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Archive for October, 2013

Lawyer Njenga Mwangi disusses the Kenyan cases with API while on a visit to the ICC

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2013

PART 1

PART 2:

Deputy President William Ruto and Journalist Sang are on trial at the ICC. President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s case is expected to start in the same court on the 12th of November.

End

 

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At the ICC: Interview with Kiambu County Governor William Kabogo and Narok County Governor Samuel Tunai

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2013

Kiambu County Governor William Kabogo and Narok County Governor spoke to African Press International at the ICC in the Hague where the two are at the moment to give moral support to Deputy President and Journalist Sang during their on-going trial.

Ruto‘s trial will adjourn on the 1st of November to give way for the start of President Uhuru Kenyatta‘s case. The trial is expected to start on the 12th of November.

PART 1

PART 2

 Leaders visiting ICC:

Kenyan leaders at the Hague (September and October). Different leaders arrive weekly to the Hague. They stay for a week and return home while a new group arrive to take their place.

End

 

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Returning from displacement. Some Malians fear returning home

Posted by African Press International on October 25, 2013

Returning from displacement. Some Malians fear returning home

GAO,  – Mali’s recent conflict has degraded social relations, leading to fears of reprisals among some of the displaced and posing major hurdles to reconciliation, observers say.

Mali plunged into chaos with the March 2012 ouster of President Amadou Toumani Touré, which eased the capture of the country’s north by Tuareg separatist rebels, who were later dislodged by heavily armed Islamist militants.

Across Mali, many blamed the Tuareg and Arabs for helping the Islamist take-over of the much of the north. When French forces intervened in January to expel the militants, many Tuareg and Arabs were targeted by civilians, and a climate of suspicion engulfed many northern and central towns. Many people said they feared reprisal violence.

Ethnic tensions have long existed in Mali, and inter-communal violence has erupted in the past, but an October study by Oxfam revealed that the 2012-2013 conflict frayed social relations more profoundly than previous violence.

“There is this overall feeling that there has been a major degradation of social relationships,” said Steve Cockburn, Oxfam’s West Africa campaigns and policy manager. “There is quite a strong fear to return home.”

He told IRIN that some of the displaced and the refugees “feared that there would be tensions and conflicts within the community, that there wouldn’t be a lasting peace, and that they would have to leave again in the near future.”

Beyond the recent conflict, longstanding poverty, corruption, and anger overunderdevelopment, marginalization and injustice in northern Mali are seen as factors undermining social relations, Oxfam said.

“In a broader reconciliation process, how does the Malian state devise a process that brings those dissenting voices in?” asked Cockburn. He said many of the study’s respondents expressed a lack of faith in state institutions and showed more confidence in traditional mechanisms of governance.

“Reconciliation programmes will have to be at the community level. It’s less about political agreements at the high level and more about being able to share tea with your neighbour. Will your friend pick up your call? Will you be able to take your cattle to a trader?”

Mistrust

The collapse of social cohesion is visible in the tendency to generalize blame. Sixty percent of respondents who believe that social relations have worsened blamed whole ethnic groups rather than individuals, said Oxfam’s report, which also noted that threats, violence and stigmatization have contributed to the strained relations.

“Houses belonging to Arabs and Tuareg suspected to have colluded with the MNLA [the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad] and the MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa] were looted. At times, there was no distinguishing whether they collaborated with the rebels or not. As long as you have light skin, you were targeted,” said Youssouf Traoré, who works for the Gao-based Association of Sahel Agricultural Advisors (ACAS), a partner organization of International Organization for Migration (IOM) that supports the tracking of returnees.

Mistrust is highest among the displaced, who have undergone the hardships of fleeing and living in refuge. For some, it is not the first time they have been forced from their homes, said Oxfam’s Cockburn.

Going home?

Some of the refugees surveyed in the Oxfam study, mainly ethnic Tuareg, said they were unwilling to go back home, Cockburn explained. “That is clearly a challenge in terms of finding solutions for those who have been displaced.”

“The occupiers made us… systematically associate light-skinned people with the Islamists. Social relations are not like they were in the past.”

“Cohabiting is difficult. The problem is between those who supported the rebels and those who didn’t,” said Hachimy Maïga, who also works for ACAS.

“The occupiers made us… systematically associate light-skinned people with the Islamists,” Maiga said, referring to Arabs and light-skinned Tuareg. “Social relations are not like they were in the past.” He said a man suspected of having collaborated with the Islamists was recently beaten to death at a market in Gao.

Nonetheless, since the Islamists were driven away from the main northern cities of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, thousands of displaced people have returned home. Some of this was encouraged by the Malian government, which set up a scheme to pay the relocation and resettlement fees of civil servants resuming duty in the north.

Between January and September, some 65,000 people returned to the Mopti, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu areas, according to the IOM. But another 40,000 have moved to southern towns from the north, likely due to the lack of economic opportunities and difficult access to basic services.

Violence, livelihoods

Insecurity remains a threat to those returning to the north. In late September, suspected militants carried out attacks in Timbuktu and Gao cities, while MNLA fighters briefly clashed with Malian forces in Kidal.

“The government must make sure that there is security because we will not accept to be sent to slaughterhouses,” said Oumarou Sangaré, a government veterinarian, referring to the September suicide attack in Timbuktu. “We are not going to sacrifice our lives because of the relocation and resettlement fee. The city must first be secured.”

Still, many of those returning say they feel that security has improved. But financial difficulties are also complicating relocation, said Stephanie Daviot, manager of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix project.

“What we’ve seen also is many went up north, and when they saw that the conditions there [were poor], especially the condition of their houses and farms… they decided to go back south simply because they did not have any means of survival,” said Daviot.

Others have returned north after facing economic hardships in the south. Some 4,500 people returned to Gao city from the capital Bamako and other southern regions between August and September, said ACAS’ Traoré.

“The first reason they say made them come back is the return of stability. The other is economic difficulty in areas they had gone to seek safety,” he said, citing problems accessing proper housing, education, health and food as well as difficulties adapting to life in refuge.

Fatalmoudou Maïga, a mother of five, told IRIN that when she returned to Gao, she found that part of her house had been damaged by bombing and another was occupied by people she did not know.

“I lost my husband during the Islamist occupation in Gao,” she said. “But I decided to return because I’ve always lived in Gao. It’s like starting all over again. I feel like a stranger in my own house. I don’t recognize my town, my house. Some of my neighbours joined the rebels… They are the ones who stole my animals.”

Economic life has also been disrupted, with the departure of many Tuareg and Arabs who were the main traders in the north. ACAS’ Maïga explained that the prices of basic goods – such as tea, dates, sugar, oil and flour – have risen.

“The trust between the different groups diminished so people trade less with each other,” said Cockburn.

Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Mali’s new president, has promised to tackle the causes that led to the overthrow of his predecessor and the capture of the country’s northern half.

ob/sd/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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“The situation in Rakhine is quite fragile and critical”

Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2013

Tomás Ojea Quintana

BUENOS AIRES,  – Myanmar’s government has signed individual ceasefire agreements with 14 main non-state armed groups since 2011, and is pressing ahead with plans for a national ceasefire agreement, originally scheduled for the end of October, but now delayed. The most recent round of negotiations with northern Myanmar’s Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) brought further hope of nationwide reconciliation.

But the government faces ongoing tension in western Rakhine State between ethnic Rakhines (primarily Buddhist) and Rohingyas (mostly Muslims), continued fighting in Kachin State which in the past year has left more than 83,000 people displaced in 42 camps, and allegations of human rights abuses against the country’s ethnic minorities.

Following his most recent mission to Myanmar in August 2013, IRIN met Tomás Ojea Quintana , the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, in his home city of Buenos Aires, to discuss the prospects for a nationwide ceasefire; segregation in Rakhine State, and allegations of army or police brutality against Rohingyas, as well as the implications of the transition to democracy for the country’s ethnic minorities.

IRIN: Given the history of broken ceasefires between non-state armed groups and the Myanmar government, what assurance is there of lasting peace with the latest round of peace talks?

Quintana: Now what is totally different is that it is a civilian government in transition to a democracy. As a human rights rapporteur, I would not say that it is a democracy yet. Democracy will take a long time. But it is a civilian government that is progressively gaining respect, particularly from Western countries.

This respect has given the civilian government some kind of [room for] manoeuvre to have this discussion with the ethnic armed groups [to disarm], which is of course very important [for the peace process].

The ethnic groups, all of them, have reservations about where this might go in terms of lasting peace, in terms of receiving the benefits from development, and in terms of their participation in the exploitation of natural resources.

They have reservations in terms of the political structure of the country, which currently does not [allow] ethnic groups the participation they would like to have [in governing themselves], and regarding their [own political autonomy].

Nonetheless the government has signed [peace deals] with most of the NSA [non-state actor] groups. There is only one group, the Kachin, the KIA [Kachin Independence Army], which is still holding conversations. They have recently signed an agreement… which is not exactly a ceasefire… but it goes in that direction.

And now, after my last mission [in August 2013]… I talked to the president and [his] advisers who are in charge of the peace process and they are planning to hold a national ceasefire agreement by October 2013.

IRIN: How would a national ceasefire differ from individual ceasefires?

Quintana: It will be a very important message to the international community that all [of] Myanmar is united towards the very important objective of peace. A lot of pressure is being put on the KIA [to sign].

The problem… is how these ceasefires will be implemented on the ground and how they will reflect the interests of all the villagers living in remote areas. We don’t see a comprehensive plan to implement these decisions. For example, one of the issues is what will happen to the [Burmese] refugees in Thailand? If you were a refugee would you want to go back?

There is no transparency, no plans [for implementation]. Nobody knows about the problem of the landmines, the problems with the land. There is a lot of land confiscation. It is a really serious problem how to move from a ceasefire – from stopping the bullets from flying – to something different, to build a united country. That is still very difficult and will take a long time.

IRIN: What are the barriers in Kachin State, the only place where the government has not reached an agreement with rebels?

Quintana: It is not clear. The KIA allegations are that the military is not actually following the decisions of the civilian president and there is still a militarization in the area, which they won’t accept. The Kachin community in particular has a strong stance on the possibility for [it] to run [its] own businesses in Kachin State [instead of competing with the military for business and income].

The government, though, is not opening up any spaces for these kinds of issues to be included in the dialogue so far. That is why it has been quite difficult to reach an agreement.

IRIN: How representative are non-state armed groups of people in their communities?

Quintana: That’s a difficult question because there is not a formal democracy and no formal electoral process, so how do you say to what extent they are representative.

What I have seen…is that ordinary people in villages really don’t understand and don’t believe that ceasefires and peace processes will bring concrete benefits to them. That is a problem. The leaders of ethnic groups need to have better connections with their own people.

“Ordinary people in villages really don’t understand and don’t believe that ceasefires and peace processes will bring concrete benefits to them. That is a problem”

And the same with the refugees. When you talk to the refugees about returning and the information they have in respect to what is going on in Myanmar, they don’t know. They don’t trust. They still fear a lot. It seems that the ethnic leaders need more work in this respect.

At the same time, the people and the ethnic army leaders have faced oppression from the military regime for decades and that is very, very tough to lead, and to recover from that, and to try to [be] more organized with your communities is not easy.

IRIN: What can be done to engage communities more in peace talks?

Quintana: The government and the ethnic leaders are doing a lot… to settle the problems at the top, at the highest levels. But they need to involve the communities in a more widespread and comprehensive plan of action. You don’t see the communities being involved. And that has been the practice in Myanmar for decades. I mean that is how the military operated… giving instructions and expecting instructions to be implemented – period – without consulting. It’s part of a historical problem in Myanmar. It is still there.

IRIN: And what about the Rakhine commission established by the Myanmar government? What are your thoughts on its recommendations on ways to prevent violence?

Quintana: They [the commission] never addressed what happened – the human rights abuses. This is a clear shortcoming and it is one of my concerns. And I am calling for the [UN Human Rights Council] to continue to address this. The allegations of what happened are very serious. Widespread human rights abuses, torture of hundreds of prisoners in Buthidaung [a prison in Rakhine State holding an estimated 1,000 Rohingyas], a place I have visited, and the government has not done anything about that. The situation in Rakhine is quite fragile and critical.

“The situation in Rakhine is quite fragile and critical”

IRIN: What is the potential of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help mitigate what is now a regional crisis?

Quintana: ASEAN countries don’t want to get involved. Based on the non-interference provision of ASEAN charter, they do not want to interfere. There is no potential [for ASEAN] as a regional mechanism [to pressure the Myanmar government to resolve the conflict]. I tried many times to address ASEAN, to let them know they have an important role to play… It is becoming a regional, not a national problem.

IRIN: Is the government putting any foundation in place to allow Rohingyas to return to their homes in northern Rakhine State?

Quintana: No… The original places of the Rohingyas are being used for some other purposes by the government.

IRIN: How can the humanitarian community support shelter for the displaced?

Quintana: There is a dilemma because the [displaced] people still need access to humanitarian aid. So if you do not provide that because you say you do not agree with [the government’s] policies of making settlements permanent, then you are not delivering the aid. So you have a problem there. And the humanitarian agencies or donors try not to get involved in the political arena of a country.

IRIN: What are the risks of long-term segregation of Buddhists and Rohingyas, where government- monitored encampment have cut displaced Rohingyas from their land and livelihoods?

Quintana: It’s going to be a disaster because many of the areas that you can look into in respect to the Rohingyas, how Rohingyas are treated, you always see obstacles, limitations, and intentions to not help them at all.

IRIN: What role can civil society play in reconciliation?

Quintana: I hope they are included as participants in the implementation of the [ceasefire] agreement. That is the role they need to play but that is the role that their own leaders need to address with them [ethnic communities]. The[se communities’] leaders need to say that they want their own people to be involved.

My job as a rapporteur is to say, ‘You are an ethnic general of armed forces. I understand… you have been fighting for years against your army. But now you need to play some other role and let your people participate.’ It will take time…

[During my] last mission my convoy was attacked by Buddhist mobs [where I was addressing the issue of communal violence]. And the police stood by so it was kind of planned somehow… It was more than tense. I was frightened. But I am still holding the mandate [as Myanmar’s special rapporteur on human rights].

dm/pt/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Markets in smaller countries could be under threat: Need to reopen talks on subsidies at WTO

Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2013

Markets in smaller countries could be under threat

JOHANNESBURG,  – The combined effects of the global economic slowdown and increasing climatic shocks are threatening food security in developing countries, prompting many to re-open World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions on limits to support for farmers.

A group of developing countries – known as G33 – is asking to exceed their agreed domestic support limits when they buy, stock and supply cereals and other food to boost food security among the poor; they want these changes to be exempt from any legal challenge.

Essentially, these countries want the freedom to buy grains at set prices from producers and to use that grain to build stockpiles for distribution. The WTO rules do not prescribe limits on the amount of food that can be bought at market prices for food stocks, and it does not limit the amount of food that can be provided as domestic food aid at subsidized prices. The WTO only disciplines buying cereals at administered prices.

The proposal will be discussed at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

Developed countries and some developing countries are concerned that the G33 proposal – which is backed by India, China and Indonesia – could affect food security in neighbouring countries. They fear these measures could lead to surpluses in stocks, which the G33 members might dump in the global market, disrupting global prices.

Ashok Gulati, chairman of India’s Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP), reckons India wants more leeway to provide support for its farmers and consumers because the government is launching a massive subsidized food scheme through a public distribution system that will reach two-thirds of its population – nearly 800 million people. He told IRIN that a situation where India would be in a position to dump excess stocks could arise “once in 10 years.” He added, “the larger distortion will be domestic,” referring to disruptions to local markets.

A representative from one of the G33 countries at the WTO, who did not want to be named, said not all the members of the group were supportive of the proposal. “India is already the largest exporter of rice in the world… Small exporters will lose their competitiveness because of Indian subsidies… Rice prices are already going down, and with further subsidies it can lead to a price crash,” the representative said.

The delegate estimated that support for rice production in India – both in the form of agricultural inputs and procurement – ran into billions of dollars. Even more support could “ruin” agriculture sustainability and “create food insecurity instead of food security” in the region.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not”

Gulati has publicly come out against the government’s plan to stockpile staple grains because of the effect it would have on prices in the local markets, according to interviews with the Indian daily theEconomic Times and news agency DNA.

He maintains that dispensing subsidized food will not address malnutrition, a significant problem in India, where almost half the population of children are malnourished. Gulati believes this problem can only be addressed by comprehensively tackling the various dimensions of food insecurity, such as by increasing access to clean water and improving the status of women.

But a new paper, produced jointly by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), takes a sympathetic view of positions on both sides, and uses the proposal to flag the need to reform global agricultural trade rules. The paper contends there has been minimal reform to agricultural trade rules since the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations that led to the formation of the WTO two decades ago.

“The G33 proposal can more broadly be seen as symptomatic of the challenges many countries face in designing policies to achieve food security goals in the new price environment,” the paper notes.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not,” it adds.

To subsidize or not

Agricultural subsidies have been a contentious issue for years. The WTO has placed ceilings on how much the US and the European Union (EU) can spend on agricultural subsidies that distort trade, but these are still rather high, food rights groups say.

A drought in the US in 2012 and fluctuating food prices have led policy-makers there and in the EU to rethink protection and support for their farmers, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) pointed out.

The US’s agriculture policy is governed by the Farm Bill, which is updated every four years, but the 2008 legislation was extended to September 2013, when the two parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – were unable to come to an agreement on subsidized food for the country’s poor. The new proposed bill recommends an expanded insurance programme with new crop insurance subsidies, which would see farmers receive money when income from certain crops falls below a targeted level. It also sets higher target prices for crops that trigger payments when revenues fall for several consecutive years. The bill is likely to come up for negotiations in the coming weeks.

The EU has largely done away with export subsidies that support the disposal of surplus production abroad, but the EU Common Agriculture Policy still ensures high levels of direct support to farmers and protects EU markets. The EU has substantially reformed farm support over the years to reduce its impacts on trade and production, but some still question whether the support provided continues to give European producers an advantage over competitors elsewhere.

On the other hand, the economic slowdown and its impact on local currencies have forced developing countries like Zambia to remove subsidiesfor farmers and millers because the expenditure is perceived as draining the country’s limited resources.

More imbalances?

If richer nations are strengthening support to their farmers while the poorer countries cut back, could global imbalances grow?

Jamie Morrison, a senior economist with FAO and a co-author of the ICTSD/FAO paper, says that, generally, when considering support to farmers in times of disasters, countries should take into account the kind of support they have to fall back on. In rich countries, farmers have access to insurance and other safety nets, which might not be the case in developing countries.

He says rich countries use public funding to “underwrite potential losses [for farmers] which private sector insurance institutions may be less willing to cover. This type of support is considered to be less distortive of markets and trade.”

But developing countries tend to intervene directly in the market to stabilize prices for their producers while providing their consumers “with some level of protection against high food prices”, Morrison said. This generally leads to buying grains at prices above the market value and managing cross-border trade. This support not only drains the country’s coffers but “is considered to be distortive of markets and trade.”

Often these subsidies, whether in the form of cheaper agricultural inputs or higher prices for produce, do not get to the intended poorest farmers, and they are often driven by political opportunism – appeasing the majority of the people in developing countries who depend on agriculture for income and food.

“…for many countries, direct support for farmers ‘may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation’ and the ‘only practical option available given weaknesses’ in other public institutions that could have supported production”

CACP’s Gulati, who formerly headed IFPRI’s Asia office, said, “Subsidies on fertilizer, power and irrigation are not targeted. Subsidies have risen much faster than public investments in agriculture [in India]. The marginal return on subsidies is less than one-fourth of that from investments. Yet subsidies multiply due to higher political returns. So India wants more leverage on subsidies.”

Yet Morrison adds that, for many countries, direct support for farmers “may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation” and the “only practical option available given weaknesses” in other public institutions that could have supported production. “Greater use of a system more reliant on market-based instruments may make a more efficient use of resources, but may be impractical at the current time”.

Jonathan Hepburn, agriculture programme manager with ICTSD says, “WTO rules need to take into account the reality that countries are in different situations, and that some have fewer resources at their disposal to achieve public policy objectives. “

Negotiating

In the recent past, negotiating groups at the WTO have sought preferential treatment. The least developed countries (LDCs), for instance, are negotiating to enjoy some flexibility in their implementation of import tariffs on agricultural products. However, even the LDCs face limits on the amounts and kinds of subsidies they provide – although many lack the resources to provide the amount of farm support that would be capped by WTO rules, points out ICTSD’s Hepburn.

Part of the problem in creating new rules on trade, Hepburn said, has “been striking a balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups of countries – especially as the global economic landscape has evolved dramatically over the last decade or so.”

In December, according to the WTO, countries might decide on a “temporary “waiver” (a formal legal exemption allowing some member states to exceed their limits), a non-binding political statement by the conference’s chairperson or some option in between. Flexibility along these lines has sometimes been called a “peace clause” or “due restraint”, because members would avoid bringing legal disputes against developing countries in these circumstances.”

jk/rz

 

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Appeal court: Will ICC rule in favour of Deputy President Ruto on Friday 25th October?

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

The Trial Chamber had granted Mr Ruto excusal from attending all sessions of his trial but the prosecution led by Bensouda appealed against it.

The appeal court will now rule on Thursday in an open court if Ruto should be granted excusal. The ruling will be delivered livestreamed in an open court.

If the court rules in favour of the Deputy President he is expected to fly to Kenya the same day in order to attend to his constitutional duties.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was granted excusal recently. It is not known, as we go to press, if Chief Prosecutor – Bensouda will appeal and demand that President Kenyatta should be present in the court at all times.

Friday

25 October 2013

Ruto and Sang
09:00 – 10:00
Appeals Chamber judgment on William Samoei Ruto’s presence at trial

 

 End

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Marginalization and sexual abuse of women: Who is to blame for their pain, And who can fix it?

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

Who is to blame for their pain? And who can fix it?

COLOMBO,  – A UK-rights group has accused the Sri Lankan government of failing to address the marginalization and sexual abuse of women living in the country’s former war zones in the north and east, an allegation officials dismiss as coming from a “diaspora-led false propaganda machinery”.

report recently published by the London-based Minority Rights Group (MRG) said rape and sexual harassment of women in former war zones in the north and east are continuing even after the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009, and that 89,000 widows (based on a 2010 government estimate) – including some 40,000 female-headed households – are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, exploitation and assault by army personnel, domestic tourists and others due to the women’s poverty.

In a general culture of impunity, MRG authors wrote, Tamil and Muslim women (the two largest ethnic minorities in the former war zones, 12 and 8 percent of the general population, respectively) have feared reporting crimes to police.

The report cited data from Jaffna Hospital in the north of 102 reported cases of rape and “severe violence” against women and girls from Northern Province in 2010, 182 in 2011 and 56 in just February and March of 2012.

MRG’s South Asia expert, Farah Mihlar, wrote: “Tamil and Muslim women are especially concerned for their safety and freedom, and yet have little course for redress since they fear reporting attacks against them to the authorities.”

The island’s military spokesman, Ruwan Wanigasooriya, told IRIN that of 125 people found guilty in civil courts of perpetrating sexual violence in the north between January 2007 and May 2009, seven were security forces personnel.

After fighting ended, from May 2009-2012, of 307 people found guilty in civil courts of committing crimes of sexual violence, 10 were soldiers, based on a military assessment.

He added: “We deny in the strongest terms that there is a prevailing culture of silence and impunity for sexual violence crimes,” noting that the government has taken “legal action” and that convicted soldiers are referred to the military tribunal for court martial.

Citing the army assessment, Wanigasooriya wrote in a statement recently sent to journalists: “It is worthwhile to notice that only 11 incidents out of a total 375 reported incidents [from January 2007-May 2012] can be attributed to security forces. Therefore the inference that the presence of the military contributes to insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict affected areas is baseless and disingenuous.”

Demographic changes

The demographic shift following the civil war – from a largely homogenous Tamil community to one that includes more ethnic groups, including Muslim returnees who had been forced out by Tamils in the late 1990’s, domestic tourists and, the authors wrote, the government-sponsored relocation of workers and households from the majority Sinhalese ethnic group, has heightened the threat of women being sexually exploited by armed forces and other men (sometimes from their own ethnic community) due to poverty.

“With the increasing presence of Tamil diaspora in their home towns (places of origin), community women have told us that their daughters are often being viewed as sexual objects and in some cases, been sexually assaulted,” a leading woman’s activist working in the north told IRIN in an e-mail.

For almost three decades, separatist rebels known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for an independent state in the north carved along Tamil ethnic lines. Fighting ended in May 2009 with the crushing of rebels by government forces.

“After the conflict the situation has got a lot worse. People are less disciplined. There are outsiders who have come from other areas. There are lot of army people; they are in buses, everywhere,” said a Tamil woman from Mannar District, as cited in the MRG report.

The report explained how during the war, LTTE fighters (mostly followers of Hinduism) maintained a rigid code of conduct in areas it controlled, with sexual relations monitored and restricted to married couples. “While women do not necessarily approve of what the LTTE did, nor any similar regulation of their personal lives, the current context has left many feeling disoriented and insecure,” MRG wrote.

The current commissioner of Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission(appointed by the president), Prathiba Lamanmahewa, told IRIN the island is committed to investigating all rights violations but will not be “bulldozed” by groups with vested interests.

“We have come a long way in post-war recovery. Most recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the blueprint for reconciliation, have been implemented.

Adequate steps have been taken to restore civil administration in the north and now there is a provincial council there. It is a process and Sri Lanka has fared better than many other conflict-ridden countries,” he said.

But local activists and residents continue calling for more.

In interviews with some 1,800 households, a citizen group published a reportin March this year concluding “little progress” had been made on the recommendations.

For allegations of sexual abuse, the MRG report called on the police to create Tamil-speaking desks in all police stations in former conflict zones, boost female representation among government officials in the north and east, as well as prosecute perpetrators.

dh/pt/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

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Legal migration options needed – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years

Posted by African Press International on October 23, 2013

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the Lampedusa port, escorted by the coastguard (file photo)

JOHANNESBURG,  – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years, but until two weeks ago, their deaths rarely generated headlines. The sheer scale of the tragedy that occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October, however, was hard to ignore.

A boat, which disembarked from Libya carrying an estimated 500 Eritrean asylum seekers, was only half a mile from Lampedusa’s coast when it caught fire and capsized. So far, Italian authorities have pulled over 350 bodies from the water.

The disaster has precipitated much discussion about what the European Union (EU) and its members states should be doing to prevent further loss of migrant lives at sea, even as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to mount, with dozens of Syrian and Palestinian refugees losing their lives on 11 October when another boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa.

Compared to last year, 2013 has seen a marked increase in the numbers of migrants attempting sea crossings to Italy and Malta. While some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers reached the two southern Mediterranean countries in 2012, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 32,000 have arrived so far this year. The spike in numbers of migrants using the so-called Central Mediterranean route – which usually involves departures from Libya, but also includes those from Egypt and the Turkish coast – is not unprecedented. Following the collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Libya in 2011, 60,000 migrants used the route, with most of them arriving inLampedusa.

The Italian website Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths, estimates that since 1988, nearly 20,000 people have died trying to penetrate Europe’s borders, the vast majority of them at sea.

Responsibilities unclear

Most of the discussion since the recent tragedies has focused on increasing search-and-rescue capacity. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed that the role of EU border agency Frontex be expanded from the patrols it currently coordinates off the Italian coast to span the entire Mediterranean. Such a move could address the current lack of clarity surrounding which countries are responsible for rescuing boats in distress and where their occupants should disembark. But the six member states with Mediterranean coastlines have already voiced their opposition to a proposed regulation that would govern Frontex-coordinated operations, arguing that international laws already deal with such matters.

“Prospects for it to be adopted soon are quite low,” said Kris Pollet, a senior legal and policy officer with the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “There’s no real sign that this is going to be a decisive moment.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just approved a new state-of-the-art border surveillance programme called Eurosur, which will implement a system for monitoring the EU’s external borders and sharing information between various national border security agencies. Eurosur will launch in December and, according to Malmstrom, could also be used to more quickly identify migrant boats in distress.

However, Philip Amaral of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe pointed out that Eurosur has been in the pipeline for several years, long before the recent tragedy in Lampedusa. “The real basis is to tighten borders and prevent irregular migration; there’s a heavy emphasis on the use of satellite imagery and drones,” he told IRIN.

“A byproduct could be that more lives would be saved at sea, but it doesn’t establish clear lines in terms of which countries are responsible for migrant boats in distress. We think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said.

Amaral also lamented the fact that the Eurosur regulation does not include language that would absolve ship masters from criminal responsibility when rescuing migrant boats. “In Italy, they’re very reluctant to rescue ships in distress because they fear, rightly so, that they’ll be prosecuted” for aiding irregular migration, he said.

Ensuring that shipmasters cannot be prosecuted for facilitating the smuggling of migrants is among a list of 10 urgent measures that UNHCR is calling for to prevent further loss of life and increase burden sharing across the EU.

“It is shameful to witness hundreds of unwitting migrants and refugees drowning on Europe’s borders,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a 12 October statement. He expressed particular concern that Syrian asylum seekers were among the casualties of recent boat tragedies. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum,” he said.

In the absence of any EU-wide agreement on how to handle irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy announced on 14 October that it would triple its air and sea presence in the southern Mediterranean to better respond to potential shipwrecks. The following day, Italian authorities reported that 370 migrants had been rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily.

Amaral welcomed the move by Italy but emphasized that the responsibility for search and rescue should be shared with other member states. “The EU is all about solidarity, so it can’t just be left to Italy and Malta. Other countries need to pitch in and help out,” he said.

Legal migration options needed

EU Commissioner Malmstrom has joined migrant rights organizations in pointing out that, in the longer term, the only way to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from paying smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean in rickety vessels is to provide them with more legal channels for entering Europe.

“Currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far from that”

However, Pollet of ECRE said there was little willingness among member states to even engage in a debate about opening up legal channels for low-skilled migrants and asylum seekers to enter Europe. “At the moment, it’s a very hypocritical approach,” he said.

“The whole discussion is focusing now on increased search and rescue capacity and trying to prevent irregular migration; it’s really focused on the symptoms of the problem rather than the root causes. There’s very little talk about how are these people supposed to get into Europe.”

Amaral agreed. “There is definitely a needed [legal] channel, especially for asylum seekers,” he said. “But currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far away from that.”

ks/rz sourcce http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Deputy President William Ruto joined Kenyans in the Diaspora in celebrating Mashujaa Day in Brussels

Posted by African Press International on October 22, 2013

Deputy President Ruto of Kenya joined Kenyans in the diaspora in marking Mashujaa Day last Saturday 19th October. The event took place in Brussels.

In his address Ruto dismissed the ICC cases, saying it is fabrications engineered by local and international players for political reasons in furtherance of their ulterior – hidden motives.

The DP is quoted saying“Although it is my pleasure to be with you my fellow citizens, our President, my friend Joshua Sang and I are facing charges based on the most incredible fabrications in living history,” He continued to say, “It has become increasingly evident that these cases were not preferred on their forensic merit, but in pursuit of ulterior political motives by local and international forces,”.

The Appeal Court will on Friday October 25th, rule on whether the DP will be exempted from being in court all the time  as he has done so far since the trial against him started on the 10th of September.

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Is Usain Bolt’s several wins genuine?

Posted by African Press International on October 22, 2013

Usain Bolt reportedly faces the prospect of being locked out of the next Olympics if  Jamaica testing body is not ready to meet international standards.

Although Bolt has never been linked to drugs, the Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (Jadco) may be punished by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

It has been reported that only one out-of-competition test had taken place five months leading up to last year’s Olympics. This has led Wada to ask for an audit of the organisation, but the Jamaicans are refusing to cooperate.

WADA has now warned that they may punish the Jamaicans if they refuse to heed the request and allow an audit on their testing periods in the past in order to find out if they have followed the rules.

Usain Bolt has been winning with ease.

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Forced or servile marriage – Debt bondage

Posted by African Press International on October 22, 2013

A young boy works as a labourer near Kathmandu (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – More than two centuries after slavery was outlawed, 29.8 million people globally continue to be subjected to new and diverse forms of servitude, a new index ranking 162 countries shows.

Haiti, India, Nepal, Mauritania and Pakistan have the highest prevalence of modern-day slavery, according to the first edition of the Global Slavery Index(compiled by Australian-based rights organization Walk Free Foundation), while in absolute numbers, China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the most people enslaved. In India, almost 14 million people are believed to be victims of modern slavery.

Contemporary servitude, however, is “poorly understood, so it remains hidden within houses, communities and worksites”, it stated.

According to Gulnara Shahinian, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, “contemporary slavery… often occurs in hard to reach areas of the country or what is perceived as the `private realm’, such as in the case of domestic servitude…

“In today’s world, slavery takes many different forms: human trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour, servitude… These people are controlled and forced to work against their will and their dignity and rights are denied.”

IRIN looks at some of the major forms of modern-day slavery.

Forced labour: The International Labour Organization (ILO) considerscompulsory or forced labour any “work or service exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.”

Common forms of forced labour can be found in under-regulated or labour-intensive industries, such as agriculture and fisheries, construction, manufacturing, domestic work, and the sex industry. A 2013 ILO report, highlighted some of the brutal conditions under which people are made to work in the fisheries industry. This category can apply to multiple forms of slavery, with people being forced to work in a variety of ways, often including the threat of violence or debt bondage.

ILO estimates that around 21 million people are victims of forced labour.

Debt bondage: This is the most common form of contemporary slavery, according to the London-based NGO Anti-Slavery International, which says “a person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week.”

In Pakistan, the Asian Development Bank estimates that 1.8 million people are bonded labourers, primarily working in brick kilns as well as in agriculture, fisheries and mining. In Brazil’s rural sector, a 2010 UN report found that many poor workers were enticed to distant areas by intermediaries, who charged an advance on their salaries, promising high wages. The workers found themselves paying hefty off loans for the cost of their transport and food, without any clear indication of how their debt or wages were being calculated.

Similar practices occur in Bangladesh.

Human trafficking: The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”, through the threat or use of force or other means of coercion “for the purpose of exploitation”.

In Benin, the International Office for Migration estimates that more than 40,000 children are the victims of trafficking. The Global Slavery Index notes that many of these children are trafficked to countries within the region, as well as from rural to urban areas within one country.

Forced or servile marriage: This occurs when an individual does not enter into a marriage with full and free consent. The 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery considers illegal any practice where “a woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group”. Transfer of a woman by her husband in return for payment, as well as inheritance of a woman following the death of her husband, is also outlawed. While the definition only applies to women and girls (who bear the brunt of forced marriages) there have been calls for it to cover boys and men too.

Child slavery: Child slavery and exploitation, including the use of children in armed conflict, is another common form of contemporary slavery. The Worst Forms of Child Labour, defined by ILO include the sale and trafficking of children, compulsory labour, serfdom, and the compulsory use of children in armed conflict. In Haiti, children from rural households are sent to urban areas to work as domestic house helps for wealthier families and can then be exploited. Around 1 in 10 children in Haiti are exploited, according to the Global Slavery Index.

While child slavery remains a significant problem, the number in child labour around the world reduced to 168 million in 2012 from 246 million in 2000, according to ILO.

Chattel slavery: A situation where a person or group of people is considered the property of a slave-owner, and can be traded, is the least common form of slavery today. Slave-owners in these situations control victims and their descendants, and therefore individuals are often born enslaved.

Although slavery was finally criminalized in Mauritania in 2007, leading to the freeing of many people, few slave-owners have been convicted of the practice, and chattel slavery remains a serious problem. The Global Slavery Index estimates there are 140,000-160,000 slaves in Mauritania.

aps/aw/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON,  – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

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

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ICC: Is witness 4 honest or lying to fix Ruto? Listen to the way he speaks and get the answer – seems well coached to lie!

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

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Our world: Climate shocks will hurt poverty targets

Posted by African Press International on October 20, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – As climatic shocks worsen, disaster-affected populations will be driven deeper into poverty, exacerbating their vulnerability, in as soon as two decades – unless policymakers start to address the issue now, according to a new study from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). 

India did a “remarkable job” limiting the number of casualties from Cyclone Phailin, which slammed into the country’s eastern coast on 12 October, notes Tom Mitchell, who heads the climate change programme at ODI. The death toll currently stands at 38, compared to the 10,000 killed when the last cyclone hit Odisha State in 1999.

But Cyclone Phailin still affected at least 12 million people in India’s poorest states – Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar – and it devastated livelihoods, leaving residents even more vulnerable to natural shocks and pushing them into deeper poverty, Mitchell said. It is too early for official estimates, as some of the affected areas are still under water, but the government has acknowledged “extensive damage” to property, crops and livestock.

“If the international community is serious about eradicating poverty by 2030, it must put DRM [disaster risk management] at the heart of poverty eradication efforts”

Mitchell used the impact of Phailin to illustrate the findings of ODI’s new study, which examines the overlap between future concentrations of poverty and the areas likely to be most exposed to natural hazards like drought and flooding. According to the study, which Mitchell co-authored, in another two decades, India will have the highest number of people in the world “who are still likely to be living in poverty in 2030 and some of the highest exposure to hazards”.

Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid India, notes that “the scale of destruction, combined with the growing frequency of such extreme weather incidents, does indeed set back the years of development work that the governments and civil society organizations engage in.”

For these reasons, climate change- and disaster-related interventions must be closely tied to poverty reduction efforts in the post-2015 development agenda, experts say.

Linking disasters to poverty

The ODI study, The geography of poverty, disasters and climate extremes in 2030, questions the reasonableness of a UN high-level panel’s recommendation that 2030 be the deadline for the eradication of all poverty. The UN high-level panel- which is co-chaired by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UK Prime Minister David Cameron – has been tasked with advising on a global development framework for after 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“If the international community is serious about eradicating poverty by 2030, it must put DRM [disaster risk management] at the heart of poverty eradication efforts,” the report says. “Without this, the target of ending poverty may not be within reach.”

In examining the relationship between disasters and poverty, the ODI report finds “that without any concerted action, up to 325 million extremely poor people could be living in the 49 countries most exposed to the full range of natural hazards and climate extremes in 2030”.

“We are suggesting a target to be added to the first proposed post-2015 development goal on ending poverty: to ‘build resilience and reduce the number of deaths caused by disasters’,” Mitchell said.

Neha Rai, a researcher with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), concurs with the findings of the report: “The post-2015 agenda must definitely integrate targets on disasters and climate change. We can see this happening if post-2015 goals put sustainable development goals within the centre of a global and national agendas [a suggested outcome of Rio+20]. On the ground, this would mean joint planning on development and climate change issues.”

She explained that this is already happening in countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, which “see direct linkages between reduction in vulnerability and investments in comprehensive disaster management and adaptation actions.”

The ministries in these countries are “therefore also integrating climate resilience within development planning,” she said in an email to IRIN.

Fundamental changes needed

But this was clearly not the case in Odisha. Disaster “preparedness does not begin or end with merely rushing people to shelters,” noted journalist Jay Mazoomdar in an article for the investigative Indian news channel Tehelka.

He wrote that if the Odisha state disaster authorities had conducted a study to identify areas and communities vulnerable to disasters, it would have reduced the impact of the disaster. For example, a study would have enabled a “targeted evacuation”, which “would have allowed people time and space to minimize other losses as well. Their livestock could have been protected better. Evacuated families could have carried more assets to safety. The relief and rehab work to follow would have been less difficult, faster and more effective.”

IIED’s Rai says changes are needed to government planning to improve resilience in the face of climatic shocks and poverty reduction.

“At the conceptual level, this would also mean removing contradictions between growth-centred MDGs and sustainable development. This would mean redefining development – currently understood as economic growth – to attain MDGs,” she said.

“The present growth-centred model aggravates climate-induced problems (by emitting more warming gases), thereby further increasing our vulnerabilities in the long run. Expecting modest and green development from all rungs of the global community (developed, developing) may help us to achieve post-2015 goals in a collaborative manner,” Rai explained.

She echoes what a group of eminent scientists said in a comment piece earlier in this year: “It is not enough simply to extend MDGs, as some are suggesting, because humans are transforming the planet in ways that could undermine development gains.”People are also increasingly exposed to growing levels of climatic shocks.

Mitchell says the development goal should ensure disaster risk management not only focuses on saving lives but protecting livelihoods as well.

The ODI study is in line with calls from the global community to consider the relationships between climatic shocks, disaster risk management and development goals, not only in terms of the MDGs, but in the new proposed climate treaty and a new plan to make the world safer from natural hazards to replace the Hyogo treaty – all of which happen in 2015.

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

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