21 April, 2007
ABUJA, April 21 (Reuters) - Troops shot dead three boys during a protest, thugs stole ballot boxes and millions of voting slips went missing in Nigeria's election on Saturday, dashing hopes of a smooth democratic transition.
The vote will seal the first handover from one civilian president to another in Africa's most populous nation, scarred by three decades of corrupt military rule.
But hopes the election would be a beacon for African democracy were lost in a catalogue of abuses and confusion.
As polling stations closed at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) European Union observer Max van den Berg said he was unsure there would be any improvement over regional polls last week, when there was widespread fraud and 50 people were killed. "For the moment I am worried," he told Reuters, but said it was too early to come to a final conclusion.
Troops shot dead three boys aged between 11 and 17 during a protest in the northern town of Daura against alleged rigging, hospital sources said. It was not clear if the victims were protesters or bystanders. Ten other people were injured.
Hours before polling stations opened, unknown attackers tried to blow up national electoral headquarters in the capital Abuja with a fully laden petrol tanker. It hit a telephone pole outside the building and did not explode.
Opposition parties said millions of ballots went missing.
Reuters correspondent Estelle Shirbon saw national electoral commission officials in southern Bayelsa state stuffing dozens of completed votes into ballot boxes.
A young man, who gave his name as James, complained he had thumb-printed 50 ballots for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) but had not been paid.
Opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari said no one could claim to have won an election with so many irregularities.
"It is likely we will call our supporters as from Monday to come out and protest if the PDP announce they have won the election," he told Reuters in an interview.
"It is not a question of winning because I don't think there have been elections."
Troops opened fire in Daura, Buhari's hometown, when hundreds of youths smashed cars and set fire to roadside shacks after thousands of ballots were reported missing.
Voters in two local government areas of southeastern Anambra state had already left polling stations on Saturday evening when voting materials finally arrived. Ballots never arrived at another two polling units visited by a Reuters correspondent.
The opposition Action Congress party said: "In every state where the party has a large followership, INEC (Independent National Electoral Commision) deliberately ensured inadequate supply of voting materials."
Thugs in northern Kano armed with swords and guns stole ballot boxes, while an election official in southwestern Ondo state was abducted by a gang in police and army uniforms.
All 60 million ballots had been reprinted at the last minute after the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the electoral commission was wrong to disqualify Vice President Atiku Abubakar, arch-rival of President Olusegun Obasanjo, as an opposition candidate.
Electoral commissioner Maurice Iwu said voting materials arrived late in a few areas, but he was pleased over all.
"On the whole we did well as a country. We should congratulate ourselves," he told a press conference.
The PDP candidate, little-known state governor, Umaru Yar'Adua, is expected to win the presidential election but the opposition says he will be Obasanjo's puppet.
The outgoing president failed to change the constitution to allow him a third term.
(Additional reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, Estelle Shirbon in Port Harcourt, Daniel Flynn in Katsina, Ibrahim Mshelizza in Maiduguri, Mike Oboh in Kano, Farouk Umar in Sokoto, Ijeoma Ezekwere in Onitsha, Tume Ahemba in Lagos)
21 April 2007
Cases of murders, fighting, and plunderings by armies has become the current currency in this territory, deplores the Congolese Network for Action Against Light Weapons (RECAAL). Its director, Janvier Kabwe, denounced these activities on Friday during the days of sensitization on the trade of light weapons, reports radiookapi.net
This growing insecurity in the east is the consequence of the trafficking and circulation of weapons on a large scale, Janvier Kabwe said. According to the source, 11 people were held on Thursday in the central prison for armed robbery, and several military weapons and effects circulate amongst civilians.
“Our territory is transborder. It is thus very permeable. One will not be able to put a soldier at on every spot. I think of infiltrations, but often they are traffickers of weapons. They have parcels, backbags stuffed full of heavy material. There is no question they are weapons”, declared the regulator of RECAAL. He adds the threat of demobilized solidiers which represents, in his opinion, a problem not dealt with.
“I would not say that it is the demobilized who are at the root of the weapons distribution. They nevertheless constitute an imminent threat if we do not deal with them. We know that they did not give up all their weapons”, he explained.
Janvier Kabwe invites the population of Uvira to stay vigilant and denounce all those trafficking weapons. The demonstration organized by RECAAL is to continue this Saturday. It aims to challenge the Congolese Government and to invite them to sign the treaty on the trade of light weapons planned for next June in New York.
Editor's note: Earlier this week, I posted a story about the cordon and search operation conducted in Uvira and noted that the last time this occured (June 2006), the Rwandans were flying arms to Bujumbura and taking them across the border to Uvira. Here again, Mr. Kabwe speaks of many weapons coming from across the border. One has to ask, where are they coming from? Are the Rwandans up to it again, or are they perhaps FNI soldiers who don't want to demobilize or join the Burundian army?
21 April 2007
Editor's Note: The request for uniforms was the same request the first mixed brigades had. The request was made because the demobilized RDF soldiers infiltrated Congo in civilian cloths and needed a uniform. With all the crimes committed by the brigades already formed, it is beyond me why they want another band of potiential rouge soldiers around in North Kivu. Perhaps it is part of the agreement between General Numbe, General Kabarebe, General Nkundabatware, and General Amisi. And, of course, now that all these elements are part of the official Congolese state army, MONUC can't touch them even if they kill civilians.
The census of soldiers comprising this unit began Friday in Mushaki. According to military authorities, the mixage operation will include soldiers from the 81st and 83rd brigades, both loyal to former FARDC General Laurent Nkundabatware, radiookapi.net said.
The identification of these elements by the SMI (Structural Military Integration) was delayed due to preconditions they posed. They required that military uniforms be given to them first and that the question of the assumption of responsibility of their comrades coming from Ngungu is settled. It was neccessary a sensitization campaign by the commander of the 8th Military Region followed with some of their officers.
On Friday, combatants from the 81e brigade were formally identified. Among them, a lone child soldier was removed by child welfare organizations. According to the SMI, identification of these soldiers will take 4 days. "The mixing date is not set yet," said the commander of the 8th military area. In addition, military authorities refuse to give more precise details on the nature of this new mixed unit, in particular, if it is a complete brigade.
April 20, 2007
By Risdel Kasasira and Yasiin Mugerwa
There are 5,000 under age soldiers serving in the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces, says the report by Uganda Parliamentary Forum for Children (UPFC) on children in northern Uganda.
The report, presented to Parliament yesterday by the Chairperson of the forum and Jinja district Woman MP Ruth Tuma, says child recruitment into the army is caused by difficulty to identify those above 18 years.
"In the recent visit to Uganda, the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed conflict indicated that 5,000 children still belong to the Ugandan army," says the report.
However, State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa said UPDF recruitment policy does not allow those below 18 years to be recruited into the army.
Our policy is clear and we recruit those between 18 and 20 years and in northern Uganda, the recruits have to get recommendations from the Local Council 1 up to RDC to confirm whether they are of the required age," she told Parliament.
20 April 2007
By intervening alongside the Central African forces (FACA) against the rebels in Birao near the border with Darfur, the French army has perpetrated “actions that fall into the category of war crimes and that must be deferred before the International Criminal Court (ICC) said Christophe Gozam Betty, coordinator of the New Republican Forces (FRN), a rebel group opposed to President Francois Bozizé.
“The French army has bombed villages in the Birao region. If such actions had been perpetrated elsewhere, an international inquiry against France would have already been initiated” said the FRN coordinator, adding “we have damning reports from the UN”. Gozam Betty, former ambassador of the Central African Republic (CAR) to China, also denounced the incoherence of French politics in CAR, observing that under former president Ange-Felix Patasse, France refused to apply the defense agreements “advising an opening to dialogue with the challengers”. Under Bozizé, “it would appear to have changed attitude and used the army”. “French authorities should have imposed dialogue against their pupil Bozizé, rather than bomb villages in the Birao area” said Gozam Betty.
In a separate interview from the same day, Betty asked “French authorities who give orders to their Mirage aircraft…to give a little humanity bringing forward humanitarian aid to Birao, which has been put in disarray to save the unfair power of general Bozizé” rather than giving “their special units the order to bomb and sift the northeastern area”.
At the start of April, the French NGO, ‘Survie’ had launched similar accusations. “French leaders act alongside central African soldiers who have perpetrated violations and Paris says nothing” said Survie, denouncing, moreover the presence of French officials in the military leadership of the FACA and the nomination of a French military advisor alongside Bozizé.
Saturday April 21, 2007. 9:00 PM
Voting began Saturday in Nigeria's landmark presidential elections, hours after a failed attempt to blow up the electoral commission marred hopes of a trouble-free poll in the first post-colonial transfer of power between two civilian presidents.
Private vehicles were warned to keep off roads in Lagos and elsewhere and heavily-armed troops threw up roadblocks on key thoroughfares, while fresh trouble erupted in the volatile oil-rich south.
It was also unclear whether 65 million ballot papers, ready for distribution only on the eve of the vote Friday, had arrived safely at the 120,000 polling stations of Africa's most populous nation.
In the capital Abuja, where polling stations opened as scheduled at 0900 GMT, police reported a pre-dawn attempt to raze the electoral commission (INEC).
"There was an attempt to burn down the electoral commission's office this morning around 4:00 am (0300 GMT). A fuel tanker fully loaded with petrol was seen moving towards the office and there was no one inside", police spokesman Haz Iwendi told AFP.
Had the lorry hit its target "it would have been destruction on the highest scale", Iwendi said.
He said a stone had been wedged on the accelerator to keep it rolling.
In the southern Niger Delta home to the country's oil industry -- Nigeria is the world's sixth oil exporter -- assailants riding speed-boats shot at a military base as troops fanned out across Yenagoa, capital of the state of Bayelsa, following shootings and bombings the previous night.
"The soldiers have taken over the streets, they are heavily armed and they are checking every vehicle. They ask people to raise their hands and conduct body checks. They said they are looking for militants", a witness said.
On Friday night gunfire broke out at a Yenagoa hotel where the ruling party's vice presidential candidate was staying, and another hotel was reportedly blown up, leaving a number of dead.
It was unclear whether Goodluck Jonathan, who was not hurt and who is also governor of Bayelsa state, had been targeted. A high-ranking government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Jonathan was taken to a safe location.
In Abuja, electoral commission head Maurice Iwu told journalists that all the ballot papers had arrived at commission headquarters in the country's 36 states and that "most have already been distributed".
Officials had earlier ordered a two-hour delay to the start of voting to allow time for the ballots to be distributed by the army in a country twice as big as France.
Due to printing errors, elections for the National Assembly and the Senate, due to have taken place concurrently with the presidential poll, were cancelled in parts of the country, including central Lagos, at the last minute on Saturday.
The ballot paper mayhem was caused by an 11th-hour decision this week by the country's Supreme Court to allow Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is facing corruption allegations, to run for election. He had previously been disqualified by INEC.
The race to replace President Olesegun Obasanjo will be between three northerners: Umaru Yar'Adua of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar, who defected from the PDP to run as the candidate for the opposition Action Congress (AC), and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.
Iwu assured that the presidential vote would be better handled than last Saturday's governorship and state assembly elections, marred by fraud and violence that left at least 21 people dead.
"We have learnt good lessons from Saturday's poll ... the election of 2007 will be concluded peacefully, freely and fairly," Iwu said.
The vote is due to see the first civilian-to-civilian handover since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.
While ordinary Nigerians hope Saturday's election will help to bring an end to the corruption that permeates society, Western powers fear mainly for the stability of Africa's largest democracy as a major oil source.
Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total all operate here and cross their fingers that existing unrest is not aggravated by electoral tensions.
World oil prices rose slightly on Friday as traders fretted that continued violence in the run-up to Nigeria's poll may disrupt supplies from Africa's biggest crude-producing nation.
18 April 2007 (IRIN) - Squeezed between Swaziland's worst-ever food crisis and the world's highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate, people are struggling to survive. Abdoulaye Balde, Country Director for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Swaziland, reported to government officials this week that the signs indicated the worst food crisis in the small kingdom's modern history. Maize became the favoured Swazi food in the early 19th century, but the upcoming harvest may prove the scantiest, with entire communities producing no crops at all. In the last few months, Swaziland has suffered delayed rainfall, heavy winds and hailstorms, followed by scorching dry spells. Usually only the dry Middleveld, Lowveld and Lubombo Plateau areas are affected, but this year the entire country has experienced disastrous growing conditions.
"It is a unique situation because it is a national problem this year," said Balde. "In the past, only some parts of the country were affected, mostly the southern and eastern regions." A crop assessment team from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is canvassing the small homesteads where four out of five Swazis live, either growing crops to supplement the modest wages they earn in towns, or supporting their families entirely with the produce grown on their small plots. The assessment data, due out early next month, will determine the extent of emergency food relief requirements. At a time of year when full maize storage bins and ripening pumpkins are traditionally celebrated, there is anxiety throughout the country.
"Already, about a quarter of the population receives some form of food assistance, and this is harvest time. As we enter the lean winter and early spring months ahead, when customarily the stored crops are depleted, we can expect more people in need," said Christopher Dlamini of the Swaziland Baphalali Red Cross Society, a major distributor of WFP food aid. WFP has been supporting about a quarter of Swaziland's 1.1 million people with food assistance since 2002, to improve the nutrition of families affected by drought, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Amos Ndwandwe was born in 1946, when the national population was a quarter of its present number. He remembered the ample harvests of his childhood, interspersed with occasional dry spells. Swaziland's mountainous northern region has usually enjoyed above-average rainfall and was untouched by the last devastating drought in 1992. "It is different this year; the rains stopped when we needed them the most. I remember when the maize plants were tall enough to start growing tassels, in January. They needed the water to push them to maturity, but there was none for a month, and when it [rain] came back, it was too late," said Ndwandwe.
The traditional leader in his area asked him to assess crops in the community fields, both those cultivated at individual homesteads and the communal fields where food for orphans is grown. "We have government money [from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis] we were given to buy seeds and fertiliser. We planted just a few weeks ago, when the rains briefly returned. The crop was doing well - it was meant for the children who have no parents and no means of support," he said sadly.
It is different this year; the rains stopped when we needed them the most The next task will be a census of households in the area to create a database of food requirements. The National Emergency Relief Unit will be notified, and measures taken to bring assistance. "No one starves here. We look after one another," said Ndwandwe.
In the enduring humanitarian crisis, food relief has been required continuously for the past 15 years in some parts of the country, but the dreaded word "famine" has been avoided by good communication between communities and relief agencies. Central Manzini Region: Gogo Nhlabatsi's crops fail The highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate worldwide - over a third of sexually active Swazi adults are HIV positive - has left a burgeoning population of parentless children. In many instances, grandparents have stepped in to support their orphaned grandchildren.
"The worry was that I could not farm this place, but we managed," said Gogo (Granny) Nhlabatsi, who supports five grandchildren aged below 12 with the produce from a two-hectare plot around her homestead. Most of the maize plants on the plot are dead. "Nothing; there is nothing," she lamented. "The school break is next week. It would be a time when the little ones help Granny harvest the maize. There is nothing to do this year. "I am happy we did the work to make these fields bloom a while; other old people could not manage. There were community volunteers to help; the church people paid for my grandchildren's school fees. But none of them could bring the rain."
If Thamie Mhlongo, 19, were standing in the same spot a year ago, he would be submerged in the water of the dam that supplies his community's needs. The water level has receded by half since January, and thorny weeds now cover the embankment that used to be under water. "Sometimes you are here all day and you can catch nothing. It is all luck," he said. "We are glad to have this dam; we eat the fish. We used to sell the extra fish at the highway, just there," he said, pointing to the nearby road. "Now we don't have extra fish; we are happy to find fish to eat."
The Ministry of Agriculture and local nongovernmental organisations are encouraging aquaculture to provide rural Swazis with an alternative food supply to maize. However, all the pilot schemes depend on rainfall.
"When the water dried up [earlier this year], we found a whole bus that had been under the water for years," said Mhlongo. "But we are not finding fish."
"HIV/AIDS is worsening the food security situation in Swaziland," Deputy Prime Minister Constance Simelane told an assembly of government and civil society officials this week. "There are fewer able-bodied men and women to plant, weed and harvest, and people living with HIV and AIDS require proper nutrition; their treatment depends on it, but food is harder to come by this year."
Charles Maziya had to make a desperate choice between his children's food security and burying his wife. His dilemma is shared by thousands of families faced with funeral expenses for relatives who succumbed to AIDS, although he does not say she died of the disease.
This year's harvest is the worst in Amos Ndwandwe's memory: "I borrowed money that I normally borrow every year for the crop. After my wife's funeral, I was faced with repaying. I did not have the implements to do my farming, but I managed. You can see the plants grew," he said, standing in his maize field. When the rainfall ended, so did his hope of having a harvest as the maize plants turned prematurely brown before dying. "My field cannot help me repay my loan. Winter is ahead. I am thankful that I am a bricklayer; I find work. Some other farmers, they only have their fields that did nothing this year."
He supports his eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. As a small sign of faith in the future, he has planted avocado trees as a windbreak.
"They will give us fruit to eat; I am planting bananas and mangoes. Because I am a bricklayer, I built a new storage bin that is weatherproof," Maziya told IRIN. Unfortunately, there is nothing to put in this year."
20 April 2007 (IRIN) - Thousands of disarmed former fighters from Liberia’s 14 year civil war are still roaming the country without training or reintegration into society, threatening Liberia’s chances of future stability, the head of the Liberian government's disarmament and reintegration commission warned on Thursday.
"It is very important that the 23,000 ex-combatants based on the data available to the commission should be trained. If this is not done, it will pose a very high security risk to the peace of this country," Jarvis Witherspoon, head of the National Commission on Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (NCDDRR) said at a press conference.
A United Nations commissioned independent nation-wide survey of ex-combatants reintegration conducted last year recommended a continuation of a skills training programs for those who are yet to benefit.
"There is a major risk of leaving behind a very vulnerable grouping of ex-combatants - those who have disarmed and demobilised, but have yet to receive training," the survey said. It recommended that "international intervention should ensure the continuation of the program.”
Witherspoon blamed the lack of skills training for the remaining former fighters on a curtailment of donor funding.
"The commission has realised that... a sense of donor fatigue developed when it comes to support to have these 23,000 ex-combatants trained," he said.
The commission wants US$18 million dollars to embark on the provision of skill training for those remaining fighters. At the start of the disarmament in Liberia, cash benefits of US$300 were given each disarmed and demobilised former fighter. They were allowed to chose which form of training they would prefer either academic or vocational skills development.
At the end of the country-wide disarmament program in November 2004, official statistics from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which supervised the exercise reported that 101,495 fighters were disarmed and demobilised. But so far, only 75,000 of the former fighters have been placed in donor-funded training programs to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry, and masonry. Others have been enrolled in secondary schools and other higher learning institutes.
A further 3,500 are enrolled in programs that are yet to start. The reintegration and rehabilitation of ex-combatants, which was previously controlled by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was handed over to the NCDDRR earlier this month.
FREETOWN, 17 April 2007 (IRIN) - Meriam Samu travels more than 30km every morning to buy the fresh catch of the day from local fishermen in the western part of the capital, Freetown. But these days there are fewer and fewer fish for her to choose from. "I have been doing this business for several years. Before we had stable prices for fish at Leones 3,000 [US$1.00] per 5kg carton, but now the retail prices are between Leones 5,000 [$1.75] to Leones 15,000 [$5.00]," said Samu, 43.
As a result, it is more difficult for her earn money at the busy Kroo Town Road market as the mackerel, snapper and other fish are becoming more difficult for the average Sierra Leonean to afford. Samu, like the fishermen themselves, blames foreign trawlers for the depletion of Sierra Leone’s fish stocks.
"We cannot rely on the fishing vessels because they do not go to sea every day, but the fishermen do and I am afraid that when the canoe men decide to stop fishing how will our people eat fish? Sierra Leoneans should not be crying because of high fish prices because fish should be in abundance here,” she said.
Fish generally have been a cheap and easily available source of protein for Sierra Leoneans, who are amongst the poorest people in the world. Recovering from a decade-long civil war, livelihoods are difficult to sustain and joblessness is rampant. About 70 percent of the country’s 5.3 million people live below the poverty line and 26 percent are considered extremely poor, according to the United Nations.
“What we’re seeing is local fishing communities repeatedly telling us their ability to catch fish is declining, the size of their catch is declining and the size of the fish is declining,” said Steven Trent, executive director of the London-based Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an independent pressure group for environmental security and human rights.
Depleted resource About 80,000 make their living through fishing in Sierra Leone, according to the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. The country loses an estimated $29 million annually to illegal and unregulated fishing, and its neighbours Guinea and Liberia lose about $110 million and $10 million respectively, according to EJF.
Musa Sankoh, a fisherman for the past decade, said trawlers have especially been a problem since 2006. As a result, he said, many fishermen fear entering the high seas to cast their nets, which are their only means of livelihood, so they stay closer to shore where there are fewer fish.
Musa Sankoh, a fisherman in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown"Now things are becoming very difficult for us fisherman at sea where the foreign trawlers normally cut our nets with impunity and this is slowing down our efforts to supply more fish for the locals," said Sankoh. Each canoe barely generates $33 per day, compared to up to $66 in previous years, he said. The Kingtom wharf in Freetown shows the evidence of discouragement. On any given day dozens of abandoned canoes rest idle on the beach – the fishermen have sought a living elsewhere. Samuel Lewallie, sitting in the canoe he made 10 years ago, continues to fish but his diminishing earnings are feeding his anger toward the government.
“We are paying license fees to the government the same as the trawlers, but the government seems to favour those industrial people more than us,” he said. “We are Sierra Leoneans and this is our home, foreign merchants cannot have more rights than us.” Rudolph Murray, an agent for a Chinese trawler operating off Sierra Leone, says the fishermen’s complaints hold little weight. "They are just afraid because we have the capacity to grab more fish than them,” he said. “This is competitive business.”
The government has granted fishing rights to Egyptian, Chinese and Russian trawlers, according to the Fisheries Ministry. Winston Gbondo, the assistant director for fisheries, denied that foreign vessels received preferential treatment. He said the government had set up an “insured exclusive zone” for local fishermen and that trawlers entering the area would be fined $30,000.
“The trawlers have their own operating zone, but the problems we have had is the surveillance of the sea to ensure that trawlers do not encroach into this zone,” he said. “The ministry does not have the logistical capacity to carry out the surveillance. We have given this function to the navy." Despite these efforts enforcement is problematic, Trent said, in part because in countries where wages are poor corruption can thwart efforts to implement laws. “The problem here, as with many developing states, you have extreme resource constraints,” said Trent of EJF. “It’s very difficult to monitor, to control and enforce the law. It is almost impossible for countries like Sierra Leone to deal with this without concerted efforts internationally.”
He said EJF backed efforts to abolish flags and ports of convenience so it is easier to track vessels. The organisation also supports improving control and surveillance assistance to developing countries and putting more of the burden on markets where the pirated fish is consumed, such as in the European Union. If measures are not taken, he said, fish stocks could collapse.
Saturday 21 April 2007.
April 20, 2007 (NEW YORK) — Sudan’s long-awaited agreement to the United Nations-African Union (AU) "Heavy Support package" for Darfur has been cautiously greeted by the international community, but both the UN and AU admit that the task of setting up the operation has just begun.
"The Heavy Support package, as its name indicates, is not the robust force Darfur needs," said UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno after a meeting with AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare this week. "It is a support package to lay the ground for a future robust force."
The current AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) force of 7,000 deployed in the region is understaffed and underfunded, creating a crucial need for improved security for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps and aid workers. AMIS has also come under attack from unknown gunmen and lost seven men in April. It now plans to establish two battalions to protect its men and the upcoming support package.
"This is going to be critical to the Heavy Support package in view of the deteriorating situation in several places in Darfur because these kinds of enablers [and] resources, including civilian personnel, need to have security," said Guehenno.
The package is the second part of a three-step operation consisting of a Light Support package, a Heavy Support package, and an AU-UN Hybrid force; and primarily aims to aid AMIS.
Tuesday’s agreement with the Sudanese government allows the UN to continue planning for the US $289.9 million Heavy Support package in order to ensure its deployment in the months ahead.
The package will include a signals unit, communications unit, and logistics staff who will be deployed as part of the 2,250 military personnel. No infantry will be deployed, but the personnel include helicopter pilots, and military tactical staff, among others.
Currently, the UN is holding meetings with troop-contributing countries to determine who would be willing to send personnel to Darfur.
"The troops should be predominantly African," said Konare. "If this is not possible, we will look - with the approval of the Sudanese government - outside the continent."
A contingent of 301 police officers will be deployed, along with 1,136 civilian personnel to work on human rights issues, humanitarian affairs and civilian logistics, among other proposals. But only 150 civilian workers will be international staff.
All Light Support and Heavy Support UN-supplied workers will wear a blue beret with a distinguishing green armband, according to AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, said Jinnit. The blue and green represent the UN and AU, respectively. "This is another story of course when you reach the hybrid operation," he said.
The $21 million Light Support package has almost been completed, with a logistics, personnel, equipment, and humanitarian aid component. Eighty percent of all personnel have been recruited or identified - 105 military specialists and 30 police, according to a senior UN official.
But much more work lies ahead in the next few months that is critical to the success of both the current AU operation and the proposed UN support package. According to UN officials, the goal is to free up AMIS troops so they can carry out their mandate; but support needs to be given as soon as possible.
In order to place two more AMIS security battalions on the ground, funding must be forthcoming, according to Jinnit, especially because six security battalions were approved in September last year, but none have been placed due to lack of funds.
"Let’s be honest. Without any sustainable financing, this will not be as sustainable as expected. Really, how can countries volunteer troops when they see that those they send are not able to survive financially?" an exasperated Konare said to reporters.
Tuesday’s announcement by the Sudanese comes after months of disagreement over proposals to boost international peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. Continued cooperation is essential for the success of the operations. For example, in order to accommodate more people and troops, the government will have to provide land and water resources for camps to be built.
Diplomats in New York are, however, optimistic that the transition from the Light package to Heavy package will pave the way for the estimated 20,000-strong Hybrid force, the most controversial part of the plan for the Sudanese government.
"You never know; we are talking about the situation today," Congolese Ambassador to the UN Basile Ikouebe told IRIN. "If you have to wait six months before the Hybrid operation can take place, it will be impossible to determine what will happen on the ground in the meantime. But it is a good step."
April 20, 2007 (JUBA, Sudan) — British oil company White Nile has started drilling its first well in a disputed 67,000 square km (25,870 sq mile) concession in semi-autonomous south Sudan, a company official said on Friday.
French energy company Total SA disputes White Nile’s contract with the south Sudan government, which has given the British company part of an oil exploration block that the central government had allocated to Total.
Philip Ward, White Nile’s chief operations officer in south Sudan, said drilling had started on Thursday on the well, in a remote and "extremely challenging" area 200 km north of the southern capital of Juba. It is due to be completed within 29 days. He said the well would be 2,400 metres deep.
"We will know hopefully within 45 days the potential hydrocarbons in the area," Ward said, adding that the firm would take 60 metres of coring for analysis to determine the type of oil and viscosity.
White Nile, which is 50 percent owned by south Sudan’s state petroleum firm Nilepet, has estimated that it has 3 billion to 5 billion barrels of oil in its block Ba concession, but it will take four years before oil starts to flow from the concession.
The same block was part of a larger concession assigned to Total by the Khartoum government before the country’s 21-year north-south civil war, which ended with a 2005 peace agreement that gave the south semi-autonomous status.
The former southern rebels who now dominate the government of south Sudan divided up Total’s block and assigned part of it to White Nile. Most of Sudan’s oil lies in the landlocked south, although refineries and pipelines are in the north.
Much of White Nile’s block in Jonglei state is part of a huge swampy area in the south, called the Sudd.
20 April 2007
APA-Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) Tanzania and Norway Friday signed a US$ 65 million agreement in Dar es Salaam to explore petroleum in the Indian Ocean oil block within the Mandawa coastal basin, Tanzanian offshore, covering an area of 11.099 square kilometres, APA learns here.
The Energy and Minerals Minister Nazir Karamagi and the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) managing director Yona Killagane signed the deal on behalf of the Tanzania government while Jan Vollset signed on behalf of Statoil AS (Tanzania) of Norway.
According to the agreement, the company will spend 11 years undertaking exploration of the block.
Speaking before signing the pact, Karamagi said that both sides had gone through tough negotiations before coming to an agreement, taking into account the need to balance the risks for both sides and to create a win-win situation.
He said apart from the said US$ 65 million that would be spent on exploration, the company will also spend another US$ 44,000 and US$ 75,000 annually as licence fees and human resource development costs, respectively.
Statol AS is an integrated oil and gas company with operations in Angola, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, China, Indonesia and USA.
20 April 2007
Editor's Note: It will be interesting to see if this causes friction, especially since Liberia is depending on the U.S. for security reform. On the other hand, since the UN saw it fit not to lift the diamond export ban, Liberia needs all the foreign investment they can get in order to generate revenue to rebuild the nation.
APA-Monrovia (Liberia) Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the current visit of a French trade delegation to Liberia is a manifestation of the growing confidence the international community has in the government and people of Liberia, APA learns here.
Speaking Thursday at her temporary office at the foreign ministry in Monrovia, President Johnson-Sirleaf said the visit sends a clear signal that the government and people of Liberia are ready for good business, and that the international community is also ready to respond.
She said with the first-hand information provided to the French business delegation by the Liberian cabinet during a meeting at the Foreign Ministry earlier Thursday, they would be convinced that Liberia is not poor, but that its resources have in the past been mismanaged.
Madam Johnson Sirleaf noted that the private sector is a major engine in sustainable economic growth, saying she wants to see the private sector play a commanding role in economic development.
She however stressed that the private sector must comprise of good citizens who will respect the laws of the country.
The head of the French business delegation, Mr. Patrick Lucas, told journalists Thursday that some 50 French businesses have expressed interest in investing in Liberia.
He said the companies are targeting electricity, road construction, land and air transport, the hotel industry, port management and logistics.
The Chairman of Liberia’s National Investment Commission, Dr. Richard Tolbert said with the coming of the French investors, many jobless Liberians would gain employment. He said the visit was a direct response to President Johnson Sirleaf’s visit to France last year.
The 25 member delegation, which is in the country to assess investment opportunities, is organized under the group MEDEF International.
By Lassina Sermé, Special Correspondent
APA-Ngattadolikro (Cote d’Ivoire) Six joint brigades of the Defence and Security forces (FDS, loyalists) and the armed forces of the Forces Nouvelles (ex-rebels) were set up Monday to guarantee security in the buffer zone to replace foreign peacekeeping forces deployed there since 2002, APA learnt here.
"This is again to manifest our attachment to peace that we have met here in Ngattadolikro and to set up joint brigades in accordance with the Ouagadougou agreement," General Soumaila Bakayoko, the chief of staff of the former rebels said at the ceremony attended by President Gbagbo and Premier Guillaume Soro.
The six joint brigades were deployed in the west, centre and east with the mission "to monitor public security, maintain law and order, and restore confidence and national unity among Ivorians", he said.
Each brigade contains 24 soldiers including 10 gendarmes (paramilitary police) from the FDS selected by the commandant of the gendarmerie and 10 men from the armed forces of the Forces Nouvelles.
This joint squad will be backed by four gendarmes from the foreign peacekeeping forces. President Gbagbo had not visited the region since four years.
He arrived in Ngattadolikro ( 25 km from Bouake, the former rebels’ stronghold) to witness the first phase of the removal of the buffer zone in Tiebissou, and accompanied by his Premier, Guillaume Soro.
Seven thousand UN peacekeeping forces that were backed by 3,500 French soldiers took over the buffer zone from the ECOWAS troops in April 2004.
The demilitarised zone (12,000 square km) which divided the country into the then rebel-controlled north, and government south, was set following the signature of a ceasefire agreement on 18 October 2002.
20 April, 2007
Editor's Note: With what is going on in the Kivu's right now, this isn't a surprising move.
KINSHASA, 2007-04-20 (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has ruled out joint military excursions with neighbouring nations in its territory to target rebels operating in the strife-torn Great Lakes region.
"The military chiefs of the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have adopted a common military strategy in Bujumbura to track down the armed groups operating in the east of the country," Foreign Minister Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi told reporters. "But it is politically unacceptable that foreign forces can operate on Congolese soil," he said.
By Wasil Ali
April 19, 2007 (WASHINGTON) — The US administration will give Khartoum until the first week of May for Sudan to implement accords to let UN troops into Darfur.
According to a press release by the Save Darfur Coalition the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios said that May is the new deadline for Sudan before tougher sanctions are imposed.
The US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier that Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir “has weeks in order to fully meet the commitments that he signed on to”.
The US said in November of last year that it will resort to an unspecified "Plan B" if the Sudanese government does not agree by Jan. 1. However the deadline has passed with no action taken against the Sudanese government.
Natsios told the committee on foreign relations at the US senate last week that the US held off sanctions temporarily “as a courtesy to the U.N. secretary-general” to try diplomacy with Khartoum.
20 April 2007
It is about Pascal Djoko. He was representing the DRC in Austria. Since last Saturday, he has been reported missing. The police force speak about a suicide, an assumption rejected by his family, reports radiookapi.net
According to the police force of Kinkole, his car of interested and personal effects (passport, plane ticket, money) were found near the communal house of Kinkole, located on the periphery of Kinshasa. This same source envoked the assumption of a suicide following a swindle. The former ambassador was the victim of a land acquisition operation in Kinkole. “He bought a land concession. One day, he found a sign placed in front of this concession saying that it was not for sale. He had a dilemma.
"According to the statements of his wife, he threatened to commit suicide” testified Captain Yinchai, commander of the city's police station. Before disappearing, Pascal Djoko locked the doors of his car, gave up and moved towards the river. “The rest, we do not know, there were no traces”, added Captain Yinchai .
From Switzerland, where she is with her mother, the daughter of the former ambassador, Benedicte Kumbi Djoko, rejected the police force's allegations. According to her, nobody contacted her mother or any other member of the family to get their version of the facts.
“I am really irritated when I see police officers affirm that my mother said that. Who telephoned us? We are here in Switzerland with our mother. Since the disappearance of my father, we are taking steps get information on his disappearance. We contacted the ICRC so we can see what occurred”, she said to Radio Okapi. She let us know that her family paid fishermen to supervise the river and possibly find the body.
“I spoke with my father last Friday. He told me he was at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs where he had obtained an exit visa to return to Switzerland,” revealed the daughter of the former diplomat. For her, it is unthinkable that her father would make an attempt on his life because “of a piece of land.”
Mail & Guardian
20 April 2007
Editor's Note: For those unfamiliar with Mr. Mann: He is a business associate of Tony Buckingham and was part owner of Executive Outcomes. He planned the operations Executive Outcomes carried out on the Soyo oilfields in Angola, where the Buckingham-linked company Ranger Oil had concessions. Mr. Mann was the south African manager of Diamond Works, whose shareholders included Lt. Col. Tim Spicer and Tony Buckingham. It was owned by the Friedland brothers and its executive managers included Michael Grunberg, and Bruce Walsham. Diamond Works was incorporated when Carson Gold and Branch Energy (owned by Tony Buckingham) were combined and was active in Sierra Leone and Angola. Mr. Mann also acted as an account holder for Sandline International, run by CEO Lt. Col. Tim Spicer, a friend of Mr. Mann's. ("Executive Outcomes and its Tangled Links," The Namibian. 7 July 1998.) Mr. Mann commanded the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment.
The arrest came about when Mr. Mann and a group of 67 soldiers were arrested at Harare International Airport en route to Equatorial Guinea to perform a coup in the oil-rich nation. Logo Logistics, owned by Mr. Mann, purchased the aircraft used in the coup attempt from Dodson Aviation in Kansas. (Madsen, Wayne. Jaded Tasks: The Blood Politics of George Bush & Co. Trineday:Walterville, Oregon. pg. 210.)
A British mercenary accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea three years ago has told a court in Zimbabwe that he will be killed if he is extradited to the Central African country, state radio said on Friday.
In his argument against the extradition by the government of Equatorial Guinea, Simon Mann said he cannot go to Equatorial Guinea because the authorities there will not spare his life. His appearance in court on Thursday took place at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, 20km from Harare, where the Briton has been held since his arrest at Harare International Airport in March 2004.
It was the first court appearance by the former SAS officer since his trial in 2004 on charges of illegally purchasing firearms to topple the government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
On Thursday, state prosecutor Joseph Jagada said Malabo had made some undertakings with the government of Zimbabwe to have an independent judge selected by members of the African Union preside over the trial of Mann. According to the undertakings, the death penalty will not apply in the event of conviction, the radio said. In February lawyers representing Equatorial Guinea began their application to have Mann extradited to Malabo when he completes the mandatory two-thirds of a four-year jail term in Zimbabwe. Mann is due to be released on May 11.
Defence lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, who says his client is in need of medical attention, has argued that Mann will be tortured if he is sent to Malabo. Mann was arrested with 69 other South Africans in 2004 when their plane stopped off in Harare en route to Equatorial Guinea.His accomplices were convicted of minor aviation and immigration offences and were released in 2005. – Sapa-DPA
20 April 2007
Ten military officers in The Gambia were on Thursday sentenced to prison terms ranging from life to ten years after they were found guilty of treason charges by a Court Martial in Yundum Barracks, 25 km from the capital Banjul.
The soldiers have been put on trial for attempting to overthrow the government of President Yahya Jammeh on 21 March 2006 when he was on a state visit to Mauritania. The court sentenced the suspects depending on the degree of their involvement in the coup, which was said to have been foiled at an “advanced stage.”
Four soldiers were given life in prison sentence. They include the former spokesman of the army, Captain Bunja Darbo, who was assigned to write and broadcast a statement when the coup had succeeded. Two of the coupists were sentenced to 25 years in prison while the remaining four were each given 10 years. Major Sarjo Fofana, the President of the military court, said the prosecution has proven its case “beyond reasonable doubts” that the 10 soldiers have been found guilty of treason charges.
The coup leader, Chief of Defence Staff Col. Ndure Cham, fled the country. However, three of his relatives – Mustapha Lowe, Alieu Jobe and Alieu Lowe – were arrested and detained. Alieu Lowe, 36, was the head of government treasury at the time of the coup.Mustapha Lowe, a college student, was later released by the state after spending months in jail. A Nigerian-born Judge, Chief Akomaye Agim, served as the Judge Advocate to the Court Martial. Consequently, four civilian suspects are being tried at the Banjul High Court. The men face so many charges, including treason. However, some security officers who were arrested in the aftermath of the coup are still languishing in jail without being charged.
Five other suspects, including the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, Mr Daba Marena, had gone missing for over a year now. On 3 April 2006, Gambian authorities said they escaped while they were being transported to a regional prison. But since then nothing has been heard about the five security officers, raising fears of their families and friends that they might not be alive. The Gambia government was blamed by right activists for using the coup to clamp down its “perceived enemies”, including lawyers and journalists, who became victims of late night arrests and horrendous tortures. The regime also used the moment to pounce on the entire staff of the bi-weekly critical but popular newspaper, ‘The Independent’ on 28 March. Since then the paper remains sealed.
Editor's Note: Do not forget that Ms. Louise Arbour was once the Chief Prosecutor the ICTR. During her tenure there, she cut off Michael Hourigan's investigation of President Habyarimana's plane shoot-down after Mr. Hourigan briefed her that the RPA were responsible. After this incident, she was promoted to the Supreme Court. The UN saw it fit to promote her again to head the UN High Commission on Human Rights.
GENEVA, April 19 (Reuters) - Uganda uses indiscriminate and excessive force in fighting bandits in its unruly northeast and 69 civilians have died in recent months as a result, the United Nation's top human rights official said on Thursday. U.N.High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, accused the Kampala government of ignoring her appeal in November "to respect its obligations to protect the human rights of all individuals".
"The excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Ugandan People's Defence Forces (UPDF)" between mid-November and March 31 caused the civilian deaths, amongst them women and children, and ten cases of torture were reported, she said in a statement.
Bandits had created a climate of fear and insecurity in the Karamoja region bordering Kenya and had reportedly killed at least seven soldiers, eight civilians and over 288 cattle in the same period in road ambushes and cattle raids, Arbour said.
However, the government should use the civilian justice system to punish them rather than simply turning to its armed forces, she said.
In the past, the government has rejected such criticism as biased.
Across the lawless border, the Kenyan government has been accused of similar abuses in its own disarmament operations against bandits.
The countries rarely coordinate effectively and gunmen from rival tribes slip across the frontier to escape the dragnets.
19 April 2007
The trial in which two Rwandan generals have challenged a French judge’s indictment started yesterday, with the generals filing three applications. Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga and Brig. Gen. Jack Nziza of the Rwanda Defence Forces petitioned a Belgian court challenging the indictments issued by judge Jean-Louis Bruguière.
“They sued Bruguière over issuing the indictments without commissioning a rogatory commission to make inquiries and they were neither interviewed nor given chance to explain the allegations the judge lined against them,” Tharcisse Karugarama, the Justice minister, who attended the trial said by phone from Brussels.
He was however quick to say that the generals filed the case individually.
He said that another allegation against the French judge was denying them their fundamental right of free movement because of the indictments that were issued without prior thorough investigations.
The second application was against the French government under whose mandate the Judge issued the indictments.
“Bruguière was exercising the authority of the French judiciary and the generals are seeking damages from the French government,” he said, adding that the Judiciary is one of the three arms that form the government.
The minister said that another application was against the Belgian government which accepted to execute and act upon the Bruguière warrants, saying it was an abuse of human rights which denies the generals free movement.
“In the trial, the French government was represented but the judge neither responded to the summons in person nor did he delegate a lawyer,” Karugarama, added.
The court decided to set April 24th as the date they will be hearing the application of suspending the indictments of the two generals before the entire case is heard.
Bruguière, a French judge in November year issued an indictment of nine Rwandan officers who also included the Chief of General Staff, Gen. James Kabarebe.
This move prompted the Rwandan government to petition the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to nullify the indictments on the ground that Rwanda as a sovereign state could not have her officers denied free movement by another sovereign state.
The application was filed at The Hague, the Netherlands, on Wednesday 17th by Karugarama, who was accompanied by Martin Ngoga, the prosecutor general.
Meanwhile, the trial of Maj. Bernard Ntuyahaga started yesterday at Cour d’assises in Brussels.The ex-FAR is accused of killing former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and the 10 Belgian troopers who were guarding her.
By press time, however, The New Times had not got what transpired.
“I am following the trial but they are still embedded in selecting the jury. The trial has not started and one cannot know what happened before the session is closed, which will be later in the day,” said Karugarama.
19 April 2007
President Paul Kagame yesterday held talks with a delegation of European Union officials, students and teachers, about Rwanda’s development agenda.The delegation, that comprised 5 4 European students, was led by the European Union Commissioner on Development Humanitarian Assistance , Louis Michel, is in the country on an educational visit.
In a meeting at Urugwiro Village, President Kagame told the visiting team that Rwandans had made strides in developing their own country that had been left in tatters by a Genocide committed by their fellow Rwandans.
Describing Rwanda’s past as a history of tragedies, the president said that it was a pleasant duty for every Rwandan to raise the country to a better level it deserves. He noted that cooperation between the European Union with Africa, and Rwanda in particular, was very crucial for the well being and development of the people.
The president appreciated donor support from European countries, and thanked the foreign students for having made a choice of visiting Rwanda and learning from it.
He told them that it was difficult rebuilding a nation from scratch, but all had been possible because of the resilience, determination and hard work with which the people of Rwanda do their work.
While responding to questions raised by the students about education and youth empowerment in Rwanda, the president said that in an effort to fight illiteracy among the population, the government had in the last 13 years managed to increase the number of primary pupils benefiting from Universal Primary Education from 800,000 to 2 million pupils.
Kagame continued that he hoped they had seen that everybody here was working hard for the development of their country, and appreciated the contribution made to this effect by different countries where the visitors were coming from that was made either directly or done through the European Union.
He explained to the visiting team that unlike some other countries that were much dependent on mineral resources like diamond and oil, the government of Rwanda was doing a lot in empowering its population through better health and knowledgeable skills of science and technology in order to realise its vision of having a knowledge-based economy.
Speaking to the press shortly after the meeting, Louis Michel said that the European Union and Africa had every reason to work together, given that there is a lot that is needed to learn from each other.
“The future of Africa is the future of Europe. Everybody admires the leadership of this country given its ugly past,” Michel said.
The group of 54 students and teachers from across Europe are travelling with Louis Michel to learn about Africa. The students are winners of an essay competition about development. Some of the countries the students come from include Belgium, France, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and Sweden.
19 April, 2007
Editor's Note: It is ironic the UN report this now since they have been aware of it since the beginning.
NAIROBI, 19 April 2007 (IRIN) - Executions and rape of civilians have continued in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) according to a report published by the United Nations detailing human rights abuses during the month of March. Among the abuses was the arbitrary execution on 10 March of 15 civilians who were shot in the head in a North Kivu village by soldiers of DRC’s national army. The report, released by the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) on Monday, claims the soldiers were from the Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo’s (FARDC) recently mixed Bravo Brigade in Buramba village, 106 km from Goma town. The killings followed the death of four soldiers in a separate clash in a nearby village.
Included in the report were details of numerous killings, including the shootings in February of civilians in Rughenda and Butemba in North Kivu; Kabamba, north of Bukavu; and Katwiguru, north of Goma. In March, killings also occurred in Bankoko, Bunia, and Ituri; Rubaya, southwest of Goma; and in Mahagi, Ituri district; among others. "FARDC soldiers were responsible for numerous incidents of arbitrary executions and other human rights violations, particularly the right to physical integrity and to liberty and security of persons throughout the DRC," the report noted. In some cases, the perpetrators were detained.
The FARDC is an integrated national army, comprising former rebel fighters, militias and soldiers from the former national army. Numerous cases of alleged rape are listed, including that of two women in Bakwa Nsumpi near Mbuji Mayi. "Both perpetrators, who confessed to the crime of rape and abduction, were arrested and detained at the Bipemba police station," the report said. "They were later transferred to the Office of the Military Prosecutor."
Another case involved two 13-year-old girls who were abducted and raped near Butembo on their way back from a funeral. They were threatened and intimidated by the alleged perpetrator who made them walk for approximately 1 km before raping them. The perpetrator escaped arrest. In Nyamukubi, north Kivu, an 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two soldiers. "The little girl was raped because her parents had resisted the illegal occupation of their family residence by soldiers newly deployed to the locality," MONUC said.
According to the report, FARDC soldiers have also continued to regularly commit human rights violations in the diamond-rich territory of Bafwasende of Orientale Province, 262 km east of Kisangani. In Mvuelle, near Matadi, the soldiers allegedly extort goods and money from the local population by imposing fines on people involved in disputes. "The soldiers acted as judges in disputes among the villagers and then request goats, chickens and money from the local population as fines for their services," MONUC said.
The soldiers acted as judges in disputes among the villagers and then request goats, chickens and money from the local population as fines for their services The report also details cases of arrests, rape and killings by police.
"Other security forces were implicated in several cases of human rights violations," it noted.
Meanwhile, children are still being recruited for the North Kivu brigades within the DRC and also from across the border in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. Quoting international and local child protection workers, it said 300 and 500 children, some as young as 13, currently serve in newly formed army brigades. "The Congolese government should immediately stop former rebel warlords now commissioned as national army officers from recruiting and using child soldiers in army brigades deployed in North Kivu province," HRW said in a statement on Thursday.
19 April 2007
A batch of 8.500 kgs of black cassiterite was seized at the SNCC port by the investigation and supervising authority of the Center of Evaluation, Expertise and Certification (CEEC) on valuble and semi-precious minerals. According to the CEEC, there was no documentation authorizing the export of cassiterite from one province to another, reports radiokapi.net.
The 8 tons of cassiterite was seized Tuesday around 17h at the SNCC port in Goma. They were in transit for Bukavu. According to the CEEC, the goods arrived from Katanga by plane. The owner was a Congolese businessman in North kivu. He is charged with 3 infringements: articles 303 and 304 of the Mining Code, illegal transport of ore, and attempted bribery of a public agent with an amount of $50 US . He is currently heard by the division mining head and the legal adviser of the provincial governorship.
The man in charge of the CEEC in North Kivu, Clement Nkongo, denounced the trafficking of ores, in particular coltan and cassiterite. He announced a reinforcement of control and safety measures in places such as the airport, frontier stations, and the loading docks. No boat has the right to transport minerals without the authorization of the Ministry of Mining.
(Brussels, April 19, 2007) – The Congolese Government should immediately stop former rebel warlords now commissioned as national army officers from recruiting and using child soldiers in army brigades deployed in North Kivu province, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch also called upon the Rwandan Government to prevent these officials and their agents from continuing to recruit children in Rwanda to serve in the Congolese army’s North Kivu brigades. (And get them to stop sending demobilized RDF into Congo-Editor.)
“The head of the Congolese military in January ordered the North Kivu brigades to stop recruiting and using children soldiers,” said Alison Des Forges, senior advisor to Human Rights Watch’s Africa division. “Former rebel warlords now serving as army officers have failed to follow this order, and children are still on the front lines shooting and being shot at.”
Despite the order by chief of staff of the armed forces, Maj. Gen. Kisempia Sungilanga Lombe, 300 to 500 children, some as young as 13, currently serve in newly formed army brigades, according to international and local child protection workers. The brigades are deploying these children in military operations against local armed groups, including the Mai Mai and the Forces for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR, or Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda), which are fighting the Rwandan government. Many of the children are Congolese Tutsi who were originally under the command of former rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
Under a deal meant to end combat between the national army and Nkunda’s forces, rebel combatants were to be integrated into the national army by a process called “mixage.”
Beginning in January, army brigade commanders were supposed to identify and hand children over to agencies responsible for their rehabilitation, but several have refused to do so. The commanders say they must maintain sufficient soldiers to protect Tutsi living in North Kivu and enable the return of thousands of Congolese Tutsi refugees living in camps in Rwanda.
In one case at the North Kivu military camp at Kitchanga on March 22, brigade commander Col. Sultani Makenga tried to forcibly remove eight children from the vehicle of child protection workers. He personally dragged six from the vehicle under protest and beat two of the children who refused. Makenga also called the child protection workers “dogs,” and threatened to beat them as well. Three of the children later found refuge with the United Nations peacekeepers, but three are still missing.
According to child protection workers, children are still being recruited for the North Kivu brigades within the Congo and also from across the border in Rwanda. (emphasis mine, and who do you think is helping them? This is a carbon copy of 2004-Editor) In one case, the Association of Young Congolese Refugees (Association des jeunes réfugiés congolais), active in the Congolese refugee camps in Rwanda since 2005, recruited two boys, aged 14 and 16, from one of the camps, along with nine other children and 17 adults. On January 18, the two boys were taken from Rwanda to serve in one of the Congolese army’s North Kivu brigades, but were able to escape during the burial of two adult recruits who died on the journey. Other armed groups active in North Kivu are known to be using child soldiers. One of the local armed groups known as Mai Mai engaged in a skirmish with Congolese army brigades in February. On February 19, six boys aged 14 to 17 fled this Mai Mai group and made their way to United Nations peacekeepers based in Kiwandja.
At a news conference on April 11, the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUC, or Mission de l’ONU en RD Congo) said that only 37 of 267 children whom they had identified in the North Kivu brigades had been demobilized. MONUC urged the brigade commanders to respect national and international law and to follow the orders of Maj. Gen. Kisempia Sungilanga Lombe, who ordered the children to be released. Since November 2001, DR Congo has been a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which sets 18 as the minimum age for participation in armed conflict. The country is also party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which defines as war crimes both the recruitment of children under the age of 15 into military forces and the use of children to participate actively in hostilities.
In September, DR Congo was the first country to be considered by the UN Security Council’s new monitoring and reporting mechanism on children in armed conflict, which envisages strong measures against those responsible for child recruitment. The Security Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict called on the government to take appropriate legal action against members of the Congolese army accused of grave crimes against children and reiterated the responsibility of MONUC to aid the government in apprehending and bringing to justice those responsible for recruiting and using child soldiers.
Despite this new system, UN peacekeeping officials in Congo have privately raised concern at their inability to oblige army brigade commanders to release the children. Human Rights Watch called on UN officials to refer brigade commanders responsible for continuing child recruitment in North Kivu to the UN sanctions committee on Congo for possible sanctions, including travel bans, asset freezes or other measures.
“Congolese army officers who are recruiting, training and using child soldiers are violating international law and they know it,” said Des Forges. “The chief of the armed forces took the first step by ordering an end to this crime, but the military must ensure that officers follow these orders or face serious consequences if they refuse.”
By Wasil Ali
Editor's Note: Senegal has been a large beneficiary of the U.S. military's ACOTA training program (run by MPRI and the 3rd Special Forces Group) U.S. has sought to wrest francophone influence from Senegal. President Wade's strong ties with the U.S. highlights why President Bashir is reluctant to allow U.N forces into Sudan, who he believes will act as a proxy for western interests. The warning is likely a bluff to pressure President Bashir, as it is unlikely the comment would have been made if they did not want it to go public (and President Wade was likely instructed to go public with it). If they do "go it alone" it will be in the form of sanctions.
April 18, 2007 (DUBAI) — Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade revealed today that the president Bush warned him that if Africa does not succeed in halting the violence in Darfur then the US will intervene to end the crisis, the London based Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
Wade told a group of reporters in United Arab Emirates during an official visit that “Bush is my friend and he personally told me that if African nations do not step in to end the Darfur crisis then we will either through the UN or unilaterally”.
In a speech before the US Holocaust Memorial Museum today, Bush warned Khartoum that it has a “few weeks” to allow a UN-AU force into Darfur before it moved to punitive measures unilaterally and through the UN. The US president added that he instructed his secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a new UN draft resolution to impose new sanctions on Sudan.
President Wade criticized the Arab league for not being serious about resolving the Darfur crisis adding that they have not provided “more than five million dollars even though this amount will suffice the AU troops for two or three days only”. Senegal’s leader said that he told the UN Security Council “to let us [Africans] solve this in-house; the African solution has to come from within” even though some African leaders wanted the international community to intervene. Wade acknowledged however that he advised Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir to allow UN troops in Darfur.
However Wade stressed that a number of African nations have done little to help saying that resolving the Darfur crisis “requires 25,000 troops and African countries have only supplied 7,000”. He also noted that these countries have not provided financial assistance to the African Union force in Darfur either.
There are about 2,000 Senegalese troops in Darfur as part of the African Union (AU) force. Following the death of five of its soldiers in Darfur at the hands of unknown militants, Dakar has threatened last week to withdraw its troops if the AU forces do not get additional support to help protect its soldiers.
Editor's Note: Considering Russia and China are interested in oil investments and all three are selling arms in the region, this comes as no surprise. Their veto power and current 3-2 advantage on US-UK will lead to furious lobbying by both sides on the Security Council. Watch the press for smears against each others' respective nations in an attempt to discredit each other in the Security Council.
April 18, 2007 (UNITED NATIONS) — Three U.N. Security Council members, including two wielding veto power, on Wednesday voiced opposition to new sanctions being threatened by the United States and Britain to pressure the Sudanese government and rebels to stop fighting in conflict-wracked Darfur.
Russia, China and South Africa said it was the wrong time to raise the possibility of new sanctions because Sudan has just agreed to the first significant deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur and the U.N. and the African Union are intensifying efforts to get the Khartoum government and all rebel groups to the peace table.
Since Russia and China are veto-wielding members of the council, their opposition signals major hurdles for the U.S., Britain and France to overcome to win support for a new sanctions resolution. Other non-permanent council members who generally object to sanctions, like Qatar and Indonesia, are also likely to oppose any new measures against Khartoum.
U.S. President George W. Bush said Wednesday he wants to give U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon more time to pursue diplomatic efforts, but that if Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir does not act quickly, the U.S. will take action. He did not say how long he would wait.
Ban, on April 2, had urged the United States and Britain to delay a push for tougher sanctions against Sudan, saying the U.N. needed more time to promote political negotiations and to persuade the country to accept the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.
After five months of stalling, Sudan sent a letter to Ban on Monday giving a green light for the deployment of the U.N.’s so-called "heavy support package" to help the beleaguered 7,000-strong African Union force in Darfur. It includes 2,250 U.N. troops, 750 international police, and logistical and aviation equipment including six helicopter gunships which November initially opposed.
China’s deputy U.N. ambassador Liu Zhenmin told reporters Wednesday that U.N. peacekeeping officials are saying it will take "until the end of the year" to complete the deployment of the heavy support package.
It is the second phase of a U.N. plan to which al-Bashir agreed in November, but then backed off. Ban and AU chief executive Alpha Oumar Konare stressed after two days of talks that ended Tuesday that they want the heavy support package to be quickly followed by deployment of the third and final phase _ a 20,000-strong "hybrid" U.N.-AU force.
Ban and Konare said getting more peacekeepers to Darfur was part of "a two-track approach" that the U.N. and AU are pursing alongside intensified efforts to achieve a political settlement.
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban "welcomes president Bush’s announcement today that he wants to give the U.N.’s diplomatic efforts a chance to succeed."
"He is intensively working to expedite the political process and the hybrid operation for Darfur," she said.
Meanwhile, Bush said he will direct Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to prepare a new U.N. sanctions resolution targeting the Sudanese government and people found to be violating human rights or obstructing peace. The resolution would also impose an expanded embargo on arms sales to Sudan, prohibit Sudan’s government from conducting offensive military flights over Darfur and strengthen the U.S. ability to monitor and report any violations, Bush said. The U.S. would also tighten its sanctions on Sudan.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said new talks on a Security Council sanctions resolution would start on Thursday.
"What is happening in Sudan at the moment is unacceptable, is appalling and is a scandal for the international community," Blair told reporters.
The U.S. and Britain announced the push for new sanctions after a confidential U.N. report charged that the government of Sudan has been flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in aircraft using U.N. markings in violation of Security Council resolutions. The report first appeared on March 28 in London’s Guardian newspaper and in Wednesday’s New York Times, and was later obtained by The Associated Press.
The U.N. secretary-general expressed "deep concern" at the evidence presented to the council about the flying of arms and heavy weapons into Darfur, Montas said. "He is especially troubled by reports that private or national aircraft have been illegally provided with U.N. markings and used for military purposes."
Ban expects "full cooperation from the government of Sudan, other governments and all other parties to provide prompt clarification," she said.
"If further substantiated, such actions would be in clear violation of international law and in contravention of the U.N.’s international status," Montas said.
The Security Council adopted a resolution in March 2005 authorizing an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals who defy peace efforts.
It imposed sanctions in April 2006 on four men involved in the Darfur conflict, which has now lasted more than four years, claimed 200,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. The four, including a former air force commander, a janjaweed chief and two rebel commanders _ are accused of helping orchestrate and carry out killings, rape and other rights abuses in Darfur.
Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current Security Council president, said the report by a panel monitoring the sanctions against Sudan "underlines why we’re right to maintain the pressure on the government in Khartoum and on the rebels to do what they ought to do."
He said Britain, the United States and France are finalizing a new sanctions resolution and will then determine when to introduce it.
"Even in the present situation, and especially if people don’t live up to their commitments, it becomes, I think, inevitable that the resolution will go down quickly," Jones Parry said.
But he said "one of the questions on the timing is whether or not the resolution would prevail in the council."
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters "we don’t think it’s the right time" to consider new sanctions, noting Sudan’s acceptance of the heavy support package and expressing hope it will lead to acceptance of the hybrid force.
"It would be very strange," he said. "After a long while, we have this positive development in the dialogue between the U.N. and Khartoum, and all of a sudden to come back with some sanctions would not be good."
China’s Liu, when asked about new sanctions, also said "it’s better not to move in that direction." He cited the "good atmosphere" and a fresh effort to get the government and rebels to the negotiating table.
"I think in a few weeks or a few months there will be some result from the political process," he said.
"That’s why for China, we believe ... (while) all these actions are taken, the council should avoid any sanctions measures for the moment," said Liu, whose country buys two-thirds of Sudan’s oil.
South Africa’s U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said "it’s very surprising" for the U.S. and Britain to be raising sanctions because Sudan has just accepted the heavy support package which will get peacekeepers into Darfur to protect civilians in camps.
"Sudan has now agreed," he said. "This is what we’ve said we want, and now we’re talking about sanctions. What is this about?"
Editor's Note: Before September 2006, Rolls-Royce shipped pumps and motors to Darfur to help the Chinese build an oil installation in a warzone (http://www.afrol.com/articles/21316).
April 18, 2007 (LONDON) – The British leading power-systems company, Rolls Royce announced today their decision to withdraw from Sudan citing "increasing international humanitarian concerns". This decision follows increasing calls for companies to divest from Sudan and exert financial pressure on as the Sudanese government as the crisis in Darfur worsens.
A spokesman for Rolls Royce said "In view of increasing international humanitarian concerns about the situation in Darfur, the company recently reviewed its position and has decided it should discontinue business in Sudan. Rolls Royce will immediately cease to pursue any new business in that country and will progressively withdraw from support arising from previously signed contracts."
"Rolls Royce believe this is a responsible line to adopt in the current circumstances." He added
The announcement was made in a letter to Lord Alton of Liverpool who along with Sudan Divestment UK has led calls for financial action by companies and investors as a means of exerting economic pressure on the Government of Sudan.
Responding to the letter, Lord Alton welcomed the move and invited others to follow: "Rolls Royce have made the right decision and credit must be paid to them for taking this decisive action. I hope that the remaining companies with problematic operations in Sudan will follow suit."
Hamish Falconer Director of Sudan Divestment UK, which campaigns for individuals and institutions to divest from Sudan, said "Rolls Royce’s recognition of the genocide in Darfur and the role of multi-national corporations in the continued atrocities is to be applauded and it is a stark challenge to the other companies whose operations are helping fuel the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Companies can not blinker themselves from the impact they are having on the vulnerable people of Sudan."
He further said, "There is a genocide in Darfur, and it is funded, in large part by the operation of foreign companies. Rolls Royce has sent a message to Khartoum that there is an economic cost for committing genocide."
Rolls Royce’s decisive action challenges other companies in Europe, such as the UK based Petrofac, French company Schlumberger, Swedish company Lundin Petroleum.
Sudan Divestment UK campaigns for an end to the genocide in Darfur by encouraging economic action by companies operating in Sudan and investors at home. Sudan Divestment UK has active campaigns across the UK and lobbies the financial sector and governments to take effective action to impose heavy costs for committing and supporting genocide.
Last January, Siemens, Europe’s largest electronics and electrical engineering company pulled out from Sudan. The German firm said its reputation had been hit by its involvement in Sudan, where 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the four-year-old conflict in Darfur.
Edith Lederer New York, United States
19 April 2007
Mail & Guardian.
Children in Darfur are enduring "unspeakable acts of violence and abuse" from killing and rape to abduction, torture and recruitment, as fighters in the escalating four-year conflict in Sudan's vast western region, a global network of relief and human rights organisations said.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict accused the Sudanese government of "apparent deliberate efforts ... to suppress information and prevent agencies from collecting and disseminating details on attacks against children and their protection needs, particularly in Darfur" and eastern Sudan.
Nonetheless, it said, humanitarian agencies have documented cases of armed groups shooting, mutilating and torturing children, abducting and gang-raping girls, and recruiting and using youngsters as combatants.While the Sudanese armed forces continue to deny the presence of children in their units, the Watchlist said representatives acknowledge that children from other armed groups have recently been incorporated into the government's military forces.
Reports indicate that most armed groups in Sudan, including government-backed militias known as the Janjaweed and the two largest rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), "recruit and use children", The Watchlist said in a report released at a United Nations press conference.
In addition to killings and maimings by armed groups, it said, "Sudanese girls have been trafficked within and out of Sudan to serve as commercial sexual workers while others have been trafficked to work as domestic servants".
The report said boys as young as four or five years old have been trafficked to Arab Gulf countries to work as jockeys and beggars.
Kathleen Hunt, who chairs the Watchlist steering committee, said the report documents "dozens of continued and pervasive violations against children by all armed forces and groups operating in Sudan and urges that immediate action be taken to protect Sudanese children".The report, entitled Sudan's Children at a Crossroads, "confirms that children in Sudan continue to endure some of the most inhumane treatment found anywhere in the world", she said.
While children in the south are enjoying increased protection and access to services, those in Darfur and other areas of Sudan are enduring unspeakable acts of violence and abuse," the report said.But the report said "southern Sudan continues to have the lowest school enrollment rates in the world at an estimated 25% for children".
Darfur's few schools and education facilities face widespread shortages of teachers and textbooks, and "schools, students and teachers in Darfur have been attacked by various groups", it said.
"Education cannot wait until the fighting is over," said Geannie Pearlman Robinson of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children who called for programmes to get girls to school andvocational training for adolescents.
Francis Deng, a former Sudanese foreign minister, UN envoy for displaced people, and now a professor at Johns Hopkins University, said even if children become targets, it is crucial to address the political situation because this is "the only way to find peace".The Watchlist steering committee includes Care International, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Norwegian Refugee Council, International Save the Children Alliance, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, and World Vision Canada.
The report can be found here: http://www.watchlist.org/reports/sudan.php-Editor.
By Chris Ahimbisibwe and Geresom Musamali
19 April 2007
Three suspects of the Peoples’ Redemption Army (PRA) have been transferred from Nyamushekyera prison in Bushenyi to Luzira Prison in Kampala, according to the Prison Officer of Nyamushekyera, Robert Tebigwayo. He said they were brought back to Kampala yesterday, ahead of their scheduled appearance in the High Court on 30 April.
Tebigwayo was reacting to allegations by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) officials that the suspects had been taken to an unknown location. FDC envoy Beti Kamya claimed the suspects were transferred at night. Bushenyi district FDC Publicity Secretary Odo Tayebwa, said he went to visit the prisoners on Wednesday morning but found them missing. He added that nobody could explain where they had been taken.
“They were taken this morning at about 8:00am. They are due to appear in the High Court and the authorities felt they should be transferred in good time,” Tebigwayo assured the media.
The suspects are Joseph Musasizi Kifefe, Robert Tweyambe alias Darious Baguma and Atukunda alias Amanya. Musasiszi is the brother of FDC leader Kiiza Besigye.
They spent one and half months at Nyamushekyera Prison on charges of murder. They also face treason charges at the High Court in Kampala. On Tuesday, the three were taken under tight security to the Ishaka Adventist Hospital for medical treatment.
Speaking to journalists at the hospital’s reception, Musasizi said he had developed a complication in his renal system and as a result, had to urinate every twenty minutes. He also claimed he lost six kilograms since he arrived in Bushenyi. Atukunda said he was suffering from depression.
“I am not myself and I cannot understand what is going on,” he said.
The third suspect, Tweyambe, said he had hypertension, backache, nose bleeding and biceps pain.
18 April 2007
April 18, 2007 (ASMARA) — Eritrean President Isaias Afeworki on Wednesday named Osman Saleh as the country’s new foreign minister, a task that will see him handle ties with the world and southern rival Ethiopia.
The foreign ministry portfolio has been unoccupied since the death of Ali Said Abdella in August 2005.
"The president has assigned minister Osman Saleh to serve as the minister of foreign affairs," Eritrean information minister Ali Abdu told AFP by phone. Saleh moves to the post from the education portfolio.
Osman takes over the ministry as the tiny Red Sea country is facing accusations of supporting Somali Islamist insurgents in battling joint Ethiopian and Somalia forces in the capital Mogadishu.
Asmara vehemently denies these claims, but insists that the presence of Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers in Somalia will worsen the already-volatile security climate.
Osman will be tasked with handling relations with neighbouring Ethiopia, which have been uneasy since a bloody 1998-2000 war that claimed at least 70,000 lives.
An international boundary commission established at the end of the conflict awarded the flashpoint town of Badme to Eritrea. But Ethiopia, which rejects the boundary, said the commission was acting outside its mandate.
18 April 2007
Bujumbura, Burundi, 2007-04-18 (AFP) - The military chiefs of Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda met in Bujumbura Wednesday to agree a joint military strategy against rebels in the volatile Great Lakes region. The document being considered by the commanders, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, calls for joint operations against the rebel groups in the region.
And it adds: "It will be imperative to carry out a series of substantial offensives." The aim was to create a common command that might even involve joint operations against the armed groups, Burundi Defence Minister Fermain Niyoyankana told reporters.
The meeting is expected to run into the evening. "These propositions are important. We could all attack the negative forces based in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo," a Burundi officer, who requested anonymity, told AFP.