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Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

Determining Migrant Health Needs

Posted by African Press International on December 3, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IOM South Sudan released the findings of its recent Migrant Health Assessment last week, providing health partners in the country with an up-to-date overview of the health challenges encountered by migrants.

Funded by the IOM Partnership on Health and Mobility in East and Southern Africa (PHAMESA), the assessment is the first of its kind in South Sudan. The assessment identifies the key health vulnerabilities and needs faced by migrants, and provides reliable evidence for future collaboration between the government, partner organizations and IOM to address these needs.

“Addressing the health and wellbeing of migrants is key to ensuring that migration contributes to sustainable development,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission David Derthick. “It is our hope that this assessment will provide a basis for an informed discussion on the health of migrants in the country.”

The assessment identified three key spaces of vulnerability – transport corridors, transit sites, and urban settings. One hundred and eighteen in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and key informant discussions were carried out with migrant workers and migrant female sex workers as well as truck drivers and their mechanics, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and returnees. Information was gathered on these populations’ self-reported health concerns and the barriers and enabling factors they face in accessing health care services.

Sharing land borders with six countries and having absorbed over two million returnees since 2005, South Sudan is a country largely characterized by migration. Despite the important economical and developmental contributions made by migrants, they face risks and challenges in terms of access to health services and exposure to unsafe traveling, working or living conditions.

While migrants often start their journey healthy, the conditions of the migration process may make a migrant more vulnerable to ill health. These conditions include individual, environmental and societal drivers of health vulnerabilities, such as poverty, discrimination, language and cultural differences, separation from family and legal status.

Describing the difficulties migrants can face in accessing health services, a migrant female sex worker from Uganda told IOM, “Some people go to the hospital but there is discrimination there. One woman went to the hospital, and even though she was very sick and had been waiting first, she kept getting passed over in the line. Sometimes people even pretend they don’t understand you when you go to the clinic.”

The assessment report outlines 21 recommendations for partners and key stakeholders including the Government of South Sudan and UN organizations. Among these recommendations is the promotion of migrant-sensitive health systems, improved monitoring of migrant health and advocacy for migrant-sensitive policy development.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Wounded soldiers treated at Gisenyi hospital

Posted by African Press International on November 10, 2013

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

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

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

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

 

SOURCE

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

 

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Kampala Talks and the Situation in the Great Lakes Region

Posted by African Press International on November 9, 2013

WASHINGTON, November 7, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ Special Briefing

Russell D. Feingold, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Via Teleconference

Washington, DC

November 6, 2013

MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. We’re pleased today to have Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Russ Feingold, who will brief us on the Kampala talks and the situation in the Great Lakes region. Just a reminder that this is an on-the-record briefing. Special Envoy Feingold will open with a few introductory remarks, and after that point we’ll be ready for your questions and answers. With that, Special Envoy Feingold, if you’ll start us off.

MR. FEINGOLD: Good morning, everybody, and thank you for your interest and your participation. I’ll just make a few comments and then, of course, will be happy to answer any questions.

I started this position in July, but I’ve been trying to follow events in this region throughout my career in the Senate, where I was either a member or chairman or ranking member of the Africa subcommittee in the Senate. So when Secretary Kerry contacted me and asked me to take this position, I already realized that this was one of the most serious crises in the world, as you – many of you already know. Some five to six million people have died in the course of 20 years of this conflict. There is unspeakable violence, sexual violence against women and children, children being conscripted into the military, and there continues to be something like dozens of – as many as 40 to 45, perhaps – armed illegal groups in eastern Congo.

So it’s one of the greatest crises in the world, but it’s easy for people to confuse what’s really happening in terms of the attempt to try to turn this around. There are really two different processes that are in place and they are unconnected to each other formally, but are related to each other. One is the framework agreement, which is the agreement that was signed in Addis Ababa by 11 nations from the region, including the critical ones – DRC – the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda. But these agreements were signed also under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations. And that is where the significant international involvement in trying to resolve this problem under the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation really started in its most recent phase last – and that’s just this past February. So that’s one part of the process, and in my view, and I think the view of the international community and the envoys, that’s the most important avenue for trying to resolve the fundamental problems. So that’s one of the processes.

The other one, though, is what you’ve been hearing about in the last few days that has a significant relationship to this, and that’s the so-called Kampala talks. Before the framework, last year in December, after the M23 rebel group had taken over Goma and had further roiled the situation in eastern Congo, independently of the United Nations, President Museveni, the President of Uganda, tried to broker talks between the M23 and President Kabila and Democratic Republic of Congo. These, sponsored by the so-called ICGLR, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, are what are known as the Kampala talks being held in Kampala, Uganda.

These have sort of sputtered over the last few months. They were only supposed to take a couple weeks, and contemplated that the result would be the elimination of this one group, the M23, that that would somehow be negotiated. This really sputtered until late July, late August, when fighting broke out and the group of special envoys that had been appointed to take on this issue – Mary Robinson of the UN, myself, a representative of the European Union, a representative of the African Union, and Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General – when all of us decided that it was urgent to stop the fighting, to go to Kampala and try to re-stimulate the process. So we made a first trip there and there were negotiations going on at the time that we observed and tried to support. They were going to take care of getting rid of the M23 and making arrangements for that within 14 days in September, but that didn’t happen.

And so we went back for another round just two, three weeks ago. And I was personally involved in five different evenings of negotiations that greatly narrowed the difference between the Democratic Republic of Congo and then – and the M23. Much of the question was resolved at that point, but there didn’t seem the will on the part of the M23 to actually sign. That led to a final round of negotiations this past weekend that also went late in the night in Kampala, and the result of that is what you’ve been reading about, that after all these negotiations, it was agreed that a first step to resolve the M23 issue was the M23 would announce that it is disbanding, that it is renouncing its rebellion. They have made that statement. The second is that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would say they would stop military action against the M23. Those two steps have essentially happened.

The third step, though, has to occur yet, and that is the actual signing of an agreement or engagement that has been worked out in great detail. It’s not like this has to be negotiated; it’s already negotiated. It’s ready to be signed. And I and the other special envoys are standing by, ready to return to Kampala for that sort of a ceremony or meeting as early as tomorrow or early next week. Again, though, this would only resolve one aspect of the issue, the very serious problem of the M23. It does not deal with the root cause – all the other root causes of the problem, does not deal with the so-called FDLR and the ADF and other armed groups and all the issues about what the Democratic Republic of the Congo has to do in order to reform itself. That is part of the broader framework. But we believe this signing would not only solve this one problem; it would lead and give momentum to the broader effort where, we hope, through a broader mediated dialogue, the actual countries involved would be at the table. Not the M23, per se, or that kind of a group, but the people and the entities at the table would be Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and perhaps other countries from the region.

So I hope I didn’t get too deep into the weeds with that, but the distinction between the Kampala talks and the framework is important for understanding exactly what’s going on here.

Okay. Happy to take questions.

MODERATOR: Hi, Cynthia. If you could just again read the instructions to our callers for how they would ask a question, and then we’ll stand by for a moment for those first ones to come in.

OPERATOR: Certainly, and once again, for any questions or comments, press * and then 1. That’s * and then 1 for your questions or comments. And one moment, please, while we order the queue.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Cynthia. I think we can start with our first question in queue, Michele Kelemen from NPR.

QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Thanks for doing this. I’m wondering if you can – can you hear me?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yes, I can.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay, sorry. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about the role of this more assertive UN force in Congo and how much that is working and whether or not that can be translated to other conflicts as you look across the continent.

MR. FEINGOLD: That’s a very important question and important part of this.

First of all, the effort of the intervention brigade, which is a part of the MONUSCO UN operation force, is one of a series of major signs that the international community is giving unprecedented – I like to call it sustained attention to this problem. So it should be looked at not only in terms of strengthening the abilities and the capacity and the mandate of MONUSCO, but also it is combined with this framework under the auspices of the United Nations, the special envoys being appointed, the fact that the World Bank pledged over $1 billion if this process can be successful.

All of this occurred, and then in addition to that, this intervention brigade was given the ability to take offensive action to disarm and demobilize these armed groups, and as I indicated, the estimates vary, but there are certainly dozens of these groups. Most people believe this is an exceptional approach, some would say unprecedented, but in any event, it’s a very strong approach that stands in great contrast to, frankly, often criticized role of the UN forces in this region in the past which did not have this capacity.

So how does it work? Well, the IB, and in fact, the MONUSCO itself stand in support of the efforts of the federal army of the Congo. So this does not lead – they do not lead and take the – make the decisions unilaterally to decide who to go after or when, but they do provide coordination. Sometimes it’s more in the form of a backup such as making sure that civilians are protected. In some cases, it’s direct action. This occurred both at the end of July – excuse me, at the end of August – and also just recently, where in some cases, the FARDC was in the lead, in some cases it was in cooperation, and sometimes this intervention brigade or MONUSCO itself, with the intervention brigade as a part of it, do this.

So it’s a creative mechanism. I think your question really goes to the central issue, as not only is this very important for the confidence of the Congolese military and going after these illegal groups, but this may have long-term consequences for what people believe could happen if United Nations peacekeeping forces were given a stronger capacity to deal with violence and threats to civilians. This has exciting potential and the initial signs are that this is a very successful operation under the leadership of Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, and General dos Santos Cruz, who is a commander who had good, strong experience in Haiti. And I met with him and seeing that they are – these two are an exceptionally strong combination for this effort which certainly will be pointed to, whether for good or bad, as to whether this kind of an operation can work. The initial signs are that it is successful, so far is a good concept, and is working well, at least in this context.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Just a reminder to our callers, to ask a question, you dial *1. Again, *1 to ask a question. Cynthia, I believe our next caller is Deb Riechmann from AP, if you can open her line. Thank you.

OPERATOR: And Deb, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, I have several questions. Do you have any information about the whereabouts of some of the M23 leaders who are wanted for serious abuses? Any information on that that you could offer? And is there any details about how they will go – they will now go about disarming the rebels? And how can you ensure that the M23 won’t disappear across the border, regroup, and reemerge?

MR. FEINGOLD: I do not at this point have specific information about where some of the top leaders of M23 might be at this point. What I have seen is press speculation. I expect to get some more information in the near future, but that is something that is not clear at all.

In terms of how the process will work – disbanding the M23 and demobilizing them, disarming them – the agreement that is yet to be signed has very specific provisions that provide for the sequencing of how the group will be disarmed; where, for example, they would be in a cantonment zone, which is important because they need to be protected from other armed groups. To disarm them and not provide them protection would be obviously unreasonable and not something they would sign on to. So there is a very carefully worked out sequence of steps.

It also raises the question of groups of those who cannot get amnesty. You were sort of referring to some of those individuals. There is also an important step that has to be taken, which is the passing of a national amnesty law by the Congolese Government. That amnesty law will not provide amnesty for war crimes or crimes against humanity for people who have committed those crimes. It will only – if this agreement goes through the way I hope it will and believe it will – it will only provide amnesty for the – sort of the rank-and-file members of M23 for purposes of having been part of a rebellion. In other words, they’re forgiven for having started or been involved in a rebellion as long as they pledge individually to not rebel again. And if they do rebel again or participate in rebellion, they lose their amnesty, but no amnesty for the type of people who have committed crimes against humanity and international crime.

So that’s a major distinction between this and the 2009 agreement, actually the March 23 – M23 agreement in 2009 that did give that kind of amnesty to people who committed major crimes. In fact, they allowed them to come back into the Congolese military. That is not happening in this case if this agreement goes through the way I believe it will go through, and certainly, the international community and the United States would not support such an agreement. I also believe that the Congolese Government would never sign such an agreement this time.

So there has to be accountability. There’s no impunity in this this time.

QUESTION: So there will be some accountability for crimes committed, then?

MR. FEINGOLD: There has to be. And in fact, the United States –

QUESTION: But not rank-and-file guys. How do they determine who is held – which ones are held accountable? Does it depend on what they –

MR. FEINGOLD: They have a very good sense –

QUESTION: — or – depending on what the crime was, or depending on who they were?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yeah. Sure. Well, of course, it’s based on evidence that they committed war crimes –

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. FEINGOLD: — whether it be crimes of rape or crimes of conscripting child soldiers or any of the sort of acts – there’s plenty of information out there, and the ability to indict individuals, some of whom have already been indicted by Congolese justice system. There’s plenty of information to identify, and we have a very good sense of the people who would be subject to that kind of a process.

So, yes, there has to be accountability. The accountability would be most likely through the Congolese justice system, and that is going to need some help. One of the ideas that is out there that the United States believes is a good idea, and the international community, is a piece of legislation that is currently pending before the Congolese parliament for what’s called mixed courts. Mixed courts provide – it’s a model that’s been used, I believe, in other places, where a court is composed of some Congolese judges but also international judges with experience in these sorts of things, probably from other African countries, so to sort of upgrade and improve the quality of the process so there can be appropriate indictments and prosecution and punishment. This will be one of our very top priorities, for the special envoys and for the Congolese Government, so that this has a very different face than what happened with – on the previous two occasions, where this – an agreement was made but it essentially just set up a system where this would happen again. The goal here is to make sure this can’t happen again.

QUESTION: Okay.

MODERATOR: Cynthia, I believe our next caller in line is Arshad Mohammed from Reuters. Can you please open Arshad’s line?

OPERATOR: And Arshad, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing the call. Two things: Can you explain to us how you hope the Kampala Declaration, once it is signed, may help pave the way to addressing some of the root causes of the conflict in eastern Congo, and notably, how it might over time help address questions such as the return of Tutsi refugees from Rwanda? And secondly – and guarantees of land for Tutsi pastoralists in eastern Congo.

MR. FEINGOLD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And then, secondly, do you anticipate any change in the U.S. position on defense assistance to Rwanda in the light of the current situation on the ground?

MR. FEINGOLD: Your question goes right to the heart of this matter and what I started the conversation about, the distinction between the Kampala talks and the broader talks – hopefully, mediated talks – that need to happen under the framework agreement. The Kampala talks preceded and were not directly related to the framework, but it was our judgment as special envoys that it would be extremely important to resolve the M23 issue to get on to those root causes. In other words, if it was still actively, with its military capacity at the time, causing war in eastern Congo, it would be extremely hard to get the parties to sit down and talk about the broader context. So that’s why we put so much focus on trying to get what we hope is the resolution, conclusion of the talks, and the disbandment of the M23. But it is only a series of talks that have to do with M23 and its rebellion. It does not go to the root cause of the problem.

So how do we get to the next step? The next step is to get the parties in the region, hopefully with the help of the African Union and others, to agree on actual talks and an agenda for talks – mediated talks, I would hope – under African leadership, where the items on that agenda are not just the M23 but are things exactly what you just described. How can refugees be returned? And that’s just not a problem of how do you – where do you return them to. The question is, have you resolved and given protection for ethnic tensions, Rwandaphone populations that live in eastern Congo, land tenure issues, and others? In so doing, you have to be careful to not get into matters that are purely or largely matters within the context of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There needs to be some sensitivity to those issues that are properly within the sphere of that government and our work with them, and then some issues are international and some are regional. The framework agreement contemplates that because it has benchmarks, separate benchmarks, for international, regional, and national progress in these areas.

My belief is the only way you get those benchmarks enforced and integrated with each other is by having actual talks where countries like Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo are represented at the table, and probably other countries in the region who have an interest in this matter, because as the summit in Pretoria that I just returned from illustrates, the entire continent, particularly the SADC region and the ICGLR region, are extremely concerned about this instability in Congo and see it as threatening the entire continent, not just the specific Great Lakes region.

The other – only other point I would make is that, in the somewhat narrower context of being able to deal with other armed groups in the area, the successful disbandment of the M23 clearly opens the door for the absolute necessity to go after groups like the FDLR, which, of course, is associated with the Rwandan genocide in the past, and the ADF, which is a group that has been antagonistic to the Ugandan Government over the years and is largely operating in eastern Congo, as well as other groups. So Kampala is a jumping off point to get more serious about those other armed groups, but also fundamentally to have a series of negotiations that actually get at some of the issues that have led to this extremely complicated situation in eastern Congo.

QUESTION: How – as I understand it, there are no such additional negotiations scheduled. How quickly do you think that may happen, and what are the impediments to that happening once the M23 issue is substantially resolved, if it is?

MR. FEINGOLD: It will require the political will of the countries in the region. These countries have all signed the framework agreement in which they pledged no support for these armed groups, in which they agreed that issues about reform within the Democratic Republic of Congo and issues about the return of refugees and all – and as well as positive opportunities in terms of economic development. There’s already this piece of paper that talks about that and benchmarks. But in the end, there’s no requirement in any of that, that this be a face-to-face process where there’s a mediator who actually encourages them to come to serious agreements that can be enforced and watched over time. That is something that all of us have been working on. I have discussed this myself with President Kagame, President Kabila, Mrs. Zuma, the head of the African Union, and there’s a healthy conversation going on about whether such talks could occur, what they would look like, who might be involved in those talks.

But in the end, if the African leaders do not want such talks, they won’t happen. There’s nothing in the framework itself that mandates that that particular process occurs. It’s my belief as a special envoy that, without that, this is not likely to be a successful effort at getting at the root causes. They’re too complex to simply do by sort of a shuttle diplomacy approach.

QUESTION: Lastly, can you comment on the U.S. posture on military assistance to Rwanda?

MR. FEINGOLD: Yes. The United States has chosen this year to be firm with regard to our concern that there is a credible body of reporting that Rwanda has given support to the M23, at least in the past. Rwanda is a friend and an ally, and we have a lot of admiration for what they’ve accomplished; but any such support for the M23, of course, is inconsistent with our views, with international law, and in particular, Rwanda’s own position as a signatory to the framework.

So we have been candid with our friend. We have, in some cases, put sanctions because of a concern – concerns about, for example, the support – the recruitment or assistance in terms of children soldiers for the M23 and involvement of Rwanda in that. If it turns out that Rwanda is no longer involved in such activities, if it turns out that their role here has been a positive one and there is much that they have done during this process to be positive, with President Kagame issuing a statement that he wanted these talks concluded – if that bears out that there is a different approach here than the one we have believed is happening, then we would certainly review whether it’s appropriate to continue these sanctions. They are based specifically on certain actions that we believe occurred, and if those actions cease, there would certainly be a serious review of whether it’s appropriate to continue.

QUESTION: And do you believe that they have ceased?

MR. FEINGOLD: We don’t know for sure. This is just like the questions about where some of these individuals might be. That is still up in the air. And I think it’s going to be a fact-based investigation with the sincere hope that we find out that that support has terminated, and certainly with an open mind in that regard.

MODERATOR: I think we have time for a couple more questions here. Next in line we have Nicolas Revise from AFP. Cynthia, can you open up his line?

OPERATOR: And Nicolas, your line is open.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Thank you for doing that. A follow-up on Arshad’s question: Is it correct to say that the surrender of M23 is partly due to huge U.S. pressures put on Rwanda to cut off ties with M23 rebellion, and especially thanks to very recent phone call between the Secretary Kerry and President Kagame? Thank you.

MR. FEINGOLD: I would say, first of all, that the United States has taken a much more involved role in this entire region, that that has included efforts to try to bring the Kampala talks to a successful conclusion. And a part of that has been Secretary Kerry’s willingness to call not once but more than once to suggest to all the leaders in the region that this process must conclude.

In addition, the United States has shown tremendous interest in this by allowing me to work full-time as the first full-blown special envoy, and I have traveled to the region now three times since early September to work with the other special envoys. This is a level of engagement that is probably unprecedented for the United States. So it clearly – the decision by President Obama and Secretary Kerry to make this one of their leading priorities in Africa, and frankly, one of the leading priorities in their national policy, is really significant. And when Secretary Kerry – in addition to his phone call, when Secretary Kerry had an opportunity to chair the United Nations Security Council for the first time in his tenure as Secretary of State, he could have chosen a lot of topics to discuss, to make the topic. He chose this.

And that was an important moment to signal the very intense American involvement in this, which is continuing on a daily basis. So I am proud to be part of that effort. The leadership shown by this Administration and the engagement, I think is being noticed. In fairness, it is combined, of course, with the rest of the international community. The fact that the United Nations chose Mary Robinson, a distinguished former president of Ireland, to be an envoy, to have the full-time envoy from the European Union, an envoy from the African Union, and Mr. Kobler’s involvement.

These are levels of diplomatic sustained attention combined with the United States efforts that are unprecedented. And what’s really striking is that we are there all the time. It is not as if we have a meeting in New York or we go to Africa every once in a while. The leaders, and particularly the people at the Kampala talks, noticed that we were around even at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning on occasion to observe the proceedings. I believe all of that, including, of course, Secretary Kerry’s phone calls, were helpful in making it clear that we would not go away until this was resolved.

MODERATOR: I believe we have time for that one last question, and the last question here is from Dana Hughes from ABC. Cynthia, can you open up Dana’s line?

OPERATOR: Dana, your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you again for doing this. Just a couple of follow-up questions. One, I was interested in what you were talking about with the accountability and the international sort of justice with Congolese judges and international judges as well. Can you talk a little bit about getting to the heart of the problem of the security sector reform and what role the United States is playing in that? Are – is the United States providing trainers? Are there still military trainers on the ground?

MR. FEINGOLD: Well, first of all, the accountability issue and justice issues is one of the three aspects of security sector reform. Number one, of course, is the military. Number two is police. And number three is the justice system. So I’ve already talked about the way in which perhaps mixed courts legislation could assist in that part of the process.

But there needs to be a greater reform of the military itself. Now, some steps have been taken, and I think the success of the Congolese military is an indication in its recent actions that those steps are helping. For example, they put in new, more effective commanders, they have better logistical actions.

On the other hand, there’s much more that has to be done to modernize the military. In fact, the soldiers are not even paid in an effective way. There needs to be a much better system for making sure that this is a professional army where people are paid, and aren’t encouraged to sort of get their payment by abusing local citizens, which is something that has happened in the past. We have to make sure that this army is one that would no longer take advantage of a military situation to take reprisals against citizens, or take advantage of people in a community just because they happen to be in an area that they’ve successfully taken over during a military operation.

The United States is prepared to assist, through the United Nations and through our own programs, with a wide range of reform measures involving the military. That’s one of the things I’m working with various donor communities about how we might help with something like that. An example might be sort of the online, cell phone type of bank account that’s available. Mobile banking is a way to pay a soldier, rather than having a bag of money go to a commander and being sent that way.

These are innovative ways that we can help with the process, and I think that those kinds of things to modernize the military might be among the things we can do in the near term. True reform of a military like that is going to take many years – five to 10 years. And we need some signs of confidence building to build on the other things that the Congolese military has done to make it clear to people that this military is reforming itself. And so I think those kinds of modernization things would be high on the list. We’re not looking here to provide bricks and mortar for the Congolese military. We’re looking more to modernizing it.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you very much. I want to thank Special Envoy Feingold for his time today in doing this call, and to all of you for your participation.

SOURCE

US Department of State

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Plant diseases are major threats to food security

Posted by African Press International on October 26, 2013

Photo: CABI
A plant health clinic in Machakos, Kenya

MUKONO,  – Using a sharp kitchen knife, “plant doctor” Daniel Lyazi sets to work dissecting a slime-covered cabbage at a farmers’ market in Mukono, central Uganda, where the devastating cassava brown streak disease was first identified in 2004.

“There’s a small caterpillar which is eating the cabbage and according to me it’s a diamond-back moth,” he tells the group of farmers who crowd around his table.

He advises the cabbage grower to switch to a different pesticide and in the next season inter-plant with onions (as an additional repellent to moths), and fills out a form with this prescription before turning to the next “patient”, an under-sized cassava tuber.

“Plant clinics” like this one, free of charge and open to all, were piloted in Mukono from 2006 and in the past year have been scaled out to 45 (out of 112) of Uganda’s local government districts, according to the UK-based Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience (CABI).

Plant doctor is not an official title; the term has been adopted by CABI for the 1,000 agricultural extension workers it has helped to train as part of its Plantwise programme. Since 2010 Plantwise has set up plant clinics in 24 countries, (three in West Africa and nine in East Africa). In August it opened 13 in Zambia.

Plant pests and diseases are major threats to food security and livelihoods in most developing countries. CABI cites research suggesting that worldwide, 40 percent of the value of plants for food is lost to pests and diseases – (15 percent to insects and 13 percent each to weeds and pathogens) – before they can be harvested by farmers.

That research dates from 1994 and did not cover some staple crops, such as cassava, for which the losses to brown streak disease alone have been 30-70 percent in the Great Lakes region, according to the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Crop scientist Eric Boa, who pioneered plant clinics for CABI, says: “The variety of pests and diseases [in eastern and central Africa] is daunting. Clinic data reveal the farmers present problems on over 30 crops, and plant doctors have to consider over 60 different pests and diseases.”

Farmers’ need for advice was evident at Lyazi’s clinic in Mukono. During a three-hour session, consultations were non-stop and 17 farmers were given detailed recommendations, both verbally and on “prescription” sheets.

Asked if they had been benefiting from the clinics, Erifazi Mayanja, the head of a local farmers’ group, said: “Of course. That’s why we have come in great number today, because of the good advice we are getting.’

Plant clinics versus extension workers

The coordinator of the Plantwise programme in Uganda and Zambia, Joseph Mulema, says plant clinics are a far more effective model for getting advice to farmers than the traditional one where extension workers, in theory, visit farms.

“Plant clinics can help so many farmers in a short time,” he says. “In fact, more farmers are seen in a session, if good mobilization is done, than an extension officer can look at in an entire month. Even if the clinic only runs twice a month, with good mobilization you can see hundreds of farmers.”

Data collected by researchers in Uganda suggest that normally a plant clinic session provides written recommendations to about a dozen enquiries on average.

However, enquiries may not result in a written prescription, and evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where extension services are hard to find, suggests plant clinics can attract up to 1,000 people per session.

There is also an “exponential” effect of farmers receiving advice at a clinic, passing on the information to neighbours with the same problem, says Misaki Okotel, Uganda coordinator for the international NGO Self Help Africa, a partner with CABI in the Plantwise programme.

There is wide agreement that extension services in countries like Uganda, which has only a few thousand extension officers – (4,300 in 1997, according to research by Nygard et al) needed a new approach to small farmers.

Plant diseases are major threats to food security

The government has a programme to empower farmers “to demand, pay for and benefit from extension”, but smallholders do not have this capacity, Okotel says.

Government crop protection officer Robert Karyeija suggests an additional reason why the extension services needed help from the Plantwise programme.

“We have thousands of extension workers, but previously farmers would not know where a “plant doctor” was, or whom they could ask for plant health advice,” he explained.

“The extension workers were there, we have agricultural officers in each of Uganda’s 1,100 sub-counties, but the problem [was] they would be general agriculturalists who knew agronomy but didn’t know much about pests and diseases.”

Impact

Little research has been done on the effects of plant clinics. Perhaps the most detailed was a study in Bolivia, summarized in a paper which found clinics “can make large contributions to farmers’ earnings”.

The authors looked at changes in farmers’ incomes in the year after visiting a clinic, minus additional crop protection costs in that year. On the assumption that the difference was down to plant doctors’ advice plus any training, they found the average income gain in one year for those farmers who merely visited plant clinics was US$392, while for those who also had additional training the average gain was $991.

Those figures may overstate the potential income gains for the average farmer (given that visitors to plant clinics may have experienced above average losses to diseases) but they also leave out of account collective benefits from the disease surveillance and wider diffusion of knowledge encouraged by the system.

The authors acknowledge the “survey may lack the statistical certainty of a rigorous impact assessment” since there was no control group, and other factors could have accounted for some of the income gains.

Nevertheless, they conclude that “the clinics have a high positive impact,” one reason being that “the clients come to them, looking for a specific answer; thus they are especially receptive to the advice given.”

The most detailed study of plant clinics in Africa does not attempt to calculate income gains. Instead it looks at the quality of diagnoses and recommendations given by clinics at Mukono and two other locations.

The researchers had only the data on plant doctors’ prescriptions to go by, and were trying to judge its consistency. They assessed 82 percent of the recommendations as “partially effective” but only 10 percent as best practice and 8 percent as ineffective.

The researchers note that soil fertility problems seemed to be neglected by plant doctors and that they seldom mentioned biological remedies.

As for the diagnoses, they could “completely or partially validate” only 44 percent of these. This did not mean that 56 percent of plant doctors’ diagnoses were wrong, but most were ambiguous.

The authors say the results should caution against unrealistic expectations of plant doctors. They point out that very few samples were sent to laboratories, suggesting perhaps that plant doctors prefer not to admit to ignorance.

But given that the extension workers concerned had received only a three-day course from CABI before being labelled “plant doctors” the results can hardly be taken as invalidating the plant clinic initiative, they suggest.

Plantwise reports that so far its doctors have advised 200,000 farmers, and they aim to reach 800,000 in 31 countries by 2014.

In Uganda, Joseph Mulema told IRIN, donors spent about $290,000 on the programme last year, setting up clinics and links with universities. In the process coverage has expanded from 45 clinics in 18 local districts to 115 in 45 districts.

Local government in Uganda is keen to go ahead with plant clinic expansion, says Boa.

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

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“Islamist” attacks in eastern DRC

Posted by African Press International on October 17, 2013

BENI,  – “Eight months ago no one had heard of Al-Shabab,” said Henri Ladyi, a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) expert and director of the Conf lict Resolution Centre (CRC) in Beni, a town and territory in North Kivu Province in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Ladyi is concerned that rumours about the influence of Somalia-based Islamists in Beni, whether true or not, are unravelling gains made by the CRC in recent years. The UN, Congolese and Ugandan authorities have drawn links between the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group operating in the Ruwenzori Mountains just across the DRC border, and Al-Shabab. Civil society leaders in Beni say it was because of such links that ADF activity has seen a resurgence.

In late September, the group killed five people in Beni Territory and kidnapped 36, according to the UN-run Radio Okapi. Witnesses said the rebels went into a health centre where they terrorized patients before tying up and abducting two nurses.

On 25 September, Martin Kobler, head of the UN stabilization mission in DRC (MONUSCO), condemned attacks on health facilities and schools committed by armed groups, including ADF.
He said such acts, a spate of which occurred in July, had “deprived more than 7,000 children of their education and affected the provision of health services for thousands more”.

Also in July, ADF fighters were reported to have ambushed a MONUSCO convoy and held the town of Kamango for two days, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of people.

ADF links with Islamic militants

“It seems [the ADF] are preparing for an attack,” said Kristof Titeca, armed groups expert and senior research fellow at the University of Ghent and Antwerp. He said he believed the ADF was expecting an attack by MONUSCU’s new Intervention Brigade.

The head of MONUSCO in Goma, Ray Torres, recently told Voice of America that the ADF was “establishing and strengthening its position in the north of the country. And it seems lately… they may be planning operations against FARDC [the Congolese army],” he said, describing the ADF as “very strongly ideologically based. It is an extremist Islamist group that is developing a network of businesses that indicates to us that they are planning to stay.”

Ugandan authorities have repeatedly said ADF has links with Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda.
“Uganda and others, for geostrategic reasons, often emphasize and exaggerate [Al Shabab’s] threat. This does not mean that ADF has no links with Al Shabab – these are there, but minimal, and sporadic,” said Titeca.

Other analysts have cautioned against portraying the ADF solely in terms of its Ugandan Islamist component, noting that this ignores the fact that much of the group’s members are Congolese, and motivated by local grievances.

Christian-Muslim tensions

Nevertheless, the suggested influence of foreign militant Islamists in these remote border regions is creating tensions. “The Muslim community are angry because they are the victims of this,” said Ladyi.

He reports that Muslims have come under intense scrutiny and police have carried out a number of indiscriminate arrests. “The civil society accused the Muslim community in Beni of recruiting Muslims and sending them to Somalia to be trained.” Ladyi said Muslim leaders were also criticized for allowing ADF-Nalu leaders into the mosque to pray.

Public perception in Beni has become polarized. Opinion about Al-Shabab’s engagement is regularly swung by the pronouncements of government officials from both sides of the border as well as the UN. Meanwhile, conjecture and circumstantial evidence informs the bulk of the local debate. Leaders agree on one thing: there is currently no hard proof, and speculation is damaging.

“There were never any ethnic tensions between Christians and Muslims before,” said Jean-Paul Paluku, a leading civil society activist in Beni and coordinator of a human rights group.
This year, he said, there has been massive population displacement and widespread insecurity including kidnap, sexual violation and armed robberies.

Paluku said some of these crimes may have been committed by Mai-Mai militia who had pretended to be Muslim in a bid to place the blame on the ADF

Mussa Anguandia, the leader of the Muslim Community in Beni, estimates that there are roughly 35,000 Muslims in the territory, whose population was estimated at around 900,000 in 2004.

He is adamant that the armed groups operating in Beni are not true Muslims. When Kamanga was attacked during Ramadan, armed men wearing ankle-length tunics and prayer caps stole sachets of alcohol from the shops. “This isn’t a problem of Islam, it’s a problem of political manoeuvring,” he said. Anguandia has attempted to counter negative perceptions by discussing the tenets of Islam on local radio and taking a pro-active approach to engaging local security services. He meets regularly with military and police chiefs to discuss measures to address negative attitudes.

Anguandia fears the racial discrimination that has arisen as a result of the recent spate of kidnappings and attacks could lead to a revolt. “We’re not that many, but we can respond,” he said.

Ladyi agrees that if the problem is not dealt with, it could either give rise to a new Islamic self-defence group, or drive the community to seek protection from existing groups, such as ADF-Nalu. “The Muslim community are not getting support from the government for their security,” he said. “If the government can’t solve this situation, the Muslims will seek their own protection.”

Kidnappings

The population, both Islamic and Christian, continues to be beset by a spate of kidnappings. In the first six months of this year – the same time-frame that the community ascribes to Al-Shabab’s involvement – civil society leaders recorded the kidnap of more than 500 people from all demographics. Most are believed to be cases of forced-recruitment but ransom payments have been demanded. A demobilization expert negotiating release fees said ADF has asked for ransom payments of up to US$2,000 and kidnapped a number of high profile citizens including three local priests.

The situation is extremely worrying and solutions not forthcoming, said Ladyi, who narrowly escaped forced recruitment himself 10 years ago and has facilitated the successful demobilization of over 4,000 combatants in the last two years.

Arguments over amnesty

There are currently a number of ADF militants who wish to demobilize and return to Uganda, but they are locked in a political argument over the terms of the amnesty, Ladyi said. Amnesty has proven difficult with ADF to date. The Crisis Group documents failed talks in 2001 and again in 2007, although the 2007 talks did lead to the demobilization of some 200 combatants. Uganda’s amnesty commission opened an office in Beni in 2005, in collaboration with MONUSCO (then MONUC).

But by 2006, no ADF had reported to the amnesty office and MONUSCO was considering closing it.  In 2008, ADF tried to recommence negotiations, but, delayed by the CNDP (pro-Tutsi) rebellion, they finally started in 2009 only to stall because the Ugandan government believed ADF members were merely seeking to profit. Three hundred people were dismissed for fraudulently claiming the Amnesty package that included 263,000 Ugandan shillings, a mattress and basic household items, according to local media reports.

“Politically, the process was not very well organized. Those who benefited from the amnesty did not give convincing testimonies when they got back to Uganda. MONUSCO and the Ugandan amnesty commission organized a sensitization campaign to ask ADF fighters to join the amnesty process. Many challenges affected the impact of the process. The time limitation, politics and security situation in Uganda did not allow the success of the process”, says Ladyi, who is currently waiting on the Ugandan government’s next move.

jh/am/cb

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Feeling the heat! Barasa, the Kenyan journalist wanted by the ICC says, he will spill the beans………

Posted by African Press International on October 4, 2013

Walter Barasa statement on ICC arrest Warrant

ICC warrant: Journalist Walter Barasa

ICC warrant: Journalist Walter Barasa

STATEMENT BY WALTER BARASA (Released on September 22,2013)

My full names are Walter Barasa. I am a journalist. I joined the journalism profession in 1985 after finishing my diploma course. I have worked as a journalist for 18 years most of it with the Nation newspaper and then the People daily.

 

Between 1st and 5th December 2012 I was called by somebody who introduced himself to me as an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigator. He introduced himself as Paul Irani. He informed me that he had been given my name and phone number by somebody who was known to me.

He further informed me that he was an ICC investigator and wanted to meet him in Nairobi. He told me to hire a taxi from Eldoret to Nairobi and that he would pay for the taxi once I arrived in Nairobi because the matter he wanted us to discuss was urgent. He paid Ksh 30,000 to the taxi owner upon arrival in Nairobi.

We met at the Westgate Mall in Westlands. He was with another investigator called Ule. I introduced myself. He told me that he wanted me to help them in connection with a lady in Kiambaa and that she was a witness in a case which was earlier conducted in Nakuru. He told me I was a good man and that I should get the lady to confirm what she had told him on phone because he could not travel to Eldoret which he was told was hostile.

He bought a cellphone for me with an Airtel line to take to the lady. I went and met the lady who confirmed that she had talked with Paul Irani. I later confirmed to Irani that I had met the lady. He requested me to get the lady a temporary passport to enable her go to Uganda for interrogation and statement recording.

When the lady came back she told me that she had been a worker at a certain politicians home and that the investigators had told her to say that she was a cook and that she seen planning meetings being held at the politicians home and had cooked for youths and served them with food as they planned to attack the Kiambaa church.

I asked her whether that was actually true but she told me that it was not true because during the time she was employed by the politician she was actually working as a casual labourer planting tree seedlings and sometimes used to harvest maize.

She also told me that she had left that employment five years before but that she had been forced to say that she was cooking and serving food during the period the violence occurred. I encouraged her to confirm to whether she was ready to defend that position. I asked her how as a Kikuyu she could be allowed to get into a planning meeting and cook and serve food to people who were going to kill her relatives. She told me that she had been told to say that so that the case would be strong.

I warned her that she faced the risk of prosecution if it turned out that she was lying. We ended our conversation and she told me that Paul had sent her to tell me to get her a passport. The investigators sent her a total of Ksh 45,500 and a sum of Ksh 6,000 for facilitation making a total of Ksh 51,500 which the lady (536) withdrew and gave me.

We got the passports and she and her family crossed over to Uganda. We cut off communication for some time until I received a call from the lady using a Ugandan number. She told me that her children were not going to school and that life had become very difficult contrary to what she was promised and her husband was very bitter and wanted them to come back to the country.

She told me she did not want to continue with the case and wanted to come back. I later met Paul Irani at Topelli restaurant near Nairobi hospital and informed him about the ladies complaints and warned him that the lady had threatened to abandon the cause. He promised to address the issue. The lady stopped calling me for some time until a time when she called me on a Burundian number. That is when I learnt that she had been moved to Burundi. She was still complaining of poor treatment. She insisted that since I was the one she knew I should assist her get out of Burundi because she did not have money to get her back in the country.

Communication between us went off again and then a week later she called me from a phone whose code was +423 which is the code for DR Congo with the same complaint. She repeated the same thing that she was fed up and wanted me to assist her and her family back. I told her I did not have money but if I get money I could assist her but in the event that I could not manage she had a right to protest, disclose the truth and ask whoever was in charge to return her into the country.

The calls were so many but when I refused to pick she wrote me numerous text messages which I wish to give you where she was stating the same thing. I wish to read you some of the messages. During the course of my acquaintance with Paul Irani I started developing great doubts on the competence of the Office of the Prosecutors (OTP) investigations. I met the investigators severally at various meetings and raised some of these issues:-

i) At one meeting I challenged Paul and one Silvano from Burkina Faso if they would be able to succeed in establishing the truth when they were carrying out armchair investigations in a hotel on the basis of information from people who were known gold diggers roaming the streets of Eldoret after he showed me a list of the names he had lined up as his sources of information and investigation.

ii) I also reminded him that witness 536 had confided in me she was not in the employment of the politician she was alleging she was working for at the time and she had not been a cook. I told him that the same case had been dismissed by the court in Nakuru. He dismissed my concerns and told me to leave him alone.

He tried sending me to find other individuals whose names he gave me. I contacted some of them. I met some of them but I told him that those people were unreliable.

He flew back sometime in February or March this year then on 13th September this year he contacted me on phone and via email asking me to meet him urgently because my life was in danger and he wanted me to leave the country immediately. He suggested that he meets me at The Hague, Uganda or Nairobi as the last option. I agreed to go to Nairobi on 15th September 2013 for the meeting. The email he wrote to me is attached and I wish to read parts of it. I met him with another white man at Topelli restaurant. I expected a cordial meeting but when I arrived at the meeting Paul Irani ordered me to dismantle all my phones. I accepted to do so after quarrelling for over 10 minutes.

Immediately he told me that he had two options for me:-

i) He told me that he knew that I had been working with the Deputy President to coerce and compromise witnesses and that I should cooperate with him and the prosecution and accept to implicate the Deputy President after which we would fly out of the country with him that night because my life was in danger.

ii) Alternatively he was going to engineer and have a warrant of arrest be issued against me and that I could be jailed for five years. But that as a friend he did not want to be jailed and that the best option was for me to implicate the Deputy President.

I was greatly infuriated by these suggestions. I told him that I did not remember the last time I met William Ruto and I told him if I ever met and spoke with Ruto it was way back in 2007 but from then and up to the time I was meeting him I had not met him but he retorted that I had met him after he came from Japan. I told him that those were lies, I could not accept those lies and that he should go ahead and cause the warrants to be issued. I told him that I was ready to stand in any court to refute those lies.

He told me that I was becoming difficult and he was going to arrest me right away. I told him to dare arrest me. I rose from my chair picked my bag and went to the washrooms but when I came out the two called me back. I was extremely fearful and in order to get away from them, I told them that I would get back to them. They gave me Ksh 7,200 for accommodation and transport. They suggested that after I had considered he options I should escape with them to Uganda. I never contacted them again.

I have now heard rumours, which the prosecution should confirm or deny that a warrant of arrest has been issued against me over an alleged interference/prevention of witness number 536 from attending court.

Am ready and prepared to defend myself against these allegations, which are false. I have special knowledge of all the investigators machinations relating to the recruitment of this witness 536 and others and I will not be blackmailed to tell lies. I am aware of the activities of the investigators and what they are doing now and have done in the past.

I respect the court, I respect the rights of the accused persons to a fair hearing, and the victims right to get justice but I do not accept coercion and unorthodox means of implicating accused persons and conducting investigations to attain an unjust end.

I wish to inform you that the conversation of 15th September 2013 was recorded by Irani and I challenge him to produce the entire unedited clip to the court and all concerned. I also recorded parts of the proceedings which I am ready to produce to prove what I am saying.

I have already instructed my advocate Mr Nick Kaufmann to appear for me and bring the above matters to the attention of the court. I attach here to a letter from my advocate.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully

Walter Barasa.

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Kenya Terror attack: A comparison with Operation Thunderbolt/”90 minutes at Entebbe” of July 1976, and other areas requiring deeper reflection & deeper introspection

Posted by African Press International on October 1, 2013

The tragic Westgate Shopping Mall killings of September 2013: A comparison with Operation Thunderbolt/”90 minutes at Entebbe” of July 1976, and other areas requiring deeper reflection & deeper introspection

1. Comparisons with Operation Thunderbolt/90 Minutes at Entebbe of 4th July 1976, Entebbe Airport, Uganda;

(i) As mentioned, mission codenamed “Operation Thunderbolt” a split-second operation that was concluded in a brief stunning period of 90 minutes hence “Operation Thunderbolt” also later coming to be referred to as “90 minutes at Entebbe”

(ii) 106 hijack hostages rescued i.e. 94 Jewish passengers and a 12-man Air France crew

(iii) The rescue mission/paratroopers flew 3,800 kilometres from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Entebbe, Uganda, where the 106 hijack hostages were being held, and as they settled down for a seventh night in captivity

(iv) The key players that oversaw “Operation Thunderbolt” were then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, then Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur, the then Israeli army’s Chief of Operations and the then Israeli Air Force commander, operation commander Brig. Gen. Dan Shomron, head of the infantry and elite Paratroop Corps, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak, all of whom had extensive backgrounds in combat & high risk rescue missions e.g. the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Ehud Barak, later Israeli Defence Minister & Israeli Prime Minister, had even led a crack paratroop unit in rescuing hostages from a Sabena Airlines hijacking in 1972

(v) The fierce battle at Entebbe Airport lasted 45 terrifying seconds. Four hijackers were shot dead. Three hostages who failed to stay on the floor were killed, either in the crossfire, or by Israeli soldiers who mistook them for terrorists

(vi) Within 53 minutes, the hostages were aboard the Israeli planes and on their way home. The corpses of seven guerrillas and 20 Ugandan soldiers lay at Entebbe Airport, Uganda

(vii) An aftermath of the raid was the case of Mrs. Dora Bloch, a 75-year-old hostage left behind in Uganda by the Israeli raiders. Mrs. Bloch was in a hospital when the rescue planes landed. Mrs. Bloch was thereafter murdered in cold blood by the Ugandans

(viii) Another strike force hurled explosives under a squadron of Soviet – supplied Migs of the Ugandan Air Force, crippling about 10 of them, and securing a safe retreat.

(ix) Israelis reached into their pockets to contribute US $ 3 million to a voluntary defense fund within one week after it was set up to handle a sudden flow of donations. Workers offered to do overtime without pay to boost national exports, and the number of labor strikes dropped

Comparisons of Kenya’s Westgate siege of September 2013 with Numbers (i) to (ix) above;

(i) No known codename assigned to operation. 9,000 minutes had however lapsed by Friday evening, 27th September 2013, with no indication that the matter was nearing conclusion of an initial kind. 9,000 minutes and counting at Westgate, and no initial conclusion in sight. Very tragic & very unfortunate indeed

(ii) All hostages and all aggressors not fully & satisfactorily accounted for 9,000 minutes and counting after Saturday, 21st September 2013

(iii) All key Kenyan Security agencies playing a role in the ongoing Westgate saga are based within the vicinity of the Westgate Shopping Mall and none had to be called upon to fly 3,800 kilometres at very short notice and/or first prepare for high risk rescue operation from a location 3,800 kilometres away from the Westagate Shopping Mall

(iv) The current so-called Kenyan Cabinet Secretary incharge of internal security has a background in Hospitality, and his immediate past posting was at the Kenya Utalii Hotel, for many years, the Harvard University of East & Central Africa, when it came to excellence & preeminence in the training of staff of & for elite hotels.

The current so-called Kenyan Secretary for Defence is a former Chairlady of the Law Society of Kenya, and is also a former Kenyan Ambassador to France.

The current US Secretary Of Defence is a veteran of the Vietnam War, while the immediate former US Secretary of Defence, is a former Director of the CIA.

It is unclear whether the current so-called Kenyan Cabinet Secretaries incharge of internal & Defence are both veterans of the Vietnam War, of if both have ever served in any capacity in the CIA. It is also unclear whether the current so-called Kenyan Cabinet Secretaries incharge of internal security & Defence played any role whatsoever in either the Six Day War of 1967 or the Yom Kippur War of 1973

(v) All hostages and all aggressors not fully & satisfactorily accounted for 9,000 minutes and counting after Saturday, 21st September 2013

(vi) All hostages and all aggressors not fully & satisfactorily accounted for 9,000 minutes and counting after Saturday, 21st September 2013

(vii) All hostages and all aggressors not fully & satisfactorily accounted for 9,000 minutes and counting after Saturday, 21st September 2013

(viii) Other than the tragic loss of lives, the ultra modern Westgate Shopping Mall is now a condemned building

(ix) Kenyans have come forward in big numbers to generously make contributions to the Kenya Red Cross Society for their purported exemplary role in the Westgate Shopping Mall siege, the same Kenya Red Cross Society that has never accounted for the massive funds collected during the so-called “Kenyans for Kenya” campaign. The same Kenya Red Cross Society was thereafter linked to the purchase of aflatoxin contaminated maize that is said to have been consumed by an estimated 400,000 Kenyans. No action whatsoever was taken against the Kenya Red Cross Society for this criminal murderous act, yet here they are being sent more massive funds, and being hailed as “heroes”.

Kenyans are also being encouraged to channel their donations through the MPESA cell-phone money transfer platform administered by communications giant Safaricom, the biggest corporation in East & Central Africa, the same Safaricom that has made four unexplained deductions of one Kenya Shilling from its approximate customer base 20 million since 21st June 2013 i.e. Safaricom made unexplained deductions of one Kenya Shilling from it’s subscribers on 21st June 2013, 21st July 2013, 21st August 2013 & 21st September 2013 which translates to an approximate amount of 80 million Kenya Shillings i.e. an approximate amount of one million US dollars. It is unclear whether the funds deducted on these four occasions, were used to fund the activities of the aggressors of the Westgate Shopping Mall siege of September 2013

2. The Kenya Government & the Kenya Media have gone on these particularly aggressive charm offensive, labeling the aggressors in the Westgate Shopping Mall assault as “terrorists” and “cowards”, yet these individuals, whoever they are, had the boldness, courage, audacity & daring, to stage a brutal assault on a key installation of the metropolis of Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, a country that has a fully fledged National Police Force (up until recently, known as the Kenya Police Force), a National Intelligence Service, an Army, an Air Force, a Navy, and a paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU).

For instance, within the nearby vicinity of the Westgate Shopping Mall, is the Department of Defence (DOD), where the Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force & Kenya Navy are represented. There are at least four police stations in the nearby vicinity of the Westgate Shopping Mall i.e. Muthangari Police Station, Spring Valley Police Station, Parklands Police Station and Central Police Station. The Kenya Air Force Moi Air Base is also in the vicinity of the Westgate Shopping Mall, and while the Kenya Air Force Nanyuki Air Base is about 300 kilometres from the Westgate Shopping Mall, it would take fighter jets of the Kenya Air Force at the Nanyuki Air Base not more than 15 minutes to get to the Westgate Shopping Mall if called upon. The Kenya Police, the Kenya Army and the Kenya Navy also have airwing units, so if the sizable units of the Kenya Navy would have been needed for one reason or another to counter the aggressors of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault, it would have or should have taken units of the Kenya Navy not more than 40 minutes to get from their base at Mombasa, to the Westgate Shopping Mall, a distance of about 600 kilometres.

The Kahawa Barracks & the Maroon Commandoes Army Barracks (for many years known as the 7th Battalion Army Barracks), are also in nearby proximity to the Westgate Shopping Mall. Finally, the headquarters of the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU), are situated not very far off from the now condemned Westgate Shopping Mall.

That a handful of unknown individuals (some apparently as young as 18 years old & 19 years old), would have been aware of this i.e. the key security installations in and around Westgate, yet still went  ahead to stage such an audacious spectacular assault on a key Kenyan installation, can be described as nothing short of the stuff of legend, making it difficult not to view the aggressors in the Westgate Shopping Mall as warriors, as gladiators, as Vikings and as bold, brave, courageous & daring Marxist-Leninist fundamentalists. Whoever they are, they have held an entire Nation ransom & hostage since Saturday, 21st September 2013, and will continue to do so, for as long as any matter or any question regarding the Westgate Shopping Mall assault remains unresolved or unanswered, and as things stand, way too many questions remain unanswered.

The Westgate Shopping Mall assault is a debacle & disgrace of monumental proportions on the part of the Government of Kenya and people of Kenya in general. That a “handful of nobodies” a “handful of unknowns” could casually walk into the Republic of Kenya and cause such major carnage, mayhem & anguish in such a brief curtailed period of time, is inexplicable, unforgivable and deeply sorrowful. It is an indication like no other of a deeply incompetent Government i.e. the Kenya Government, and a totally lost people i.e. the Kenyan People

Courtesy of the Kenya Government & we the people of Kenya as a whole, the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault of September 2013 have been instantly catapulted to the status of legends & icons and now rank at par with global figures of notoriety & semi-endearment such as Carlos the Jackal, Al Capone, Carlo Gambino, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, “Black September” and Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”/Don Corleone. Instant icons have been created overnight in both the underworld and the mainstream world above, and the underworld in particular, must be currently in a state of measurable jubilation & glee. The likes of “Banyamulenge”, the Basque Separatists, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), “Hezbollah”, M23, “Hamas”, “Mai Mai”, the “Taliban”, “Tupac Amaru”, the FARC rebels, Boko Haram, “Fatah al-Islam”, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and “Abu Sayyaf”, must currently be in celebratory mood, as they deliver coded congratulatory messages to “Al Shabaab”, and in particular, the said perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault of September 2013

And whereas many in the mainstream world would understandably conceal their admiration, if any, of the spectacular bold & pin-point precision with which the assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall was executed, the cruel irony is that the likes of Nelson Mandela/”Umkhonto we Sizwe”/the African National Congress (ANC), Gerry Adams/Sein Fein/the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and Field Marshal Muthoni wa Kirima/Field Marshal Baimungi Marete/Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi/Field Marshal Musa Mwariama/”Mau Mau” were once openly & formally regarded as “terrorists”, precisely because of Westgate Shopping Mall kind of actions/assaults, yet today, the aforementioned are regarded as legends and icons. Nelson Mandela for instance, is today a global darling, while Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi has a statue in his honour on Nairobi’s Kimathi Street, a street also named in his honour.

Other key figures in Kenya’s freedom struggle such as Mary Nyanjiru, Madam Ketilili wa Menza, Otenyo Nyamaterere, James Beauttah, Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei, Harry Thuku, Mwangeka wa Malowa and Waiyaki wa Hinga, must also be following the unfolding events of the Westgate Shopping Mall from their final resting places with curious interest, wondering why they had not staged such bold & daring raids when they lived, and thinking that had they, Kenya may have even become independent politically, economically & socially much earlier than 1963 i.e. & e.g. 1943, 1933, or even 1923

The disgraceful, unreliable & inept Kenya Government and the equally disgraceful, unreliable & inept Kenyan Media, should thus stand advised against using terms like “terrorist” and “cowardly” with the lavishness that they currently are, and take a deeper introspective look at the Westgate Shopping Mall assault

3. The President of the Republic of Kenya and the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya, like many other Kenyans, have also now taken the moral high ground regarding the Westgate Shopping Mall assault, and have since 21st September 2013, been also using puritan expressions like “terrorist” and “cowardly”. The President of the Republic of Kenya and the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya are facing charges at the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly perpetrating and/or orchestrating “acts of terrorism & violence”, not much different from those of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault e.g. the Kiambaa Church incident of early 2008 here in Kenya at the height of the post-election violence of 2007 & 2008, where women and children were locked up in a child building that was set ablaze in cold blood and in which mattresses were thrown in to add ferocity to the blazing inferno.

The President of the Republic of Kenya and the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya stand accused of actions no less heinous than those associated with the Westagate Shopping Mall assault, and until both individuals comprehensively & satisfactorily clear their names of any & all accusations being levelled against them regarding the brutal Kenyan post-election war of 2007 and 2008, they should desist in making statements that portray themselves as being any better than the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault.

What’s more is that if the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall are apprehended, they are likely to be held at a facility like Guantanamo Bay until further notice. Should the President of the Republic of Kenya and the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya be also held at a facility like Guantanamo Bay until further notice, because they are also facing charges of terrorism no different from those associated with the Westgate Shopping Mall?

And where does that leave the rest of we Kenyans? Hopefully with our heads bowed down in deep deep anguished shame, hopefully. How is it that this country got to the stage of having a President and a Deputy President who are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC)?

If the current & scheduled Kenya trials taking place at the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC) had been taking place soon after World War II, they would be being referred to as the “Nuremberg Trials”, meaning that we Kenyans would be being referred to currently as “Nazis”. Former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor has just lost his appeal to have his 50 year jail sentence overturned by the International Criminal Court for amongst other things, supporting a band of savages called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who chopped-off people’s hands and who forcibly held women & girls as sex slaves in detention camps.

Effectively, the three Kenya cases currently at the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC), equate all Kenyans to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and to savages who chop off people’s hand, and forcibly confine women & girls as sex slaves, and here we are holding night vigils, and using puritan terms like “terrorist” and “cowardly”. Is it any wonder therefore that US President Obama snubbed his native Kenya for the third time in a row this past July? What would have given President Obama more pride & joy than to make a triumphant pilgrimage to his ancestral Kenya as President Obama? Barack was here twice as Citizen Obama in 1987 & 1991, even bringing Michelle to introduce her to his “K’Obama Clan” in 1991 before they got married one year later in 1992, visited again as Senator Obama in 2006, and must have had every intention of visiting Kenya as President Obama, until we exposed ourselves for who we truly are i.e. the equivalent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and the equivalent of savages who chop off people’s hands and forcibly confine women & girls as sex slaves.

What’s more is that no notable figure has been prosecuted in connection with the brutal Kenyan post-election war of 2007 & 2008 after six years, and the promulgation of a brand new constitution in between. So just what kind of a people are we? A people any better than the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault? Certainly not

Kenya has been dead since 30th December 2002, when Mwai Kibaki and the so-called National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), came to power. In five short years after 30th December 2002, the Republic of Kenya went to civil war following the most shameful and disgraceful Kenyan general elections of December 2007. Former UN Secretary General had to be brought in to restore order, not the numerous Kenyans now claiming that the Westgate Shopping Mall assault will not “break us”, and not dampen our spirit as a “united people”. As a result of the disgraceful general elections of December 2007, Kenya & Kenyans are now, as mentioned, at the “Nuremberg Trials” at the Hague based International Criminal Court (ICC)

There have in addition been too many remarkable events between 30th December 2002 and today, that suggest that we Kenyans have no values or meaningful set of beliefs, and that we respect or value no one or nothing, secular or divine. We are a law unto ourselves, gods unto ourselves.

In 2007 two individuals of Armenian nationality with shadowy business dealings, powerful Kenyan connections, and who both held the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police in the Republic of Kenya, staged a dramatic hold-up at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in a bizarre incident that clearly demonstatred that we Kenyans did not manage or control our own country.

Since then, inter alia, it has emerged that there are also fake policemen and policewomen of Kenyan nationality in the Kenya Police Force, also of the rank of Assistant Commissioner Of Police, one of whom is said could have caused the the Baragoi Massacre, where 45 Kenyan Police Officers were shot in cold blood, a contingent of close to 15 Kenyans was held up in Nigeria for close to a month for their role in the bizarre unprocedural deportation of four Nigerians, and the arrivals unit of the 35 year old Jomo Kenyatta International Airport was razed down in a fierce inferno. All these terrible incidents, in addition to numerous others, remain unresolved, and no one has either been prosecuted or held responsible for them, yet here we are as people pointing fingers at the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall as being the most heinous and callous of criminals. We have been active accessories to numerous heinous crimes in the Republic of Kenya since 30th December 2002 with the active manner in which we have turned a blind eye to numerous atrocities, and here we are using terms like “We are One”.

The people most responsible for the mess that this country is in, is we Kenyans, not the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault of September 2013. Any meaningful remedial action that we ever hope of bringing to our beloved Kenya will have to be presided over by meaningful sacrifices by and from ourselves, not by empty sloganeering.

The Marxist-Leninist fundamentalists who brutally struck at the Westgate Shopping Mall in September 2013 will stage another similar assault, frightfully so, it is apparent. The perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault have taken a stand i.e. maximum carnage & maximum pain. How about the rest of we puritan Kenyans? What is our stand? To continue on the same pretentious fatalistic path we have been on since 30th December 2002, or to bring real change to our beloved Kenya, real meaningful long-lasting change? At any rate, we should not deceive ourselves that we are any better than the perpetrators of the Westgate Shopping Mall assault of September 2013, and if anything, we are worse.

End

 

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Kenya: Gains from World Bank funded Lake Victoria Environmental Project.

Posted by African Press International on September 25, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga.
Communities living along the shores of Lake Victoria are now gaining hugely, thanks to the support they are receiving through the World Bank funded Lake Victoria Environmental Project.
In Nandi in the rift valley and Nyando in Nyanza, the locals have ventured into massive tree planting as a way of environmental conservation and the results are impressive.
 A part from reclaiming most of the forest cover that was cleared and turned into farmlands, the residents are now reaping huge benefits from the sale of tree seedlings from nurseries so far established through LVEMP’s support.
The multimillion project which began in 2010 is targeting the implementation of two main broad objectives in its collaborative approach to management of shared natural resources within Lake Victoria Basin.
Working with selected   community groups which have been undertaking activities targeting to reduce environmental stress within the basin, LVEMP is also sponsoring activities aimed at changing the livelihoods of the communities.
The regional project is implemented by all the five member states of the east African community.
 It is undertaking its activities through the government led agencies who offer technical support to the benefiting groups in selected catchment areas.
 In Kenya it is targeting the river Nyando basin and along the shores of Lake Victoria.
According to LVEMP’s national project coordinator madam Francisca Owuor, so far a total of Ksh 116 million has been disbursed to 114 community groups in areas covered by the project.
 It is expected that before the project end in 2015, a total of 240 groups will have been supported.
Speaking at the close of a week-long field excursion organized by LVEMP 2  and attended by twenty journalists from various media houses the coordinator disclosed that Ksh 400M will be spent in the community driven development activities.
She told the journalists that LVEMP has also approved proposals from 225 groups and funding for them is underway.
However, 111 groups whose proposals were approved are yet to be launched to begin implementation of various activities because they are still undergoing environmental impact assessment by the national environmental management authority.
The benefiting groups are those that were already doing something to protect the environment and at the same time engaging in livelihood changing   activities.
Most of the groups  are  for example , engaged in  tree planting along the river banks, other s are  controlling  soil erosion by laying soil conservation structures  like gabions and  erection of  terraces among others.
Apart from conserving the environment, they are also fully embracing commercial agriculture. Some communities have established tree nurseries through the financial support offered by LVEMP while others are keeping dairy animals and keeping bees.
 In the North rift, areas around Nandi Hills, in Nyando and Homa Bay counties, communities are now planting millions of trees in their farms and along the river banks.   They are also protecting water springs by planting bamboo and other tree species that protect the water towers.
The project was necessitated by the realization that Lake Victoria which supports an estimated 30M people either directly or indirectly was facing huge environmental challenges and the stress was linked to unfavorable human activities within the basin which needed to be reversed.
Water levels in Lake Victoria were alarmingly low due to silting because of poor farming activities upstream, quality of the lake water s was greatly compromised as a result of pollution, aquatic immensely interfered with and so there was urgent need to reverse this trend.
END.

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

Posted by African Press International on September 15, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

International pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tough positions

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

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

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

The fighting has caused massive displacement (file photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubts about Uganda, ICGLR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Loosing all hope – a wish to commit suicide

Posted by African Press International on August 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

Left behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

A global loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equa tion altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Comprehensive HIV prevention – hopes on female condom

Posted by African Press International on August 22, 2013

KAMPALA,  – As Uganda continues to struggle with condom shortages and inconsistent use, an ongoing campaign hopes to encourage more young people to use condoms and to raise the profile of the little-used female condom.

The multimedia campaign, dubbed “If it’s not on, it’s not safe“, is run by local health group Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) with funding from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and is designed to reduce the rate of sexually-transmitted infections (STI) and unplanned pregnancies among people aged 18-34.

It includes broadcasting of radio and TV spots on female and male condoms, DJ mentions, as well as TV talk-show discussions, billboard ads and posters.

Research shows that while high-risk sex is common in Uganda, male and female condom use is fairly erratic. Meanwhile, HIV prevalence in Uganda is rising, going from 6.4 percent in 2005 to 7.3 percent in 2012, making effective HIV prevention campaigns more urgent than ever.

Supply chain problems – including a requirement for post-shipment testing on imported condoms – have led to regular nationwide male condom shortages in the country, which requires some 240 million annually but only receives about half that through the public sector.

Uganda has had numerous condom drives over the past three decades, but according to Daudi Ochieng, head of communications at UHMG, the placement of the female condom at the front and centre of this campaign is what could make the difference.

“The positioning of the female condom is `Power is now in your hands’ and this is intended to portray the woman as having the power to say, `look man, I have a condom too so go away with your excuses of why we can’t have safe sex’,” he told IRIN. “The other point of positioning is now we have a female condom that can be worn 12 hours in advance of sexual intercourse. This way it doesn’t get in the way of the heat of the moment, also… in times of poor negotiating for sex the woman can guard herself from unintended pregnancies and HIV by wearing it in advance.”

The female condom is a 17cm-long polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at each end. It provides about the same protection from sexually transmitted infections – including HIV – and unwanted pregnancy as the male condom, but unlike the male condom, can be used with oil- and water-based lubricants without the risk of breakage.

The FC2 can be worn up to 12 hours in advance of sex

Since the campaign began in June, more than 10,000 female condoms and 360,000 male condoms have been distributed free of charge, with another 120,000 condoms sold.

A hard sell

Earlier efforts to popularize the female condom in Uganda failed. In 2007, the government stopped distributing the original female condom, FC1, on the grounds that women had complained it was “noisy” during sex. The FC2 was introduced in 2009, but has not, until now, been promoted publicly. While it has done better than its predecessor, it continues to lag well behind the male condom.

Another barrier has been cost – when it is sold, the female condom costs significantly more than its male counterpart.

According to baseline research conducted by UNFPA and UHMG in 2011, myths and misconceptions were the biggest hindrance to female condom uptake, with only a small minority of those interviewed ever having seen or used the condom.

“I see the condom, but even me as a medical doctor I don’t know how to use it. I wonder how the ordinary women can insert it in. The condom looks big and scary. I fear to use it,” a female doctor at Kampala’s Mulago Hospital, told IRIN.

Vastha Kibirige, the national condom coordinator at the Ministry of Health, told IRIN that a study was planned to establish the current use of FC2 in the country.

“The uptake of female condoms has slightly improved. Since people are picking them, we need to have a follow up study to know whether they use it or not,” she said. “You can’t tell whether they are using it or not. Some people may pick and take them for curiosity.”

A 2011 study by UNFPA found that female condoms were slowly gaining popularity around the world, largely as a result of successful partnerships between governments and technical agencies advocating their use and increasing their availability.

Comprehensive HIV prevention

HIV activists have welcomed the campaign, but some warn that other HIV prevention methods – in addition to condom use, Uganda relies on messages of abstinence, faithfulness and on biomedical methods – must remain in the frame as well.

In addition, they say any campaign to boost female and male condom use must be met with a significant improvement in their supply, in order to ensure consistent availability and use.

Mainstreaming

According to Alice Kayongo, regional policy and advocacy manager at Uganda Cares, a programme of US-based NGO AIDS Healthcare Foundation, there is a need to bring on board non-traditional partners including religious groups, cultural leaders and men to encourage all sections of the population to use both male and female condoms responsibly.

According to Ochieng, campaigns like the current one will help make female condoms a more mainstream part of people’s sexual lives. “We need to continue the promotion and demonstration so that we can move this from a trial proposition to a habit.”

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

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Is the future of food aid threatened?

Posted by African Press International on August 2, 2013

International funding for non-emergency food aid programmes likely to fall

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Declining food aid to Africa
  • Trend towards cash, vouchers instead of food aid
  • Food aid too slow in natural disasters
  • Easier to get funding for food aid than food security

JOHANNESBURG,  – By the end of the next decade food security could deteriorate in some of the world’s poorest countries, according to a recent global forecast by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

By 2023 the number of food-insecure people is likely to increase by nearly 23 percent to 868 million (at a slightly faster rate than projected population growth of 16 percent), said USDA’s Economic Research Service which focused on 76 low- and middle-income countries classified by the World Bank as being on food aid, experiencing food insecurity, or as having experienced it.

In countries most likely to see a significant rise in the number of food-insecure people, such as Malawi and Uganda, the production and import of food will not be able to keep pace with population growth.

Despite improvements over the years, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain the most food-insecure region in the world.

In the past decade global food aid, including the amount making its way to sub-Saharan Africa, has been on a downward trend. Only 2.5 million tons reached sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, whereas during the decade as a whole it ranged from just under three million tons to just over 5 million tons, according to USDA, citing World Food Programme (WFP) data.

The face of food aid has also begun to change. In the past decade, “food aid” has begun to evolve into “food assistance”, which includes help provided in the form of cash and vouchers for people in need. This can save millions of dollars in transportation and storage costs.

By 2015, WFP, the world’s largest food aid agency, expects almost a third of its assistance programmes to be delivered in the form of cash, vouchers and new kinds of “digital food” through smartcards and e-vouchers delivered by SMS. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of WFP cash and voucher projects increased from five in 2008 to 51 in 2011. In that year WFP set aside US$208 million for distributions using cash or vouchers, but still spent over one billion dollars on food.

IRIN asked some of the world’s leading experts to speculate on the future of food aid.

Crises that drive the need for food aid are either man-made (conflicts, economies in crisis) or natural events (droughts, floods, earthquakes) or a complex mix of both, which might test people’s resilience and make them chronically dependent on assistance. People need different kinds of aid in different situations. If food is not available in a flooded area, actual food supplies are the answer. In the case of chronic shortages, experts suggest cash or vouchers, integrated into a broader social protection system, might be the answer.

Threats over the coming decade

By 2023, food security will worsen in
Malawi
Chad
Uganda
Source: ERS-USDA

Christopher Barrett, a food aid expert who teaches at Cornell University in the USA, said: “The big threats over the coming decade are the ones we already face: conflict first and foremost, a variety of natural disasters, and major macroeconomic disruptions. The climate scientists don’t talk seriously of change over the course of a decade.”

Food aid expert Daniel Maxwell, a professor at Tufts University’s Feinstein International Center, agrees the drivers of crisis will not change substantially. “I suspect that we will continue to see the kinds of protracted crises that we have come to see over the past decade that are a combination of both `natural’ and man-made causes… but with a strong element of weak or failed governance, and these may be in countries with perfectly capable governments, but just in marginalized parts of those countries.”

Eric Munoz, senior policy adviser with Oxfam America, said he would add food price volatility to the mix: A changing climate, causing disruptions in “production in major exporting countries and damaging crops in fragile agriculture markets will add to this volatility”.

More cash transfers

Escalating costs of transporting food, lower quantities of surplus production to dispense as food aid, and the complex nature of crises have forced more donors to widen their choice of response from exclusive food aid to cash transfers and vouchers.

Countries that will remain food insecure by 2023
Central Africa Republic
Democratic Republic of Congo
Eritrea
Burundi
Somalia
Zambia
Afghanistan
North Korea
Yemen
Source: ERS-USDA

“Non-emergency food aid as we have known it will disappear but the core functions will continue, both because growing demands for emergency response will gobble up the modest international food assistance budgets available, and because school feeding, maternal and child health and nutrition programs, smallholder development, and other programs will get absorbed within the broader development programs that donors fund,” said Barrett in an email.

He also believes more countries which used to rely on food assistance will “develop their own effective safety-net programs (whether through employment guarantee schemes, conditional or unconditional cash transfers, unemployment or agricultural insurance, etc.)”.

In countries with weak governance, international food assistance could end up playing the role of a social safety-net, said Maxwell, but not very well “unless integrated into national programs – and there will continue to be political tensions about whether to do that or not. In these places, future genuine humanitarian emergencies are likely to be driven by combinations of factors: The Somalia famine was blamed on a bad drought, and indeed there was a bad drought, but there was also a concomitant food price spike, ongoing conflict, and a highly politicized crisis of access. In other places, rapid onset natural disasters will probably not be major arenas for food aid (it is just too slow) and will be replaced by cash or other interventions.”

WTO rules hamper food security?

Food insecure countries’ reliance on “markets, and thus on local and regional suppliers, will continue to grow,” said Barrett. This could happen especially if a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement is reached in the next 10 years, he said.

The WTO Doha Development Round of negotiations (begun in 2001) on a new agreement that could help reduce the number of poor people in developing countries, has been in stop-start mode for some years.

The talks are aimed at reducing global barriers to market access, including for agricultural produce. Olivier de Schutter, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on the right to food, believes current WTO rules are hampering poor countries’ efforts to become food secure.

Timely food aid interventions save lives, “but protracted relief interventions (such as those widely implemented by WFP in many countries) are a distorted way of maintaining food assistance in circumstances where it is no longer necessary or adequate,” said José Luis Vivero Pol, an anti-hunger activist with Université Catholique de Louvain in an email. “But food aid is a good business for many companies and international institutions,” and he expects that to continue. Funds, he wrote, flow “easier and faster [for] food aid than for food security for resilience”.

New donors?

Will the traditional donors remain? Will the US, the world’s largest food aid donor, be able to finally reform its food aid system which is designed to benefit its farmers and transport sector? President Barack Obama’s efforts to end the link between supporting US farmers and international food aid by removing food aid programmes from the US Farm Bill and placing them under “foreign assistance”, among other radical reforms, were rejected in June.

Barrett is optimistic. “Food aid reform in the US is inevitable. The only question is timing. Within a decade I think it a virtual certainty that we will see the US programs moved out from under the Farm Bill and agricultural authorization/appropriations process in the Congress. US international food assistance will get bundled within broader foreign assistance budgeting and programming, and the `buy American’ provisions will be substantially relaxed.”

Maxwell agrees: “We’ve already seen a major rise in the procurement of food for aid in affected countries or neighbouring countries (local and regional purchase). This will no doubt continue.”

Oxfam’s Munoz reckons there will be “greater interest” from emerging economies in providing assistance. “The recent renegotiation of the Food Aid Convention seemed to recognize this with some creative thinking about twinning arrangements – food from one country paired with funding from other countries to cover expenses like shipping and handling.” Recently a new Food Assistance Convention replaced the Food Aid Convention of 1999, which expired in 2002 but was repeatedly extended.

Activist Pol feels “food assistance is another means to exert foreign influence.” Emerging powers like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa “will soon become food aid suppliers… The main problem is that some of them do not trust the UN institutions to do it, but they do not yet have the national infrastructure to do it by themselves…

“Pure altruism is far from being the main motivation for many countries, although it is true that there is a huge difference between the US and Europe. Europe is more altruistic, and they have influenced others regarding local purchases (a European invention) and social protection (permanent and temporary).”

He also sees more private companies and philanthropic foundations joining the “[food assistance] club, but they will use others’ logistical capabilities (such as USAID).”

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

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Kenya: OYUGIS POLICE LAXITY

Posted by African Press International on August 1, 2013

  • BY JEFF OTIENO.

Residents of Oyugis Town and its environs are up in arms with the local police over what they term as conspiracy and laxity which has culminated to serious insecurity in the area. The town has been for last 6 months continuously witnessed spate of robberies,rape,killings and cattle rustling. Early this week they took to the streets to demand for immediate transfer of the area OCS a mr Shikoli an officer they allege is never found in the station and is ever shuttling pubs drinking with bunch of women at the expense of security of residents.

They further allege that for the Ocs to respond to a distress call one must part with something. ” I wonder what kind of officer we are having is it the wife or him the person incharge of Oyugis Police station”, wondered some residents who have of late formed a rapport with the wife in order for them to be assisted when there’s a problem. “Late last week there was a raid at  one of the Hotels and the residents alerted the police in time but they dint turn up and it only took the intervention of area mp Oyugi Magwanga is when they responded hours later to the chagrin of residents.

Last month a young lady was brutally attacked in Ringa at around 7am and an alarm was raised the Ocs and his team surfaced at 6pm in the evening.Two months ago a court prosecutor at the station was murdered in circumstances which are un clear to date. A magistrate in the same court is also said to have escaped death by a thread.

Early this week there was a huge demo which prompted the no nonsense Nyanza PPO Ole Tito to intervene. Even though they listened to the PPO who is industrious and is enjoying a rapport since he was posted to the province they urged him to transfer some clique of officers who they say are corrupt,are never in their stations and are ever glued in changaa dens with local prostitutes.

A  Boda Boda operative who has been tormenting the residents with glee thanks to his network with a clique of some corrupt officers was lynched by the residents this week, and before he succumbed he mentioned three of his conduit police officers.Oyugis police station is the only place in the entire country where a cash bail is never refunded and if you dare ask you may incur more trump up charges.

 

ENDS

 

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