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Posts Tagged ‘Central African Republic’

Meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and His Excellency Mr. Nabil Fahmi, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Posted by African Press International on December 26, 2013

TOKYO, Japan, December 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – On December 19, commencing at 5:10 p.m. for approximately 30 minutes, Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Fumio Kishida held a meeting with His Excellency Mr. Nabil Fahmi, Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The overview of the meeting is as follows.

1. The situation in Egypt

(1) Minister Kishida said the steady progress with the roadmap is encouraging. The finalization of the amended draft constitution is an important milestone in particular, and he will be watching closely the course of the national referendum on January 14 and 15 next year. He also said regulations such as the protest law and the detention of anti-government activists are a concern as they are issues that also involve human rights and social stability. On the other hand, he is well aware of the struggles the interim government faces in maintaining security and public order. He condemns the terrorist activities in the Sinai Peninsula, and extends his condolences to the victims and their families.

(2) In response, Minister Fahmi said democratization process such as drafting the amended constitution has been progressing, it proceeds based on guarantee of the basic human rights and the principle of the rule of law and he hope the interim-period will be terminated peacefully by next summer.

2. Japan-Egypt relations

(1) Minister Kishida said Japan will continue to extend support toward economic development and socio-economic stability that benefits Egyptian citizens overall, while focusing on Egypt’s progress with the democratization process and the promotion of youth employment, and he announced the provision of the grant aidwill commence for the construction of a ward for the Cairo University Pediatric Hospital, and with the cooperation of the UNDP and other organizations a total of approximately 16 million USD in support is being newly prepared. With the Construction of New Dirout Group of Regulators (DGR) and Improvement of Water Management Project as a starting point, the Japan wants to implement new yen loans also. However, in going forward Japan wants to consider such loans based on explanations of Egypt’s specific efforts toward economic stabilization. He noted that the travel warnings in some tourist locations were lowered further last week, and said he hopes that this, coupled with stability in Egypt’s social situation, helps to encourage tourism and other people-to-people exchanges.

 

(2) In response, Minister Fahmi said expansionary policies are being implemented for improving the economic situation and he expressed gratitude for the new economic assistances and the longstanding assistances from Japan such as Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST).

 

SOURCE

Japan – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

 

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Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 14, 2013


Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic

 

OSLO, Norway, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/  “The situation in the Central African Republic is now so serious that the UN humanitarian system has decided to operate collectively at the highest level to mobilise staff, equipment and other resources. Norway is therefore allocating NOK 20 million in funding to UNICEF for its efforts to protect children in the country. In wars and conflicts, children are the most vulnerable group of all,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

 

The UN and aid organisations are reporting a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, as a result of the escalating armed conflict in the country. Violence against civilians is on the rise, including in the capital Bangui, and a growing number of people are being driven from their homes.

 

“Some of UNICEF’s most important work is protecting children from abuses and suffering caused by conflict. UNICEF ensures that families with children have access to water, shelter and food, and it establishes safe, child-friendly spaces where children can take part in activities and receive help to overcome traumatic experiences. Norway is now making a major contribution to this important work,” said Mr Brende.

 

Norway is providing humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Following this latest allocation, Norway’s humanitarian contribution will total NOK 52 million. This sum comes in addition to Norway’s contributions to UN funds and programmes in the country.

 

SOURCE

Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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CNN team escape fierce fighting

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2013

December 6, 2013: CNN’s Nima Elbagir and team escape a U.N. compound in Bossangoa following fierce fighting and RPG attacks. READ more—

 

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EU commits to funding the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2013

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – As the political and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has progressively deteriorated for more than a year now, the European Commission has continued to mobilise its development aid to help people and improve their security.

On 5 December 2013 the Poliitical and Security Committee of the EU endorsed a request from the African Union (dated 21 November 2013) addressed to the European Union for funding of €50 million for the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (AFISM-CAR). “The AFISM-CAR will contribute to the stabilization of the country and the protection of local populations, creating conditions conducive to the provision of humanitarian assistance and the reform of the security and defence sector”, said European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs.

SOURCE

European Commission

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Supporting international response in Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 9, 2013

LONDON, United-Kingdom, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Foreign Secretary announces UK air transport assistance to France for Central African Republic.

On 5th December, with strong UK support, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2127 authorising the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA), and the deployment of French forces to give assistance. The Mission will contribute to the protection of civilians, the restoration of public order, and the stabilisation of CAR at a critical moment.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“The UN Security Council made an important decision yesterday to authorise African Union and French troops to respond to the security and humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic.

“We are determined to play our part in helping to address the violence. We have therefore agreed with the Government of France that we will help move French equipment to CAR by means of a UK C17 transport aircraft. Three separate flights will take place this month, with the first one due to land in CAR shortly.

“This comes on top of £10 million in UK aid announced on 30 November. Having already contributed £5 million in July, the United Kingdom is now one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the people of CAR. We will continue to work alongside the International Red Cross and UN agencies to help thousands of people gain access to food, water, shelter, sanitation and healthcare to alleviate the desperate humanitarian suffering.”

 

SOURCE

United Kingdom – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

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The imperative of the restoration of public order and the protection of the civilian populations in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2013

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, continues to closely monitor, with utmost concern, the evolution of the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). She reiterates the strong condemnation by the AU of the abuses and other massive violations of human rights that continue to be committed against the civilian populations. She stresses the urgent need to do everything necessary to bring this unacceptable situation to an end.

The Chairperson of the Commission encourages the Peace Consolidation Mission of the Economic Community of Central African States in the CAR (MICOPAX), which will transition into the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR (MISCA), on 19 December 2013, to intensify its efforts, in order to contribute to the speedy restoration of public order and the effective protection of the civilian populations, and to take all necessary steps to this end.

She welcomes the initiatives taken by her Special Representative in the CAR, Hawa Ahmed Youssouf, including the sustained and continued consultations with the transitional authorities, the military command of MICOPAX, the religious leaders and key representatives of the international community in Bangui, in order to address the prevailing situation on the ground. She appeals to the French forces deployed in the CAR to extend all the necessary support to MICOPAX.

 

SOURCE

African Union Commission (AUC)

 

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Norway increases its humanitarian support to the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 8, 2013

OSLO, Norway, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – “I am very concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic. Norway welcomes the decision by the UN Security Council to authorize an expanded peacekeeping force, in order to contribute to the protection of civilians and the restoration of security and public order,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is steadily deteriorating. Attacks on civilians and violations of human rights are widespread, and law and order is virtually absent. The local population and displaced persons are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

The Norwegian Government is therefore increasing its humanitarian support by NOK 20 million, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (NOK 15 million) and Médecins Sans Frontières (NOK 5 million). Norway also contributes to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in CAR. The total humanitarian support to CAR now stands at NOK 32 million. In addition, Norway contributes to other UN funds and programmes in the country.

“I am concerned about the impact of the crisis on the region. There is a risk that the lawlessness we are seeing in the Central African Republic will turn the country into a haven for extremists, armed groups and international organised criminals, thus increasing instability in the region,” Mr Brende said.

The Foreign Minister considers the decision by the UN Security Council to authorise the deployment of an African-led stabilisation force (MISCA), which will be assisted by an expanded French force, to be crucial for the country.

“We are following the situation closely and we will consider further contributions to the humanitarian response early next year,” Mr Brende said, underlining that all parties to the conflict are obliged under international humanitarian law to ensure that people in need have access to humanitarian assistance.

 

SOURCE

Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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National Day Message

Posted by African Press International on December 1, 2013

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington, DC

November 30, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend my deepest hope to the people of the Central African Republic that you may celebrate your independence on December 1 in peace and security.

The United States stands with the courageous people of the Central African Republic as we work together and with regional and international partners to restore stability, protect human rights, promote national reconciliation, and re-establish constitutional governance in your country.

We share a vision for your country’s future that includes security and prosperity for all people. To help realize that vision, we are planning to provide $40 million in assistance to the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. We have also provided more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance and an additional $6 million specifically to support new Central African refugees in neighboring states.

I congratulate the people of the Central African Republic on their National Day and extend my sincerest wishes for a future of peace, stability, and prosperity.

 

SOURCE

US Department of State

 

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Bemba case: Four suspects arrested for corruptly influencing witnesses; same charges served on Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Posted by African Press International on November 25, 2013

On 23 and 24 November 2013, the authorities of the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) acting pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Cuno Tarfusser, the Single Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC), arrested four persons suspected of offences against the administration of justice allegedly committed in connection with the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. This warrant of arrest in respect of the same charges was also served on Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC’s detention centre, where he has been detained since 3 July 2008.

On 20 November 2013, Judge Tarfusser issued a warrant of arrest for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, his Lead Counsel Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo (a member of Mr Bemba’s defence team and case manager), Fidèle Babala Wandu (a member of the DRC Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo), and Narcisse Arido (a Defence witness).

Judge Cuno Tarfusser found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that these persons are criminally responsible for the commission of offences against the administration of justice (article 70 of the Rome Statute) by corruptly influencing witnesses before the ICC and presenting evidence that they knew to be false or forged. The suspects, it is alleged, were part of a network for the purposes of presenting false or forged documents and bribing certain persons to give false testimony in the case against Mr Bemba.

The Belgian authorities arrested Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the Dutch authorities arrested Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, and Narcisse Arido was arrested by the French authorities, in response to requests for arrest and surrender from the ICC. They will be subsequently surrendered to the ICC in accordance with the judicial procedures applicable in the three countries. Fidèle Babala Wandu was arrested by the authorities of the DRC and is being transferred to The Hague. The date of his first appearance at the ICC will be announced shortly. The authorities also cooperated with the ICC for the purposes of searching locations connected to the suspects. The Single Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber II further requested the States concerned to locate and freeze the suspects’ assets.

On behalf of the Court, the Registrar of the ICC, Herman von Hebel, expressed his gratitude to the States’ authorities for their cooperation, stating that these are the first arrests made in relation to such charges before the ICC.

The trial of  Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the alleged President and Commander-in-Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, started on 22 November 2010, for two counts of crimes against humanity (rape and murder) and three counts of war crimes (rape, murder and pillaging) allegedly committed in the Central African Republic.

 

End

 

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The Chief of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda speaks

Posted by African Press International on November 25, 2013

Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, following the issuance of a second warrant of arrest against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, and the arrest of four other individuals

​On 20 November 2013, the Single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II issued under seal a warrant of arrest against five individuals for the commission of offences against the administration of justice in connection with the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (ICC-01/05-01/08).

Pursuant to this warrant, on 23 and 24 November 2013, police forces in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrested four individuals whom my Office alleges are responsible for offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.  The warrant of arrest was also notified on a  fifth person, Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who my Office alleges has ordered, solicited and induced these attempts to pervert the course of justice in relation to his on-going trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Since his arrest in 2008, Mr. Bemba has been in detention at the ICC where he is facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He completed the presentation of his case before Trial Chamber III on 22 November 2013.

Persons arrested pursuant to the current warrant of arrest are Messrs. Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Narcisse Arido and Fidèle Babala Wandu.  National procedures are on-going for their surrender to the Court.

The individuals arrested include, amongst others, members of the defence team of Mr. Bemba.  It is particularly disturbing that a member of the legal profession is alleged to have intentionally and systematically participated in criminal activities aimed at undermining the administration of justice.

Article 70 of the Rome Statute stipulates that it is a criminal offence for anyone to, inter alia, attempt to corruptly influence witnesses or tamper with evidence, or present evidence known to be false or forged.  If convicted, those found responsible for these crimes may face up to five years imprisonment, or a fine, or both.

I am extremely grateful for the excellent cooperation received from all States involved in facilitating the smooth execution of the arrests and related investigative operations.

Justice must be allowed to take its course.  This warrant of arrest must serve as a warning to would-be perpetrators that my office will not hesitate to bring the full force of the law to bear against cynical – criminal – attempts to deny victims of massive crimes the justice they deserve.

 

Source:  Office of the Prosecutor

 

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Support for the African Union International Support Mission in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on November 21, 2013

WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington, DC

November 20, 2013

I am deeply concerned by the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic and the deplorable levels of violence and lawlessness that affect millions of people every day. In the continuing aftermath of the March 2013 overthrow of the government by the Seleka rebel alliance, militia groups are now organizing themselves along increasingly sectarian lines and engaging in a cycle of retaliatory abuses against civilians. At this moment, the United States sees no evidence that the CAR transitional government has the capacity or political will to end the violence, especially the abuses committed by elements of the Seleka rebel alliance that are affiliated with the government.

Pending notification to the United States Congress, the Department of State plans to provide $40 million in assistance to MISCA, the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in the CAR, to help protect civilians and provide security throughout the country. This assistance may provide logistical backing, non-lethal equipment, training, and planning support. In the immediate term, we believe that MISCA is the best mechanism to help quickly address the ongoing violence in the CAR and prevent further atrocities. MISCA is also in the best position to help establish an environment that allows for the provision of humanitarian assistance and an eventual political transition to a democratically elected government.

There are nearly 400,000 internally displaced persons and over 220,000 CAR refugees in neighboring countries, including approximately 68,000 new refugees who have fled in recent months. In the past year, the U.S. government has provided more than $24 million in humanitarian assistance to support programs that provide food, health services, and other aid in the CAR. We have also provided an additional $6 million in humanitarian assistance to specifically support new Central African refugees.

We call on the region and the international community to support and fully deploy MISCA in order to restore security in the country, and we will continue to work with others in the region and the international community to implement a credible political transition and assist the people of the CAR who have suffered so greatly in this conflict.

 

SOURCE

US Department of State

 

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ACTION NEEDED TO PULL CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC OUT OF CRISIS

Posted by African Press International on November 12, 2013

NEW YORK, November 11, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the meeting of the International Contact Group on the Central African Republic, as prepared for delivery by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in Bangui on 8 November:

I thank the African Union and the Mediator of the Economic Community of Central African States for the Central African Republic crisis, His Excellency President Sassou Nguesso, for inviting the United Nations to participate in the third meeting of this International Contact Group. I thank the Government of the Central African Republic for hosting this first meeting of the Group in Bangui.

We meet at a moment of real urgency for the people of the Central African Republic. They are suffering. They are vulnerable. Their security, dignity and future must be foremost in the discussions today and in the actions that must be taken as soon as possible to pull the country out of this dire crisis.

All too often in the past, the Central African Republic has been described as a forgotten crisis. But, today more is being done to sound the alarm and mobilize a response. Since the last meeting of the International Contact Group in July, there has been increased awareness about the situation and the plight of its people.

The African Union and Economic Community of Central African States for the Central African Republic have strengthened their efforts to support the transitional authorities and agreed to deploy the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic. A high-level meeting on the Central African Republic was organized by the European Union, France and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. And, the Security Council adopted its resolution 2121 on 10 October 2013.

The international community is speaking with one voice. We must now translate awareness and concern into effective action to ensure that the crisis is addressed in all its dimensions — security, political, human rights and humanitarian. We must help stop the suffering and act now, without delay.

There has been some movement on the political track. Most of the transitional institutions and implementation mechanisms are now established. The Government has developed a draft road map for operationalizing the transitional commitments. A key milestone on the horizon will be the holding of free and fair elections within 18 months of the inauguration of the Head of State of the Transition. I encourage the National Transitional Council to adopt the draft road map and promulgate the electoral code as soon as possible. I also encourage the authorities to establish the National Authority for the Elections. The United Nations stands ready, once the National Authority for the Elections is in place, to provide assistance in identifying the technical requirements for the successful organization of elections, defining a more specific calendar and mobilizing resources.

Security remains the most immediate priority and pressing concern. I am profoundly concerned about the rapid deterioration of security and the rule of law in the Central African Republic, particularly in the countryside, and the corresponding deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

Elements of the ex-Séléka coalition have continued to terrorize the population, with rampant looting and grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detention, sexual violence against women and children, torture, targeted killings and the recruitment of child soldiers. We have also seen the emergence of local self-defence groups and a cycle of targeted attacks and reprisals with religious underpinnings. This is planting the seeds for a long-lasting conflict between communities that have always co-habited peacefully. We must do everything in our power to de-escalate the religious tensions between Muslim and Christian communities.

I remind the national authorities of their responsibility to ensure respect for human rights, to bring perpetrators to justice and protect all Central Africans from abuse. I call on them to take all necessary measures to restore security and the rule of law and to facilitate humanitarian access. The regroupment and cantonment of former Séléka fighters should take place as soon as possible, in compliance with international standards.

I encourage ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) to help the authorities organize a national conference as soon as possible, as decided by ECCAS leaders at their last Summit. I urge the international community to provide support to MISCA. A Technical Assessment Mission led by my Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations ended its visit yesterday, and I will report to the Security Council shortly.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has earmarked $2.5 million through the Peacebuilding Fund to support the refurbishment of police and gendarmerie stations in Bangui and the interior. Additional support has also been approved in principle by the Peacebuilding Fund to support the regroupment of former Séléka elements.

Finally, let us all recognize that the Central African Republic faces a financial crisis that limits its ability to address the current crisis. While I encourage the international community to help, the level of assistance will depend on the Central African Republic authorities themselves. You must help us to help you. I therefore encourage the Government to make every effort to improve the transparency in the management of the available financial resources.

Excellencies, let me return once again to the urgency of the situation, and the need to act while there is time to prevent any further deterioration. Sparing the people of the Central African Republic more suffering and insecurity must be our collective goal. There is a chance to work together to reverse the downward spiral in the Central African Republic and to set the country on a path toward peace and stability. Time is of the essence. We cannot let the people of the Central African Republic down at this moment of pressing need. Thank you for your attention.

 

SOURCE

UNITED NATIONS

 

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Is there a sectarian dimension? Terror grips Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on October 20, 2013

NAIROBI,  – The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) is deepening more than six months after a coup by the Séléka rebel coalition. 

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in violence since the March coup, thousands have fled their homes, basic services have been adversely affected and senior humanitarian figures have warned of a possible spillover of violence into neighbouring countries.

Séléka, which propelled the current CAR interim President Michel Djotodia into power, “has since become the main perpetrator of violence against civilians”, says Oxford Analytica in a recent CAR brief.

What kind of rights violations are taking place?

The Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de I’Homme (FIDH), has described human rights violations by Séléka as “international crimes”.

“In the absence of the army, the police and [a] justice [system], these youths who include children, terrorize an unprotected population. Heavily armed, with their pick-up [trucks] and motor bikes, they kill, kidnap, [and] torture for money or to stifle all protest. They burn entire villages and rape the women. These human rights violations qualify as international crimes,” it stated in a report.

The FIDH report highlights human rights abuses by Séléka including: a massacre in the area of Gobongo, in Bangui in June, where rebels shot at a protesting crowd leaving several dead; an upsurge in rape cases since the rebel takeover of Bangui; and the looting and burning down of houses in the provinces.

FIDH calls on the international community to place sanctions on Séléka leaders and warlords, including the freezing of their financial assets and urges International Criminal Court action to address impunity.

In a September report Human Rights Watch (HRW) also highlighted serious human rights abuses by Séléka, including murder and rape. According to HRW, President Djotodia denied that Séléka fighters had committed abuses, and continued to shift blame for the violence onto loyalists of deposed President François Bozizé, “false Séléka,” and bandits – even though at least one Séléka official in the field admitted to HRW responsibility for some attacks.

On 13 September, President Djotodia announced the dissolution of Séléka and allied groups, but some senior Séléka figures are pursuing vendettas against perceived Bozizé supporters, according to Oxford Analytica. “In rural areas, fighters lived off their respective areas of control through looting and violence against local residents…

“With bands of rebel fighters ultimately loyal to their individual commanders, the president’s official dissolution of Séléka provides little incentives for compliance; there is almost no prospect of purely local action controlling armed groups.”

Where is the violence concentrated?

Ouham Province in the northwest is among those worst affected by violence.

“In the last month, we have treated more than 60 people in Bossangoa [Ouham’s capital] for injuries that are the result of violence, largely gunshot and machete wounds, including women and children,” said Erna Rijinierse, a surgeon with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “More than 80 percent of surgeries have been for wounds that are conflict-related. MSF is horrified by what we are seeing, including burnt villages and appalling scenes of murder.”

“When such aggressions occur, the population traditionally flee to their fields located anywhere from one to 30km in the bush surrounding their village or city. There, they spend days, weeks and even months without proper shelter, no safe drinking water, limited food supply and no access to the most basic of healthcare.”

Her remarks were carried in an MSF statement on 16 October calling for urgent humanitarian assistance amid “unprecedented levels of violence”. MSF said it had directly witnessed the execution of one healthcare worker, as well as multiple violent attacks on humanitarian staff.

What are the main humanitarian issues?

The violence in Ouham has pushed at least 170,000 people into the forest or into Bossangoa. In Bossangoa, about 36,000 people are seeking refuge at a church, a provincial administration office, and at a local school, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They are living in precarious conditions with limited or no access to shelter, clean water, food and sanitation, according to MSF.

Health care has been adversely affected. “Health structures have been looted, the few qualified personnel have fled, drug supply and logistic means are non-existent or paralysed and even worse is the population which flees violence by seeking refuge in the bush [and] does not have any access to the most basic of health care,” Albert Caramés, an MSF humanitarian affairs officer in Bangui, told IRIN.

Some schools which had reopened have been closed, especially in the provinces of Ouham, Ouham-Pendé and Ouaka due to the insecurity, according to OCHA.

The International Medical Corps (IMC), in a 15 October statement, said the conflict was disrupting agricultural livelihoods in CAR. The looting of cattle, seeds, tools and already-meagre food reserves has compounded the situation.

IMC has recorded global acute malnutrition rates of 15.8 percent (above the UN World Health Organization emergency threshold of 15 percent) in parts of Haute-Kotto District in eastern CAR. Treatment services for malnourished children have been adversely affected with insecurity hindering humanitarian access and the transportation of vital food supplies, added IMC.

“More than 390,000 people in CAR are currently internally displaced; almost twice the numbers reported during the height of previous CAR instability between 2006-2008,” notes Melanie Wissing, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) assistant country analyst for CAR. “Today, estimates suggest that a staggering 10 percent of the population of CAR has been forced to flee since the Séléka movement overthrew the former President Bozizé and his regime in March.”

Is there a risk of regional spillover?

In mid-August, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, in a briefing to the UN Security Council (UNSC) following a CAR visit, noted that the government is fragile and fraught with challenges “including divisions within Séléka, the proliferation of weapons in Bangui and beyond, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts and the absence of state administration outside of Bangui.”

Vulnerable (file photo)

Amos further warned that the CAR crisis, which has affected the entire population of 4.6 million, threatened to spill across the border.

In her blog, Wissing amplifies Amos’s concern, noting that there has been increasing cross-border criminal activity and the presence of fighters from neighbouring countries in CAR.

“Recent reports that both Chadian and Sudanese nationals are found fighting in CAR, along with current reports of refugees arriving in CAR from the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan, suggest there is a risk that armed groups on either side of the border might take advantage of the current situation to further fuel conflict,” she stated.

“With bands of rebel fighters ultimately loyal to their individual commanders, the president’s official dissolution of Séléka provides little incentives for compliance; there is almost no prospect of purely local action controlling armed groups.”

The northeastern CAR region is characterized by lawlessness and banditry. It is also a livestock migratory route for pastoralists from and to Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. Inter-communal tension is common there too.

“Recent reports claim that such pastoralist groups have sided with Séléka and attacked civilians. This raises concerns that armed groups could exploit these inter-communal tensions to further fuel instability for their own benefit, in a way that would mirror conflict and displacement dynamics in Darfur,” warned Wissing.

However, “a truly ‘regional crisis’ appears unlikely, according to Oxford Analytica. “The norm will more likely prevail: that is, state collapse in mineral-rich peripheries, providing havens for various armed groups.”

Is there a sectarian dimension?

There have also been rising religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in CAR.

Explaining the emergence of religious identity as a driver or perceived driver of tension, Oxford Analytica noted that Séléka originated and recruited in the far north which is predominantly Muslim; Djotodia is CAR’s first Muslim head of state; opportunities for looting and theft in rural areas of CAR have also attracted many foreign fighters, often from countries with larger Muslim communities, particularly Chad; and in reprisal for Séléka activity, Muslims around Bossangoa (in Ouham) have been attacked and killed, with subsequent revenge attacks against non-Muslims.

“Sectarian factors were also at play in August, when elements of Séléka cracked down on supposed Bozizé sympathizers in the Boy Rabe District of Bangui,” it adds. 

Since early September, the nature of the CAR conflict has changed with the proliferation of local self-defence groups in various parts of the country, MSF’s Caramés told IRIN.

“As they [the self-defence groups] target government forces and Muslim populations, whom they accuse of collusion with the ex-Séléka, this drives these new government forces to reply aggressively against the self-defence groups and civilian population who are overwhelmingly Christian,” he said.

“This circle of violence is fuelling this latest conflict… When such aggressions occur, the population traditionally flee to their fields located anywhere from one to 30km in the bush surrounding their village or city. There, they spend days, weeks and even months without proper shelter, no safe drinking water, limited food supply and no access to the most basic of healthcare.”

With the present violence in CAR concentrated in the northwest, as it was during the 2006-2008 instability, IDMC’s Wissing added that: “If history were to repeat itself, criminal gangs coming from as far as Niger and Nigeria would take advantage of both the instability and the porous borders to target civilians in CAR, potentially causing massive displacement.”

What is the UN doing?

On 10 October, the UN Security Council (UNSC)  unanimously adopted a resolution seeking to update the mandate of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in CAR (BINUCA). This will enable BINUCA to support the implementation of CAR’s transition process over the next 18 months – after which presidential and legislative elections are expected.

UNSC also demanded that Séléka and other armed groups participate in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and called on African countries to speed up the transition of the Mission of the Economic Community of Central African States for the Consolidation of Peace in CAR into the African-led International Support Mission in the CAR.

UNSC has also noted the UN Secretary-General’s recommendation that BINUCA strengthen its field presence by establishing a guard unit to protect UN personnel and installations in CAR.

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

 

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“Blood ivory” generates significant revenue for terrorist groups

Posted by African Press International on October 3, 2013

“Blood ivory” generates significant revenue for terrorist groups

NEW YORK, 3 October 2013 (IRIN) – Organized environmental crime is known to pose a multi-layered threat to human security, yet it has long been treated as a low priority by law enforcers, seen as a fluffy “green” issue that belongs in the domain of environmentalists.

But due to a variety of factors – including its escalation over the past decade, its links to terrorist activities, the rising value of environmental contraband and the clear lack of success among those trying to stem the tide – these crimes are inching their way up the to-do lists of law enforcers, politicians and policymakers.

The recent terror attack on the popular Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, has placed environmental crimes like the ivory and rhino horn trade under increased scrutiny. Al-Shabab, the Islamist militant group that has taken credit for the attack, is widely believed to fund as much as 40 percent of its activities from elephant poaching, or the “blood ivory” trade. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a brutal rebel group active in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, is also known to be funded through elephant poaching.

Rising incomes in Asia have stimulated demand for ivory and rhino horn, leading to skyrocketing levels of poaching. Over the past five years, the rate of rhino horn poaching in South Africa has increased sevenfold as demand in Vietnam and other Asian countries for the horn – used as cancer treatments, aphrodisiacs and status symbols – grows.

“Drop in the ocean”

On the international stage, politicians – alarmed by increasing evidence of links between terrorist organizations and organized environmental crime – are taking a more visible stand against wildlife trafficking. In July, US President Barack Obama set up a taskforce on wildlife trafficking and pledged US$10 million to fight it.

But this is a mere “drop in the ocean”, says Justin Gosling, a senior adviser on environmental organized crime for the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, which was recently launched in New York.

“If developing countries really want to assist, they need to put up quite a bit of cash,” he added.

Funded by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, the Global Initiative is a network of leading experts in the field of organized crime, which aims to bring together a wide range of players in government and civil society to find ways to combat illicit trafficking and trade.

At the Global Initiative conference, Gosling presented a draft of The Global Response to Transnational Organized Environmental Crime, a report documenting environmental crimes around the world. Such crimes are on the rise in terms of “variety, volume and value”, the report says, and their impact is far greater than the simple destruction of natural resources and habitats. “They affect human security in the form of conflict, rule of law and access to essentials such as safe drinking water, food sources and shelter,” the report says.

The crimes documented range from illicit trade in plants and animals and illegal logging, fishing and mineral extraction to production and trade of ozone-depleting substances, toxic dumping, and “grey areas” such as large-scale natural resource extraction.

Most vulnerable

The most fragile countries – those lacking infrastructure and effective policing but often rich in untapped natural resources – are the most vulnerable to exploitation, and the poorest communities suffer the most. “For millions of people around the world, local reliance on wildlife, plants, trees, rivers and oceans is as strong as it has ever been,” says the report.

Communities are losing food supplies and tourism jobs through unsustainable hunting, fishing and – often illegal – deforestation. In vulnerable countries like the Maldives, for example, populations are at risk from rising sea levels and climate change brought on, in part, by deforestation.

It is impossible to quantify what proportion of organized crime is environmental crime, although 25 percent is a commonly repeated figure. This number comes from a UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimate of the scope of the problem in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is often extrapolated as a global estimate. Even less is known about how much organized environmental crime drains from the legitimate economy. To complicate matters, the line between environmental and other organized crime is often blurred, since the same trafficking networks are frequently used for both.

“We’re not really trying to look at environmental organized crime in terms of value,” said Gosling. “We’re looking at the global response to the problem. Who are the actors, and what are they doing? Is it sufficient, and if not, what can we do?”

Boosting enforcement 

Current efforts are failing. Part of the problem is that legislation and penalties vary enormously between countries. “The range between what may be considered acceptable and highly illegal is vast,” says the report, which argues for better synchronization of goals. There are plenty of international and country-specific strategies but few linkages between them.

Illegal logging is a common environmental crime

A perennial problem is that the environmental agencies tasked with handling environmental crime lack the capacity or jurisdiction to stop it, while law enforcement agencies fail to prioritize it. But as the financial incentives of these crimes soar – a rhino horn can fetch $250,000, for example, and a single fishing trawler expedition can bring in $1 million worth of fish – so do the stakes.

There is evidence that heavy weaponry, such as rocket mortars and semi-automatic weapons, as well as helicopters, are being used by poachers, says investigative journalist Julian Rademeyer, whose book, Killing for Profit, exposes the illicit rhino horn trade in South Africa.

Frequently, top players like alleged kingpin Vixay Keosavang, who is dubbed “the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking” and is said to operate with impunity in his home country of Laos, have links to government officials and other powerful elites.

And no amount of policing can eliminate the fact that environmental crimes are widely seen as a passport out of poverty. Rademeyer, who presented his findings at the conference, found that young men from destitute villages in Mozambique who entered the Kruger National Park to poach rhinos were regarded as heroes in their communities because of the money they brought home.

“Many communities on the Mozambican side of the Kruger Park don’t benefit from its conservation efforts. They face a stark choice: go to Johannesburg illegally and try to find work or poach rhino horn, for which they can get anywhere from $200 to $2,000 per horn,” he said. Without alternative choices, “there will be a constant line of ready recruits to occupy middle positions in these trafficking networks”.

Cooperation needed

Rademeyer said the Global Initiative could facilitate faster action through information sharing: “These syndicates move and adapt very quickly. The only way to stop them is to move quickly, too.”

Signing endless memoranda of understanding does not speed up the bureaucratic and diplomatic delays in dealing with transnational environmental crime. Unlike the murky and rapidly evolving world of cybercrime, environmental crime is “a more conventional commodity trade. There are no excuses for why we can’t deal with it,” says Rademeyer.

Steven Trent, director of Environmental Justice Foundation (EFJ), agrees. His organization monitors the effects of illegal fishing on people’s livelihoods in some of the poorest countries in West Africa, including Liberia and Sierra Leone. EJF has also exposed how people are being trafficked on these illegal fishing vessels, either to fish as unpaid labourers or for the sex trade in Asia. Very often, the culprits are companies that “knowingly or sometimes unwittingly” fish illegally and send their products to wealthy countries.

Some solutions to combatting environmental crimes need not be high-tech or complex, he argues. A start would be for every fishing vessel to have a mandatory license number. “When it comes to organized crime, people tend to complicate things, but sometimes there are basic solutions which could bring quick dividends,” he says. “Transparency and traceability are some of the best and simplest tools to combat corruption.”

“Grey” areas such as industrial-scale logging, where the law is often unclear or unevenly applied, are also robbing people of their livelihoods and habitats. Research conducted by Global Witness in Liberia and Cambodia reveals that huge logging concessions are being given out in these countries with “no recourse to the people living there”, says the organization’s director, Gavin Hayman, who argues that countries need to share more information about their enforcement strategies.

As much as one quarter of Liberia’s land area has been given over to logging, Global Witness research reveals. In some cases, communities have been chased off their lands and stripped of their livelihoods. In Cambodia, activists resisting loggers have been killed.

It is imperative for players to get out in the field and find out what local communities actually want, Hayman says. Otherwise, these vulnerable populations can and will fall victim to environmental crime.

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

 

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The crisis in the CAR has persisted for years

Posted by African Press International on July 9, 2013

Vulnerable

NAIROBI,  – The precarious security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is worsening seasonal food insecurity and increasing the burden of disease, especially among children, warns a humanitarian official.

“In our projects, we do see increasing numbers of children with severe acute malnutrition (marasmus and kwashiorkor) [but] the increases seen in MSF projects are so far in line with seasonal experience. However, the instability has aggravated pre-existing food security problems: a poor harvest, poor food supplies and volatile food prices and, as a result, the country could also be at risk of a rise in malnutrition cases,” Ellen Van Der Velden, the head of mission of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in CAR, told IRIN in an e-mail.

Kwashiorkor is a health condition caused by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and is characterized by oedema. (See: IRIN’s Food and nutrition jargon buster).

Marasmus is the most common form of acute malnutrition in nutritional emergencies and, if untreated in its severe form, can very quickly lead to death, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF notes the disease “is characterized by severe wasting of fat and muscle, which the body breaks down to make energy.”

Diseases on the rise

According to Van Der Velden, MSF’s recent exploratory mission in southwest CAR, in the areas of Nola, Boda, Berberati, Gamboula and Gadzi, revealed an increase in levels of global acute malnutrition (GAM), which ranged from 6 percent to 10.3 percent. SAM levels ranged from 1.3 to 5 percent. (GAM refers to the total rate of acute malnutrition in a given population, while SAM is a sub-category of GAM.)

“This situation, together with the malaria peak, increases the vulnerability of children in CAR,” she said.

Between January and March, MSF-supported health facilities in CAR treated 74,729 patients for malaria, a dramatic increase over the same period in 2012, when 50,442 patients were treated for the disease.

Children under age five are among the worst affected; 23,910 children sought treatment for malaria during this period in 2012, while 44,469 have sought treatment so far this year.

Photo: DFID
The crisis in the CAR has persisted for years

In the area of Boguila, in western CAR, for example, malaria accounted for 61 percent of outpatient consultations for under-fives in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 41 percent over the same period in 2012.

Disrupted healthcare

The spike in diseases comes as health services are severely disrupted. Health infrastructure were looted and staff fled amid the general insecurity following the 24 March Séléka rebel ouster of the government.

Access to healthcare and medical supplies is also a problem.

“In a country which already had the second-lowest life expectancy in the world, at just 48 years, the people are now even more at risk,” said Van Der Velden. “The impact of the recent crisis has been tremendous. Fear of movement has further reduced access to healthcare, loss of income has made it even more difficult to pay medical fees, and unreliable drug supply systems have been completely collapsed. Mortality rates are only likely to worsen in the coming months.”

In a 28 June situation report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that malnutrition treatment services at therapeutic feeding centres and units in Berberati, Mambéré- Kadéï Province (South) had stopped due to a lack of nutritional supplies.

The population in Berberati is susceptible to malnutrition, and the lack of money to buy food has forced households there to reduce the number of meals they eat per day from two to one, according to OCHA.

“The impact of the recent crisis has been tremendous. Fear of movement has further reduced access to healthcare, loss of income has made it even more difficult to pay medical fees, and unreliable drug supply systems have been completely collapsed. Mortality rates are only likely to worsen in the coming months.”

According to Van Der Velden, “Some medical nutritional supplies are available in the country, but [it] is beyond anyone’s capacity to bring them to all health facilities in the country and assure their correct use.”

Ongoing insecurity

Insecurity in CAR has also disrupted access to basic commodities and exacerbated human rights abuses.

According to OCHA, in the areas of Damara and Sibut, “the population continues to live in their farms or in the forest and come to town only during the day to obtain essential items and return by 3:00pm”.

Seleka forces have installed their own local administrative and judicial authorities in Damara and Sibut, negatively impacting humanitarian access to affected populations there, notes OCHA.

In a 5 July CAR briefing, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted, “Overall, there remains a serious absence of security, and lawlessness is widespread.”

UNHCR staff have received reports of “arbitrary arrest and illegal detention, torture, extortion, armed robbery, physical violence including sexual violence, rape and attempted rape, abduction, restriction of movement, targeted lootings and attacks on civilians”, the briefing said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a 27 June report, called on the UN Security Council to sanction those involved in rights violations. “Séléka fighters are killing civilians and burning villages to the ground while some villagers are dying in the bush for lack of assistance,” stated Daniel Bekele, HRW’s Africa director.

The Séléka movement is also grappling with internal problems, the latest being the arrest of a minister from one of its constituent groups, the Convention Patriotique pour le Salut Wa Kodro, who is accused of recruiting mercenaries. Clashes between Séléka members and armed civilians on 28 June caused several deaths in the capital, Bangui.

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

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