Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

South Sudan – human rights chief says conflict heightening ethnic divisions

Sudan Tribune

September 28, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese conflict, now in its ninth month, has promoted tension, fear and mistrust among the Dinka and Nuer tribes, a senior official said last week.

JPEG - 50.8 kb
Lawrence Korbandy (C) with other members of the panel addressing South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network members, September 21, 2012 (ST)

Lawrence Korbandy, the chairperson of South Sudan Human Right Commission (SSHRC), told the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that ethnic tensions have destroyed the social cohesion and fabric of communities especially among larger tribes.

“This explains why over 90,000 IDPs who live under protection of the UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) are reluctant to go back to their homes. Often, their reluctance is justified by ethnic tension, mistrust and sense of fear for possible annihilation by the other tribe,” Korbandy said from Geneva.

“All these undermine the spirit of coexistence, peace and reconciling process,” he added.

However, South Sudanese president Salva Kiir told the 69th session of the UN general assembly in New York on Thursday that the conflict was purely a political crisis and not an ethnic struggle for power.

“My government has demonstrated its firm commitment to peace, has unreservedly honoured these agreements, and is continuing to negotiate in good faith to find a peaceful solution to the conflict,” said Kiir, who accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of “impatience”.

Korbandy said the young nation has witnessed one of the worst internal displacements of its civilian population, notably in central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. To date over 90,000 people are living in IDP camps, the majority under the protection of the UN at various sites across the country.

“The conditions of the IDP camps have not been very good which needs humanitarian intervention,” he told the UNHRC meeting.

Nearly 1.5 million South Sudanese have been displaced due to the conflict as aid agencies warned of possible famine early next year.

The SSHRC chairperson, however, acknowledged efforts by government to promote and protect the rights of the country’s citizens, citing the formation of the investigation committee on human rights abuses headed the former chief justice of South Sudan.

“The committee is doing its work and soon may issue their findings in a form of a comprehensive report. The Commission is monitoring this process very closely,” said Korbandy.

Also in place, he said, was the formation of the crisis management committee by government to, among other functions, educate the people, that; the conflict did not target certain ethnic groups, but a national crisis requiring the unity of the South Sudanese to resolve it.

Meanwhile, Korbandy said SSHRC accepts and welcomes of the African Union Commission of Inquiry into the South Sudan conflict. The five-member body, which is headed by former Nigerian president Olusugen Obasanjo, has been tasked with investigating rights abuses and promoting the healing process.


Somalis feel safer in Mogadishu than a year ago according to survey


Somalis ‘feeling safer’ in Mogadishu, survey says

Children play in celebration after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Somalia"s capital Mogadishu, July 28, 2014.Many Somalis have returned home in recent years as security has improved

Residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are feeling safer and more optimistic than they were a year ago, according to a new survey.

The Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, which analysed data collected from more than 1,600 residents, said people reported a decline in violence.

However, serious concerns remain, such as attacks by Islamist group al-Shabab, and mistrust of the security services.

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict for more than two decades.

Thousands of Somalis have been returning from abroad to help rebuild the country as security has improved in recent years.

A displaced child stands outside the family"s temporary dwelling after fleeing famine in the Marka Lower Shebbele regions to the capital Mogadishu, September 20, 2014. But life remains grim for the thousands of people who live in Mogadishu’s refugee camps

Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 but still stages frequent attacks in the city and controls many rural areas.

In February, its fighters stormed Villa Somalia, a large complex which houses the presidential palace and other government institutions, killing 11 people.

Grey line

Analysis: Mary Harper, BBC Somali expert

Although most of those interviewed for the survey feel safer and more optimistic than they did last year, the fact that they still have major security concerns shows the vast challenges facing the Somali government and its international supporters.

The fear of increased attacks by Islamist insurgents and others, the deep mistrust of the judiciary and the security forces, and the violent land disputes would, in most countries, be considered an unacceptably insecure environment in which to live.

But for Somalis in Mogadishu, this is seen as an improvement compared to the intense violence they have endured for the past two decades.

Somalia, particularly the southern and central regions, still has a long way to go, both in terms of security and institution-building.

But optimism and resilience are key parts of that journey, and if they can be harnessed by the government and others responsible for improving life in Somalia, they could help propel the country towards a better future at last.

Grey line

According to the report, “the overwhelming majority of respondents stated that they had not witnessed clan or group conflict in the last 12 months”.

However, many people still say they are concerned about disputes between different clans, and al-Shabab attacks.

They also said they did not trust the security forces of the judiciary.

In one area, 66% of respondents say they preferred to report civil matters to traditional elders, with just 7% going to the police.

Only 13% said they trusted the courts, compared to 48% for traditional leaders and 29% for religious leaders.

The African Union has some 22,000 troops in Somalia, in support of the UN-backed government.

Soldiers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) secure an area near a prison in Mogadishu on 31 August 2014 The African Union has helped the government retake territory from al-Shabab

South Africa fourth in Mo Ibrahim governance index for Africa

Mail and Guardian

The overall governance showed a mild improvement in participation of human rights, sustainable growth and human development.

South Africa has ranked fourth out of 52 countries in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. (AFP)

The 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) released on Monday shows that South Africa ranks fourth out of 52 countries.

South Africa scored 73.3 out of a 100, a slight improvement of 0.3 from last year. The overall governance showed a mild improvement in participation of human rights, sustainable growth and human development – 74.4, 71.3 and 78.8 respectively but only scored 68.1 in Safety and Rule of Law.

The main reason behind the lower score was Personal Security, which scored a low 30.4 making it one of the top 10 countries on the continent to receive lowest scores in Safety & Rule of Law.

Safety & Rule of Law is the only category in the 2014 IIAG to have demonstrated two consecutive five-year period deteriorations in the past ten years.

The index is supposed to provide a framework for citizens, government, institutions and the private sector to assess the delivery of public good, services and policy outcomes across the continent.

Mo Ibrahim, founder and chairperson of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that was established to support good governance and exceptional leadership on the African continent, said the index was designed to reject the “one-size-fits-all” attitude when looking at Africa

“Anyone who wants a true grasp of African realities must first reject the one-size-fits-all approach which reduces the African continent geographically or governance conceptually, in favour of a more granular approach,” said Ibrahim.

‘Afro-realist’ approach
Ibrahim said the approach often taken when dealing with Africa was either of Afro-pessimism of Afro-optimism which is why a call for an Afro-realist approach was necessary.

The index showed that 13 out of the 52 countries had wide-reaching gains, having improved in overall governance and in the political, social and economic governance dimensions over the past five years. However, the dramatic deteriorations or underperformance of some countries are a cause for concern.

“Over the past five years, every one of the top five ranking countries has deteriorated in at least one category, demonstrating that even the highest performers need to remain vigilant and retain an on-going commitment to the governance agenda,” said Ibrahim.

In addition Ibrahim said: “The results of the 2014 IIAG challenge our perceptions about the state of African governance. Africa is progressing but the story is complex and doesn’t fit the stereotypes.”

Africa Rising narrative
Jay Naidoo, board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said “we need to make sure that the Africa Rising narrative that everyone is talking about truly benefits all African people”. Nigeria, the strongest economy in Africa, ranked 37th, a slight improvement from the 2013 ranking where the country took 41st position.

Nigeria has seen a safety and rule of law deterioration by 6.6 score points and human development has deteriorated slightly by 0.3 points. But for the counter balance, Nigeria has seen an improvement in sustainable economic opportunities at 3.8 and a bigger improvement in participation and human rights at 6.4.

Mauritius held onto its top spot followed by Cape Verde and Botswana but each still recorded deterioration in some aspects.


Rwanda’s forgotten men in the international tribunal system


Rwanda court’s forgotten men pose challenge to international justice

Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:02pm BST

Preserved skulls are spread out on a metal shelf in a Catholic church in Nyamata April 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Noor Khamis

Preserved skulls are spread out on a metal shelf in a Catholic church in Nyamata April 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Noor Khamis

THE HAGUE/DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Justin Mugenzi was legally cleared of any role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. But an oversight in the international justice system means he remains a virtual prisoner in a United Nations safe house in the eastern African state of Tanzania.

“My wife and eight children are all Belgian citizens now,” the 75-year-old former trade minister told Reuters in Dar es Salaam after submitting a third – and unsuccessful – visa application to the Belgian embassy there.

“I have nowhere else to go,” said Mugenzi.

Despite his acquittal last year by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based 650 km (400 miles) further north in the city of Arusha, he is too scared to go back to Rwanda, where political rivals now hold sway.

The ICTR is scheduled to hand down four more verdicts on Monday, potentially creating more such limbo cases.

The plight of Mugenzi and others like him is a setback to years-long efforts to create a system of international justice by using special courts such as the ICTR – set up to try those accused of carrying out the Rwandan genocide – or permanent tribunals with a more general remit such as the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Backers say such courts are needed to deal with the world’s worst criminals: perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. But some doubt their legitimacy, pointing to the ICC’s patchy record in securing convictions.

The ICC’s critics say it ignores crimes in the West to focus on Africa. The collapse through lack of evidence this month of the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta – accused of stoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 elections – was a new blow to its credibility after a string of failed prosecutions.

Arrangements exist for witnesses to resettle or for defendants to go to jail in third countries. But when the tribunals were created in the early 1990s, no one imagined that those acquitted would be either unable or unwilling to go home.

International law experts say this snag could further undermine confidence in the courts.

“How can we possibly consider a system to be fair if before the trial, the tribunal makes lots of arrangements about where to put the defendants in jail if they’re convicted but makes no arrangements at all for what’s going to happen to them if they’re acquitted?” said Kevin Heller, Professor of Criminal Law at SOAS, University of London.


Like Mugenzi, 10 other individuals acquitted or freed by the ICTR are living in a safe house – in limbo in a country that is not theirs.

“We couldn’t leave these men on Arusha’s sidewalks, with their small suitcases, no pocket money and not the slightest idea of where they would go,” said Pascal Besnier, chief of the judicial and legal affairs section at the ICTR.

But what was intended as a temporary solution when the first acquittal was handed down in 2001 is still in place. Only six men have been resettled – in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. The safe house’s longest-standing resident has been there for over 10 years. This month, an acquitted former general joined his family in Belgium – the first to leave since 2010.

Tanzania tolerates their presence under UN surveillance but other countries are not keen to welcome them. France has taken in two and believes others should now step forward.

In the well-appointed safe house in Arusha, where the ICTR’s registrar used to live, acquitted and freed prisoners share meals and do the chores. They are allowed to travel around but they often stay in. “Why would we go to town?” one resident asked. “We can’t work or study.”

Each resident costs $1,500 a month including rent, telephone, cooks, guards and other outgoings. The house, paid for by the United Nations and guarded by Tanzanian police, is almost full even before Monday’s fresh set of verdicts.

In a statement to the ICTR, Kigali said it would welcome the acquitted and respect the ICTR’s verdicts.

“The official position of the Government of Rwanda … is of respect for decisions of courts, including the ICTR, irrespective of whether the Government, Civil Society or any other person or body perceives them to be less than fair”, said the Ministry of Justice.

But after Mugenzi and his family fled Rwanda 20 years ago, he has nothing to return to. He fears for his safety in a land where his acquittal was condemned at public demonstrations.

“They’re very high profile people,” said the ICTR president, Judge Vagn Joensen. “We can’t force them back.”

Some of them have “well-founded fears” of going back, said Human Rights Watch senior Africa researcher Carina Tertsakian, adding that they risked being prosecuted on other charges.

“It may well be that those people have a case to answer but our concern has to do with whether the process of justice would be fair,” she said.

Contacted by Reuters, Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye denied there would be any attempt to make them face similar charges if they returned.

“I can assure you that nobody would say, ‘Now they have survived conviction for genocide I am going to hit them with genocide denial or ideology or divisionism’ – nobody!” he said.


Applying for refugee status is a long shot for them. Having been accused of the worst crimes is often enough for an application to be rejected. The Western countries in which they have families are increasingly reluctant to receive them, not least because of a rise of anti-immigrant sentiment that has accompanied Europe’s protracted economic downturn.

“The potential public reaction might be quite an issue,” said Belgian Justice Ministry official Adrien Vernimmen.

According to the ICTR statute, states must assist the tribunal, including in the arrest and detention of defendants. But it does not mention the relocation of acquitted individuals. Neither does the Rome statute, which created the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Yet, with only two convictions and one acquittal so far – all being appealed – even the ICC is already facing this issue.

Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, a former Congolese militia leader acquitted in 2012 after prosecutors failed to prove he ordered atrocities in eastern Congo in 2003, has lodged an asylum request in The Netherlands saying he will be persecuted after he testified against Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

ICC officials play down the issue. “So far there is one acquitted person. He didn’t want to go back but nothing tells us that that will be the norm for the future,” said ICC registrar Herman von Hebel, adding he was sure Ngudjolo could return.

Yet, the problem could come up in future. If acquitted, would former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo want to return to a country led by his rival Alassane Ouattara and where his wife, who also faces ICC charges, sits in detention?

Experts fear this could hurt the image of international criminal justice, already criticised for its alleged slowness, selectivity and alleged shortcomings of its prosecutions.

“It is a human rights issue that the international community, through the UN, takes over criminal proceedings and then doesn’t complete the work and reinstate people who have been acquitted by our system,” said the ICTR’s Vagn Joensen.

Von Hebel said he was confident the ICC would be able to build a wider network of states willing to help in the future. But international tribunals, by definition dependent on states’ cooperation, have no means of forcing them to comply.

With the ICTR due to close next September, observers wonder what will happen to the remaining residents of the safe house. The tribunal says it will find a solution for the time being.

“As long as those people have not found homes elsewhere, we will try to continue helping them,” said judge Theodor Meron of the ICTR.

In the longer term, says David Donat Cattin, secretary general of Parliamentarians for Global Action, a network of international lawmakers, it boils down to political will.

“Governments are very lazy,” he said. “They are ready to support the court when there is an anniversary, but when they have to do concrete things, they are very reluctant.”  Reuters


Sudan and South Sudan – US envoy on Washington’s priorities

US Department of State

U.S. Special Envoy on U.S. Priorities in Sudan, South Sudan

25 September 2014

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014


MS. STAVROPOULOS: Good afternoon and welcome. My name is Daphne Stavropoulos. We are very pleased today to have Ambassador Donald Booth, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, with us. He’s going to make opening remarks that are going to be on the record. After he makes his remarks, we’ll open the floor to questions. We may have journalists at our foreign press center in Washington, D.C., and we certainly have some viewing live – via livestream.

So with that, we want to thank you again for coming today, and I’ll turn it over to you, Ambassador.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Okay, well, good afternoon. I’ve just come from the Secretary-General’s special event on South Sudan over at the UN, which focused on the twin issues of the ongoing crisis in the country, both the political crisis – the conflict – and the humanitarian crisis. And I think there was a general agreement among the participants that the humanitarian crisis, while donors are stepping forward and providing assistance, that the crisis itself is – stems from the ongoing conflict. And the conflict is manmade; therefore this humanitarian crisis is manmade, and it needs to be addressed.

I think one of the panelists put it very well is we need to focus on protecting the people and achieving peace in the country, that the two are inextricably linked. But the humanitarian situation in South Sudan is indeed dire. There are about 3.9 million people in the country that need food assistance. There are close to 1.7 million people that have been displaced by the conflict; 500,000 of them are living in neighboring countries as refugees. Of the ones that are in the country, almost 100,000 are actually in various UN camps, the UNMISS bases that have been turned into protection-of-civilian sites. These people have been there for the most part since the conflict began in December.

The conflict had its origins in political competition within the ruling party, but then ended up splitting the country along ethnic lines, and the conflict has been addressed by a mediation process by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which is the East African, Horn of Africa regional organization. They were given that mandate by the African Union back in December and they have been leading a mediation process ever since. That process has achieved a cessation of hostilities agreement by the parties. That was accomplished in January, but it was not respected; the fighting continued. In May, they managed to bring together President Kiir and the opposition leader Riek Machar in Addis Ababa, and we got a commitment from both of them to negotiate a transitional government that would bring about an end to the hostilities and usher in the reforms that would be needed, including the writing of a new permanent constitution.

Again, the negotiations since May have not been conclusive. The talks resumed again in Ethiopia formally this past Monday and are continuing now in the city of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia under the mediation of IGAD supported by many of the international partners, supported definitely by the African Union, by the Troika of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway; supported by the European Union and by China as well.

So – and many other donors that are contributing to the efforts supporting the mediation effort and supporting one of the elements that came out of the cessation of hostilities agreement which was the establishment of a monitoring and verification mechanism. This is a civilian mechanism, an unarmed mechanism, that was designed to go in and investigate violations of the cessation of hostilities report on who had done what. And it has been established now in seven different sites in South Sudan and has been providing reporting, though it has been hampered by the fact that it is operating in a non-permissive environment; i.e., an environment where fighting continues.

And so one of the missions that the Security Council gave to UNMISS when it changed the mandate of UNMISS back in April was to give the primary mandate of the mission to be protection of civilians, and included in that was a protection of the monitors mandate.

So the region has given a 45-day deadline for negotiations. That deadline is approaching. The negotiations, as I said, are currently underway, and they have become multi-stakeholder negotiations, where it’s not just the two armed groups that are at the table but IGAD has brought in as well representatives of other members of the party, of the SPLN – the ruling party – who had been detained after the conflict broke out and who have chosen not to take sides with either the government or the opposition, with other political parties, with the civil society representation, and also representation of the religious community – the idea being to bring more voices from South Sudan into the peace process so that any eventual peace process arrangement for a transitional government would have a broader basis and a broader buy-in. What IGAD is striving for, we’re all striving for, is peace but also a sustainable peace and putting South Sudan on a trajectory where it can come up with a political arrangement that the different ethnic groups can live together peacefully and harmoniously.

The independence of South Sudan has been described by some as the creation of two multiethnic countries, and that’s quite true. Both Sudan and South Sudan are multiethnic countries, and both are grappling with the issues of how to govern multiethnic countries.

So let me stop there with those remarks on South Sudan and the peace process, and we can turn to any questions you have.

MS. STAVROPOULOS: Please make sure to state your name and your media affiliation.

QUESTION: Ambassador, hi, thanks for doing this. I’m Kevin Kelley. I write for The Nation in Kenya and for the East African. I spoke with you briefly at the Africa summit in Washington in August and I asked you then whether you thought that IGAD was in danger of losing some credibility because it keeps threatening to impose sanctions, and it doesn’t. And now we have another deadline that – we’ll see what happens. But the Enough Project put out a report today saying that IGAD’s losing credibility by not imposing sanctions. Has the United States played a role in discussing this with IGAD, saying that you need to do what you say you’re going to do? The U.S. imposed sanctions this week on two military – two more military leaders.

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: We have discussed the issue of sanctions with IGAD. Back in May when Secretary Kerry traveled to the region and met with a number of IGAD foreign ministers, they were talking about punitive measures to be taken if the parties did not negotiate seriously, and they, indeed, have let that threat go unfulfilled. But the – they remain focused on trying to use both the threat and actual measures to try to leverage the negotiations forward.

There’s always a concern that if you just go ahead and impose a sanction that you can foreclose options. And this is one of the reasons that the U.S. and the European Union have been very careful to be – move in a deliberate fashion in terms of sanctioning people and sending the message that the pressures will increase. And I think that’s what IGAD is trying to figure out, is what is credible that they can do as a region,– that they can agree on and they can work together on, because the effectiveness will require them to work together. And so I think they’re looking for ways to bring pressure to bear on the parties, and we continue to engage with them on how best to do that.

QUESTION: I can do a follow-up if nobody else has – I forget the source of this, but it was one of the think tanks suggested in a report recently that maybe one reason why IGAD’s reluctant to impose sanctions is because Kenya, for example, serves a conduit for weapons going to South Sudan, and some of these leaders on both sides of the battling are keeping funding money in surrounding countries. Do you think that there are disincentives of that kind to move forward with sanctions?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Well, I think the – as I say, I think the countries of the region are looking at how best to leverage the negotiations and to do so in a way that is credible. And so I think one of the things that the region has talked about itself is an arms embargo. I think there’s a recognition that they would have to be the ones that would implement that, and I think they’ve been looking seriously at how they might do something like that. So, again, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to use both the posturing and at the same time working out how they might be able to actually implement something in order to maximize the pressure and influence the negotiations.

QUESTION: Just one more, if I could just follow – following up on that. Would the United States not move through the Security Council to seek an arms embargo on all parties in South Sudan until IGAD acts? Is that the U.S.’s position?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: The Security Council has to reach agreement on any sanctions. We’re one vote in it, and we have to make sure that those who could block it with one vote don’t do so, which was going to require a level of African support. And when we feel we have that level of African support, I think the Security Council action is quite possible.


QUESTION: Thanks for being here with us, Mr. Ambassador. On the issue of civilian casualties and thousands of refugees, and apart from the African efforts and the United Nations and the Security Council, what has been the role on the ground of the United States on these issues?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Well, the United States, working as part of the Troika, has been supportive of the IGAD mediation process. We have been consulting with the mediators, giving them support – political support where needed, and trying to help build the pressure on the parties to negotiate seriously. It’s one of the reasons the U.S. issued the executive order for targeted individual sanctions back in April. We have followed through with two rounds of designations under those sanctions, and we’re prepared to continue to utilize that executive order, if need be.

We have been the major funder of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism and helped in the establishment of that through assistance that we provided, technical expertise, people who had worked previous monitoring missions. We have also been – we were very supportive of the effort to bring – to strengthen the UN mission in South Sudan, both to change its mandate to one of protection of civilians but also to bring in troops from the region so that there would be a credible regional force there that could help protect not only civilians, but also the monitors.

So we continue to work on a political level with the parties in South Sudan. We engage with all of the actors. We’ve helped to – the civil society groups to organize, to have a voice in these negotiations. We did so at the request of IGAD. So we basically are – as IGAD likes to say, we’re sort of a force multiplier for them. We are supportive of their effort. We help to move that – the process forward as best we can.

Secretary Kerry, as I mentioned, traveled to the region in early May, and I think his visit to Juba as well as to Addis and his engagement with President Kiir and with opposition leader Riek Machar helped to facilitate them agreeing to come together in Addis, where IGAD, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia, managed to wring this commitment from the two sides to move forward toward a transitional government.

So that’s the kind of engagement that we’ve had. At the same time, we’re of course addressing the humanitarian situation on the ground. We’ve contributed $636 million so far since this crisis began for the humanitarian situation alone, and have been a major leader in helping – working with the UN to organize that relief effort.

QUESTION: What has been the effect of the crisis in South Sudan to Sudan, (inaudible) issue of Darfur and other issues of crisis in Sudan?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Well, I think probably the most immediate has been the fact that due to the fighting, oil production has declined, and so therefore, transit revenues have declined. The Sudanese have expressed great concern at the presence of some elements of the JEM and other opposition movements from Sudan who have gone to South Sudan to fight on the government side down there. The Government of South Sudan has expressed concerns that the Government of Sudan is supporting opposition forces.

But I would say that Sudan has generally engaged as a member of IGAD. They have contributed a member of the mediation team. They have contributed members to the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, and generally have gone along with the direction that IGAD as an organization has wanted to take in trying to bring about an end to the conflict.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: I’m Vasco De Jesus, VascoPress, Brazil. And given all these variables, do you have a timeframe that you expect these parties will get together in the road of peace? It’s a two-year, one-year – how do you foresee?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Well, the – as I say, IGAD – I mean, they are together. They’ve been together since January with a few breaks in between under this IGAD mediation. They’re under a 45-day deadline now. I think, obviously, if there’s progress being made, if there’s a seriousness of negotiation, no one is going to stop them from talking in the middle of a constructive process. But the process of some sort of reconciliation, accountability, some of the critical reform areas that will need to be addressed by a transitional government – again, IGAD has talked about a 30-month transition period. But that’s after you get a peace agreement and after you get agreement on what will constitute a transitional government.

The – everybody has been pushing the process as quickly as possible. The parties have resisted coming to grips with a lot of the serious issues until recently, when there were some very constructive discussions on specific issues such as security sector reform, accountability and reconciliation, reform of the public finances. And so there is – once they get down to discussing the – kind of the more substantive issues, they – the talks tend to be a bit more productive. It’s when they’re talking about who should be in charge that it’s a bit less productive.

Though IGAD – in an attempt to push the process forward, the last IGAD summit basically laid out an outline and a protocol for a transitional government that would have President Salva Kiir, as the duly elected president of the country, continue as president through the transition, but that there would be a prime minister that would be nominated by the opposition,would have to be agreed to by the president, but the powers of that prime minister are a subject of negotiation. And so that’s, again, a task ahead of the negotiators here.


QUESTION: On Sudan, the issue about Darfur has been on for more than 10 years. So what do you think should be the solution to this, because since the UN is (inaudible) from resolving the issue in Sudan?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Well, there have been many peace agreements for Darfur, the most recent one having been the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, which really only one major group signed on to. Other armed groups, the Darfuri groups, refused to sign on to it. As they’ve explained it to me, they don’t believe it’s a basis for addressing the underlying issues of the conflict in Darfur, and therefore they didn’t want to be part of it. They saw it as more an effort at co-opting them. That’s their view.

The bottom line is that there hadn’t been really a serious discussion between the government and the Darfuri armed opposition. This is something that President Mbeki, in his role as chair of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel, has taken up recently, and as I understand will be having actually a meeting with Darfuri groups, and is working with the government in Khartoum to try to find a way to get a process for negotiating a cessation of hostilities in Darfur and a humanitarian access agreement as part of something in parallel that he’s doing with the Two Areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. And both of those cessation of hostilities agreement negotiations would tie – could become permanent peace agreements but via addressing the political issues which are common to both areas of conflict via this national dialogue that President Bashir has put on the table in the speech he made in January. And so I think there is – if President Mbeki is allowed to continue and have a parallel negotiation process for Darfur with what he’s doing in the Two Areas, and if there is a genuine national dialogue to link those two cessation of hostilities negotiations to, I think there is a possibility of them evolving into a permanent ceasefire and a peace agreement.

But this is still early, very early. And the fighting, unfortunately, continues very, very vicious – fighting that basically affects civilians, aerial bombardment and the new version of the Janjaweed, the Rapid Support Forces which operate in Darfur as well as the two areas.

In Darfur I think there were 500,000 people displaced last year –

QUESTION: This year?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: — by fighting. And in the two areas this year another 100,000 displaced. So the impact really is on civilians.

MS. STAVROPOULOS: We have time for just one or two more questions.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on South Sudan. Do you personally or the United States believe that the two parties are equally culpable for the violations of the ceasefire, or do you think that the rebels or the governments are primarily to blame for the breakdown?

AMBASSADOR BOOTH: Both sides have committed violations of the ceasefire. The monitoring and verification mechanism has documented that. The important thing is that you can get into this tit-for-tat that has to stop. They’ve recommitted in May twice. The May 9th agreement between Riek Machar and President Kiir also recommitted them. And they were recommitted again in this last IGAD summit to implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement. They just need to get on with doing it.

And one of the problems is the forces in many areas are in very close proximity to each other, so it doesn’t take much to start a firefight. I would say since May a lot of the violations, if you will, have been more sort of indirect fire, but there have been several that have been blatant attacks. We have condemned those, such as the attack recently in the areas around Renk in Upper Nile and also the attack against Nasir by opposition forces.

MS. STAVROPOULOS: If there are no more questions, I want to thank Ambassador Booth very much for participating in today’s discussion. We really appreciate you coming. And for all of you, we will be sending the transcript to you later today and it’ll be posted on the website. And we encourage everyone here to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you very much.


Read more:

Nigeria – escaped Chibok girl pregnant

The rather tacky and contradictory reports about the Chibok schoolgirls continue to feature in Nigerian newspapers as the government proves unable to rescue the girls or cope with Boko Haram. KS

Daily Trust/allAfrica

Nigeria: Abandoned Chibok Girl Four Months Pregnant

Photo: Naijagists/Facebook

A young woman (file photo).

One of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls apparently abandoned by her captors and found by villagers on Wednesday is four months pregnant, Daily Trust learnt yesterday.

The girl of about 20 was found after she was dumped at an unidentified location from where she trekked for three days to a village near Mararaban Mubi, in Hong Local Government Area of Adamawa State, according to a police source.

Villagers took her to a police station at Mararaban Mubi, where she told officers that she was among the over 200 girls abducted from Government Secondary School Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.

From there she was moved to the state capital, and first received treatment at the Police Clinic in Yola before she was moved elsewhere, police sources told Daily Trust.

Leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, told Daily Trust in Abuja that preliminary medical examination has revealed the girl is four months pregnant.

A police officer working at the Mararaban Mubi station said when the girl was brought in, she was asked questions and she narrated to the police her experience in Boko Haram captivity.

He said the girl gave her name as Suzanna Ishaya, but Daily Trust could not find this name among the 180 names of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls released by a Christian cleric on May 3, nearly three weeks after the abduction. But there is ‘Suzana Yakubu’ on that list.

Also, photos and names of the schoolgirls published mid-June do not contain the name ‘Suzana Ishaya.’

Daily Trust learnt that the abandoned girl told the Mararaban Mubi police the schoolgirls were held at the Sambisa Forest in Borno State, where each of them live in a separate hut with one of the militants.

The girls do not get see each other, and so none of them was sure about the condition of their colleagues, she said.

She also said they suffered abuse in the hands of their captors. The girl told the police she missed her menstrual period four months ago, meaning she is likely to be pregnant for as many months.

Five days ago, the girl said, she was asked to enter a Starlet car along with three other abducted girls. They were then driven to an unknown location where she alone was dumped and told that she was free to go. The other girls were driven away.

It was from there that she trekked for three days until she reached that village near Mararaban Mubi.

The police authorities in Abuja yesterday confirmed that one of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls had resurfaced in Adamawa State on Wednesday.

Spokesman for the Police Force Headquarters, Mr Emmanuel Ojokwu, told journalists in Abuja that the girl is now receiving medical attention.

Ojukwu, who was responding to questions at the National Information Centre, said the girl, 20, was abandoned at Mararaban Mubi by suspected Boko Haram members.

“Yes, I can confirm that on September 24, at about 5 pm, one young girl, about 20, among those abducted by the bad elements was dropped at Mararaban Mubi by suspected terrorists,” he said.

“She has been picked by the police and is undergoing treatment right now. Her condition is stable so far and she is getting the best medical attention available.”

When asked if there was any proof that the girl was one of the Chibok girls, Ojukwu said available information showed that “she is one of them.” He, however, declined to reveal her name on the ground of security.

Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, leader of the Chibok Elders Forum, Dr. Bitrus, said the girl was abandoned around the headquarters of the Ekilisiyar ‘Yanuwa a Nigeria (EYC) church in Mubi, Adamawa State.

He said she is now being treated at a clinic in Adamawa State and that preliminary examination has revealed that she is four months pregnant.

He said the released girl was incoherent as a result of an apparent mental illness which makes it difficult to establish her full identity.

Bitrus said the man she said was her father, a carpenter of Chadian origin residing in Chibok, has said she is not his daughter.

He lamented that the traumatic condition the girl was found in is an indication of the condition of the others still in captivity.

“We have asked that her picture be emailed to us to enable us compare with the records we have in order to know her true identity,” he said.

Chairman of Chibok Community in Abuja, Tsambido Hosea Abana, who spoke to Daily Trust by telephone yesterday, also said the girl was among the abducted Chibok female students.

He said she is suffering from trauma and there are signs of physical abuse on her, saying he believed the insurgents subjected their captives to horrible physical and sexual abuse.

“Suzana is actually one of our daughters abducted from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok. She was found where her abductors dumped her and was later taken to Yola. The girl is four months pregnant,” he said.

“Evidently the girl was subjected to serious abuse. There are bruises on her body while she is suffering from psychological trauma.”

He urged the Federal Government to step up efforts towards freeing the girls who are still in captivity, as well as bringing the abductors to face justice.

In Yola, the Adamawa Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Michael Haa, declined comment when contacted yesterday, saying the military is in charge of security in the state.

Army spokesman in Yola, Captain Jafaru Nuhu, could not be reached by telephone.  allAfrica

Guinea Bissau – 22 killed when vehicle drove over landmine


At least 22 killed in Guinea-Bissau after vehicle hits landmine

Sat, Sep 27 2014

BISSAU (Reuters) – At least 22 people were killed in Guinea-Bissau when a vehicle taking them to a funeral struck a landmine, a police source said on Saturday.

The incident happened on Friday afternoon near Mansoa, about 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the capital, Bissau.

The police source, who asked not to be named, said 19 people were killed on the spot when the blast tore the vehicle in two and a further three people died of their injuries overnight.

There was no immediate statement from the government.

Hundreds of people have been killed by landmines laid during Guinea-Bissau’s independence war with Portugal in the 1970s and the nation’s internal conflicts in the 1990s.

Guinea-Bissau held elections earlier this year meant to draw a line under the country’s last coup in 2012.

The new government is trying to push through a raft of reforms, including breathing life into a moribund economy and asserting civilian authority over the military, which has a history of meddling in politics and cocaine trafficking.