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Archive for June 1st, 2013

EAJA General Meeting closes with regional action pledge

Posted by African Press International on June 1, 2013

  • By   Dickens Wasonga.
The three yearly General Meeting and Strategy Conference of the Eastern Africa Journalists Association (EAJA) closed on Monday, 27 May 2013, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the Regional Association committing itself to further escalate its campaigning activities in press freedom and trade union rights.
 
The General Meeting is the EAJA’s supreme decision-making body, and during the meeting the 21 delegates from 10 unions and associations from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda have mandated EAJA to carry out a strategic plan during the next five years. This commits EAJA to strategically promote and defend media freedom and trade union rights.
 
Delegates from affiliated unions and associations were able to vote to progressive constitutional amendments to enhance EAJA’s governance. The Meeting elected an Executive Committee and Internal Audit Committee.
 
Dr Muheldin Ahmed Idris from Sudan Journalists Union was elected as President; Alexandre Niyungeko from Union of Burundian Journalists (UBJ) was elected as First Vice President, Anteneh Abraham Babanto from Ethiopia National Journalists Union (ENJU) was elected as Vice President, Omar Faruk Osman from the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) was elected as Secretary-General, Jane Uwimana of Rwanda Journalists Association (RJA) was elected as new Treasurer while Maureen Mudi from Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) and Kenedid Ibrahim Hussein from Association of Djibouti Journalists (ADJ) were elected as Executive Committee members.
 
The General Meeting for the first time elected a five-member Regional Gender Committee (RGC) to foster gender equality in EAJA, affiliated organizations and the media in the region.
 
The delegates unanimously approved the organisation’s last three years’ activities report. The meeting set the agenda for the next three years and passed resolutions on state of press freedom and trade union rights in the region particularly in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. It also approved financial report presented by the outgoing Treasurer of EAJA Gaspard Safari.
 
In his closing address the re-elected EAJA Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman thanked the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) for its help in organizing the huge General Meeting and Strategy Conference, and said: “This has been the biggest, most effective and representative General Meeting in EAJA history. The ten organizations represented here want EAJA to be an even more action-oriented organization”.
 
“In this General Meeting we have taken decisions on championing media freedom, on building strong organisations and on fighting for trade union rights that will strengthen journalists and other media workers everywhere in the region”.
 
The president of EAJA Dr Mudeldin Ahmed Idris thanked delegates for the renewed confidence and support, and said, “we must now intensify our efforts to build strong organisations both at regional and national levels. At the end of this period, we must be able to report back to the next General Meeting about what we have done, not on why we didn’t do it. EAJA must invest a lot more into that struggle and members must play necessary role”. 
 
Jane Uwimana, Secretary General of Rwanda Journalists Association (RJA), becomes first woman Treasurer. She vowed to build strong financial base and appealed to members to pay their dues and other financial contributions timely.
 
The General Meeting unanimously voted for the re-admission of Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) and approved admission of Uganda media Union (UMU) into membership, raising the number of member organizations of EAJA to eleven.
 
The Vice President of the IFJ Gustavo Grenaro and Africa Director of the IFJ Gabriel Baglo attended the General Meeting and extended solidarity to EAJA and its member organizations, while renewing IFJ’s support to EAJA and affiliated organizations.
 
Representatives from International Trade Union Confederation – Africa regional organisation (ITUC Africa), Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) and Union of Syndicates of Central Africa Press (USYPAC) attended the meeting to extend fraternal greetings and Solidarity to EAJA and member organisations. 
END.

 

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“Big and important opportunity for reconciliation” Museveni government reinstates Rebel amnesty

Posted by African Press International on June 1, 2013

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
At least 26,000 members of armed groups, mostly from the LRA, have been granted amnesty (file photo)

GULU,  – Civil society in northern Uganda has welcomed the reinstatement of legislation granting blanket amnesty to members of armed groups who surrender.

Key sections of Uganda’s Amnesty Act were allowed to lapse in May 2012, meaning that members of armed groups, notably the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), no longer automatically escaped prosecution if they willingly abandoned their armed struggle.

Earlier this month, these sections of the act were reinstated and will remain in force for two years. Only top LRA commanders are ineligible for amnesty.

“We will endeavour to make known widely the decision of the government to restore the amnesty and will play our part to encourage any person still involved in armed rebellion to take advantage of the amnesty, which is a gesture of reconciliation and goodwill on the part of the people of Uganda,” said of a press statement by a coalition of civil society organizations in northern Uganda.

The region has yet to recover from decades of conflict.

“Big opportunity”

“Restoring the amnesty law in its totality is a big opportunity for the country to answer prayers for people, particularly in northern Uganda, crying for their person still held in captivity by the Lord’s Resistance [Army] rebels,” noted Stephen Oola, a transitional justice and governance advocate with Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project.

“We hope that it [the amnesty law] will stay to achieve its main objectives of facilitating a peaceful end of conflict and reintegration of rebels back to their communities. This therefore demands for all actors to engage in credible solutions to peacefully end the LRA conflict,” he said.

“I have been living in fear knowing that somebody from this village would take me to court because you know when you are in the LRA doing bad things is hard to avoid.”

Janet Awor, who abandoned the LRA in 2012 and returned to her village of Awor, in northern Uganda, said: “I have been living in fear knowing that somebody from this village would take me to court because you know when you are in the LRA doing bad things is hard to avoid.”

She continued, “Now I need to go and check if my certificate is ready at the amnesty office in Gulu, because I had applied for it at the office of the Amnesty Commission upon my arrival in Kampala.”

The act has granted blanket amnesty to more than 26,000 members of armed groups, mostly from the LRA, since it came into force in 2000.

Uneven application?

In Uganda, former LRA mid-level commander Thomas Kwoyelo is being triedfor war crimes in the first case of its kind before the High Court’s International Crime Division.

The trial has been viewed by some analysts as a case of selective justice; former high-ranking LRA commanders, such as Brig Kenneth Banya and Brig Sam Kolo Otto, have all received amnesty, according to Human Rights Watch.

Another LRA leader, Caesar Acellam Otto, who was captured by the Ugandan army in the Central Africa Republic in May 2012, has also not benefited from the amnesty.

Accelam’s wife, Nightly Akot, who was captured alongside him said: “Let him be [set] free because he is no different from other senior LRA commanders enjoying the amnesty.”

ca/aw/am/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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There is concern about new DRC Intervention Brigade

Posted by African Press International on June 1, 2013

Photo: MONUSCO
Tanzanian UN Intervention Brigade commander Brig-Gen James Makibolwa shakes hands with Tanzanian troops

GOMA,  – Nineteen international NGOs have sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to express concern over the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and future military operations by a new UN Intervention Brigade.

The letter, dated 23 May and made public this week, asks the secretary-general to call on the 11 African states that signed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) in Addis Ababa in February to implement the agreement, and to work with UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Mary Robinson.

The letter also recommends that the UN Security Council “should seriously consider suspension of the [UN Intervention] Brigade if it does not perform well or if the Congolese government does not make sufficient progress in implementing its commitments under the PSCF” agreement.

The brigade of 3,069 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, which the UN peacekeeping department says should be operational by mid-July, has been given a more offensive mandate than any previous contingent with a UN peacekeeping mission. UN Security Council Resolution 2098 empowers it to carry out “targeted and robust offensives… with a view to neutralizing and disarming armed groups”, whilst “taking into account the necessity to protect civilians and reduce risks”.

The NGOs’ letter asks Ban for his leadership “in ensuring that the operations of the Brigade… are clearly linked to the realization of the PSCF” and that it “is part of a broad, comprehensive approach to achieve long-term peace and stability”.

The NGOs also call on Ban to ensure that “planning and conduct of the Brigade’s operations prioritize mitigation of harm to civilians” and to urge “the Congolese government… to put in place a fully independent national oversight mechanism to oversee the implementation of its commitments outlined in the PSCF”.

Dialogue and DDR

Under this heading, the letter says “this should include local level dialogue to address the local causes of conflict and community grievances, as well as comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) options for combatants, irrespective of nationality.”

During his visit to the North Kivu provincial capital Goma on 23 May Ban made it clear that the UN does not see the Brigade as the sole solution to eastern DRC’s conflicts.

“The Intervention Brigade will address all this violence” he told local media, “and will try their best to protect human lives, human rights and human dignity – but you should also know that this is only one element of a much larger process. I think a peace deal must deliver a peace dividend, health, education, jobs and opportunity.”

NGOs fear being linked with military action

One of the concerns that prompted NGOs to write the letter was the possible impact on their own work of future operations by the Brigade, said Frances Charles, advocacy manager for NGO World Vision (which sent the letter on behalf of the signatories).

“The issue of how the Brigade is related to the rest of the integrated mission and how independent humanitarian actors such as NGOs relate to MONUSCO is, I think, a very big issue.

“We need a lasting peace and that peace will have to be imposed by striking hard against negative forces”

“We have to preserve independent humanitarian access. MONUSCO needs to make clear to communities how all the different parts of the (UN) mission work together.

“One thing we are very concerned about, as World Vision, is being linked to any military action. We are independent and we want to make sure that our access to communities is maintained.”

Peacekeeping versus offensive action

Several observers have questioned whether MONUSCO’s existing role of protecting civilians, particularly in displaced peoples’ camps, will be possible in areas where the Brigade attacks armed groups, as this could result in retaliation against all UN military and civilian personnel as well as against other aid workers and civilians.

The interim head of MONUSCO’s office in Goma, Alex Queval, told journalists that all necessary precautions would be taken to ensure that peacekeepers continue all their existing work, but he did not go into details.

For its part the M23 rebel group has suggested that the Brigade will need to work in different areas to the other peacekeepers.

“It’s a very complicated situation for us,” M23 spokesman Rene Abandi told IRIN this week. “Blue helmets come with an offensive mandate while others are deployed in the same areas with a peacekeepers’ mandate. They have really to separate areas so that we can make the distinction.”

Speaking to the UN News Centre on 29 May, the commander of the Intervention Brigade, Tanzanian Brig-Gen James Aloizi Mwakibolwa, acknowledged there are fears among some observers that the Brigade will exacerbate tensions.

“Perhaps they expect collateral damage to the extent that several people are not positive about the Brigade,” he said.

“It should be understood that our first concern should be the protection of civilians as we take on the armed groups,” he added. “A UN peacekeeper is a person who must protect UN staff and UN property but, above all, he must protect the civilians.”

The brigadier stressed that while he heads the brigade, he is not the head of the UN force in the country. “We are part of MONUSCO and our instructions come from the force commander of MONUSCO,” he said.

Goma groups support Brigade

Civil society groups in Goma are generally supportive of the Intervention Brigade and its offensive mandate.

“For the first time people feel they can look forward to a better future – because the new force has a mission to put an end to the armed groups,” said Goyon Milemba, team leader of the North Kivu civil society association’s working group on security issues, after the arrival of the Brigade’s headquarters staff in Goma last month.

“If people think you can protect civilians by stopping attacks on armed groups, they are wrong. We need a lasting peace and that peace will have to be imposed by striking hard against negative forces,” the president of the North Kivu civil society association, Thomas d’Aquin Muiti, told IRIN.

He acknowledged there would be collateral damage but said the situation for the people in displaced camps is intolerable.

“This does not mean MONUSCO should stop protecting displaced people,” he said. “Rather it should reinforce protection.”

He added that the government should recognize it will have an additional responsibility for protection as the Brigade starts offensive operations.

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

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