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Archive for June 7th, 2013

Kenya case: 93 victims now pull out of the case while accusing ICC of denying them their right to have Lawyer Njenga Mwangi to represent them

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

Nairobi, Kenya: 93 Post Election Violence victims registered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) have decided to withdraw from the cases facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

They wrote a letter to The Victims and Witness office based at The Hague telling them of their decision to withdraw. In their letter they inform the office that they no longer have confidence in the process. They feel they are being taken for a ride by the prosecution. The letter reportedly is signed by The victims led by the chairman George Njoroge, a group under the banner of Amani Peace Building and Welfare Organization.

They think the prosecutor is using them as stepping-stones. The first Chief prosecutor Moreno Ocampo, they say, used them and on expiry of his contract at the ICC he got a lucrative job in the IOC – the powerful section of the Olympics drug watchdog.

Now they believe that the new Chief Prosecutor is doing the same for self-gain.

The group have accused the ICC of having not investigated their cases properly, saying they now want to live in peaceful co-existence with their neighbours. Life is back to normal now and any more problems caused by the court will not serve to bring unity in our society the group has stated.

They are saddened that the first lawyer forced on them by the ICC, Ms Sureta Chana, did not discus with the ICC what the victims had told her. Instead, she raised issues of no interest and benefit to them (the victims) when she presented the case at the ICC, they say.

“The issues that we discussed were not put forward to the court because the version that we are now hearing is different from the true position,” they said.

They are even bitter now that they have beei\n forced to accept another lawyer, not of their choice, lawyer Wilfred Nderitu. They say they do not understand why the ICC refused to grant them their wish – that they unanimously picked Nairobi Lawyer Njenga Mwangi to represent them.

They claimed that they had unanimously picked lawyer Njenga Mwangi to represent them but the court declined and picked Chana and currently Wilfred Nderitu.

The group say they have now filed their case at the High court in Kenya and will no longer participate in any trial at the ICC in the Hague. This move will complicate things for Chief Prosecutor Bensouda.

Related story:

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The British government apologises to Kenyans tortured during the struggle for independence – The MAU MAU struggle

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

Many Kenyans were tortured and killed during the struggle for independence.

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Norway: Jan Egeland new Secretary General of Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

Jan Egeland has been appointed new Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the largest humanitarian organization in Norway. Egeland was UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (2003-06), and currently holds the position as Europe Director of Human Rights Watch.

“As Secretary General of NRC, Egeland will be a courageous spokesperson for the displaced people in the world. Through his career, Egeland has built experience and expertise that make him uniquely qualified to lead the organization towards its vision of ’Rights Respected and People Protected’. Together with the dedicated staff of NRC, Egeland will continue to build NRC as a leading international humanitarian organisation”, says Idar Kreutzer, Chairman of the Board of NRC.

When Egeland was UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (2003-06) he initiated a wide-reaching reform of the international humanitarian system, strengthened the partnership between UN agencies and NGOs and lead the international humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami and emergencies from Darfur and Central Africa to Lebanon and the Horn of Africa. Since then, he has been Executive Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and is currently Europe Director of Human Rights Watch. Earlier, Egeland has been Secretary General for the Norwegian Red Cross, UN Special Advisor for the peace negotiations in Colombia and Norwegian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1990 to 1997. Egeland has served on the board of the International Crisis Group and held several positions with Amnesty International. In 2006 he was named by Time Magazine as “one of 100 people who  shape our world.”

In a statement, Mr Egeland says: “In wars and disasters around the world I have often witnessed how NRC is able, against all odds, to provide lifesaving relief to those in greatest need. The acronym ‘NRC’ has become synonymous with effective relief for displaced people and stand-by experts for humanitarian operations world-wide. It is with great pride that I look forward to take up the position as Secretary General. The humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria will be an immediate priority in our work, but NRC will remain a leading force for the civilian population in the worst displacement crisis world-wide. We will be there when the needs are greatest – from Central Africa to  Afghanistan and from Sudan to Colombia.”

NRC is a leading Norwegian humanitarian organization, assisting more than 3 million beneficiaries in 2012 throughout 20 conflict regions. In addition, NRC seconded hundreds of stand-by experts to humanitarian operations in over 50 countries during 2012. NRC was founded in 1946 and currently has 3,500 staff. Egeland will take over from Elisabeth Rasmusson, who in April 2013 became Assistant Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

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Mali: A rush to elections is dangerous

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

Elections in Mali could pose a danger, if rushed, say observers (file photo)

HIGHLIGHTS

  • July elections could further destabilize north
  • MINUSMA will barely have settled in by July
  • Reconciliation body yet to gain momentum
  • Elections would coincide with rains, Ramadan

DAKAR/BAMAKO,  – As international donors, notably France and the USA, as well as the Economic Community of West African States, push for July presidential elections in Mali, critics say doing so could foment factionalization in the north thus further destabilizing it, threaten ongoing negotiations over Kidal town, and hamper reconciliation and dialogue. IRIN spoke to analysts, citizen activists and would-be voters to glean their views.

It is clear why certain outsiders are pushing for elections, said Jamie Bouverie in Africa Report: France needs to put in place a legitimate authority to enable it to declare the Mali problem over; the US requires a democratically elected authority to restart its aid and investments; and the UN requires a legitimate partner for MINUSMA, its stabilization mission.

“Conducting elections is the only realistic way,” said Paul Melly, associate fellow at think tank Chatham House. “If there were no restoration of democratic structures, the country would not get international aid and would struggle to cooperate with others countries.”

Some Malians agree. Maimouna Dagnoko, a trader in Bamako, told IRIN: “The government must do all it can to hold these elections in July. Only through them can we put in place a legitimate authority which can take charge. The longer the transition government persists, the further we sink into the abyss.”

But while all agree that elections are needed, many say rushing them will further destabilize Mali. Inter-communal violence, suicide attacks and roadside bombs recur in the north, while France plans to bring its troop count down to 1,000 (from 4,000 in April) by election month, creating a security vacuum, some say. While MINUSMA is set to fully deploy in July it will take time to establish itself.

“What makes elections highly complicated is the situation in the north – not only Kidal, which gets most of the attention, but in Ménaka, Gao and Timbuktu, which have not been sorted out,” said Yvan Guichaoua, international politics lecturer at the University of East Anglia, mentioning the continuation of exactions against light-skinned people in parts of the north – inter-communal violence between the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Arab fighters in Ber (Timbuktu Region) and Anefis (in Kidal Region). “Distrust between communities is still very high. Just think back to the 1992 national pact, which was ambitious but still led to three more years of communal violence.”

The Kidal question remains controversial: Malian troops this week wrested control of Anefis, midway between Gao and Kidal town, as part of a military offensive that is assumed to aim to take back Kidal Region from the MNLA. This offensive will have stymied the Burkina Faso-led negotiations currently under way between members of the MNLA, the High Council of Azawad (formerly of MNLA and then Ansar Dine) and the Malian authorities.

No “game-changers”

One problem is that while the Bamako political landscape has changed a bit since the March 2012 military coup, newcomers have by and large not shown any more concern for addressing the country’s core problems than their predecessors, said Guichaoua. “The godfathers of Malian politics are still in the game – there are no game-changers there,” he told IRIN.

Elections must be a beginning not an end, he added. If they are rushed, then after them, the problems of alienation in the north, the collapse of the Malian state, an inability to provide quality basic services such as health and education, and impunity for abuses that took place both recently and in previous conflicts over the north, will all persist.

Truth and reconciliation

All analysts IRIN spoke to stressed the importance of community and national-level reconciliation and dialogue. “For generations, tensions between nomadic Tuaregs and other ethnic groups have caused deep wounds that can only be healed through a truth and reconciliation process,” said academics Greg Mann and Bruce Whitehouse in a March article. “The scope of this process should not be restricted to events in northern Mali, but should encompass misdeeds committed throughout the country, including by the previous government and the soldiers who overthrew it a year ago.”

But the Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation (already set up) has yet to gain momentum, and its mandate is overly broad, said Guichaoua. Further, several communities, including the Bella and those represented byCOREN (a northern Malian group calling for unity amid rebellion) do not recognize it.

One risk is that, once elected, no politician will want to adopt a transformative agenda that might destabilize their hold on power, he said.

The general feeling among many southern Malians is that they are tired of Tuareg rebellions, and have little appetite for further reconciliation moves, said University of Ghent history lecturer Baz Lecocq.

Mali has rarely done truth and reconciliation well, so there is a dearth of models to draw on. One successful attempt discussed at a gathering of Mali experts at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London last week was in 1996 in Bourem in the Gao Region, where leaders from various communities joined forces to put an end to mutual distrust and violence. There are few present-day examples, though some community-level dialogue is going on in Burkina Faso’s refugee camps, according to one analyst. “But just because there is no clear bottom-up approach at present, does not mean there should be a top-down one,” said Guichaoua, “It is unlikely to reap long-term dividends.”

Legitimacy

Election supporters say elections are the only way to restore some sort of legitimacy for Mali. “Elections will not solve everything… but not having a democratic process will not make it any easier,” said Chatham House’s Melly.

Elected officials have long struggled with legitimacy in Mali – both in the south and the north, where only 40 percent of the electorate on average turns out to vote, said Gregory Mann, lecturer in African studies at Columbia University in a blog conversation with academics and Mali experts Bruce Whitehouse, Baz Lecocq and Bruce Hall. And this support for politicians grows weaker still when the state is unable to deliver basic services.

“We tend to think of this as a problem between Bamako and Kidal… but what seems much more problematic for the future is the fact that the health service collapsed, that the state completely delegitimized itself, and its infrastructure was destroyed in 2012,” said Bruce Hall, who lectures on African history at Duke University in the USA.

International diplomats and local authorities should be wary of partial credibility, said Guichaoua. “Either you are legitimate or you are not… What if a candidate who has lost, tries to inflame the situation and argue elections have been manipulated or rigged. You need something serious if you don’t want to pay the price afterward.

“Veneration for elections on the part of the international community has led to failures in the past… [he mentioned the Democratic Republic of Congo] “Why not wait a bit?… “We faced a pretty dramatic crisis over the past 15 months, and this could have been an eye-opening experience. If we let things go on as usual, what will the next crisis be?”

Logistics

Putting questions of security and sustainable peace aside, no one can agree if it is even feasible to hold elections in July. It is not an ideal month, given the start of the Ramadan fast, and the rains which will prevent many rural voters from participating – something that could lead northern pastoralists not to see the elections as legitimate. “Even under the best of circumstances, July is a terrible time for elections in Mali,” said Baz Lecocq.

Much of the voting in villages in the north takes place through mobile voting booths, which would probably be blocked by the rains. “If you want low voter turnout, organize elections in July,” he said, noting that July elections in the past have led to low voter turnout.

Figuring out a way to enable the 174,129 refugees in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania to vote is crucial, said Guichaoua, not to mention the many unregistered refugees who are getting by in capital cities such as Ouagadougou, Niamey and Nouakchott. “How do you identify these people?” he asked.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will allow the Malian authorities to conduct voter registration in the camps on a voluntary basis, it said in a communiqué.

Youssouf Kampo, a member of the national independent election commission, is optimistic: “We are in full preparation… Materials are already in place, except in some parts of Timbuktu and Gao, where they were destroyed. Voting booths, ballot boxes, ink and others things are all in place. I believe we will succeed in time.”

Gal Siaka Sangaré, a member of the government’s General Office on Elections (DGE), told IRIN they are making progress towards biometric voter registration despite some technical glitches. “We have to respect the 28 July date and pray to God that it all works out,” he said.

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

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The need to make the right choices

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

Which interventions work best in emergencies

LONDON,  – Humanitarians working on health in crisis situations are faced with constant difficult choices. In a famine, which children should they select for supplementary feeding? In an earthquake, should they try to save most crushed limbs or should they amputate them? And – inevitably – what is the best way of spending scarce funds? Should they spend directly on health care, or indirectly on water, sanitation and shelter to prevent disease?

They choose as best they can, based on common sense and experience, and on their own agencies’ guidelines, but there is often little hard evidence of which interventions work best. Now a new funding programme, Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises, is putting up a pot of money for research which will strengthen the evidence base for these decisions.

“This field of humanitarian crises is a field where there really is a very limited evidence base,” said Jimmy Whitworth of the Wellcome Trust, which is co-funding the initiative along with Britain’s international development ministry, DFID. “This is tough stuff to do. To collect evidence in the face of disaster where there are many imperatives and many reasons to be acting very fast is hard, and people have been struggling to do this.”

But DFID and the Wellcome Trust feel it needs to be done. “What we know from all areas,” said DFID chief scientific adviser Christopher Whitty, “is that if you are doing something without a good evidence base, probably most of what you are doing is pointless, some of it’s harmful, and at best a lot of it won’t be very cost effective.”

Chairing the committee which will be selecting the projects is Paul Spiegel, who has a foot in both academic and humanitarian camps, as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and deputy director of programme support at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). He has just returned from Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq and says there are lots of questions which need an answer.

“Most of the research in the past has been in low-income, camp settings. But now in the last while, in the Balkans, Kosovo and now Syria, we are dealing with middle-income, non-camp situations. In Lebanon now, a quarter of the population are refugees. So there are a lot of questions that came up. How do we work differently?”

Modest funding?

The initial funding is for US$9.5 million spread over three years. The programme envisages two funding rounds, each of which could support 10-15 targeted projects, ideally collaborative research involving both academic and humanitarian communities.

“If you are doing something without a good evidence base, probably most of what you are doing is pointless”

The programme also intends to establish a rapid response facility which would allow pre-approved research projects to be set up, ready to go in the acute phase of future emergencies.

To many of those attending the launch of the scheme, $9.5 million sounded like a fairly modest level of funding, but they acknowledge that it is not always the most lavishly funded research projects which turn up the most influential results. Mark van Ommeren, a scientist at the World Health Organization, told IRIN: “This is a fantastic start, and I think the funding will increase over time.”

The Wellcome Trust’s Jimmy Whitworth confirmed that the present level of funding could change. “This is a bit of a toe in the water, or a finger in the air, if you like. We don’t know what the appetite will be for this.

Plenty of organizations came to the launch with applications ready in their back pockets.

Managing crush injuries

Anthony Redmond of Manchester University is looking for evidence about the best way to manage crush injuries after earthquakes. You can try to save the limb, which is time consuming and expensive, and if unsuccessful can put the patient at risk of death from infection or kidney failure. Or you can amputate and leave the patient disabled in what may be very challenging circumstances. Some emergency medical teams amputate a lot, some very seldom. And emergency teams aren’t usually around to see what happens to their patients later.

“There is a window of opportunity to save limbs,” Redmond told IRIN, “But I don’t know how wide that window of opportunity is. What is the point of no return? How much should you try to salvage one limb in one person as against saving the lives of many people? And that’s what we need to understand.”

Redmond’s research proposal would involve surgeons systematically recording data while operating in crisis conditions. Would they do it? “They do that in their home countries. If there is a plane crash here [in the UK], or a train crash, you are required to make notes. The medical note and the surgical note are part of the treatment and it is unethical not to do it. What we need to do is devise a method of collecting that data very easily and very quickly.”

Paul Spiegel’s experience in UNHCR suggests this may be still a challenge. “Many of our organizations have not been prepared to do research,” he says. “Still, in my own organization we try not to use the word `research’, because there is this attitude that `the money is there to help people’ – even if we don’t have the evidence to know if the money is actually helping them or not… We hope that this research will answer important questions that will guide the people in the field to make these decisions.”

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

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Global Journalists Congress begins in Ireland

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

More than 200 journalists and leaders of journalists unions and associations have converged in Dublin, Ireland for the 28th World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which is expected to focus attention on media freedom, the safety of journalists and job security amid growing austerity measures in many countries.

The 5 day event, which runs to June 7, kicked off yesterday with a meeting of the Gender Council, which discussed strategies for improving gender parity in journalists unions and associations at the national, regional and global levels.

The Congress, which will today focus attention on job security for journalists under the themes “Decent Jobs, not Austerity’’, will  officially be opened by the President of the Republic of Ireland,  Michael D. Higgins.

Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), an affiliate of IFJ, is represented at the Congress by its National Chairman William Oloo Janak who is expected to speak about media freedom, safety and security of journalists and the uncertainty of jobs facing Kenyans journalists.

“This is an important platform to discuss challenges facing journalists and we will highlight the case of Kenya given the problems journalists face, including increasing safety and security concerns and violation of journalists labour rights by employers,” said Janak in a statement from Dublin.

The Congress is expected to discuss the killings of journalists in Somalia and other hot spots, the continued threats, intimidation, arrests and detentions of journalists in a number of countries including in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, among others.

On Wednesday June 5, the Executive Council of the Irish National Union of Journalists (NUJ) will lead the delegates in a “Freedom Walk” to remember the those journalists killed since the last World Congress in Cadiz, Spain in June 2010.

The Congress, which has representatives from over 110 countries, has a strong African delegation drawn from more than 40 journalists unions and associations under the continental grouping of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) which seeks to play an important role within the global journalists’ body.

During the Congress, the delegates will elect a new leadership to steer the IFJ for the next two years till the next congress in 2015.

 

 

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