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Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Leone’

The Hague and justice: Swearing-in and handing over ceremony: RSCSL Judges

Posted by African Press International on November 25, 2013

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, November 25, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The public and the media are invited to the swearing-in of the 16 Judges of the Residual Court for Sierra Leone and the hand-over of the Special Court complex to Government, to take place at the SCSL courthouse on 2 December 2013 beginning at 9:00 a.m. prompt. There will be photo opportunities.

The Judges, ten of whom are appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and six by the Government of Sierra Leone, will comprise the RSCSL’s Roster of Judges. They will exercise judicial functions in an ad hoc capacity on matters arising from the ongoing legal obligations of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. These could include the review of applications by convicts for early release or judicial review of their convictions. They may also be called to preside over any contempt of court proceedings.

The 16 judges are: (Appointed by the Government of Sierra Leone) Justice George Gelaga King, Justice John Bankole Thompson, Justice Jon Kamanda, Justice Vivian Margarette Solomon, Justice Abdulai Hamid Charm and Justice Eku Roberts, all of Sierra Leone.

(Appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations) Justice Richard Brunt Lussick (Samoa), Justice Pierre G. Boutet (Canada), Justice Renate Winter (Austria), Justice Teresa Anne Doherty (Northern Ireland), Justice Shireen Avis Fisher (USA), Justice Philip Nyamu Waki (Kenya), Justice Elizabeth Ibanda Nahamya (Uganda), Justice Oagile B. K. Dingake (Botswana), Justice Andrew John Hatton (UK) and Justice Isaack Lenaola (Kenya).

Immediately after the ceremony, Registrar Binta Mansaray will officially hand over the Courthouse and the Special Court complex to Attorney-General Franklyn Bai Kargbo, on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone. A “soft opening” of the Sierra Leone Peace Museum will follow.

The Government of Sierra Leone will host an official closing ceremony later in the day at State House.

 

SOURCE

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

 

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Former Liberian President Dictator Samuel Doe was deposed and butchered, while Former President Charles Taylor was lucky to get 50 years in jail by ICC judges!

Posted by African Press International on November 24, 2013

Leaders should learn from events like this. Former Libyan President Muammar Gadhafi was deposed and was lucky that he was killed immediately by the bullet into his head. He was not taken through 14 minutes and 47 seconds of torture like former president of Liberia Samuel Doe.
Doe himself had overthrown his own relative former leader Tolbert.

Warning – Item Samuel Doe torture might contain content that is not suitable for all ages. IF NOT OVER 18 years old, DO NOT WATCH!

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=b4b_1314353314#PTseO2eJBkRZ10XY.03

Power should not get into any leader’s head.

Although no one should ever support torture, those in power should not beg for mercy like you see Samuel Doe doing on this video because he tortured and killed many innocent Liberian people.

God saved the immediate former president Charles Taylor. Lucky to escape the butcher’s knife in the bushes of Liberia‘s countryside village, now in British jail, having TV and newspapers to read while serving his 50 years sentence.

End

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Wang Yi Holds in Talks with the government of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Posted by African Press International on November 17, 2013

BEIJING, China, November 11, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ On Nov. 6, 2013, Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with the visiting Foreign Minister of the Republic of Sierra Leone Samura Kamara.

Wang Yi said that for the 42 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Republic of Sierra Leone, both sides have worked in unity and helped each other, and supported each other on issues concerning core interests. No matter how strong China grows, we will always be a trustworthy friend and partner of all African peoples. China will implement the spirit of President Xi Jinping’s correct idea of morality and profits, strengthen political mutual trust with the Republic of Sierra Leone, promote mutually beneficial cooperation and people-to-people and cultural exchanges, to create more integrating points of bilateral interests and growth points of cooperation, turning cooperation potentials into real achievements and realizing the common development of China and Africa.

Samura Kamara said that the Republic of Sierra Leone regards China as an important partner, and thanks China for its long-term and strong support for the peace, stability, reconstruction and development of the Republic of Sierra Leone. China has become a strategic partner who helps Africa realize self-confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement, Africa will always keep the door open to China, and is willing to carry out all-round cooperation with China. He also condemned the violent terrorist attack that recently happened in Beijing.

 

SOURCE

China – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

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Swiss government appoints new Ambassadors

Posted by African Press International on November 16, 2013

BERN, Switzerland, November 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/– The Swiss government (Federal Council) has approved the list of diplomatic staff transfers scheduled for 2014 submitted by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The changes will be made in accordance with the normal rate of transfers, to be communicated at the time of the decision by the Federal Council. The appointments of Heads of Mission take effect as soon as the authorities in the host country communicate their approval. The Federal Council takes this opportunity to express its gratitude to the Ambassadors due to retire for the services rendered.

Martin Strub, currently First Secretary to the Head of Mission in New Delhi, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Sudan, and the State of Eritrea, with residence in Khartoum.

Andrea Semadeni, Head of Mission in Accra, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of Djibouti, the Republic of South Sudan, and Permanent Observer to the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, effective as of the end of November 2013, with residence in Addis Ababa.

Georg Steiner, currently First Secretary to the Head of Mission in Teheran, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the State of Libya, replacing Ambassador Erwin Hofer who is retiring.

Dagmar Schmidt Tartagli, currently First Secretary to the Head of Mission in Rabat, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Senegal, the Republic of Cabo Verde, the Republic of the Gambia, the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, the Republic of Mali and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, with residence in Dakar.

Thomas Litscher, currently Head of Mission in Colombo, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Sierra Leone, with residence in Abidjan.

Mirko Manzoni, currently Head of the SDC Cooperation Office in Bamako, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Mozambique.

Rita Adam, currently Deputy Director of the Directorate for International Law, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Tunisia, replacing Ambassador Pierre Combernous who is retiring.

Muriel Berset Cohen, currently Head of Mission in Dakar, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, replacing Ambassador Thomas Feller who is retiring.

Ambassador Gerhard Brügger, currently Head of the Consular Directorate in Bern, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Ghana, the Republic of Benin and the Republic of Togo, with residence in Accra.

Benedict Gubler, currently Deputy to the Head of the Permanent Representation of Switzerland to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe, with residence in Luanda.

Thomas Litscher, currently Head of Mission in Colombo, has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the Republic of Guinea, the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Sierra Leone, with residence in Abidjan.

 

SOURCE

Switzerland – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

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Construction Award for a Rainwater Storage System at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Posted by African Press International on November 14, 2013

WASHINGTON, November 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) announces the construction award, through best value determination, of a new rainwater capture and storage system at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone to Pernix Serka Joint Venture of Lombard, Illinois.

The project, designed by CH2M Hill of Washington, DC, includes rainwater capture and storage systems, conveyance infrastructure, and water treatment; most notably a catchment canopy system and two raw water storage tanks that will take advantage of over 100 inches of rainfall during Sierra Leone’s rainy season each year. Additional improvements to the existing waste treatment system will also allow post to recycle water and reduce demand.

OBO’s mission is to provide safe, secure, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support our staff in the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities should represent American values and the best in American architecture, engineering, technology, sustainability, art, culture, and construction execution.

 

SOURCE

US Department of State

 

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Sierra Leone’s civil war famously left tens of thousands maime

Posted by African Press International on September 4, 2013

lead photo

FREETOWN, – Sierra Leone‘s civil war famously left tens of thousands maimed, including many whose limbs were amputated. But while war victims received some help, those with other disabilities struggle to survive.

Disabled Sierra Leoneans face difficulty obtaining adequate healthcare, education and jobs, which are already hard to come by in the country.

While there are no data available, polio survivors are believed to account for a significant proportion of Sierra Leone’s disabled. Many came to Freetown during or after the war, in search of safety, shelter and employment. Few now have jobs, and most resort to begging. Many have trouble finding a place to sleep.

At a government-owned building in downtown Freetown, more than 200 polio survivors live with their families in small spaces divided by cardboard walls. The building is overcrowded, with just a few toilets and a small washing area, and with families growing, it will soon become untenable.

The community is run by the Handicapped Youth Development Organisation (HYDO), a group whose members are disabled.

HYDO plans to develop a plot of land it bought in Waterloo on the outskirts of Freetown for disabled people to work, farm and live. But with few means of income, the community faces an uphill battle.

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

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Liberia has indeed made progress, particularly in attracting international investment

Posted by African Press International on August 20, 2013

A busy market in central Monrovia

MONROVIA,  – Liberia is getting back to its feet after a protracted civil war that killed over 200,000 people, displaced over a million, and largely destroyed the country’s infrastructure and institutions. After a decade of peace, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) is pulling out of the country, saying its needs are shifting from humanitarian to developmental.

Liberia has indeed made progress, particularly in attracting international investment that has led to steady growth in GDP, and most importantly in maintaining peace. But poverty and unemployment remain rife, corruption is pervasive, and little headway has been made towards post-war justice or reconciliation. In short, significant challenges remain.

To mark World Humanitarian Day, IRIN spoke to a few key individuals who worked on ECHO-funded projects – most of them health-related – during and after the war, to learn how far Liberia has come.

Moses Massaquoi, doctor

Moses Massaquoi, doctor:

Moses Massaquoi started working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) after being displaced by a rebel attack in July 1990. He went on to work with the NGO in numerous postings across Africa before returning to Liberia with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

“The main challenge in the post-war [era] is a challenge of building the system, from the point of view of having the necessary human resources,” he told IRIN. “So I would say the big challenge is capacity. How do you build the capacity, with all systems broken down – health, education and everything?”

Massaquoi has committed himself to rebuilding a health system left in tatters by the conflict. In particular, he would like to see Liberia producing its own medical specialists.

He says he wants the country “first and foremost, in my own medical profession, to bring back a system of specialization. We didn’t have control of producing our own specialists. The government had to send people out [abroad], and when they go out, they don’t come back,” he explained.

A sign of progress in this area, he says, is a post-graduate training program currently being established by the government, which will see its first students starting in September 2013.

Barbara Brillant, nurse

Barbara Brillant, nurse:

Another former MSF employee currently engaged in medical training is Barbara Brillant, who runs a nursing school in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

Brillant first arrived in Sierra Leone as a missionary in 1977. “I arrived here [in Africa] as a young lady… with a lot of enthusiasm, and I was going to cure the world and teach everybody. And I ended up here 38 years later, having learned a lot,” she told IRIN.

“It [the conflict] was very, very sad. For me personally, it was scary, no doubt about it. But as a missionary and having lived with the people of Liberia, the sorrow was more seeing the Liberian people in the condition they were in,” said Brillant.

She says she saw both resilience and pride, but also “evil at its worst” during the conflict.

Sister Barbara, as she is known to the 450 students in the nursing school, is concerned that behind Liberia’s current peace there is no true reconciliation. She sees little improvement in the quality of life of most Liberians.

“It’s a pity, because… the hurt is still there, the anger is still there. You can only pray and hope that time will heal a lot of the wounds. They will never ever forget it, that’s for sure… They’re having a very hard time.”
Despite peace, “it’s a difficult place to live in,” she said, with cost of living having risen steadily over the years. “To rent a house now is insane,” she added.

Nyan Zikeh, programme manager

Nyan Zikeh, programme manager:

Like Massaquoi, Nyan Zikeh began working for MSF while himself a refugee. He returned to Liberia in 1998 and has since worked with the NGOs Save the Children and Oxfam, where he is currently a programme manager. He says he now feels the dividends of Liberia’s lasting peace. “What I’m grateful for is that we have peace, and the chance to raise a stable family now exists,” he explained.

His plans for the future are to leave his job and become an agricultural entrepreneur, which he says will create opportunities for others to work, earn a living and learn. “I will still be working in development, but not in charity,” said Zikeh, who is concerned about the dependence being created by Liberia’s current aid culture.

“It is also to let the authorities know that we can make examples, that we don’t have to sell all of our land to very large companies,” he said. Recent large-scale land acquisitions by foreign businesses have been criticized for exploiting local communities and engaging in corruption in the awarding of concessions.

A recent audit revealed that only two of 68 land concessions awarded since 2009 fully complied with Liberian law.

Nathaniel Bartee, doctor

Nathaniel Bartee, doctor:

When the war broke out in 1989, Nathaniel Bartee was a doctor who had just returned from earning a master’s degree in the UK. He started the organization Merci to deal with the humanitarian situation in Monrovia; it quickly expanded into the provinces.

During the conflict, Bartee was at times separated from his family. “I didn’t want to leave Liberia because of the amount of suffering, and the [numbers] of health personnel were not many. So I stayed to guide a younger generation of doctors.” By the end of the conflict, he was one of just 50 doctors left in the country.

Bartee says there has been clear improvement in the provision of health services since those days. “Today I think health is much better. Most of the health workers have returned, and there are more graduates being produced,” he explained.

But he is concerned that the Liberian government is not sufficiently prioritizing healthcare. For this reason, he intends to become a senator to push for increases in the health budget in parliament.

Ma Annie Mushan, women’s peace activist

Ma Annie Mushan, women’s peace activist:

In late 1989, Ma Annie Mushan was, in her own words, “not a woman to speak of”.
“I was just a housewife” she told IRIN. During the war, Mushan was displaced from her village and ended up living in the town of Totota, where she was approached by the women’s peace movement that had sprung up in Monrovia.

Mushan eventually became the leader of the Totota branch of the women’s peace movement, which ultimately played a significant role in putting an end to the conflict.

Like many Liberians, she is frustrated by the slow pace of post-war development. “Even though there is progress, people in Liberia are looking for jobs up and down… There are so many people that are not working in Liberia – not a day. That has been one of the major problems we’re faced with.”

She now works on the Peace Hut project, which emerged from the women’s movement, and seeks to address the problem of gender-based violence, which she sees as one of Liberia’s biggest challenges. Mushan feels the existing court system in Liberia is unable to effectively deal with cases concerning women’s issues.

“My focus will stay on the women, to build their capacity up. I still want to be working for the Peace House [Hut], because it is the Peace House [Hut] that got me where I am today,” she concluded.

tt/aj/rz  source wwq.irinnews.org

 

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Cholera resurgent – The need to conduct a vaccination campaign

Posted by African Press International on August 17, 2013

West African cholera cases highest in Guinea-Bissau

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

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

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

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

Continuing epidemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

Need for medical personnel, drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

cr/dab/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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On guard: Cholera down but officials vigilant

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Justice and peace 10 years on in Liberia

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2013

Liberian economy still limping along

MONROVIA,  – In December 1989 Charles Taylor crossed into Liberia from Côte d’Ivoire with a small group of fighters, sparking two brutal civil wars which would leave over 200,000 dead and over one million displaced. This August marks a decade since the end of that conflict.

The country is now at peace and has made some progress in infrastructure development – some neighbourhoods in the capital have access to electricity and 70 percent of Liberians have access to clean-ish water – but the reconciliation process has made little headway.

Liberia’s peace appears to stem instead from a deep-seated weariness of violence and the presence of a large UN peacekeeping force.

Have violence perpetrators been punished?

Four years ago, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released a series of recommendations on measures for national reconciliation, justice and wide-ranging institutional reform to address the causes and consequences of the conflict. Yet until now little has been done to implement them, partly because some of those recommended for prosecution or disbarment from public office, including Nobel Laureate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, remain in positions of power and influence.

One of those recommended for prosecution, Prince Johnson, the senator for Nimba Country who finished in third place in the last presidential poll, stands accused by the report of “killing, extortion, massacre, destruction of property, forced recruitment, assault, abduction, torture & forced labor [and] rape”. The TRC also requests that he account for “the remains of the late President [Doe], especially the skull of the head of the President which was occasionally displayed by Hon. Johnson as a `war trophy’.”

James Yarsiah is the chairman of the Transitional Justice Working Group, a civil society initiative monitoring Liberia’s peace process. “I don’t want tomorrow another group of Liberians to crawl from the mountains and the bushes… because the guys who did it before are honourables and dignitaries now,” he told IRIN. “What kind of a message does that send?”

Suggestions of prosecutions have been met by the argument that attempting to prosecute those involved in the war might end up re-igniting it. But Yarsiah points to the success of the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone in prosecuting “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for crimes committed in that country’s own conflict, without provoking a return to violence. Liberia also has the safeguard of around 8,000 UN peacekeepers to quell any unrest.

“The United Nations cannot condone impunity,” said the UN deputy special representative to the Secretary-General, Aneas Chuma. “There must be a moment of reckoning and accountability.”

In January 2011 Liberia’s Supreme Court ruled that the disbarment of any Liberian from public office without due process is unconstitutional, effectively nullifying that recommendation. “I don’t see anything happening [towards accountability] for the foreseeable future,” said Yarsiah – “not under this administration”.

A new body tasked with implementing TRC recommendations, the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC), stands accused of political bias and a lack of experience in the field of human rights.

The commission’s acting head, Commissioner Boakai Dukuly, told IRIN that even though “there is no way you can have reconciliation, in the final analysis, without justice, sometimes you need a cooling off period after a conflict… Our situation is unique – the people who participated in the atrocities, a lot of them are in the government, they are in high places,” he said.

What role are Palava Huts supposed to play?

Not all the TRC recommendations are as controversial as the imperative to prosecute the warlords and bar figures from public office. A large part of the report is dedicated to promoting reconciliation, notably through the use of traditional Palava Huts, aimed at promoting community-level dialogue, a “quasi-judicial forum for justice and reconciliation”.

But these too, have been slow to make ground, amid confusion over their exact role. “Everyone’s saying ‘Great, but what is it?’” said Yarsiah.

The INHRC is tasked with implementing the Palava Hut system. “As we understand it here, [it] is really mediation, reconciliation, dialogue… an idea, not an edifice,” said Commissioner Dukuly.

It remains unclear exactly what powers the Huts will have, and how they will operate. If they are endowed with judicial powers, as insinuated in the TRC report, there is speculation they may face opposition from those already opposed to the establishment of the proposed Special Tribunal. If they are merely a forum for confession and forgiveness, are the perpetrators any more likely to confess and repent than they were during the initial hearings of the TRC, which were deemed a charade by many observers? At this stage it is still unclear when the Palava Hut system will gain ground.

Have any reparations been paid?

A third element of the TRC report called for a reparations programme of US$500 million. Despite much debate on the relative merits of “individual” and “community” reparations, this too has yet to be initiated, according to the Human Rights Commission. “The reparations programme is yet to be started,” said Dukuly. “To have reparations, the government has to put money in it,” he added.

One aspect of the TRC recommendations has, however, seen some recent progress, with the dedication of a memorial to two communities in Bong County where 500 people had been massacred during the second civil war (1999-2003). It is, according to the UN, “Liberia’s first memorialization of this kind”.

How flawed is the justice system?

Prominent among the institutional shortcomings often blamed for Liberia’s civil wars are a deeply flawed justice system, the over-centralization of power and wealth among Monrovia’s Americo-Liberian elite, widespread corruption,tensions over land rights and high levels of poverty and unemployment.

These problems largely persist.

The justice system remains inefficient and inaccessible for many Liberians. Power and wealth are still concentrated in the capital, Monrovia. Corruption remains widespread, as underscored by a recent audit report by accountancy firm Moore Stephens, which showed that only two of 68 land concessions since 2009 had been awarded in compliance with Liberian law. Land issues also remain highly contentious, with land tenure laws in need of reform, land grabs on the rise, persistent tensions between returning Liberians and those who stayed; as well as mounting tensions in towns and cities as urbanization mounts.

What about poverty and unemployment?

Above all, poverty and unemployment remain pervasive. For many Liberians, life has got little easier over the past decade, and price rises in basic commodities such as rice and fuel since 2008 mean life has become harder for many. According to the 2013 UN Human Development Report, 84 percent of Liberians continue to live below the poverty line.

The foreign direct investment poured into the country has not yet managed to significantly improve living standards of many ordinary Liberians. Liberia remains 174th out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index.

Rosaline Duaneh makes soup in a sandy alleyway in the maze of shanty dwellings that form West Point slum, near central Monrovia. She has been making soup here ever since the war. On a good day she makes up to 200 Liberian dollars (under US$3), with which she must care for her seven children. Rosaline says she is only able to send two of her children to school. “Life is hard for me”, she told IRIN. “I’m only just managing. It is just the same as before, but now there are no gunshots.”

“I have been here all my life” says her neighbour, 29-year-old Archie Ponpon. “There have been no changes, only the silence of the guns.” Archie, like many in West Point, complains of a chronic lack of jobs, even for high school graduates. According to a March 2013 report by the International Labour Organization, just 4.1 percent of Liberian youths have “stable” employment.

Are we now at a turning point?

But there are signs that now, 10 years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, some momentum is starting to take hold.

The government in December released “Vision 2030”, a wide-ranging policy document relating to security, rule of law, reconciliation and economic development which aims to make Liberia a middle-income country by 2030. President Johnson Sirleaf has earned praise for attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment to the country – despite the controversies surrounding many recent land deals – and has also won acclaim for writing off the vast majority of her country’s debt.

Though electricity and the transport network remain extremely underdeveloped, efforts are being made to change that. A World Bank project hopes to provide electricity to a further 80,000 Liberians while the government is aiming to fix the derelict hydro power plant at Mount Coffee by 2015. Power cables now reach West Point slum, for instance, though most residents cannot afford the tariff (43 US cents per kilowatt hour). Though tarmac roads remain rare outside the main urban centres, road rehabilitation projects are also ongoing.

Late last year the government unveiled a draft for a $50 million decentralization project aiming to devolve a certain level of power to the counties and lessen the current imbalance between Monrovia and the rest of the country. It lacks funding and would require constitutional amendments before it could be implemented, but it is a start.

Justice too is being decentralized. The UN’s Chuma points in particular to the first of five regional “Justice and Security Hubs”, which was launched this February in Gbarnga, Bong County. The hubs aim to make justice more accessible to residents of the interior of the country. And while the wider justice system remains far from flawless, it is slowly increasing its capacity to serve the population.

The security forces have undergone considerable reform, and the UN has now trained over 4,000 new police recruits. The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is aiming to reduce its troop count from around 8,000 to just under 4,000 by 2015.

And while land remains a highly contentious issue, in May the country’s Land Commission submitted a wide-ranging land rights policy which hopes to address some of the recent frictions.

“You don’t just build a state based on the rule of law just like that,” said Isabelle Abric of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia. “What I can really say is about the fact that there have been 10 years of peace, no matter what, and that means the first generation of children that went to school without war, and that’s what the country is building upon now.”

Last week the government launched a “Reconciliation Roadmap” which aims to streamline and coordinate the peace process. The document largely avoids the question of punitive justice for perpetrators of the war, but it does demonstrate the administration’s renewed efforts to face up to the challenges of the transition, providing a framework for the drive for peace and reconciliation.

“As Liberians, let’s seize this opportunity to reclaim our future,” announced Johnson Sirleaf at the unveiling of the Roadmap. Ten years after the end of the conflict, Liberia is at a turning point. It must take this opportunity to build on its recent progress if it is to consolidate the rocky foundations of its current peace.

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

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Cholera season a threat to peace and good neighbourliness

Posted by African Press International on June 15, 2013

Sierra Leone braces for cholera season

Two girls forced to defecate in an open stream in Kroo Bay slum

FREETOWN,  – As the fleeting storms of May give way to the persistent downpours of June, the National Cholera Taskforce in Freetown, Sierra Leone, is working to prevent a repeat of last year’s cholera outbreak.

In 2012, President Ernest Bai Koroma was forced to declare a state of emergency during Sierra Leone’s worst cholera outbreak in over 15 years. The disease spread rapidly through the 12 of the country’s 13 districts, fuelled by heavy rainfall and inadequate sanitation. By the time it was brought under control, over 20,000 people had been infected and almost 300 killed in Sierra Leone, a further 10,000 infected and 100 killed in neighbouring Guinea.

So far this year, there have been 365 reported cholera cases and two deaths – figures significantly lower than at the same point last year.

Fodae Dafae, acting head of the cholera taskforce, is confident that enough has been done to prevent a similar outbreak. He highlighted a campaign to raise awareness of the disease and how to avoid it.

“Awareness creation is ongoing,” he told IRIN. “People know about it now. They’re talking about it.”

Following the 2012 epidemic, donors, aid workers and health officials agreed that West African countries must do more to prepare for cholera, given it recurs each year. They called, in particular, for targeted investment in at-risk zones, such as in Kambia district, in northern Sierra Leone.

In addition to posters and billboards, Dafae says local radio stations are broadcasting cholera information in all of the Sierra Leone’s various languages. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also been staging plays on the subject.

Efforts are also underway to ensure that medical centres across the country are fully stocked with saline drips and other relevant medical equipment before the rains intensify over the coming weeks.

Vaccination, however, which was used with some success by Médecins sans Frontières during a similar outbreak last year in neighbouring Guinea, is not being pursued as an option. “Cholera vaccines are not cheap,” Dafae said.

Improving water and sanitation

Sierra Leone’s water and sanitation situation remains grim. Only 12.8 percent of the population has access to “improved sanitation”, while just one in 10 households has both safe drinking water and improved sanitation. And out of around 28,000 protected water points in the country, almost 40 percent are not fully operational.

Victor Kinyanjui, the water and sanitation manager for UNICEF in Sierra Leone, told IRIN: “When the war set in, due to the emergency situation, protocols were not always followed in the construction of community water wells and toilets. Most of the wells we have today were built during that time.”

Brookfields neighbourhood of Freetown during a rain storm

He also pointed out that the Guma Valley Water Company, which was built to serve a population of 500,000, is now struggling to cope with Freetown’s 1.2 million people.

“It’s overstretched, so now you have all sorts of water points that have been constructed… Most of them are not well protected against contaminants,” he explained.

UNICEF is currently rehabilitating 80 wells in diarrhoea hot spots across the country, and it is installing solar-powered water systems for larger communities that have been previously affected by high levels of diarrhoeal diseases.

Underpinning much of their sanitation work is a community-led total sanitation (CLTS) approach, wherein communities are mobilized to undertake their own sanitation improvements, such as the construction of latrines. This approach been largely successful, Kinyanjui said.

“We are standing currently at over 3,900 communities that have been declared open defecation-free in Sierra Leone, and that’s a big change, and a big step,” he said. Still, he acknowledged that much remains to be done and that fully resolving Sierra Leone’s sanitary deficiencies will be a long process.

Still waiting for change

In the low-lying slum settlement of Kroo Bay, near the centre of Freetown, the scale of the challenge is clear. Around 6,000 people live in cramped concrete and corrugated zinc houses. Paths and streams are choked with the city’s rubbish. Children play, swim and defecate in the muddy streams, which, every rainy season, inundate the surrounding houses and contaminate water supplies.

Kroo Bay resident Zainab Bangura (no relation to her namesake, Sierra Leone’s former minister of health) is concerned about the coming rainy season.

“People still use the river as a toilet,” she said. “When the cholera comes, I will have to buy Grafton [purified] water, but it is very expensive.” The mother of eight makes a living selling mangoes at four for 5,000 Leones (US$0.12).

Most Kroo Bay residents IRIN spoke to could not identify any improvements in their sanitary situation.

“The government has not done anything for us,” said Hawa Bah. One of her children contracted cholera during last year’s outbreak, and she wants to know why nothing has been done to protect her neighbourhood from flooding.

“We are afraid,” she said. “We have seen what the cholera can do.”

tt/aj/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Settling land disputes between returning refugees and their neighbours, is making significant headway

Posted by African Press International on May 22, 2013

MONROVIA, ) – The Liberia Land Commission, which was set up in 2009 to help settle land disputes between returning refugees and their neighbours, is making significant headway, say land experts, but non-conflict related land disputes are increasing, most of them as a result of weak land laws.

Tens of thousands of Liberians were displaced during the 1999-2003 civil war. Many returned to their villages to find their land had been sold on or taken over by neighbours. Disputes over land occurred all over the country, but were mainly concentrated in Nimba, Lofa and Bong counties, which had high levels of displacement.

Since 2009 many of the neighbour-neighbour disputes have been resolved without too much difficulty, given that the conflicting parties already had an established relationship, and thus a shared interest in negotiating. said Gregory Kitt, project manager with NGO Norwegian Refugee Council, which has helped resolve hundreds of land disputes over the past decade.

In recent years, such disputes have reduced slightly, said Kitt. “This is an indication of the progress Liberia has made to become more stable.”

Land reform was identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Report as one of the priorities for boosting long-term stability.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the past three years. We’ve sorted out at least five dozen cases,” Cecil Brandy, chairman of the Land Commission, told IRIN. But dozens of cases continue to come in each month, he added – many of them related not to displacement but to weak land ownership laws that insufficiently respect people’s property rights and can lead to corrupt practices. “On a daily basis we are intervening in land fights across the country. Our files are filled with too many cases. Families are at loggerheads. It is hectic.”

Parallel laws

Land ownership in Liberia is based on Common Law which requires an owner to have a title deed. But a parallel system of traditional law, based on verbal agreement, is also prevalent, creating widesperead confusion over who owns what. Landowners as a result, often sell to multiple buyers, opening up room for conflict.

During the civil war, fraud was rife with many illegitimate land-related documents registered. “This criminal practice must stop. They make fraudulent transactions without the involvement of the real landowners. Because of this, now as Liberians return from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Guinea, they are facing major problems with their land,” said Brandy.

The Commission is trying to set up a better land registry system so citizens can more easily access land ownership documents, and at least know what their legal ownership status is. And it has submitted a criminal conveyance bill to the Liberian legislature to deal with suspected criminals involved in multiple land sales. Brandy hopes the bill will soon become law.

The Liberia Land Commission is an autonomous government body, with a staff of 25 civil servants, set up to shape land reform policy in Liberia.

Ciapha George, 45, is currently battling another family for ownership of his plot of land in the capital, Monrovia: unbeknown to him, the land had been sold to someone else before he bought it.

The case went to court and the judge recently ordered him to demolish his house and turn it over to the former owner. “The seller misled me. Right now I am the loser. All my efforts have been in vain,” he told IRIN. George’s family is currently living in an abandoned building in the capital.

But the governance bodies set up to protect these laws remain weak, said Kitt, and until they are strengthened, civil society groups will continue to have to step in to try to resolve disputes before they end up in court.

The Land Commission must be more proactive in tackling this problem of multiple ownership, said Monrovia resident Prince King. “I have seen lives and properties destroyed because of land disputes. Liberia is just from war and we need to put these things behind us.”

Some vulnerable families have never been given formal access to their land, said Brandy, who pointed out that one of the Commission’s priorities is to make ownership more equitable by re-examining how deeds are distributed.

Communities versus investors

According to environmental NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Liberia, the local authorities and landowners have sold more than 1.5 million acres (607,028 hectares) of land to palm oil companies in Liberia over recent years, seriously threatening some communities’ property rights.

“Over the past year and a half we’ve seen an increase in land conflicts between communities and investors trying to develop natural resources. It is clear that challenges are emerging,” said Kitt.

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

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