African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Posts Tagged ‘Rwanda’

IOM Rwanda Expects to Resettle 1,500 Congolese Refugees in 2014

Posted by African Press International on December 9, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The International Organization for Migration (IOM) expects to resettle an estimated 1,500 Congolese refugees to the United States from Rwanda in 2014.

Nyiramahoro Tuyisenge is one of the approximately 600 Congolese refugees who have finished undergoing IOM’s pre-departure health assessment in preparation for their resettlement to the United States.

It has been 17 years since threats from the militia in her village in the Democratic Republic of Congo sent her running into neighbouring Rwanda. The situation in her rural village has never stabilized and life at the camp has been tough, especially for her three children.

“It is so hard to make appropriate food for babies in the camp. The tents get really cold when it rains and my children often get sick. I’m so worried about them,” said Nyiramahoro as she held her new born baby.

“I’m very happy to go to the United States. I expect that I will have access to quality food, education and health.” Nyiramahoro said, full of hope and excitement for the new life ahead.

Every year, IOM facilitates movements for thousands of refugees who have been accepted for third country resettlement. The resettlement programme offers a durable solution for refugees who are unable to return to their country of origin for fear of continued persecution and do not have the option to stay in their country of asylum.

The US government funds IOM to conduct these health assessments and to organize the transportation of refugees to the United States.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

Advertisements

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wounded soldiers treated at Gisenyi hospital

Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 8, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – Following the latest clashes between government forces and armed group M23 in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 76 wounded soldiers have crossed the border into Rwanda and been admitted to Gisenyi hospital.

A surgical team from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was immediately sent to provide urgent support to the facility’s medical staff as of 8 November. “Our medical teams are now assessing the urgency of each case,” said Georges Paclisanu, head of the ICRC delegation in Rwanda.

The ICRC worked with Rwandan Red Cross volunteers to transfer the war-wounded from Kinigi to Gisenyi hospital on 5 and 6 November. Nineteen people with battle injuries had already been admitted to the hospital the previous week. “We’re also making sure the patients are getting enough food,” added Mr Paclisanu. The hospital has been supplied with medicines and medical equipment.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, the ICRC continues to bring aid to those affected by the recent fighting. In Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, an ICRC surgical team is treating people wounded in combat at Ndosho hospital. Meanwhile, in Uganda, delegates have registered over 100 children who became separated from their families as they fled the hostilities. With the support of Uganda Red Cross volunteers active in the refugee camps, the ICRC is offering families the chance to get in touch with their loved ones.

 

SOURCE

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The fighting has caused massive displacement -International pressure needed to repair the situation

Posted by African Press International on September 15, 2013

Hoping for a lull in fighting as talks proceed (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – After months of delay, peace talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and M23 rebels are back on, at the urging of regional leaders. But analysts remain sceptical that a truce can be achieved after more than a year and a half of intermittent fighting in eastern DRC’s North Kivu Province.

On 10 September, the two delegations met for the first time since April, with Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga mediating. The talks had first kicked off in December 2012, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), but have broken down a number of times since then.

“We are very optimistic we shall be able to deliver something in the two weeks,” Kiyonga told IRIN. “There is renewed commitment by the two sides. For some time, the government side was not here [Kampala]. But now everybody has come.”

M23 – the March 23 Movement – came into existence in April 2012, when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the national army (FARDC), mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

An estimated 900,000 people are currently displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. Humanitarians continue to flag the issue of civilian protection as FARDC and M23 engage in intermittent battles in and around the provincial capital Goma, where the fighting has displaced more than 100,000.

International pressure

The resumption of the talks follows a directive by a 5 September ICGLR Heads of State and Government summit, which set a three-day deadline for talks to resume and conclude within a fortnight.

But analysts say it is pressure from international leaders, rather than a genuine commitment to a negotiated solution, that has led to revived talks.

While on a joint visit to DRC, Uganda and Rwanda, a delegation of senior African Union, European Union (EU), UN and US officials, led by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Mary Robinson, called for the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region. The framework aims for, among other things, improving security and consolidating the state’s authority in eastern DRC. The agreement was signed on 24 February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by 11 African countries.

The officials also urged all parties to “bring the Kampala Dialogue to a positive and swift conclusion”, encourage the reduction of tensions in eastern DRC, and “identify and support confidence-building measures between DRC and Rwanda”.

“The Congolese government is coming back to the negotiations table but seems forced to do so. During the opening of the national consultations[held in Kinshasa on 10 September], President Kabila made it clear that if the talks fail, the fighting will resume,” Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst with the South Africa based think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.

“I think concerted pressure by a variety of envoys from the US, the EU, Belgium and the UN has made an impact, particularly through pressure on Rwanda [which is accused of supporting the M23 rebels, a claim vehemently denied by the Rwandan government]. Whether this will amount to anything, however, remains to be seen,” Jason Stearns, director of the Rift Valley Institute’s (RVI) Usalama Project, which conducts research on armed groups in eastern DRC, told IRIN.

“The initial statements by the M23 and the Congolese government do not look promising. If the talks are to succeed, both sides will have to bridge a deep divide on various issues, particularly whether the top leadership of the M23 can be integrated into the army and whether they will be redeployed across the country,” he added.

Tough positions

Kiyonga told a media briefing on 10 September that the two parties had reached a draft peace deal, with 60 percent of its clauses agreed upon. According to Rene Abandi, head of M23’s delegation, some of the key sticking points include: the reintegration of top M23 leadership into FARDC; disarmament and demobilization of the rebels; and the elimination of the DRC-based, Hutu-dominated Rwandan rebel group Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

Abandi said he hoped this time “we shall be able to handle all the issues”, sentiments echoed by Francois Mwamba, spokesman for the DRC government’s delegation.

“One of the key outcomes of this round of talks will be how the ICGLR and the parties themselves deal with the issue of amnesty and impunity for the leadership of the M23. A divide has already become apparent with both the UN and US envoys making statements that amnesty must not be an option for M23 senior leadership, while the current chair of the ICGLR, President Museveni, has publicly stated that amnesty must be on the table,” Aaron Hall, field researcher for anti-genocide group The Enough Project, told IRIN.

The fighting has caused massive displacement (file photo)

“There must be accountability for the most responsible perpetrators of the most serious crimes. Previous amnesty deals for leaders of rebel movements in eastern Congo – whether it be military reintegration, house arrest, or third country resettlement – have not only failed, but continued to perpetuate conflict in eastern Congo,” he added. “History in the region clearly demonstrates that there can be no peace without justice.”

According to a recent blog post by Stearns, despite the resumption of talks, the parties effectively remained deadlocked, with M23 saying “they would only put down their weapons if the FDLR are neutralized and Congolese refugees are allowed to return to the Congo, two goals that will take years to fully achieve”.

“On the other side of the table, the Congolese government has issued arrest warrants for Colonel Makenga, Kayna and Kazarama – the number one and two of the M23, as well as their spokesperson, respectively,” he added. “It is difficult to see the Kinshasa delegation, or international observers for that matter, accepting an amnesty for these top officials, which would mean that the M23 would have to accept excluding its top leadership.”

Uganda’s Kiyonga urged all parties – including the recently deployed UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) – to desist from further violence while the talks were underway. The latest violence broke out in July; by early September, however, the rebels had retreated from Goma following an offensive by the UN FIB.

“It’s unfortunate that we keep getting renewed fighting in the field. You can’t keep talking yet there is fighting… Any shelling or shooting should stop,” he said. “The UN is expected to respect the dialogue. I hope they will understand, [and] there will be no fighting as we talk.”

Humanitarian organizations working in the region are keenly awaiting the results of the talks but are unsure whether they will make a difference on the ground. “The key issue is that the M23 and the situation in Rutshuru area is not the only problem in eastern DRC. There are many other armed groups that are causing unrest, and many say that there is an increase in banditism,” said Chantal Daniels, Central Africa policy and advocacy officer for the NGO Christian Aid. “In general, I’m afraid that Kampala will not change things significantly on the ground. Even if an agreement is reached between the DRC and the M23, it is questionable if and how this is implemented, what the conditions from both sides are, and what that will do with the further dynamics with regard to armed groups on the ground.”

She added: “Last week SRSG [Special Representative of the UN Secretary General] of MONUSCO [the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC] Martin Kobler mentioned that ‘islands of peace’ will be created. I am very curious to see [what] this will look like, also with regard to humanitarian access during operations, and to what extent these ‘islands’ can be sustainable.”

Doubts about Uganda, ICGLR

There has been some criticism of the ICGLR’s handling of the talks and doubt about its ability to deliver a peaceful conclusion to the conflict.

“The ICGLR has proven useful in its role as a convener. However, a fundamental flaw of the Kampala talks to this point has been lack of transparency, accountability and inclusivity,” said Hall. “In order to make gains towards peace, stability and development in eastern Congo, a broader, more inclusive process is necessary that focuses on regional drivers of instability and brings to the table key actors that have been absent from the current talks – particularly the government of Rwanda.”

Also in question is Uganda’s neutrality, particularly following the DRC government’s August expulsion of Uganda’s Brigadier Geoffrey Muheesi, coordinator of the regional Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), set up by the ICGLR to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues. It is thought Muheesi was expelled for being too friendly to the rebels and to Rwanda.

“The talks are under the auspices of Uganda, which is not seen as neutral by Kinshasa, as demonstrated by the fact that the Ugandan general running the joint verification mechanism was recently expelled by the DRC. There is a clear lack of trust with the Ugandan facilitation,” said ICG’s Vircoulon.

Despite the challenges, analysts say there is reason to hope that the talks, if handled correctly, could reach a positive conclusion. “Given the pressure and timelines put on both sides by the ICGLR, UN Special Envoy and other international partners, this iteration of talks presents the greatest chance thus far for agreement to be reached,” said Hall, who noted that the success of the current round of talks would largely depend on both parties demonstrating “empathy and pragmatism”.

He continued: “For example, M23 cannot expect blanket amnesty and the full eradication of the FDLR in a two-week period, nor can the government of Congo expect temporary military gains made with support from the FIB and UN to be long-term solutions to dealing with the grievances of the M23.”

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

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

M23 fighting the DRC is one of the 30 armed groups in the country’s east.

Posted by African Press International on August 30, 2013

M23, currently fighting the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and UN forces near the North Kivu cap ital of Goma, is just one of more than 30 armed groups in the country’s east, all of which – through casualties or desertions – need to constantly replenish their ranks. Any previous affiliations to militias is not a barrier for recruitment.

After a year spent serving in the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Céléstin Kabeya*, a 19-year-old former combatant, fears returning home. He says he will only be forcibly recruited – again – into one of the three militias at large in the area.

Kabeya told IRIN that he had been forced to join the FDLR in 2012 after a patrol passed through his family farm in the North Kivu territory of Rutshuru.

“They first asked me to help them carry water, and then asked for directions. I showed them the way, and then they told me not to go back. They did not give me any military training. They just gave me a sub-machine gun,” he explained.

He said he was one of seven Congolese in the FDLR unit of about 50 combatants – the majority exiled Rwandans – four of whom were child soldiers. Without a salary, they survived by “looting only.”

“I worry about going home. I am afraid to go back, as there are three [armed] groups there. I will just be recruited by force again. I am thinking about maybe trying to find a relative in Goma to live with,” Kabeya said. The groups operating in his home area are the FDLR, Forces de Défense Congolaise (FDC) and Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS).

Caught in a cycle

Joining a succession of different militias, or being “recycled” into other armed groups, is not uncommon in North and South Kivu provinces.

Rufin Kapiamba*, a 21-year-old former combatant, said he voluntarily joined the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC/Sheka) to seek revenge against the FDLR, after witnessing its members decapitate his uncle near the North Kivu town of Pinga. He became part of a 52-strong detachment, of which a third were children.

He said Sheka Ntaberi, the group’s leader, first enlisted in the FDLR and then created his own militia. At first the two armed groups co-existed in an area replete with mineral wealth, but the alliance broke down over control of the natural resources.

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun”

“When we captured FDLR [combatants], we would kill them by cutting their heads off. I was afraid to do that. The kids shot them with a gun. They were not ready to cut their heads off,” Kapiamba said.

He tried and failed to desert four times. “My two friends were killed [in an escape attempt],” he said, tugging open his loose-fitting shirt to reveal the scar from a bullet wound just below his collarbone.

Kapiamba ended up being captured by the APCLS during skirmishes over the control of a gold mine. Because of his first-hand knowledge of NDC/Sheka, he was absorbed into the militia as an intelligence officer – probably saving his life. After a month, he escaped, fleeing more than 30km to Kitchanga, where he handed himself over to the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

He is now being demobilized at MONUSCO’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, Repatriation and Resettlement (DDRRR) transit centre in Goma.

Yet Kapiamba’s options for civilian life are limited. He wants to complete the last two years of secondary school and says he will live with his sister in Goma, yet all he possesses are the civilian clothes he is wearing.

During his time with the armed groups, Kapiamba was paid US$15 to $20 every few months. His duties included manning checkpoints, imposing “taxes” on people travelling to markets – demanding either 200 Congolese francs ($0.21) or foodstuffs – which was funnelled to the armed groups’ leadership. He will be fortunate to have any income as a civilian.

Demobilization and integration

For nearly a decade, large-scale disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes were operated in DRC, starting in 2002 with the UN Community Disarmament and Resettlement (CDR) programme in the Ituri region. Such programmes assisted former combatants in their transition to civilian life by providing cash or in-kind payments, such as bicycles or skills training. Tens of thousands or more passed through the national DDR programme.

Another strategy involved integrating former rebels into the security services. The National Commission for DDR was established in 2003, and the following year, after 10 armed groups signed a peace agreement, “it was estimated 330,000 combatants were eligible,” for the transition programme to civilian livelihoods according to an April report by the Small Arms Survey (SAS).

The programme was expanded to 22 more armed groups after the signing of another round of peace agreements in 2008. But “despite the increased number of armed groups eligible for DDR, fewer combatants participated in the government-led DDR programmes than anticipated,” said the SAS report. “This is because the DRC government opted to directly integrate these 22 armed groups (or roughly 20,000 combatants) into the national army and police.”

The national DDR programme ended in September 2011.

“Imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life”

Both processes, DDR and integration into FARDC, have had mixed results, according to analysts. But with the recent implementation of an aggressive UN mandate to “neutralize” all armed groups in the Kivus, there could soon be thousands of combatants exiting rebel ranks – either through defeat or defection – without any real alternatives for livelihoods.

Federico Borello, of the US Senate subcommittee on African Relations, said at a briefing in April that it was “imperative that a new DDR programme is conceived and implemented… and offer alternative opportunities to rejoin civilian life, such as road construction projects or other work opportunities.”

Those opting for integration into the FARDC “should be trained and then deployed into army units throughout the country; they should not remain in units operating in their former area of operation as an armed group,” he said.

In the past such proposals to remove armed group’s from their areas of operation had met fierce resistance, as they deprived former militias from continuing their rent seeking operations, even if they are formally members of the FARDC.

Such an integration initiative, Borello said, should also ensure “those responsible for serious [human rights] abuses are not integrated into the army but instead arrested and brought to justice.”

Integration losing lustre

The integration strategy has been viewed as far from favourable, but even so, the Mai-Mai group Yakutumba is on the cusp of being integrated into the FARDC, according a recent report by the Rift Valley Institute (RVI).

“The one-sided focus on the military integration of rebel groups has failed,” the report said, and it does not address “the issue of impunity for rebel leaders suspected of having committed serious crimes.” 

A Goma-based analyst, who declined to be named, said the experience of integrating the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), an allegedly Rwandan-back armed group, had tainted the government’s view of integration.

A 23 March 2009 peace accord signed with CNDP resulted in the group’s integration into the FARDC, but in 2012, former CNDP members said the government had reneged on the deal by failing to provide them agreed-upon military ranks and not paying salaries. The dispute paved the way for the emergence of the M23 militia, named for the 2009 peace deal.

“The DRC [government] does not want integration of armed groups into the army. The international community is pushing for it, but the Congolese don’t want it,” the analyst told IRIN.

The Goma analyst said the aim of integration was to dismantle an armed group’s command structure, but Kinshasa’s haste was greeted with suspicion by the former CNDP military hierarchy. “It would have been best to be gradual. Do it subtly. Send a few [CNDP officers] abroad for training, redeploy some to [the capital] Kinshasa. Do something like that.”

In fact, integration in DRC has seen entire armed groups housed within a single FARDC unit. In such cases, the issuing of FARDC uniforms to former rebels becomes, essentially, camouflage for the lack of government authority.

Instability for security

For Rwanda, the alleged sponsors of M23, having a proxy force a “phone call away” allows them to destabilize the region, the Goma analyst said, which it does “every time the situation improves [in the Kivus].”

Stability in the Kivus was seen as a greater threat to Rwanda’s security than instability, as the latter allowed Rwanda to exert influence in the region, the analyst said.

“The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian”

The Kivus’ cycle of violence has left countless young people vulnerable to militia recruitment – both voluntary and involuntary – and to subsequent revolving-door membership in a series of other armed groups.

One 22-year-old former combatant, who declined to be identified, said he joined an armed group voluntarily after witnessing the rape of his sister and mother by CNDP-aligned Mai-Mai combatants. He went on to spend four years serving in armed groups ¬- first the FDLR and then Nyatura, an ethnic Hutu militia. He now has a plan to escape being “recycled” into yet another armed group.

“I am going back to Nyamilima [in North Kivu] to help my mother on the farm,” he told IRIN. “The FARDC control the area, but if they [armed groups] come again, I will run as a civilian.”

 

Source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Difficult to live” – Goma`s displaced

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

BULENGO,  – If the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu capital of Goma were a hotel, there would be a sign hanging on the door with the words “sorry – no vacancies.”
From the 1994 exodus from neighbouring Rwanda, in the wake of the genocide, to interstate wars and decades of insecurity caused by a multitude of armed groups, the city has become the end of the line for those fleeing the country’s conflicts.

The latest influx of internally displaced people (IDPs), fleeing conflict with the allegedly Rwandan-backed armed group M23, is pushing the city to its breaking point.

“Goma is full,” Flora Camain, the Goma-based spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told IRIN. “There’s no room left.”

More to come

In response to continued displacements from across North Kivu, about 30 temporary “spontaneous sites” have been established in the province, using venues ranging from churches and schools to marginal land.

NGOs are providing basic services, such as water and sanitation and primary healthcare, to the burgeoning IDP population. IDPs are also staying with host families in the city.

According to the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), “Over one million civilians live in the relatively small area of Goma and Sake and along the road that connects them, where amongst others the Mugunga IDP camps, temporary home to 70,000 people displaced by the conflict, are situated.”

Of the more than two million IDPs in the country, about one million are displaced from South and North Kivu provinces. Spontaneous sites have been established in the North Kivu towns of Goma, Masisi, Rutshuru and Walikale. And the robust mandate afforded to a UN intervention force meant to “neutralize” the more than 30 armed groups in the Kivu provinces is expected to see even more displacements.

IOM, other humanitarian actors and local authorities are currently identifying any available land to accommodate new influxes of IDPs, while at the same time preparing for the eventual return of the displaced should there be an improvement in the region’s security conditions.

Although the displaced plight is high on the agenda of donors, IDPs in spontaneous sites – due to their sheer number and extreme need – often have access to only “minimum assistance,” Camain said.

“Difficult to live”

IOM estimates the population of IDPs living in spontaneous sites in North Kivu is about 231,000 people. One such site is Bulengo, on the outskirts of Goma, where about 58,000 people live.

Aziza Kasidika, 19 and three months pregnant, fled there from North Kivu’s Masisi during fighting between DRC’s national army (FARDC) and armed groups in January 2013. She has since lost contact with her family.

Her home is a crudely constructed “bâche”, about 2m long and just more than half as high. Branches provide a framework for thatch, with a patchwork of plastic bags to try to keep the weather out. A piece of cloth is used for a door, and the bed is a thin mattress of grass on top of volcanic rock.

“I sleep very bad because I sleep on the rock. The bad shelter is a problem, and it’s very difficult to live. I get sick,” she told IRIN. “There should be food distribution twice a month, but it’s only usually once a month. I get rice, maize, beans and oil, and there is never enough salt.”

The absence of adequate shelter is a common complaint in Bulengo, as are the security risks associated with foraging for fuel – needed for both cooking and warmth – beyond the site’s perimeter.

“I don’t know how long I will be here. It’s difficult to see the future. Our only future is the next food hand-out… I will return to Masisi when there is peace – but not that regular peace of two weeks and then war again. I live in Bulengo, and I will stay in Bulengo,” Kasidika said.

Illness, uncertainty

Maria Sankia, 60, fled to Bulengo from Walikale in November 2012, after fighting between the armed groups the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Raïa Mutomboki – Swahili for “angry citizens”. She came with two of her neighbour’s young children, and cites the same concerns as Kasidika: food distribution, security and poor shelter.

“Children don’t have schooling. There are no toys; there is nothing for the children to do. So many children go to the lake, but they don’t know how to swim. Five or six children have drowned [in Lake Kivu] that I know about since I came here,” she told IRIN.

“This is maybe the fourth time I have run away. But this time was definitely the worst”

Goma-based Christian Reynders, of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has established primary healthcare clinics at spontaneous sites, told IRIN that the medical caseload included diarrhoea and malnutrition, but that the predominant issue was respiratory tract infections, a direct consequence of the IDPs’ inadequate shelter.

At MSF’s Majengo clinic, situated in a Goma school where IDPs have taken refuge, Barikurie Kosi, 35, told IRIN, “This is maybe the fourth time I have run away [from Kibati, after M23 entered her village]. But this time was definitely the worst. There was no chance to take anything.”

She fled her home in May and arrived in Goma after a six day walk. She managed to bring her youngest three children, aged two, three and six, but her three teenage children, 13, 15 and 17, “ran in other directions. I don’t know where they are.”

“I don’t know when I will go back,” she said. “I am staying at the clinic.”

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

 

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Right abuses by DRC army and others

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups. 

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

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

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Human Rights abuses on the rise As fighting continues in North Kivu Province

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

The rebels are accused of summary executions, rape and forcible recruitment (file photo)

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

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

 

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Malawi

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

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

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.

Uganda

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 http://www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Surgical circumcision is more complex than PrePex

Posted by African Press International on July 6, 2013

Surgical circumcision is more complex than PrePex

KAMPALA,  – In May, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) announced the prequalification of PrePex, the first non-surgical device for adult male circumcision. Compared to surgical circumcision, the device has fewer complications and is easier and quicker to use, allowing lower-cadre medical workers to be trained to perform the procedure.

Randomized, controlled trials in 2006 found that male circumcision reduced a man’s risk of contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse by as much as 60 percent.

Fourteen African countries in eastern and southern Africa plan on circumcising a total of 20 million men by 2016 in an effort to curb the transmission of HIV. A number of these countries are lagging behind on their targets, and feel the PrePex device will give their programmes a much-needed boost, while others are more cautious.

Studies continue

Malawi’s Ministry of Health plans to adopt and roll out the PrePex device once it has completed safety and acceptability studies targeting 2,000 clients in the districts of Nsanje, Lilongwe and Mulanje. The studies are due for completion in August.

“We hope that the results will assist us to scale-up the services, because already more males have been asking for this device,” said Henry Chimbali, health promotion and communications officer for HIV prevention and behaviour change at the Ministry of Health. “It is also most likely going to reduce costs of providing VMMC [voluntary medical male circumcision], because currently we use VMMC disposable kits, as well as costs of human resource and also perhaps adverse events.”

As of March 2013, a total of 42,700 Malawian men had been circumcised since the October 2011 start of the programme – an estimated 350,000 adult males were circumcised prior to the programme. The ministry aims to reach some 1.8 million adult males by 2015.

In Kenya, the Male Circumcision Consortium (MCC), in collaboration with the National AIDS and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) Control Programme (NASCOP) and the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society (NRHS), welcomed the approval of PrePex, but called for more studies to assess its acceptability and safety in local healthcare settings. The organizations are currently conducting the second phase of study to assess the efficacy of PrePex-assisted male circumcision among 425 men in routine health-care settings in western Kenya’s districts of Kisumu and Rachuonyo; results are expected by September.

“The outcome will provide the government with information and recommendations on the adoption of this device,” MCC project manager Mathews Onyango told IRIN. “There are some issues that have not been addressed by the WHO prequalification, such as cost, acceptability… These might vary from country to country and, thus, like in Kenya, our study will address its safety and acceptability, especially within a larger population.”

“Different countries have varying needs and they would need to ensure that they introduce the non-surgical devices to fit within their context,” he added.

The first phase of the Kenyan study assessed 50 men to ascertain the safety of the device in Kisumu. The committee of independent experts reviewed the results, found no safety concerns, and recommended that the study proceed to the second phase.

Kenya’s programme aims to reach 80 percent of men between 15 and 49 years old – some 860,000 men. Since the programme was launched in 2008, it has reached more than 420,000 men.

In Rwanda, the government plans to roll out the device and scale it up to health facilities, following its successful trials at Nyamata and Kanombe military hospitals. Officials say it saves both time and money. Following the research, Rwanda announced in 2011 that it would be rolling out its VMMC programme using PrePex.

Photo: PREPEX
PrePex promises less pain and less time

“We believe that the PrePex is the only circumcision method that will allow us to meet the goal of [circumcising] over 1.5 million men in two years,” Vincent Mutabazi, lead investigator in the Rwandan PrePex studies. “Several campaigns and numerous training[s] of new PrePex healthcare providers have taken place. Some 5,000 men were circumcised outside of [the] clinical environment in Rwanda since [February 2012]… In the upcoming months, more than 200,0000 procedures are expected.”

“Safer, faster and reduces discomfort”

In Botswana, the health ministry, in collaboration with the US Embassy, the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (ACHAP) and Jhpiego, an affiliate of the US’s Johns Hopkins University, are carrying out pilot research at Nkoyaphiri Clinic, Mogoditshane and Block 8 Clinic in the capital, Gaborone. The study targets 1,000 HIV-negative men aged 18 to 49 to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of PrePex; so far 330 adults have been circumcised in the study, which ends in September.

“The results of this study will determine its roll out in the country. There is no doubt that the PrePex and any other acceptable and safe circumcision device will boost circumcision not only in Botswana but in all countries involved in the programme,” said Benjamin Binagwa, VMMC programme manager at ACHAP. “The advantage of having these devices is that they can be used by other health staff other than doctors.”

He continued: “Any device that makes a surgical procedure safer, faster and reduces discomfort or pain is always a welcome component of the health service. From current experiences with the PrePex, the device provides the aforementioned to a great extent. Therefore its incorporation in the Safe Male Circumcision programme… is a welcome development.”

“Training of both nurses and doctors on use of the PrePex device is less technically demanding since it does not involve use of injections to prevent pain, there is no cutting of live tissues and thus no need to control bleeding, and no need for stitches,” Adrian M Musiige, safe male circumcision programme manager for Jhpiego, told IRIN. “The same technical properties of the device also address some important barriers to male circumcision for some men who still associate conventional male circumcision surgery [with] pain because of the involvement of injections, surgical blades, some bleeding and stitches.”

A total of 75,604 men aged 13 to 49 years have been circumcised in Botswana since the campaign was launched in 2009; the national target is 385,000 men by 2016.

Operational challenges

In Tanzania, where some 415,000 people out of the targeted 2.8 million had been circumcised as of March 2013, participants in one ongoing study in the country’s central-western region of Tabora are already showing high levels of acceptability. But rolling out the procedure using PrePex may face operational challenges.

“I am definitely sure that the use of device in Tanzania will be approved,” said Jackson Lija, head of biomedical prevention in Tanzania’s Clinical STI, HIV and Circumcision Services. “Our main problem to scale it up will be funding. We are struggling. Currently, we have a funding problem that is affecting the conventional male circumcision. PrePex is likely also to be affected with the same.”

In South Africa, the health department plans to have “formal talks” with traditional leaders about the possibility of introducing a Prepex device to circumcision ceremonies, Thobile Mbengashe, national HIV director, told the Mail & Guardian.

He said the country was behind on its male circumcision targets – 4.3 million men by 2016 – and was “unlikely to achieve its goals if additional modalities that can help to scale up the medical circumcision process are not introduced”.

Ugandan officials say WHO prequalification of PrePex was anxiously awaited and will boost the country’s programme, which has, since 2010, reached 380,000 men – a fraction of the 4.2 million men it aims to have circumcised by 2015.

“The National Task Force [on safe male circumcision] and the ACP [AIDS Control Programme] welcomes the approval and will go through the process of including its use in the guidelines,” said Alex Ario, programme manager for the ACP. “The device will definitely lead to increased access and acceptability of safe male circumcision among young males.”

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

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Repeating past failures

Posted by African Press International on May 18, 2013

The Congolese government will today announce plans to move forward with the Grand Inga Dam at a conference in Paris. World Bank President Jim Kim is expected to support the return to mega-dam projects in Africa during his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda on May 21-24. The proposed dam on the Congo River – which would be the largest hydropower project ever undertaken – will figure prominently on the agenda of his trip. NGOs warn that with such projects, donors are about to repeat the grandiose failure of past mega-dams. 

International financiers have invested billions of dollars in the Inga 1 and 2 dams and transmission lines on the Congo River over the past 40 years. The projects produce power primarily for the mining industry, while only 6-9% of the country’s population has access to electricity. The new dams proposed for the Congo River are again designed to serve the mining industry and export markets in South Africa, and would bypass the rural poor in the DRC.

“If the World Bank and other donors plunge back into large hydropower in Africa, the majority of Africa’s poor will remain without power, at a time when better solutions are available,” says Rudo Sanyanga, Africa Program Director of International Rivers.

“Projects such as Inga 1 and 2 have not unleashed economic development, but have been major contributors to African countries’ unsustainable debt burden,” according to a May 15 letter to World Bank President Kim from 19 civil society organizations and networks from Africa, Europe and the United States. “In a period of growing hydrological uncertainty, focusing support on centralized dams will also increase the climate vulnerability of poor countries that are already highly hydro-dependent.”

The International Energy Agency found that grid-based electrification – including through large hydropower projects – is not cost-effective for much of rural Sub-Saharan Africa because of the continent’s low population density. Decentralized renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar and micro-hydropower projects are more effective at reaching the rural poor. According to the civil society letter, “distributed renewable energy solutions would provide the triple benefits of increasing energy access, strengthening climate resilience and protecting the environment.”

“We hope that Jim Kim’s Presidency will be associated with a break-through of energy solutions that reduce poverty, address climate change and protect the environment, rather than a return to the failed mega-projects of the past,” says Sanyanga.

The Bank announced its intention to return to funding mega-dams in Africa – including Inga on the Congo and also Batoka Gorge and Mphanda Nkuwa dams on the Zambezi – in a report for the IDA 17 negotiations and a recent media story. The governments of the DRC and South Africa will announce their plans to move forward with the Inga dams in Paris on May 18.

 

End

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DRC: Conflict for Coffee?

Posted by African Press International on May 13, 2013

GOMA,  – Entrepreneur Gilbert Makelele wants armed groups in his part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to wake up and smell the coffee.

“You should tell the population to grow coffee, as it’s the best way for them to make money,” he told a militia member during a recent visit to the town of Kalonge, where he and his fellow cooperative members have planted a nursery for coffee seedlings.The Kivu Cooperative of Coffee Planters and Traders (CPNCK), which Makelele founded five years ago, has planted six of these nurseries in the Kalonge-Pinga-Mweso triangle, a hotbed of militia activity.

“If the young men in this area knew how much they could earn with coffee, they would not be interested in joining militias,” Makelele told IRIN.

“A paradise for coffee”

Coffee, a traditional export crop, was virtually abandoned across much of North Kivu in the past 30 years. DRC’s production shrank from 110,000 metric tons in the late 1980s to about 50,000 metric tons in 2009, according to the DRC’s national coffee office.

CPNCK says it is giving away half a million arabica seedlings to help relaunch coffee’s cultivation.

Many people in the Kalonge area, including members of armed groups, appear to be interested in planting coffee. The militiaman told IRIN he would like to plant the crop on his ancestral land of more than 100 hectares, but that he would first have to raise US$1,000 to pay the land registry for title deeds.

Uncertainty about land titles and the involvement of Congolese and foreign armed groups are just some of the problems local farmers will face if they decide to take Makelele’s advice. Planting coffee is a long-term investment, prices have been volatile and the market is not as reliable as that for food crops.

Nevertheless, the crop has paid off for neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda, which have increased their production in recent years. The crop is Uganda’s single most important export, and coffee and tea together account for nearly half of Rwanda’s exports.

The recent history of coffee prices could also deter would-be planters: The New York market price for mild arabica, currently slightly above the inflation-adjusted average for the past decade, has fluctuated by more than 300 percent since 2003, and has trended downwards since the late 1970s.

But coffee’s promoters argue that increasing demand in middle-income countries, plus the possibility that climate change could lead to the spread of diseases in coffee plants, point to higher prices in future – and bright prospects for Kivu coffee.

Additionally, the temperate climate in the Kivu region’s hills is thought to be protection against coffee rust, the most devastating disease affecting arabica. Partly for this reason, World Coffee Research describes the area as “a paradise for coffee”.

This optimism has helped to persuade several NGOs – including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Oxfam, the Eastern Congo Initiative and the Fairtrade organization Twin – to launch coffee projects in the Kivu provinces.

Twin has helped a South Kivu co-operative, Sopacdi, replant coffee and improve yields, quality and post-harvest processing, enabling its 3,500 members to become the first producers in Kivu to achieve organic and Fairtrade certification.

Income potential

Sopacdi has publicized the job opportunities it has provided to ex-combatants. A number of them work at a mechanized washing centre – paid for by Twin and employing 161 people – where the coffee berries are depulped and dried.

One of the staff at the washing centre, former rebel Habamungu Engavashapa, told IRIN he was happy with civilian life because he was able to spend nights in a house rather than in the forest.

Another ex-combatant, Abdul Mahagi, said Sopacdi had trained him as a machinist and given him a contract; he said he was beginning to see a way to organize his life.

Other workers at the washing centre, however, complained that their salaries, about $60 a month, were barely enough to live on.

The main opportunities that coffee co-operatives are likely to provide for ex-combatants in the short term would be to clear land and plant seedlings.

CPNCK has been employing 50 ex-combatants on these tasks at a rate of $1 a day, much less than they would earn in artisanal mining, but not insignificant in most of the villages, says Jean-Baptiste Musbyimana, an agricultural journalist based in Goma.

The returns could be more enticing for ex-combatants and smallholder farmers who are able to grow coffee for themselves.

For information on the profitability of coffee versus that of alternative crops, IRIN consulted Franck Muke, an agronomist who has studied coffee production in DRC and in Brazil; Xavier Phemba, CRS’s agricultural project co-ordinator in Goma; and Sandra Kavira, an agronomist working for the International Fertilizer Development Centre.

Their data suggest returns from a hectare of 2,500 coffee trees could be two to three times as high as the returns from a hectare of maize or beans, assuming an absence of mineral fertilizers and only limited use of organic fertilizers.

Jean-Baptiste Musabyimana, of the Federation of Agricultural Producer Organizations of Congo (FOPAC), which does not promote coffee, said coffee is regarded as having several advantages over other crops, including the potential for intercropping with bananas, beans or legumes, which provide organic waste and additional profits from the same acreage.

Once the trees have been planted, coffee also requires less labour than annual crops and is less likely to be stolen.

“Armed groups won’t cut off the berries and eat them,” coffee plantation owner Eric Kulage told IRIN. “And the workers don’t want the berries either, whereas when they are harvesting maize they always solicit some bags.”

Coffee’s major disadvantage is the cost of planting and the fact that the trees cannot be harvested for the first three years and do not reach their full potential for five to eight years. Muke estimated costs of planting 2,500 trees per hectare, and pruning for three non-productive years, at $850 to $950. These costs, and the risks involved, limit the acreage farmers will be willing to devote to the crop.

Helping DRC compete

A significant limitation to DRC’s coffee industry is the lack of mechanized washing stations, which cut down on waste and help maintain product consistency. Washing stations are the norm in Uganda and Rwanda, but there are hardly any in Kivu, where producers depulp the berries by hand or sell the wet berries to merchants from Uganda and Rwanda.

Aid agencies are planning to install several washing stations at sites close to large population centres and to Lake Kivu. But Muke says this could be a mistake, as the lakeside areas have higher humidity, which is thought to promote coffee rust.

There could be social advantages to promoting a perennial crop in areas further from Lake Kivu, like Kalonge Pinga and Mweso, where many young men see joining an armed group as their most viable livelihood option.

“If they have a perennial crop to look after, they will want to settle down,” suggested CPNCK’s Makelele.

But a major obstacle to promoting agriculture in areas where militias recruit is, of course, insecurity. Although armed groups are unlikely to steal coffee berries, they might try to steal bulk loads of dried coffee from washing stations.

Plantation owner Kulage commented that, in his experience, armed groups had not succeeded in stealing and marketing large coffee harvests in recent years. He suggested that security forces might be deployed to protect washing stations during the limited periods when bulk loads of dried coffee are left there.

Oxfam’s co-ordinator for North Kivu, Tariq Riebl, doubted whether any donor would accept the risk of building a washing station in a place like Kalonge. He noted that 90,000 seedlings had recently been stolen from a CPNCK nursery near Kalonge.

“If you mention that to donors, they won’t want to hear anything more,” he said.

But Makelele argues that the theft was not a problem because the co-op was going to give the seedlings away anyway.

“I am very happy about it,” he told IRIN. “It shows that people want to plant coffee.”

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pretoria-based think tank the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) estimates there are more than 33 armed groups currently operating in eastern DRC.

Posted by African Press International on May 11, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – The imminent deployment of a UN-backed 3,000-strong international force mandated to “neutralize… and disarm” all armed groups in the ea stern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) marks a switch to a more belligerent international stance towards rebel militia, but has met with scepticism in some quarters.

The deployment of this “international brigade” made up of troops from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania will complement the existing UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and is designed to help quell M23 and other rebel militias.When an intervention force was first mooted by the African Union (AU) last year, Sivuyile Bam, AU head of Peace and Support Operations Division (PSOD), told IRIN the plan was to “deal specifically with M23, and when M23 go away, they [the intervention force] go away”. That has since evolved into preventing the expansion of all armed groups, and neutralizing and disarming them by deploying an “offensive” military force, said a UN Security Council resolution.

Pretoria-based think tank the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) estimates there are more than 33 armed groups currently operating in eastern DRC. They are variously involved in mineral extraction and self-defence through to acting as proxies for the strategic interests of neighbouring states.

The intervention force, known as SADCBrig (Southern African Development Community Brigade), will “carry out targeted offensive operations… either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC [DRC national army], in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with international law,” says UN resolution 2098.

It will consist “inter alia of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one Special force and Reconnaissance company with headquarters in Goma,” the UN resolution adds.

Since the first deployment of “blue helmets” to the DRC in 1999, first as the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and then as MONUSCO, troop numbers have increased more than three-fold from the original 5,000-odd uniformed soldiers. There have been supplementary ad hoc military missions, such as the 2003 European Union (EU) military intervention in Bunia during the Ituri ethnic-based conflict dubbed Operation Artemis, and the 2009 operations Umoja Wetu (Our Unity) and Kimia II, a joint military offensive of DRC and Rwandan security forces against the armed group Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération de Rwanda (FDLR).

A military analyst serving with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), who declined to be identified, said the Security Council resolution was “a massive expansion of the task” first envisaged by the AU, but the mandate had to be “wider than M23” if the ambition was to protect civilians.

Zuma doctrine

The analyst told IRIN the intervention force was expected “to have initial capability by end of May and operational capability by end of June [2013]”.

The deployment of South African troops in CAR and their participation in SADCBrig is being viewed by analysts as a departure from South Africa’s previous military ventures, with a more aggressive stance towards resolving the continent’s conflicts. It has been dubbed the [President Jacob] Zuma doctrine by analysts.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing on 29 April 2013 her country was in favour of “preventative diplomacy, intervening when there are situations of strife. When we are called upon to do that, we will always be there, we will never say no.”

In a statement adjoining the UN resolution, Rwanda’s Eugene-Richard Gasana hoped the force would tackle the “FDLR, which had sparked the 1994 [Rwandan] genocide”. Rwanda, which is suspected of supporting M23, sees it as a bulwark against the FDLR.

The military analyst said MONUSCO had been “hesitant” to use force beyond self-defence – something for which the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation was roundly condemned when M23 walked into Goma unopposed, despite the presence of more than 1,500 armed peacekeepers in the town and nearly 6,000 in North Kivu Province.

Ahead of the deployment of SADCBrig, and in the wake of 13 South African soldiers having been killed recently in the Central African Republic trying to prevent the rebel coup by the Séléka alliance, M23 taunted SANDF on social media saying it was “corrupt” and “old”.

Critiques

Meanwhile, some doubt the new force can achieve its objective.

“Armed (DRC) groups are seen as a military threat but most of them are not. The military option against the armed groups has failed repeatedly and some [armed groups] deserve a small dose of military pressure but [also] a lot of police work in order to be neutralized. The intervention brigade in particular and the UN [MONUSCO] in general are not equipped for this,” International Crisis Group (ICG) analyst Thierry Vircoulon told IRIN.

He said SADCBrig deployment was “security by substitution”, and would delay reforms of the DRC national army (FARDC), which has been accused of being a serial human rights abuser by rights organizations. SADCBrig’s more offensive posture would lead to “retaliations against civilians [by armed groups] and worsening of the humanitarian situation”, unless stringent measures were put in place to protect civilians in the areas of operation.

Liam Mahony, author of a recent report commissioned by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) entitled Non-military strategies for civilian protection in the DRC, said: “The international community continues to believe that military protection of civilians in the DRC may succeed, if there are only enough soldiers or a sufficiently strong mandate.

“Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence”

“However, there is little if any empirical evidence for this. Faith in military solutions is exaggerated by the mistaken belief that violence can only be met with more violence…

“The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades, while efforts to change the underlying dynamics of conflict have been insufficient and ineffective.”

He told IRIN the approach by policymakers to armed groups in the DRC was “one size fits all… People tend to oversimplify or choose extreme interpretations of armed groups… People assume they are unreasonable and not open to negotiation and communication… This is not specific to DRC. It is true everywhere.”

“I would not categorically dismiss the possibility that there may be armed groups with whom such approaches would fail, and there may be armed groups who would be more deterred from human rights abuse by an effective military counter-force. It is conceivable, but it must be the result of a very specific detailed analysis, not a generic knee-jerk approach.”

Operational difficulties

Andre Roux, author of a recent ISS briefing on SADCBrig’s deployment, said: “The realities of conducting operations in this remote and complex environment have been underestimated in the rush to put solutions on the table.”

Roux said the capabilities of SADCBrig “to effectively conduct `war fighting’ operations in an integrated manner, are questionable. With different operational doctrines, a variety of tactical deployment techniques and military equipment that is often not interoperable, the battalions can fight as individual units, but questions arise about whether they can or must fight as a cohesive brigade.”

“Is this again a peacekeeping band-aid that will struggle to meet the high expectations that do not consider the difficult realities of the situation?”

SANDF is expected to transfer its troops serving with MONUSCO to SADCBrig, which is supposed to operate in conjunction with FARDC, though past experiences of cooperation between SANDF and FARDC appear to have been problematical. “Members of the local army [FARDC] did not share information and they would steal anything without blinking an eye,” said a June 2012 ISS report on relations between the two.

Roux noted that apart from the challenges of integrating military “tactics and doctrines”, there was also the risk of “a protracted counter-insurgency-type scenario characterized by atrocities in which entire villages are wiped out by rebel forces in order to divert the attention of the brigade into a defensive mind-set focused on the difficult task of protecting civilians rather than neutralizing illegal armed groups…

“Is this again a peacekeeping band-aid that will struggle to meet the high expectations that do not consider the difficult realities of the situation?” he asks.

go/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

AFRICAN MEDIA AND MALARIA NETWORK ASK GOVERNMENTS TO STEP UP WAR AGAINST MALARIA

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga, 
As the World marks Malaria Day, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership(RBM) is set to launch a three-year campaign under the theme “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.”
The campaign is to help strengthen political will and generate the funding needed to continue averting deaths in malaria-endemic countries.
According to sources mapping progress against key milestones on the road to 2015 shows how the collective efforts of the global malaria community contribute to creating a healthier and more prosperous world.
The source adds that the RBM campaign will help mobilize the resources and support the malaria fight through 2015 and beyond.
The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), a Network with membership in 10 African countries engaged in malaria control advocacy, believes the global malaria community is doing the right thing by taking stock of the promises and realities of ending malaria deaths at the targeted date of 2015.
According to Mrs Charity Binka of Ghana who is also the AMMREN CEO, many African countries missed the 2010 Abuja targets to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by half.
Binka pointed out that with less than two years to meeting the 2015 targets of further reduction of 75% in morbidity and 50% reduction in mortality, countries are now scaling up efforts to at least sustain the modest gains made over the last decade.
The CEO said her AMMREN is of the view that the gains made in malaria control are fragile and could easily be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for decision-makers, donors and the communities.
According to her ,this is because the efforts and resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years will have an impact on whether or not the malaria map will keep shrinking or expanded by the malaria parasites.
While commending, governments, donors, health officials and other key players for efforts made in past decade to bring down malaria morbidity and mortality figures, she said AMMREN is of the view that the widespread negative practice of the treating malaria without diagnosis is likely to hinder the acceleration of the control efforts.
Over 80% of cases of malaria is still being treated without diagnostic testing in many malaria –endemic countries in Africa according to WHO.
The world health body reveals that the universal diagnostic testing will ensure that patients with fever receive the most appropriate treatment, and that antimalarial medicines are used rationally and correctly.
AMMREN is now calling for the scaling up of diagnosis before treatment and a massive deployment of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to ensure that appropriately diagnosed cases are treated promptly and correctly.
Some African countries have made significant gains in this regard. The WHO indicates that 60 African governments were providing ACTs free of charge to all age groups as at 2010.
The network is of the view that there must be a scaling up of these laudable efforts so that millions of African who still lack ready access to appropriate treatment will be covered to ensure that every confirmed malaria case gets treated.
It is also asking for a focused attention on preventive activities through the use of treated bed nets. This is because in the fight against malaria, prevention is the best of all options. The higher the number of people using bed nets, the bigger the rate of reduction in malaria cases.
It shares in the optimism of African scientists, the donor community and stakeholders, that malaria can be pushed out of Africa this century.
However, this optimism must be measured against promises made about 13 years ago, when 40 African Heads of State made a declaration in Abuja, Nigeria to reduce the malaria burden on the continent by setting targets.
Many countries have missed the 2005 and 2010 targets and also likely to miss the 2015 targets unless conscious efforts are made increase access to essential malaria interventions such as diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The continued existence of taxes and tariffs on commodities for malaria control in some countries shows lack of commitment towards dealing with malaria.
Taxes and tariffs and non-tariff measures make these life-saving products unaffordable to the poor and vulnerable.
Despite challenges, in the last decade, there have been some investments in new tools such as long lasting insecticidal nets, rapid diagnostic tests, indoor residual spraying and ACTs. The scaling up of these activities has resulted in modest progress as some countries are now moving from control activities to malaria elimination.
Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2009, according to a Roll Back Malaria report, have joined other countries in their region to form a sub-regional malaria elimination initiative known as Elimination 8.
The Gambia, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe and Madagascar have also secured global funds to prepare for elimination. And since 2007, countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has shown the intent to eliminate malaria.
“As of 2010, the total number of reported cases of malaria in Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland were relatively low raising hope of elimination,” the report added.
With talks of malaria elimination slowly making its way to the front burner, the question of malaria vaccines, as an additional tool must be given urgency and supported by all stakeholders to ensure that it is quickly incorporated into the National Immunization Day schedule once a vaccine receives licensure.
So far the RTS,S, appears to be most promising malaria candidate vaccine. If all goes well the vaccine could be available for targeted use in the next couple of years for young children.
Indeed there is hope on the horizon and AMMREN will continue to lead in providing accurate and timely information on malaria as part of its effort to wipe out the disease from the face of the globe. AMMREN also urges other African journalists to join in the malaria elimination crusade.
Kicking out malaria from Africa is a responsibility of governments, identifiable organizations, communities and individuals. April 25 should be seen as a day of renewal of commitment to work towards a malaria free society.
END.

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nakivale is home to 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandans – piloting mobile courts for refugees

Posted by African Press International on April 25, 2013

Nakivale is home to 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandans (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – Uganda’s government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have launched a pilot mobile court system to improve access to justice for victims of crimes in Nakivale, the country’s oldest and largest refugee settlement.

The magistrate’s court, whose first session began on 15 April, will hear cases of robbery, land disputes, child rape, sexual and gender-based violence, attempted murder, and murder. The project – a collaboration of the Uganda government, UNHCR, Makerere University‘s Refugee Law Project (RLP) and the Uganda Human Rights Council – aims to benefit some 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandan nationals in the settlement.

“With the nearest law court currently 50km away in Kabingo, Isingiro, access to justice has been a real problem for refugees and locals alike. As a result many fail to report crimes and are forced to wait for long periods before their cases are heard in court,” said a UNHCR briefing on the programme.

The mobile court will hold three sessions a year. Each session will last 15 to 30 days and hear up to 30 cases. Officials hope to extend the project to other refugee settlements in Uganda to enable more refugees to access speedier justice.

“Most of the courts are far away from the settlements, and refugee complainants faced challenges of transportation for themselves and witnesses,” Charity Ahumuza, programme manager for access to justice at RLP, told IRIN. “With the courts brought to them, the cost of seeking justice is reduced. The courts will also reduce the backlog of cases that exist of cases that arise in the settlements.”

“Refugees have welcomed this initiative since it is about bringing justice closer to them,” John Kilowok, UNHCR Protection Officer in Uganda, told IRIN.

Operational challenges

Experts say the project could face a number of operational challenges, including a need for funding and a shortage of trained court interpreters. Uganda has over 165,000 refugees from the Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan.

“The settlements are far away, and distance in accessing the court is likely to become a challenge. Language, too, will be a problem. The service providers through UNHCR are conducting training for interpreters to help in this issue,” said RLP’s Ahumuza. “The sustainability of the courts, I believe, will depend on availability of finances. However, the judiciary continues to face financial constraints.”

Angelo Izama, a Ugandan fellow at the Open Society Institute, says the shortage of justice in the refugee settlements is a reflection of poor access to justice across the country, a situation that needs to be addressed.

“Improving the delivery of justice helps tremendously given that, ordinarily, the severe case backlog makes matters worse for nationals – let alone foreigners. The real crisis now is not providing refugees and nationals in western Ugandan fast relief but filling the many vacancies in the judiciary so that, nationally, justice is expedited,” he said. “While justice processes improved on our side can help communities – both Ugandan and foreign – live better governed lives, the ultimate investment would be in improving governance across the border.”

“There is need for a holistic approach to look at the refugee issues in Uganda. We have to look at policy, immigration and defence lawyers for fair trials. Will the suspects have access to defence lawyers, or will they be accorded with lawyers to defend them in court?” asked Nicholas Opiyo, a constitutional and human rights lawyer in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. “Sustainability is a very crucial element in this court… If they don’t put good and proper systems to support this court, it will be a waste of time and money.”

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

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

M23, one year on – Now International Criminal Court has Ntaganda in the dock

Posted by African Press International on April 15, 2013

Photo: ICC-CPI
Ntaganda in the dock (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – The M23 rebellion, the latest of a string of armed insurgencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province, has been active for one year now, during which hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and many have lost their lives.

The Mouvement du 23-Mars, or March 23 Movement, came into existence in April 2012, when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of FARDC, the national army, mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented. M23 is named after the date the agreement was signed.

In November 2012, M23 captured Goma, the provincial capital, but withdrew and subsequently entered into peace talks with the government. Neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda were accused of backing M23 by a UN Security Council Group of Experts report, charges both countries strongly deny.

In this briefing, IRIN outlines the group’s impact on the province over the past year, its current position and avenues for peace in eastern DRC.

What is the humanitarian situation in North Kivu?

Although clashes between M23 and FARDC have subsided, “North Kivu remains highly insecure due to the proliferation of weapons, sporadic fighting between armed groups and the army, and inter-community tensions,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA).

OCHA notes that since the beginning of the M23 rebellion, more than half a million people have been driven from their homes in North Kivu. The figure accounts for more than half of the 914,000 displaced people in the province. Tens of thousands more fled to refugee camps in Rwanda and Uganda.

According to Amnesty International, M23 has been responsible for human rights abuses “including violations of the duty to care for the civilian population when launching attacks, forced recruitment of children who were either trained to take part in hostilities or forced to work to build military positions, unlawful killings, and acts of sexual violence”. The organization also blamed FARDC for widespread abuses against civilians.

Where are M23’s leaders?

The movement’s leadership now looks significantly different than it did in April 2012.

In February 2013, a rift was reported in M23’s leadership, with one of the founders, Bosco Ntaganda, and M23’s political leader, Jean-Marie Runiga, on one side and M23’s military chief, Sultani Makenga, on the other. The two factions clashed in North Kivu, and Makenga sacked Runiga, who was the group’s representative at the peace talks taking place with the DRC government in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Following more fighting in March, Ntaganda’s faction surrendered. Both he and Runiga, along with several senior commanders and close to 700 fighters, fled to Rwanda.

On 18 March, Ntaganda surrendered himself to the US Embassy in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court for trial over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. He made his first appearance in court on 26 March. According to a paper by the Rift Valley Institute, Ntaganda had fallen out with fellow commanders early in the rebellion and had been effectively relegated to the sidelines.

Experts have lauded Ntaganda’s arrest as a positive step in the fight against impunity in DRC, but warn that it does not mean an end to violence in the region.

Runiga has been placed under house arrest in Rwanda; the Rwandan government has disarmed the M23 troops who surrendered and moved them to a refugee camp more than 50km from the DRC-Rwanda border.

Various reports indicate that Makenga is now consolidating his fighters, thought to number about 1,500, and M23-held territory in North Kivu, but he may also be preparing for further negotiations with President Joseph Kabila’s government. According to Congo expert Jason Stearns, “The internal M23 split may have provided the break they [DRC representatives] needed to make the deal acceptable for the rebels.”

Hundreds of thousands have fled violence in North Kivu over the past year (file photo)

Any deal is likely to involve the integration of Makenga’s fighters into FARDC, with lower cadre fighters automatically integrated and higher ranking officers considered for integration on a case-by-case basis. However, analysts say the re-integration method has not worked in the past and must be rethought.

“M23 integration in FARDC is feasible but is not suitable. The policy of repeated integration of armed groups in FARDC is [contributing] to the fragmentation and militarization of FARDC,” Marc-Andre Lagrange, DRC senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, told IRIN via email. “Since that approach has proven, with M23, to be a failure, the DRC government with MONUSCO and UNSC should look for another option.”

According to a recent article in the newsletter Africa Confidential: “Experts broadly agree that some kind of agreement between Kinshasa and M23 is in the offing and will be signed soon, but reliable sources in North Kivu diverge on what the outcome will be. Some feel that Makenga will reintegrate his troops into the FARDC, while others suggest that Makenga and [new] M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa can stay independent of the army while not being seen as a ‘negative force’.”

What is the fate of the peace talks?

The Kampala peace talks between M23 and the DRC government began in December 2012, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The talks have made little progress and have been put on hold due to the rebel group’s internal problems. Bisimwa has urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to revive the talks.

On 24 February, a UN-brokered peace agreement aimed at ending conflict in eastern DRC was signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, by 11 African countries – Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, DRC, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Dubbed the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC, the deal’s goals include the reformation of the DRC’s army and an end to regional interference in the country. Among the decisions reached was the formation of a neutral intervention force aimed at fighting “negative forces” in eastern DRC – referring not only to M23 but other armed groups as well.

While the deal was lauded as a breakthrough by African countries, analysts are more sceptical, criticizing the agreement as being long on rhetoric and short on detail and solid action plans. A Foreign Policy Association blog post noted that since the 1990s, a number of similar regional agreements had failed to bring peace to DRC. It pointed out that the some key players were not mentioned or involved – including armed groups like Raia Mutomboki (Swahili for “angry citizens”), Mai Mai Cheka and the Hutu-dominated FDLR, whose presence in eastern DRC is perceived as a threat by Rwanda.

“The primary aggressors present in the country for the last 10 years, the militia groups that patrol the eastern provinces, were not even included in the discussion,” said the author, Daniel Donovan. “By excluding these groups, they hold no commitment to such an agreement, which begs the question: How does this move signify a guarantee for peace?”

What is next for the region?

On 28 March, the UN Security Council authorized an offensive “intervention brigade” to “address imminent threats to peace and security” as part of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

The risk of violence remains

“The objectives of the new force – which will be based in North Kivu Province in eastern DRC and total 3,069 peacekeepers – are to neutralize armed groups, reduce the threat they posed to State authority and civilian security, and make space for stabilization activities,” according to the UN News Centre. It also aims to support the Addis accord.

Following the announcement, the DRC government said it supported the intervention brigade and warned M23 rebels to disband. M23’s Bisimwa has rejected the UN’s decision to send the force, but said the group would neither fight nor flee the UN forces.

The International Federation of Human Rights has warned of a potential “escalation in military confrontations and increased risk of retaliatory attacks by armed groups against civilians” as a result of the force’s entry into the fray, and urged MONUSCO to “mitigate against the increased risks that communities will face”.

Experts say reforms in eastern DRC must go beyond military solutions. “The intervention brigade… should not be seen as the only solution but one element of a comprehensive solution,” said ICG’s Lagrange.

“After last year’s fall of Goma and rise of the Mai Mai [rebel] threat, there is a serious need for a new approach against the armed groups. Such an approach should include the use of military force; a targeted policy of arrest on armed groups’ leaders; a DDR [disarmament, demobilization and reintegration] offer focusing on civilian reintegration; the investigation and neutralization of the logistical networks of the armed groups; and development work in the communities that generate armed groups,” he told IRIN.

“Groups like M23 are not a cause but a symptom of what’s going wrong in the DRC,” he added. “The Congolese government must commit to implement the security sector reforms, especially the reforms concerning the FARDC. It must also abandon its policy of peace prevailing over justice.”

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

 

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: