Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Second round of presidential voting starts in Central Africa Republic

BBC

UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazzaville help unload a truck of its voting material and ballots at a polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic (13 February 2016)AP Observers say the vote is taking place at a critical juncture in the history of the Central African Republic

Voters in the Central African Republic (CAR) are going to the polls for the second round of presidential elections.

The vote is being seen as a significant step towards restoring peace, stability and democratic government.

It comes after the seizure of power by a mainly Muslim rebel group in 2013 led to prolonged bloodshed.

Both presidential candidates, former prime ministers Faustin Touadera and Anicet Dologuele, have pledged to restore security and boost the economy.

Mr Dologuele served under President Ange-Felix Patasse between 1999 and 2001, and Mr Touadera was prime minister under President Francois Bozize between 2008 and 2013.


There are hopes that the poll will help turn the page on years of religious conflict.

A woman folds her ballots before casting her vote during elections in Bangui, Central African Republic (30 December 2015)AP Observers praised the calmness of the first round of voting in December
UN peacekeepers from Congo Brazzaville walk in the PK5 district after unloading a truck containing voting material and ballots at a polling station in Bangui, Central African Republic (13 January 2016)AP Thousands of UN peacekeepers and French soldiers are providing security

Communal reconciliation and reigniting the country’s sluggish economy have featured prominently as campaign themes.

CAR is one of the world’s most unstable countries and was thrown into political chaos three years ago when mostly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled President Bozize.

Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses, with attacks carried out against the Muslim minority community.

After regional pressure, an interim administration took charge in January 2014 and later that year a 10,000-strong UN force took over the peacekeeping mission.

The north-east of the country is now mostly under the control of Muslim rebels while Christian militias hold sway the south-west.

Thousands died in the fighting and roughly a fifth of the population is thought to have been displaced.

Central African Republic second round presidential candidate Anicet Georges Dologuele (12 February 2016)AFP Anicet Georges Dologuele won the largest share of first-round votes

Mr Dologuele has promised voters a break from the country’s recent violent past, with the campaign slogan “united we will win”.

Mr Touadera is portrayed by supporters as a peacemaker who can bridge the Christian-Muslim divide.

Presidential candidate Faustin Touadera (10 February 2016)AP Faustin Touadera is a former maths professor

There was a turnout of nearly 80% for the first round of voting in December.

Observers saw that as being a rejection of violence by the electorate.

Kenya – Ruto wins ICC battler over recanted statements

Kenya’s Ruto wins ICC witness ruling

William RutoGetty Images

International judges in the case of Kenyan Vice-President William Ruto have barred the use of recanted testimony.

The decision means prior recorded witness statements cannot be used by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in this case.

Key witnesses in the case changed their statements, which prosecutors said was due to intimidation and bribery.

Mr Ruto, who is being tried over unrest that erupted after elections in 2007, charges of crimes against humanity.

About 1,200 people were killed in the violence.

The latest ruling overturns a previous decision by judges to allow five of the witnesses’ original statements to be included because they were convinced the witnesses had been interfered with.

This use of prior testimony falls under Rule 68 of the Rome Statute, that set up the ICC.

But William Ruto’s defence team argued this was unfair because changes to the rule were brought in after the case against Mr Ruto had started.

“The prior recorded testimony was delivered without an opportunity for the accused to cross-examine the witnesses,” said presiding judge Piotr Hofmanski.

Mr Ruto is one of the most senior government officials to be tried by The Hague-based court since its formation more than a decade ago.

Mali three killed in mortar attack on UN base

Reuters

Suspected Islamist militants attacked a U.N. base in the northern Mali town of Kidal with mortars and a truck bomb on Friday, killing three peacekeepers from Guinea and wounding 30 others, authorities said.

The attack is a fresh sign of instability in the desert region that is home to Islamist groups including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who have staged increasingly bold raids in recent months and have targeted the U.N. base several times.

“At about 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) the MINUSMA base in Kidal was the target of a complex attack which, according to provisional figures, caused the death of three blue helmets and around 30 wounded,” Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Mali representative of the U.N. secretary general, said in a statement.

Eight mortar shells were fired at the base and there was also gunfire, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, whose acronym is MINUSMA.

“This combination attack using rockets and a van bomb is the second of this type against soldiers from the Gangan battalion in this region,” said a statement from Guinea’s government.

The base is part of an attempt by the United Nations to end violence in Mali following a takeover of the north by Islamists in 2012, which was thwarted by a French-led intervention force that pushed the militants out of key towns a year later.

The U.N. mission has not stopped the violence and Islamist militants have expanded their attacks in recent months into other parts of Mali and beyond.

These have included an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital in November in which 20 people died, and one on Burkina Faso’s capital in January in which 30 were killed.

There is also a decades-long separatist struggle in northern Mali by ethnic Tuaregs.

Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly, spokesman for the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), told Reuters that the attack had been conducted by Islamist militants.

There was no official confirmation or claim of responsibility for the Kidal raid.

In a separate incident, three soldiers were killed on Friday and three others wounded in an ambush of a military convoy on the road between Timbuktu and Goundon in northern Mali, a military source said.

The wounded were evacuated to Timbuktu hospital. It was not clear who conducted the ambush.

(Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Rwanda to relocate Burundi refugees are interference acusations

BBC

burundian refugees in rwandaAFP Hundreds of thousands have fled the recent unrest in Burundi

Rwanda says it plans to relocate Burundian refugees to other host countries, days after being accused of attempts to destabilise its neighbour.

Plans for the relocation of an estimated 70,000 refugees will start immediately, the government says.

Rwanda has been accused of arming and training refugees to fight Burundi’s government, charges it denies.

Burundi has been hit by unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to stand for a third term last April.

It is not clear to which countries the refugees will be relocated.

More than 400 people have died since the violence started in April and at least 240,000 have fled the country.

“The long-term presence of refugees so close to their country of origin carries considerable risks for all involved,” the Rwandan government said in a statementexplaining the move.

map

In a hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week, two top diplomats cited reports from colleagues in the field that they said pointed to Rwandan involvement in the Burundi crisis.

Thomas Perriello, US envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, said the reports suggested that Burundian refugees, including children, were being recruited from camps in Rwanda to participate in armed attacks against the Burundian government.

Last week, a UN panel reported that Burundian refugees had been recruited at a refugee camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015, and given two months of military training.

Ms Mushikiwabo described the allegations in the UN report as “unfounded”.


Burundi’s deepening crisis:

President Pierre NkurunzizaImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPresident Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term last year
  • April 2015: Protests erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announces he will seek a third term in office.
  • May 2015: Constitutional court rules in favour of Mr Nkurunziza, amid reports of judges being intimidated. Tens of thousands flee violence amid protests.
  • May 2015: Army officers launch a coup attempt, which fails.
  • July 2015: Elections are held, with Mr Nkurunziza re-elected. The polls are disputed, with opposition leader Agathon Rwasa describing them as “a joke”
  • November 2015: Burundi government gives those opposing President Nkurunziza’s third term five days to surrender their weapons ahead of a promised crackdown.
  • November 2015: UN warns it is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was for the Rwandan genocide.
  • December 2015: 87 people killed on one day as soldiers respond to an attack on military sites in Bujumbura.
  • January 2016: Amnesty International publishes satellite images it says are believed to be mass graves close to where December’s killings took place

Nigeria – 58 killed in suicide bombing at Borno IDP camp

Premium Times

Bomb

The National Emergency Management Agency on Wednesday said 58 people were killed and 78 victims others injured after suicide bombers detonated explosives at the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Dikwa, Borno State.

Emergency workers said the incidents occurred when the IDPs queued up to collect their morning food ration in a camp that currently accommodates over 50, 000 people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The Zonal Coordinator of NEMA in the North East, Mohammed Kanar, said some of those killed had been buried while the injured were moved to unnamed medical facilities.

The Nigerian government has repeatedly claimed Boko Haram had been significantly degraded to such a level that it could no longer carry out coordinated attacks.

But the group has continued to wreak havoc, attacking communities in Borno and carrying out suicide bombings, killing and maiming scores each time.

On Wednesday evening, the Nigerian government circulated a statement condoling with families of victims of the Dikwa attack.

“On behalf of the federal government of Nigeria, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, expresses his profound condolences to the families of the victims of yesterday’s suicide bombing of an IDP camp in Dikwa, Borno State, and also the entire people and government of the state,” a statement by the vice president’s office said.

 

“His prayers are that the Almighty God will comfort them and grant the injured persons quick recovery.

“The Vice President stated that it is indeed regrettable that the heartless terrorists chose to unleash their wickedness on people who were taking refuge from previous acts of destruction in their homes.

“He reassured the nation that the full weight of the federal government’s force will be deployed to hunt down the perpetrators of this evil act and also to confront terrorists continuously in the protection of life, liberty and property of all Nigerians: there will be no hiding place for terrorists.

“Prof. Osinbajo has given directives that formidable security in and around the IDP Camps in the country be beefed up and renewed measures put in place to guard against future occurrences.

“Finally, the Vice President called on the people of Borno State and all Nigerians that the commitment of the federal government to safety of lives and property continues to be of paramount concern to the Buhari administration.”

Cameroon – at least 6 killed at funeral by suicide bombers

Reuters

At least six people were killed and 30 injured in northern Cameroon on Wednesday by two Islamist suicide bombers at a Muslim funeral gathering, two officials in the region said.

The attackers were from Boko Haram, the group based in neighbouring Nigeria that has stepped up cross-border attacks in Cameroon’s far north despite the setting up of a roughly 9,500-strong regional military task force.

One of the officials said the attack in Nguetchewe, about 10 km (6 miles) east of the Nigerian border, is the first known Boko Haram strike in Cameroon at a funeral gathering, although the militants have made an attack on a baptism in the past.

The U.S. military refers to Boko Haram as the “most lethal” extremist group in the world and thousands are thought to have been killed during their more than six-year insurgency.

(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Louise Ireland)

South Africa won’t declare emergency over drought

Reuters

A maize plant is seen among other dried maize at a field in Hoopstad, a maize-producing district in the Free State province, South Africa, January 13, 2016.
REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

South Africa will not declare a national disaster in response to its worst drought in a century as it hopes ample late rains will continue to improve the situation, deputy minister of agriculture Bheki Cele said on Sunday.

“For some reason God has been kind and late rains did come, and we think the 6 million tonnes (of maize) we were looking to import – we have downgraded that to four,” he told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai.

The country’s largest grain producer group Grain SA called on the government last week to declare a national disaster – a move that would release emergency relief funds from the National Treasury to eligible farmers.

Cele said out of South Africa’s nine provinces, seven had already declared a disaster but a nationwide declaration was not currently warranted.

“The only hope is that rains continue – if they do we might be out of the woods … We will not declare a national disaster” said Cele.

Cele argued support had already been granted to a lot of farmers and more was on the way.

WHITE AND YELLOW MAIZE

Some complaints were raised by commercial farms as most of the assistance had gone to smaller scale farmers, he acknowledged.

“If you lose 36 cattle and go from that to zero that is one thing but if you have 4,000 cattle losing 36 well yes you have lost but we have to start with the small guy,” he said.

Cele also said the ministry was assessing the availability of white maize imports from Mexico to fill domestic food demand. “I think the availability of white maize is the main issue. We will have money to import it, that is not a problem, but the problem is the availability.”

In South Africa, white maize is made into what is known locally known as “pap”, the main source of calories for many households. The yellow variety is used almost exclusively as animal feed.

Outside southern Africa, white maize is grown in significant quantities only in Mexico and the United States.

“The Americans (U.S.) have also tried to avail themselves but the issue is understanding their crop stocks and how much of it is genetically modified,” said Cele, whose ministry also covers forestry and fisheries.

South Africa has stringent codes governing genetically modified crops.

The country has in the past sometimes mixed yellow and white maize for human consumption, but Cele said that if enough white maize could be obtained in the global market, this would not happen.

“At the present moment we could see an opportunity for avoiding that,” he said.

South Africa’s ports are fully prepared to receive maize imports, Cele added.

“The only snag we are working on now would be the actual distribution from the storage but arrival and storage are all sorted, just the actual movement between that storage and human consumption is what we are working on.”

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan; Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Andrew Torchia; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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