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Archive for July 19th, 2013

Outcry in Uganda due to influx of unexpected refugees

Posted by African Press International on July 19, 2013

Uganda unprepared for influx of DRC refugees

More refugees are expected as fighting continues in the DRC (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – Some 66,000 Congolese refugees have crossed into Uganda in recent days, following fighting between Ugandan rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s (DRC) national army (FARDC). Their arrival has left the Ugandan government and humanitarian agencies struggling to meet the refugees’ needs amid funding challenges.

“The situation is very dire. It’s overwhelming… given the massive arrivals of these refugees, and sudden number of this nature, in an area with very limited preparedness to extend humanitarian assistance,” Mohammed Adar, country representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Uganda, told IRIN. “We don’t have the infrastructure to support this huge influx of this scale in an area [where] we didn’t have [a] presence in the past.”

Uganda already hosts more than 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, over 60 percent of whom are from DRC.

The new refugees are in the western Ugandan town of Bundibugyo, where they are occupying five primary schools and other sites; they have been arriving since 11 July, when fighting broke out close to DRC’s border with Uganda.

Over-stretched resources

“These [Bundibugyo] villages were empty. They didn’t have any facilities. We are putting up water systems, sanitation, shelter, and providing food,” Charles Bafaki, a senior settlement officer with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), which is coordinating the emergency response, told IRIN by telephone.

UNHCR says only 29 percent of its US$93.8 million operating budget for Uganda this year was funded by 19 June. “We appeal for financial assistance from donors and international community to support this huge influx of refugees,” Adar said. “The international community and donors have a responsibility to help Uganda share this burden.”

The ADF was formed in the mid-1990s in the Rwenzori mountain range in western Uganda, close to the country’s border with DRC. The rebellion was largely contained in Uganda by 2000, with reportedly just about 100 fighters finding refuge in DRC’s North Kivu Province. However, the Ugandan government has recently reported that the group is recruiting and training  – with the support of Somali Islamist militants Al-Shabab – in eastern DRC.

On 15 July, officials said they were struggling to relocate the refugees to a newly established transit centre, near Bubukwanga Subcounty, Bundibugyo District, about 28km from the DRC-Uganda border. “They are currently occupying schools, churches, people[’s] gardens, verandas, and causing tremendous problems for the host community,” UNHCR’s Adar said.

The agencies say the refugees are in dire need of humanitarian assistance and relief services.

“While food and supplies have arrived, the huge numbers of people and their wide distribution has made it difficult to provide services,” Adar added. “The main concerns at this point are water, health and sanitation, and shelter.”

The UN World Food Programme has delivered enough food for 20,000 people for five days, and more food is expected to arrive, UNHCR said in astatement issued on 15 July.

Uganda’s military says it has beefed up security at the DRC-Uganda border to ensure the ADF rebels do not infiltrate the country.

More refugees on the way

Meanwhile, UNHCR also says it has experienced an increase in the number of Congolese refugees crossing into Uganda’s southwestern district of Kisoro, following fresh fighting near North Kivu’s provincial capital, Goma, between the M23 rebel group and FARDC troops. According to Congolese officials, an attack by M23 on 14 July was repelled by FARDC; however, fighting continued on 15 July.

“The situation near Goma is a big concern. It’s definitely going to cause problem for us,” UNHCR’s Adar said. “We have received over 1,000 refugees at our transit centre in Kisoro in the last few days. These are coming in as a preventive measure. We expect more new arrivals to cross as a result of the Goma situation.”

so/kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Wealth-sharing” deal offers hope

Posted by African Press International on July 19, 2013

MANILA,  – The Philippine government has agreed to give sweeping fiscal powers to Muslim rebels on the island of Mindanao in a bid to end the country’s decades-long insurgency. 

The “wealth-sharing” deal between Manila and the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was achieved on 13 July after six-days of bargaining in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, negotiators said.The deal is seen as another step towards the creation of an autonomous entity to be governed by MILF by 2016. The next round of negotiations – to be held after Ramadan – will focus on the scope of MILF governing powers and how and when the rebel force will be disarmed.”Together with the MILF, the Philippines recognize the importance of wealth creation to enable Bangsamoro [name of the new autonomous region] government to successfully operate and deliver to its constituents,” Manila’s head of the peace process Teresita Deles told IRIN. “Both of us have faith that this wealth-sharing arrangement we have created will benefit Bangsamoro.”

Under the deal, MILF will get powers to levy taxes on businesses operating in its territory, and receive grants and funding directly from donors. They will also have the power to grant tax exemptions, rebates, tax holidays and other incentives.

Crucially, MILF will get 75 percent of all earnings derived from exploiting metallic minerals in the area, while receiving half of all revenues from activities related to natural gas or oil.

While there is no data on resources in the Bangsamoro area, official statistics show Mindanao Island contains a large portion of the country’s estimated US$800 billion in gold, copper and other mineral deposits.

Manila’s chief negotiator in the talks, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, said the overriding consideration in achieving the deal was for economic activity to gradually take root in the south, where the four-year insurgency has left tens of thousands dead and led to mass displacements.

“The whole idea with the total package that we have come up with is to provide for sources of revenues in the hope that these resources and revenues will increase over time as peace and development prevail in the region,” she said. “They can become less dependent and they can stand on their own.” 

Two more hurdles

She called on both sides to seize the momentum and agree on the last two remaining contentious issues – disarming MILF and defining the powers of their leaders once they begin controlling the region by 2016.

“This is where crunch time really comes for the MILF because this is the part where they will be talking about decommissioning of weapons,” she said. “This is something that is not easy to give up for a group that has held on to its arms in order to pursue its cause.”

It also comes at a time when other armed groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), could take advantage of the lull to cause more trouble. BIFF broke away from MILF in 2011 after saying they opposed the talks.

They have been carrying out periodic attacks ever since, including one that left eight dead before the last round of negotiations started.

MILF Vice-Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar said he expected tougher negotiations ahead before a final peace deal is signed, noting that the rebels would only lay down their arms if they were assured they would not be arrested or attacked by soldiers. He said there must also be “adequate protection” against other violent armed groups in the south.

“God willing, we will be able to move forward and finally give peace to the next generation of Muslims so they won’t have to suffer more bloodshed,” he said. “We have spent a lot of capital on these talks, so you can say we are definitely committed to ending this peacefully.”
Displacement

In 2008, more than 700,000 people were displaced after fighting broke out when a peace agreement, which gave MILF control over more than 700 areas in the south they considered their ancestral domain, was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a project backed by the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Philippines has made significant progress towards the peaceful settlement of long-standing conflicts, but has yet to put an end to displacement. In 2012, at least 178,000 people fled clashes between government forces and non-state armed groups, and clan violence affecting mainly Muslim-majority areas in Mindanao.

At least 1,200 people displaced by armed conflict, clan violence and crime remain in government-recognized camps and relocation sites, the IDMC reported in April 2013. It is estimated that nearly two million people (1,993,000) were displaced in Mindanao during 2012, with natural disasters accounting for 91 percent of all displacements.

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

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I can’t waste all my time thinking about my death – Cost of repatriating the dead

Posted by African Press International on July 19, 2013

HARARE/JOHANNESBURG,  – Cynthia Ndlovu, 30, a single mother employed as a cleaner at an up-market hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, is too busy trying to save money for her family to worry about the possibility of dying far from her home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.

“I can’t waste all my time thinking about my death. God will take care of me when that happens. The most important thing now is to save as much money from my job as possible so that I pay my son’s school fees, feed him and send some to my parents back in Bulawayo,” Ndlovu told IRIN.In addition to the long hours Ndlovu works at the hotel, she sells food at Parktown bus station in central Johannesburg and does laundry as a way of supplementing her salary of less than US$200 a month.Many of her friends belong to burial societies which, in the event of their deaths, will cover the cost of their bodies being repatriated back to Zimbabwe as well as funeral expenses, but Ndlovu considers the R50 (US$5) monthly dues such groups typically charge too much to part with.

“I have to save every cent I get from my regular and part-time jobs, otherwise life would be too difficult for me. The best way to avoid problems for your family when you die is to go back to Zimbabwe as soon as your health gets poor,” said Ndlovu.

But death is not always preceded by illness, particularly for migrants living in Johannesburg, a city with high rates of violent crime. Stanley Moya, 28, from Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, was attacked by muggers on his way home after work in the Johannesburg suburb of Berea. He was killed and his body was left in a nearby ditch, where it was discovered the following morning. More than a month later, his body remains in a Johannesburg mortuary.

Moya did not belong to a burial society, and his friends do not know how to contact his relatives in Zimbabwe to notify them of his death. The young man had crossed into South Africa illegally and did not possess a passport. Even if his relatives could be found, Moya’s lack of documentation would likely make it impossible to repatriate his body.

“Stanley might end up being buried here by the South African government, and his parents and relatives are likely to go for years thinking that he is still alive. Many Zimbabweans here do not think it is important to prepare for their own death, and this gives all sorts of problems,” said Tichaona Chidziva, a bartender in Berea who knew Moya.

Smuggled home for burial

Innocent Makwiramiti, a Harare-based economist and former chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, told IRIN that the millions of Zimbabweans who have fled their country’s political and economic crisis since 2000 face a daily struggle to survive, preventing many of them from preparing for death.

Without a contingency plan, relatives of deceased migrants face acute difficulties repatriating their bodies to Zimbabwe; they sometimes resort to illegal means, said Makwiramiti.

In early 2012, Gibson Mudhokwani*, 70, a retired teacher living on a paltry pension in Harare, resorted to smuggling home the body of his daughter, who had worked as shop assistant in Pretoria before dying of an unknown illness. He lacked the minimum R10,000 (just over $900) necessary to repatriate her body legally.

“I had no money to process the papers and cover the transportation of the body, so we hid her body in [my neighbour’s] truck and paid $20 at the border so that the vehicle would not be searched,” Mudhokwani told IRIN.

He took his daughter’s body to his rural home in Mhondoro, about 90km southeast of the capital, where she was buried without the burial order required by the law.

With two sons working in Botswana, Mudhokwani has since joined a funeral scheme that, in the event of their deaths, would cover their repatriation and burial costs.

“I have advised my sons to send me $20 a month to pay for the funeral scheme,” he said.

Burial societies

Not all Zimbabwean migrants leave these worries to relatives. Many living in South Africa have started their own burial societies, with members recruited from the same areas back home as a way of controlling transportation costs.

“You can die anytime and people have to dig into their pockets; my family can’t manage that”

“You can die anytime and people have to dig into their pockets; my family can’t manage that,” said Dorcas Dube, 54, a domestic worker in Johannesburg who has belonged to a burial society with about 200 members from her rural area near Zimbabwe’s border with Botswana since 1999.

She pays annual dues of R200 a year ($20) and an additional R70 ($7) whenever another member dies. Should she die, the burial society would cover the approximately R14,000 ($1,395) cost of repatriating her body to her village and “a decent burial”. Her family would receive an additional R3,500 ($349).

Members are divided into 17 groups, and if someone in Dube’s group dies, she is required to join a group of 11 fellow members who accompany the body home in a mini-bus hired by the undertaker, with the body travelling in an attached trailer. After journeying overnight and most of the next day, they assist the deceased’s family with funeral preparations, attend the funeral itself and then make the long journey back to Johannesburg.

Kingdom Mpofu, spokesperson for Dube’s burial society, has been a member for 22 of his 57 years. He views belonging to such a group as a social responsibility. “If you don’t belong to a burial society, you’ll be a burden to your family. The sooner [you join] the better… to set an example to your children.”

Membership has practical as well as financial benefits. Not only does an undertaker organize transportation, the company also processes the necessary paperwork for repatriating the body. “You can organize transport yourself, but paperwork is a problem,” said Mpofu. “You need a certificate from the undertaker and a death certificate. If you don’t have that, you can’t go through [the border].”

He added, “To bury someone [back home] is very important – so they can join their ancestors.”
Several life insurance companies in Zimbabwe have also set up programmes to assist with the repatriation of bodies. Nyaradzo Funeral Assurance Company, one of the most well-known life insurance companies in Zimbabwe, has formed partnerships with funeral parlours in southern Africa and Europe, where Zimbabweans are found in significant numbers. The parlours process all the required documents while Nyaradzo organizes road or air transportation and covers the costs of burying the returning bodies.

“Our cash plans cater for all types of people, from the low-income groups to the rich, and we accept as little as $10 a month from contributors. We attend to up to five burials of people from outside Zimbabwe per week,” said Phillip Mataranyika, the company’s executive officer.

* Not his real name

fm/ks source http://www.irinnews.org

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Kenya: Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo knocked out of contesting for Senate seat – accused of fraudulently obtaining registration slip as a voter

Posted by African Press International on July 19, 2013

High Court in Kenya has determined: Lawyer Kethi Kilonzo should not be allowed to vie for the Senate seat , Makueni county.

Sad news for lawyer Kethi Kilonzo who wanted to succeed her father the late Mutula Kilonzo as the Senator for Makueni County. Her father died a few months ago, opening for a by-election in the county.

Kethi had told the court that she had registered as a voter but that she could not remember the location of the registration center clearly.

The High court consisting of Judges Mumbi Ngugi, Mr Mwongo and Weldon Korir made a ruling this morning the 19th of July 2013, barring Kethi from contesting for the seat and blaming her for having not checked if she was really a registered voter. The IEBC has claimed that she is not a registered voter , thus cannot allow her to vie for the Senatorial seat left vacant by her late father.

This is a big blow for her career as a lawyer having been accused of fraudulently receiving and producing a stolen registration slip claiming it to be genuine.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission may now decide to sue her for theft. This will force her to explain who gave her the slip claimed bi IEBC to have been stolen from their offices.

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