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Norway contributes US$ 10 million to support climate services

Posted by African Press International on November 21, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– The World Meteorological Organization has partnered with leading research, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations to launch the Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa in an effort to increase the climate change resilience of some of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

The programme, funded by a grant of US$ 9 750 000 (NOK 60 000 000) from the Government of Norway, is the first multi-agency initiative to be implemented under the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). It represents a unique approach that includes natural and social scientists as well as large development and humanitarian agencies working on the ground in a bid to ensure that climate services are tailored to the practical needs of the user community.

The challenges are huge. An estimated 70 nations, including many of the Least Developed Countries, have inadequate or no climate services and are ill-equipped to meet the challenges of both natural variations in the climate and human-induced climate change.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud and State Secretary Hans Brattskar of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed the agreement today during the annual climate change conference taking place in Warsaw.

“The Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa is a model of how a wide range of partners can unite to ensure that the benefits of scientific advances reach those who are most at risk from weather and climate-linked hazards,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “The funding from Norway will allow us to roll out climate services to help African countries adapt to our changing climate and to increase resilience to droughts and floods and other extremes.”

“Africa is the continent most vulnerable to a wide range of impacts of climate change. Africa is already facing a decrease in food production, floods and inundation of coastal zones and deltas, as well as the spread of waterborne diseases and malaria. Often it is the most vulnerable people that suffer the most, and there is an urgent need for effective and coordinated action. Norway firmly believes that with this multi-agency climate services program, we can deliver climate services to those vulnerable people and also contribute to strengthening the global framework as the knowledge and action hub of climate services,” said Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Børge Brende.

The provision of more and better climate services will allow farmers to fine-tune their planting and marketing strategies based on seasonal climate forecasts; empower disaster risk managers to prepare more effectively for droughts and heavy precipitation; assist public health services to target vaccine and other prevention campaigns to limit climate-related disease outbreaks such as malaria and meningitis; and help improve the management of water resources. These activities all contribute to appropriate adaptation planning to a changing climate.

The main countries to benefit initially will be Malawi and the United Republic of Tanzania. The programme will build on existing climate services in food security, nutrition and health, and disaster risk reduction at national, local and regional level. It is intended that the Climate Services Adaptation Programme will become operational in other African countries in the future and will serve as a model for other parts of the world.

“The Norwegian support for the GFCS project in Malawi will enable consideration of how to better meet user needs in Malawi, and provide opportunity to make progress,” said Mr. Jolamu L Nkhokwe, Director of Climate Change and Meteorological Services in Malawi. “While a great emphasis in Malawi has been placed on the ability to forecast large-scale rainfall patterns, it is a known factor that users often request tailored packages that integrate a variety of information, including more detailed features of the expected rainfall, other climate variables, and information about the consequences of the expected climate. Within this project, a number of simple methods of statistical downscaling of the large scale climate product will be turned into the type of rainfall information requested by many users in Malawi.”

Dr Agnes Kijazi, Director General of the Tanzania Meteorological Agency, said “The Programme will be a significant opportunity for enhancing availability of wide range of data and assuring better access to all available data and information. Furthermore, the programme will empower the meteorological agency to better serve our key customers, in particular the agriculture sector and the authorities responsible for disaster management in the country. This in turn will contribute to improved food security and disaster management for the country.”

The Climate Services Adaptation Programme in Africa is implemented by seven partner organizations: WMO; the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO); the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI); the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); the World Food Programme (WFP); and the World Health Organization (WHO).

There is growing momentum towards the provision of climate services in both developed and developing countries alike within the context of the Global Framework for Climate Services. This is a country-driven initiative to provide accurate and accessible climate services to users such as disaster management authorities, water and energy utilities, public health agencies, the transport sector, and farmers, as well as the community at large.

This new programme is building on achievements made under another Norwegian supported programme. The GFCS Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa programme started in 2011 with the aim of contributing to the amelioration of weather and climate related disasters and to climate change adaptation in Africa through operationalizing the Global Framework for Climate Services. Tangible impacts obtained so far with Norwegian support include the holding of roving seminars for farmers in 17 different African countries, during which the farmers have received information about weather and climate, future climate change and the implications in their region, climatic risk in production of different crops in their region and better risk management.

The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water



World Meteorological Organization (WMO)



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Donors react: Government corruption killing development in Malawi

Posted by African Press International on October 30, 2013

LILONGWE, – Extensive looting of public funds by government officials in Malawi has dangerously undermined the country’s public health sector, with hundreds of public health workers striking in recent weeks to protest late payments of their September salaries.

The delays were the result of a financial scandal involving government officials who exploited loopholes in a government payment system to make fraudulent deposits into the accounts of companies that did not have government contracts. Up to 20 billion kwacha (US$5.3 million) was siphoned from public funds, according to the Financial Intelligence Unit, a government organ.

The health worker strike, which started in early October, crippled operations at public hospitals, which are also experiencing depleted budgets for essential medical equipment and drugs.

“My three-year-old daughter had a fever, and I went to our district hospital to seek medical attention, but I came back without any. I found the staff at the hospital just lying around,” said Laurine Mwangupili of Karonga District, in Malawi’s Northern Region. “They told us that they could not attend to patients because they had not been paid their salaries.”

A health worker at the hospital, who did not wish to be named, said all the facility’s technical staff – including nurses, clinical officers and medical assistants – participated in the strike.

Workers at the country’s two largest referral hospitals – Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre – and at Dedza and Salima district hospitals also went on strike after the salary delays. They said they would be willing to strike again if this month’s salaries are delayed.

Striking workers who IRIN spoke to said that they had been threatened with eviction from their homes because they could not pay their rent. Some teachers also experienced delays in their September salaries as a result of the scandal.

“Crippled” because of corruption

Martha Kwataine, executive director of the NGO Malawi Health Equity Network, raised the alarm over the effect of corruption on the already underfunded health sector earlier this year.

“We have been saying that the health sector in this country is being crippled because of corruption,” Kwataine told IRIN. “As a country, we cannot retain specialist medical personnel because we lose our money this way. As a result, we keep sending patients to countries like Tanzania to receive specialized treatment” for diseases like cancer.

She added that the issue of corruption went beyond the late payment of salaries, and that it was exacerbating shortages of essential medical supplies, including drugs, which are “currently lacking in a number of hospitals.”

The Medical Doctors Union of Malawi also protested the looting in a statement, noting: “It is disheartening and utterly frustrating that while government is struggling to ensure constant availability of essential medicines and supplies in public hospitals, largely due to inadequate funds, some individuals within the same public service are finding it so easy to access the same inadequate funds for their own personal benefits.”

In September, IRIN witnessed patients at Nkhata Bay District Hospital being served a thin porridge instead of the usual meals of ‘nsima’ (a thick maize-meal porridge) or rice. Hospital authorities said the change was a result of poor funding to the facility, which had worsened since August.

Donors react

The impacts of the high-level fraud, which local media are calling “Cashgate”, are likely to be felt for months to come as international donors, who make up 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget and are particularly important to the health sector, threaten to pull out of the country.

Norway has already suspended its aid, while Germany has urged the government to track down those responsible, and the European Union (EU) has threatened to withhold $39 million of aid in December unless the corruption allegations are dealt with. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Monday that it is withholding $20 million in extended credit facility to Malawi until December.

Since Malawi’s Anti- Corruption Bureau uncovered the scam in early September, the government has shut down the payment system used to carry out the fraud, and 10 government officials have been arrested on charges of money laundering. On 10 October, President Joyce Banda dissolved her entire cabinet. Most of her 32-member cabinet was reappointed, with the exception of the ministers of finance, justice, and industry and trade.

History of corruption

Corruption has been a chronic problem in Malawi, with each of the country’s previous presidents pledging to root it out only to be connected to corruption after leaving office.

The first president elected in multiparty polls in 1994, Bakili Muluzi, is currently answering charges of diverting 1.7 billion kwacha ($4.5 million) of donor money into his own pocket. His successor, Bingu wa Mutharika, has been posthumously accused of building a 61 billion kwacha ($163 million) estate during the eight years he ruled the country. Most of that money is suspected to have been looted from state coffers, as he declared just 136 million kwacha ($363,000) in assets when he assumed office in 2004.

Under Mutharika, Malawi also had an uneasy relationship with its donors. In 2011, the UK froze its aid to the country after a diplomatic spat.

Since assuming office in April 2012, Banda has worked hard to mend relations with donors, but these gains may now have been lost.

sm/ks/rz source


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Another year of hunger knocking the door

Posted by African Press International on August 19, 2013

Rain-fed maize production is down in the north (file photo)

MZIMBA, – The phrase on the lips of many Malawians these days, particularly in the north of the country is: “There will be hunger this year.”

In Karonga District, prolonged hot, dry spells caused maize crops in the southern part of the district to wilt. The dry spell was followed by heavy rains, which not only knocked down the wilting maize but also brought down several houses, affecting scores of people. In the northern part of the district, flooding filled rice paddies with sand, virtually burying the crop.

Rumphi and Mzimba districts – the hub of maize production in Malawi’s northern region – were also hit by dry spells starting from February.

As a result of the weather conditions, most farmers in the region harvested little maize. In fact, an annual food security forecast by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) – composed of the government, UN agencies and NGOs – predicted that 21 of the country’s 28 districts will face varying degrees of food insecurity until the next harvest in March 2014, with the northern region most severely affected.

Costs to rise

Across the region, residents have started buying and storing bags of maize to prepare for the steep price increases that normally accompany the peak of the lean season.

“Unlike in the past, when vendors were the ones buying the maize, most of those buying the maize this time around are people who say they are just stocking it for domestic use,” said Francis Chirwa, a farmer from Chitipa District, who was selling some of his maize.

Currently maize is selling at between 120 and 130 kwacha (between US$0.36 and $0.39) per kilogramme at points of production in rural areas. The MVAC report projects that prices will increase to 200 kwacha (about $0.60) per kilogramme by the peak lean period, which will fall between December 2013 and January 2014.


The MVAC report projected a slight increase in total maize production compared to last year, with a surplus of 194,000 metric tons beyond the national food requirement. However, the report also estimated that nearly 1.5 million people – representing 9.5 percent of the country’s total population – would need food assistance equivalent to 57,346 metric tons of maize over the coming months.

In its July to December 2013 food security outlook, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) suggested that the maize surplus could be less than projected because of a possible over-estimate of the amount of maize produced from the irrigated farming sector, which failed to take into account the lowered water table resulting from erratic rains.

The FEWSNET report also noted that rain-fed maize production was down by 27 per cent compared to last year in the area covered by the Mzuzu Agricultural Development Division (ADD) in the north and by 19 per cent in the central region areas covered by Kasungu ADD.

Rethinking FISP

Meanwhile, the MVAC report attributes the maize surplus to the government’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), which targets more than a million poor smallholder farmers with subsidised inputs such as fertilizer and seed. However, John Paul, project manager for the Building Resilience to Climate Change project run by the NGO Total Land Care, pointed out that “the success of the FISP lies in favourable weather conditions”.

“Most parts of the country have not received favourable rains over the past two years or so, and this period has exposed how vulnerable the FISP is,” he told IRIN. “There is a need for the implementation of the FISP to incorporate conservation agriculture technologies, such as maximum soil cover and limited tilling, as a way of fighting off the effects of dry spells.”

Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, made similar observations after completing an 11-day mission to Malawi in July. In a strongly worded statement, De Schutter urged the government to rethink its focus on the FISP, which, with its dependence on costly fertilizer imports, was using up more than half of the Ministry of Agriculture’s budget and crowding out spending on other priorities, but failing to rid Malawi of chronic food insecurity and high levels of malnutrition.

“From a purely agronomic point of view, inorganic fertilizers may be masking soil nutrient depletion, rather than correcting it,” said De Schutter, adding that this helped explain why the country had seen an initial increase in yields of maize and other cereals following the introduction of the FISP between 2005 and 2009, which had been followed by a levelling off starting in 2010.

De Schutter recommended promoting the cultivation of other crops besides maize, in particular legumes, as a way of replenishing depleted soils and improving children’s diets. He also proposed a “brown revolution” which would focus on the use of organic fertilizers.

sm/ks/rz source


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Can oil and water mix

Posted by African Press International on July 24, 2013

Fishing communities in Malawi fear their economic interests will be overlooked as the country looks to the mineral sector for greater revenues

NGARA,  – Civil society’s shorthand for Malawi’s drive to expand its extractive resource sector is T2 – “trouble or treasure”.

While Malawi has dabbled in mineral exploitation in the past, it only formed a mining and minerals ministry in December 2012. The country hopes to ramp up the sector’s contribution to GDP from less than two percent a few years ago to a forecast 20 percent by 2016; currently, the sector’s contribution to GDP is about 10 percent.

Mines minister John Bande said the country’s new approach to the minerals sector would rebalance an economy reliant on agriculture amid “climate-related challenges” and global anti-smoking campaigns that have reduced demand for tobacco – Malawi’s main foreign currency earner.

But Malawi’s plans are causing tensions with neighbouring Tanzania over the disputed border in Lake Malawi, which is being explored for oil. Civil society has also warned that the push to exploit minerals is racing ahead of any comprehensive legislative regulatory framework. Communities in potentially mineral-rich areas, meanwhile, say they fear their livelihoods are being threatened by a get-rich-quick gamble.

Living off the lake

Ngara, a northern village on Lake Malawi, has about 1,400 registered households, but its population swells for months on end as fishermen and their families come for what is widely considered the best spot for catching the local usipa fish.

Snapshot of life in a Lake Malawi fishing village
 View slideshow

Bwaia Maxwell, 60, has fished Lake Malawi since 1971 and has a crew of eight. On a good day, they make about 120,000 kwacha (US$363) from the usipa catch.

“We are not supporting that [oil extraction],” he told IRIN. “And there are thousands of fishermen working on the lake. We live off the lake, and when the oil starts, it will kill the fish, and then we will not have any work. Fishing paid for my children’s schooling and everything else. We won’t allow it, but there is nothing we can do. We don’t have a voice.”

Fishing fuels all of Ngara’s economic activity, from providing start-up capital for taxi businesses to supporting service enterprises like hair salons.

Elizabeth Kaira, 48, a mother of five, has worked as a fish trader for 30 years. She makes a daily profit of about 50,000 kwacha ($149), and sells the fish in the capital Lilongwe, the city of Blantyre, and in neighbouring Zambia as well.

“They don’t need to take the oil,” she told IRIN. “We earn a living from the lake; it pays for our life. The water we use for drinking. If it is contaminated, it will be no good for us to use.”

Ngara community leader Manuel Kanyika told IRIN, “I accept the oil extraction as a source of wealth. We have experienced fuel shortages, and it might be a solution if we have our own oil. [But] the fish – that is our wealth. Oil will have a negative impact on our lives. It is good for government, but what benefit will it have for individuals here?”

Laws needed

Catch from the lake is estimated to provide 20 percent of the protein requirement for Malawi’s population, according to Christopher Mwambene, executive director of Coordination Union for Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE), a Blantyre-based environmental NGO. He told IRIN that about 1.7 million Malawians rely “exclusively” on the lake. Tanzanians and Mozambicans derive livelihoods from it, as well.

Though Mwambene agrees Malawi must find additional revenue sources, he says the rush to bring the minerals sector on line carries inherent dangers, from the resource industry’s reputed lack of transparency to the government’s poor capacity to engage with the industry.

“There are always risks in economics, and the higher the risk, the higher the returns. The epicentre [of oil exploration] is in the northern part of the lake, and if something happens like in the Gulf of Mexico [2010 BP oil spill], the pollution would be concentrated, and there would be no capacity to address it,” Mwambene said.

There is also no guarantee the shift towards resource extraction will bring tangible benefits to all Malawians, he says.

Rheinford Mwangonde, executive director of the Lilongwe-based NGOCitizens for Justice, told IRIN, “If you are engaging an industry which is very strong, very shrewd and without proper laws [or] enough capacity to implement [them], the contracts are going to be very poor, and Malawians will not make anything from it. That’s the problem with this big rush, and government says it is going to rush. But it has not put its house in order.”

Leonard Kalindekafe, principal secretary of Malawi’s mining ministry, told IRIN the NGOs’ concerns were well-founded and that the absence of a regulatory framework was problematic: “We have to sort it out. They are right.”

“There is no alternative. This country cannot sit and be poor or continue to be poor”

He said the government was relying on mining laws from 1981, petroleum exploration legislation from 1983, and laws such as the 1968 Explosives and Blasting Act. “The challenge there is we must quickly move towards revising existing laws and, if those laws don’t exist, produce new laws, and there are so many of these [new laws needed]. So we have to move very, very quickly in a short period of time. Otherwise, if the sector booms and we don’t have good laws and policies, it is going to cause problems.”

New mining legislation is expected “by Christmas”, but for now contracts are being drawn up on an individual basis, Kalindekafe said, adding that any decision on oil extraction from the lake was several years off.

“It’s a lot of pressure. But what is the alternative? There is no alternative. This country cannot sit and be poor or continue to be poor – the alternative is doing nothing, and that to us is a non-starter.”

Bright Phiri, biodiversity programme officer at the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy, told IRIN, “People see mining as the only mechanism to allow Malawi to climb up the ladder. But mining should be seen as catalyst to economic growth, and we should not lose focus on agriculture. Minerals are not [a] renewable resource.”

Investment environment

Unlike its regional neighbours, Malawi has no tradition of large-scale commercial mining, and the extent of its mineral reserves has yet to be mapped. Still, there is interest on the part of the extractive industries.Surestream Petroleum, a British-based company, was awarded an exploration licence covering 20,000sqkm of Lake Malawi in 2011.

Malawi has also known reserves of uranium, coal, rare earth minerals and niobium. The $300 million Kanyika Niobium project, a joint Chinese-Australian venture is expected to begin operations in 2015 and to have an annual production of 3,000 tons of niobium oxide, an ingredient for “superalloys”, and 150 tons of tantalum, a cell phone component. Mkango Resources, a Canadian-based company, has been granted rare-earth prospecting licences covering 1,751sqkm in southern Malawi.

But the reception for foreign investors in Malawi has not always been to their liking.

Gregory Walker, international affairs general manager of Paladin Energy, told IRIN the Australian company’s initial $300 million investment in the Kayelekera uranium mine, some 50km west of Karonga, had climbed to more than $500 million, with little to show for it.

The mine was “a pathfinder” for the country’s anticipated mineral revolution, but “the difficulty with Malawi is that there was no track record [of commercial mining]. So there was a leap of faith [by Paladin],” he said. “Malawi now has a track record – and it is not good.”

He said government was not supportive of the enterprise, which has “has never made a cent”. Paladin had so far spent $15 million on community projects, the lion’s share for a state-of-the-art water system in Karonga, Walker said, but the company has still faced criticism over health concerns and its community-development obligations.

All it would take for the government to head-off such criticism would be a two-line statement saying the company was abiding by its contractual commitments, but this was not forthcoming, he said.

“There has been a lot of disappointment and frustration. I have had to explain that development is a process, and it is a little slower than a lot of people were expecting”

The government is a 15 percent shareholder in Paladin, but it profits from 3 percent of the uranium royalties regardless of the company’s performance.

When the mine was conceived, the uranium price was $70 a pound “and expected to go north. Today it is $39.50… No one factored in the impact of Fukushima [the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster] and the impact that had on the demand for uranium.” Paladin must choose between closing the operation or “soldiering on” in hopes that uranium prices will eventually rise, he said.

A teacher at Kayelekera Village, who declined to be named, said it was Paladin’s responsibility to help the community, and not the government’s, and dismissed its claims of losses. “If they are not making money, they would have closed already, but they are still doing the same thing. That means they are still making profits. If you don’t make money in business, you stop doing it.”

Jim Nottingham, Paladin’s corporate social responsibility officer, told IRIN: “When we came here people thought the presence of the mine was going to transform the north, and a lot of people were going to be rich, but it has not happened that way. There has been a lot of disappointment and frustration. I have had to explain that development is a process, and it is a little slower than a lot of people were expecting.”

go/rz  soure



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No consensus on implementation

Posted by African Press International on July 24, 2013

Many Rwandan refugees have lived in host countries for decades (file photo)

KAMPALA/JOHANNESBURG,  – The future of tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees living in Africa remains uncertain nearly two weeks after the 30 June deadline recommended by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the discontinuation of their refugee status.

UNHCR has recommended countries invoke the “ceased circumstances”clause for Rwandans who fled their country between 1959 and 1998. The cessation clause forms part of the 1951 Refugee Convention and can be applied when fundamental and durable changes in a refugee’s country of origin, such that they no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution, remove the need for international protection. Both UNHCR and the Rwandan government have pointed out that since the end of the civil war and the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been peaceful, and more than three million exiled Rwandans have returned home.

However, many of the estimated 100,000 Rwandans who continue to live outside the country – mainly in eastern, central and southern Africa – remain unwilling to repatriate, citing fear of persecution by the government. Refugee rights organizations have also warned that human rights abuses by the current government have caused a continued exodus of Rwandan asylum seekers.

“We have been told time and again that Rwanda is safe and there might be some truth in that. However, one wonders why the call for cessation is happening while there are still people who are seeking asylum,” Dismas Nkunda, co-director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, told IRIN.

Differing views on protection

So far only four countries in Africa – Malawi, the Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have followed UNHCR’s recommendation to invoke the cessation clause, a fact that, according to Nkunda, “speaks volumes” about how different African countries view this group’s need for protection.

In an article in the July issue of a newsletter produced by the Fahamu Refugee Programme, a refugee legal aid group, John Cacharani and Guillaume Cliche-Rivard accused UNHCR of pressuring states to follow its recommendation, “holding hostage the fate of more than 100,000 Rwandan refugees who, of their own volition, have decided not to repatriate, yet continue to fear the end of their international protection.”

“One wonders why the call for cessation is happening while there are still people who are seeking asylum”

But in response to questions from IRIN, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR regional representative for southern Africa, emphasized, “It is the responsibility and prerogative of states to declare the cessation of refugee status.” She said UNHCR’s role was only to make a recommendation based on its analysis of conditions in the country of origin and how they relate to the refugees’ reasons for flight.

That only four states had agreed to implement cessation as of 30 June did not in any way indicate that UNHCR’s recommendation was premature, she insisted. At an April 2013 meeting of host states held in Pretoria, “some states underscored that, for various legal, logistical, practical or other considerations, they are not in a position to apply the cessation clauses by 30 June 2013. Others have specified that, for the time being, they will concentrate on taking forward other components of the [comprehensive durable solutions] strategy, namely voluntary repatriation and local integration”.

Preparing for returnees

Meanwhile, Rwandan officials say the country is prepared to receive therefugees, and has developed a comprehensive plan to repatriate and reintegrate returnees. So far this year, an estimated 1,500 Rwandans have returned home following government-operated “go-and-see” programmes.

“The conditions that forced them to flee no longer exist,” Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambagye, told IRIN. “The government has established three transit centres which are well equipped with shelter, education and health services. These people will be given packages for three months. We have mobilized the local authorities to receive and help them reintegrate into the communities.”

He added that for Rwandans seeking local integration in host countries rather than repatriation, the government will issue national identity cards and passports that will allow them to retain their nationality.

IRIN spoke to government officials and UNHCR representatives in several of the African countries that are hosting significant numbers of Rwandan refugees to find out how they are handling the cessation clause.

Countries invoking the clause


Although Malawi is among the countries said to be invoking the cessation clause, the process is still in its early stages. According to George Kuchio, UNCHR representative for Malawi, the first step of informing the 660 refugees covered by the clause of their right to apply for exemption has just been completed, and the government has yet to decide what options it will offer for local integration.

“If there are people who still have compelling reasons for not returning, they’ll be given the opportunity to have their say,” Kuchio told IRIN.

However, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Besten Chisamile, was quoted in the local media as saying, “The situation in Rwanda stabilized long ago, and there is every reason for the remaining ones [refugees] to return to their home. We are working with UNHCR on ensuring we repatriate them.”

Malawi is host to a further 500 Rwandan asylum seekers whose refugee status has yet to be determined but who are unlikely to be covered by the cessation clause.

Republic of Congo

In June, the Republic of Congo announced that it would invoke the cessation clause for the 8,404 Rwandan refugees it hosts. They will now have to choose between voluntary repatriation, naturalization or applying for exemption.

“Those who fail to choose one of these options will be subject to the laws pertaining to foreigners’ entry, residence and departure,” said Chantal Itoua Apoyolo, director of multilateral affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Juvenal Turatsinzé, 49, who is among 2,500 Rwandan refugees living in Loukolela, in the northern Cuvette region, said: “We’ve been worried since hearing about the loss of our status. We’d love to go back to Rwanda, but the conditions that would allow us to do that willingly are not yet in place.

“There are often arbitrary arrests in Rwanda. There is no freedom of expression, no democracy. We don’t think the time is right for voluntary repatriation… There are no security guarantees there.”

He added, “I have already put in my request for naturalization as a Congolese citizen.”


Zambia hosts 6,000 Rwandan refugees, about 4,000 of whom are covered by the cessation clause. According to Peter Janssen, a senior protection officer with UNHCR, the majority of these have applied for exemption, but most have been rejected. “Officially their refugee status has ceased, but the government has made it known that there will be a possibility for people to acquire an alternative status,” said Janssen.

“That still needs to be fine-tuned, but it is positive because, until a while ago, it looked like people would be left without a status and have to return to Rwanda.”


Zimbabwe, which is also following the recommendation to invoke the cessation clause, is further along with the process.

Prior to 30 June, 72 cases comprising over 200 individuals who left their country before 1999 were identified as falling within the scope of the clause, out of about 800 Rwandan refugee and asylum seekers living in the country. Those unwilling to repatriate who qualify for local integration, either through marriage to a local or through employment in certain professions, such as lawyers, doctors and teachers, have been encouraged to apply for permanent residence or work permits. However, they cannot be issued permits until they are in possession of Rwandan passports, which the Rwandan government have yet to issue.

The majority who do not qualify for local integration but do not want to return home have already applied for exemption from the cessation clause. According to Ray Chikwanda, a national protection officer with UNHCR in Zimbabwe, only six out of the 60 cases that applied were successful. Those who were rejected have been encouraged to appeal.

“Our reading of the situation is that until there is a political consensus in the region [about invoking the cessation clause], these appeal decisions are unlikely to be released,” said Chikwanda.

Countries not invoking the clause

Democratic Republic of Congo 

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it will not immediately invoke the cessation clause for the estimated 47,500 Rwandan refugees it hosts, but will instead adopt a phased approach.

Rwandan refugees will first be identified, registered and asked if they want to return. Following a meeting in October, a repatriation plan will be drawn up. Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu Province, where most of the Rwandan refugees have settled, told the Associated Press that refugees who do not want to return home will be allowed to apply either for a residence permit or for Congolese nationality, which may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

UNHCR has helped some 8,000 Rwandans return home from DRC since 2012 and says it will continue to assist with repatriation.


Out of 14,811 Rwandan refugees living in Uganda, about 4,100 individuals fall within the scope of the cessation clause. However, the government has not invoked cessation because ambiguities in the country’s Immigration Act and Constitution would hinder local integration – an alternative to voluntary repatriation that host states are supposed to make available as part of the comprehensive solutions strategy.

For example, Article 12 of the Constitution bars the children of refugees from qualifying for citizenship, while sections of the Immigration Act effectively preclude refugees from qualifying for permanent residence or work permits.

“The government of Uganda has declared that, pending the resolution of the [legal] ambiguities and the charting of a way forward towards implementing local integration and alternative legal status, they will not be invoking the ceased circumstances clause,” Esther Kiragu, UNHCR assistant representative for protection, told IRIN. “They will, however, announce a date for invocation in due course once the road map is clearly drawn.”

South Africa

At a ministerial meeting convened by UNHCR in Pretoria in April 2013, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor said, “The position of the UNHCR in relation to Rwanda has created anguish and uncertainty among the refugee community in South Africa”, suggesting that much work remained to be done to clearly articulate the reasons for the clause being invoked.

The South African government has since informed UNHCR that it will conduct its own research into existing conditions in Rwanda and consult extensively with the local Rwandan community before making a decision on invoking the cessation clause.

A local Rwandan refugee leader, who did not wish to be named, commended South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs for “welcoming Rwandan refugee leaders, listening to their concerns and fears of being returned to Rwanda, and sharing with refugees the government of South Africa’s position around the cessation clause”.

ks/kr/nl/lmm/so/rz source

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Zimbabwe: Stateless residents gain citizenship ahead of the polls

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2013

Zimbabweans are expected to go to polls soon

HARARE,  – Standing in a winding queue in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Judith Kapito, 38, cannot hide her excitement: she is waiting to receive a new identity document, one that will offer her rights and opportunities she has long been deprived of.

Kapito was born to Malawian parents who migrated to Zimbabwe – then Southern Rhodesia – in 1960. She lost her citizenship in 2001, when the government’s amendment of the Citizenship Act forced those born of alien parents to renounce their foreign citizenship.

Kapito, who was born in Zimbabwe and registered as a national of the country, had no other citizenship to renounce. She became stateless, and remained so until the country’s new constitution, passed in April 2013, restored her status as a Zimbabwean.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name. I had no country to call mine because the government of Malawi, where my parents came from, did not consider me as its citizen and could not help me in any way.”

The processing of documents at the Registrar General’s office has been slow, but Kapito remains upbeat. “I am happy that there is now… a new constitution that brings back my citizenship, and I see so many opportunities ahead of me,” she told IRIN.

“For 10 years, I had no identity, just a name”

Once she acquires her new passport, Kapito plans to become an informal trader, buying hairdressing chemicals from Botswana for resale in Zimbabwe.

“My citizenship was taken away at a time when things were bad in Zimbabwe, and it was difficult to make ends meet. I could not cross the border, not even to Malawi, which was supposed to be my country, and thus could not make money as other traders were doing,” she said.

Myriad challenges

In 2000, an economic and political crisis began when the government of President Robert Mugabe forced out thousands of white commercial farmers to resettle black Zimbabweans, leading to the displacement of former farm workers, massive unemployment levels and acute shortages of basic commodities. The move also forced millions of people to migrate and others to rely on cross-border trade to earn a living or access food.

Kapito’s statelessness followed soon after. The 2001 amendment prohibited dual citizenship; people who had migrated to Zimbabwe had to renounce their natural citizenship before they could acquire a Zimbabwean one. Kapito did not have the details, such as the name of her Malawian village head, needed to acquire a Malawian passport from the embassy in Harare, which she could then renounce.

Since then, the challenges have been myriad. An unemployed widow with three school-going children, she has been struggling to get a court directive to inherit and sell an old truck that her late husband left behind because she could not obtain a marriage certificate; both she and her husband were considered foreigners who could not legally marry in Zimbabwe.

Kapito is among thousands of migrants and their descendants to face such difficulties.

Her neighbour, Duncan Sapangwa, 30, whose parents also migrated from Malawi, hopes that restoration of his Zimbabwean citizenship will help him open a bank account for his small carpentry business.

“Banks always turned my applications for a loan down because they said I was an alien who could run away from Zimbabwe any time. I have no doubt that my business would have grown if I had access to a loan,” Sapangwa told IRIN.

The Harare municipality also refused to put him on the city’s housing waiting list, he said, because of his “alien” status.

“I have many relatives who used to work on white farms but were chased away by the new owners. The government said they could not be resettled under the land reform programme because they were foreigners, and they ended up as beggars on the streets. Since we are now citizens once again, we hope the future will be better,” he added.

Thousands stateless

According to the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit’s December 2008 report, A Right or Privilege: Access to Identity and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, the law prohibiting dual citizenship left thousands stateless, most of them young people.

Photo: IRIN
Zimbabwean traders crossing into Zambia over the Kariba Dam border

“Among the most affected are young generations of Zimbabweans whose grandparents migrated from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia” for a variety of reasons, including war, famine and unemployment back at home, said the report.

Thabani Mpofu, spokesperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ), told IRIN it was difficult to establish the exact numbers of those considered aliens living in Zimbabwe as no formal study has been conducted, but he said the figure could run to “several hundreds of thousands”.

The acting president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Lucia Masekesa, accused the government of having been insensitive towards migrants and their families.

“The political leadership in this country failed to consider the plight caused by taking the so-called aliens’ citizenship away… Nothing was done to cushion them,” she told IRIN.

Voting rights

Once Kapito and Sapangwa receive proof of citizenship, they will be able to exercise the rights due any other citizen of Zimbabwe, including, crucially, the ability to vote in the impending general elections.

Kapito was prevented from voting in the 2000 general elections because of widespread political violence against perceived opponents of the government. Afterwards, considered an alien, she was unable to vote in the 2002 presidential election or the 2005 and 2008 parliamentary polls.

Mugabe, who has been in power for more than three decades, set 31 July 2013 as the next election date. This decision was met with an outcry from the opposition, who pointed out that amendments to electoral laws were still being debated and that the voter registration exercise needed more time. The South African Development Community has since intervened, asking Mugabe to extend the date to 14 August.

Whatever the date, Kapito says she is happy she will finally be able to cast her vote.

Still, Arnold Sululu, a member of parliament and of the parliamentary committee on home affairs and defence, warned that it was too early for many to celebrate the restoration of their citizenship.

“Many people of migrant origin are facing problems getting new identity documents and passport[s], and it may be a while before normalcy returns,” he said.

fm/jk/rz source

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Assaulted photo journalist defended by The Media Institute of Southern Africa

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2013

The Media Institute of Southern Africa‘s (MISA) ,Malawi Chapter is calling upon the National Assembly and the Police to act on Parliamentary Chief Security Officer, Youngson Chilinda, for assaulting Photo journalist Thoko Chikondi. - Photojournalist thoko-chikondi – Photojournalist thoko-chikondi

Chilinda allegedly assaulted Chikondi, a photojournalist  from one of the country’s major publishing giants, Nation Publications Limited (NPL), on Thursday, May 30, while covering a presentation of a petition to Parliament by the Consumers Association of Malawi, (CAMA).

” MISA Malawi condemns  as barbaric and retrogressive behavior in the strongest manner possible and would like the National Assembly to take serious disciplinary measures on Chilinda. MISA Malawi would also like the police to arrest and prosecute Chilinda for beating up the photojournalist” read a press statement it released .
MISA Malawi  said in the press statement that it believes that the media have a right to gather and report freely within Malawi and abroad, and to be accorded the fullest possible facilities for access to information, as is enshrined under section 36 of the Republican Constitution.
Taking photographs is part and parcel of a journalist’s work to gather and report matters of public interest and Chilinda’s actions clearly violate this provision, read part of the release
Apart from violating this provision, the statement  claimed Chilinda also assaulted and injured Chikondi who had to be treated for bruises and soft tissue injury at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
The release, went to on to state  the  act was  not only barbaric and retrogressive but also a sad reminder of the dark days every Malawian was trying to forget.
”MISA Malawi, therefore, requests the National Assembly and the Police to take immediate action on Chilinda. The National Assembly should suspend Chilinda for his barbaric actions and the police should charge and prosecute him for assault.” it read.
” MISA Malawi is monitoring the situation and will continue doing so until the matter is dealt with to our satisfaction” it concluded.

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Subsidies and GM crops back

Posted by African Press International on April 10, 2013

More food is available now but it is much more expensive

JOHANNESBURG,  – Food has become expensive and seems set to stay that way, so growing more of it has become both a necessity and an attractive investment. But the trend has also put contentious issues like agricultural subsidies and genetically modified (GM) crops on the menu once again.

IRIN talked to some of the leading food security experts on the emerging issues highlighted in, among other new reports, the 2012 Global Food Policy Report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Subsidies are back

Countries like Malawi, caught in a trap of cyclical droughts, have provided subsidized fertilizer to boost food production but have come under attack for promoting unsustainable support to their farmers. “The position of donors on fertilizer subsidies is quite scandalous, given what is happening in their own countries,” says Peter Hazell, a leading agriculture expert who has worked with the World Bank and IFPRI.

A drought in the US and fluctuating food prices have led policy-makers there and in the European Union (EU) to rethink protection and support for their farmers.

The US Farm Bill governs agriculture policy and is updated every four years, but the 2008 legislation was extended to September 2013. The proposed bill recommends an expanded insurances programme with new crop insurance subsidies so farmers receive money when income from certain crops falls below a targeted level, and sets target prices for crops that trigger payments when revenues fall for several consecutive years at much higher levels than before.

“Perhaps the right lesson for Africa is not that subsidies are always bad, but that they need to be designed and implemented in more targeted ways”

The EU has done away with export subsidies that supported the disposal of surplus production abroad, but its EU Common Agriculture Policy ensures high levels of direct support to farmers and protects its own markets.

Jim French, policy advisor to Oxfam America, says the organization “does not object to a nation’s right to invest in and protect its agricultural interests”, but subsidies can “sometimes distort both the market and production in ways that impact global hunger and poverty rates”, and notes that some of the proposals in the new US Farm Bill “included moving back to subsidies“.

Agriculture expert Steve Wiggins, of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), says if rich countries are providing subsidies, it does not mean poor countries should emulate their bad example.

He argues that subsidies in rich countries “do not prevent any African government from providing decent rural access roads, from funding research and extension, maintaining competitive exchange rates, and so on”. It is export subsidies that affect farmers in Africa, but poor countries can protect themselves from cheap imports by imposing tariffs.

Hazell points out that subsidies have helped countries like Malawi. “Perhaps the right lesson for Africa is not that subsidies are always bad, but that they need to be designed and implemented in more targeted ways that include a built-in exit strategy,” and address financial viability.

These developments have prompted experts and activists to call for reviving the stalled Doha round of talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was to consider subsidies, tariffs and trade distortion in agriculture.

The GM debate

The US Congress adopted a clause in its 2013 agriculture budget bill that effectively bars the department of agriculture from any attempt to halt planting or harvesting a GM crop, even if the call comes from the judiciary, sparking outrage. India imposed a 10-year moratorium on field trials of GM crops in 2012.

My favourite links
FAO Biotechnology Forum
GM Organisms- New Scientist
 WHO | 20 questions on genetically modified foods
 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
 Towards smart subsidies in Malawi
 Why are Indian farmers committing suicide over their debts?
 Vandana Shiva on BBC’s Hardtalk about the food system

Organizations like Greenpeace and activists worldwide welcomed India’s decision, but the IFPRI report describes it as a significant setback to food policy, and mainstream scientists argue that GM crops offer a way out of deepening food insecurity as growing conditions like the weather and water become compromised by climate change. IFPRI researchers P K Joshi and Devesh Roy note that the moratorium, “not based on scientific logic, will have negative effects on frontier research and demand-driven technology generation”.

The adoption of the US clause, nicknamed the “Monsanto Protection Act”, was described by Greenpeace as a “sad day for democracy and the future of our food”. Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, cites interviews with the Union of Concerned Scientists stating that GM crops purported to be weed- and insect-resistant are actually failing.

There is no reliable proof that GM crops are harmful to human beings. “That’s not the same thing as saying that the potential isn’t there for novel proteins and other chemicals to generate unexpected problems,” Bittman writes, “which [is] why we need strict, effective testing and regulatory systems.”

The debate on GM crops is polarized between supporters and those who think it will have long-term impacts on biodiversity, possibly health, and lead to a takeover of food production by corporations like Monsanto. This has also been the case in Africa, where some countries have banned GM maize as food aid.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and the author of a book on the politics of GM food, described India’s moratorium as “nonsensical”, and said it “reduces India’s efforts to assure sustainable food security for its population”. He is among the mainstream scientists who prefer to be open-minded on GM technology and believe that while it might not be the panacea to climate-proof plants, it is a tool with some potential to ensure food security in the coming decades.

“The regulation of the use of improved crop varieties in the United States is best done by the relevant agencies within the federal government, and not by the judiciary,” he told IRIN. “Lack of understanding and insufficient knowledge among some judges are likely to result in erroneous decisions.”

Hazell, who also backs the mainstream view on GM technology, likens the current situation to the state of computer science in the early 1960s. “While the critics were still obsessed with problems of mainframe computers, the industry was busy developing laptop and portable computers that transformed not only the industry, but also the world. Let’s hope that something similar happens with the plant sciences, otherwise we are going to see a lot more famines and deforestation in the years ahead. None of this is to say that we don’t need sound biosafety regulation, but that should be based on science and national priorities, not driven by the misinformed anti-science views of a few international NGOs.”

A new measure of productivity

Historically, farmers and countries alike have relied on yields to measure productivity, but in the past decade – total factor productivity (TFP) – which takes into account fixed factors like land, labour, capital, and the cost of direct inputs like fertilizers, has been gaining ground.

More food but not everyone gets to eat enough: Families in drought-affected Mauritania were pooling their food reserves every day in 2012

Alejandro Nin-Pratt of IFPRI says this method “is straightforward, as is the ratio of total output over total input, in other words, how much output is being produced by unit of total input.”

Hazell agrees that TFP “is a better measure… than yield, which just captures the productivity of land. TFP growth improves with new technologies and investments like irrigation that raise the returns to fixed factors.”

He points out that “one reason why farmers in Africa remain so poor is because agricultural growth there has been driven largely by increases in the cropped area and farm labour, with very little growth in TFP.“

Gender in agriculture

FAO’s 2011 annual report focused on the role of women in agriculture, signalling a new trend. Since then, the US Agency for International Development, IFPRI, and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative have even developed an index to measure women’s empowerment in agriculture.

“The West makes gender equality an end in itself, and this can be counterproductive in many cultures,” Hazell says. “There is evidence that empowering women farmers, especially in Africa, is important… But this calls for practical and well-focused interventions that take account of local socioeconomic context, not for the construction of national gender empowerment indices that become goals in themselves.”

ODI’s Wiggins insists the goal should be, “All girls in school until they are 16, at least… taking care of children before 36 months, and making sure they are properly nourished.”

Ruth Meinzen-Dick, IFPRI senior research fellow, says there is a lack of rigorous evaluation of approaches that have worked to empower women in agriculture. They have launched a Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP) to conduct assessments.

jk/he source

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