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Posts Tagged ‘Sudan’

Seeking the right to vote – Abyei

Posted by African Press International on November 4, 2013

Seeking the right to vote

NAIROBI,  – The contested region of Abyei recently held a “unilateral” referendum to determine whether it will remain part of Sudan or be restored to South Sudan, a move analysts fear could fuelconflict in the region.

The 27-29 October referendum on Abyei followed repeated delays in the vote, which was initially planned for January 2011 as part of a deal under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) designed to bring the civil war in Sudan to an end.

The sticking point has been Khartoum’s insistence that Misseriya pastoralists, many of whom served alongside Sudan’s government forces during the civil war, and who spend six months of the year in Abyei’s pastureland, be allowed to take part.

The Ngok Dinka community, Abyei’s main permanent residents who largely backed the southern rebels during the war, overwhelmingly voted to join South Sudan in the poll. “The referendum committee has announced the results, and the number of people who have chosen to become part of South Sudan is 99.9 per cent of the vote,” Kenya’s Daily Nation quotes Luka Biong, the spokesman for the Abyei Referendum High Committee, as saying.

Those allowed to vote were the Ngok Dinka and others with permanent abode in Abyei, as recommended by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in 2009, according to a Small Arms Survey (SAS) report.

The Misseriya on 29 October said they would hold a counter-referendum in November, according to Radio Miraya, a Juba-based UN radio station.

Warnings over unilateral action

Before the vote, the UN Security Council had urged Sudan and South Sudan “to refrain from any unilateral action that could heighten tension between the two neighbouring countries or impede a solution regarding the contested, oil-rich border region of Abyei.”

The African Union (AU) in a statement, following a failed visit to Abyei on 26 October said: “[The AU] reiterates its deep concern at the prevailing situation in Abyei, and stresses the need for active and continued African involvement in support of the efforts aimed at addressing the challenges at hand in Abyei. [It] further reiterates that its visit to Abyei is aimed at defusing tension on the ground, including averting any unilateral actions, and creating a conducive environment for the peaceful resolution of the final status of Abyei…

“[It] warns all stakeholders in Abyei to refrain from taking any unilateral action likely to complicate the situation, and, in this regard, calls for maximum restraint.”

Once the referendum had been held the AU described it as “unacceptable and irresponsible”.

“Political statement”

The vote, according to Abyei leaders, was spurred by growing frustration at perceived international inaction.

“The Dinka Ngok did not want to take this path but what can they do since they have been denied the opportunity repeatedly. The Dinka Ngok people were promised an internationally recognized referendum but it has been repeatedly delayed since January 2011. They cannot be expected to fold arms and wait indefinitely”

“It was the AU which made the proposal to hold a referendum in October 2013. However what has been the benefit of attending summits and meetings on Abyei, considering that the AU’s own delegation was recently not allowed to enter the area by the Sudanese government?” asks Ngor Arol Garang, a South Sudanese journalist based in Juba writing in the Sudan Tribune (based in Paris).

“The Dinka Ngok did not want to take this path but what can they do since they have been denied the opportunity repeatedly. The Dinka Ngok people were promised an internationally recognized referendum but it has been repeatedly delayed since January 2011. They cannot be expected to fold arms and wait indefinitely,” adds Garang.

Writing in African Arguments, Sudan expert Stephen Arrno says: “What is now considered an “empty” move by the nine Ngok Dinka chieftains to hold a unilateral plebiscite that will get no recognition is in fact a political statement by a community that found itself caught in a cyclical political conundrum.

“Through taking the law in hand via a unilateral referendum, the people of Abyei have reached out to all actors to express their disaffection for a decade of indecisiveness and the suffering, humiliation and displacement – endured twice during the CPA period.”

The referendum, adds Arrno, has also raised “serious questions regarding the complexities in the Abyei protocol, giving no options for the Ngok people but to be at odds with regional and international bodies…

“Indeed the Abyei protocol which is part of the… CPA remains and will currently go [down] in history as the only protocol that has never been implemented since it was signed in 2004. Moreover, the Abyei protocol remains the only open protocol in the CPA that is constantly modified to accommodate serious hiccups arising between the two parties.”

Fears of conflict

The referendum has elicited fears of possible conflict and other adverse effects.

“The Misseriya, increasingly alienated from the GoS [Government of Sudan] and worried about losing crucial grazing land in Abyei -especially given that many of their routes into South Sudan have been blocked in recent years – could clash with the Ngok Dinka over the referendum,” says SAS.

“Even if the initial declaration of the referendum results does not lead to clashes, the upcoming annual migration will present a stiff test to both sides, as a putatively independent Ngok Dinka administration in Abyei will have to decide on how to handle a Misseriya migration amid massive numbers of returnees.”

“Through taking the law in hand via a unilateral referendum, the people of Abyei have reached out to all actors to express their disaffection for a decade of indecisiveness and the suffering, humiliation and displacement – endured twice during the CPA period”

The AU in a separate statement warned that the poll poses a threat to peace in Abyei and could “trigger an unprecedented escalation on the ground, which could negatively affect the continuing normalization of relations between Sudan and South Sudan, with far-reaching consequences for the region as a whole…

“Such escalation could also put the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeepers in a very dangerous position,” added the AU.

South Sudan condemns referendum

Besides conflict concerns, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS), which has also condemned the vote, is protecting its economic interests.

“The GRSS believes that no further headway can be made in negotiations with the GoS over the situation in Abyei, and is also aware that siding with the Ngok Dinka over the referendum could destabilize relations with Sudan, lead to a disruption of vital oil flows, and further conflict,” notes SAS.

“By pressing the AU to take the lead over Abyei, the GRSS hopes that the AU might try to force the GoS to accept the referendum results, while preventing the consequences that could result from South Sudan taking such a position.”

South Sudan’s government relies on oil profits to pay its public sector workers and the army.

GoS has also dismissed the poll results.

Regarding the impasse over Abyei, Zacharia Diing Akol, the director of training at the Juba-based Sudd Institute states: “The facts in this case are very clear… Abyei belongs to the Ngok Dinka and these people deserve to voluntarily decide under the international system that recognizes their right to self-determination where they should belong.

“The nomadic Misseriya community, which seasonally comes to Abyei and South Sudan’s neighbouring states for grazing and pasture, has the secondary right recognized by the PCA’s ruling. This, however, does not and should not at all be confused with the idea of permanent abode, which the court has identified as forming the sole basis upon which all other Sudanese citizens can participate in the referendum,” states a 29 October Sudd Institute report.

According to SAS, the “unilateral” referendum “is a high-risk strategy, and, in the best-case scenario, leaves Abyei voting to join a country that did not publicly condone the referendum, and leaving a country that refuses to recognize the referendum’s results.”

aw/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Disputed Abyei Region now votes to join South Sudan

Posted by African Press International on November 1, 2013

The residents of disputed Abyei region has voted to join South Sudan in an unofficial referendum, election officials. There is however warning that the vote may inflame tensions in the region.

“The referendum committee has announced the results, and the number of people who have chosen to become part of South Sudan is 99.9 per cent of the vote,” Mr Luka Biong told the press.

End

 

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Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON, – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Posted by African Press International on October 21, 2013

Humanitarian access in Blue Nile State has long been difficult

LONDON,  – Gaining humanitarian access to places like South Kordofan and Blue Nile states or Darfur in Sudan has long been a tricky business, but things may well be getting even tougher for many of today’s larger and more risk-averse international NGOs, say aid experts.

As the UN issues urgent appeals for access to mount a large-scale polio immunization campaign in southern parts of Sudan, two new publications from the UK’s Overseas Development Institute set out the story of how people in parts of Sudan have ended up cut off from virtually all humanitarian help.

It has not always been like that. During Darfur’s long-running conflict, there have been times when it was possible to work on both sides of the lines. The paper on Darfur describes what author Jonathan Loeb calls “a golden age”, between 2004 and 2006, when the government of Sudan was for a time prepared to allow access, and when there were channels to negotiate safe passage with Darfuri rebel groups.

Loeb sets out in detail how this was done. Peace talks outside the country allowed donors and UN agencies to meet the rebel leadership, which then appointed a humanitarian coordinator to act as a contact point with international agencies. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) took the lead in negotiating access, working closely with the UN’s own security department, whose officers built up a strong network of contacts among rebel commanders.

The paper details the way agencies picked their way through a minefield of moral dilemmas. Should a UN agency like OCHA sign an access agreement with armed non-state actors? (They did.) Should they allow those groups to issue access permits – effectively visas – for their territory? (This was a step too far, and the rebels backed down.) And, trickiest of all, should the rebels, fearing some staff were spying for the government, be allowed to pick and choose, on an individual or tribal basis, which staff worked in their areas.

This is a vexed question in Sudan to the present day, and although it might be against normal humanitarian practice, NGOs were not totally unsympathetic. “This sympathy and understanding,” says Loeb in his paper, “largely stemmed from international NGOs’ observation of the HAC (Sudan’s official Humanitarian Aid Commission) and its attempts to control which Sudanese nationals were hired by UN agencies and NGOs; many aid agency staff had been personally pressured by HAC officials to hire particular staff who had close ties to the government.” Agencies negotiated their way round the demands as best they could.

But all these careful arrangements deteriorated after 2006 as the rebel groups fragmented, and collapsed altogether after 2009, when President Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court, and retaliated by expelling NGOs, targeting those organizations which had worked across the lines in rebel areas. Those which remained became unwilling to risk their work with the much larger populations in government zones. The UN retreated. By the end of last year only two NGOs, the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain were even trying to provide help in the rebel stronghold of the Jebel Marra (Darfur) – and that only on a very limited scale.

Too risk-averse?

The problems further south in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan provinces spring from more recent conflicts, which flared after the Southern vote for independence. By then, agencies had already become what Irina Mosel and Ashley Jackson in their paper on these areas call “very risk averse and anxious about their relationship with the government”. In addition, opposition movements are now suspicious and hostile towards the UN because of the failure of their peacekeeping forces to prioritize the protection of civilians. In these conflicts there has never been a “golden age” for access.

Nicola Bennett, OCHA’s humanitarian policy adviser in South Sudan, says she is hearing calls for a stronger push to get OCHA and other UN actors involved. “In part”, she says, “it’s perhaps to pave the way, or shield NGOs from some of these difficult positions they feel they are in, if they are sticking out their neck above the rest. It does mean working more closely with the security part of the UN… whether that’s through having humanitarian actors as part of risk assessments [and even that’s a challenge] or having, where possible, security officers who are dedicated to this, and really have a focus on supporting humanitarian actors. The majority tend to work for the peacekeeping mission and so their view of what security management looks like and who their major client is, is going to be completely different.”

“Swashbuckling” aid workers

Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan could be reached across the border from South Sudan or – in the case of Blue Nile – from Ethiopia, with or without Sudanese government consent. Twenty years ago, during the Sudanese civil war, a small number of aid agencies and churches were able to reach these states. Peter Moszynski, a journalist and activist who was there during that period, says attitudes have since changed.

“It got a lot worse,” he told IRIN, “in the context of Darfur, because of the expulsions. Some organizations used to do things which they might not admit to and certainly wouldn’t do now. It was quite a swashbuckling generation of aid workers. Now they have the mindset, ‘We won’t do anything to compromise our other operations.’ You have now got this whole `professionalism’ thing; people are doing it as a career path. The aid agency world has changed.”

Such help as these areas do get is from tiny, more or less freelance operations, and is certainly not enough to mount a full vaccination campaign. But, says Moszynski, “You really have to argue the merits of getting small amounts of aid in, versus getting things sorted out properly.”

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile are also victims of the geographical position and their relatively small populations. For aid agencies they are a lower priority than Darfur; for diplomats a lower priority than ensuring war does not break out along the Sudan/South Sudan border.

Irina Mosel says this cannot go on for ever. “We have to continue engaging, but one of the key issues is, until when? Many actors felt that there has to be some timeline set, and if we continue to say there’s an agreement and then it isn’t implemented, when do we have to look at other alternatives? And that of course is very much determined by the level of need… There is more and more information that the humanitarian situation is severe, and that should be an indication to us that there has to be a certain end to this timeline.”

eb/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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What we need is schools, water, and a flour mill

Posted by African Press International on August 29, 2013

TADJOU (TISSI DISTRICT),  – The southeastern Chad border district of Tissi has seen an influx of people fleeing violence in neighbouring western Sudan, among them Chadian nationals who had either migrated there for work or fled earlier violence, and new refugees from Sudan’s Darfur area. 
Mahamat Haroun Dahab’s family (his wife and four children) are among those from eastern Chad who left the country seven years ago during the conflict there, for Darfur. They recently returned to their Tissi village of Tadjou, after fleeing inter-communal violence. Dahab and his wife told IRIN their story.

[Dahab:] “I have been here for three months. I arrived in May when the Misseriya and Salamat [ethnic groups; the latter lives on both sides of the border] started fighting in Um Dhukun [Darfur]. I am not sure what they were fighting over. Around us there were people who were killed and injured.

“The journey from Sudan to the Chad border was by donkey. Then, once we were on the Chadian side, IOM [the International Organization for Migration] brought us here [to Tadjou village].

“We just packed what we had and sought safety; we did not have time to prepare ourselves.

“Here we are doing some farming, mainly of sorghum. Back in Um Dhukun I used to slaughter some sheep. I worked as a butcher. But I have always been a farmer.

“The land I had here before I fled is where I am planting my crops now; during the fighting this area was deserted and my land and house remained intact.

“None of my children have been to school. They are young and I don’t have enough money to register them.

“But I have no intention of going back to Darfur. Here, I can practice farming; there [in Um Dhukun] we had to buy things from the market.

“What we really need here is schools, a flour mill and water.

[Dahab’s wife – she did not give her name:] “We decided to leave [Um Dhukun] when our belongings, such as our [mobile] phones and livestock, started being taken by force by the Arabs.

“We are OK living here [in Tadjou] as we just go to the farm and come back.

“But the children really need schooling and some clothes. What we really want is schools.

“Myself, I have never been to school. I learned to speak Arabic because people around me speak it; but I can’t write anything or read. A person who doesn’t go to school can’t read Arabic.”

aw/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Civilian Destruction in Jonglei: Khartoum’s Role in Arming David Yau Yau’s Militia

Posted by African Press International on August 26, 2013

  • Eric Reeves, 22 August 2013

There is a great deal of biased attention when it comes to international assessments of the ongoing ethnic strife in Jonglei.  UN reports from the ground, primarily from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), suggest a recent diminishment of violence, and humanitarian access may be improving.  Both UNMISS and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are performing more effectively, and a very recent UN assessment indicated that tensions between the SPLA and civilians was diminishing.  Certainly the situation is far from stabilized; ethnic tensions remain high, particularly between the Murle and the Lou Nuer; and it must be emphasized that the previous behavior of the SPLA has entailed very serious violations of human rights and a failure to distinguish between Murle civilians and those Murle who have joined David Yau Yau’s rebellion.

But let us be clear as to why Yau Yau’s group has been able to create the havoc it has, why it has been able to engage in a kind of provocative guerilla warfare that makes distinguishing civilians and combatants particularly difficult, and why it is unlikely to cease action despite the generous offer of amnesty from Juba.  This rebel group, deep in South Sudan’s Jonglei State, has been repeatedly armed by Khartoum as part of a larger effort to destabilize the South.  Armaments have come overland, but also have been airlifted by Khartoum’s Antonov aircraft to Yau Yau.  Again, this effort is an extension of a broader war of attrition that has as its goal the collapse of the state of South Sudan.  Certainly Jonglei would not present nearly the challenges it does without the activities of Yau Yau’s group; and Yau Yau’s group would not be able to operate—without a political agenda and trading almost exclusively on ethnic grievances—without substantial military support from Khartoum.

Despite these facts, international condemnation over developments in Jonglei has fallen almost exclusively on Juba.  I have myself been publicly critical of SPLA human rights abuses in Jonglei (http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4108), but would hope such criticism is seen within the broader assessment of the causes of violence against civilians in Jonglei.  That so little is said on this score by the UN, the U.S., the EU, the African Union and others signals both expediency and disingenuousness.

I have discussed at length the evidence that Khartoum is supporting Yau Yau’s group and—by contrast—the complete absence of evidence for the regime’s claim that  South Sudan is supporting rebel groups within Sudan (“The arming of rebels in Sudan and South Sudan: What is the evidence?” 17 June 2013, http://www.sudanreeves.org/?p=4059).  I survey a great deal of evidence from recent years, and little has change in the intervening months to change the conclusions reached.

Moreover, a new study by the Small Arms Survey provides even more detailed evidence that armaments used by Yau Yau’s group are purposefully sent by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party in a desperate effort to undermine South Sudan before Sudan’s own continuing economic implosion sweeps this corrupt and desperate regime from power.  Although relatively brief, the detail and authority of the evidence and conclusions is overwhelming. It is also clear that Khartoum has begun an aggressive effort to disguise the origins of weapons by grinding off identifying numbers.  I can do no better than to cite the key findings of this critical report (see website for high resolution photographs; all emphases are added)—

Small Arms Survey, “Weapons Captured from David Yau Yau’s Militia, July 2013″

http://www.smallarmssurveysudan.org/fileadmin/docs/facts-figures/arms-ammunition-tracing-desk/HSBA-Tracing-Desk-Yau-Yau-July-2013.pdf

During the first half of 2013, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces operating in Jonglei seized a variety of weapons and ammunition from rebel forces under the  command of David Yau Yau. The Small Arms Survey previously documented weapons with a group of Yau Yau’s men who defected under the leadership of James Kubrin in December 2012.

This report expands on the findings of the initial fieldwork. The Small Arms Survey and the independent research group Conflict Armament Research visited SPLA divisional headquarters in Paryak, Bor County, on 5 July 2013 to view a range of weapons that the SPLA had captured subsequent to the February site visit. These weapons, which are described below, are identical in type to those documented earlier in the year. They also include many of the same weapon and ammunition types that have been documented in the hands of Khartoum-backed rebel forces elsewhere in South Sudan, including the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA), the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) under the leadership of George Athor, and Johnson Olony’s Shilluk militia.

Among the most striking findings of the July fieldwork in Jonglei was the significant increase in the number of weapons seen with removed serial numbers and factory marks. The most logical explanation for the increase is that actor(s) in the supply chain wish to obscure their sourcing.  These designs are consistent with types observed in the Survey’s February 2013 site visit of weapons. They are also of the same type observed with returning South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) forces in Mayom (May 2013), Johnson Olony’s forces in Lul, Upper Nile (July 2013), those collected from George Athor’s forces (February 2012), and seized from the SSLA in April 2011. In all cases, respective rebel forces report that the weapons have been supplied through Khartoum, though this cannot be independently corroborated. The weapons are similar in design to Iranian RPG-7-pattern models.

The trigger assemblies feature no viable identifying marks although a serial number (formerly positioned on the launch tube above the sight bracket) appears to have been removed by grinding and later painted (see images below). One example of many Chinese CQ assault rifles viewed, with associated 5.56 x 45 mm magazine and ammunition (addressed below). The rear sight housing/carry handle of the weapon has been deformed by a bullet impact. In all cases observed, identifying factory marks—which typically appear on the left-hand side of the magazine housing—have been removed by milling, indicated by the bright metal observable in the images above and below. In the left-hand image below, black paint was evidently applied after milling, although the paint has abraded with use. The weapons, and mode of milling, are identical to examples documented with Yau Yau’s forces (February 2013), returning SSLA forces in Mayom (May 2013), and Johnson Olony’s forces in Lul (July 2013). A number of these rifles were seized in Pibor [Jonglei] in July 2013.

This weapon is identical to PKM-pattern weapons documented in service with a range of Khartoum-backed rebel forces in South Sudan. Weapons of this kind have been identified bearing the model designation ‘M80’ (see HSBA Tracing Desk Report ‘Weapons seized from the forces of George Athor and John Duit,’ December 2012) although this particular weapon’s model designation and additional marks have been removed by grinding (see images below). This 5.56 x 45 mm small-calibre ammunition is identical to types documented with Yau Yau’s forces. [end]

Of an international community that is bringing pressure to bear on Juba over its military actions in Jonglei and failing to take seriously the implications of such authoritative findings—and in turn bringing appropriate pressure to bear on Khartoum—we must say again that this represents shamefully expedient accommodation of a regime that survives only because of its unlimited capacity and willingness to generate vast human destruction.

 

 

End.

 

 

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Flood victim in Sudan says his house has completely collapsed

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

KHARTOUM,  – More than half a million people in 16 of Sudan’s 18 states have been affected by flooding since early August. The worst affected is Khartoum State, where some 36,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed or damaged.

Among those to lose their house is Mohannad Hamdnallah, a 36-year-old construction worker from Marabie al-Shareef in Sharq al-Nile locality, in the east of Khartoum State.

“I was left here alone, as you see, to rebuild the house, because the only assistance we have got so far is a tent from the Red Crescent, and it’s not safe for all of our [12] family members to stay in.

“Our father is getting old. He worked as a labourer, but doesn’t work now because he is diabetic. I am staying here in this tent, along with some of my friends, so as to rebuild the house, which we only built six months ago.

“There is a complete absence of officials, and they only focus on appearing in the media and making promises; we cannot wait for a long time.

“Our house consisted of two bedrooms, a guest room and two latrines; all these have completely collapsed.

“I just got married three months before the floods. My wife and I live together with my family, parents, brothers and sisters.

“I’m a construction worker. Now I’m forced to stop work to rebuild our own house and in the meantime we have no other income.

“We are planning to build one room first so as to be able to complete the rest of the house, but I’m not sure if we can.”

ai/am/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Conflicts causing deaths presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

Posted by African Press International on August 18, 2013

BANGKOK, 16 August 2013 (IRIN) – Varied death tolls emerging from Egypt’s latest clashes are a reminder that obtaining mortality statistics in emergencies is still a disputed, complicated and, at times, politicized task. But tallied correctly, researchers say mortality data can b oost aid efficacy and improve funding decisions.

“Funding to save people, in the aftermath, is driven by death tolls,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), noting that death tolls are also a good indicator for survivors who need life-saving assistance.

Unlike mortality data from natural disasters, the number of dead from armed conflict can be used for political purposes and thus become subject to manipulation or misuse, according to CRED, which has maintained an “emergency events” database on the occurrence and effects of more than 18,000 mass disasters worldwide from 1900 to the present.

The politics of numbers

In Egypt’s current political crisis, death tolls have differed wildly depending on the source. In the hours following the forcible clearing of a mass sit-in of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by government forces on 14 August, the Brotherhood’s initial death toll was 500, while state TV said four people had been killed.

The government’s toll has since risen to more than 600 while the opposition’s toll is more than three times as high.

Many of the dead in Egypt were taken to makeshift hospitals run by the Brotherhood movement itself, which made outside verification of the figures difficult. The official death count is based only on bodies that passed through a hospital.

Darfur

Sudan’s Darfur conflict, which broke out 10 years ago and for which a ceasefire was signed in 2010, has generated a significant debate on death counts. The UN estimates some 300,000 died, while Khartoum puts the number closer to 10,000. In 2006 the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an analysis of mortality estimates from Darfur to examine the methodology behind death tallies.

In Darfur lack of access to some regions of the conflict, inaccurate population data and varied manipulations of baseline mortality rates (death rates in times of non-crisis) led to data shortcomings and disputed death estimates, the analysis concluded.

The US Department of State reported that between March 2003 and January 2005 a total of 98,000 to 181,000 people died, while five other studies produced estimates ranging up to nearly 400,000 people between February 2003 and August 2005. The GAO study judged none of the death tolls accurate, although it noted some estimates were more reliable than others.

A recent analysis (2010) of mortality estimates in Darfur based on retrospective mortality surveys estimated that the overall number of “excess” deaths (those attributable to crisis conditions and not just direct conflict) in Darfur between early 2003 and end of 2008 was some 300,000 people.

However, the authors acknowledged that the limits of data and problems over its interpretation that plagued earlier death tolls, persisted in theirs.

Syria

The Syrian conflict presents another data dilemma for mortality statisticians.

In a complex armed conflict as is the case of Syria, fatalities can be at the centre of political controversy with each party to the conflict wanting to downplay civilian deaths.

In August 2011 the UN Human Rights Council established the Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights and international law violations in Syria. But lack of access hampered the commission’s efforts, whose investigations have been forced to rely primarily on interviews with people in camps and hospitals in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Initially, we adopted a methodology that required one of two things for us to count the casualty, A) our eye-witness actually saw the deceased and knew his/her name or, B) our witness was a family member, and knew that his/her family member was deceased,” said Vic Ullom, legal adviser of the Commission of Inquiry (COI).

“For us, that was an appropriately high bar to get over those accounts that are fabricated or exaggerated. However, we only received a small percentage of the overall numbers of casualties, because we could only interview a small percentage of the refugee population,” he added.

According to the Centre for Documentation of Violations in Syria, an opposition website, the fatalities since the beginning of the conflict number some 69,000 people while the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, run by a Syrian who fled 13 years ago who is now based in the UK, puts the conflict’s casualties closer to 106,000 people. Both networks report on casualties from both sides and say they gather their information from human rights groups and activists in Syria.

However, experts warn that in a conflict like Syria’s, while a reliable network on the ground can provide decent statistics, it can also be challenging.

“They’ve got to be active and mobile, and they themselves [must] have good networks in the area that they cover. Being on the ground during a war, they will be very susceptible to all kinds of pressure, including to manipulate the numbers in favour of their political objectives,” said Ullom of COI, who added that it will be “extremely” difficult for such monitors to have access, but not favour either side.

Standard death toll tallying

In humanitarian emergencies, proper gathering, interpretation and use of mortality data can save lives as this database is the basis on which to plan a humanitarian response, say researchers.

Mortality rate is defined “as the number of deaths occurring in a given population at risk during a specified time period, also known as the recall period”. In emergencies it is usually expressed as deaths per 10,000 persons per day.

Crude mortality rate (CMR) and under five mortality rate (U5MR) are important indicators to assess and monitor the severity of an emergency situation, and are expressed per day.

CMR refers to the number of deaths among all age groups and due to all causes, while U5MR refers to the deaths of children under five years of age, out of 1,000 live births during a specified year.

According to the humanitarian guidelines known as SPHERE standards a CMR or an U5MR that is double the pre-crisis mortality rate indicates a “significant” public health emergency.

But one longstanding challenge of tallying death tolls in armed conflicts is whether to count deaths from “war-related causes”, including starvation due to lack of access to farmland in the line of fire, or from treatable diseases and minor wounds when patients cannot get treatment.

Several efforts have been made to standardize methodologies including the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART), a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners that has published a protocol for nutrition and mortality assessments.

But getting practitioners on the ground to apply these standards under duress is another matter.

Scarce resources, security concerns hamper data collection

CRED’s Guha-Sapir added: “At this time, there is no agreed-on methodology or even guidelines that could help operational workers who are on the ground to estimate the dead.”

The Harvard Project on monitoring, reporting and fact finding has been researching for the past two years guidelines on a common investigative methodology for mortality statistics. The project targets the work of fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiry mandated by the UN and entities such as the European Union.

A major challenge for such missions is they do not compile raw data, but rather, rely on often unreliable casualty statistics compiled by other organizations.

“Commissions of inquiry frequently operate under broad mandates under scarce resource and time constraints,” Rob Grace, program associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at the School of Public Health at Harvard University, told IRIN.

“For this reason, they tend to lack the capacity to undertake a comprehensive examination of all incidents that have occurred in the relevant context. Most commissions of inquiry mandated to gather information about violations of human rights endeavour to gather information about certain incidents that are emblematic of the patterns of violations that have occurred. The task of gathering accurate quantitative information about fatalities is not typically included in mandates for commissions of inquiry.”

Security restrictions are another added worry.

“Other challenges involve lack of territorial access in situations in which the host country has not granted the commission on-the-ground access, and ad hoc territorial access restrictions imposed, for example, by armed groups that control territory,” said Grace.

For Guha-Sapir, a systematic review of how governments and organizations, including the Red Cross and UN, calculate their death tolls is crucial.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) does not conduct mortality surveys during conflict, but rather relies on mortality data from health centres it supports, according to its health unit. For non-conflict mortality data, it relies on national health authorities, local civil society groups, and both national and international NGOs.

“They [governments and organizations] undoubtedly do their best in very chaotic conditions but it is first important to know how they do it. This can give some important insights into what the constraints are and also build from experience,” Guha-Sapir said.

fm/pt/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

Analysts fear local means of solving disputes in Sudan’s Darfur can still collapse

NAIROBI,  – The UN estimates that the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has seen some 300,000 people displaced so far in 2013 – twice as many as in 2011 and 2012, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Darfur has seen a new wave of fighting in many areas in 2013. More than 300,000 people have had to flee their homes to escape violence since the beginning of the year, including over 35,000 people who have crossed the borders into Chad and the Central African Republic. The crisis is getting bigger,” Mark Cutts, OCHA head of office in Sudan, told IRIN.

An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity.

IRIN looks at the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the causes of the current wave of conflict there.

What is the humanitarian situation like in Darfur?

UN agency figures indicate there are 1.4 million people living in the main camps in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Cutts, however, told IRIN that the “actual numbers of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in camps are significantly higher as many of the IDPs living in smaller camps/settlements are not included in these figures and many IDPs in the bigger camps remain unregistered.”

Many of those affected by the conflict are unable to receive any humanitarian assistance as insecurity has hampered efforts by aid workers to reach them. In total, 3.2 million people – more than a third of Darfur’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.

“Road insecurity remains a major problem affecting movement of humanitarian staff and supplies in Central Darfur. The problem has been compounded by recent increased clashes between Misseriya and Salamat tribesmen in different parts of Central Darfur, as well as the reported movement of armed groups in the state,” OCHA said in a recent bulletin.

A recent survey by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed that the violence in Darfur was a major cause of mortality among refugees and Chadian returnees crossing into Tissi to escape the violence in Darfur.

According to MSF, “61 percent of the 194 reported deaths were caused by violence, most of them (111 out of 119) by gunshots and linked to specific episodes of violence preceding the two major waves of displacements, one in early February and the other in early April.”

Nine out of 10 deaths MSF recorded during its assessment were caused by gunshot wounds. In east Darfur alone, an estimated 305 people had been killed as a result of violent clashes between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia tribes in August alone.

Peacekeepers, too, have not been spared. In July seven peacekeepers with the UN mission there were killed in an ambush – the worst in the five-year history of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan – bringing to 13 the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur since October 2012.

Some 50,000 Darfur refugees have crossed into Chad. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has described it as the “largest influx of Sudanese refugees into Chad since 2005”.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting”

Officials in Darfur have admitted that the violence is now beyond the control of the state.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting,” Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha, governor of east Darfur, told Radio Dabanga.

What are the challenges facing aid agencies in Darfur?

The deteriorating security situation has meant many aid agencies are unable to keep their staff on the ground in Darfur. Some have had their field offices looted.

In July an international NGO was robbed of an estimated US$40,000 when armed men entered their office in Central Darfur’s capital, Zalingei. In the same month, armed men stopped two buses and five trucks near Thur in Nertiti Locality while on their way from Zalingei to Nyala in South Darfur. The drivers and passengers were robbed of all personal items; one passenger was shot and injured while resisting the attack.

In May, two vehicles rented by an international NGO and carrying seven staff were carjacked in Wadi Salih Locality.

Earlier in February, the rented vehicle of another international NGO was ambushed north of Zalingei. Staff were robbed of all personal possessions.

“Commercial transporters are currently unwilling to transport relief supplies from El Geneina (West Darfur) and Zalingei to areas in the southern corridor localities – mainly Mukjar, Um Dukhun and Bindisi – due to security concerns,” OCHA said in its July bulletin.

Sudanese analyst Eric Reeves, a professor at the Smith College (USA), said in a recent analysis that “over the past year and more… violence has called into serious question the viability of any substantial ongoing relief efforts in the region. Virtually no international (expatriate) staff remain in Darfur, certainly not in the field or in remote locations – either for critical assessment work or to provide oversight for aid distribution. And as the recent killing of two workers for World Vision in their Nyala compound makes clear, there is no place of real safety in Darfur.”

OCHA’s Cutts told IRIN that while aid agencies have access to most of those in need in Darfur, “the continued insecurity and fighting and government restrictions on movement” had clearly affected aid agencies’ ability to operate.

“This has a direct impact on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess humanitarian needs and to ensure that people in need receive the assistance they require, particularly in areas of ongoing conflict,” he added.

In its 2013 World Report, Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese regime “continued to deny peacekeepers from the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to much of Darfur” and that “lawlessness and insecurity hampered the work of the peacekeepers and aid groups. Armed gunmen attacked and killed peacekeepers, including four Nigerians in October, abducted UNAMID and humanitarian staff and carjacked dozens of vehicles.”

According to Smith College’s Reeves, “opportunistic banditry has grown steadily and become a deeply debilitating threat to humanitarian operations. Fighting among Arab tribal groups has been a constant for a number of years, and has contributed steadily to instability and violence in Darfur.”

The Sudanese government too stands accused: “Khartoum has deliberately crippled UNAMID as an effective force for civilian and humanitarian protection. Opposed from the beginning by the regime, the mission cannot begin to fulfil its UN Security Council civilian protection mandate, and indeed operates only insofar as Khartoum’s security forces permit,” Reeves noted.

Who are the combatants in Darfur?

The conflict in Darfur is being waged on many fronts and by different actors. It involves three main rebel groups fighting the government: the SLA(Sudan Liberation Army)-Abdul Wahid faction, the SLA-Minni Minawi faction, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). And while all these rebel groups are fighting under the auspices of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, they are also divided largely along ethnic lines, with the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction being drawn mainly from the Fur tribe, and the SLA-Minni Minawi and JEM originally being drawn many from the Zaghawa tribe.

Peacekeepers and aid workers have not been spared the violence in Darfur

Meanwhile, there is inter-tribal violence between the Misseriya and Salamat, and another conflict between the Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups.

Cutts told IRIN: “This year we have also seen a new wave of localized conflict, including not only the familiar fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes [e.g. between the Beni Halba and the Gimir; and between the Beni Halba and the Dajo] but also an increase in intra-Arab fighting [e.g. between the Salamat and the Misseriya; and most recently between the Rezeigat and the Maaliya].”

There have been clashes between government forces and militia too. In July there were violent clashes between government forces and Arab militia in the Darfur capital of Nyala, leaving many dead and many more displaced.

What is driving the conflict in Darfur?

“Underpinning almost all of the conflicts in Darfur are the disputes over land ownership and land use. Indeed, much of what is commonly referred to as “inter-tribal fighting” or fighting over “economic resources” actually relates primarily to disputes over land and access to water and grazing for animals,” Cutts, told IRIN.

The recent clashes in Darfur have mostly been as a result of inter-tribal disputes over grazing land and gold-mining rights.

In January, violence broke out between the Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur State.

“The gold rush in Sudan is further complicating matters. At the beginning of the year there were over 60,000 migrant gold workers in North Darfur alone. In January, disputes over gold mining rights drew two Arab tribes, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rezeigat, into a conflict that resulted in many deaths and the displacement of over 100,000 people. And this was not the first violent incident related to gold mining in Darfur,” said Cutts.

Analysts fear the competition for other resources such as gum Arabic might lead to future violent inter-communal conflicts.

In July, Human Security Baseline Assessment for Sudan (HBAS), part of the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, noted: “New conflict trends have emerged in 2013. The most prominent of these, resource-based conflict in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur over control of artisanal gold mining and trade, began in January 2013…

“Other resources have also generated inter-communal violence: in South Darfur, the Gimir and Bani Halba have clashed over the harvesting of gum Arabic,” it added.

What is the status of the peace process?

Numerous peace processes to end the conflict between the government of Sudan and the various armed groups operating in Darfur have not borne much fruit. These include one in Abuja in 2006, and another in 2007 in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The latest such initiative was in Doha.

Signed between the Sudanese government and armed groups, they have generally been dogged by a lack of legitimacy and deemed not inclusive enough.

“The second challenge concerns poor implementation of the DDPD [Doha Document for Peace in Darfur] and a lack of inclusivity. Promised funds from both the government of Sudan and donors have been slow to arrive, which has further delayed the activities of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), established in December 2011 as the lead actor for the implementation of the agreement,” said the HBAS report.

“The third challenge to the formal peace process is the significant deterioration in security across Darfur in 2013, as local peace mechanisms struggle to contain inter-communal violence, exacerbated by government actions.”

Locally, state officials say they are mulling the idea of bringing together leaders of the warring tribes to cease hostilities and bring the conflict to an end.

ko/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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South Sudan is yet to replicate its success in eradicating polio in eliminating other diseases

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

South Sudan is yet to replicate its success in eradicating polio in eliminating other diseases

JUBA,  – South Sudan is doing its bit for global polio eradication efforts, but huge gaps in immunization against other diseases remain.

Targeted polio immunization efforts started in the area more than a decade before the country’s independence in 2011 and have remained a top priority. There has not been a single case of polio for more than four years.

Health officials and humanitarian groups are trying to build on this success to improve other immunization efforts, including neonatal tetanus and measles, but more funding and a better health infrastructure are urgently needed.

To combat the re-emergence of polio, Anthony Kirbak, the director of the country’s expanded programme on immunization (EMI), said the Ministry of Health and humanitarian organizations have had to figure out how to circumvent low routine childhood immunization rates.

Every child in the country is supposed to be vaccinated against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles by its first birthday. Kirbak said that only happens for about 65 percent of the country’s children due to a scant health infrastructure, poor roads and cyclical violence in some areas of the country.

To bump up the vaccination rates for polio, the Ministry of Health sends thousands of volunteers out across the country four times a year to immunize every child they can find who is under six. Kirbak said they regularly reach more than 90 percent of the children.

He said South Sudan’s specific focus on polio vaccination stems from the international pressure to completely eradicate the disease.

“The emphasis is because the whole world is supposed to eradicate polio,” Kirbak said. “The only way to do that where there is fragile health system and weak routine immunization, it has to go in the form of campaigns so that many children are reached in a short time.”

The global public health community was originally gunning for full eradication by 2000. They missed the deadline, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO) polio cases worldwide are lower than ever before – there were only 223 in 2012, down from nearly 2,000 a decade before. Kirbak said South Sudan has an international obligation to stay vigilant until well after that number hits zero.

Emergency campaign

Meanwhile, health officials are rolling out an emergency vaccination campaign next week following polio outbreaks in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp in April, and an outbreak in Somalia in May. There are now 110 confirmed polio cases between the two countries.

“Due to our proximity [to Kenya and Somalia] and the low immunization coverage in the country, we actually made an assessment of the risk areas,” Kirbak said. “It was found that we have four states (out of 10) that are at risk of importation, if at all any wild polio outbreak is brought into the country, then we’ll be in danger.”

So vaccines are being distributed to the four states and an additional county in South Sudan where people travelling from Kenya and Somalia are most likely to arrive. For four days next week volunteer vaccinators will immunize every child they can find.

Awareness up

Kirbak credits the country’s efforts to keep polio at bay with strengthening the health system generally. By training volunteer vaccinators and health workers to immunize against polio, they have increased general awareness about the importance of all immunizations.

That does not mean the routine immunizations are always available, even if people want them, either because they are cut off from health centres or because there are no staff to administer the vaccines. Kirbak said there has been improvement – routine immunization rates were up to 65 percent last year from 20 percent in 2007 – but acknowledges that it is still too low, which is why South Sudan will continue to deploy targeted vaccination campaigns until the health system gets stronger.

Officials are borrowing the polio campaign model for an ongoing neonatal tetanus vaccination campaign that has so far reached seven states and a measles immunization outreach that should start next year.

UNICEF provides almost all polio vaccines

Polio eradication efforts are propped up by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which provides almost all of the vaccines in the country. WHO covers the logistics of transporting them. The government contributes money to cover some of the health workers’ salaries, but Kirbak said the resources simply are not there for the state to do much more. That is why the measles campaign next year is only tentative as EMI waits to see if funding becomes available.

Meanwhile, Daniel Babelwa Ngemera, an immunization specialist with UNICEF, said that as South Sudan searches for funds to launch campaigns or strengthen routine immunization coverage, it is falling further behind other countries in the region, like Kenya. Their basic immunization package includes vaccines against pneumococcal – a strain of pneumonia – and rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhoea in infants and children.

“Our children in South Sudan, they are not benefiting on that,” Ngemera said. “We are trying our level best to make sure at least the country is able to catch up, to be moving also with the other countries in the region.”

South Sudan will soon submit a proposal to the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that helps countries access vaccines, asking for money to help strengthen the health system. Kirbak would not say how much they were asking for, but said it should boost the health system enough to “avert the issue of campaigns”.

MSF action in refugee camp

In the meantime, state officials ask NGOs and humanitarian organizations to introduce immunization coverage where they can.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started a three-part pneumococcal vaccination campaign in Yida refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity State last month. The camp holds more than 75,000 refugees, mostly Sudanese who have fled violence in Sudan’s South Kordofan region.

“They’re living in makeshift structures,” said Christopher Mambula, MSF’s country medical coordinator. “It’s more densely populated. They’re not living under normal conditions in buildings and structures like that, which makes for easier propagation of pneumococcus from one person to another.”

Roughly a quarter of all in-patient treatment in the camp last year was for lower respiratory infections.

Mambula said in the first round of the campaign vaccinators were able to reach about 4,300 children under two. They will go back out this month to administer the second dose and the third will follow in September.

Kirbak said the pneumococcal vaccine is one of many on the list of vaccines he plans to introduce to the country as soon as he can find the money.

Immunization data in South Sudan is patchy. WHO and UNICEF’s “estimates of immunization coverage” for 2012 note that immunization rates “are based on data and information that are of varying, and, in some instances, unknown quality”.

ag/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Justice for a Lawless World?

Posted by African Press International on August 5, 2013

NAIROBI,  The age of impunity may be giving way to a new kind of global justice. Thanks to television and radio, millions of people worldwide have learned of the atrocities suffered by other human beings, and have become outraged at what they have seen and heard. People no longer accept that perpetrators profit from impunity for their crimes. So, could this be the beginning of a new era of human rights and international justice?

Samantha Power, Harvard professor and author of “Problem from Hell – America and the Age of Genocide”, visited Darfur, western Sudan, in the summer of 2005. She asked many people where they would go if they could escape the violence that oppressed them daily. The common answer was “The Hague”. Power said they had heard it was home to a court and they “wanted to go testify”.

“I wouldn’t say they knew about the International Criminal Court (ICC). What they knew was that there was this thing called “The Hague”, a place where bad people were sent, and where over the course of recent years people [who had suffered like them] had had the ability to go and testify,” reported Professor Power.

People are beginning to realise that there are courts outside their own countries – international courts – where the culture of impunity may finally be stemmed and where those guilty of abuses may be punished. The dream of “The Hague” for brutalised Darfurians is emblematic of this change.

The new measure of human rights

Increasingly, those in power – politicians, the judiciary, police, soldiers and companies – are being measured not only against regional or national standards, but also by universal standards. The same applies to local traditional customs and practices.

As news of human rights violations reaches governments and civilians across the world, a collective sense of outrage against the perpetrators is growing. While the crimes committed are not necessarily new, widespread respect for human rights is. This respect has been bolstered by the idea that it is now possible to prosecute those who commit atrocities.

Slowly, but steadily, the international community is developing conditions where, in extreme circumstances, the long-guarded notion of national sovereignty may yield to a higher order of international justice.

Cesare Romano, of the New York–based Center on International Cooperation, echoes the views of many observers who claim that international criminal justice is “one of the most significant changes in the international architecture that has taken place in the post-Cold War era”.

This evolution in international relations and international law is not yet complete, and has spawned controversy and attracted criticism. However, progress is being made, although it is still too soon to tell to what extent these changes will become permanent.

The erosion of the Westphalian Model

Since the end of the Cold War, international cooperation has taken a new direction. In today’s international society, a growing number of states agree that the worst human rights abuses should be punished at an international level – albeit in national courts.

The importance of this shift away from a system of national justice that dates back to the 17th century cannot be overstated.

The “Peace of Westphalia” of 1648 saw the end the outright authority of the Pope or the Holy Roman Emperor, and ushered in a state system that has been in use since. The “Westphalian Model” means that individual states need not recognise any superior authority beyond their own sovereignty.

It was another three hundred years before states began to work together to achieve common goals, e.g. as telecommunications agreements, the protection of the Antarctic, or maritime law. These accords and agreements were created using international institutions.

An attempt to limit the brutality of war came with the Geneva Conventions of 1864 and 1865. Here standards were laid out and agreed upon by a majority of powerful states.

Before the ‘globalisation’ of criminal courts, it was the job of national courts to prosecute human rights offenders. Governments and politicians may remain resistant to any erosion of the “Westphalian Model” and state sovereignty, but support for international justice is gathering pace and looks set to continue.

As the former UN Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, put it in 1991: “We are clearly witnessing what is probably an irresistible shift in public attitudes towards the belief that the defence of the oppressed in the name of morality should prevail over frontiers and legal documents.”

Internationalising justice in the twentieth century

“We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states”

Woodrow Wilson declaring war in 1917

The aftermath of the First World War saw several failed attempts to create an international judicial body to try suspects for major crimes against humanity.

French and British moves to try Kaiser Wilhelm II were successfully opposed by the USA, fearing a breach of head-of-state impunity. The Versailles Peace Conference of 1919 and the Covenant of the League of Nations did not mention the concept of human rights, despite the 8.5 million lives lost in the war.

It was not until 1922 that the Permanent Court of International Justice, sometimes called the World Court, was established by the League of Nations. Between 1922 and 1940 the court dealt with 29 cases between states, and delivered 27 advisory opinions. It was replaced in 1946 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) when the United Nations was founded, although it handled only legal disputes between states. Cases could not be brought by individuals or non-governmental groups, nor could individuals or groups be tried.

The ICJ however is hampered by the fact that its adjudication and jurisdiction has to be recognised by the state being tried. This lack of power is the court’s over-riding problem – a problem which is echoed in other agreements.

An ambitious international treaty was developed in 1928 with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris. This pact provided for the “renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy”, and is regarded as an important international multilateral treaty because it established the idea that the use of military force can be unlawful.

The Pact was signed by 62 nations, among them Germany. This paved the way for the conviction of those found guilty of starting World War Two (WW2) at the Nuremberg Trials.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) condemns crimes of aggression, but cannot make a ruling until clear definitions have been drawn out – this is not expected to happen before 2009.

For some observers this represents an important missed opportunity to outlaw war as an instrument of national policy, and make it an indictable international offence. For others it suggests that Nuremburg may have represented a false, or premature, dawn for international justice. Experts meanwhile have suggested a deadline of 2009 is optimistic while the ICC remains a difficult issue for many governments.

Nuremburg and Tokyo: symbolic inspiration?

The Nuremberg and Tokyo military tribunals, established in the wake of WW2 to prosecute German and Japanese crimes, were keenly promoted by the US. British and Russian leaders favoured execution for German and Japanese leaders, although in the case of Russia, albeit following perfunctory military hearings.

Up until recent years, and before the creation of new international legal bodies, Tokyo and Nuremburg served as the most powerful examples of and most symbolic inspiration for international justice. The Chief Prosecutor of the Nuremburg trials, Robert Jackson, described them thus: “Four great nations, stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and subject their captive enemies to the judgement of the law … one of the most important tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason”.

However, although as tools of international justice against acts of inhumanity, the trials had their drawbacks. According to Romano: “They were criticised for playing fast and loose with principles of criminal law to ensure convictions, for their slanted military character, and because their ultimate legitimacy rested on the victor’s right to decide the fate of the defeated enemy rather than on law”.

These trials coincided with the new period of post-war commitment to ensuring that such wartime horrors were never repeated through the creation of international agreements and the UN Charter. Any effective action however was frozen from the late 1940s for the duration of the Cold War.

Cold War Cynicism


Despite the 1948 Genocide Convention obliging member states to intervene, in 1994 no country acted to halt the slaughter by the Rwandan Hutus which resulted in the death of almost one million Tutsi’s and moderate Hutu. These sculls are testament to the limits of non-enforceable international agreements, when put to the test.
Credit: IRIN

Well-intended calls for global harmony made in the wake of WW2 were short-lived as the world divided itself into teams lining up behind the two super-powers. However, the Cold War period which lasted until 1990 spawned a number of conventions and commitments for a peaceful world, but as one critic suggested, “the road to hell is paved with good conventions.”

While the prosecution for human rights violations were left to the national courts to hear, in practice, crimes went unpunished during this period. In particular, wide-scale violations of rights took place throughout colonial Africa, Spain, apartheid South Africa, Stalinist Russia, China under Mao and the Gang of Four, during the Korea and Vietnam wars and in Central and Latin America.

Millions of people were affected as states and individuals perpetrated violations virtually without sanction. Despite the volumes of human rights treaties and conventions introduced during this period, for many experts the Cold War represented the most cynical period of multilateral efforts towards global rights and justice.

But, the drive to prosecute and avert impunity for international crimes picked up pace at the end of the Cold War. Jurist and human rights writer, Geoffrey Robertson, wrote: “After a half-century of ineffectual treaties and diplomatic thumb-twiddling, there came this end-of-century stampede to put global justice systems in place: an international court, a ‘prosecute or extradite’ regime for torturers, a precedent for intervening in the internal affairs of sovereign states out of humanitarian necessity.”

Dying to take action



“According to an authoritative study of genocide and state-sponsored killing at the University of Hawaii, more than 170 million people were murdered by their own governments during the 20th century” 

Harvard International Review

In the final months of the 20th century, some critical developments and interventions took place that suggested the world was getting ready to make individuals accountable for violation of human rights and crimes against humanity.

General Pinochet was arrested in London; Serb and Croat generals, and concentration-camp commandos, were arrested by NATO forces in the Balkans; and in Arusha, Tanzania, the former prime minister of Rwanda was convicted of genocide. Even Libya finally handed over the two suspects implicated in the bombing of a Pan American jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Then, in Rome in June 1998, 120 states agreed to set up the International Criminal Court (ICC) that would come into effect four years later following ratification by 60 states.

Those good intentions however failed in1994 when the international community did not intervene in the Rwandan genocide of ethnic Tutsis. This would suggest that intervention is not based on human rights issues alone.

Nevertheless, interventions into human rights violations did take place in 1999 in the case of NATO’s invasion of Yugoslavia, to halt the “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo; and in the case of the Australian-led, UN-backed coalition that invaded East Timor to end massacres by militias supported by the Indonesian army.

Although there are those such as Noam Chomsky, one of America’s most prominent political dissidents and a professor of linguistics at MIT, who see these interventions being driven by political interests. Meanwhile, others such as David Rieff, the political analyst, claim: “The conflict over Kosovo, the first ever waged by the NATO alliance, was undertaken more in the name of human rights and moral obligation than out of any traditional conception of national interest.”

Whatever other strategic reasons may have motivated these interventions, it appeared that nations were prepared to kill for human rights and equally allow their soldiers to be killed defending human rights. For Robertson, this movement may have owed something to: “A sickness at the atrocities of the twentieth century and a wish to do better in the twenty-first. But it did seem to foreshadow a millennial shift, from appeasement to justice, as a dominant factor in diplomatic relations.”

Biting the bullet: the ad hoc tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda


Another innocent victim of the butchery of Sierra Leone where rebels terrorised civilians using mutilation. Some of those responsible are currently being tried under international and national law but the majority remain free.
Credit: Brent Stirton/OCHA

In light of the protracted and brutal Balkan conflict of the early 1990s, the international conscience hoped to use the courts to make up for what they failed to do on the ground. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established while the conflict still raged. It seemed the world was finally biting the bullet of international justice, with sufficient political will and some force to implement it.

Based in The Hague, the tribunal functions as an ad hoc court and, following the legacy of Nuremberg, makes individuals responsible for violations of the laws or customs of war, genocide and crimes against humanity. It can only try individuals, not organisations or governments, and the maximum sentence it can impose is life imprisonment. Created in 1993, it issued its last indictment in March 2004. It aims to complete all trials by 2008 and all appeals by 2010.

As of 16 March 2006, the ICTY had indicted 161 people. Only six of these remained “at large”. The cases against 85 of the indicted had been concluded: 46 were found guilty; eight acquitted; 25 had their indictments withdrawn; and six died (four in custody and three while their cases were being heard). Four cases had been sent to national courts in Serbia or Croatia, for trial. Seventeen of those convicted had completed their sentences and had been released by May 2006.

Those indicted ranged from soldiers to generals and police commanders, as well as prime ministers. Slobodan Milosevic was the first sitting head of state indicted for war crimes; he died while still being tried in March 2006. Other “high level” indictees included Milan Babic, Croatian Serb prime minister of Republika Srpska Krajina; Ramush Haradinaj, Albanian prime minister of Kosovo; Radovan Karadzic, Montenegrin former President of Republika Srpska; and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb army commander.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania, is another ad hoc international court operating under the auspices of the United Nations. Cases there relate to offences committed in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The tribunal was created in November of the same year and has jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – which are defined as violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (dealing with war crimes committed during internal conflicts).

To date, the Tribunal has convicted sixteen people, with a further eight appealing convictions; another twenty-seven people are still on trial and 15 are awaiting trial in detention; 18 remain at large.

The first trial, of Jean-Paul Akayesu, began in 1997. Jean Kambanda, the interim prime minister, pleaded guilty and was convicted of genocide. This gave the court early credibility that what happened between April and June 1994 was in fact genocide, and not just civil warfare as many of the defendants claimed. As with the ICTY, all trials will be completed by the end of 2008, and appeals will continue up to 2010.

Handing over the tribunal’s torch

Realising that both the ICTY and ICTR would not have completed all their cases by 2010, and recognising the need to pursue justice in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, plans have been made to ‘hand over the torch.’

In January 2003, the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (OHR), and the ICTY, issued a set of joint conclusions recommending the creation of a War Crimes Chamber Project (WCCP). This project would consist of a specialised chamber for war crimes within the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and a corresponding special department for war crimes within the Prosecutors Office of BiH. These were established in January 2005, and comprise international and national judges, and prosecutors.



“the greatest recent single act of progress for justice, human rights and the rule of law”

Kofi Annan on the setting up of the International Criminal Court

Already the WCCP is taking shape with the transferral of war crimes cases to the appropriate national governments within the states of the former Yugoslavia. In September of 2005, Radovan Stankovic was transferred from the ICTY to the custody of the Court of BiH. In November 2005, Gojko Jankovic was transferred. Future transfers are expected.

On 3 February 2006, the WCCP began hearing its first genocide case starting with the trial of 11 members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska, indicted for genocide and complicity to genocide in the Srebrenica massacre.

The future of the ICTR is still the subject to international debate while Rwanda still has the death penalty. The ICTR is also unsure that indictees would get a fair trial in Kigali. Rwanda on the other hand, has expressed a willingness to take over outstanding cases, and is keen to do so. The UN and court officials continue to explore options, including Tanzania taking over the court. However, one thing is certain: the trials must go on.

Netting the big fish

Another important court illustrating recent progress towards international justice – though considered a hybrid – is the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It is an independent judicial body set up to “try those who bear greatest responsibility” – the so-called “big fish” – for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the country’s civil war. The court is located in Freetown.


Some months after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 a former political prisoner demonstrates how he was tortured by the Shah’s secret police on this specially made chair named “Apollo”. Human rights abuses continued in Iran despite the over throw of the Shah. Their current record is judged to be one of the worst in the world.
Credit: Manoocher/IRIN

This court was set up     following a direct request to United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in June 2000, from the then president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. By August that year, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1315, requesting the Secretary-General to start negotiations with the Sierra Leonean government to create a Special Court. By 2002 the court was operational.

To date, the court has indicted 11 people for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian law. Of the 11, 10 are in the custody of the Special Court – including the recently arrested former Liberian President, Charles Taylor. Only the deposition of Johnny Paul Koroma remains uncertain. Koroma was widely reported to have been killed in June 2003, but, as definitive evidence of his death was never provided, his indictment has not been dropped.

Those found guilty face a prison sentence or may have their property confiscated. Like the ITCY and ITCR, the Special Court does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Apart from the Special Court, there are currently three other active hybrid jurisdictions, incorporating both international and national features. These are the Serious Crimes Panels in the District Court of Dili (East Timor); the “Regulation 64” Panels in the courts of Kosovo; and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, currently being established in Phnom Penh to try the remnants of the Pol Pot regime.

According to Cesare Romano: “ These internationalised criminal bodies are an expression of the international community’s concerns but, at the same time, they are part of the reconstruction enterprise of a new judicial system in countries where the entire administration had been destroyed by civil wars (Kosovo, East Timor), or they facilitate acceptance of accountability to justice of former national rulers (Cambodia and, in some respects, Sierra Leone), in view of a purely national process of reconciliation.” Romano echoes other observers who consider that all these hybrid courts, “bear witness to the will of the international community to have its own peremptory norms respected but, at the same time, they generally answer a national need and, at least to some extent, fulfill national purposes.”

A more detailed description of the global varieties of hybrid courts, and truth and reconciliation mechanisms, is available in another IRIN report.

The ICC: the perpetrators’ nemesis?

The three courts of the ICTY, ICTR and the Special Court of Sierra Leone, have come under considerable criticism ranging from questions concerning the courts’ legality and their impartiality, to their competence. Despite this and the modest number of convictions handed down by these tribunals, it is considered that the momentum produced by the creation of ICTY, and ICTR in particular, has opened the way for the establishment of the ICC.

This train has been slow coming; the idea of an international criminal court or penal tribunal was proposed as early as 1937 by the League of Nations. In the late 1940s and early 1950s the International Law Commission produced some draft statutes for the idea, but it was the 1990s that saw a serious resurgence of the idea that is now, as the ICC, the embodiment of Nuremburg justice – where war criminals and those with command responsibility are indicted and punishing as individuals.

Finally, the main perpetrators of terror and violence have their nemesis. A system and a court has been specifically created to deal with the individuals who wreak havoc, holding them dividually responsible. However, with more than 100 countries refusing to sign or ratify the Rome Statute to date, there remain many places for indictees to hide.

The ICC was established in 2002 as a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as defined by several international agreements, most prominently the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998 (the “Statute”).

Almost all states participating at the Rome adoption conference voted in favour of the Statute; only the United States, Israel, the People’s Republic of China, Iraq, Qatar, Libya and Yemen voted against. Israel went on to sign the Statute just before it was closed for signatures, but later nullified its signature. The United States under Bill Clinton signed the treaty, but never submitted it for ratification. When George W. Bush took office shortly afterwards, he nullified the signature amid generalised congressional consensus.

The Statute became a binding treaty after it received its 60th ratification, which was deposited at a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters on 11 April 2002. The ICC legally came into existence on 1 July 2002, and can only prosecute crimes that occurred after this date. It is regarded as a major development by activists working towards ending impunity and internationalising justice. However, to date, less than half the world’s nations have signed or ratified the treaty, and it has fierce opponents.

The ICC is designed to complement existing national judicial systems, however, it can can exercise its jurisdiction if national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. It is what is known as a “court of last resort,” leaving the primary responsibility to exercise jurisdiction over alleged criminals to individual states.

The Chief Prosecutor of the court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has decided to open investigations in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan in the last two years. He declined a recent request to investigate the invasion of Iraq and remains undecided whether to open investigations in the Central African Republic following a request from its government in January 2005. Both Uganda and the DRC requested ICC investigations, while the case of Sudan and the atrocities carried out in Darfur was referred to the court by the UN Security Council in March 2005.

The capacity of the ICC to investigate and prosecute will be limited, which will inevitably result in numbers actually indicted and convicted at the ICC being even fewer than those of the ad hoc tribunals. Ocampo is realistic concerning the issue of the “big fish” versus the “small fish” dilemma, and told IRIN: “It is only my job to do one or two cases, to make my contribution and then leave. The countries themselves continue the work. This doesn’t mean our work is only symbolic. The ICC is just part of the solution not the whole solution. But we have practical issues and have to try to maximise the impact by gathering the leaders. To stop organised crime you have to stop the leaders.”


Women prisoners in Evin prison Theran for being opposed to the Iranian revolution, February 1982. A political prison of sinister reputation, Evin became the symbol of all other prisons of the Khomeini regime. Thousands of people, oppositionists or suspected oppositionists, were tortured or executed without the least form of due process.
Credit: Manoocher/IRIN

Many protagonists for the ICC would argue that the ICC is valuable in and of itself. They argue that a permanent tribunal of this kind should exist for principled reasons alone, despite the limitations it will face and questions of whether it will actually deter future violence. For Power, the deterrent effect remains important albeit unquantifiable. She cites other effects the court may have: “Perhaps its greatest impact will be to expedite the development of domestic legal enforcement tools in countries where atrocities actually happen. Where proud statesmen don’t want to turn over their thugs and want to do it at home for a range of reasons. So the threat of the ICC, the spectre of Louis Moreno Ocampo, might make countries go ahead and prosecute their bad guys themselves.” 

Towards universal jurisdiction?

The developments in the last 100 years towards internationalising justice and ending individual impunity for atrocities have been significant, and show signs of gathering more momentum. Prosecuting perpetrators is a key element of the increasingly active sector known as “transitional justice”, where societies emerging from repressive rule or armed conflict seek to address past abuses through different mechanisms that now include the ICC, as well as the many truth commissions.

Ending immunity for past abuses is not only the interest of the people concerned but is also of global concern, not least because abusive regimes or genocidal events rarely only affect people within the confines of a single territory.

For legal analysts such as Robertson, the politicians have lost the lead, having been taken over by civil society. The “CNN factor” of millions of people being aware of, and appalled by, wrongdoing they see on their screens has led to a growing number of people across the world who will expect nothing less than justice systems capable of ending impunity.

On the eve of the first ICC arrest (Thomas Lubanga in early 2006 from the DRC), investigations Prosecutor Ocampo re-emphasised his personal commitment to the success of universal jurisdiction: “We need to have this idea of world justice. If we have global communication and global business, we also need global justice. Ultimately I am optimistic.” To date, however, the ICC is the only palpable evidence of concrete change.

In 1993, Belgium passed an extraordinary War Crimes Law that embodied universal jurisdiction. They argued that certain crimes pose so serious a threat to the international community, that any single state should be able to prosecute an individual responsible for it. It allowed anyone to bring war crimes charges in Belgian courts, which is exactly what people did, resulting in an explosion of impossible depositions often involving serving world leaders.

By 2003, the scope of the ‘Belgian Law’ was restricted by its own government after considerable criticism from outside Belgium. Was its existence and aspirations emblematic of the current zeitgeist where activists, in some cases states, agree that forms of universal jurisdiction are now required and appropriate? Or was its failure indicative that the world is not yet ready for the inherent degree of loss of sovereignty that such a law expressed?

Historically the willingness of nations to yield some sovereignty to give space to justice represents a huge change. Despite major forces resisting theses changes, Power told IRIN: “A shift has occurred. Is it a sufficient shift? Hardly. Is it the beginning, potentially, of a movement towards accountability and enforcement? I think it is, unquestionably.”

 

End

cmh/jmc source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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“Obama, Darfur, and Genocide”

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2013

“Civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region face wholesale destruction,” The Washington Post, July 28, 2013 (Sunday)

 

After years of obscurity and little reliable international reporting, the vast human catastrophe in Sudan’s Darfur region is once again in the news. It was regularly making headlines before 2008, when genocide in Darfur was already five years old and had claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives from the main African tribal groups, but a lack of sustained mainstream attention has meant that violence has surged effectively under the radar.

Few could have predicted that this remote and obscure region in western Sudan would galvanize American civil society. Then again, how could the loss of attention have been so rapid? …. [full text on-line:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/civilians-in-sudans-darfur-region-face-wholesale-destruction/2013/07/26/04953b82-ed63-11e2-9008-61e94a7ea20d_story.html

 

  • Eric Reeves is a professor at Smith College and has written extensively on Sudan.

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The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties to curb smuggling and human trafficking

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

Smugglers are increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom

HARGEISA,  – The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties for people smuggling and human trafficking to stem irregular migration, particularly by the region’s youths.

“Of course there is an article in Somaliland’s penal code dealing with this issue, but we think it is not deterrent enough. For this reason, the government plans to pass new laws to prevent human smuggling,” Mohamed Osman Dube, Somaliland’s administrative director in the interior ministry, told IRIN.

At present, Article 457 of Somaliland’s penal code identifies the selling and purchasing of humans as slaves as offences punishable by prison terms of 3 to 12 years. Article 466 further provides for a three-year prison term for those found guilty of engaging in physical abuse, according to Mustafe Mahdi, a Somaliland lawyer.

The new laws are aimed at reducing irregular migration from Somaliland to Ethiopia and onwards to Sudan, Libya and Europe. When passed, they are expected to include tougher punishments for smugglers and to provide ways to rehabilitate youth migrants, added Dube.

While solid figures on people smuggling and human trafficking in Somaliland are not available, in late June, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) nominated a ministerial committee to address the problem, expressing concern over growing youth mass migration and related deaths.

According to a recent survey by the community-based Somaliland Youth Ambition Development Group (SYADG), for example, at least 15 Somaliland youths died in May in the Sahara desert, between Libya and Sudan, either from being shot dead by smugglers or due to the harsh conditions. The 15 were part of a group of 325 youths, from which 31 are still missing, with 83 and 80 others in Libyan and Tunisian prisons, respectively, according to SYADG spokesperson Ahmed Jamal.

Targeted

Most of the youths migrating from Somaliland have been from poorer families, but those from better-off families are increasingly risking the perilous journey to Europe.

“When I was looking for my son, I received a phone call from a stranger asking me to speak my son. The stranger told me to pay him US$5,000 in smuggling fees. I said, ‘I will look for the money’, but unfortunately, my son was shot dead,” Mohamed Da’ud, the director of planning in Somaliland’s interior ministry, told IRIN.

“My son is among youths who have been killed by smugglers or [who] died in the Sahara after they tried to run away from smugglers.”

According to Wafa Alamin, a human rights activist based in Khartoum, Sudan, “Illegal immigrants are treated like animals by the smugglers in the Sahara, between Sudan and Libya.”

Smugglers are also increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom.

“The youths are asked about their parents’ properties and jobs. If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom,” explained Abdillahi Hassan Digale, the chairman of the Ubah Social Welfare Organization (USWO).

Abdillahi Omar’s sons are among the smugglers’ victims.

“If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom”

“My two sons graduated from high school in 2011 and had no reason to risk their lives,” said Omar. “I sent one of them to university in Ethiopia, but he saved up the money I used to send him to make the risky journey to Libya. On different occasions in Sudan and Libya he was held hostage by smugglers who demanded a ransom, and I spent $14,500 on him. But he is lucky he reached Europe.”

Omar’s other son, the younger one, is now in Libya. “I don’t know what to do. I sold everything I had. My problem is not only being bankrupt but that I don’t know how to bring him back,” he said.

Way forward

The government, civil society and international organizations have been engaging in public awareness campaigns to sensitize the Somaliland population on the dangers of irregular migration.

But more needs to be done.

“Even though a lot of campaigns have been done, [especially] in the last several weeks, and youth migrants have decreased from 15 per day to eight per day, we believe that there are local smugglers connected to other smugglers based in Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, and we don’t think it will stop soon,” said a Somaliland border immigration official who preferred anonymity.

The high rate of unemployment in Somaliland must be addressed amid an increasing number of university graduates, according to USWO’s Digale. “For this reason, there is a need for interventions by both the government and the local business community, as well as international partners working in Somaliland,” he said.

A past survey by the Somaliland National Youth Organization found about 75 percent of the youths there to be unemployed.

At present, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a regional mixed migration programme covering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland, Somaliland and Yemen. In mixed migration, refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants and even victims of human trafficking use the same routes, means of transport and smuggling networks to reach shared destinations, but with different claims to protection and humanitarian assistance.

“The overall objective of this programme is to strengthen the protection of – and provide emergency assistance to – irregular migrants in Somaliland, Puntland [and] Djibouti, and potential migrants and returnees in Ethiopia, including the assisted voluntary return of the most vulnerable,” said IOM Somalia. Ethiopia is a leading source country of irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa region heading to the Arabian Peninsula.

IOM Somalia is also urging Somaliland to accede to the Palermo protocol, which aims to prevent the smuggling of migrants, promote cooperation among state parties, protect the rights of smuggled migrants, and prevent the worst forms of exploitation, which often characterizes the smuggling process.

On 17 July, Somaliland officials prosecuted 11 people on human smuggling charges. The Gabiley Regional Court “found the 11 men guilty of smuggling youths from Somaliland to Ethiopia en-route to Libya”, said an official with Somaliland’s immigration department. The arrests and prosecutions are the first of their kind in Somailland.

maj/aw/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Norway condemns attack on UN and AU in Sudan

Posted by African Press International on July 20, 2013

Norway condemns the attack against UN peacekeeping forces in Sudan on 13 July. “The attack must be investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

On Saturday 13 July, seven people were killed and 17 injured in an attack on an African UnionUnited Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) patrol. UNAMID has a mandate from the UN Security Council to bring stability to Darfur.

“The attack against UN/AU personnel cannot be tolerated. They have a right to be protected in their work for the hard-pressed civilian population in Darfur,” said Mr Eide.

All seven of the people killed were UN military personnel from Tanzania. Among the injured were two female police advisers, also from Tanzania.

Saturday’s attack was the most serious since the UN and the AU took on joint peacekeeping responsibility in the conflict-torn region of Darfur in Sudan in 2008. Approximately 40 UNAMID personnel have been killed in Darfur since 2008. It is not yet clear who was behind the attack. Norway has previously participated in UNAMID, but no Norwegian personnel have taken part in the mission for the last couple of years.

 

End

 

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Human rights groups insist that peace without justice is unsustainable and are urging Nigeria not to implement a blanket amnesty.

Posted by African Press International on July 16, 2013

DAKAR,  – As Nigeria attempts a ceasefire with militan t Islamist group Boko Haram (BH), analysts warn against a blanket amnesty and urge that an expanded International Criminal Court (ICC) probe include alleged abuses by the military.

The ceasefire is being negotiated by a government panel set up to develop an amnesty for BH, but details as to when the truce will be signed, whether all the BH factions have agreed to it, or if the amnesty has played a role in the planned ceasefire, remain sketchy.

Human rights groups insist that peace without justice is unsustainable and are urging Nigeria not to implement a blanket amnesty.

“War crimes, crimes against humanity, torture should not be subject to an amnesty. That is part of international law and part of ensuring a durable peace,” Elise Keppler, senior counsel in the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IRIN. “There could be an amnesty for taking up arms or committing lesser abuses, but the key is that it doesn’t extend to the gravest crimes.”

Nigeria has forgiven rebels in the past – most notably in the Niger Delta where militants who surrendered arms were pardoned.

Last year the ICC, which opened preliminary investigations into the BH unrest in 2010, found that there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that the militia had committed crimes against humanity, citing widespread and systematic attacks that killed more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians in Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe and Kano states in the north as well as Abuja, Kaduna and Plateau states in central Nigeria.

BH is accused of killing thousands across northern Nigeria since 2009. Militants have attacked churches, murdered civilians and carried out suicide bombings against security forces, newspapers, a UN office, markets and schools.

ICC urged to widen its scope

Analysts have urged the ICC to widen its scope to include the Nigerian security forces, which HRW and others accuse of killings, burning homes and ransacking towns including Baga, a remote community in the northeastern state of Borno.

“At the moment the ICC investigation is great for the Nigerian government as it’s just about BH,” said Kevin Jon Heller, associate professor and reader at Melbourne Law School.

“But the court is going to be essentially useless if it becomes the ICC for rebels. The biggest challenge for the court is how to investigate government officials and military officials that are associated with government when that government is still in power. I don’t think they have a very easy solution for that.”

Claus Molitor, a situation analyst with the Office of the Prosecutor, pointed out that the court has previously targeted top government officials including Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

“We follow the facts and we follow the law,” he said. “We base our decision on the legal requirements of the Rome Statute. It has nothing to do with policy. It has nothing to do with preferring rebels over government forces.”

“There is a reasonable basis to believe that BH did launch a systematic and widespread attack on civilians, but we can’t say the same for the state forces,” he added. “We’re not closing the door on anything at this stage. Should there be new information we will assess that.”

Mixed messages

Atta Barkindo, an expert on BH and researcher in political Islam, conflict and transitional justice in post-conflict societies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, however, believes that an amnesty could end the “continuous bloodletting and killing” and is important for reconciliation.

But he thinks the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has sent the rebels mixed messages. In April it offered an amnesty, then a month later declared emergency rule in the northern states and launched an air and ground campaign against BH.

“It’s like a war zone,” said Barkindo, who recently travelled to the region. “Soldiers are all over the place. There are checkpoints every 45 minutes and a curfew.”

Recent violence suggests that the military crackdown may not be working.

An attack in early July on a school in northeastern state of Yobe, one of the three under emergency rule, killed dozens of students. Some were reportedly burned alive and others shot. It is not yet clear who is responsible for the attack, but BH has previously targeted schools in the region.

SOAS researcher in conflict and identity in northern Nigeria Bala Mohammed Liman says determining exactly which crimes BH may have committed is difficult as its members are hard to identify.

“They are a shadowy group and apart from (leader) Abubakar Shekau no one is sure who the other members are,” he said. “Every act of criminality in the north is attached to BH, and the security forces are so inept that they haven’t been able to figure out who committed some of these crimes. So in the end everything that happens is said to be BH.”

ICC assessing judiciary

The ICC is now assessing whether the Nigerian government is investigating and prosecuting those who committed the most serious crimes. Under ICC rules, it can only intervene when the domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute.

Four members of BH were recently sentenced to life imprisonment for the bombings of an electoral commission office and a church.

ICC’s Molitor said that as part of its preliminary examination the court is monitoring the national proceedings. This includes speaking to people who monitor BH trials to determine fairness and whether the rights of the defendants are being respected.

“We haven’t come to any conclusions as yet,” he said, adding that Nigeria is cooperating with the ICC and that a team from the prosecutor’s office may visit this year to follow up on previous missions to Abuja.

Nigeria capable of prosecuting BH crimes, say some

Melbourne Law School’s Heller, however, said Nigeria was capable of prosecuting alleged BH crimes.

“Nothing is preventing Nigeria from prosecuting members of BH other than their inability to get their hands on them,” he said. “Nigeria has a functioning judicial system and has every interest in capturing and prosecuting high-level members of BH so why should the ICC waste its precious resources on prosecutions that the government is perfectly willing to do?”

SOAS’s Barkindo believes that Nigeria should take the lead on BH prosecutions to end the culture of impunity. “Nigeria needs to prove to its citizens that you cannot do these things and go free,” he said.

He also argued that neither amnesties nor prosecutions will work if the government does not address the fundamental problems in the north that give rise to militancy.

“If you don’t deal with these structural problems you will leave it open to another group coming up,” said Barkindo. “The government must address the issues of poverty, unemployment and particularly the issue of education. A lot of young people remain illiterate in northern Nigeria compared to the south.”

lc/ob/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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