Daily Archives: May 23, 2014

SUDAN’S FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT TO ATTEND INAUGURATION OF SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT

KHARTOUM, May 23 — President Omer Al-Bashir of Sudan has asked the country’s First Vice-President, Lieutenant-General Bakri Hassan Salih, to represent him at the inauguration of South African President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria on Saturday.

The president’s Press Secretary, Imad Sid-Ahmed, said in a statement here Thursday that the First Vice-President was also asked to deliver a message from President Al-Basher to the South African leader who was recently elected to a second term of office.

SOURCE: SUNA

UN official in South Sudan meets with key rebel leader to discuss peace efforts

The top United Nations official in South Sudan has met with rebel leader David Yau Yau to discuss peace efforts in Greater Pibor County, Jonglei state, which was once the epicentre of instability in the country.

During a meeting yesterday, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson, commended Mr. Yau Yau, the leader of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A) for his role in facilitating an end to violence in the area.

The rebel group signed a peace agreement with the Government of South Sudan on 9 May in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which “will lay the foundation of a durable peace for all the people and communities of Pibor and surrounding counties,” she said.

Ms. Johnson, who is also the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMISS), which among its traditional responsibilities is protecting tens of thousands of civilians, offered support to implement the agreement.

According to a statement from the Mission, David Yau Yau stressed that the agreement must be implemented as soon as possible so that people in the Greater Pibor can start to build trust and stability among their neighbours, and enjoy daily life without fighting.

Ms. Johnson reiterated her hope that the Government and the rebel group, SPLA/In Opposition, will follow suit and resolve their differences peacefully and end the country’s wider conflict.

The Pibor agreement came as a broader accord was signed on 9 May, also in the Ethiopian capital, by South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, and former Vice President Riek Machar, whose supporters have waged a five-month battle that has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians and led to gross human rights violations by both sides.

SOURCE: AFRICAN RENEWAL

Mali: fresh violence uproots civilians, as UN official heads north to push for ceasefire

Deadly clashes between Tuareg rebels and Government forces in northern Mali have sent a “small but growing” number of terrified civilians fleeing southward and into neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said today, while senior UN and African Union officials are in Kidal to push for a ceasefire.

Briefing reporters in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards said fighting in Kidal last Saturday and again on Wednesday between Tuareg fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, known by the French acronym MNLA, and Government forces prompted new displacement, with people fleeing southwards or into neighbouring countries.

“Our partner in northern Mali, IEDA Relief, estimates that Kidal town has so far seen 3,000 people fleeing affected neighbourhoods,” he said, explaining that people are mainly heading to the city outskirts or in the direction of Gao, where 400 people have so far arrived.

“[They] told our teams they had been forced to hide in their homes in Kidal for two days without food, and while waiting for the fighting to decrease. They also said that more people are poised to flee both Kidal and Menaka to Gao,” added Mr. Edwards.

After the deadly violence that swept Kidal over the weekend during a visit by Mali’s Prime Minister, Moussa Mara, nearby towns in the region have been on edge. UNHCR reported that Gao is restive, and buses leaving the city towards the capital, Bamako, are packed with people worried that the city might be attacked.

“UNHCR is ready to provide relief for 2,000 displaced persons in Gao and, in coordination with other UN agencies, to 1,000 internally displaced in Kidal, including with blankets, jerry cans and buckets,” Mr. Edwards said.

In Niger, 21 refugee arrivals from Menaka in the Gao region were seen on Wednesday at the Intikane refugee hosting area near the Mali border. “Others are said to be trying to flee to Agando area in Niger. In Burkina Faso, 18 new refugees arriving from Gao and Bamako were seen in Bobo Dioulasso Thursday evening,” he added.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added that population movements have been recorded in all regions of the North as well as the Mopti region, in connection with rumours of attacks by armed groups and fears of inter-communal reprisals.

UNHCR said that in Mauritania, refugees at the Mbera camp, just across the border from Mali, report having been contacted by family members in the Timbuktu area asking for help in getting to Mbera.

Meanwhile, a UN spokesperson in New York reported that Albert Koenders, head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), is in Kidal today with the President of Mauritania and current chairman of the African Union (AU), Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, as well as Pierre Buyoya, AU Special Representative for Mali and the Sahel.

They are there to hold discussions with armed groups and urge them to agree to an immediate ceasefire. They are also meeting with traditional authorities in Kidal, the spokesperson added.

Mr. Koenders continues to use his good offices to bring about the resumption of the political process and to ensure evacuation of citizens and Malian soldiers wounded in clashes over the past week. MINUSMA said that 59 injured soldiers, four of them seriously wounded, are being treated at its camp in Kidal.

The spokesperson added that MINUSMA has retrieved wounded Malian and MNLA fighters and civilians from the Kidal hospital and evacuated them by air to Bamako yesterday for more urgent medical treatment.

Today, the UN Mission is planning to airlift the equivalent of 14 days of supplies including water, food, tents and beds to Kidal, and to repatriate the remaining wounded.

SOURCE: AFRICAN RENEWAL

Central African children fleeing to Cameroon on ‘journey of starvation, death’ – UN

Nearly 30 children – the youngest a baby – died in the past month fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations refugee agency today confirmed, renewing its appeal for $22 million in urgently-needed funds to help the growing number of people taking “a journey of starvation and death” in search of safety in Cameroon.

“Since mid-April, the rate of deaths among refugee children has been particularly high,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the agency (UNHCR) said in Geneva. Between 14 April and 18 May, at least 29 children died, most of them at therapeutic feeding centres, which they reached gravely ill.

“Dehydration, hypothermia and severe anaemia had been the main causes of death,” said Mr. Edwards.

Acute malnutrition rates are up for the groups arriving in Cameroon. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), 25 per cent are malnourished, as compared with a global emergency threshold of 15 per cent. UNHCR added that in the worst-affected area of Gbiti, about 400 kilometers east of Yaoundé, the severe malnutrition rates among new arrivals is close to 40 per cent.

Since early December, refugees from CAR have been arriving in Cameroon, many of them after having walked for weeks through the treacherous bush. At present there are at least 85,000 refugees in some 300 villages.

WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said the situation of refugees and third country nationals in Cameroon was “dramatic” and living conditions in camps were likely to deteriorate with the onset of the rainy season.

Arrivals apparently decreased last month after anti-Balaka militias, who had attacked refugees along the way, blocked the main roads leading to Cameroon.

Mr. Edwards said “the journey people were making from CAR is a journey of starvation and death.”

A number of people were severely wounded, he added. Some with knife cuts, gunshot wounds, and people arriving in an extremely poor physical shape, often a result of having lived in bushes for weeks.

The UNHCR has requested $22.6 million for its programmes, of which only $4.2 million have so far been received. In addition, the Regional Refugee Response Plan for CAR, which includes UNHCR and 14 partners in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo, is only 12 per cent funded at present.

Meanwhile, an eight-month emergency feeding operation in Cameroon at $15.6 million has so far not received any contributions, according to WFP.

Fighting in CAR has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature following a 2012 rebel-led coup and has since become more brutal with reports of ongoing human rights violations and clashes that have left 2.2 million in need of humanitarian aid.

Babacar Gaye, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in CAR, had called on the anti-Balaka militia to lay down their arms, and on the opposition, former Séléka fighters, to enter the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.

Support from the international community would be in vain if the parties did not act responsibly for the long-term stability of the country, a UN spokesperson said on his behalf.

SOURCE: AFRICAN RENEWAL

International Criminal Court sentences former Congolese militia leader to 12 years

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced former militia leader Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison for war crimes committed in relation to a 2003 attack in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Mr. Katanga, a senior commander from the group known as the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), was convicted in March on four counts of war crimes and one count of crimes against humanity, namely murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging, relating to the 24 February 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, in Ituri district.

At a public hearing today, Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte explained that when determining the sentence, the ICC’s Trial Chamber had to consider “the legitimate need for truth and justice voiced by the victims and their family members, while seeking also to ensure that the sentence acts as a deterrent to potential perpetrators of similar crimes,” according to a news release.

With regard to the gravity of the crimes, the Chamber stressed that the crimes committed on 24 February 2003 in Bogoro were “committed with particular cruelty, resulted in numerous civilian victims, and that the scars of the fighting can still be seen today.”

As for Mr. Katanga’s degree of participation and intent, the Chamber considered that he had made a significant contribution to the commission of the crimes of attacking a civilian population, murder, pillage and destruction of property.

“Nonetheless, the Chamber considered, in determining the sentence, that account had to be taken of Germain Katanga’s conduct after the events and, in particular, his active participation in the demobilisation process implemented in Ituri for the benefit of the child soldiers and, to a certain extent, of his personal situation.”

According to the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO), Mr. Katanga’s group is still active in the Ituri district and continues to represent a threat to civilians.

“The decision taken by the ICC in the Katanga case sends another warning to armed groups, including the FRPI, to immediately cease attacks against the civilian population and lay down their arms,” said Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, as he welcomed today’s sentencing.

SOURCE: AFRICAN RENEWAL