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ICC Prosecutor Statement on the occasion of the 28 September 2013 elections in Guinea

Posted by African Press International on September 28, 2013

Parliamentary elections will be held in Guinea today 28 September 2013. This da y also marks the fourth anniversary of the tragic events that took place on 28 September 2009 at the Conakry national stadium, during which serious crimes under the International Criminal Court‘s jurisdiction were allegedly committed against the civilian population. Since then, my Office has been conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in Guinea.

In accordance with my Office’s policy of encouraging national proceedings, my Office has been engaging with the Guinean authorities on an ongoing basis. As a result, a national investigation into the events of 28 September 2009 is underway and already several persons who may be amongst those most responsible for the crimes committed have been charged. I encourage the authorities to continue their efforts and to ensure that justice is done for the victims as soon as possible. I also urge the international community to support Guinea’s efforts in this regard.

At the same time, it is my Office’s sincere hope that the unfortunate events= of September 2009 will not be repeated. On the eve of the long awaited elec tions, tension is palpable in the streets of Conakry and the rest of the cou= ntry. In these circumstances, appeals for calm and restraint by the political leaders of all parties are particularly welcome. Let me again stress that anyone who seeks to incite violence, to order, request, encourage or cont= ribute in any other way to the commission of crimes falling within the ambit= of the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction is liable to be prosecuted befor e the International Criminal Court. There will be no impunity for international crimes committed in Guinea.

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Guinea’s police: Police are trying to garner more community support

Posted by African Press International on September 17, 2013

Police are trying to garner more community support

CONAKRY,  – After a group of youths pillaged a restaurant in Guinea‘s capital, Conakry, in mid-August – raping three women, according to the owner – workers there decided not to pursue the case with local authorities for fear of reprisals.

“We told our staff, ‘Let’s just be glad we’re alive and leave it alone’,” said a restaurant manager who wanted to be identified only as Ibrahim. “Withimpunity as it is in Guinea, pursuing this with the police would just expose us to more danger. We’ve got no protection.”

With sentiments like these pervasive throughout the country, convincing Guineans that the police are there to serve and protect them will require a massive conversion effort. That is one objective of a new community policing programme being established under wider security sector reform efforts, following a recommendation by a joint ECOWAS, UN and African Union commission.

The UN Development Programme, European Union (EU), and the US government are funding different aspects of the initiative.

Another objective is to boost the status of the police in a former military dictatorship where, for decades, the army eclipsed its civilian counterpart. Gendarmes largely took the place of police, observers said. Guinea’s police are poorly paid, work in difficult conditions, and lack proper vehicles and communications equipment.

The police, along with soldiers and gendarmes, have a reputation for mistreating civilians. Human Rights Watch, which has investigated alleged abuses by Guinea’s security forces, says they have long been implicated in extortion, theft, kidnapping, racketeering and use of lethal force with “near-complete impunity”.

Throughout Guinea’s history, the police were “like an enemy to the people”, said Mohamed Koumadian Keïta, the mayor of Conakry’s Matoto District. He was among the Guinean officials who travelled to Burkina Faso in July to learn about the community policing programme there.

All this must change, said Daniel Oularé, coordinator of the programme at Guinea’s security and civil protection ministry. “‘Community police’ is not a new police force – it’s a new way of operating. From now on, this will not be a police known for brutality. It will be a police force that serves the public, respecting rights and upholding values like integrity, professionalism and loyalty.”

Little faith

The situation is ripe for change. A local aid worker told IRIN about a 14-year-old girl who had recently gone to the police – with the encouragement of her family – after she was gang-raped. In the past couple of years, as people have learned about their rights, they have become more inclined to turn to their local authorities, the aid worker said.

Policemen and gendarmes are also working with aid groups to protect therights of minors in trouble with the law.

But in general, Guineans have little faith in the police as protectors.

The owner of the looted Conakry restaurant said she planned to buy clubs and other weapons, and that she would add layers of brick and barbed wire to the wall around her building. She and other Guineans IRIN spoke to said they would sooner count on personal guards or neighbourhood self-defence groups for security than the police.

“They show up late, if they show up at all, and usually they’re after money,” one said.

Guineans IRIN spoke with said that, when it comes to security, they feel largely on their own. It is common to hear people say: “The state is absent.”

In Conakry’s Simbaya Marché neighbourhood, known as a haven for thieves, Mabinti Bangoura said state security officials “have abandoned us into the hands of criminals”.

Guinea’s police lack competent and trained personnel, whether for public security, legal matters or maintaining order, Philippe Van Damme, head of the EU delegation in Guinea, told government officials at the launch of a pilot training project meant to support police reform efforts. The EU-supported project will run for 18 months in Conakry’s Ratoma and Matoto districts and in N’Zérékoré, in Guinea’s Forest Region.

A survey of police personnel in Ratoma and Matoto was conducted to learn about their capacities and functions to help guide training, said Marc Dubois, coordinator of the EU pilot. It showed that seven percent were illiterate. “Some can’t read or write but that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective in relating with their communities and helping improve security,” he said.

Events in Guinea going back to citizen uprisings in 2007 have shown the police incapable of maintaining order, Matoto mayor Keïta told IRIN. “We’ve got to bring this [community policing] to Guinea because right now there is no security for the people,” he said.

Community buy-in needed

Keïta said communication is essential, but there must also be trust. “The criminals do not live in the bush – they live right here among us. For now, people are afraid to point them out. There is no support system. We must bring the population and the police together so the people will work with them, inform them, so the population can participate in their security. This can never happen if people do not trust the police.”

As part of the project, the NGO Coginta meets with residents to hear about their experiences with, and perceptions of, the police.

Keïta said that in rural areas, communities have traditional mechanisms to ward off theft and other crimes. “We have done community policing – just not calling it by that name,” he told IRIN, saying Guineans can restore security by returning to these community methods.

Officials working on the project say the plan is to establish neighbourhood committees that can help stop problems at their source. Oularé said there would also be ways for citizens to report poor performance by police officers. “The police will now be accountable to the people,” he said.

For community policing to work, said Conakry resident Chaïkou Baldé, the people must be convinced the police will provide protection. “For now, they are used to police taking their money or detaining people arbitrarily. The key to success here will be human resources.”

np/aj/rz  source

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Better projects needed – Despite the odds, most youth are optimistic.

Posted by African Press International on September 16, 2013

Selling second-hand clothes. Guinea’s youth say they have been side-lined

CONAKRY,  – As Guinea has moved from crisis to crisis, with development perpetually stalled, its youth have been side-lined, lacking the means to make a decent living or to take the mineral-rich country forward.

This is the view of many young Guineans and aid experts, who say the country lacks a comprehensive strategy for its youth, who make up more than half the population.

“Efforts by the government are one-off, usually projects supported by NGOs,” said Mamadou Dian Baldé, head of protection at the international NGO Terre des Hommes (TdH) in Guinea. “Programmes are fragmented. There is no dynamic, global policy coordinated by the state.”

Guinean sociologist Alpha Amadou Bano Barry says the “multiplicity” of projects for the youth has young people chasing initiatives and trying to adapt to them. It should be the other way around, say young Guineans; programmes should begin with the youths’ reality, needs and ideas.

“Those who want to help the youth need to come hear us,” said Tambaké Tounkara, coordinator of Guinea’s chapter of the regional group Association of Child and Youth Workers (AEJT). He said projects for youth are often conceived by outsiders without youths’ participation.

Better projects needed 

The UN has just completed a study of government, NGO and UN projects targeting the country’s youth, to catalogue what is underway and better coordinate efforts, according to Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator Anthony Ohemeng-Boamah.

“In Guinea as in other countries you have a ministry for youth, you have a ministry that deals with vocational training, a ministry that deals with education, another for social affairs – and all these ministries tend to deal with aspects of the youth problem,” he told IRIN. He said the government needs to fuse these different strategies to begin responding effectively to youth challenges like unemployment, high dropout rates and violence.

He said some UN projects have been fragmented and short-term. “In many UN-targeted interventions, we have provided jobs or training at critical moments in order to prevent youth being used for demonstrations and, potentially, violence. They are all pilot schemes, and the question becomes how you scale them up – hence this study.”

The youth unemployment rate in Guinea is estimated at 60 percent, according to government statistics. Guinea’s Peacebuilding Commission, created in 2011, listed youth and women’s employment as one of three top priorities, along with national reconciliation and security sector reform.

Hopes dashed 

When Guinea held its first legitimate presidential election, in 2010, youths had high hopes. But the transition has yet to be completed – the country still has no elected parliament – and, as the European Union says in a recent paper, this institutional gap, poor governance and general insecurity have severely hampered Guinea’s development.

“Today the refrain is ‘wait – after the legislative elections, things will improve for the youth’,” said AEJT member Charles Keïta. “But the youths want to know: wait until when?”

“This country’s greatest wealth is its youth – not gold or diamonds.”

Amara Camara, 19, quit his studies and left N’zérékoré for the capital, Conakry, to find work to help his aging parents. He sells clothing in a market known as “Bordeaux”, where vendors, most of them university graduates, sell used clothes and shoes.

The government says that after the legislative elections, corporations will come and there will be mechanisms to help us apply and get jobs,” he said. “People are preparing their CVs and hoping, but many are sceptical because, for as long as we can recall in Guinea, people get jobs through connections, not competence. We’ll see.”

Government spokesperson Albert Damantang Camara says the government’s principal enemy is time. “To say to youths – who for years lack[ed] training and jobs – that they must wait some more, that’s difficult. To tell them that the most important deadline right now is the legislative elections and that after that we’ll see the prospects, this adds to their scepticism and their thinking that they are being manipulated. Unfortunately, these are necessary steps.”

He acknowledges that efforts for the youth have been disjointed.

“To a certain extent, the young people are right. Many African countries have been in crisis, and for a long time the only sector that generated employment was the humanitarian or social affairs sector, led by NGOs that come with targeted and limited programmes with jobs that are not sustainable,” he said.

“Today, despite that we’re seeing growth, this has not yet translated into employment opportunity and creation of wealth. In Guinea, we’ve got many long-term programmes underway that will create jobs once the political and institutional environment lends itself to that,” he said. He referred to the amended 2013 mining code, which pushes companies to prioritize the hiring and training of local Guineans, as well as ongoing work with other businesses to train Guinean youths.


But another question is whether Guinea’s young people will be equipped for those jobs.

The International Monetary Fund said in a recent paper that Guinea must make reforms to ensure people have the right skills for the job market in emerging sectors such as agriculture, tourism and mining.

“The lack of vocational training programs in secondary and tertiary education leads to an excessive orientation towards general education with a focus on humanities,” the IMF says. “This is a serious problem for a country that requires manpower with technical and scientific knowledge and competencies…for its economic and social development.”

Government spokesperson Camara, who is also the minister of technical education and professional training, told IRIN the government is working to link training and education with the requirements of the job market. “We are all working toward that goal. It’s a long-term undertaking.”

AEJT’s Tounkara pointed out that the government and civil society must also have a plan for those who have not received formal educations.

Daily fight 

Despite the odds, most youth are optimistic.

“Here’s a positive thing we’ve got going for us,” said Fatoumata Binta Sow, 17, a member of AEJT. “We are here, and we continue the fight every day.”

Still, there are youths who turn to violence, abetted by Guinea’s socio-political instability and culture of impunity.

“Indeed there is a strong link between idleness and violence,” said Mohamed Sylla, who works at the mayor’s office in Conakry and runs a youth-led NGO. “A young man with an empty stomach is a rebel. His parents or other authorities just can’t reach him. He is idle, prone to drug use, and ready to lash out at the slightest trigger.”

AEJT coordinator Tounkara said that whenever there are political demonstrations, many youths join out of pure exasperation. “Many have no interest whatsoever in or even knowledge of the candidate or the cause of the day – they simply take advantage of the demonstration to vent their frustration.”

“We can deal with poverty, but not extreme poverty,” Tounkara said. “We can accept lacking some things, but not lacking everything.”

By neglecting the youth, authorities are undermining the country’s long-term prospects, he pointed out. “People mustn’t kid themselves. This country’s greatest wealth is its youth – not gold or diamonds.”

TdH’s Baldé said an important first step in reassuring the country’s youth is simply to reach out to them. “Civil society and the authorities must acknowledge that they have failed the youth. That’s the first step in gaining their trust.”

np/aj/rz  source

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Halting fight against impunity

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– Since 2012, in an unprecedented effort in the country, top security officials in Guinea have been indicted for alleged crimes against civilians. But t he indictments have yet to lead to trials or, in most cases, even arrests.

Guinea has seen a string of judicial firsts that sparked hope the country could finally chip away at impunity, including military officials long seen as untouchable being called before a court of law. But they have retained their posts; Col Claude Pivi remains head of presidential security; Lt Col Moussa Tiégboro Camara continues in his role as director of the national anti-drug-trafficking agency; and Sékou Resco Camara is still the Conakry governor.

“Every time there’s news of another indictment, [someone on the outside] might think, ‘Ah, things are progressing well there’, but that’s not the case,” said Thierno Madjou Sow, long-time human rights activist and head of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation. “Things get started then just stop. Look at Tiégboro, Pivi, and Resco – all still in their government positions.”

Pivi and Tiégboro Camara are among eight people indicted to date over the 28 September 2009 stadium attack, in which, according to an international inquiry, soldiers killed, raped, or injured hundreds of people. One gendarme has been arrested and detained on charges of rape in that case. Resco Camara has been indicted for alleged involvement in the torture of civilians by gendarmes in 2010.

Sow and other human rights advocates are quick to say the indictments themselves are significant considering the history of impunity among Guinea’s leadership. But the process must continue, they say.

“These indictments do carry some weight. People see that a top military official can be called before a judge – that reassures them,” said Hamidou Barry, a Guinean lawyer and the coordinator of the judges investigating stadium attack. “The problem is everything stops there. Guinea’s judges are not free and independent.”

Doubts about judiciary

The stadium case – the latest but perhaps the most spectacular in a string of military abuses against civilians – is in preliminary examination at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which says the prosecutor has a responsibility to intervene if it becomes clear that national authorities are “unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out the proceedings”.

But given what they see as a stalled process, survivors say they wonder what it would take for the ICC to find the Guinean authorities unwilling.

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out,” said Asmaou Diallo, head of the  Association of Victims, Relatives and Friends of 28 September (AVIPA), which assists survivors of the attack and other human rights abuses.

“The victims are here, the assailants are here,” she said. “It’s possible to hold trials. But the authorities can’t. They don’t dare. And I don’t know at what level things are blocked. Meanwhile as long as impunity reigns in Guinea, the country cannot move forward.”

Survivors and human rights activists in Guinea say coming out more forcefully against impunity exposes them to threats and intimidation by the accused and their supporters. But many say it is worth it.

“Sure, there is a risk. But I think it’s time Guinea’s human rights community assume that risk,” said Mamady Mansare, a journalist who was injured during the stadium attack. “Survivors must denounce the authorities’ unwillingness to arrest suspects and proceed with this.”

Tamar Thiam, who was injured in the stadium attack and fled Guinea after she was threatened for speaking out, said Guineans must push for more pressure to be brought on the government. “We must raise our voices to show the international community that the authorities lack either the means or the will to bring perpetrators to justice,” she told IRIN. “If this drags on for too long, the witnesses will be dead, the assailants will be dead. What good would a trial do then?”

“This case is in the judges’ hands,” said government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara. “The government has never obstructed their work. To date, several high-level officers have been indicted, and the procedure is following its course with absolutely no interference from the government.”

Cautious optimism

International justice experts say, while things are moving slowly in Guinea, there has been progress. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) says the indictment of officials in the stadium massacre “is a serious indication that they will be brought to account” and the office expects a trial will take place.

“The competent national authorities have initiated proceedings, as it is their primary responsibility to do,” the OTP told IRIN. “The OTP will continue to encourage their efforts as long as we assess they go in the right direction.”

“The international community must understand once and for all that Guinea’s judiciary is not ready to carry this out.”

Florent Geel, Africa desk director with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), says these cases must not be allowed to drag on for decades, but that considering Guinea’s past, the indictment of top military officials within a few years of the alleged crimes is remarkable.

“Guinea’s history is 40 to 50 years of impunity, so it’s difficult from one day to the next make the justice system function normally,” Geel told IRIN. “It’s not easy. It’s slow. It’s complicated, but little by little there are positive moves.”

Rights expert Sow said since independence in 1958, Guinea’s judiciary has been side-lined by the executive. Geel said he is confident there will be trials in the stadium attack and the 2010 torture case by the end of 2014.

FIDH has called for the suspension of indicted officials, particularly the head of presidential security. “Clearly the accused are innocent until proven guilty. We must respect this principle,” Geel said. “But given Pivi’s position and the seriousness of the indictment, we think it is reasonable to demand his suspension pending further judicial proceedings.”

The ICC prosecutor’s office acknowledges that seeing those charged remain in power is a blow to survivors. “The fact that two indicted officials [in the 28 September case] have retained their post in government is undoubtedly shocking and frustrating for the victims,” the OTP said. “It is, however, insufficient for the office to determine that the proceedings are not being conducted with the intent to bring to justice the persons bearing responsibility for the crimes committed.”

So far in Guinea, “complementarity is working”, the prosecutor’s office told IRIN, referring to the principle that sees the ICC stepping in only as a last resort, when national jurisdictions fail to address crimes.

FIDH’s Geel said it would be best if Guinea’s judiciary were to work. “The goal of international justice is to push the national judiciary to prosecute. Otherwise what would ever be changed in the fight against impunity in the country?”

For the four-year commemoration of the stadium massacre, survivors and families of victims hope to hold a rally at the venue of the attack. The past three Septembers, the government denied authorization to do so, said AVIPA’s Diallo, whose son was killed in the crackdown.

“We hope this year we can at least go to the stadium and place flowers for our dead and missing.”

np/ob/rz source



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Cholera resurgent – The need to conduct a vaccination campaign

Posted by African Press International on August 17, 2013

West African cholera cases highest in Guinea-Bissau

DAKAR,  – More than 700 people have been sickened by cholera in Guinea-Bissau, the highest number of cases so far this year in West Africa, which has nonetheless seen a significant drop in cases this year compared to 2012.

Isolated health centres, insufficient medical personnel and detrimental traditional beliefs have contributed to the prevalence, explained Inàcio Alvarenga, an epidemiologist with World Health Organization (WHO).

Guinea-Bissau’s southern Tombali region is the worst hit, with 225 cases and 21 deaths as of late July, said Nicolau Almeida, a health ministry director.

Tombali is the poorest region [in the country] in terms of human resources. There is only one nurse per health centre. The health system cannot properly cater for patients. This is in addition to superstitions by people who don’t believe the scientific explanation of cholera,” Alvarenga told IRIN.

Continuing epidemic

As of 22 July – when the latest data was available – the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported 742 cases in Guinea-Bissau, 416 in Niger and 368 in Sierra Leone. The outbreak in Guinea-Bissau is a continuation of the 2012 epidemic, when 3,359 people contracted cholera.

“To confirm a new epidemic, the 2012 outbreak should have been declared over” by demonstrating the absence of vibrio cholera in diarrhoea, said Alvarenga.

“For reasons I’m not aware of, the government did not test cases in the first weeks of the year. These cases did not disappear but got spread around,” he continued. “I don’t think we will hit the 2008 level [when 14,204 people were infected and 225 killed], but the disease risks will be lingering for several months like in 1996-1998.”

Most cases have so far been reported in Catungo and Mato Foroba localities in the country’s south. “These are rice-growing areas where vibrio cholera can easily reproduce,” Alvarenga said.

Other cases have been reported in Catio area and in Quinara region – all in the south. Almeida said that the cases in Catio town indicated that the disease was spreading. Two cases have been confirmed in the capital, Bissau, said hospital sources.

“Residents of the city’s old town district are very concerned,” Alvarenga said. The water and electricity company has been unable to supply water to the capital in the past weeks due to financial difficulties, although it recently resumed partial service. “People are seeking all possible means to get water. It’s not rare to see water transporters on the streets.”

Need for medical personnel, drugs

Almeida, from the health ministry, said the government’s priority was to contain the disease in Tombali, where a medical team – comprising an epidemiologist, two doctors, two nurses and a community outreach specialist – has been sent.

“We, however, need to boost the medical team with three more nurses and five doctors to better guide the health sector in the region. We need to set up different teams in the different areas. There is also a huge requirement for medicines,” he said.

In neighbouring Guinea, cholera has infected 146 people and killed 10 since March, according to aid group Action Contre la Faim (ACF). In Sierra Leone, where around 300 died of cholera in 2012, 369 people have been infected so far this year, mainly in Kambia area, near the border with Guinea.

“Fish is often a factor of cholera infection in this region,” said Jérôme Pfaffmann, a health expert with UNICEF; fishermen criss-cross between the islets off the Guinean coast. The movement of people across the borders of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone are also factors in transmission, said ACF’s Jainil Didaraly.

Guinea is conducting a vaccination campaign targeting 4,679 people.

Africa – and West Africa in particular – is the only part of the world wherecholera cases are steadily increasing.

cr/dab/ob/rz source



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Criminal groups have benefited from globalization – Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Nigerian police in the UN mission to Haiti assist in quelling a student protest in Port au Prince in 2009


  • Criminal groups have benefited from globalization
  • Overlap of UN peace operations and crime-affected regions
  • Organized crime can corrupt governments
  • Difficult for UNPOL to recruit effective crime-fighters

NEW YORK,  – The globalization of organized crime poses a growing threat to fragile states that lack the ability to resist it, putting pressure on the UN to find solutions.

A recently-released report entitled The Elephant in the Room, part of the New York-based International Peace Institute’s Peace Without Crime series, argues that “crime has become a serious threat in almost every theater where the UN has peace operations.” The authors of the report (Walter Kemp, Mark Shaw and Arthur Boutellis) argue that organized crime is eroding the UN’s attempts to bring about peace and stability in the many countries in which it has missions and yet these missions contain very few references to crime.

Criminal groups are one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, says Kemp, director for Europe and Central Asia at the IPI. “Over the last 20 years organized crime has gone global. It has reached macro-economic proportions.” Globalization has seen the growth in traffic around the world of just about everything – including contraband, says Kemp. Whereas organized crime was once regarded as a problem pertaining to the developed world, and confined mostly to cities, it has in the last few years rapidly spread its tentacles across the globe, finding new routes and penetrating vulnerable West African states like Guinea Bissau and Mali. “Much of the instability in West Africa is due to the impact of drug-trafficking from Latin America to Europe,” argue the authors.

As contraband is trafficked from one corner of the globe to the other, often moving through several transit countries, national – and even regional – crackdowns may simply shift the problem onto adjacent, potentially more vulnerable countries. Yet should the UN’s peacekeeping forces be tasked with fighting organized crime?

The authors concede that other parts of the UN may be better suited to dealing with the challenge but argue that given that “organized crime is threatening the stability, development and justice that peacekeepers are trying to establish,” peacekeeping forces cannot turn a blind eye.

While organized crime and peace operations “had almost nothing to do with each other” 50 years ago, “at the beginning of the 21st century the trajectories have converged,” they say. As peacekeeping has seen a greater integration between civilian and military aspects, and is as much about building up institutions and states as restoring the rule of law, organized crime has evolved too, “from a localized problem into a pervasive, strategic threat to governments, societies and economies”.

The authors show an overlap of UN peace operations and major crime-affected regions – Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Iraq, Kosovo and Timor-Leste to name a few – and conclude this is because “conflict affected and fragile regions – precisely the places where the UN is most needed – are especially vulnerable to transnational organized crime and provide favorable conditions for its development.”

In the first report in the series, Identifying the Spoilers, they spell out how peacekeepers and other players can identify signs of organized crime in the countries in which they operate. Elephant in the Room, the second report, shows how organized crime has had a destabilizing impact on the political economy of three nations – Guinea-Bissau, Haiti and Kosovo – and finds a “mismatch between the seriousness of the threat posed by organized crime and the UN’s ability to tackle it”.

They argue the limitations of a purely militarist approach – as when the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) countered the gang violence in Haiti. Despite their successes, they have not been able to halt the organized crime networks that still operate in and beyond Haiti’s borders. The third report, due out soon, looks at what the UN and international players can do at a systemic level to address the problem. Up to now, say the authors, “there is not much enthusiasm for the UN to tackle organized crime.”

Crime-and-instability nexus

Crucial to their argument is the notion that there is a “nexus between crime and instability” and that when transnational organized crime funds the activities and thus furthers the political aims of insurgents or rebels or corrupts governments at the highest level, the fall-out can be huge. This occurred in Guinea Bissau, for example, when the president, João Bernardo Vieira, was assassinated in 2009 in alleged drug-related rivalry between political and military officials.

“Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

While the quantities of cocaine being trafficked through Guinea-Bissau are relatively small (an estimated 25 tons per year), at around 25 percent of the country’s GNP this is still high enough to corrupt high-level officials and undermine the tiny economy. Other contraband passing through other West African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, and Cote d’Ivoire – and possibility posing a bigger problem in future – include fuel, timber, people, minerals, diamonds and ivory.

Terrorism versus crime

Shaw, director of Communities, Crime and Conflicts at STATT Consulting, says the focus on the threat posed by terrorism over the past decade has overshadowed the growth of crime networks. “The attention has been on the war in Iran and Afghanistan,” he says. Even the problem of opium-trafficking in the latter country has been viewed through the prism of the war. But the alarming nexus of organized crime, insurgency and terrorism in Mali has alerted the world to the fact that organized crime can step into the political vacuum in societies in upheaval.

Libya, warns Shaw, may become a haven for organized crime. “There are lots of unemployed young men, established militia and weapons, and the country is at the crossroads of a number of trafficking routes,” he says.

Crime-instability link overstated?

Ted Leggett, a research officer with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, acknowledges a frequent overlap between organized crime and political instability but believes the connection can be overstated at times. It is important, he says, to make the distinction between the problem of local strongmen and the problem of transnational trafficking. Insurgents or rebels may profit from transnational trafficking – for example the Taliban’s taxing of opium production and trafficking in Afghanistan (earning them US$125 million annually), or militias’ involvement in trafficking minerals in DRC, to advance their wars – but they rarely take charge of the trafficking themselves. “Rather, they provide protection to transnational traffickers, specialists who pay them to operate in the areas that they control. It’s like the relationship between a state and the corporations headquartered within it. The US government does not export Ford autos, but it does tax Ford,” he says.

On the Elephant in the Room’s broader argument, Leggett says: “The idea that peacekeeping missions should help the host states build their capacity to deal with transnational organized crime is a good one but any such intervention would face serious challenges.” It is difficult, he says, for UN Police to recruit the kind of specialized staff required. “Most police peacekeepers are patrol officers from other developing countries” with limited skills and resources. Often, they can’t speak the local language. Given that “dealing with transnational organized crime requires a sophisticated understanding of the local context”, this is highly problematic. Another problem, says Leggett, and as the authors of the report note, is that the security forces are themselves often implicated in trafficking.

He adds: “Good police work is of little use when the courts do not convict or where prisoners are released, and building capacity among corrupt officials can have unintended consequences.”

Embedding crime experts into UN field operations?

The IPI report authors conclude with recommendations on how peace operations can tackle organized crime more effectively. As Shaw notes, “the complexities of illicit trafficking require much more than a law enforcement response.” Pooling information and utilizing regional offices, for example the UN Office for West Africa in Dakar, is key, as is embedding crime experts into UN field operations. Peacekeepers are well-placed to collect information, which must be managed and analysed at a higher level. They may baulk at the notion of intelligence gathering, “(but) as the UN increasingly becomes a target for terrorist attacks, and as UN operations become more exposed to complex situations involving armed groups and criminal networks, there is a growing realization and acceptance that peace operations need to have access to intelligence,” they say.

The development approach

Meanwhile, some argue that the best way vulnerable states – particularly those in conflict and post-conflict situations – can be protected from transnational organized crime is by taking a development approach: in other words, strengthening their economic, civic and government structures.

Graeme Simpson, director of Interpeace USA, which seeks to build social and political cohesion in post-conflict societies, argues that neither law enforcement approaches, nor the peacekeepers, can effectively combat transnational organized crime. “These approaches are addressing the symptoms but not the underlying deficiencies that make countries vulnerable to organized crime,” he says. “Drug cartels and drug-based economies are vibrant and they hold and employ huge numbers of people. Unless we create alternative sustainable economies and legitimate polities in these communities we won’t be able to offer alternative and viable ways for people to survive,” he adds.

pg/cb  source


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On guard: Cholera down but officials vigilant

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

DAKAR,  – Some 1,700 people in West Africa have contracted cholera since mid-June, a significant decline compared to the same seven-week period in 2012 when 11,834 were affected.

Overall, 50,439 people contracted cholera in West and Central Africa in 2012, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Sierra Leone and Guinea saw 30,000 people infected and 400 deaths.

This year, most of the cases are in Guinea Bissau (652), Sierra Leone (367) and Niger (354).

“It seems we are winning the fight thus far, but we must strictly monitor the West African coastal countries [Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone] since they were so affected by cholera last year,” said François Bellet, West Africa cholera focal point for UNICEF.

Cholera often follows two-year cycles, with immunity building following an epidemic.

In Guinea-Bissau between 11 March and 8 July, 158 cases were confirmed and 18 people died of cholera. Despite fatality rates of 11 percent, Guinea’s health minister declared on 11 July “there is no scientific evidence about a cholera outbreak.”

In Mali, where no new cases have been reported in the past five weeks, the government and aid agencies launched aggressive prevention actions when cholera broke out across the border in Niger.

Guinean health officials have worked with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and UNICEF to vaccinate 3,740 people in the Mènyingbé Islands, near Conakry, to prevent cholera from spreading. Last year MSF launched the vaccine in Guinea for the first time. Guinea has registered 115 cases and seven deaths since 19 March.

The cholera caseload may be higher than reported, said Bellet. “Some deaths are not reported in order to avoid high fatality rates or for political reasons. But if they’re not identified, we can’t provide adequate response,” he told IRIN.

Further, the caseload usually peaks towards the end of the rainy season (in September) so health workers must remain alert, said Bruno Ngandu Kazadi, information focal point for cholera for the West Africa office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “If rains are as strong as in 2012, we risk similar outbreak spikes,” he said.

Correctly diagnosing transmission contexts, reinforcing risk reduction strategies in the most affected zones, national planning, and promoting an intersectoral approach are also essential for prevention and treatment, say aid agencies and health officials.

cr/aj/cb source

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