief and development

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013


Sustainable interventions

GOMA,  – Every year, for nearly two decades, the humanitarian community has responded to large-scale and complex crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This year, on the assumption that the crises are likely to continue, donors have agreed to fund longer-term and more flexible humanitarian projects in DRC.

For the first time, a common humanitarian fund (CHF) administered by the UN in Kinshasa will be financing projects of up to 24 months’ duration, instead of the current 12-month limit.

A review of the project proposals should be finalized in July; this year, the CHF hopes to receive US$70 million for multi-year funding (out of an $893 million humanitarian appeal for the country).

Multi-year funding is an innovation for the humanitarian system, said Gemma Cortes, interim head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) financing unit in Kinshasa.

“We’re initiating this in the Congo,” she told IRIN. “There’s been a big discussion about this for years here. Now, the great challenge will be to link all the projects to development projects.”

Advantages 

OCHA says these “transitional” projects “will address recurrent humanitarian needs that require sustainable interventions of a kind that help[s] build community resilience” and will “reduce the number of short-term emergency actions that respond more to symptoms than to causes”.

Other projects funded with the $70 million “will reinforce emergency response capability” and “help build national NGOs’ capacity”. OCHA also foresees better data collection and monitoring, and well as costs savings.

“It should help to save costs on, for example, transport, recruitment, training and assimilation [of knowledge],” Cortes says.

The CHF is also considering streamlining programmes. For example, it could fund two organizations to do the kind of work done previously by eight separate, shorter projects.

Cortes sees a trend in project proposals towards greater promotion of agriculture and livelihoods, as well more durable solutions to water and hygiene needs.

“Agriculture is one of the sectors where the envelope has increased the most. Agencies and NGOs can now go beyond emergency activities to reinforcing capacities, introducing different agricultural and food-processing techniques, doing market studies and training cooperatives. We have also received a lot of proposals for buying and distributing goats, sheep and rabbits.”

She estimates that around 15 percent of the multi-year funding might go to agricultural projects and 30 percent to livelihoods projects, although the final allocation has yet to be decided.

“It’s been very well received by aid workers, NGOs and by local communities. It was something lacking before. Each time we came and did the same thing, and they wanted something more lasting.”

Olivia Kalis, protection and advocacy manager for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Goma, eastern DRC, agrees but suggests there is still debate over what is “more lasting”.

“If we have short-term cycles only, people end up doing the same things, so it’s very good that the CHF is now offering 24-month cycles. But a lot more work needs to be done to understand what resilience means in this context,” Kalis said

Resilience

As the concept of resilience has been mainstreamed in aid agency circles, its definition has broadened.

Christophe Béné, a research fellow at the UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS), spoke at a recent IDS seminar about how the term has evolved. “Initially,” he said, “resilience was simply about the capacity for recovery and bouncing back. And now, with time passing, we have got more and more people saying resilience is about learning and adapting. Recently, now, we have got anticipating and preventing [crises].”

Incorporating all of these meanings, a recent definition from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said resilience is “the ability to avoid disasters and crises or to anticipate, absorb, adapt to and recover from risks… in a timely and efficient manner”.

The UN World Food Programme’s coordinator in eastern DRC, Wolfram Herfurth, says resilience basically means self-reliance, and he suggests a practical way to ensure vulnerable communities are self-reliant.

“Let’s not make this a rocket science. We have to provide simple, palatable livelihood options for people in camps. Since we know that about 85 percent of these displaced people are farmers, it’s logical – we’re looking at the closest solution – to provide farmers with tools and seeds so they can produce their own food and no longer need free handouts,” he said.

“That is the fundamental approach. But the biggest obstacle is that, where the displaced people are now, there’s mostly no free land available.”

To this end, Herfurth proposes that agreements be struck with landowners to allocate land, either long-term or temporarily, to the displaced, who would then be assisted with seeds, tools and food aid until their first harvest.

Several initiatives in North Kivu are aiming to help the displaced gain access to land, either their own (many displaced people return home to find their land occupied) or land where they have found refuge. The CHF has a brief to support these initiatives.

Still, land is a delicate issue; NRC and UN Habitat have the biggest land dispute mediation programmes in DRC, but there are strict limits to what they can achieve, says NRC’s Kalis.

“The scale [of mediation] is very small in comparison with the problem. A lot of these disputes are over just a few metres of land. Once the military are involved, our commissions [local committees set up by NRC] can’t deal with that – it’s too dangerous,” he said.

Large tracts of land in the Kivus are owned by senior army officers.

“We need to talk about political solutions [to the land problem],” says Kalis. “Donors need to push for these things.”

Settling 

Helping displaced people farm is not the only resilience-building activity aid workers are proposing.

IRIN also interviewed the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Oxfam, NRC and Catholic Relief Services and found a wide range of resilience activities proposed, notably information campaigns to help the displaced secure their rights and access aid, and the construction of more durable facilities to help them integrate with host communities.

UNICEF emphasized project proposals to build more durable classrooms and sanitation systems. NRC spoke of its work helping displaced children enrol in schools. Oxfam said it was planning to extend water systems and sanitation in host community areas.

Improving living conditions for IDPs

The emphasis on host communities is essential, aid workers say, because most aid has been focused on camps even though most displaced people live with host families and will often settle in those communities.

“Many of the displaced are highly unlikely to go home,” said Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s coordinator in North Kivu. “If you look at the history of Goma, many camps have been transformed into neighbourhoods – we find it quite negative that the state is still bulldozing camps.”

“If we see a willingness by the state to give the displaced residency rights, we could start to provide schooling, health centres, etc. But the government is resisting this,” he said.

There is also a trend towards focusing on more urban areas. In peri-urban areas where the state does not own land, it may need to deal with landowners to ensure displaced people can find homes, Riebl said.

Focusing aid on more easily accessible areas rather than trying to reach remote villages is also pragmatic, he points out.

“The support costs of trying to run projects in an area like Walikale [one of North Kivu’s more remote territories] are enormous. No one is going to pay for all the land cruisers. Donors are looking for value for money.”

Security is also a serious concern for projects in rural areas. A worker with FAO told a recent journalists’ seminar in Goma that agricultural project workers could not do anything if there was not security.

More business surveys will be needed to help guide the displaced towards viable livelihoods, in either urban or rural areas, Herfurth told IRIN.

“We need more development experts,” he said. “Maybe the number of relief workers here should shrink and the number of economists and agricultural engineers should increase,” he said.

“But we also need to change the chemistry between the humanitarians and the DRC government to agree that – given there’s more stability and peace – we focus on more durable interventions.

“Certainly the humanitarians themselves cannot easily do this alone. They need decisions by the government and coordination at village and provincial level. Different political levels need to play together.”

nl/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Despair at a migrant dead-end in Yemen

Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2013

Ethiopian teenage migrants taking part in a voluntarily programme to return home

HARADH,  – In temperatures in the high forties around 1,000 Ethiopian migrants, sweating profusely, turn their backs to Saudi Arabia and start the walk south – away from the Yemeni border town of Haradh and their dreams of a new life.

On the road they silently pass others heading north, still hopeful of crossing the border.

Haradh is at the crossroads of these dreams – a potential gateway to a new life in Saudi Arabia, but getting there is becoming increasingly difficult.

To get here, the migrants have endured considerable hardship; often taking on debt to fund the journey, walking for weeks to get to the East African coast and then crossing the shark-infested Red Sea.

Thousands get picked up by smugglers in Yemen who kidnap and torture them to extract ransom money.

Then, they reach what for many is the end of the road and their hopes: a dusty poverty-stricken town, 10km from an increasingly impenetrable Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money”, Fatwa Abdok, psychiatrist, MSF

“There’s a general feeling of depression. They come with dreams. Some just keep trying – they owe so much money,” Fatwa Abdok, a psychiatrist working with Médecins Sans Frontières in Haradh, told IRIN.

She describes hearing testimonies of “torture you can never imagine” from those held captive by smugglers.

“Some of them are completely destroyed. Some get consumed just coping with it. It all depends on the strength of the person. Some recover when they have food and a place to sleep. Ethiopians are strong people, but some go crazy,” she said.

The numbers of arrivals in Yemen from the Horn of Africa in the last three years has doubled – from 53,382 in 2010 to a record 107,532 in 2012.

Ethiopians make up the majority of arrivals – up from 64 percent in 2010 to 78 percent last year.

The fence

“The Saudis have cracked down. The border’s not closed but it’s more difficult to get in,” said one aid worker who asked not to be named.

“You see the migrants on the road and they’re stuck. They trudge up to the border from Haradh. It’s an awful place. There’s nothing there. They trudge up to the border and they come back and they’re stuck.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced plans to resume construction of a 3m-high fence along its 1,800km border with Yemen.

Work on the controversial project initially started in 2003, but was suspended a year later. In 2008 a fence was put up along the coastal area around Haradh where much of the cross-border smuggling of people, drugs and weapons is concentrated.

In addition to the fence, Saudi Arabia has also cleared the border areas of settlements and uses floodlights and thermal detection cameras to try to stop the often heavily-armed smugglers.

Growing crisis

These restrictions have led to a build-up of pressure in Haradh and the surrounding Hajjah Governorate, where poverty is widespread.

The governorate, which depends on economic ties with Saudi Arabia, already supports more than a 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled neighbouring Sa’dah Governorate after the 2004 Houthi uprising and subsequent conflicts.

Some of the IDP families at the al-Mazraq IDP camps a short drive from Haradh rely on breadwinners in Saudi Arabia, but residents complain that the border restrictions have pushed them into poverty.

“We used to work in construction in Saudi, but now because of the fence, lots of Yemenis have been jailed there. Now there are video cameras and machine guns stopping us getting across,” said one camp resident, Saleh Hassan.

Recent changes to Saudi labour laws have also threatened tens of thousands of Yemenis with expulsion, which would further add to the country’s economic difficulties two years after the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

Press reports quoted government officials this week saying 53,000 Yemenis had been deported from Saudi Arabia since the beginning of June, and tens of thousands more are expected in the coming days.

Women migrants at the IOM centre in Haradh

Community leaders in Haradh say the new restrictions have led to a significant decrease in economic activity, making it more and more difficult for the town to support the tens of thousands of African migrants.

“We are afraid for the migrants because of the torture they often suffer, and also of them. Now with the fence up, they are creating more problems,” the head of the local council in Haradh, Sheik Hamoud Haidar, told IRIN.

“We are afraid of them because they are hungry. A hungry man is an angry man.”

Around 2,000 migrants have also been freed around Haradh in recent months following army raids on smuggling yards to free them from captivity. Deportations from Saudi Arabia also push African migrants back into Haradh – an estimated 40 percent of the 3,000 migrants using the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Migrant Response Centre in Haradh have come from Saudi Arabia.

“It is clear that it is the right of any country to close its borders to clandestine operations. Having said that, we are today faced with 25,000 people who are trapped in the border,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

“Every time there is a military operation, we discover another 500 or 700 who have been in this or that camp controlled by human traffickers and abusers. So the number is only increasing – 25,000 is something that Yemen today cannot absorb.”

Repatriation

The increase in demand for migrant services in Haradh this year came at just the wrong time for the supply of humanitarian relief services, which face cutbacks due to funding shortfalls.

IOM suspended large-scale repatriation flights in September 2012, and the World Food Programme’s provision of hot meals to around 3,000 migrants at the IOM centre was scaled back temporarily in January by 90 percent, though these have now been restored.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with NGO InterSOS and the Yemeni government in supporting a Child Protection Centre in Haradh, where IRIN met 50 Ethiopian children getting ready to fly back home.

“We were beaten, tortured and scarred by armed gunmen when we arrived in Yemen. We escaped and made it into Saudi Arabia, but we were caught,” said Saed Oumar Youssouf, 16.

“After a night in jail, and 12 nights elsewhere, we were shipped back to Yemen.”

All the children said they were looking forward to returning to Ethiopia. Preliminary registration for repatriation at the IOM centre in Haradh restarted at the end of May, and since early June 633 migrants have voluntarily returned on IOM-organised flights to Ethiopia, with places given as a priority to the most vulnerable.

Health

IOM’s operations in Haradh are focused on the Migrant Response Centre set up in October 2010. It has voluntarily repatriated nearly 10,000 migrants since then, and treated 52,000 at the health centre, where they deal with 100-150 cases per day depending on the season.

New arrivals in Yemen
Year Total arrivals Ethiopians
2010  53,382 34,422
2011  103,154 75,651
2012  107,532 84,376
2013* 42,137 35,240
*up to 31 May                                                Source:UNHCR

“The numbers are just growing. Many of the cases we see are infectious diseases and diarrhoea; their immunity is very weak due to malnutrition,” said IOM’s doctor at the centre, Fadl Mansour Ali.

He said a large number of patients had malaria and other parasite infections, and also depression and anxiety.

Not everyone recovers. The morgue in Haradh has room for 17 bodies, but has been keeping around 50, almost all unclaimed bodies of dead migrants. The electricity supply is unreliable and the single generator repeatedly breaks down creating a terrible smell.

Korom Asmro Noqassa from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia shares a bed with another patient inside the small cabin that forms the main part of the IOM clinic.

After four months in Haradh, he says he is ready to go home. “I wanted to go back as soon as I realized it was so hard to get across; back home maybe I can find a job and support my family. Most here want to go back home now,” he said.

“I’m going to tell people my own story. Smugglers cost money and aren’t reliable. But it’s very hard for people to say that they have failed.”

Changing perceptions

There is broad recognition that tackling the migration at source can really help reduce the suffering.

“IOM is talking about flying back 500 but by that time there will be another 2,000 here,” said Haradh local council chief Sheik Haidar.

“I’m willing to go to Ethiopia and Djibouti to explain how challenging migration is because the picture there now is that you can go to Saudi, [and you can get] thousands of dollars and dream jobs,” he added.

Conversations with migrants in Haradh suggest many think it will be socially difficult to explain their lack of success, and that means thousands continue to cross into Yemen with little appreciation of the risks and difficulties.

“The problem is that somehow at the origin people are not receiving the information. They are still thinking that this is an El Dorado and it will change their lives,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

“The reality is that the border is now totally fenced or closed and the camps that are receiving them in Yemen are completely overwhelmed, so it’s a dramatic situation.”

He says part of a solution would be a regional conference between the concerned countries including Yemen, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia among others.

“It’s a case that has to be addressed with a sub-regional approach. The point is simply to say that it goes beyond the possible effort of the government of Yemen and the possible financial means and capacity of Yemen.”

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

 

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Afro-Cuban All Stars accompanied by the stunning voice of Solveig Kringlebotn, one of Norway’s leading opera singers, delivers magnificent performance at the Arts Festival of North Norway

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

Catching a glimpse of Cuban music in the future, and enjoying the historic lines in the latin rhythms was to the satisfaction of the audience that filled the hall to capacity Friday 28th June 2013 at 18.00 hours Norwegian time, when Afro-Cuban All Stars performed during the  Arts Festival of North Norway. Accompanied by the stunning voice of Solveig Kringlebotn, this was a unique and memorable event!

Listen to Afro-Cuban All Stars concert at the Arts Festival Of North Norway 2013 in AUDIO by clicking on the link below:

www.africanpress.me/ – Afro-Cuban All Stars accompanied by the stunning voice of Solveig Kringlebotn, one of Norway’s foremost opera singers, delivers a magnificent performance at the Arts Festival of North Norway 2013

Afro-Cuban All Stars lay the basis for the hugely successful Buena Vista Social Club, which many will remember from the film and record releases.

Several of the members of Buena Vista made the trip to Harstad and this concert during this season.

Afro-Cuban All Stars consist of the most talented and skilled musicians in Cuban music, but during recent years they have also added new, younger talents to the project, so that the music gives a reliable indication of what Cuban music has to offer in the future.
Solveig Kringlebotn is well-known in Norway as one of Norway’s leading opera singers, but her repertoire stretches far beyond that. This concert wat the Arts Festival of Norway was a good proof!

The Audience at the cultural hall in Harstad got what they expected for their money
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3rd annual Iberoamerican week of International Justice and Human Rights to open in The Hague on 8 July 2013

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

On Monday, 8 July 2013, at 09:00, the 3rd annual Iberoamerican Week of International Justice and Human Rights will kick off with an Opening Ceremony at The Hague University’s main auditorium, with speeches by Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, President of the Assembly of States Parties, and Mr Herman von Hebel, Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC), among others.  

The week of events, organised by the International Criminal Court and the Iberoamerican Institute for Peace, Human Rights and International Justice (IIH), is held annually to bring together students and experts from the Iberoamerican region and practitioners in The Hague. This year’s activities are supported by the Embassies of Argentina, Ecuador and Mexico.

From 8 to 12 July, a number of events and activities will take place throughout The Hague to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of international law and human rights. Experts and interested members of the public are welcome to participate.

The week’s activities will conclude on 12 July 2013 with the final round of the ICC Trial Competition 2013 – Spanish version, starting at 09:30 in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court. The top three universities from the regional competitions will compete on a fictional case in an open session of Court. The competition is open to the public and will also be webstreamed live on the ICC website (www.icc-cpi.int). ICC Trial Competitions play a critical role in galvanising interest in the Court’s work with academic communities and enhancing global respect for international criminal law.

 

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source ICC

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JSO INTERVIEW, with PIUS NYAMORA, PART 1 and 2: Kenyan man’s spirited struggle for democracy and freedom of speech

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

A JSO interview with Pius Nyamora, a Kenyan journalist who, with the help of the US embassy in Kenya, managed to escape from Kenya to the United States during the time Kenyans were struggling for democracy and freedom of speech.

Part 1:

Part 2:

This is a touching story of a man who had it all, lost it all and recovered – but had to live far away from his home country Kenya.

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Malaria-causing mosquitos are increasingly gaining resistance to insecticides

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

Photo: Wikipedia
Malaria-causing mosquitos are increasingly gaining resistance to insecticides

KISUMU,  – A new interactive online mapping tool will help track insecticide resistance (IR) in malaria-causing mosquitoes.

The tool, the IR Mapper, “consolidates reports of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors onto filterable maps to inform vector-control strategies”. Data consolidation for the programme was conducted by the Swiss company Vestergaard Frandsen and a partnership between the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KEMRI/CDC). The map interface was developed by ESRI Eastern Africa.

The system, which was launched in April, allows users to view new data from tests on insecticide susceptibility and resistance mechanisms, and to retrieve existing published data, including historic information from as far back as 1952. These data can be used to generate tailored maps from 51 countries.

“IR Mapper is a tool used to view results from insecticide studies (WHO susceptibility tests) using malaria mosquitoes collected from sites throughout the world,” Willis Akhlwale, head of disease control at the Kenya’s Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, told IRIN. “It can also be used to view results from investigations of insecticide-resistance mechanisms (molecular and biochemical assays) in malaria mosquitoes collected from the same or different sites.”

The data on the interactive site is extracted from scientific articles and reports and from IRBase, an existing database dedicated to storing data on the occurrence of insecticide resistance in mosquito populations worldwide.

According to Akhlwale, the tool will help inform policy on malaria vector-control strategies: “Although the site is accessible to all, most users are likely to be decision-makers for mosquito-control strategies and policies, research scientists, and those involved in vector-control product development.”

IR a serious threat

Current malaria-control mechanisms are heavily reliant on insecticide-based interventions. These include indoor residual sprays and the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

In 2012, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) launched a strategic planto help fight insecticide resistance in malaria vectors.

WHO estimated that the world might see 26 million more new cases of malaria if insecticide resistance was not adequately dealt with.

According to WHO, insecticide resistance is widespread and is reported in nearly “two-thirds of countries with ongoing malaria transmission. It affects all major vector species and all classes of insecticides.”

WHO’s strategic plan said: “Current monitoring of insecticide resistance is inadequate and inconsistent in most settings in which vector control interventions are used.”

Malaria, a preventable and treatable infectious disease, remains one of the world’s biggest killers. There are an estimated 219 million malaria infections and 660,000 deaths annually; many of the fatalities occur in children under five years old.

ho/ko/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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The unfolding impact of extreme climate variability ‘is just a sample of the catastrophe

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

By Jaspreet Kindra 

A hot meal for the people displaced by floods in India’s Uttarakhand state

JOHANNESBURG,  – The floods in India’s Uttarakhand State, which may have claimed as many as 5,000 lives, were prompted by an unusually high amount of rainfall. The disaster, possibly the largest so far this year, underscores what is at stake in the UN’s upcoming climate talks in Warsaw, Poland.

“We do know that in warmer climate situations, we expect the atmosphere to be able to hold more moisture, and therefore that heavy rainfall events will become more common in the future,” said Andrew Turner, a monsoon expert with the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading.

The extreme event also puts a spotlight on loss and damage caused by climate change and the need for resources for help poor countries adapt – issues to be negotiated at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held from 11 to 22 November. Discussions on these matters have been moving slowly; some important related issues were not even raised at the recently concluded talks in Bonn.

Harjeet Singh, ActionAid‘s international coordinator for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation, said the unfolding impact of extreme climate variability “is just a sample of the catastrophe our children will witness if we do not dramatically reduce emissions and prepare to deal with it.”

IRIN has asked experts from NGOs and governments what they would like to see happen in Warsaw and what they believe is realistically possible.

Major deals

The upcoming talks will be considering two major deals: first, a new global regime for 2020 and onwards to curb the emission of harmful greenhouse gases and help poor countries adapt to climate change – this should be ready by the 2015 UN climate talks to be held in Paris – and, second, a pre-2020 deal to reduce emissions.

“The unfolding impact of extreme climate variability ‘is just a sample of the catastrophe our children will witness if we do not dramatically reduce emissions and prepare to deal with it'”

The current legal instrument to reduce harmful emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, has been extended to 2020. But the International Energy Agency warned this monththat the world is not on track to meet its goal of limiting the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century. An increase of over 2 degrees would be catastrophic, leading to a rise in sea levels and threatening the existence of small island states and low-lying countries.

The experts IRIN consulted identified three key issues they want to see addressed: Loss and damage, funding for adaptation, and preventing forest loss.

Loss and damage mechanism

When poor countries walked away from the 2012 climate change talks in Doha, it seemed possible that a mechanism addressing climate change-related loss and damage could be formalized in the upcoming Warsaw talks. The mechanism would open the door for poor countries to receive compensation should they experience loss and damage from climate change.

What should happen

Saleemul Huq, lead author of the chapter on adaptation in the fourth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he would like to see the adoption of the proposed “Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage”. He says countries need not work out the details, but rather they should accept the skeleton of a mechanism in Poland.

This sort of arrangement has worked in the past. A green climate fund was accepted in principle, as were discussions around adaptation, in previous climate change meetings; both these elements were fleshed out in subsequent meetings and have a permanent place in the main negotiation text of the talks.

Joe Aitaro, a negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States representing the Pacific island of Palau, says he would like to see the mechanism agreed upon and operationalized.

What is likely to happen

Aitaro and Huq are pessimistic about the issue moving forward in Warsaw.

But ActionAid’s Singh, Germanwatch’s climate policy advisor Sönke Kreft and Asad Rehman, international climate head at Friends of the Earth, are more hopeful. A stalemate on a procedural issue stalled talks around loss and damage in Bonn, Kreft said, but he expected the issue will find a permanent home under the UNFCCC in Warsaw. At the moment, he said it was unclear where the issue will be placed under the new regime.

Singh says that, despite the glitches in Bonn, “negotiators worked informally to detail out functions and modalities of the international mechanism, which is a step in the right direction.”

Rehman says, it might require Poland, as the host of the talks, to provide “extra political space as necessary to reach the agreement” on the mechanism.

Funding for adaptation

In 2009, developed countries promised to provide US$30 billion by 2012 to help poor countries adapt to climate change. They also promised to provide $100 billion a year from 2020 onwards. Developed countries reported in Doha that they had reached the $30 billion target, but this was disputed by academics and civil society.

What should happen

Rich countries should make clearer commitments about how they intend to scale-up their funding until 2020, said Sven Harmeling, the lead on climate change policy at Germanwatch. Countries should also make a commitment of $150 million to the Adaptation Fund set up under the UNFCCC, he said.

Current amounts pledged by rich countries are considered much lower than what is required. The UNFCCC has estimated that by 2030, poor countries will need between $28 billion and $59 billion a year to adapt. The World Bank thinks between $20 billion and $100 billion should help.

Heavy rains in India – an unusual event
The heavy rainfall which prompted massive floods in Uttarakhand State were caused by an unusual interaction between the westerly jet stream and the monsoon- laden easterly winds, according to Andrew Turner, a climatologist with the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading.

“The jet stream snakes across the northern (and southern) hemisphere and meanders north and south. Sometimes the jet stream gets stuck in one position, and this can cause extreme heat and drought in some regions and heavy rainfall in others,” according to the Walker Institute website.

“This appears to have led to much more intensive rainfall than usual, as it interacts with the moist surface flow from the Indian Ocean,” Turner told IRIN.

A similar situation occurred in Pakistan in 2010, leading to some of the most devastating floods in recent memory. Such events may be increasing in frequency.

The monsoons in India also arrived a month earlier than usual, Turner told IRIN. “In northern India, the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand had received between three and four times as much rainfall as normal in the 1-22 June period, and Uttarakhand in particular received almost 10 times as much rainfall as normal in the week 13-19 June,” he said.

The Adaptation Fund says that over the past two years, it has given out more than $180 million to increase climate resilience in 28 countries around the world. Two other funds under the UNFCCC – the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) – recently said they have received a combined $198 million in new pledges, bringing total international commitments to more than $1 billion.

What is likely to happen

Harmeling is pessimistic. He says developed countries are unlikely to make clearer commitments; the global economic downturn has made countries tighten their purse strings.

REDD+

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is a UNFCCC programme to prevent the increase of greenhouse gases through deforestation; its successor, REDD+, additionally aims to reverse forest loss. REDD+ is currently designed to provide financial incentives for forest preservation, attaching a monetary value to carbon captured by forests, but questions over funding have stalled its implementation.

Some of the sticking issues have included the rights of indigenous forest communities and the protection of biodiversity, conditions, or “safeguards”, that counties were required to meet to qualify for REDD+ funding. No policies have yet been developed to implement these safeguards. There have also been questions about monitoring and addressing drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. In particular, activists want to know when and how often information will be presented about the safeguards’ implementation.

What should happen

Vera Coelho of Wetlands International says the organization wants both developed and developing countries to report back on actions to reduce deforestation and peatland degradation.

Rosalind Reeve of the REDD+ Safeguards Working Group (R-SWG), an alliance of NGOs, would like more clarity about the safeguards.

What is likely to happen

Reeve says some developments in Bonn were encouraging, as countries were asked to provide “submissions on lessons learned and challenges with developing safeguards’ information systems, since this will enable the improvement of systems.” She said the outcome on the timing and frequency of when information will be provided “to demonstrate that safeguards are being addressed and respected is disappointing.”

Donald Lehr, spokesperson for R-SWG, says the current negotiation text for Warsaw, as” currently formulated, causes a problem for indigenous peoples, since it implies they are causing deforestation and forest degradation as opposed to be being good stewards of the forest whose traditional practices need to be recognized”.

He continued, “Several countries, including the Philippines, Tuvalu and Australia for the Umbrella Group [an informal coalition of non-EU developed countries] expressed concern about the ‘drivers’ language, so we expect that it and text on safeguards reporting will be negotiated further in Warsaw.”

jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Settling in for the long haul: PTP camp in eastern Liberia, home to 12,000 Ivoirian refugees

Posted by African Press International on June 28, 2013

PTP camp in eastern Liberia, home to 12,000 Ivoirian refugees

ZWEDRU, 25 June 2013 (IRIN) – Though Côte d’Ivoire has officially been at peace for over two years, many of the nearly 60,000 refugees who remain in Liberia are settling in for the long haul, citing continuing instability, violence and fear of political persecution in their home country. Indeed, two years after the end of the conflict, camps like PTP, near Zwedru in eastern Liberia, are still growing.

At 3am on the 21 March 2011 rebel fighters affiliated with the current Ivoirian president, Alassane Ouattara, overran the town of Blolequin in western Côte d’Ivoire. Among the thousands who fled in the early hours of the morning, most with little more than the clothes they were wearing, was Gibao Jerome. His younger brother was killed during the escape as he and his family trekked for two weeks through the forest to become refugees in eastern Liberia. Two years on, they have no intention of returning home.

“This is my house, number B3-1,” said Gibao, gesturing to a small structure of mud, sticks and tarpaulin in the monotonous grid of PTP camp (formerly the Prime Timber Production company). Once a simple white tent provided by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Gibao’s house is slowly becoming a home. Piles of construction materials lie in a small extension at the front, as he talks of his plans to shore up the building.

The problem, Gibao told IRIN, is that western Côte d’Ivoire remains unsafefor supporters of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo – who awaits trial by the International Criminal Court in the Hague – or anyone from the Guéré ethnic group, among others. He and many other refugees cite post-conflict justice as having been one-sided, and he points out that instead of disarming the rebel forces, many of them (also responsible for atrocities in the west of the country) now effectively form the national army.

“When you go back, they will say “this man voted for Gbagbo’,” said Tahr, another refugee who fled the March 2011 attack on Blolequin. His neighbours chip in with stories of returnees who were imprisoned or killed by `the Burkinabés’, as the alliance of northern pro-Ouattara groups are generically known by the Guéré.

Underlying the animosity is the long-running conflict over land. Post-independence president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, during his three decades in power, promoted a policy of inclusion, encouraging migrant workers to Côte d’Ivoire’s rich cocoa plantations. After his death in 1993, successive regimes have used ethnicity as a political tool, stirring up ethnic rivalries and igniting underlying tensions.

“The Burkinabés have guns, and when they see you they get rid of you to take your land,” said Gibao, whose wife, Victoire, said her farm was taken away from her. Many feel that members of the northern and migrant groups used the conflict to drive away local landowners and take over their properties.

Burkinabés have lived in Côte d’Ivoire for many generations, yet are still treated by many Ivoirians as outsiders. Some 100,000 Burkinabés in Côte d’Ivoire were pushed off their land and fled the post-election violence in 2010-2011.

Looking forward

Repatriations are continuing, but slowly. All that they can hope for, say many of the remaining refugees, is that Ouattara loses the next general election in 2015. With this mindset, the refugee camps in eastern Liberia are slowly morphing into more permanent settlements.

Lisa Quarshie, a UNHCR protection officer, sees PTP camp becoming more entrenched.

“More and more people are daubing their houses with mud, and we’re hoping to be able to get more resources to even give zinc sheeting for the shelters.” UNHCR is also looking to increase efforts to create livelihoods in the camp, while basic services like schools have shifted from cramped tents to smartly painted concrete buildings. The refugees also have access to an on-site health clinic.

Bahi Martine spent two weeks trudging through the forest to get to Liberia. Her brother was shot in the leg as they escaped, and four of those they travelled with were killed. For two weeks – without access to clean water – she made her children drink urine to survive. Now she has invested in a small restaurant at the front of her shelter in PTP camp, serving rice and cassava-leaf sauce to refugees on elaborate bamboo tables and benches.

“I will never return to Côte d’Ivoire,” she said. Another woman has started to make a living selling doughnuts to the refugees; while in a separate camp, UNHCR has supported the creation of a snail farming business. Across eastern Liberia, refugees are putting down roots and investing in their new lives.

“You can’t keep people in limbo,” Quarshie told IRIN. “The least that we can do is to make sure that they have a dignified life here.”

From communities to camps

One of the reasons the camp is growing is due to a Liberian government policy of encouraging refugees living with local communities to move into the camps. Initially, this was to help centralize services given to refugees who were scattered across the remote villages of eastern Liberia.

At the UN office in Zwedru, Quarshie notes that the policy has its downside. “It’s always better to live in communities, in the sense that you integrate faster… If you’re in a community and you’re not getting food from WFP, you’re most likely going to find a piece of land and try and do some farming and feed yourself or your family. If you’re in a camp. you then might become very dependent on food handouts. I think it has its advantages and it has its disadvantages – personal and physical security is better monitored than when you’re in a community,” she said.

Wonsea Norbert is chairman of the Ivoirian refugees living in a mixed refugee and local population in Toe Town, near the border with Côte d’Ivoire. He said the refugees in the town are split on how to proceed. Living without any assistance has been tough, but Norbert says it is still better than moving to a camp.

“We like to work on our own. In the camp you are tied – you cannot work,” he said. Relationships with the local community are cordial. Some Toe Town residents, like Fasu Keita, were themselves hosted during Liberia’s own conflict by the same Ivoirian families now residing in the town – and there is plenty of work to do. But without farming tools and a little seed-rice, they find it impossible to support themselves: the UN has stopped providing support to refugees who opted to stay in local communities.

“They like to work on the farm for themselves,” said Norbert. “But we have had no support. We can’t support ourselves here.” Despite the fear of reprisals in Côte d’Ivoire, some refugees in the town are now going home, preferring insecurity to the restrictions of camp life.

Security concerns

“It was also the issue of security,” said UNHCR’s Quarshie. Amid continuing insecurity along Liberia’s porous border with Côte d’Ivoire, ex-combatants now living in Liberia are seen as a potentially destabilizing force if allowed to roam freely in the settlements near the border.

There are also concerns that the camps themselves, with their politically and ethnically homogenous populations of refugees, and the presence of ex-combatants, could become breeding grounds for anti-government movements. “As much as we are concerned, we do not expect that we have fighters in the camp. We may have ex-combatants. But as the name goes, they are ex-combatants. Yes, it could create problems if it’s not properly managed, but I feel that so far it’s been managed quite well,” said Quarshie.

None of the refugees spoken to by IRIN favoured the overthrow of Ouattara. Rather, with quiet resignation they look to settle into life in Liberia, and cross their fingers for the 2015 elections. “Until they are all gone,” said Gibao “I can never go back.”

tt/aj/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Remembering Kenya’s history: Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi’s farewell letter written on 17th February 1957

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

The letter below dated 17th February 1957, is said to have been written by the penultimate military commander of Kenya’s pre-independent “ Mau Mau” Movement, the legendary Field Marshall Dedan Kimathi, and is said to have been written one day before Kimathi was executed by the British Colonial Government in Kenya on 18th February 1957. The letter is addressed to one Father Marino of Catholic Mission, P.O. Box 25, Nyeri, Kenya.

The source of the letter is the Kenya National Archives, where a typed copy of the same was on display at the Kenya National Archives Public Gallery in the 1990s, since when it has been brought down. However members of the public can on request, get a typed photocopy of Kimathi’s said below letter at the Kenya National Archives. It remains unclear if the original handwritten copy of Kimathi’s said below letter still exists, and if it still does, in whose possession it is. Contents of Kimathi’s said letter of 17th February 1957 reproduced below verbatim…

           Dedan Kimathi
C/O H.M Prison (i.e. Her Majesty’s Prison)
           17th February 1957

Father Marino
Catholic Mission
P.O. Box 25
Nyeri

Dear Father,

It is about one O’clock night that I have picked up my pencil and paper so that I may remember you and your beloved friends and friends before the time is over.

I am so busy and so happy preparing for heaven tomorrow the 18th February 1957. Only to let you know that Father Whellam came in to see me here in my prison room as soon as he received the information regarding my arrival. He is still a dear kind person as I did not firstly expect. He visits me very often and gives me sufficient encouragement possible. He provided me with important books with more that all have set a burning light throughout my way to paradise, such as :-

1. Students Catholic Doctrine
2. In the likeness of Christ
3. The New Testament
4. How to understand the Mass
5. The appearance of the Virgin at Grotto of Lourdes
6. Prayer book in Kikuyu
7. The Virgin Mary of Fatima
8. The cross of the Rosary etc.

I want to make it ever memorial to you and all that only Father Whellam that came to see me on Christmas day while I had many coming on the other weeks and days. Sorry that they did not remember me during the birth of our Lord and Savior. Pity also that they forgot me during such a merry day.

I have already discussed the matter with him and I am sure that he will inform you all.

Only a question of getting my son to school. He is far from many of your schools, but I trust that something must be done to see that he starts earlier under your care etc.

Do not fail from seeing my mother who is very old and to comfort her even though that she is so much sorrowful.

My wife is here. She is detained at Kamiti Prison and I suggest that she will be released some time. I would like her to be comforted by sisters e.g. Sister Modester, etc. for she too feels lonely. And if by any possibility she can be near the mission as near Mathari so that she may be so close to the sisters and to the church.

I conclude by telling you only to do me favor by getting education to my son.

Farewell to the world and all its belongings, I say and best wishes I say to my friends with whom we shall not meet in this busy world.

Please pass my complements and best wishes to all who read Wathiomo Mukinyu. Remember me too to the Fathers, Brothers and Sisters.

With good hope and best wishes,

I remain dear Father

Yours Loving, and Departing Convert

D. Kimathi

 

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Zimbabwe: Stateless residents gain citizenship ahead of the polls

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Zimbabweans are expected to go to polls soon

HARARE,  – Standing in a winding queue in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Judith Kapito, 38, cannot hide her excitement: she is waiting to receive a new identity document, one that will offer her rights and opportunities she has long been deprived of.

Kapito was born to Malawian parents who migrated to Zimbabwe – then Southern Rhodesia – in 1960. She lost her citizenship in 2001, when the government’s amendment of the Citizenship Act forced those born of alien parents to renounce their foreign citizenship.

Kapito, who was born in Zimbabwe and registered as a national of the country, had no other citizenship to renounce. She became stateless, and remained so until the country’s new constitution, passed in April 2013, restored her status as a Zimbabwean.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name. I had no country to call mine because the government of Malawi, where my parents came from, did not consider me as its citizen and could not help me in any way.”

The processing of documents at the Registrar General’s office has been slow, but Kapito remains upbeat. “I am happy that there is now… a new constitution that brings back my citizenship, and I see so many opportunities ahead of me,” she told IRIN.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name”

Once she acquires her new passport, Kapito plans to become an informal trader, buying hairdressing chemicals from Botswana for resale in Zimbabwe.

“My citizenship was taken away at a time when things were bad in Zimbabwe, and it was difficult to make ends meet. I could not cross the border, not even to Malawi, which was supposed to be my country, and thus could not make money as other traders were doing,” she said.

Myriad challenges

In 2000, an economic and political crisis began when the government of President Robert Mugabe forced out thousands of white commercial farmers to resettle black Zimbabweans, leading to the displacement of former farm workers, massive unemployment levels and acute shortages of basic commodities. The move also forced millions of people to migrate and others to rely on cross-border trade to earn a living or access food.

Kapito’s statelessness followed soon after. The 2001 amendment prohibited dual citizenship; people who had migrated to Zimbabwe had to renounce their natural citizenship before they could acquire a Zimbabwean one. Kapito did not have the details, such as the name of her Malawian village head, needed to acquire a Malawian passport from the embassy in Harare, which she could then renounce.

Since then, the challenges have been myriad. An unemployed widow with three school-going children, she has been struggling to get a court directive to inherit and sell an old truck that her late husband left behind because she could not obtain a marriage certificate; both she and her husband were considered foreigners who could not legally marry in Zimbabwe.

Kapito is among thousands of migrants and their descendants to face such difficulties.

Her neighbour, Duncan Sapangwa, 30, whose parents also migrated from Malawi, hopes that restoration of his Zimbabwean citizenship will help him open a bank account for his small carpentry business.

“Banks always turned my applications for a loan down because they said I was an alien who could run away from Zimbabwe any time. I have no doubt that my business would have grown if I had access to a loan,” Sapangwa told IRIN.

The Harare municipality also refused to put him on the city’s housing waiting list, he said, because of his “alien” status.

“I have many relatives who used to work on white farms but were chased away by the new owners. The government said they could not be resettled under the land reform programme because they were foreigners, and they ended up as beggars on the streets. Since we are now citizens once again, we hope the future will be better,” he added.

Thousands stateless

According to the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit’s December 2008 report, A Right or Privilege: Access to Identity and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, the law prohibiting dual citizenship left thousands stateless, most of them young people.

Photo: IRIN
Zimbabwean traders crossing into Zambia over the Kariba Dam border

“Among the most affected are young generations of Zimbabweans whose grandparents migrated from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia” for a variety of reasons, including war, famine and unemployment back at home, said the report.

Thabani Mpofu, spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ), told IRIN it was difficult to establish the exact numbers of those considered aliens living in Zimbabwe as no formal study has been conducted, but he said the figure could run to “several hundreds of thousands”.

The acting president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Lucia Masekesa, accused the government of having been insensitive towards migrants and their families.

“The political leadership in this country failed to consider the plight caused by taking the so-called aliens’ citizenship away… Nothing was done to cushion them,” she told IRIN.

Voting rights

Once Kapito and Sapangwa receive proof of citizenship, they will be able to exercise the rights due any other citizen of Zimbabwe, including, crucially, the ability to vote in the impending general elections.

Kapito was prevented from voting in the 2000 general elections because of widespread political violence against perceived opponents of the government. Afterwards, considered an alien, she was unable to vote in the 2002 presidential election or the 2005 and 2008 parliamentary polls.

Mugabe, who has been in power for more than three decades, set 31 July 2013 as the next election date. This decision was met with an outcry from the opposition, who pointed out that amendments to electoral laws were still being debated and that the voter registration exercise needed more time. The South African Development Community has since intervened, asking Mugabe to extend the date to 14 August.

Whatever the date, Kapito says she is happy she will finally be able to cast her vote.

Still, Arnold Sululu, a member of parliament and of the parliamentary committee on home affairs and defence, warned that it was too early for many to celebrate the restoration of their citizenship.

“Many people of migrant origin are facing problems getting new identity documents and passport[s], and it may be a while before normalcy returns,” he said.

fm/jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Sectarian violence triggers Sunni-Alawi segregation

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Before the conflict, many Syrian towns and villages were home to a mix of religious sects. This is beginning to change

HIGHLIGHTS

  • People moving away from mixed areas
  • Alawis fear reprisals
  • Foreign fighters contribute to sectarian polarization
  • Segregation could have lasting impact for years to come

DUBAI,  – A few months ago, when rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) pushed further into the suburbs of Damascus, Modar* started noticing rapid changes in his home city.

“We used to have mixed neighbourhoods, but not any more,” he told IRIN.

Modar, a student, lives in Yarmouk, a Sunni-majority district, home to Syria’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, which the FSA first entered this spring and has since come to control.

“There were some Alawis here, but they are gone now,” said Modar. “They left for the coast or to specific areas in Damascus like Mezze 86 or Ish al Warwar.” Both are districts almost exclusively inhabited by Alawis on the hillside in the western outskirts near the presidential palace.

The violence in Syria has triggered an increasing internal migration in the areas affected by the conflict, mirroring broader divisions in society, residents and activists in different cities said.

“Where there is fighting, there is segregation,” said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the widely read blog Syria Comment. “Particularly in Damascus, the Alawis have no doubt moved into the Alawi neighbourhoods.”

Sectarian tensions have been on the rise since the beginning of the conflict as the Sunni majority forms the backbone of an opposition trying to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the Alawi minority. The sect, a branch of Shiite Islam originating from the mountainous area near the coastline, also fills the ranks of the regime’s security apparatus.

Analysts warn that it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which war crimes and human rights violations, including forced displacement, are driven by sectarianism. Many of the motivations remain simply political or military. But the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria has noted increasingly sectarian overtones to the conflict. And a string of sectarian massacres has accelerated the segregation, driving Sunnis and Alawis apart.

In early May, regime forces were accused of two mass killings which left more than 200 people dead in Baniyas, a Sunni-majority town bordering predominantly Alawi areas in western Syria, and in the nearby Sunni village of Bayda. The attacks followed a pattern of previous killings, fuelling suspicions that the regime is trying to drive Sunnis out of the area in preparation for a breakaway Alawi state.

The opposition has also been accused of sectarian violence. In early June, rebels allegedly killed at least 30 people in a raid on the Shiite village Hatla in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, scorching houses and decrying Shiite “dogs” and “apostates”.

Both sides have positioned bases within their respective supportive communities, the Commission said in its latest report released this month. Both sides have also been accused of forcibly displacing members of the opposite sect from areas they control.

More than two years into the conflict, at least 4.25 million people are internally displaced within the country. Their motivations for fleeing – which range from general violence to lack of basic services – are often hard to track.

Modar, the student, said some Alawi residents left Yarmouk because they felt generally unsafe due to the nearby fighting.

“Others were threatened after the FSA moved in. Somebody knocked on their door or left a note saying: You are not welcome any more.”

In Damascus, some Christians and Druze, belonging to an offshoot of Shia Islam that incorporates mystical and other beliefs, have also been encouraged by friends and family to move to Suweida, where they would be safer among their “co-religionists” (though some have refused, on principle).

But not all migration follows sectarian fault lines.

“There is an interesting counter-movement,” Landis said. Many Sunnis have fled to Alawi-dominated cities that have been less affected by the violence, like Lattakia or even Qadmous, deep in the Alawi mountains, introducing a new heterogeneity in some parts of the Alawi heartland.

“The picture is in some ways contradictory,” he said. “There is ethnic cleansing in some places, while in others, there is more mixing than before. People are terrified of each other, but they are still coexisting.”

For the moment, Landis said, Alawis are still renting apartments to displaced Sunnis living in predominantly Alawi areas along the coast.

But the Sunnis’ presence could become precarious if Alawis feel threatened. For example, “if Islamist militias penetrate into this area, things could change fast for the [displaced families] because the [Alawis] will see them as a danger,” he said.

Fear of “Genocide”

According to residents and activists from both communities, fear of retribution is rising among Alawis, who make up around 12 percent of the population. The regime has been relying heavily on the support of militia death squads known as Shabiha which are mainly recruited from the Alawi sect. In December UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng warned of a growing risk that civilian communities, including Alawite and other minorities perceived to be associated with the government, could be subject to large-scale reprisal attacks.

“There is a fear of genocide,” said Rami*, an Alawi student from the coastal town Baniyas, now living in Damascus, and one of the few Alawis supporting the opposition. As a result, the community keeps retreating further, he said, even leaving their strongholds in the capital. “Thousands of families left Mezze 86 and went back to the coast. My relatives left, too.”

Residents in Zarzour, a predominantly Sunni village with a small Shia population in Idlib Governorate, told Human Rights Watch that their Shia neighbours had fled because they feared retaliation by opposition forces because, in their opinion, the local Shias had been supportive of government forces.

In the Ghab plain in Western Syria, an area dotted with Sunni and Alawi villages stretching between the city of Hama and the coast, FSA units and regime troops have been fighting for control. The region has witnessed displacement on both sides, said Majid*, a local Sunni activist. “Sunnis are leaving because they are scared. All regime supporters are armed now, and they fight along with the army.”

The Alawi community has been increasingly militarized, according to media reports, as the regime has stepped up the recruitment of fighters from the minority sect.

“When clashes break out near their villages, the men stay behind,” said Majid, “but they usually send away their families to safer areas further west.”

The rising number of sectarian tit-for-tat killings and kidnappings has also been spurring the flight of residents from heterogeneous regions.

“People are now separated from each other,” said Majid. “We are unfortunately on the road to sectarian war.”

Elizabeth O’Bagy, a political analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington who has repeatedly travelled to Syria, says the scale of sectarian displacement generally reflects the level of fighting in each individual area. The most prominent places, she said, are pockets of Aleppo and the Ghab area in Hama Governorate, “where sectarian displacement is happening systematically… People are purposely moving away from mixed areas, isolating themselves within their own community.”

Standstill

In Homs, which has been subjected to a devastating army siege since last year and is one of the areas most affected by the conflict, the interaction between Sunnis and Alawis has come to a complete standstill, residents said.

“We used to go shopping in their districts,” said a local Sunni activist who goes by the nickname Abu Emad. “I used to have Alawi girlfriends.”

Before the conflict started, there were four mixed suburbs, he said, all of which are now under government control and heavily guarded by Shabiha. Now, most Sunnis have left these areas, either because they were expelled by force, or because they were too scared to stay, he and others said.

“A mixed city like Homs has virtually lost its capacity to normalize relations between different communities,” said Peter Harling, Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG). “The social fabric of the city has been broken, and it will be very difficult to reconcile the various groups.”

Aid workers and analysts warn that this type of segregation could affect the region for years to come.

“Frankly speaking, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to coexist with the Alawis again,” Abu Emad said. “I personally don’t want them to live in Syria any more.”

Overlapping motives

However, Harling and others caution against overstating the extent of sectarian-motivated displacement, as motives often overlap, with safety and accessibility generally playing a more important role than religious affiliation.

“The areas that have produced most refugees, the ones that have encountered the most extensive violence, are predominantly Sunni,” he said. “And the majority of people go to areas which are most safe and convenient.”


The composition of the Iraqi capital Baghdad in 2003, before the US invasion, and in 2007, after nearly two years of sectarian violence

Still, the increasingly sectarian nature of displacement in Syria has raised the spectre of the 2006-7 violence in Iraq, where sectarian strife resulted in what some called “ethnic cleansing”, as Sunni and Shiite militias killed thousands of members of the rival community and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes – leaving a demographic legacy until this day.

Regional dimension

Syria has not reached that level yet, but more than 90,000 people have died and the conflict has taken on regional dimensions, reinforcing a broader Sunni-Shiite power struggle that is increasingly drawing in the neighbouring countries.

While Sunni fighters from all over the Middle East, often with an Islamist background, have been flocking to Syria to join the rebels, members of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah are now openly fighting alongside regime forces.

“The presence of foreign fighters on both sides contributes to the sectarian polarization,” said O’Bagy. “Unfortunately I do see the risk of Syria going down the path of Iraq. Every time I go to Syria, the sectarian hatred has gotten worse.”

In Baniyas, home to twin massacres in May, fear and distrust is mounting on both sides of the sectarian divide. Previously a lively city where the communities coexisted peacefully, Baniyas is now split into a northern half mainly inhabited by Alawis, and a southern half where Sunnis are concentrating, Alawi and Sunni sources said.

Sunni residents and activists say they feel vulnerable in the coastal town, especially after the massacres. The city is heavily guarded by security forces and Shabiha, while the rebels have almost no presence.

“We are afraid of them. They will probably kill us in the future,” said Rania*, a Sunni resident of Baniyas who recently moved from the city to a neighbouring country.

Mustafa Muhannad*, a local Sunni activist, estimates that 10-20 Sunni families have fled Baniyas since the massacres for fear of further sectarian violence. At the same time, he has seen Alawis stream into the city, both displaced families from other regions as well as fighters coming as reinforcement.

“They are achieving what they want,” he said, in reference to the government, “the displacement of all Sunnis from the city.”

Still, according to Rami, the Alawi student, a few thousand displaced Sunni Muslims have moved into the Alawi districts of Baniyas, his home town.

“The relationship between the locals and the displaced is not good,” he said. “There is a lot of distrust, but so far there has not been any open aggression.”

But even in their heartland on the coast, most members of his sect feel threatened, says Bassel, an Alawi resident.

“Many people consider emigrating to Europe or Lebanon because they are scared of what might happen to them after the regime falls.”

*not a real name

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

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Female-headed households’s Bleak future

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Women need more support to stand on their own

COLOMBO,  – Four years after the end of a 26-year civil war and with donor assistance dwindling, tens of thousands of female-headed households in northern Sri Lanka face a difficult future, though many are developing innovative coping strategies.

“There is little evidence that the unique vulnerabilities faced by female-headed households are being considered in the government’s policies,” said Raksha Vasudevan, author of a just published report on female-headed households in the north.

“Although they may benefit eventually from the reconstruction of infrastructure and the opening of economic trade activities with the south, for now, it is mostly men who have accessed income-generating opportunities from these developments.”

Researchers and humanitarians working with female-headed households, estimated at over 40,000 by the Centre for Women & Development (CWD) in Jaffna, say the north’s patriarchal social structure, and an economy and reconstruction effort that favours males, have deepened their vulnerabilities.

“The research found that these vulnerabilities [of female-headed households] were simultaneously exacerbated by, and contributed to, psycho-social trauma and an ongoing fear of an unknown future,” the report said. The precarious economic situation also made these women targets of sexual abuseand exploitation. “With many still lacking homes with locking doors, they felt very exposed to attack at any moment,” the author said.

Women whose husbands or partners were killed in the war say they are still struggling to make ends meet, while some continue to spend what meagre resources they have to locate their missing loved ones.

Seetha Kurubakaran, from the town of Paranthan in Kilinochchi District, said she had tried to seek work in various fields – from construction to the civil service (as a clerk) – but without success. All the jobs she sought went to men.

“I don’t want anyone to favour me, but my situation is such that I need a job. I need to feed my family,” the mother of two, said.

Out of desperation she took up sewing dresses at home, but her monthly income is less than US$40. “I live [on] handouts, money my distant relatives living abroad send me,” she said.

Her concern is that her family’s generosity – and ability – to help her is being depleted.

There are no official statistics on unemployment rates in the north, but researchers and analysts believe it could be 10-20 percent, if not higher. Under-employment, where people earn less than a dollar a day, is also believed to be as high as 30 percent.

Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the governor of the Central Bank, told IRIN that since the war ended, the government had invested $3-4 billion in the north, with multimillion dollar construction contracts awarded to build back from almost nothing in some parts.

“Even from a low [reconstruction] base the 20 percent growth rate is impressive,” he said.

However, most of the large infrastructure development projects are centred on the main A9 highway that runs through the middle of Northern Province; employment opportunities are rare elsewhere. And whether near or far from the highway, these projects offer women few jobs.

A woman running her own shop in the north

Discrimination 

Meanwhile, many women are trying to do something about their situation in what the report described as “an impressive sign of their resilience”.

“Through a variety of strategies that they employ in their everyday lives, these women endure, contest and resist the structures of domination imposed upon them. These strategies include creating innovative livelihood opportunities for themselves, accessing alternative support sources, tapping into family networks/kinship structures, various community praxes of solidarity and resistance, and finding ways to normalize both the extraordinary circumstances in which they live and the uncertainties they face,” said the study.

“During the war and even before that the practice of women breadwinners was very rare,” said CWD head Saroja Sivachandran. “Even the limited job market still functions on that assumption.”

“They are clearly discriminated against in hiring for most jobs, even though they are willing to work in non-traditional roles, and also face more difficulties than men in accessing credit,” Vasudevan said.

Rupavanthi Ketheeswaran, the top government official in Kilinochchi District, agreed the situation was difficult for women, but said the authorities were working to ease their economic plight. “We will always go that extra step to help out in getting loans and other assistance to these women,” she said, citing special preference on self-employment schemes, seed assistance for home gardens and the distribution of cattle.

However, such schemes should be far more wide-spread if they are to provide women with the sense of purpose and control over their daily lives they now need, said Sivachandaran.

“Female headed households should be recognized as a special needs group at the highest policy-making level,” she added.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam fought against the government from 1983 to 2009 for an independent Tamil homeland in northern Sri Lanka.

ap/ds/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Kenya: Parliamentatian Serut calls for the transfer of all education officials accusing them of not improving education standards in his region

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

  • By Godfrey Wamalwa,Bungoma,26/6/2013

An Mp  has called on the ministry of Education to transfer all education officials in the region for failing to improve the education standards.

Mount Elgon legislator  John. Serut claimed all education officers who have over-stayed for over three years both in Cheptais and Mt. Elgon districts should be transferred saying they are of no value to the area residents evidenced by dismal performance both in KCPE and KCSE exams last year.

Speaking in Kapsokwony town in Mt. Elgon district where he accused Cheptais DEO Jacob Wanyama and his Mt. Elgon counterpart Pius Ng’oma and Zonal education officers for failing to deliver on their mandate to improve the ailing education standards in Mt. Elgon region.

He noted that the  government should move the officers and deploy competent officers .

Serut added that it was a shame that Mt. Elgon hit headlines in the media negatively after over 17 girls at Chepukurkur Primary school in Cheptais were impregnated because of what he termed as insensitive and negligence on the part of the education officers.

“This is total shame, in this era and age over 17 girls from one school being impregnated when we have education officers, this officers should not be spared, the government should take stern action on them for sleeping on their jobs when hungry men are sexually molesting under age school girls,” he said.

“Tthe teenage pregnancies in Chepkurkur primary school in Cheptais district was as a result of a dis-connect between the education officials and school managers with the perpetrators taking advantage of the situation to molest innocent school girls”he added.

Mr. Serut noted that education standards in the region cannot be compromised by people who are mandated to manage the sector while appealing to Bungoma County TSC Director in charge of teacher development Mrs. Angelica Ouya and his counterpart in charge of the ministry of Education Mr. Daniel Mosibei to walk the talk including cracking the whip in order to address challenges affecting the education sector in Mt. Elgon.

Further, he blamed Mt. Elgon DEO Pius Ng’oma for failing to disburse bursty funds to needy students in the region.

 

Ends

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Singer Rokia Traorè in Concert at the Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013

Posted by African Press International on June 26, 2013

www.africanpress.me/ Singer Rokia Traorè in Concert at the Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013

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Kenya: Kimilili District Deputy County Commissioner castigates drunkard teachers in the region

Posted by African Press International on June 26, 2013

  • By Godfrey Wamalwa,Bungoma,26/6/2013

“I want to warn the teachers  who report to their work while drunk that the government will not tolerate such behavior and stern action will be taken against them,”that is a warning bell that Kimilili district deputy county commissioner has sent to the teachers.

Addressing students of  Kibingei Friendssecondary school in Kimilili District after the students went on a rampage and marched for about seven kilometers to his office, citing poor management by the school’s principal.

While presenting their grievances the students alleged that the Principal Mrs. Scholastic Mukui sends them home regularly for school fees as well as talking ill of their parents terming them as poor an issue that did not get down well with them.

They further claimed that she does not coordinate her staff well as some teachers are normally drunk hence cannot attend to their lessons well an issue that has affected the syllabus coverage for a long time especially to the candidates and having few teachers for chemistry, biology and agriculture.

“Our school  has been disqualified from participating in the regional football competition, reasons being that one of the players was found to be nineteen years of age an issue they said was aimed at sabotaging their efforts to nurture their talents away from academics”claimed the students.

However, Kimilili district quality assurance and standards officer Andrew Shiundu said it was a national rule that all students who are supposed to represent a school in a games completion should be eighteen years of age and below.

 Kimilili deputy county commissioner Joseph Lewa also urged the Teachers’ Service Commission to address the issue of under-staffing in the entire district by deploying more teachers to avoid such strike issues in future.

He further cautioned teachers who report on duty while drunk saying the government officers in charge will conduct a thorough investigation and those implicated will face the law.

Ends

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