Category Archives: Central Africa

African Union welcomes easing of US sanctions on Sudan

Sudan Tribune


January 16, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the African Union commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Monday welcomed the decision of President Barak Obama to partially lift economic and trade sanctions on Sudan

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Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission (Photo: Reuters)

Zuma “acknowledges the importance of this development which will allow Sudan to reengage in international trade and end the suffering of its people”.

She further expressed hopes that the incoming administration of President Donald Trump ” will consider permanent revocation of the sanctions in Executive Orders 13067 and 13412 and further work towards granting debt relief to the Republic of Sudan”.

President Obama on Friday signed an executive order to suspending sanctions against Sudan enabling trade and investment transactions to resume with the east African nation. The move comes in recognition of Sudan’s collaboration to curtail terrorism, and its efforts to improve humanitarian access.

Within six months, Washington will review the situation and may re-establish the suspended measures, if it considers that Khartoum didn’t honour its commitments. But If its finding is positive then the sanctions included in 1997 and 2006 executive orders would be definitively cancelled.

The sanctions of 1997 are imposed for its alleged support to terror groups. While the additional sanctions of 2006 are in relations with the conflict in Darfur region and are not part of the current process as they require a vote by the Congress.

On Saturday, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Marta Ruedas, welcomed the partial lift of sanctions on Sudan.

“This decision is recognition of steps taken by the Government of Sudan during recent months in a number of important areas,” said Ruedas in a statement released on Saturday.

She said the American decision will provide a solid platform for the sustainable development in Sudan.

“The United Nations stands ready to provide all possible support to the Government of Sudan to ensure that this development meets the needs and aspirations of the people of Sudan at national and local levels”.

Zuma renewed calls to the Sudanese government and armed rebel groups to “urgently” resume talks in order to bring a lasting peace agreement and achieve democratic reforms.

In this regard, she calls on all parties to “cooperate fully with the efforts of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to reach a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and a Permanent Ceasefire and participate in an inclusive political process, which will guarantee the Sudanese people the long awaited peace”.

(ST)

Sudan extends ceasefire with rebels for six months

Sudan Tribune

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir speaks, during a meeting of the NCP Shura Council in Khartoum on October 21, 2016 (ST Photo)
January 15, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese Council of Ministers on Sunday has decided to extend the unilateral cessation of hostilities in war zones for six months.

The Sudanese army has been fighting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, also known as “Two Areas” since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

In June 2016, President Omer al-Bashir declared a unilateral four-month cessation of hostilities. In December, he extended the ceasefire for one month following a two-month extension declared in October.

According to the official news agency SUNA, the Sudanese cabinet held an extraordinary session on Sunday headed by al-Bashir and decided to extend the ceasefire for six months.

The government decision appears to be part of a roadmap agreement between Khartoum and Washington that prompted the latter to ease the economic sanctions imposed on Sudan since 1997.

On Friday, the outgoing US President Barack Obama signed an executive order to ease sanctions against Sudan enabling trade and investment transactions to resume with the east African nation.

He said the move intends to acknowledge Sudan’s efforts to reduce internal conflicts, improve humanitarian access to people in need and curtail terrorism.

It is noteworthy that the SPLM-N, the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in October extended for six months the unilateral cessation of hostilities in Darfur, Blue Nile and south Kordofan they declared in October 2015 and April of this year.

Following six days of talks in Addis Ababa last August, the armed movements and the government failed to conclude a deal on the security arrangements and humanitarian access in Darfur and the Two Areas prompting the African Union mediation to suspend the talks indefinitely.

(ST)

South Sudan – government rejects additional 4,000 UN troops

Al Jazeera


More than 12,000 UN peacekeeping mission troops have been in South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011 [File: EPA]

South Sudan has announced it will no longer accept the deployment of an additional 4,000 United Nations peacekeepers, saying the security situation in the county has improved.

The regional protection force, authorised by the UN Security Council in August after renewed fighting in the capital, Juba, is meant to strengthen the 13,500-strong UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

UN dismisses South Sudan peacekeeping force chief

“The government of South Sudan has the ability to provide security and stability for the country and for its citizens without the deployment of a … protection force,” South Sudan’s Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Mawien Makol Ariik said on Wednesday.

The government’s move is a reversal of its earlier decision in November to accept the troops’ deployment.

Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk also said there was no need for the regional protection forces to be deployed in South Sudan.

“Most of the people abroad still believe that there is fighting in Juba and around the country … but Juba is now secure,” Juuk told DPA news agency.


READ MORE: South Sudan accepts 4,000 more UN peacekeepers


Juuk’s remarks contradict reports of recent fighting in the north and south of the country.

The South Sudanese government had warned in August 2016 that the deployment of more UN forces would marginalise its sovereignty, but later gave its consent amid the threat of an arms embargo.

In December, a UN human rights commission urged a rapid deployment of the additional peacekeepers amid reports of ethnic killings.

A political split between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar escalated into a military conflict in December 2013. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than two million displaced.

A unity government was formed in April, but fighting broke out again in July, sending Machar into exile.

The UN’s top human rights official has previously blamed South Sudanese government troops and rebels loyal to the president of ethnically targeted violations, including extrajudicial executions and sexual violence incidences in August 2015.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has previously faced criticism for failing to fully protect civilians facing violence.

In early November, Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary-general, dismissedthe commander of the UNMISS force following a damning report that accused the peacekeepers of failing to protect civilians during the outbreak of violence in July.

The report from a UN special investigation found that a lack of leadership in the UNMISS ended in a “chaotic and ineffective response” during the heavy fighting in the capital, Juba, from July 8 to 11 that killed dozens of people.

Cameroon-Nigeria – claim of progress in fight against Boko Haram

Guardian (Lagos)

Cameroon claims progress in fight against Boko Haram

Boko Haram. (AFP)

By AFP   |   11 January 2017   |   4:48 pm
Cameroon said Wednesday its military offensive against Boko Haram across the Nigerian border has made major progress, with scores of jihadists killed and hundreds of hostages freed since December.But in a sign of continuing jihadist trouble, four would-be human bombs — two young boys and two teenaged girls — tried to strike in Cameroon’s Far North province Wednesday.

Only the bombers died in the attempted attacks which were foiled by security forces and local vigilantes.

Since Nigeria announced a key victory against Boko Haram jihadists in December, claiming the group had been routed from its Sambisa Forest bastion, its ally Cameroon has intensified operations along its northern border.Cameroonian troops have in recent weeks killed some 100 Boko Haram fighters and freed “hundreds of hostages” held by the group, Cameroon’s government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said Tuesday.

Some 30 other jihadists have been taken prisoner and returned to Nigeria.

“Hundreds of freed hostages have (also) been sent back,” Tchiroma said.

With access to the combat zones tightly controlled, it was impossible to verify the government’s claims.

Cameroonian troops have been conducting cross-border operations alongside their Nigerian allies in the Nigerian village of Ngoshe since December 19, Tchiroma said.

“Unfortunately … three (Cameroonian) soldiers lost their lives” in January, he said. One was killed in a blast, the other two in fighting.

The operation, Tchiroma said, is being carried out “in perfect synergy with the (Nigerian) army command”.

He described it as a response to repeated incursions into Cameroonian territory by Boko Haram.

On Wednesday, four young suicide bombers were killed in the restive Far North province, located just across the border from the epicentre of Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria, regional governor Midjiyawa Bakari said.

Two vigilantes supporting the armed forces were lightly injured, he added.

Cameroon’s Far North province has been the frequent target of suicide attacks, with many of them carried out by children.

Boko Haram’s brutal insurgency, launched in northern Nigeria in 2009, has spread across the border to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

At least 20,000 people have been killed and some 2.6 million displaced in the violence.

Central African Republic – Amnesty says war crimes going unpunished

Reuters

DAKAR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Perpetrators of war crimes including murder and rape in Central African Republic are going unpunished and fuelling worsening violence in the country, Amnesty International said on Wednesday as it called for funds to rebuild the national justice system.

Dozens of people suspected of committing war crimes and other rights abuses have avoided investigation and arrest, and some are living alongside their victims in a nation divided along ethnic and religious lines, the human rights group said.

“The national justice system is on its knees. It was weak prior to the conflict and collapsed in 2013,” Amnesty researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“Thousands of victims of human rights abuses are still waiting for justice to be served, while individuals who have committed horrific crimes like murder and rape roam free.”

Central African Republic has been plagued by conflict since March 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Despite a February election seen as a step toward reconciliation, Amnesty said a lack of justice had contributed to an increase in violent clashes in recent months.

Few courts are running outside of the capital Bangui, and just eight out of 35 prisons in the country are functional, with poor security resulting in several prison breaks, Amnesty said.

The country’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, which civilians say does not do enough to protect them from armed groups, has helped authorities arrest 384 people for crimes linked to the conflict between September 2014 and October 2016, the report said.

Yet this figures includes only a handful of high-profile individuals suspected of having committed the most serious crimes, according to the rights group.

In addition to rebuilding its courts, prisons and police force, the country must set up as soon as possible the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court of national and international judges to try individuals suspected of war crimes, Amnesty said.

More funding is needed to ensure the court can run for at least five years, and donor countries should also help by nominating qualified judges and legal staff, the report said.

“Sustainable funding for the Special Criminal Court, including robust witness protection programmes, is an essential step towards justice,” Allegrozzi said.

The Central African Republic government could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Chad – former president Habre appeals against Senegalese court sentence

Al Jazeera

Lawyers for Chad’s former ruler argue trial by special court in Senegal was marred by procedural errors.

Hissene Habre ruled Chad between 1982 and 1990 [File: EPA]
Hissene Habre ruled Chad between 1982 and 1990 [File: EPA]

Lawyers for former Chadian president Hissene Habre have filed an appeal against his conviction for crimes against humanity, marking the final stage in a landmark case pursued by victims for more than 15 years.

In May, the Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC) in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, sentenced Habre to life in prison after founding him guilty of rape, sexual slavery and ordering mass killings during his time in power between 1982 and 1990.

Two months later, the special court, which was set up by the African Union and Senegal, also ordered him to pay tens of millions of dollars in compensation to victims.

The hearing in the EAC opened on Monday and the arguments are expected to last several days. A final decision will be made by the end of April, when the court’s mandate ends.

Habre has said he does not recognise the court’s authority, and his defence lawyers refused to appear during the trial.

Court-appointed lawyers, however, represented him and appealed the conviction, alleging that one of the trial court judges should not have been appointed given his background as a prosecutor, and that there were several errors of fact and law.

The newly appointed president of the chambers for the appeal, Judge Ougadeye Wafi, said on Monday that the court would allow a request by Habre not to appear during the appeal hearings.

The victims’ lawyers also have appealed, calling for the creation of a trust fund for the victims.

“Habre’s conviction was based on strong evidence, including the files of his own political police, documents in his own handwriting, testimony from those who received his orders, witnesses whom he personally sent to prison, and a woman whom he raped,” said international rights lawyer Reed Brody, a member of the International Commission of Jurists who has worked with Habre’s victims since 1999.

“The appeals court now needs to make sure that a system is put in place so that Habre’s assets can be located, seized and transferred to his victims to compensate them for what they have suffered,” Brody said.

Human rights groups accuse the 72-year-old of being responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people during his rule from 1982 to 1990.

After living in exile in Senegal for 22 years, Habre was arrested in Dakar in July 2013, less than 72 hours after US President Barack Obama expressed his support for a trial during a visit to Senegal.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

No Dead Bodies After 3.30PM – aid workers and the media

Review of  Caroline Gluck, No Dead Bodies After 3.30PM,  Amazon 2016

No Dead Bodies after 3.30pm: Global Nomad: An Aid Worker's Notes from the Field

In the words on the back of former journalist and current aid worker Caroline Gluck’s book on her experiences and thoughts on the aid business, she proclaims that her role in the media side of aid NGOs like Oxfam and international agencies like the UNHCR, was “Giving voice to the voiceless”.  This she does powerfully and passionately throughout the book.  She recounts her experiences from Liberia, Niger, Somalia and South Sudan to Haiti, India, Iraq and Pakistan.  Her work for Oxfam and UNHCR has principally involved running media operations during humanitarian crisis and becoming the voice of the NGO and through them of the suffering people.

She emphasises, rightly, the importance of access to media for NGOs to tell the world about the crises and through that to encourage public donations and government concern and funding for relief and development operations.  As a former BBC journalist (where I worked with her for many years) she had all the skills of investigating stories, reporting and writing to great effect. These skills translate easily into the demands of publicising the plight of victims of earthquakes, floods, disease and those suffering the long-term effects of insufficient food, dirty water and all the other effects of extreme poverty.  The stories of the crises but also the very personal and vivid accounts of the struggles of individuals and families are recounted with feeling but not in a sentimentalised or maudlin fashion. They are blunt, real and effective.

What is clear from Gluck’s narrative is the close, effectively symbiotic relationship between NGOs and the media – in disaster areas the media rely on NGOs for access information and interviewees; while the NGOs need air time, column inches and web coverage, and to get to the public via the media as well as through their own blogs, videos and press releases.  Gluck describes her role – very much like that of roving foreign correspondents – as a firefighter, jetting off to be Oxfam’s voice and face in Haiti or in Niger, having to get rapidly up to speed on the nature of the crisis, the needs of the people and the message to be sent to media audiences around the world.  Effectively echoing MSF founder and former Frenc Foreign Minister Barnard Kouchner’s comment that “Where there is no camera there is no humanitarian intervention“, she sets out well how crises almost don’t exist until the NGOs can get media attention.

Gluck’s account is also enlightening about how some aid operations push out others. During the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake of 201,  the airport at Port-au-Prince was effectively closed to anything but US aid or military planes, once the US military moved in, making the work of agencies like Oxfam far more difficult – NGOs in disaster areas compete, they don’t just cooperate.  She reveals the bureaucracy and prestige issues that get in the way of the delivery of aid or even appeals for aid, as in Niger in 2005 where “famine” became known as the “f-word” and could not be spoken because the president of Niger didn’t want the “humiliation” of admitting his people were starving to death.

This is a very important account for anyone wanting to know how the aid industry works and how it relates to the media.  It is also important because it is heart-felt but hard-headed.  Gluck concludes her narrative with this powerful statement: ” As humanitarians working in conflict areas, we know we are really only putting on the bandages, making life as bearable as possible for people at a given moment, trying to save lives where we can and trying to protect people from further harm. The only real solution to many crises – from Syria to Iraq and Yemen – are political ones. Without peace on the ground, without some kind of reconciliation between divided communities, it is impossible for people to start rebuilding their lives”. You could add, the same goes for Nigeria, Mali, South Sudan DR Congo.  Emergency aid and development aid is important but can only do so much. It doesn’t mean you don’t donate or help, but it means you do so knowing there is a limit to what you can achieve.