Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Zimbabwe opposition demands UN and AU role in conducting 2018 elections

Reuters

A fruit vendor pushes a cart past sitting police ahead of a planned demonstration by opposition parties against changes to the voter registration process in Harare
     

A fruit vendor pushes a cart past sitting police ahead of a planned demonstration by opposition parties against changes to the voter registration process in Harare, Zimbabwe March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Riot police members are deployed on the streets ahead of a planned demonstration by opposition parties against changes to the voter registration process in Harare
Riot police members are deployed on the streets ahead of a planned demonstration by opposition parties against changes to the voter registration process in Harare, Zimbabwe March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

HARARE Zimbabwean opposition parties demanded on Wednesday that presidential elections next year be conducted by a committee set up by the United Nations and African Union because they had lost confidence in the neutrality of the local election agency.

President Robert Mugabe, 94 and in power for 30 years, is due to run again.

Leaders from several political parties, including Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai, told a few hundred supporters during a protest rally in the capital that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had failed to be partial and should be disbanded.

Police deployed water cannon and anti-riot officers on the streets of the capital throughout the day after confining the protesters to an open space on the edge of the city centre.

The opposition parties, who were united under a National Election Reform Agenda (NERA), were protesting against changes to the voter registration process and said they would rally behind Tsvangirai to face Mugabe in the presidential vote.

Anti-government protests in August descended into some of the worst violence seen in the southern African nation for two decades as anger over economic hardship boiled over.

NERA chairman Farai Mbire said the United Nations, African Union and the Southern African Development Community “must immediately establish an independent, tripartite election management body to take over the full functions of ZEC.”

The opposition parties also said Mugabe’s government should back off from its decision to take over the purchase of biometric voter registration kits from the United Nations.

They fear this will make it easier for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to skew the list of eligible voters in its favour.

Mbire did not say what would happen if Mugabe’s government rejected their demands. ZANU-PF legal secretary and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper that it was ZEC’s constitutional right to run elections.

Anti-riot police allowed a handful of NERA officials to present a petition to the offices of ZEC.

Zimbabwe is due to hold its next presidential and parliamentary election by July 2018. Mugabe has been endorsed as the ruling party’s presidential candidate.

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley/Jeremy Gaunt)

Kenya – Kenyatta accuses Raila of being at centre of 2007-8 violence

Rank hypocrisy for someone indicted on charges of crimes against humanity relating to the 2007-8 violence (but not tried because witnesses withdrew or disappeared) to now, for purely electoral reasons, accuse the opposition leader.  If he believes it, why did he not say it sometime in the last nine years or take action as president against someone  he now claims was at the centre of the violence. KS

 

Kenyan News

PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has accused opposition leader Raila Odinga of promoting hatred and incitement that led to the 2007-2008 violence.

He said Raila was at the heart of the violence that rocked Kenya following the 2007 elections as he had promoted politics of tribal antagonism.

President Kenyatta accused the opposition leader of using the same type of politics in the run up to the August polls.

“He was the one who ignited the flames that set Kenya on fire in 2007 when he promoted the politics of what he called 40 tribes against one. Now, he is talking about 40 against 2,” said the President as he dismissed the unfounded claims that the Jubilee Government has excluded some communities in government.

President Kenyatta said Raila pushed the blame to Deputy President William Ruto even though the opposition leader was at the heart of the incitement that led to the killings and destruction nearly 10 years ago.

The President also accused Raila and his brand of politics for making Kenya lose 25 years of development.

“We need to catch up and fill the 25-year gap this country lost due to negative politics,” said the President when he spoke during a leader’s meeting at Nyanturo grounds in Kisii County.

He said Kenya would have been at the same level with the economies of Asian Tigers were it not for the 25 years of bad politics fronted by some leaders, including Rail.

The President said the Jubilee administration was making huge strides in development because they have discarded the old style of governance that was marked by bad politics.

He said the opposition was in a state of denial over Jubilee’s development record because they have are used to doing nothing for the people.

“They are part of the lost years when politics and government yielded nothing for the people,’’ he said. ‘’Jubilee is different.’’

He said the development challenges Kenya has faced are not as result of lack of money, but because of divisive politics.

President Kenyatta made the comments after speaking to Abagusii leaders in a meeting where he laid out plans to improve infrastructure in Kisii and Nyamira counties.

He asked Kenyans to embrace unity and reject those who continue using the politics of division.

“Let us ensure we do not slide back into problems. Do not let anyone tell you that Kenyans cannot forgive each other,” said the President.

He urged the people of the region to work with the Jubilee Government for transformational change.

The President said he was confident that the Jubilee team will defeat the opposition in the upcoming polls.

He said he won the Presidency in 2013 when he was not even in Government against the incumbent Prime Minister and Vice President.

“If we defeated them easily the last time when they were big people in Government, we will defeat them easily again this time round,” said the President.

Deputy President William Ruto announced that the Jubilee Party will make a very strong bid to win the Kisii gubernatorial seat.

He said he has already got an assurance from Kisii Deputy Governor Joseph Maangi that he will support Kisii Senator Chris Obure to win the Governor’s seat. Maangi confirmed that he will be Obure’s deputy.

Obure, who spoke at the meeting, said he decamped to Jubilee because he has realised that the opposition was all talk, but no interest in the people.

“I was on the other side, but i realised it was all empty talk. I have joined Jubilee so that the people of Kisii can be part of Kenya’s transformation,” said Obure.

Other leaders who attended the meeting included MPs Joel Onyancha, Jimmy Angqenyi, Mary Otara, Stehpen Manoti, Elijah Moindi, Zebedeo Opore and the members of the Abagusii council of elders.

 

Somaliland drought a nightmare and security threat

Star (Kenya)

Mar. 22, 2017, 6:00 pm
An internally displaced Somali man rests as he flees from drought stricken regions in Lower Shabelle region before entering makeshift camps in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, March 17, 2017. /REUTERS

Prolonged drought in Somaliland has killed between 65 and 80 per cent of the semi-autonomous region’s livestock, creating conditions that are “the worst time in our lives” and could threaten regional security, says the region’s environment minister.

With 70 per cent of Somaliland’s economy built around livestock, “you can imagine the desperation of the people, the desperation of the government,” said Shukri Ismail Bandare, the minister of rural development and environment.

“Pastoralists say this is the worst we have seen, a kind of nightmare,” she said. “They have 400 or 500 goats and then just 20 left. They have lost practically everything. I don’t know how they are still sane.”

Previous droughts have hit one area of Somaliland, but “now it’s five regions of the country. We’ve never seen it before”, she said in a telephone interview from Hargeisa, the capital, with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by severe El Nino-related drought. In Somalia, 5.5 million people need assistance to survive over the next six months, UN Secretary General António Guterres said earlier this month.

Somaliland, a northern region of Somalia that operates autonomously after declaring independence, says it faces a particularly difficult time as its political status – it is not recognised as an independent nation – makes accessing aid more difficult.

“We are not getting bilateral or multilateral funds because we are not recognised,” Bandare said. “We are just working with the resources we have. It’s a drop in the ocean.”

Some “low” levels of international assistance are arriving, she said, but worsening drought has led to widespread migration in Somaliland, with herders flocking to the few remaining places with water.

Those villages and cities in turn are now overwhelmed by “thousands and thousands” of migrants, the minister said. “What they have is practically exhausted because of the pressure,” she said.

Read: World has months to stop starvation in Yemen, Somalia – Red Cross

Security risks

Experts fear growing migration and other social and financial stresses in Somaliland could undermine its role in preventing the spread of Islamic militant groups in the Horn of Africa.

“The displacement and dislocation due to the drought is not only a humanitarian disaster but threatens the social fabric of society,” said Michael Higgins of Independent Diplomat, a non-profit advisory group that works with Somaliland’s government to improve its diplomatic efforts.

That “could in turn disrupt security in the entire Horn of Africa region where Somaliland is acting as a buffer and bulwark against Islamic militants such as al Shabaab,” Higgins said.

Bandare said her government had little money to spend on emergency aid.

“Our resources are limited,” the minister said. “We spend a lot of money on peace and security because there are so many dynamics surrounding this country.”

Fortunately, “a lot of people understand the situation we are in, so we are optimistic” about receiving help, she said.

The drought already has forced Somaliland’s government to use money it had allocated for infrastructure and development spend on relief food and water, Bandare said.

“We were in a development stage, doing all kinds of infrastructure and really taking the country forward,” she said. “But now we are in an emergency.”

No water, no grazing

Poor rains since last year have left much of the semi-arid region’s grazing land barren. The country has virtually no irrigation, and no rivers or streams, Bandare said.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. It’s affected thousands and thousands of people,” she said. “And it affects our economy as a nation. The backbone of our economy was livestock.”

She said that climate change means that “drought is now coming every other year or every three years” in the region. “You can imagine the weight it has on our economy,” she said. “There’s no time to recover.”

Deforestation and widespread soil erosion have also contributed to the country’s rainfall problems, she said, noting that rain often now comes either all at once – producing floods – or not at all.

Efforts to harvest and store rainwater in Somaliland, including through a new African Water Facility project, are still in early stages, Bandare said.

Traditionally, spring rains have arrived the last week of March, but in many recent years they have come in late April. With a growing number of families now without access to water or food, delayed rains could mean a surge in loss of life, she said.

“If it doesn’t rain then we are in big, big trouble. Almost two million people are suffering now. Can you imagine if it affects the whole country” of 4.5 million, she asked.

UNHCR criticises Cameroon for forced return of Nigeria refugees

BBC

An aerial picture taken on February 14, 2017 at Monguno district of Borno State shows a camp for internally displaced people.AFP  Many returnees are ending up in camps in Borno state

The UN refugee agency has criticised Cameroon for the forced return of hundreds of refugees to north-east Nigeria after they had fled from the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.

The UNHCR said forced returns had “continued unabated” despite an agreement earlier this month.

Under the deal, any returns would be voluntary and only “when conditions were conducive”.

Cameroon has rejected the accusation and said people returned willingly.

According to the UNHCR, more than 2,600 refugees have been forcibly returned to Nigeria from Cameroon this year.

Many are unable to go back to their villages in Borno state for security reasons and have ended up in camps for displaced people.

In some cases, the UNHCR said, people had been returned “without allowing them time to collect their belongings”.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch spoke of “chaos” in the returns process and said “some women were forced to leave their young children behind in Cameroon, including a child less than three years old”.

Many of the returnees are now settled in the Banki camp for internally displaced people.

UNHCR staff also recorded about 17 people who claimed to be Cameroonian nationals, who it said had been deported by mistake to Banki.

Cameroon's army forces patrol near the village of Mabass, northern CameroonImage copyright AFP
Image caption Cameroon says Boko Haram militants have infiltrated, disguised as refugees

It is common in the region to find people who have no documentary proof of their nationality.

Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme: “I strongly deny this accusation” of forced returns.

He said the Cameroonian army had been working “hand-in-hand” with the Nigerian army against Boko Haram and any civilians who had returned to Nigeria had done so of their own accord.

“This repatriation has taken place willingly,” he said.

The Cameroonian authorities have previously said Boko Haram militants have been entering the country disguised as refugees.

Militants have carried out a number of attacks in northern Cameroon in recent years, often using suicide bombers.

The UNHCR said forced return constitutes a serious violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, both of which Cameroon has ratified.

It called on Cameroon to honour its obligations under the conventions and continue keeping its borders open so as to allow access to territory and asylum procedures for people fleeing the Islamist insurgency.

UN warns that South Sudan is fastest growing refugee crisis

UN News Service

Refugees from South Sudan arrive in Elegu, northern Uganda Photo: UNHCR/Will Swanson

The number of South Sudanese fleeing their homes is “alarming,” the United Nations refugee agency today said, announcing that 1.6 million people have either been displaced or fled to neighbouring countries in the past eight months ago.

“A famine produced by the vicious combination of fighting and drought is now driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis,” the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Babar Baloch, told journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

He added that “the rate of new displacement is alarming, representing an impossible burden on a region that is significantly poorer and which is fast running short of resources to cope.”

Refugees from South Sudan are crossing the borders to the neighbouring countries. The majority of them go to Uganda where new arrivals spiked from 2,000 per day to 6,000 per day in February, and currently average more than 2,800 people per day.

“The situation is now critical,” said Mr. Baloch, warning that recent rains are making the humanitarian situation more difficult.

VIDEO: UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch warns that South Sudan is facing world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

The UN agency is reiterating its calls for financial support. Aid for South Sudanese refugees is only eight per cent funded at $781.8 million, and UNHCR’s funding appeal for Uganda urgently needs $267 million.

The situation in Uganda is a “first and major test” of the commitments made at the Summit for Refugees and Migrants last September, the spokesperson said.

One of the main achievements of the Summit was to create a refugee response framework that integrates humanitarian and development efforts. This translates into giving refugees land and allowing them to access job markets, for example.

The situation of refugees in Uganda could impact how the UN and humanitarian partners are working to support national authorities in the other neighbouring countries – the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.

“No neighbouring country is immune,” said Mr. Baloch.

‘Security situation continues to deteriorate’

Also today, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMISS), David Shearer, warned that the security situation in the country is worsening, and national authorities are not taking action.

“The situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate and generate profound human suffering for the population of that country – suffering in which local and ethnic divisions have been exploited for political ends,” David Shearer told a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council on South Sudan.

He added that the recent escalation of fighting in Equatoria– considered the food basket of South Sudan – has led to a significant displacement of civilians and disrupted food production for the country.

Intense fighting is also reported in the Upper Nile. Satellite imagery shows much of one town, Wau Shilluk, destroyed and deserted.

The senior UN official reiterated concerns about the humanitarian situation in the country, calling the ongoing crisis “entirely man-made.” An estimated 100,000 people are facing starvation and an additional one million are classified as being on the brink of famine.

Mr. Shearer, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the country, urged access for humanitarian organisations and the UN mission.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN aid chief urges global action as starvation, famine loom for 20 million across four countries

South Sudan – UN reports slams arms purchases during famine

allAfrica/DW

A proposal for an arms embargo was supported by the United States in December, but the plan was rejected by the UN Security Council. Could the international body be ready to change it position as suffering continues?

A confidential UN report slams the government of South Sudan for spending more than half its budget on weapons and security as 100,000 people are dying of starvation

The human misery is the result of famine caused primarily by ever-increasing government attacks in the area.

Experts say another 1.1 million are near starvation. In addition, the number of people desperately needing food is expected to hit 5.5 million in the “lean season in July … if nothing is done to curb the severity and breadth of the food crisis.”

The report also calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan – a measure supported by the United States but rejected by the UN Security Council during a vote in December.

“Weapons continue to flow into South Sudan from diverse sources, often with the coordination of neighboring countries,” said the report by a panel of experts.

The experts found a “preponderance of evidence (that) shows continued procurement of weapons by the leadership in Juba” for the army, the security services, militias and other “associated forces.”

A petrostate

Rich in oil, South Sudan generates 97 percent of its budget revenue from petroleum sales. From late March to late October 2016, oil revenues totaled about $243 million, according to calculations from the panel.

At least half – “and likely substantially more” – of its budget expenditures are devoted to security issues including arms purchases, the 48-page report said.

President Salva Kiir’s government has continued to make arms deals even as a famine was declared in parts of Unity state, where the famine is most acute.

 South Sudan arms purchases

“The bulk of evidence suggests that the famine in Unity state has resulted from protracted conflict and, in particular, the cumulative toll of repeated military operations undertaken by the government in southern Unity beginning in 2014,” according to the report.

The government is compounding the food crisis by blocking access for humanitarian aid workers. Significant population displacement has helped exacerbate the famine.

Fighting began intensifying last July, devastating food production in areas that have traditionally been stable for farmers, including the Equatorial region, which is considered the country’s breadbasket.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and some 3.5 million people displaced.

bik/sms (AP, AFP)

Kenya – Kenyatta to deploy military in Baringo and Laikipia to quell violence

Daily Nation

Friday March 17 2017

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president

Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia. The president is counting on them to restore law and order in the North Rift. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

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President Kenyatta has ordered the deployment of the military to troubled North Rift to help police restore law and order.

The Kenya Defence Forces will be sent to parts of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Laikipia counties.

“The deployment will further assist in disarmament and surrender of illegally held arms,” President Kenyatta said during the pass-out for 3,985 fresh officers at the Administration Police Training college in Embakasi, Nairobi.

Mr Kenyatta said he had made the decision following a sitting of the National Security Council, which he chairs, on Friday.

ENEMIES

“Those people with illegal arms have continued to threaten the lives of Kenyans and should know from today they are enemies of State and therefore shall be treated as such,” he said.

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He went on: “We have agreed today that the military will join hands with the police to supplement, in terms of manpower and equipment that police lack.”

The deployment follows blood-letting by bandits who have been slaughtering villagers at will.

DOZENS DEAD

On Tuesday evening, 11 people were killed when suspected Pokot bandits raided Mukutani Village in Tiaty Sub- County.

The attacks have left over dozens people dead since January.

Scores, mainly women and children, are fighting for their lives in hospitals after literally wriggling out of the jaws of death.

The President, during the State of the Nation address on Wednesday, placed the blame on politicians in those areas, for the deaths of dozens of residents, livestock thefts, wanton destruction of property and displacement of residents.

He has followed on his promise to use “all means possible” to end the violence.

INVESTIMENT

In his speech on Friday in Embakasi, the president said the government had invested heavily in providing police with better equipment, better working facilities, more vehicles and helicopters to support efficient operations.

He said forms of the police forces have been initiated to create a true meritocracy where advancement is based on excellence and misdeeds are duly disciplined.

“We have enhanced the quality of training received by police forces and you have been beneficiaries of those improvements,” President Kenyatta told the graduating police officers.

Mr Kenyatta said the government had also invested in training more police officers and brought down the police – citizen ratio to one police for every 380 citizens down from 1:800 in a span of just three years.

EQUIPMENT

He cited the installation of surveillance systems in Nairobi and Mombasa and the improvement of the welfare of officers by expanding police housing units and inaugurating a health insurance scheme for police officers as part of the government’s effort to motivate the officers and ensure efficient service.

President Kenyatta said the increased investment in the security sector and in the police forces is expected to help reduce crime and incidents of corruption within the police force to become relics of the past.

“We expect rapid response to reports of unrest and insecurity. We expect you to dedicate yourselves to your professional development. We expect you to explore and work towards international best practices in the execution of your operations,” the President told the graduating officers.

BANDITRY He added: “We expect to see stronger police-community relations that allow citizens to volunteer support and information to the police forces and act as partners in the maintenance of law and order.”

The Head of State asked police officers to shun bias and reject prejudice in favour of fairness, saying they should cultivate an atmosphere where the citizens they serve will become more trusting and less wary of men in uniform.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery thanked the President for his support to the National Police Service, especially in the provision of modern equipment and improving their terms of service.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett and his Deputy in charge of Administration Police Samuel Arachi said the new officers would be posted to rural outposts to deal with among other things cattle rustling, counter-terrorism and other banditry.

Additional reporting by PSCU.

News24

2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.

Kenya’s president deploys military to quell drought violence

2017-03-17 17:34

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta

Nairobi – Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered the military to be deployed to the volatile counties of Baringo and Laikipia to calm deadly violence fueled by drought.

Kenyatta announced on Friday that as chairperson of the National Security Council he has authorized the immediate deployment of the Kenya Defense Forces to support police in operations there.

At least 21 people have died in fighting between herders in Baringo county since early February. Thirteen people were killed this week. And in Laikipia county, a British farmer was killed by herders invading ranches in search of pasture and water.

Kenya has declared a national disaster because of the drought that affects about half of the counties in this East African nation.