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Posts Tagged ‘Economic Community of West African States’

ECOWAS TO DEPLOY ELECTION OBSERVERS FOR MALI RUN-OFF LEGISLATIVE POLLS

Posted by African Press International on December 15, 2013


ECOWAS TO DEPLOY 50 ELECTION OBSERVERS FOR MALI RUN-OFF LEGISLATIVE POLLS

 

ABUJA, Nigeria, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ ECOWAS is deploying 50 election observers to Mali for the country’s second-round Parliamentary polls today 15th December 2013 following an inconclusive first-round balloting on 24 November 2013.

 

The regional Observation Mission will be headed by Prof. Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia’s Interim Government of National Unity, who also led the 100-strong ECOWAS observers to the first round voting. He will be supported this time by Ambassador Leopold Ouedraogo, a Member of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise.

 

Provisional results from the first-round elections which featured more than 1,140 candidates fielded by the ruling and opposition coalitions and independents, showed that the country’s three main political parties secured less than 20 seats out of the 147 available in the National Assembly. Turnout was put officially at 38.4 percent.

 

Mali’s electoral law provides for a run-off to be decided by a simple majority vote in a situation where no independent candidate or list of coalition candidates secured the mandatory 50 percent plus one vote in the first round.

 

In its Preliminary Declaration, the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission which observed the first round balloting across Mali’s eight regions and the Municipalities of the capital, Bamako, adjudged the conduct as credible and transparent.

 

The Mission also noted the low turnout, saying the shortcomings it observed, including the inadequate sensitization of voters and late display of Voters Lists at several polling stations “did not in any significant way, affect the conduct of the election in line with globally acceptable standards.”

 

Following the July/August successful presidential elections, the deployment of the ECOWAS Observation Mission for the legislative polls, is in furtherance of efforts aimed at helping Mali conclude the ECOWAS-facilitated transitional road map for the restoration of full constitutional order and the country’s territorial integrity in the aftermath of last year’s military coup and separatist insurrection in the north.

 

SOURCE

Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

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UNIDO and Austria pave the way for a global network

Posted by African Press International on December 14, 2013


 

UNIDO and Austria pave the way for a global network of regional sustainable energy centres

 

VIENNA, Austria, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation, today signed agreements to support an existing renewable energy and energy efficiency centre in West Africa and to set up three more centres in East and Southern African and in the Caribbean region. The four project agreements will receive a total of approximately EUR 3.5 million in funding from the ADA.

“The regional renewable energy and energy efficiency centres are another good example of our fruitful partnership with Austria. Local companies and industry will benefit from the growing sustainable energy market opportunities, as well as from regional cooperation and South-South and North-South technology and knowledge transfer,” said LI Yong, the Director General of UNIDO.

“We consider the regional centres to be a powerful way to simultaneously address the challenges of energy access, energy security and climate change mitigation in our partner countries. We are pleased to see that our initial contributions have already leveraged major funding commitments from international donors and generated tangible results and impacts. In this context, we would like to thank the Energy and Climate Change Branch of UNIDO for the excellent cooperation in previous years,” said Martin Ledolter, Managing Director of the ADA.

The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), based in Praia, Cabo Verde, was established in 2010 to create favourable framework conditions for renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The new project will strengthen the ECREEE’s capacity to deal with a rapidly growing project portfolio and expanding external demands for its services.

The two new centres in sub-Saharan Africa will seek to replicate the success of the ECREEE model. One will be established, together with the East African Community (EAC), to serve partner States, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda; and the other will serve the 15 Members States of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). It is expected that both centres will be fully operational in 2014.

The third centre will be set up to meet the energy challenges faced by islands in the Caribbean region. Recently, UNIDO was requested by the Sustainable Energy Island Initiative (SIDS DOCK) of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) to assist the island nations in the Caribbean and Pacific in the creation of similar centres. A final agreement on the centres is expected in 2014, which has been declared the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

 

SOURCE

Austrian Development Agency (ADA)

 

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STRENGTHENING COLLABORATION – Regional Economic Communities

Posted by African Press International on November 23, 2013

ABUJA, Nigeria, November 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Senior officials from the African Union Commission (AUC), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) are meeting in Abuja on the effective implementation of legal and policy instruments towards the strengthening of their cooperation.

The consultative meeting, which opened on Tuesday, 19th November, 2013 will also discuss the implementation of the AU Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) Protocol and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), defining the modalities for strengthening relations among the institutions.

It is also expected to make recommendations to enhance collaboration on evolving issues of common interest, new configurations and arrangements in the implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which comprises the Continental Early Warning System, the Panel of the Wise, the African Standby Force and the Peace fund.

Participants will also discuss cross-cutting issues including the AU’s Programme on Counterterrorism, Border Programme, and Security Reform Strategy, among others.

In an opening remark, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman reaffirmed ECOWAS’ commitment to collaborating with the AU and the rest of the international community in regional and international efforts to stabilize the security and political situation in the ECOWAS space.

The Commissioner’s address was read by the Head of ECOWAS Liaison Office to AUC, Ms. Raheemat Momodu,

The AU-PSC Secretary, Dr. Admore Kambudzi emphasized the importance of the Council as the pillar of the APSA which has asserted itself on several peace and security challenges on the continent. He therefore called on participants to ensure “we achieve desired results, in accordance with the MoU signed between the AU and the RECs/RMs.”

The workshop themed: “Towards Enhanced Partnership between the AU and RECs/RMs on Peace and Security,” is part of week-long back-to-back high-level meetings on collaboration involving the AUC, the eight RECs/RMs and key developing partners.

SOURCE

Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

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ECOWAS SALUTES REGION’S NATIONAL TEAMS

Posted by African Press International on November 21, 2013

ABUJA, Nigeria, November 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has congratulated “Teams ECOWAS” – Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – for winning three of Africa’s five slots for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final in Brazil.

In a goodwill message to the three countries, the President said it is gratifying to note that ECOWAS national teams consolidated their sterling exploits at the Africa Nations Cup tournament earlier this year in South Africa, where they dominated the 16-nation competition with Nigeria emerging the continental Champions.

With their impressive performances in the just-concluded World Cup Africa qualification series, Teams ECOWAS have confirmed the region’s reputation as the soccer powerful of Africa.

The President assured them that the entire Community and its more than 350 million people are solidly behind them as they fly the region’s and Africa’s flags in Brazil 2014.

President Ouedraogo also wished Cameroon and Algeria, Africa’s two other World Cup qualifiers good luck and enjoined all the continent’s representatives to surpass Africa’s quarter-final record in the global football tournament.

Through hard work, discipline and dedication, he said they can bring the coveted trophy to the African soil for the first time in the World Cup history.

 

SOURCE

Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)

 

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Parliamentary polls in Togo. The ruling party’s victory could stifle reforms, analysts warn

Posted by African Press International on August 15, 2013

Parliamentary polls in Togo. The ruling party’s victory could stifle reforms, analysts warn

LOME,  – Togo’s July legislative polls extended the dominance of President Faure Gnassingbé’s party, which has been in power since 1967, despite opposition claims of malpractice. These results could narrow the chances for reforms and presage the results of the 2015 presidential election, analysts say.

The ruling Union for the Republic (UNIR) party broadened its parliamentary majority, winning 62 of 91 seats in the 25 July vote, which had been repeatedly postponed. The often divided opposition cried foul, but the constitutional court confirmed the outcome.

The small West African country has seen persistent protests since Gnassingbé’s 2010 re-election – which the opposition also said was flawed – and an increase in political violence. Last year, security forces clamped down on a series of opposition demonstrations.

“The ruling party’s majority win re-emphasizes, one time too many, the overwhelming grip of the Gnassingbé family in Togo,” said Kamissa Camara, a West Africa political analyst.

The Gnassingbé family has “consolidated power through manipulation, corruption schemes, terror, etc… and have managed to control key institutions, which should in practice be totally independent from the state. This has created a totally biased and unfair democratic playing field, which translates into the way the country is run,” Camara told IRN.

Opposition fears

Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 following the death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had ruled Togo for 38 years. The army-backed succession sparked deadly unrest and international condemnation that forced him to step down and call elections, which he then won.

An ensuing political tension necessitated dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party, which resulted in a broad political accord that included a consultative platform for political and other reforms as well as a truth commission over the poll violence and other past atrocities. Most of the truth commission’s recommendations have not yet been implemented.

“The ruling party’s victory is merely a sign of continuity. I don’t believe it adds anything to the country’s democracy. There is no progress for Togo’s democracy, and the election disputes only add to the country’s fragility,” said Aimé Tchamie, Amnesty International’s director in Togo.

Opposition coalition Let’s Save Togo (‘Collectif Sauvons le Togo’ – CST), which won 19 seats in last month’s elections, and other groups led protests in 2012 to press for reforms, key among them a presidential term limit as well as electoral and other institutional changes.

Days to the July elections, the opposition and the government reached a deal that included opposition representation in the electoral body, party funding and the release of detained opposition members, but the accord came too late to have a meaningful effect on the opposition’s electoral chances.

“The July legislative elections basically shattered all hopes for serious constitutional and institutional reforms to take place within the short-to-medium terms.”

“The strategy of going for elections first and later undertak[ing] constitutional and institutional reforms, as called for in the 2006 political agreement, leads one to believe that the government is taking advantage of [the] parliamentary majority to block reforms it doesn’t like,” said Magloire Kuami Kuakuvi, a Togolese academic and human rights specialist.

“Redrawing the voting zones is the minimum of reforms before legislative polls. It is ironic that with just 70,000 votes, UNIR won 62 seats against 25 taken by the CST and Arc-en-ciel [another opposition group] combined,” Kuakuvi explained.

Amnesty International’s Tchamie noted that Lomé, the capital city, is home to a fifth of the country’s six million people and has 10 deputies while certain upcountry constituencies with 50,000 people have three members of parliament.

“With 62 [ruling party] members, it will be difficult to adopt constitutional reforms because the president will want to consolidate power with this majority. That is what is likely,” Michel Goeh-Akué, a lecturer at the University of Lomé, told IRIN.

Togo has no presidential term limits and the president is elected in a single round of voting with no run-off – a provision that makes it possible to be elected even without garnering the majority.

“A series of constitutional and institutional reforms are indeed needed for Togo to join the cohort of democratic states,” Camara said. “The July legislative elections basically shattered all hopes for serious constitutional and institutional reforms to take place within the short-to-medium terms.”

She argued that Gnassingbé remains the strongest candidate for the 2015 presidential race. “It will be quasi-impossible for another candidate to be elected to the presidency. Indeed, Faure has not shown any indication that he would be willing to step down and let the elections take place without him.”

Rights abuses

Human rights groups and other observers have also denounced violations of freedoms such as arbitrary arrests, widespread torture, and restrictions on political gatherings and the right to free expression.

“UNIR’s parliamentary majority is not very reassuring for press freedom in Togo. This government was repressive and voted laws that curbed liberties,” said Maxime Domégn, the secretary general of Togo’s independent journalists’ union, citing the raiding and closure of a private radio station on 25 July.

Tchamie said: “We remain concerned about human rights in Togo. Many opposition leaders are still in detention.”

The analysts called for a stronger engagement by the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) in Togo to help implement reforms agreed in 2006.

“We are worried that this [political] tension may persist up to the 2015 elections. International actors should not wait up to 2014 to help start a political dialogue [between the opposition and the ruling party],” said Tchamie.

“For democratic development and progress to occur, actors need to be renewed on a regular basis. The Togolese regime is a dilapidated one. I believe the ECOWAS involvement in the Togolese decade-long political crisis has been so far very timid and could certainly become more forceful,” Camara noted.

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

 

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Mali: A rush to elections is dangerous

Posted by African Press International on June 7, 2013

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

HIGHLIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No “game-changers”

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

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

Truth and reconciliation

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

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

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

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

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

Legitimacy

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

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

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

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

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

Logistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fear amid human rights abuses

Posted by African Press International on November 13, 2012

Photo: Wikimedia
Another blow to democracy in Guinea-Bissau

BISSAU,  – A 21 October attack in Guinea-Bissau – when soldiers stormed barracks near Bissau’s main airport, targeting military figures and leaving six people dead – has provoked more fear than the numerous coups and counter-coups of recent years.
The transitional government branded the attack a coup attempt, and accused former colonial power Portugal of backing it in an attempt to propel former Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior, who is in exile there, back into power. Within days, alleged coup leader Captain Pansau N’Tchama was arrested on the island of Bolama, in the Bijagos archipelago. He is expected to face a military court later in the year.
Although Guinea-Bissau’s history is littered with coups, counter-coups and attempted coups, most ordinary Bissau-Guineans have not been involved or directly affected.
However, October’s attack has ramped up tensions, largely because it took place during a dedicated transition period backed by regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and designed to lead Guinea-Bissau towards fresh elections in April 2013.
The attack also raised fears of rising human rights abuses: Two politicians, Yancuba Djola Indjai and Silvestre Alves, were badly beaten by soldiers the day after the coup attempt and a Portuguese journalist was expelled from the country.
On 6 November Luis Ocante da Silva, who was an ally of the ex-army head José Zamora Induta, was abducted from his home by a group of uniformed men, and was today reported to have died from his wounds.
“The last time I saw this level of fear among activists and commentators was in the build-up to the civil war in the late 1990s,” a former diplomat told IRIN on condition of anonymity. “People are really afraid to talk in public about politics or even initiatives,” he said. “It has also raised tensions between ethnicities as so many difficult questions rear their heads regarding Bissau’s future.”
Some Bissau-Guineans say they had been expecting an attack. “If it wasn’t last month, it might have been this month,” said Alfonso Gomes Vieira, who works as an upholsterer in Bissau. “The transitional period is seen as a cover-up… How could we gloss over all of Guinea-Bissau’s problems and pretend things are fine?
Since the April coup several sources say drug trafficking has mounted in Guinea-Bissau. Two planes full of cocaine have allegedly landed on the mainland over the past two weeks: in Gabu, southeast of the capital Bissau on 5 November, and in Catio, southwestern Bissau, the week before.
Ongoing crisis
“This is another sad episode in Guinea-Bissau’s ongoing crisis,” said Lorenso, an administrative officer at a radio station in Bissau who gave his first name only. “The path to new elections has been littered. I didn’t expect things to run smoothly, but there is an underlying sense that things are getting worse, that this was not an isolated incident… Maybe we’ll never be free from this insecurity.”
In January, President Malam Bacai Sanha, who was elected in 2009, died of illness in a Paris hospital. His death created a void that was set to be filled during elections scheduled for March and April 2012. But between the first and second rounds, soldiers staged a coup, ousting acting President Raimundo Pereira and his prime minister Carlos Gomes Junior, the frontrunner in the second round of the vote.
The coup came as security sector reforms were under way, approved by parliament, backed by the European Union (EU) and the UN, and designed to revamp the armed forces, initiate pension plans for military members of retirement age, and create a force that would work in cooperation with civilian leaders.
Reforms stalled
“Security sector reform is a difficult task,” a member of the UN team charged with instigating reforms, told IRIN on condition of anonymity. “There are dozens of army members who are 70 years old or upwards, some of whom are in their nineties. They don’t want to change. Their tensions with the government date back to the independence war against Portugal in some cases, and they aren’t about to be resolved just because we tell them it’s a good idea.”
Although the EU has withdrawn programmes and financial backing from Guinea-Bissau in the wake of April’s coup, the UN-backed security sector reform programme is ongoing. But those involved say it may as well have ground to a halt.
“We had high hopes,” a UN trainer told IRIN in November. “But we’re working with people who don’t want to change. No matter how strong the reasons for change, it has to come from them and we are seeing a lot of resistance. They do not want to cooperate with whoever is in charge at a civilian level; they want the civilian leaders to cooperate with them.”
Trust levels low
October’s events were a setback for human rights in Guinea-Bissau, say rights groups. Several arrests have been made since N’Tchama was caught in late October. At least two journalists have gone into hiding, and – as yet unfounded – rumours of assassinations are circulating.
“Having human rights is one thing, but applying them is something else entirely, Fernando Texeira, coordinator of human rights group Casa dos Direitos in Bissau, told IRIN.
“We’re working on outreach projects to inform people that they have human rights, but what kind of rights do they really have right now? We have to ask ourselves whether the future will bring true justice and liberty to Bissau,” said Texeira.
The Casa dos Direitos building, which was once Bissau’s main jail, includes a room that is equipped with seats and a projector for talks and debates, he said. “We planned to invite people to come and speak about human rights and politics, but people are afraid… Nobody feels comfortable discussing their political views with people they don’t know or trust at the moment.”
“Guinea-Bissau is in a state of siege. That’s why people don’t dare speak out,” said Néné da Costa , a housekeeper in Bissau.
“When I first heard about the transitional government’s mandate, I thought, this seems like lending someone a smart jacket to wear for a while. You become warm on the surface, but underneath the same health problems are there,” said law student Justino Nhaga. “We need real solutions, not ones that simply look and sound good,” he added. Guinea Bissau ranks 176 out of 187 countries on the UN human development index; just over half of the adult population is literate; life expectancy at birth is 48 years.
After months of on-off striking by teachers, schools remain closed despite an agreement having been signed between teachers and the transition government.
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source http://www.irinnews.org

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