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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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Loosing all hope – a wish to commit suicide

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

– When Uganda resident  Rose Lamwaka had two sons abducted by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) 10 years ago she felt she had lost all hope. “I w as feeling a lot of pain, I was feeling like committing suicide,” says the 51-year-old widow with seven grandchildren.

Last week, Lamwaka joined hundreds from the northern district of Lamwo to remember their abducted children, still missing from the decades-long civil war between the LRA and the government. More than 200 family members with relatives still unaccounted for read the names of their lost ones in a ceremony of prayer and song.

Northern Uganda was the epicentre of a legacy of violence, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the number of people abducted since the war started in the late 1980s ranges between 52,000 and 75,000. Though Uganda has been free from LRA attacks since 2006, and a number of former child soldiers have returned, the ICRC estimates thousands remain missing from the north as a result of the conflict.

“Because there is no official figure of those missing, we had to extrapolate on what we found here,” said Camilla Matteucci, ICRC protection coordinator. “And our projection is that at least 10,000 people are still missing in northern Uganda.”

Left behind

The commemoration in Uganda not only acknowledged those still missing but also marked the end of a four-month community counselling pilot programme for more than 200 affected family members of the abducted in Lamwo District. As that project initially targeted only one sub-county, it used those affected families as a baseline to extrapolate the total number that have gone missing across the northern region.

According to Beatrice Ocaya, the local women’s councillor in Lamwo, the ceremony was an important step in recognizing the ongoing support needed by families torn apart by the LRA conflict.

“There is no longer war, but some parents are ever crying,” she said.

ICRC says relatives left behind have been silently suffering with ambiguous loss, and the isolation that breeds has far-reaching social and economic impacts on populations still recovering from conflict.

“They don’t know if the person is alive or dead, if they’re still with the armed group, which also puts a stigma on the family, and therefore it’s hard for them to deal with the community at large,” Matteucci said.

For Lamwaka, the group brought her relief, and support from her community. “Other people are really understanding, they sympathize and care,” she told IRIN.

A global loss

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August, the ICRC has released a handbook to call for a broader global response to the families of those missing in conflict and natural disasters. The handbook draws on more than 10 years of similar ICRC projects, from the Balkans, to Nepal and Timor-Leste – all countries where thousands have gone missing with families left behind to bear the burden – and provides an understanding of what families of missing persons go through. It also acts as a practical guide for local “accompaniers” from the community, trained by ICRC to counsel peer support groups to be able to share experiences and coping mechanisms.

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are separated from loved ones in such situations,” said Marianne Pecassou, head of the ICRC team dealing with missing persons, in a statement. “The families will tell you that what they need more than anything else is to find out what happened to the person who vanished. Unfortunately, in too many cases, that question may never be resolved. But they also have other needs that go far beyond this.”

According to ICRC, during the conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, they received more than 34,000 tracing requests from families searching for answers.

Legal issues such as inheritance and property rights, the financial stress of searching for the lost while supporting a household, as well as the psychological trauma of loss have devastated communities already scarred by conflict.

According to Milena Osorio, ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support adviser, psychological needs such as emotional isolation, feelings of guilt, anger, depression or trauma, and tensions among family members or with members of their communities are common.

“The families of missing people frequently find themselves grappling with uncertainty. Most societies have religious or cultural rituals to deal with death,” said Ms Osorio in the statement, “but there is very little to help the families of missing persons.”

In May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged member states to join an international treaty aimed at “eliminating enforced disappearances and stop impunity for this scourge”.

pc/kr/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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International Criminal Court: Situations and cases

Posted by African Press International on August 28, 2013

18 cases in 8 situations have been brought before the International Criminal Court.

Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor can initiate an investigation on the basis of a referral from any State Party or from the United Nations Security Council. In addition, the Prosecutor can initiate investigations proprio motu on the basis of information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court received from individuals or organisations (“communications”).

To date, four States Parties to the Rome Statute – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mali – have referred situations occurring on their territories to the Court. In addition, the Security Council has referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan, and the situation in Libya – both non-States Parties. After a thorough analysis of available information, the Prosecutor has opened and is conducting investigations in all of the above-mentioned situations.

On 31 March 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the Prosecution authorisation to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation of Kenya. In addition, on 3 October 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III granted the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation to open investigations proprio motu into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

Situation in Uganda 

The case The Prosecutor v. Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Dominic Ongwen is currently being heard before Pre-Trial Chamber II. In this case, five warrants of arrest have been issued against [the] five top members of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).

Following the confirmation of the death of Mr Lukwiya, the proceedings against him have been terminated. The four remaining suspects are still at large.

Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 

In this situation, five cases have been brought before the relevant Chambers: The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga DyiloThe Prosecutor v. Bosco NtagandaThe Prosecutor v. Germain KatangaThe Prosecutor v. Mathieu Ngudjolo ChuiThe Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana; and The Prosecutor v. Sylvestre Mudacumura. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Bosco Ntaganda are currently in the custody of the ICC. Sylvestre Mudacumura remains at large.

Trial Chamber I convicted Mr Lubanga Dyilo on 14 March 2012. The trial in this case,The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, had started on 26 January 2009. On 10 July 2012, he was sentenced to a total period of 14 years of imprisonment. The time he spent in the ICC’s custody will be deducted from this total sentence.  On 7 August 2012, Trial Chamber I issued a decision on the principles and the process to be implemented for reparations to victims in the case. All three decisions are currently subject to appeal.

The trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui started on 24 November 2009. Closing statements in the case were heard from 15 to 23 May 2012. On 21 November 2012, Trial Chamber II decided to sever the charges against Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui and Germain Katanga. On 18 December 2012, Trial Chamber II acquitted Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui of the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and ordered his immediate release. On 21 December 2012, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was released from custody. The Office of the Prosecutor has appealed the verdict.

The verdict regarding German Katanga will be delivered at a later stage.

The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana took place from 16 to 21 September 2011. On 16 December 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided by Majority to decline to confirm the charges against Mr Mbarushimana.  Mr Mbarushimana was released from the ICC’s custody on 23 December 2011, upon the completion of the necessary arrangements, as ordered by Pre-Trial Chamber I.

On 22 March 2013, Bosco Ntaganda surrendered himself voluntarily and is now in the ICC’s custody. His initial appearance hearing took place before  Pre-Trial Chamber II on 26 March 2013. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case is scheduled to start on 10 February 2014.

Situation in Darfur, Sudan 

There are five cases in the situation in Darfur, Sudan: The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Muhammad Harun (”Ahmad Harun”) and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (“Ali Kushayb”)The Prosecutor v. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al BashirThe Prosecutor v. Bahar Idriss Abu GardaThe Prosecutor v. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus; and The Prosecutor v. Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein.

Warrants of arrest have been issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I for Messrs Harun, Kushayb, Al Bashir and Hussein. The four suspects remain at large.

A summons to appear was issued for Mr Abu Garda, who appeared voluntarily before the Chamber on 18 May 2009. After the hearing of confirmation of charges, on February 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I declined to confirm the charges. Mr Abu Garda is not in the custody of the ICC.

Two other summonses to appear were issued for Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo who appeared voluntarily on 17 June 2010; the confirmation of charges hearing took place on 8 December 2010. On 7 March 2011, Pre- Trial Chamber I unanimously decided to confirm the charges of war crimes brought by the ICC’s Prosecutor against Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo, and committed them to trial. The trial in the case The Prosecutor v. Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus is scheduled to start on 5 May 2014.

Situation in the Central African Republic 

The situation was referred to the Court by the Government of the Central African Republic in December 2004. The Prosecutor opened an investigation in May 2007. In the only case in this situation, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed, on 15 June 2009, two charges of crimes against humanity and three charges of war crimes, and committed the accused to trial before Trial Chamber III. The trial started on 22 November 2010.

Situation in the Republic of Kenya 

On 31 March 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation proprio motu in the situation in Kenya, State Party since 2005. Following summonses to appear issued on 8 March 2011, six Kenyan citizens voluntarily appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II on 7 and 8 April 2011. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap Sang were held from 1 to 8 September 2011. The confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta took place from 21 September to 5 October 2011. On 23 January 2012, the judges declined to confirm the charges against Henry Kiprono Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali. Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against William Samoei Ruto, Joshua Arap Sang, Francis Kirimi Muthaura and Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and committed them to trial. On 18 March 2013, the charges against Francis Kirimi Muthaura were withdrawn. The trial of William Samoei Ruto and Joshua Arap is scheduled to start on 10 September 2013 and the trial of Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is scheduled to start on 12 November 2013.

Situation in Libya 

On 26 February 2011, the United Nations Security Council decided unanimously to refer the situation in Libya since 15 February 2011 to the ICC Prosecutor. On 3 March 2011, the ICC Prosecutor announced his decision to open an investigation in the situation in Libya, which was assigned by the Presidency to Pre-Trial Chamber I. On 27 June 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued three warrants of arrest respectively for Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah Al-Senussi for crimes against humanity (murder and persecution) allegedly committed across Libya from 15 until at least 28 February 2011, through the State apparatus and Security Forces. On 22 November 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I formally terminated the case against Muammar Gaddafi due to his death. The two other suspects are not in the custody of the Court. On 31 May 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected Libya’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and reminded Libya of its obligation to surrender the suspect to the Court.

Situation in Côte d’Ivoire 

Côte d’Ivoire, which is not party to the Rome Statute, had accepted the jurisdictionof the ICC on 18 April 2003; more recently, and on both 14 December 2010 and 3 May 2011, the Presidency of Côte d’Ivoire reconfirmed the country’s acceptance of this jurisdiction. On 3 October 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III granted the Prosecutor’s request for authorisation to open investigations proprio motu into the situation in Côte d’Ivoire with respect to alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, committed since 28 November 2010, as well as with regard to crimes that may be committed in the future in the context of this situation. On 22 February 2012, Pre-Trial Chamber III decided to expand its authorisation for the investigation in Côte d’Ivoire to include crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010.

On 23 November 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III issued a warrant of arrest under seal in the case The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo for four counts of crimes against humanity. The arrest warrant against Mr Gbagbo was unsealed on 30 November 2011, when the suspect was transferred to the ICC detention centre at The Hague, by the Ivorian authorities. On 5 December 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III held an initial appearance hearing. The confirmation of charges hearing took place between 19 and 28 February 2013. On 3 June 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber I adjourned the hearing on the confirmation of charges and requested the Prosecutor to consider providing further evidence or conducting further investigation with respect to the charges presented against Laurent Gbagbo.

On 22 November 2012, Pre-Trial Chamber I decided to unseal a warrant of arrest issued initially on 29 February 2012 against Simone Gbagbo​ for four counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the territory of Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011. Mrs. Gbagbo is not in the custody of the Court.

Situation in Mali

 

On 16 January 2013, the Office of the Prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Mali since January 2012.

The situation in Mali was referred to the Court by the Government of Mali on 13 July 2012. After conducting a preliminary examination of the situation, including an assessment of admissibility of potential cases, the OTP determined that there was a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

The situation in Mali is assigned to Pre-Trial Chamber II.

The OTP is currently conducting preliminary examinations in a number of situations including AfghanistanGeorgiaGuineaColombiaHondurasKorea and Nigeria.

Submitting Information

To submit information about alleged crimes, please write to:

International Criminal Court
Office of the Prosecutor
Communications
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
The Netherlands.

Or email: otp.informationdesk@icc-cpi.int,

Or send information by facsimile to: +31 70 515 8555.

 

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The Coup in CAR will not stop the hunt for Kony

Posted by African Press International on April 14, 2013

Wanted

KAMPALA, (IRIN) – The search for the Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the rainforests of the Central African Republic (CAR) will continue despite the ouster of President François Bozizé by rebel group Séléka, officials say.

Séléka overran the capital, Bangui, on 24 March, putting Bozizé to flight. The rebels named their leader, Michel Djotodjia, the new head of state.

“I don’t think the overthrow of President Bozizé by Séléka will change our mission and position in the hunt down of LRA rebels. We are in CAR with the mandate from [the] AU [African Union] and UN [United Nations],” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, told IRIN, adding that his country is committed to capturing LRA leader Joseph Kony.

Uganda has some 2,500 soldiers deployed around the border areas of CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where Kony and his fighters are thought to spend most of their time. The Ugandan troops are joined by 500 Congolese fighters, 500 South Sudanese and 350 CAR troops, all operating under the auspices of the AU. In late 2011, the US deployed 100 special forces to the region as military advisers to the effort.

Ploughing on

According to Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), “the fall of Bozizé will not change much the situation on the ground, except if the Séléka leaders insist on the departure of the foreign troops as stipulated in the Libreville agreement [a peace agreement brokered in January and breached by the latest fighting? but never successfully implemented].”

Potential problems

Some analysts say, however, that the AU’s decision to suspend CAR from the organization following the coup could have negative consequences for the hunt for the LRA.

“The AU’s suspension of CAR poses a great challenge and will slow down the hunt for Kony and his rebels. Uganda has to re-negotiate with Séléka rebels… in order for its troops to have the mandate to operate in their territory,” Ronald Ssekandi, a regional political analyst based in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, told IRIN.

Angelo Izama, a political affairs analyst at the US-based Open Society Foundation, said the hunt for Kony and the LRA would largely depend on Séléka’s control of the country.

“The deterioration of government in CAR is a significant complication for the hunt against Joseph Kony. The LRA’s asymmetrical, low-tech survival strategy thrives in conditions of lawlessness and violence, especially in the hinterland,” he told IRIN.

The LRA continues to cause death, displacement and damage in the region (file photo)

“Already the geographical terrain, as well as the size of CAR, has been a practical constraint against the forces hunting Kony. If Séléka is unable to consolidate control, it would further the physical and tactical net within which LRA can seek opportunities to rebuild weapons caches,” he added. “The Séléka rebels do not have the capacity [to limit LRA activities]… In addition, Kony is not their problem; there are much more important emergencies to deal with.”

According to Lt Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, commander of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces’ (UPDF) Land Forces, Kony’s fighters currently number about 400, and they continue to roam around CAR, DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. He said some LRA defectors recently reported that Kony was in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, while his senior commanders, Dominic Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo, are thought to be in CAR.

Kony, Odhiambo and Ongwen are wanted by the International Criminal Court(ICC) for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Uganda.

LRA still a threat

“The LRA no longer pose a big threat, but there are still [a] few pockets of LRA rebels operating in CAR under Odhiambo and Ongwen. They are a nuisance. They have continued to abduct, maim and kill unarmed people,” Katumba told IRIN.

“It is important to recall that, despite [the] relatively small number of remaining elements, the LRA continues to pose a serious threat to civilians, with dire humanitarian consequences, in the affected areas in CAR, DRC and South Sudan,” Abou Moussa, head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), told IRIN via email.

In February, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairsreported that in the country’s southeast, “there has been an increase in the LRA attacks against communities and hostages being taken.”

According to LRA Crisis Tracker, the LRA was responsible for 13 civilian deaths and 17 abductions in CAR February 2013. UNOCA says an estimated 443,000 people are currently displaced in LRA-affected areas, many of them depending on international assistance for food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. This includes an estimated 347,000 people in Province Orientale’s Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé districts in DRC.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, recently sent a message to the LRA, assuring them that, should they be arrested, they would not be “tortured or killed” and would receive a fair trial.

Commitment to the cause

Analysts say if the LRA threat is to be laid to rest once and for all, countries in the region must show more commitment to finding Kony.

“It requires committed governments to arrest Kony. The ICC can only base its optimism in this practical possibility. There is no government in CAR, soft states in South Sudan and Chad, and support for LRA from Sudan. It’s plausible that the situation above favours the LRA and not the ICC,” said Open Society Foundation’s Izama.

“Kony’s continued existence, and that of his entire group, is part of a much larger problem in the Great Lakes region: failure by governments to resolve internal political problems and to work together in a concerted way to bring to an end cross-border insurgencies in the region,” said Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist and senior research fellow at Makerere University’s Institute of Social Research. “Their proliferation points to the existence of problems or grievances that ought to be addressed – questions to do with citizenship and nationality, land ownership, access to services and opportunity.”

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

 

 

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Post-coup Central African Republic – urgent aid needed

Posted by African Press International on April 8, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Less than two weeks after the overthrow of Central African Republic (CAR) President François Bozizé in a rebel coup, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated, leaving civilians in the capital, Bangui, in critical need of aid, said a senior humanitarian official. 

“The main humanitarian needs in Bangui are access to health and nutrition and clean water [and] security and protection of civilians,” Amy Martin, who heads the Bangui branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN.

Bozizé was ousted on 24 March after the rebel Séléka coalition overran Bangui, exacerbating the country’s already precarious humanitarian situation. Insecurity had already been rife before the coup, especially in the northeast, and access to basic services was inadequate.

Now, only two hospitals are functioning in Bangui, schools are closed nationwide and civil servants are not yet back to work. Water and electricity services have been interrupted, and insecurity has worsened.

Insecurity

“Insecurity is persistent, with the circulation of arms and poor discipline by the Séléka elements,” said Martin.

Following the coup, there were reports of widespread looting and violence in Bangui. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that 10 metric tons of emergency supplies were stolen from its main warehouse.

“The looting continues in Bangui as well as in towns where Séléka are expanding their presence, notably to the west and northwest of Bangui,” Martin continued.

Regarding the number of people affected by the crisis, she said: “We are using the population figure of the entire country, 4.5 million people, [as the number of people] affected. The most vulnerable people – women, children, elderly, [people living with HIV/AIDS] – are most at risk.”

The insecurity has led to population movements.

“In the northwest, people are fleeing to the bush; in Bangui, a few thousand crossed the River [Oubangui] to Zongo [in DRC], but as the situation calms down they are returning,” said Martin.

Insecurity could also worsen in southeastern CAR, an area affected by activities of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Following the Séléka takeover, Ugandan troops and US military advisers in CAR suspended their search for LRA leader Joseph Kony.

President François Bozizé was ousted in a 24 March rebel coup

“It is unclear whether the Ugandans and the Americans will leave, but if they do, there will be no security forces left in the southeast of CAR to offer any sort of civilian protection,” Ledio Cakaj, an independent researcher focusing on the LRA, told IRIN.

“It is unlikely that the new CAR regime has the capacity to provide security for an area close to 1,000km away from Bangui, same as was the case under the previous government.”

Cakaj added: “It is not clear yet how Kony will respond to the recent developments, but given the history of attacks in CAR it is likely that LRA attacks against civilians will intensify given the lack of protection of civilians [should the Ugandan and American forces depart].”

Food insecurity

The insecurity, which has intensified since December, has affected farming and commercial activities raising food security fears.

“In the interior of the country, people need seeds and agricultural inputs for this agricultural season… Commerce needs to restart to allow people to access goods in markets,” said OCHA’s Martin.

According to a 28 March OCHA update, “The border with all neighbouring countries is closed, which directly affects movement of commercial [goods] and fuel from Douala, which is Bangui’s main commercial and supply line from Cameroon.”

“Land preparation, which should have started in January, is behind schedule in parts,” stated a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) March update.

“The food security situation, which was already alarming… has deteriorated from December 2012 onwards, when the civil conflict escalated,” added the update, warning that the “situation is projected to further deteriorate until the next harvest, in July 2013, especially in the north of Nana-Grebizi, in Ouham and Vakaga regions.”

“It is worth noting that before the crisis erupted, floods in Nana-Gribizi, Ouham and Vakaga prefectures had already affected agricultural activities,” Alessandro Costantino, an economist with FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food, told IRIN.

And more flooding could become a problem: “Every year, flooding occurs in CAR in the middle and towards the end of the rainy season, which spans from April until October in the South, from July to October in the rest of the country,” he said.

Rebels from the northeast

The Séléka rebels mainly come from the restive northeast of CAR, a region that is “geographically isolated, historically marginalized and almost stateless,” according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Circumstances leading to the coup included the “absence of [a] solution to the problem of the armed groups of northeastern CAR; the lack of a programme of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) for these fighters; and a crippled security system,” said a 27 March ICG blog post.

“The time has come for the Séléka coalition, which took power last weekend, to really demonstrate how committed it is to humanitarian principles and human rights for all Central Africans.”

“The disarmament of the fighters has been planned since the agreements of Libreville in 2008, but it has never taken place due to the lack of political will of the Bozizé regime,” it said.

Séléka leader Michel Djotodjia named himself president after the coup, and “if he remains in power, he will be the first CAR president from the remote, neglected and largely Muslim northeast”, said a blog post in African Arguments.

Djotodjia was the leader of the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) rebels, who merged with rebels from the Convention Patriotique pour le Salut Wa Kodro (CSPK) and Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP) to form the Séléka coalition.

Djotodjia’s government plans to hand over power to an elected president after a three-year transition period. But challenges are already emerging, with opposition critical of the composition of the new cabinet named by Séléka on 31 March, days after the suspension of the constitution and the dissolution of CAR’s National Assembly.

Access problems

At present, hundreds of thousands of people remain cut off from aid and essential services.

According to UNICEF, children are among the worst affected, with some two million lacking access to basic social services and exposed to violence.

“Children in the Central African Republic were some of the most vulnerable in Africa even before the recent upsurge in fighting,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, in a 29 March statement.

“It is imperative to have full and secure access to communities affected by the conflict. With every lost day, every thwarted delivery and every stolen supply, more children may die.”

Fontaine added, “The time has come for the Séléka coalition, which took power last weekend, to really demonstrate how committed it is to humanitarian principles and human rights for all Central Africans.”

aw/rz

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