Rghts Activists Skeptical of Museveni’s New Concern About Torture in Uganda

Ugandan human rights activists have welcomed President Yoweri Museveni’s condemnation of torture allegedly committed by police and the armed forces. However, rights activists say they are skeptical whether Museveni will back up his words by prosecuting security forces accused of abuse.

Describing his security officers as lazy, Museveni said in a televised address Saturday night that he wanted to discuss human rights concerns.

Museveni warned security forces against barking at or beating suspects, detaining suspects for long periods in jail and deporting foreigners without trial, saying it disadvantages the country.

He asked for videos to be played of suspects arrested in the trial of the attempted assassination of former Chief of Defense Forces General Edward Katumba Wamala.

One video showed a suspect sobbing in court, saying he was beaten with various canes, which made him say things he shouldn’t be saying.

Other videos showed graphic images of people allegedly tortured by security forces, including a man with raw wounds on his back and another man limping out of court, as well as a police officer running after a woman and beating her repeatedly.

Museveni blamed the torture on acts by individual officers and the failure of senior commanders to instruct junior officers on what should and shouldn’t be done.

According to Museveni, the abuses damage the legitimacy, history and achievements of the National Resistance Army that brought him to power and the ruling National Resistance Movement Party.

“Beating captives is wrong. Why? You undermine your case in court — when the court discovered that you got information through torture. Secondly, on account of beating, somebody may admit what is not true. Torture, assassination, et cetera, are used by lazy people that are not ready to do more work using gaps in the stories of the criminals if they are telling lies,” he said.

Museveni promised to eliminate such torture and use the law to uproot the culture of reactionary behavior in the armed forces.

However, Livingston Sewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, expressed doubt that Museveni’s words will be followed up with real change.

He said Museveni often changes the rules to suit his goals, leaving questions as to his sincerity and commitment.

“There’s still a class of people who are increasingly being untouchable, and the president needs them for his political survival,” Sewanyana said. “So, much as he comes out as strong, with warnings, he definitely does not live (up) to his words. And the way politics is played here, it is all about who has the president’s ear.”

Samuel Herbert Nsubuga, CEO of the non-government organization the African Center for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, told VOA that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not had access to any prison facilities. But he said the situation of torture in the country is prevalent, and the president needs to act.

“But the issue is those images he showed. I would like those people who did that to the suspects to be prosecuted in the courts of law. There’s that gap which we really want the justice institutions to fill,” Nsubuga said.

Sewanyana insisted that Museveni’s pronouncement was triggered by the need to restore the country’s image and the realization that torture has a negative impact on the economy.

Source: Voice of America

West and Central Africa: Situation Report, 16 August 2021

HIGHLIGHTS

In 2021,more than 54.3 million West and Central Africans require assistance. Eight countries in the region are beset with some of the world’s most acute and prolonged crises.

Compared to 2019, the number of people in need in the region has increased by 43 per cent. More than 1 person in 10 requires assistance and protection in 2021.

In conflict-affected regions, almost 13 million people have had to flee their homes,1.5 million more than one year ago. Insecurity and violence are threatening people’s lives

COVID-19 is further compounding acute needs. Sahel countries registered nearly 300,000 cases. Despite challenges, the delivery of assistance continued with adapted modalities.

More than US $6.1 billion are needed to meet the humanitarian needs of 34.6 million people in the region. As of July 2021, only 18 per cent of the required funding has been secured

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Eployment and Labour host virtual employment equity workshops across the country, 1-28 Sept

Department goes virtual to host employment equity workshops across the country

The Department of Employment and Labour’s Employment Equity (EE) Directorate and Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch will be jointly conducting the 2021 Employment Equity virtual workshops nationally.

For the second year in succession due to the impact of COVID-19 in the country and the world, the Department will host its annual employment equity workshops through Virtual Microsoft Teams in each of the nine provinces under the theme: “Real transformation makes business sense”.

The virtual EE workshops will start on 1 September until 28 September 2021. The first workshop will target stakeholders in Limpopo and the workshops will conclude with stakeholders in Mpumalanga. The workshops will be held from 10:00-13:00.

The programme of this year’s workshops will be on:

• Respective provincial EE status;

• Update on EE Amendments and EE Sector targets;

• How to access copies of the EEA2 Online by completing EEA11 form, including 2021 EE reporting; and

• EE inspections and enforcement in the labour market.

The virtual EE workshops are targeted at: employers and their employers’ organisations; human resources executives and practitioners; EE Forum members; assigned senior managers/transformation managers, academics; employees and trade unions; labour relations practitioners; and civil society organisations among others.

The Department will send an invitation to each province in order for the stakeholders to access the Virtual Microsoft Teams link ahead of the actual workshop.

N.B. Participants will be limited to not more than 250 per session and it will be on a “First-come-first served basis” due to the limited capacity of the Microsoft Teams platform.

The schedule of the planned virtual workshops is as follows:

• Limpopo – Wednesday, 01 September 2021

• Free State – Thursday, 02 September 2021

• KwaZulu-Natal – Tuesday, 07 September 2021

• Eastern Cape – Wednesday, 08 September 2021

• Western Cape – Tuesday, 14 September 2021

• Gauteng – Wednesday, 15 September 2021

• Northern Cape – Tuesday, 21 September 2021

• North West – Wednesday, 22 September 2021

• Mpumalanga – Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Source: Government of South Africa

Rmarks by President Biden on Afghanistan

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I want to speak today to the unfolding situation in Afghanistan: the developments that have taken place in the last week and the steps we’re taking to address the rapidly evolving events.

My national security team and I have been closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and moving quickly to execute the plans we had put in place to respond to every constituency, including — and contingency — including the rapid collapse we’re seeing now.

I’ll speak more in a moment about the specific steps we’re taking, but I want to remind everyone how we got here and what America’s interests are in Afghanistan.

We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.

We did that. We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.

Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.

Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.

I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counterterrorism — not counterinsurgency or nation building. That’s why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was Vice President.

And that’s why, as President, I am adamant that we focus on the threats we face today in 2021 — not yesterday’s threats.

Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.

We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.

If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan. We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.

When I came into office, I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban. Under his agreement, U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021 — just a little over three months after I took office.

U.S. forces had already drawn down during the Trump administration from roughly 15,500 American forces to 2,500 troops in country, and the Taliban was at its strongest militarily since 2001.

The choice I had to make, as your President, was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.

There would have been no ceasefire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1.

There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict.

I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

That’s why we were still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency.

But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.

So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.

If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves. We spent over a trillion dollars. We trained and equipped an Afghan military force of some 300,000 strong — incredibly well equipped — a force larger in size than the militaries of many of our NATO allies.

We gave them every tool they could need. We paid their salaries, provided for the maintenance of their air force — something the Taliban doesn’t have. Taliban does not have an air force. We provided close air support.

We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.

There’s some very brave and capable Afghan special forces units and soldiers, but if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance that 1 year — 1 more year, 5 more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.

And here’s what I believe to my core: It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not. If the political leaders of Afghanistan were unable to come together for the good of their people, unable to negotiate for the future of their country when the chips were down, they would never have done so while U.S. troops remained in Afghanistan bearing the brunt of the fighting for them.

And our true strategic competitors — China and Russia — would love nothing more than the United States to continue to funnel billions of dollars in resources and attention into stabilizing Afghanistan indefinitely.

When I hosted President Ghani and Chairman Abdullah at the White House in June and again when I spoke by phone to Ghani in July, we had very frank conversations. We talked about how Afghanistan should prepare to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed, to clean up the corruption in government so the government could function for the Afghan people. We talked extensively about the need for Afghan leaders to unite politically.

They failed to do any of that.

I also urged them to engage in diplomacy, to seek a political settlement with the Taliban. This advice was flatly refused. Mr. Ghani insisted the Afghan forces would fight, but obviously he was wrong.

So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay: How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not? How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I’m clear on my answer: I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past — the mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States, of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of U.S. forces.

Those are the mistakes we cannot continue to repeat, because we have significant vital interests in the world that we cannot afford to ignore.

I also want to acknowledge how painful this is to so many of us. The scenes we’re seeing in Afghanistan, they’re gut-wrenching, particularly for our veterans, our diplomats, humanitarian workers, for anyone who has spent time on the ground working to support the Afghan people.

For those who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and for Americans who have fought and served in the country — serve our country in Afghanistan — this is deeply, deeply personal.

It is for me as well. I’ve worked on these issues as long as anyone. I’ve been throughout Afghanistan during this war — while the war was going on — from Kabul to Kandahar to the Kunar Valley.

I’ve traveled there on four different occasions. I met with the people. I’ve spoken to the leaders. I spent time with our troops. And I came to understand firsthand what was and was not possible in Afghanistan.

So, now we’re fercus [sic] — focused on what is possible.

We will continue to support the Afghan people. We will lead with our diplomacy, our international influence, and our humanitarian aid.

We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability.

We’ll continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people — of women and girls — just as we speak out all over the world.

I have been clear that human rights must be the center of our foreign policy, not the periphery. But the way to do it is not through endless military deployments; it’s with our diplomacy, our economic tools, and rallying the world to join us.

Now, let me lay out the current mission in Afghanistan. I was asked to authorize — and I did — 6,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and Allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.

Our troops are working to secure the airfield and to ensure continued operation of both the civilian and military flights. We’re taking over air traffic control.

We have safely shut down our embassy and transferred our diplomats. Our dip- — our diplomatic presence is now consolidated at the airport as well.

Over the coming days, we intend to transport out thousands of American citizens who have been living and working in Afghanistan.

We’ll also continue to support the safe departure of civilian personnel — the civilian personnel of our Allies who are still serving in Afghanistan.

Operation Allies Refugee [Refuge], which I announced back in July, has already moved 2,000 Afghans who are eligible for Special Immigration Visas and their families to the United States.

In the coming days, the U.S. military will provide assistance to move more SIV-eligible Afghans and their families out of Afghanistan.

We’re also expanding refugee access to cover other vulnerable Afghans who worked for our embassy: U.S. non-governmental agencies — or the U.S. non-governmental organizations; and Afghans who otherwise are at great risk; and U.S. news agencies.

I know that there are concerns about why we did not begin evacuating Afghans — civilians sooner. Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier — still hopeful for their country. And part of it was because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, “a crisis of confidence.”

American troops are performing this mission as professionally and as effectively as they always do, but it is not without risks.

As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban: If they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the U.S. presence will be swift and the response will be swift and forceful. We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary.

Our current military mission will be short in time, limited in scope, and focused in its objectives: Get our people and our allies to safety as quickly as possible.

And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We will end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed.

The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, and secure Afghanistan — as known in history as the “graveyard of empires.”

What is happening now could just as easily have happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future. We have to be honest: Our mission in Afghanistan has taken many missteps — made many missteps over the past two decades.

I’m now the fourth American President to preside over war in Afghanistan — two Democrats and two Republicans. I will not pass this responsibly on — responsibility on to a fifth President.

I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here.

I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.

I am deeply saddened by the facts we now face. But I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism missions there and in other parts of the world.

Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success.

Our decades-long effort to overcome centuries of history and permanently change and remake Afghanistan was not, and I wrote and believed it never could be.

I cannot and I will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another — in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.

This is not in our national security interest. It is not what the American people want. It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.

I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for President that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. And while it’s been hard and messy — and yes, far from perfect — I’ve honored that commitment.

More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that I wasn’t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago.

Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan.

I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States — yet another one — a fifth one.

Because it’s the right one — it’s the right decision for our people. The right one for our brave service members who have risked their lives serving our nation. And it’s the right one for America.

So, thank you. May God protect our troops, our diplomats, and all of the brave Americans serving in harm’s way.

Source: The White House

FROM THE FIELD: Human ‘damage’ on the front-line of the climate crisis

The damage to people and livelihoods caused by climate change is happening at a scale that “people on the front lines cannot manage”, according to the UN’s humanitarian office, OCHA.

OCHA says that “time is running out for millions of people who are already losing their lives, their homes and their livelihoods” due to “extreme weather” that is “decimating” communities across the globe.

The majority of those people live in some of the poorest countries in the world, which are the least to blame for the emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses that are driving climate change.

Ahead of World Humanitarian Day marked annually on 19 August, read more here about the people directly affected by climate change, from Africa to Asia and Central America.

Source: United Nations