Category Archives: Central Africa

UN says Africa facing worst humanitarian crisis since 1945

BBC

The world is facing its largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, the United Nations says, issuing a plea for help to avoid “a catastrophe”.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said that more than 20 million people faced the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

Unicef has already warned 1.4m children could starve to death this year.

Mr O’Brien said $4.4bn (£3.6bn) was needed by July to avert disaster.

“We stand at a critical point in history,” Mr O’Brien told the Security Council on Friday. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations.”

“Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease.


Map showing scale of malnutrition

“Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost. Communities’ resilience rapidly wilting away. Development gains reversed. Many will be displaced and will continue to move in search for survival, creating ever more instability across entire regions.”

Mr O’Brien’s comments follow on from a similar appeal made by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last month.

At that time, he revealed the UN had only received $90m (£74m) so far in 2017, despite generous pledges.

Like Mr O’Brien, he urged more financial support for the four countries. But why are they in such dire need?


Yemen

five-year-old Mohannad Ali lies on a hospital bed in Abs, YemenUnicef   Five-year-old Mohannad Ali sits in hospital in Yemen in December. His younger cousin – aged just two – died of hunger

The pictures were among the most shocking of last year: emaciated children, clinging on to life with what little strength they had left. Four-year-olds not bigger than infants. And mothers unable to do anything to stop their children dying.

It is thought a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from a preventable disease, while half-a-million children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

The UN estimates some 19 million people – or two thirds of Yemen’s population – is in need of some sort of humanitarian help following two years of war between Houthi insurgents and the government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

What’s hampering aid?

Continuing fighting, lack of rule of law, poor governance, under-development.

A naval embargo imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, fighting around the government-controlled port of Aden and air strikes on the rebel-held port of Hudaydah, have severely reduced imports since 2015.

A lack of fuel, coupled with insecurity and damage to markets and roads, have also prevented supplies from being distributed.

Read more: How bad is Yemen’s humanitarian crisis?


South Sudan

UN agencies say 100,000 people are facing starvation in South Sudan, while a further million are classified as being on the brink of famine.

It is the most acute of the present food emergencies, and the most widespread nationally.

Overall, says the UN, 4.9 million people – or 40% of South Sudan’s population – are “in need of urgent food, agriculture and nutrition assistance”.

What’s hampering aid?

Continuing fighting in the country that now has been at war since 2013, lack of rule of law, under-development.

Some UN officials have suggested President Salva Kiir’s government has been blocking food aid to certain areas – a claim denied by the authorities.

There have also been reports of humanitarian convoys and warehouses coming under attack or being looted, either by government or rebel forces.

Read more: Why are there still famines?


Nigeria

The UN has described the unfolding disaster in north-eastern Nigeria as the “greatest crisis on the continent” – the full extent of which has only been revealed as extremist militant group Boko Haram is pushed back.

It was already known the Islamist group had killed 15,000 and pushed more than two million from their homes. But as they retreated, it became clear there were thousands more people living in famine-like conditions in urgent need of help.

The UN estimated in December there were 75,000 children at risk of starving to death. Another 7.1 million people in Nigeria and the neighbouring Lake Chad area are considered “severely food insecure”.

What’s hampering aid?

Boko Haram attacks, lack of rule of law, under-development.

There are still areas under the control of Boko Haram, which aid agencies cannot reach.

Thee have also been allegations of widespread aid theft, which are being investigated by Nigeria’s senate.

Read more:We survived militants but face starvation’


Somalia

Hospitals are seeing children with severe dehydration

Media captionHospitals are seeing children with severe dehydration

The last time a famine was declared in Somalia – just six years ago – nearly 260,000 people died.

At the beginning of March, there were reports of 110 people dying in just one region in a 48-hour period.

Humanitarian groups fear this could be just the beginning: a lack of water – blamed partially on the El Nino weather phenomenon – has killed off livestock and crops, leaving 6.2 million people in urgent need of help.

What’s hampering aid?

Continuing attacks by Islamist militant group al-Shabab, lack of rule of law, under-development.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast impeded shipments in the past – however attacks have reduced significantly in recent years.

Read more: More than 100 die from hunger in one region

South Africa asked to appear before ICC over failure to arrest Sudan’s President al-Bashir

Reuters

CAPE TOWN South African authorities have been asked to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 7 over the failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit two years ago, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Ayesha Johaar, the acting chief state law adviser, said Pretoria was asked to appear at the Hague-based court for failing to comply with a cooperation request from the tribunal, contrary to the provisions of the treaty establishing the court and which came into force in 2002.

“It concerns an order of non-compliance by South Africa as a member state of the ICC and Sudan’s president,” she said.

South Africa revokes ICC withdrawal

Pretoria announced its intention to leave the ICC in 2015 after the tribunal criticized it for disregarding an order to arrest Al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes. Bashir has denied the accusations.

South Africa’s High Court last month blocked the government’s attempt to withdraw from the ICC.

But Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the government would press ahead with withdrawing from the Hague-based tribunal, noting that the ruling was based largely on procedure – that the decision to pull out did not pass first through parliament.

To comply with part of the court order, Pretoria has formally revoked its withdrawal from the ICC.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)

South African authorities have been asked to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 7 over the failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit two years ago, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Ayesha Johaar, the acting chief state law adviser, said Pretoria was asked to appear at the Hague-based court for failing to comply with a cooperation request from the tribunal, contrary to the provisions of the treaty establishing the court and which came into force in 2002.

“It concerns an order of non-compliance by South Africa as a member state of the ICC and Sudan’s president,” she said.

Pretoria announced its intention to leave the ICC in 2015 after the tribunal criticized it for disregarding an order to arrest Al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes. Bashir has denied the accusations.

South Africa’s High Court last month blocked the government’s attempt to withdraw from the ICC.

But Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the government would press ahead with withdrawing from the Hague-based tribunal, noting that the ruling was based largely on procedure – that the decision to pull out did not pass first through parliament.

To comply with part of the court order, Pretoria has formally revoked its withdrawal from the ICC.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)

South Sudan – former deputy chief of staff of SPLA forms new movement

Sudan Tribune

(JUBA) – South Sudan’s former deputy chief of staff for logistics, Lt. General Thomas Cirillo Swaka has formed a new rebel group, seeking to against the Juba regime under President Salva Kiir.

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Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirino Swaka, the SPLA deputy chief of general staff for training (youtube photo)

Swaka, who now heads the National Salvation Front (NAS), quit the military, accusing its leadership of running the army on ethnic lines.

“The National Salvation Front (NAS) is convinced that to restore sanity and normalcy in our country, Kiir must go, he must vacate the office without further bloodshed,” he wrote on Monday.

The former army official vowed to ensure all means are used to restore law, order and ensure respect for human rights in the country.

NAS, it leader said, strongly advocates for national co-existence, ideals of free, sovereign and a democratically-governed nation.

“Thus, with a clear conscience and with determination, we declare the birth of a citizen-imposed change,” partly reads Swaka’s letter.

The former army official said his rebel movement would respond to the call for unified resistance against President Kiir’s government, using all means that would be available, feasible and effective.

“It is in this spirit of dedication to the cause of our people that I, General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, on behalf of the National Salvation Front, solemnly declare the launching of the National Salvation Front (NAS) on this 6th Day of March, 2017,” further noted the letter.

The new rebel movement, said Swaka, will vigorously use all means at its disposal after the Juba regime created a “highly selfish class that ensures its continued existence for the singular purpose of illicitly amassing personal and family wealth”.

The former top military said the objective of the regime to amass resources at the expense of development and common goal.

In a six-page letter issued last month, Swaka claimed the country was dominated by Dinka tribe and the army turned into tribal militia that “targets non-Dinka ethnicities”.

(ST)

Kenya and other African governments struggle with role of social media

The Conversation

African governments versus social media: Why the uneasy relationship?

The list of African countries blocking access to social media during elections is growing. Shutterstock

Many Kenyan social media users are worried that the government will shut down the internet during August’s general election. Kenya’s Communications Authority has attempted to reassure voters that this is unlikely. However, fears that internet freedoms could be at risk are not unfounded.

The list of African countries that have blocked access to social media during elections and other politically sensitive periods is growing.

Over the past year this included; Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, the Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Countries like Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania, have introduced cybercrime legislation that threatens freedom of expression.

Elsewhere, social media users, including journalists, have been prosecuted under existing legislation for content they have shared online.

Such actions are often justified in terms of preserving peace and security because social media does offer a potential platform for the dissemination of hate speech and incitement to violence.

This is particularly problematic in contexts where political candidates draw on ethnic or religious differences to mobilise support. The role played by incendiary text messages in the violence around Kenya’s 2007 elections, for example, is often evoked as a reminder of the potential dangers of unregulated mass communication.

In South Sudan, the ongoing conflict has been fuelled by online rumours and hate speech. Some even blamed a ‘false’ Facebook post for causing 150 deaths.

In parts of Africa, social media provides a tool for terrorist groups to recruit and communicate with their followers.

However, government claims that social media is dangerous and shouldn’t always be taken at face value. New forms of communication are shaking up political competition across Africa as elsewhere. This has worrying implications for regimes that hope to cling to power.

Alternative source of news

Social media provides new ways of rapidly sharing information with large numbers of people. In the past a joke poking fun at a political leader might have been shared with a few friends. Today it could reach thousands.

Blogs and platforms, such as WhatsApp, have become major sources of news for many internet users. They sometimes inform what’s reported in the ‘traditional’ media.

Jokes aside, government violations of electoral procedures or other human rights violations can be exposed online.

Social media has played a role in empowering civil society and helps opposition movements to organise in some of Africa’s most authoritarian countries.

The internet also gives localised political issues a global audience. This was the case during recent protests in Ethiopia, when opponents of the regime in the diaspora were able to engage through social media.

However, increased online communication also offers new opportunities for government surveillance and censorship. Internet shutdowns and ‘cybercrime’ prosecutions that target critics of leaders are tools with which to close down political space.

In countries such as Tanzania, restrictions on online debate have been accompanied by complementary offline measures. These include a ban on political rallies and prosecutions of opposition members of parliament for sedition.

Standing up to the state

In the face of government censorship, citizens have attempted to resist restrictions on their internet freedom. For example, in 2016, many Ugandans undermined attempts to block social media by using virtual private networks (VPNs) to connect.

Mobile network operators may face questions about whether they can do more to stand up to governments in future.

Challenging restrictive legislation in court may also prove successful. In Kenya, for example, a legal provision relating to ‘improper’ use of a telecommunications device was declared unconstitutional.

However, in neighbouring Tanzania an attempt to challenge the Cybercrime Act was dismissed.

These are certainly not issues that only affect African countries.

Between June 2015 and July 2016 there were 81 short-term disruptions to internet access in 19 countries. They included India, Turkey and Vietnam.

Globally, the growth of social media has stimulated debate about where to draw the line between protecting freedom of speech and giving a voice to hatred and extremism.

Last year’s presidential campaign in the United States generated concerns about the role of social media in spreading ‘fake news’ with important political consequences.

These debates are urgent in parts of Africa.

In 2017, elections are due in a number of countries that have recent histories of electoral violence. Here, ethnic and regional divisions have in the past been manipulated by political candidates.

There’s therefore a need to consider how to ensure social media isn’t used to incite violence or spread dangerous rumours. The question remains as to how governments can be prevented from seizing the opportunity to restrict citizens’ rights.

Kenya – Baringo insecurity makes teachers ask for a transfer

Star (Kenya)

Mar. 03, 2017, 9:00 am

More than 300 teachers hold protests in Marigat, Baringo county in a demand for transfers amid increasing bandit attacks, February 23, 2017. /JOSEPH KANGOGO
More than 300 teachers hold protests in Marigat, Baringo county in a demand for transfers amid increasing bandit attacks, February 23, 2017. /JOSEPH KANGOGO

About 266 teachers who have fled clashes in Baringo county are demanding to be transferred.

They were serving in the 47 schools in volatile Baringo North, South and Tiaty subcounties before they were closed last week.

Knut county executive secretary Joshua Cheptarus asked TSC to heed to the teachers’ plight as they desperately seek transfer letters.

Cheptarus said they have been traumatised by the “bloody happenings” and require counseling.

“We have scheduled a meeting for next Monday at a Kabarnet town hotel to encourage and counsel them in order to diminish their fear,” he said on Thursday.

Read: Moi hits out at state over late response to Baringo bandit attacks

Two teachers were among tens of people killed in attacks by armed Pokot bandits.

Cheptarus said that last Sunday, armed bandits attacked Chemorongion village in Baringo South at 4pm and killed a primary school teacher as his pupils watched.

Three days later, he said, another primary school teacher was killed at Chepkesin in Baringo North subcounty.

He said TSC should also plan on how to replace the teachers since they are not ready to serve in other hostile areas.

“I would rather quit my job permanently than be reprimanded [for failing] to go back and teach in the same school,” he said.

Among the closed schools were Ngaratuko, Chemoe, Yatya, Tuluk, Kagir, Loruk, Chepkesin, Kapturo, Toboroi, Barsuswo and Lokorotabim in Baringo North.

In Baringo South, Ramacha, Karma, Katilimwo, Kapndsum, Chemorongion, Embosos, and Arabal schools have been closed.

Others are Chebinyiny, Sosionte, Nyimbei, Kasiela, Keon, Tuiyotich, Lamaiwe, Karne and Kabel, Rugus, Noosukro and Siarata.

The schools have become IDP camps for thousands of residents fleeing attacks.

In the most heinous incident, bandits killed a mother and her three-day-old infant at Natan village, Baringo North late last month.

During DP William Ruto’s visit to the region, bandits killed the Bartabwa chief during a shootout with security officials.

Ruto issued a shoot-to-kill order and deployed more than 200 reservists in the operation to flush out the bandits.

Read: Ruto under fire for shoot-to-kill order in tackling Baringo bandits

Also read: Stop using kids in bandit attacks, Ruto tells disgraceful leaders

The government has commenced operations to flush out the bandits and restore calm.

The government gazetted Baringo North and South as “disturbed areas’ but this did not stop the bandits from driving away more than 300 animals in a fresh attack on Wednesday.

UN says flood of refugees from South Sudan rising fast

Reuters

U.N. says tide of refugees from South Sudan rising fast

By Elias Biryabarema | KAMPALA

KAMPALA Some 1.5 million refugees have fled fighting and famine in South Sudan to neighbouring countries, half of them to Uganda, and thousands more are leaving daily, the U.N. refugee agency said on Thursday.

Political rivalry between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar ignited a civil war in 2013 that has often followed ethnic lines.

The two signed a shaky peace deal in 2015, but fighting has continued and Machar fled in July after days of clashes between soldiers loyal to him and Kiir’s forces in the capital Juba. He is now in South Africa.

Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the UNHCR in Uganda, said the agency estimated the total number of South Sudanese who have gone to neighbouring countries at 1.5 million, half in Uganda.

In December there were an estimated 600,000 South Sudanese who had arrived in Uganda.

Yaxley said there were thousands of new arrivals every day. The UNHCR had planned for 300,000 this year.

“We have already in the first two months of this year received 120,00 new arrivals. If this rate of inflow continues actually that figure for 2017 will be far higher,” Yaxley said.

Refugees arriving in Uganda often say they are fleeing from ethnic violence.

“I was in Invepi … and almost every refugee I spoke to had either seen a friend or family member killed in front of their eyes,” Yaxley said, referring to the latest refugee settlement set up in Uganda.

Violence has prevented many farmers from harvesting crops and the scarcity of food has been compounded by hyperinflation, triggering famine in parts of South Sudan.

The UNHCR says the refugee crisis is the world’s third largest after Syria’s and Afghanistan’s.

(Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Roche)

Trump and Africa – does he have any policy towards Africa?

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

Trump keeps Africa guessing

Which Trump will show up to Africa: the America First isolationist, or the Africanist taking a longer-term approach to the continent?
27 Feb 2017 <!––>  /  by Peter Fabricius

Like most parts of the world, Africa is still waiting, anxiously, for United States (US) President Donald Trump to articulate his policy for the continent.

More than a month after his inauguration, he has still not even nominated assistant secretaries of state for Africa and other regions of the world; nor has he appointed many ambassadors. As one critic put it – ‘radio silence’ has replaced the daily traditional press briefings at the State Department.

The vacuum of reliable information about Africa policy has naturally been filled with speculation. This mostly pivots round the question of whether Trump would implement his radical America First campaign rhetoric in Africa. Or will he – perhaps through ‘benign neglect’ – leave it to the State Department’s Africa hands to get on with it, implementing a fairly orthodox, bipartisan policy?

If the latter proves true, Peter Pham, vice president and Africa director at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, seems to be the front-runner for the assistant secretary job. Several other names have also been mentioned, however, including veteran military intelligence officer and specialist on international crime syndicates, Charles Snyder; Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in the Department of Defense; and Jeffrey Krilla, former deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour.

Pham points out that US-Africa policy has been bipartisan through several administrations. He generally supports that policy, which has been built around keystone projects such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – which gives duty-and quota-free access to the US market for most exports of eligible African countries – the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and Africom, the Defense Department’s dedicated Africa Command.

However, in an interview with ISS Today, Pham – stressing that he was speaking as the Atlantic Council’s Africa director and not for the Trump administration – said he believed the election of Trump, who has shown himself to be ‘unbound by convention,’ offered a unique opportunity for revisiting that bipartisan policy to fine-tune and re-calibrate it.

One of the key policy changes Pham has advocated, in an Atlantic Council document directed at the Trump administration called ‘A measured US strategy for a new Africa,’ is what he calls ‘earned engagement.’

The US, he says, should only grant diplomatic recognition to governments which earn it by demonstrating that they have legitimate sovereign control over their countries. Large areas of Africa are still ‘pre-Westphalian, where central governments face a continuing struggle to establish even a modicum of dominion over national territory,’ his strategy says. The external legitimacy that US recognition confers on even failed and inherently illegitimate governments helps them to trade on their offices, while offering the US no advantages in return.

Pham offers Somalia as a prime example. Neither Republican nor Democratic US administrations recognised any of the 15 transitional governments that followed the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991.

He deplores then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s departure from this bipartisan policy in January 2013, when she recognised the government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, which came to power by a ‘dubious’ process including extensive vote-buying, he says.

In his paper, Pham suggests instead that the US could recognise sub-national entities where these are exercising greater legitimate sovereignty – such as Somaliland, the breakaway state in north-western Somalia that is officially recognised by no country, yet is preserving good order.

The South Sudan government is even less deserving of US diplomatic recognition, Pham says, having driven its people into a civil war, which in turn precipitated famine.

And Pham believes US diplomatic recognition of the government of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila should depend on his continuing to honour the 31 December 2016 ‘St Sylvestre’ accord with his political opponents, whereby he should retire from office this year after elections.

Washington insiders say that the Trump administration has already taken up Pham’s ‘earned engagement’ policy, not only for Africa – and that this will become apparent when Trump’s first National Security Strategy is published shortly.

Some analysts fear a US retreat from Africa under Trump – but Pham clearly does not. On the contrary, he laments what he sees as a neglect of Africa by previous administrations and calls, for instance, for an expansion of US diplomatic missions, including into the Boko Haram-tormented regions of Nigeria, north of the capital Abuja.

Pham insists that it is squarely in America’s interests to expand its presence in Africa to bolster the already rising security, good governance and prosperity on the continent which are creating a rapidly growing market for US companies. ‘The Trump administration has put great emphasis on boosting manufacturing in the US. Well, those goods have to be sold somewhere,’ he says.

Some analysts fear though that these quite orthodox sentiments may not represent the prevailing thinking in the White House – which might favour instead the aggressive implementation of Trump’s radical ‘America First’ campaign slogan.

Anton du Plessis, Executive Director of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, says even though it’s still too early to discern Trump’s Africa policy, there have been some disturbing warning signals.

One was a New York Times article published on 25 January which reported that Trump was preparing executive orders that would cut all US funding to organisations and countries that pursue policies deemed to contradict America’s. The orders would pave the way for drastic funding cuts also to United Nations peacekeeping operations – which are now 28.57% funded by the US – the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Population Fund, which oversees maternal and reproductive health programmes. The Trump administration has also been reported as seriously questioning the value of US development aid to Africa, particularly programmes to advance democracy and good governance.

Noting that most UN peacekeeping missions are in Africa, Du Plessis worries that the US is abandoning the international project to help bring peace, democracy, the rule of law, good governance and human rights to Africa, jeopardising all the hard work done over succeeding decades. Trump’s dangerous rhetoric on important issues like torture, the role of the judiciary, and the media does not bode well either, he says.

Democracy, the rule of law, good governance and human rights are values that still struggle to take root in many countries on the continent, and Du Plessis fears that Trump’s desertion of these would ‘put wind in the sails of certain African leaders, encouraging them to do whatever they want to do in the name of bolstering national security and fighting terrorism…’

This will aggravate the rise of populism and nationalism in Europe, which is also jeopardising development aid budgets directed at boosting good governance, rule of law, democracy and human rights in Africa.

Du Plessis fears that Trump will ‘securitise’ US policy, funding and engagement in Africa, focusing too heavily on tackling security problems such as Boko Haram, while ignoring efforts to create stability in the long term through democracy, good governance and sustainable development.

Pham dismisses such criticism, saying the Trump executive orders cited by the New York Times seem to be just two among many draft proposals which have not been signed. Nevertheless, he says the Trump administration would be right to review the value of each UN peacekeeping mission on its own merits rather than giving them all carte blanche.

Likewise with development aid, he says, which he favours in principle, as it advances US interests, but believes individual programmes need to be reviewed. He deplores, for instance, how millions of dollars of US aid money from its Millennium Challenge Account was used to pay Chinese contractors for an irrigation project. And those criticising Trump for planning to cut democracy and governance programmes are ‘arriving a little late,’ he says, as the Obama administration already cut such programmes by 45%.

To the ‘securitisation’ charge, Pham says an element of security concern is necessary in Africa – and his strategy paper calls for more resources to be channelled into Africom, not only to address insecurity directly, but also to continue to beef up African militaries.

In his paper Pham concludes that America’s ‘failure to invest more in institutions, personnel, training, and strategic focus’ in Africa has been ‘incredibly short-sighted. This deficit needs to be addressed by the Trump administration.

So which Trump will show up to Africa? The America First isolationist narrowly focused on defeating terrorism? Or the Africanist taking an enlightened self-interest, longer-term approach to the continent?

We should soon get a glimpse of an answer. Washington insiders believe Trump will be obliged to appoint an assistant secretary of state for Africa soon as the present incumbent, Linda Thomas Greenfield, retires on 10 March, and Trump needs to be briefed for two imminent summits, of the G7 and G20 where Africa – especially the immigration issue – will dominate the agenda.

Peter Fabricius, ISS Consultant

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