Category Archives: Africa – International

Ebola hasn’t reached Nigeria, but……

Leadership

Ebola Disease Not In Nigeria, But…

Ebola_Virus_Victim

The deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea and its quick spread to Liberia and some other West African countries has set Nigeria on edge. The high fatality associated with this disease forced the World Health Organisation (WHO) to issue a red alert in the West Africa sub region. WINIFRED OGBEBO, in this piece, examines the situation on ground and writes that Nigerians are still not safe with Dengue fever.

The death of a 15-year old female undergraduate in Edo State last week of symptoms rumoured to be similar to those of the deadly Ebola virus disease and at a time the disease is wreaking havoc in some West African countries sent shivers down the spine of many Nigerians. The anxiety over this disease is understandable, going by its frightening record of high fatality.

For avoidance of doubt, the Ebola virus was said to be first associated with an outbreak of 318 cases of a hemorrhagic disease in Zaire in 1976. Of the 318 cases, 280 of them not only died, but died quickly. That same year, 284 people in Sudan also became infected with the virus with 156 dying also in quick succession.

In the recent outbreak, as at March 31, the number of confirmed and unconfirmed cases in Guinea has reached 122, with 80 deaths. In Liberia, there have been four deaths in a total of eight cases and in Sierra Leone two, both of whom died. All the victims were reported to have tested positive to the same species of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever, namely Zaire ebolavirus

Just like the dreaded HIV which has defied cure since its emergence, Ebola virus too has no known cure. However, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan who addressed journalists last week in Abuja, denied any outbreak of Ebola disease in Nigeria. He said, “As a follow up to the report in a section of the media of an outbreak of Ebola disease in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health wishes to inform the general public that laboratory investigation has revealed that it is a case of Dengue Haemorrhage Fever and not that of Ebola Haemorrhage as erroneously reported”

According to the minister, reports on the disease were misconceived, as there are no cases of Ebola disease in Nigeria, pointing out that Dengue fever was wrongly taken as Ebola disease.

But as good as this may sound, it should be noted that even Dengue fever, according to experts, also has no known treatment or vaccine for now. It can cause severe flu-like symptoms and in severe cases can be fatal.  Drawing comparism between the two deadly diseases, the director-general, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Prof. Abdul Nasidi, who said Dengue fever is not as deadly as Ebola, explained that “Ebola kills mostly between 60-90 per cent of those who acquire it whereas with Dengue, the case of fatality is between one and two per cent but nevertheless, people can be unlucky and it can grab them as it happens.”

The health minister of state said Dengue fever is caused by a virus named Dengue Fever Virus (DFV) which is transmitted by mosquitoes, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.

According to him, the activities of the mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus) that transmit this virus are being closely monitored nationwide by the Arbovirus Research Centre of the Federal Ministry of Health based in Enugu.

He said, “the symptoms of the disease include, headache, fever, exhaustion, severe muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes and rashes. Other signs of Denger fever include bloody gums, bloody diarrhoea, bleeding from the nose and mouth, severe pain behind the eyes, red palms and soles differentiate it from malaria.” At the outset of the disease, the minister said it mimicks malaria and is often mistakenly diagnosed as malaria.

As one of the ways of avoiding this disease, the director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has warned hunters to guide against coming in contact with bush meat killed during hunting and Nigerians to be extra-ordinarily careful with eating bush and smoked meat, as the Ebola virus could be contacted through indiscriminate eating of smoked meat.

Nasidi noted, “we have enhanced our surveillance activities on areas of high probability; areas where they eat bush meat, areas where you have a lot of bats and other tiny animals.”

He stressed that those who eat bush meat don’t get the disease, but those who hunt and process the meat as well as those who eat smoked meat are also prone to getting the virus.

According to the NCDC boss, it takes between 2- 21 days for Ebola virus to manifest in a patient. He said government through the NCDC had swung into action to guard against the disease by intensifying its surveillance activities.

He added that the nation’s health posts at the ports and medical centres had been put on high alert to screen travellers from countries with confirmed Ebola fever occurrence.

“Nigerian citizens travelling to these countries are advised to be careful and should report any illness with the above symptoms to the nearest health facility,” he further counselled.

Though the NCDC boss reassured that the country has an alert and surveillance system in place, this has not in any way allayed the fear of many Nigerians considering our population and the penchant of our people for travelling.

He said,   “we can manage Dengue virus even though it doesn’t have cure too like Ebola and it doesn’t have vaccine but it’s not as deadly. Proper management can save the life of a patient. That is why we are going to strengthen our surveillance now.”

Speaking on the nature of the surveillance at the ports, Nasidi said, “at the ports, they have a protocol that they use when they are on red alert and they use the protocol first and foremost because we don’t have the machines at the border. Most of the time, we rely on a patient being ill. Any patient that lands with fever or whatever, they will quarantine him until they make sure that he doesn’t have any of these symptoms.

“Secondly, we do handout right from the country of departure, telling them to report to us if there’s any patient that is sick on board. All the airlines too are alerted. They know that any patient that shows signs of being ill on arrival are always screened and isolated. So the ports here have their international air regulation protocols that they use,” he added.

Preventive measures 

Nasidi said that the preventive measures for Ebola are different from those for Dengue fever.  According to him, because Dengue virus is transmitted by mosquito, how one protects himself from malaria is the same way he protects himself from Dengue fever.

“Mosquitoes that can transmit Dengue bite mostly in the evenings. So you can protect yourself if you can sleep under the long lasting insecticide-treated nets, spray insecticide in your home and keep your compound and environment neat,” he advised.

He said mosquitoes which transmit the virus also multiply in fresh water, especially water gathered in containers, small drums or tyres around the house. “So when it rains, it’s good to drain trapped water from all these containers or tyres. So part of the way to keep your environment clean is to make sure you don’t have all these containers or small tyres around,” he further said.

For Ebola, the NCDC DG said the centre was enhancing its surveillance in areas of high probability like forest areas where they hunt bush meat, areas where there are lots of bats and other tiny animals.

“In this area and in this moment, if we see anybody at all, whether it’s malaria or not malaria, if you have fever, don’t treat at home to make sure that you don’t have any of the Ebola that we can pick early and manage,” he added. Leadership

South Sudan – heavy fighting in Unity State

Sudan Tribune


April 14, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Rebel spokesperson Peter Riek Gew says forces from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) loyal to president Salva Kiir attacked their hideout in the north of Unity state on Sunday night.

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A South Sudanese government soldier stands in front of a vehicle in South Sudan’s Unity State on 12 January 2014 (AP)

However, he claims rebels defended their positions and have captured an oil field, about 35km from the state capital, Bentiu.

The incident is the latest blow to a ceasefire deal signed between the South Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition.

“We have been respecting [the] ceasefire agreement for so long but the SPLA never do that. We have managed to repulse [a] twin attack launched by [the] SPLA on us that led to our gallant forces – SPLA in Opposition – to capture Tor-abieth, Tharwangyiela, kilo 30 (Sikasik) which is known as Kubur Nyabol,” said Gew told Sudan Tribune phone, adding that rebel troops were now advancing towards the capital.

Many residents have fled Bentiu over the past three days amid fears of imminent rebel attacks.

On Sunday, government forces blocked some people from entering a UN protection site at Rubkotna.

Sources inside the UNMISS camp in Bentiu town told Sudan Tribune by phone on Monday morning that the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard outside.

“We are hearing artillery shelling and numbers of civilians are running inside [the] UN camp,” said an aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week, former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar said he intended to launch mass attacks targeting oil fields.

He said the move was designed to stop the flow of oil money, which it claims is being used by the Juba administration to “rent” foreign forces.

Unity state has changed hands several times since political tensions erupted in violence in the nation’s capital, Juba, in mid-December last year.

The conflict, which has since spread throughout the country, has pitted government troops loyal to Kiir against pro-Mahar rebels.

Ongoing peace talks between the warring parties brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has failed to quell the violence, with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms of a ceasefire deal signed on 23 January in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

(ST)

Guinea Bissau – votes counted after big turnout in key election

Reuters

People queue to vote in Bissau April 13, 2014. REUTERS-Joe Penney

People queue to vote in Bissau April 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

BISSAU (Reuters) – Vote counting began in Guinea-Bissau after a heavy turnout in Sunday’s legislative and presidential elections meant to bring stability to the West African state after years of coups and political infighting.

No major incidents were reported by the close of polls and monitors said they expected a record turnout. The electoral commission said turnout had reached 60 percent by 1430 GMT but did not give more detailed numbers.

At sunset, officials in Pefine, a neighbourhood in the crumbling capital Bissau, sat under a mango tree tallying ballots under the watchful eyes of residents and election observers.

Results are due by Friday. If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round will be held between the top two.

“I’ve voted for Guinea-Bissau. This is the last chance, things must change,” said Augusto Francisco da Fonseca Regala, a 55-year-old architect, raising an index finger stained with purple ink to confirm he had cast his ballot.

“For two years, everything has been at a standstill. I hope this election will bring peace and stability so that we can get back to work and develop the country.”

The last attempt at an election, in 2012, was aborted when troops under army chief Antonio Indjai stormed the presidential palace days before a run-off was due to take place.

Indjai released two doves as peace symbols after voting early on Sunday, but made no comment on the twice-delayed poll, which took place under pressure from donors and regional powers keen to see an end to decades of conflict and instability.

No elected president has completed a five-year term in the former Portuguese colony, which has become a major transit point for smugglers ferrying Latin American cocaine to Europe.

The final turnout at polling stations, which were set up in schools, on sidewalks and in one abandoned cinema, was likely to be between 70 and 80 percent, according to one source close to the organisation of the election, who asked not to be named.

Jose Ramos-Horta, U.N. Special Representative in Guinea-Bissau, told Reuters earlier on Sunday that tensions seen during campaigning had eased.

NEW VOTERS

The frontrunner of 13 presidential candidates is Jose Mario Vaz, a former finance minister running for the dominant African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

“We need to stabilise Guinea-Bissau. I cannot do this alone but with the help of everyone in Guinea-Bissau,” Vaz said.

The PAIGC party machinery makes it likely to secure a majority the 100-seat parliament but Vaz’s victory is far from certain because of public anger at traditional parties.

Many of the 800,000 registered voters are voting for the first time and are eager to usher in a new leadership.

Vaz’s candidacy is also tainted by accusations from Bissau’s attorney general of involvement in the embezzlement of a $12.5 million grant from Angola, something Vaz denies. His main challenger is former World Bank executive Paulo Gomes.

Guinea-Bissau is home to 1.6 million people and covers about 10,800 square miles (28,000 sq km). Weak state institutions, dozens of remote islands and a jagged coastline of mangrove creeks have made it a paradise for smugglers.

Indjai was indicted last year by a federal grand jury in New York on cocaine and weapons-trafficking charges but he escaped a sting operation to catch him that netted a former navy chief. Both men deny involvement in drug trafficking.

About 80 percent of the population depends on cashew farming, but post-election stability could help attract investors to untapped mineral resources including bauxite, phosphate and offshore oil.

Some 110 million euros in European Union aid, frozen after a 2011 military uprising, could be unblocked too.  Reuters

 

Kenya’s uphill battle to tackle corrupt police force

Mail and Guardian

Kenyans are losing patience with their ill-equipped and notoriously corrupt police force.

Poorly paid police officers and their families often have to share cramped and dilapidated quarters in Nairobi.

Their capital tarred with the nickname “Nairobbery” and under almost constant threat of attack by Islamist militants, Kenyans are losing patience with the ill-equipped and notoriously corrupt police force.

A catalogue of security failures has exposed the inability of Nairobi’s underpaid police to deal with the severe security problems, prompting President Uhuru Kenyatta to step in and promise a massive overhaul.

But analysts and security experts say it will be an uphill struggle to undo the broken relationship between public and police, given the ingrained stigma attached to the job and the fact that Kenyans have resorted to mob justice or now-ubiquitous private security firms.

“The public in Kenya has never really trusted the police, hence the failure of such noble concepts as community policing,” said Ken Ouko, a sociology professor at the University of Nairobi.

Joining the police has always been viewed as a career choice of last resort akin to an admission of academic failure, Ouko said.

“Most policemen carry with them an anger that quietly seethes underneath as they go about their daily operations,” he added.

The result is plain to see: anti-corruption website, ipaidabribe.or.ke, provides daily accounts of police extortion, mainly involving motorists stopped for spurious traffic violations and told to pay up or go to jail.

On social media, police are held in almost constant contempt. There was particularly vehement ridicule in January when police downplayed an explosion at Nairobi airport, saying it was an exploding light bulb, only later to arrest four Somalis and charge them with a terrorist attack.

Outside of Nairobi, the picture is no better. Police in western Kenya are still embroiled in a scandal after a group of alleged gang rapists were ordered to cut the grass at a police station as punishment.

And there are frequent reports of mobs lynching alleged thieves for crimes as petty as stealing a chicken.

Low salaries

Police salaries contribute to the low esteem and lack of motivation: the lowest ranking Kenyan police officers are currently paid $200 a month, way below the average cost of renting a small Nairobi apartment.

Officers and their families often have to share cramped and dilapidated quarters, sometimes with only a thin partition or curtain separating them from the next family.

This is seen as a major factor driving the alarming number of burglaries and armed robberies in which the police are implicated.

The lack of trust and security is clear across Nairobi’s changing cityscape, dominated by residential compounds with high walls, razor wire and bars on windows.

Police have also drawn ire for rounding up thousands of ethnic Somalis in indiscriminate counter-terrorism raids.

In a state of the nation address to Parliament last month, Kenyatta admitted an “unacceptable lack of coordination in our handling of crime”, and said “public frustration and anger” over bad policing had “occasionally boiled over into mob injustice”.

The president vowed to put more officers on the streets and pay give them better salaries, housing and health insurance.

He said the government would also provide the force—whose officers have been known to beg for a lift if called to a crime scene—with more sophisticated surveillance equipment and 1 200 new vehicles.

But Peter Kiama, director of the Nairobi-based rights group Independent Medico Legal Unit, says the problem runs far deeper than low salaries and poor equipment.

“While I fully support the need to invest in police capacity and welfare, I do believe that incentives may not matter at all as long as the mindset of the officers does not change,” said Kiama, whose organisation monitors police brutality and torture.

He said his organisation has documented 48 deaths at the hands of the police between January and March this year.

Some police, particularly the anti-terrorism unit, have come under fire for alleged abuses including torture, arbitrary detentions and disappearances, particularly against Muslims suspected of being militants.

Western diplomats have also voiced frustration over the lack of police capacity in a region subject to complex terrorist threats from al-Qaeda sympathisers in East Africa and the Horn of Africa.

“Most policemen would sooner take a bribe than stop a terrorist attack, and there are others who are happy to bump people off and feed them to the hyenas,” said a European law enforcement expert, who asked not to be named.

A senior Kenyan police detective admitted the situation was dire and that years of neglect had left the force out of sync with the changing security situation—whether in terms of small arms proliferation or last year’s siege of the Westgate shopping mall.

“There’s a need to have a paradigm shift within the police force to be in tandem with the changing patterns of crime and other emerging threats,” he said. – AFP

Central African Republic’s Prime MInister says UN committed to help

DW/allAfrica

Central African Republic: Nzapayeke – ‘The UN Is Committed to CAR’

interview

Central African Republic Prime Minister Nzapayeke tells DW he welcomes a UN decision to send 12,000 troops to his country. The peacekeepers will help restore stability and prepare the ground for next year’s elections.

The United Nations Security Council decided unanimously on Thursday (10.04.2014) to send nearly 12,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic. They are scheduled to start their mission in mid-September. What is your view of this decision?

The resolution was approved unanimously – that is good news and proves that the international community as a whole has committed to finding a lasting solution to the conflict in the Central African Republic. We are very pleased to see the will is there on the part of the international community to help us.

The government in Chad recently decided to withdraw the 850 soldiers serving as part of the African Union mission to the CAR that was tasked with providing security. Is the Security Council’s decision a consolation for you?

You cannot call it that. This wasn’t a rushed decision made by the UN. It was well prepared, everyone involved carefully considered each step. There was a lot of communication, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Bangui last week. This vote was carefully considered by everyone who voted for it. We are sure of that. It addresses a serious responsibility – not a consolation.

The resolution has been passed, but now the troops need to be mobilized.

Ban Ki-moon promised us during his trip to Bangui that he would do everything he can to get the 12,000 soldiers deployed as quickly as possible. For a long time there has been a plan to evaluate the work of the African Union’s mission to the Central African Republic and consider its further development into a UN mission. That happened and we are very happy about it. We can look ahead with more confidence and more means for the organization of the planned national elections.

Representatives of the CAR at the Security Council called for the UN mission to be entrusted to an African. Is that really important?

It is a detail, but it is an important detail. It would be a message of encouragement to Africa. To show that Africa is taking its future into its own hands and deciding on the path it will go down on its own. We also cannot forget that the African countries in the region and the African Union have been supporting us for a long time ahead of the UN resolution. That is why we think it is fair that this UN mission be led by an African.

Andre Nzapayeke became interim prime minister of the transitional government in the Central African Republic in January 2014. New elections are scheduled to be held in 2015.

 

Kenya – wildlife officials suspended in anti-poaching drive

BBC

Kenya suspends wildlife officials in poaching crackdown

Conservationists fear Kenya has become a global hub for ivory smuggling

Kenya’s government has suspended five officials from the wildlife service, amid growing concern over the poaching of endangered elephants and rhinos.

The officials were suspended as part of an investigation into mismanagement.

The government will directly oversee the running of the wildlife service, responsible for Kenya’s national parks, for three months, a spokesman said.

Kenya has been facing growing condemnation over its failure to tackle an apparent rise in poaching.

Veteran conservationist Richard Leakey, a former boss of the Kenyan wildlife service, said last month that the country had become a global hub for ivory smuggling.

Dozens of poaching bosses had been allowed to act with “outrageous impunity”, he said, in “a national disaster” that could result in the extinction of elephants and rhinos in the country.

Kenya’s national parks are famed for their wild elephants
According to officials, at least 18 rhinos and more than 50 elephants have been killed so far this year – a similar rate to that recorded last year.

However, some conservationists argue that the true figure is much higher.

The wildlife service recently denied that it was losing the battle against poachers.

New recruits
On Friday, a senior environment ministry official, Richard Lesiyampe, said it had “become necessary” for the government to assume direct control of the wildlife service.

Mr Lesiyampe said the five officials had been placed on leave so as to pave the way for an investigation into the management of the service.

The AFP news agency quoted him as saying that the investigation would ask why sophisticated equipment – such as night-vision goggles and weapons – had yet to be deployed against the poachers, despite having been paid for.

“The poaching and trafficking in wildlife… has increased in sophistication and scope,” he said. “We want to understand why our efforts are not working.”

He also told reporters that the service would be restructured and equipped with 50 new vehicles and hundreds of new recruits.

The demand for ivory and rhino horn is being driven by China and south-east Asia, where these products are marketed as ornaments or so-called medicines.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26997985

Kenyan Muslim leaders protest over anti-Somali sweep and arrestsy

Standard
Leaders now claim police swoop breeding animosity

By BRIGID CHEMWENO

Nairobi, Kenya: Muslims have condemned the ongoing blanket security swoop in Eastleigh and Mombasa to weed out illegal immigrants saying it is targeting innocent Somalis and Muslims.

Addressing the press in Jamia Mosque, Nairobi, after prayers Friday, the group led by former National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Farah Maalim said innocent Muslims and Somalis suffered at the hands of overzealous security officers adding that most of the refugees fled their country’s due to insecurity.

“Ours is not an evil doctrine and the Government should not target only one community in fighting terror in the country. I know senior Government officials will go to Church this weekend and talk about this swoop, a scenario which will create animosity between Muslims and Christians,” said Maalim.

The security operation has brought torture to the victims since women are not handled according to the Muslim faith hence infringing on their privacy, he said.

Maalim said the recent attacks in the country were not done by Muslims yet the Government took their security operations to areas where Muslims reside. And when a terror attack is reported, it is always linked with the Muslim community and the Somalis living in the country, an issue he termed as biased.

“We are aware of the security situation in the country but the state should practise its mandate to protect Kenyans. When there is a concern about security, there is always a blanket condemnation on the Muslims,” he added.

He complained that the victims are losing money through extortion in the security operation and others are deported against their will.

Trying moments

Ibrahim Lethome, a member of Jamia Mosque who spoke on behalf of the Muslim religious and business community said what is being conducted in Eastleigh and Mombasa is against the rights of Muslims and that Government should play its rightful role to protect its people.

“These are the trying moments for the religious Muslim community as they are viewed as perpetrators of crimes but we call upon the Muslims to be patient as we consult on the issue and maintain peace. We also urge the Imams in their various Mosques to conduct special prayers for peace and ask Kenyans to avoid using words which can bring animosity,” said Lethome.

Also present was Mandera senator Billow Kerrow who cautioned senior Government officials to be careful of their remarks to the public lest they bring a division between Muslims and Christians.

Kerrow said the Government should stop the security swoop in Eastleigh and initiate investigations adding the business community was counting losses because of the exercise.

“Somalis without legal status in the country should be deported but we were shocked to hear of a senator who was detained in the crackdown yet he had valid documents,” he said.
Muslims during prayers at Jamia Mosque in Nairobi, Friday. [PHOTO: MBUGUA KIBERA / STANDARD]

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http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/mobile/?articleID=2000109209&story_title=leaders-claim-police-swoop-breeding-animosity

Central African Republic refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

UN News Service

Central African refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon – UN agency

Central African Republic refugees at the Gbiti transit centre in Cameroon. Photo: UNHCR/M. Poletto

11 April 2014 – The United Nations refugee agency said today it is extremely concerned by reports that anti-Balaka militiamen are blocking and attacking civilians trying to flee violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“Over the past two weeks, our colleagues in Cameroon have been seeing refugees arrive with wounds from machetes or gunshots,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva.

She said UNHCR staff had also seen increasing numbers of people crossing into Cameroon via remote border entry points in an effort to evade the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militias.

“New arrivals told our colleagues that anti-Balaka militias have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing them to wade through the bush for two to three months before reaching the border,” she said. “The refugees also said that the anti-Balaka attacked them during their flight.”

The majority of the new arrivals are women, children and elderly people, and all are Muslims. They told UNHCR staff that the men stayed in CAR to create self-defence groups to protect their community and their cattle.

“UNHCR is calling on the anti-Balaka to stop preventing civilians from fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety. We are also calling on all sides to the conflict to renounce violence,” said Ms. Fleming.

Over 290,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries in search of refuge from the ongoing conflict in CAR, which began in December 2012 with attacks by mainly Muslim Séléka rebels. More than 650,000 are also internally displaced and 2.2 million, about half the population, are in need of humanitarian aid.

UNHCR said that despite the obstacles to their movement, an average of 10,000 people now cross weekly from CAR into eastern Cameroon. With the main entry points at Garoua Boulai and Kenzou no longer accessible due to anti-Balaka activities, people are using alternative routes.

“This has caused the number of entry points into Cameroon to grow from 12 to 27 over last three weeks, making it more challenging for our colleagues to monitor the border,” Ms. Fleming said.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received 69,389 refugees from CAR. This is on top of the 92,000 Centrafricain refugees who have fled in various waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

In a statement yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for an immediate end to the killings, targeted attacks and other atrocious human rights violations that continue with total impunity in CAR.

He also welcomed the establishment by the Security Council of a UN peacekeeping operation in the country, which he hoped will lead to the immediate, concrete and sustainable support that the Central African people need and deserve.  UN – http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47554&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=#.U0jxfctOVjo

Ecowas hopeful of successful Guinea Bissau election Sunday

VoA/allAfrica

Photo: Marc-André Boisvert/IRIN

Polling station in 2008 elections.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is cautiously optimistic that Guinea Bissau’s elections scheduled for Sunday will be transparent, free and fair, says Sonny Ugoh, Communications Director for ECOWAS.

His comments followed an official visit to Guinea Bissau by ECOWAS chairman and Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama who met with stakeholders on Thursday in the capital, Bissau, in the run up to the general election.

Ugoh says Mahama’s visit to Guinea Bissau is an indication of ECOWAS’ support to ensure that country’s election is peaceful and credible.

“This shows you the kind of interest at the highest level that this [election] has generated in the region. He talked to all those who are involved in the election, [and] the stakeholders to see what arrangement has been made, what challenges if there are any, and how if there is any other way the region can help, in order to make sure that not only that the election is free and fair, but beyond that the country would be stabilized,” said Ugoh.

Guinea Bissau twice postponed the presidential and parliamentary elections last year for luck of funds. But ECOWAS and its international partners were able to raise about $20 million to help the electoral commission organize the vote.

“At one point it was thought that it was not going to happen largely because of the financial requirement and there were [also] some grounds for criticisms,” said Ugoh. “But [ECOWAS] member states rallied and pledged some $ 20 million to support that process. That amount has been raised to help Guinea Bissau to stand back to its feet and hopefully lead to a process of political stability in that country,” he said.

ECOWAS has a 200-member team of long term observers in Guinea Bissau, who is monitoring the electoral process including the campaigning period in the run up to the vote, according to Ugoh.

He says officials from the regional bloc say Guinea Bissau’s electoral commission appears ready to organize and administer the election on Sunday.

“The feedback we are getting are quite positive and from the preparations that we have seen so far in the National Electoral Commission we are quite positive that there are grounds to be optimistic that there would be free, fair and credible election,” he said.

“We can only ask the people of Guinea Bissau to also commit themselves to realize this objective and beyond that to also work towards stability of that country,” said Ugoh. “The country has gone through a lot of instabilities and we believe that this is an opportunity for them now to end that cycle of instability, and join other member states in addressing more important challenges of economic development.” allAfrica

UN News Service

As Guinea-Bissau votes in bid for stability, UN urges respect for results

Civic education officials visit communities to explain voting procedures ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on 12 April, 2014 Photo: UNDP Guinea Bissau 

11 April 2014 – With preparations supported by the United Nations, voters in Guinea-Bissau head to the polls this Sunday in presidential and parliamentary elections many hope will bring stability to the tiny West African nation.

Postponed several times, the elections will be the first to take place since the 2012 military coup which ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira. They are widely seen as essential to restoring constitutional order, economic growth and development.

On the eve of the polls, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the people and institutions of Guinea-Bissau to ensure the conduct of peaceful and credible elections, adding that the candidates and their supporters, the Transitional Government, election management bodies, civil society and the population at large all have an important role to play in this regard.

Gana Fofang, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Resident Coordinator in Guinea-Bissau, called on all citizens to not only go out and vote in peace, but to commit to accepting the results. “What Guinea-Bissau needs is a return to constitutional normalcy. Only then will the country be able to get back on a more robust development pathway.”

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the election cycle in Guinea-Bissau, managing a $6.6 million basket fund that includes financing from the European Union, South Africa, Japan, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Turkey, and Brazil.

The funds have been used to help the National Election Commission (NEC) organize the ballot, buy voting materials, organize civic education activities and train election officials. For the first time, the Commission now has its own, fully refurbished building in the capital, Bissau.

In parallel, UNDP delivered voting materials, including 800,000 ballot papers and 6,000 ballot boxes, plus 6,000 voting booths and bottles of indelible ink.

A vast civic education campaign took place, with door-to-door visits to communities and voter outreach activities in public places. Some of these activities even took place in schools, where children for the first time learned about what it means to vote.

“This is the first time I am going to vote. My aim is to choose a Government that can solve the problems of the country and provide education for youth. With the elections, all these things might happen,” says Diamantino Barai, an 18-year-old student residing in Bissau, who will be voting for the first time.

Like many women and men in Guinea-Bissau, Barai is anxious about the future. More than two-thirds of the population is living on less than $2 a day and the country’s development indicators are among the lowest on the continent. For instance, life expectancy is only 48.6 years.

Ahead of the polls, community radios and private and public radio stations also broadcast messages of peace and educated voters on how to cast their ballots. In total, 1,000 civic education agents and 15,170 polling station officers were trained.

Financed by the Peacebuilding Fund, the Gorée Institute, a Senegal-based civil society organization, established a crisis cell with women from two national non-governmental organizations deployed in the field to monitor potential incidents. The operation was coordinated by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47564&Cr=Bissau&Cr1=#.U0jxA8tOVjo

Sudan’s defence minister says Darfur rebels must join peace process or be crushed

Sudan Tribune
Sudan’s defence minister vows decisive summer for Darfur rebels

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April 11, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has called upon the rebel groups in Darfur to seek a negotiated peaceful solution, warning the summer campaign will bring rebellion in the restive region to an end.

Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (File/Reuters)
Hussein, who addressed a public meeting with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in North Darfur capital Al-Fashir on Friday, said the government welcomes rebel groups who wish to join the peace process, adding the government made the necessary arrangements to end rebellion in the region.

“Rebels have to join peace before they be militarily crushed”, he said.

He further praised the RSF militias saying they set a good humanitarian example in dealing with hostages and citizens, pointing they provided services for the needy population in the region.

The director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta, for his part, disclosed they dispatched other RSF units to South Kordofan state to fight against the SPLM-N rebels and maintain security in the state.

The SRF militia, which operates under the command of NISS, is formed August last year to fight rebel groups in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states following joint attacks by Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.

SRF REBELS ACCUSE

Meanwhile the Sudanese rebel alliance, SRF, announced in a statement issued by its top military commander, Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu, they obtained “certain information” that NISS is undertaking a plan in coordination with the military intelligence, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), aiming to mobilise tribal militias to fight against its forces in Blue Nile, Nuba Mountain, North Kordofan, and Darfur.

He added that those militias, which include forces recruited from outside Sudan, will target civilians to displace them from rebel areas. But, the government will cover these attacks, describing it as tribal clashes.

The statement added this task was assigned to a force stationed in Al-Fayed village in Rashad district in the Nuba Mountains, pointing the force is commanded by Brig. Gen. Abdel-Samad Babiker, Lieu. Col. Mohamed Al-Fatih Ahmed, and Maj. Gen. Mohamed Al-Rabie’.

The force is also supported by a battalion of Mujahideen (holy fighters) from Khartoum and a battalion of the paramilitary PDF, according to the statement.

The rebels said the militias backed by aerial bombardment, shelled Toumi and Al-Mansour areas in South Kordofan and burned several villages including Toumi, Al-Mansoura, Tarawa, Kluro, Tendimen, Taglbo, Teri and other villages in order to force villagers to move to the government controlled areas.

Al-Hilu called upon rights groups and human rights activists to condemn the scorched land policy carried out by the government and expose regime’s repressive policies against defenceless citizens.

The commander of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, for his part, denied that his force committed war crimes or violated civilians’ rights in the region, accusing rebel groups of seeking to tarnish their image.

He said the RSF is innocent of these criminal practices, underscoring they arrested groups of outlaws who attacked civilians north of the town of Mellit while they were chasing remnants of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Minni Minnawi (SLM/MM) following an attack on the town last month.

The African Union and United Nations Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, had last March openly accused the RDF of attacking civilians.

He condemned in his address at Um Jaras peace forum the RSF attacks, saying they were the main cause of displacement of thousands of villagers.

The rebel SLM-MM carried out attacks in South and North Darfur states triggering reprisal attacks by government militias on villages suspected of support to the rebels. These attacks coincided with tribal clashes in the North Darfur state.

The violence displaced over 215,000 civilians in the state.

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