FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Friday:  August 15, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in sudan (27)

Wednesday
May232012

Malaria spread feared as WHO releases action plan to tackle global spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes (REPORT) 

(Video World Malaria Day, 2012/WHO)

By Amy Maxmen

The war to bring malaria to heel has made slow but steady progress during the past decade, with the overall mortality rate dropping by more than 25% since 2000. A key factor in this progress has been improved control of mosquitoes, which transmit the Plasmodium parasite — a potent killer that claimed an estimated 655,000 lives in 2010 alone. But health officials fear that the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes could bring about a resurgence of the disease. To help combat this threat, on May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a strategic plan to curb the spread of resistance.

“We don’t want to wait for failures to happen,” says David Brandling-Bennett, the senior adviser for infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, who advised on the document.

Such failures could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO. Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra US $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines.

The WHO report says that insecticide-resistant mosquitoes already inhabit 64 malaria-ridden countries (see map).

The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, where mosquitoes are frequently resistant to compounds known as pyrethroids and even to the organochloride DDT, venerable tools of mosquito control. Because they are extremely safe for children, effective against mosquitoes and affordable, pyrethroids are the only insecticides used to treat bed nets, as well as the first choice for household spraying.

Health authorities in Somalia, Sudan and Turkey have also reported sporadic resistance to the two other classes of insecticides recommended by the WHO for safe and effective household spraying: carbamates and organophosphates. Resistance has probably evolved several times independently, and is now spreading as extensive use of pyrethroids and other insecticides favors resistant mosquitoes. “In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility,” says Janet Hemingway, chief executive of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), a product-development partnership based in the United Kingdom.

(MAP: Global malaria map, 2012/WHO) Among other things, the WHO recommends rotating the classes of pesticides used to spray houses, and developing safe and effective non-pyrethroid insecticides that can be used to treat bed nets. To implement all of the WHO’s suggestions would cost $200 million - on top of the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year to fund existing malaria-control programs. Rob Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the WHO, hopes that the report will draw more funds to the table as donors grasp the situation. “If we can stop pyrethroid resistance from spreading, it will be cheaper in the long run,” Newman says.

“In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility.”

But the two largest players in malaria aid - the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) - have not yet pledged additional money to fight resistance. Their spending on mosquito control is already high - in 2009, 39% of the Global Fund’s malaria expenditures went towards insecticide-treated bed nets and household spraying, as did 59% of the PMI’s in 2010.  

For now, pyrethroids are the only class of insecticides approved by the WHO for bed nets, and where spraying is concerned they are less costly than the alternatives. Vestergaard Frandsen, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, says that it has in the pipeline a bed net coated with a non-pyrethroid insecticide - one that does not belong to any of the four WHO-approved classes - and that the company expects to bring this to market within the next five years. It is also one of several companies partnering with the IVCC to create innovative mosquito-control products.

(PHOTO: Malaria `home test'/NoProphalactics)In the meantime, health officials may be able to keep malaria at bay by swapping insecticides. The report notes that in Colombia, for instance, mosquitoes regained susceptibility to pyrethroids after five years of treatment with an organophosphate. But some African countries lack the surveillance needed to spur such an approach. To address that deficiency, the report urges that a global database be set up to track the spread of resistance, and that entomologists be trained and hired at surveillance stations. That could prove the most challenging goal of all.

“Nobody wants to fund capacity building,” says Newman. “Donors would rather say they purchased $10,000 in bed nets than pay a salary.”

African ministers of health realize the need to manage resistance but can’t do much without outside funds, explains Maureen Coetzee, a medical entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In some countries, malaria control means one person sitting in one room, and he’s lucky if he’s got a chair,” she says.

- This report originally appeared by Amy Maxmen at Nature.

Thursday
Apr192012

Preventing Full-Scale War between Sudan and South Sudan (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video AlJazeera)

Brussels - Sudan and South Sudan are teetering on the brink of all-out war from which neither would benefit. Increasingly angry rhetoric, support for each other's rebels, poor command and control, and brinkmanship, risk escalating limited and contained conflict into a full-scale confrontation between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA).

Diplomatic pressure to cease hostilities and return to negotiations must be exerted on both governments by the region and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as such partners as the US, China and key Gulf states. The immediate priority needs to be a ceasefire and security deal between North and South, as well as in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. But equally important, for the longer-term, are solutions to unresolved post-referendum issues, unimplemented provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (that ended the civil war in 2005), and domestic reforms in both countries.

(PHOTO: Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir/Wikipedia) The most recent fighting between the SAF and SPLA arose amid a murky mix of armed actors and interests in the contested borderlands, including a variety of northern opposition forces and proxy militias. The exact cause is vigorously disputed, but the flare-up is the predictable outcome of negative trends: conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile; lack of agreement on transitional economic and financial arrangements between the two countries; Khartoum's seizure of Southern oil; South Sudan's decision to stop oil production; and sporadic cross-border attacks and bombings.

It occurs amid mutual recriminations: of Khartoum arming Southern rebels and the SPLA providing material support to its former brothers-in-arms now fighting for the Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, as well as political support to members of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) seeking to topple President Bashir.

In part to prevent the resupply of the SPLM-N, the SAF has also bombed refugee camps and towns in South Sudan and recently attacked Bentiu, the capital of Unity State. Complicating matters are divergent views within the capitals and hardliners seemingly working to undermine negotiated settlements, as demonstrated by the scuttling of the much anticipated North-South presidential summit on 3 April.

The end result is that, following renewed clashes, the SPLA has taken control of the disputed Heglig oil fields and stopped about half of Sudan's 115,000 barrels-per-day oil output. This has dealt a further blow to Khartoum's economy, already reeling from separation and the additional fall in revenue that resulted from Juba's decision in January to stop exporting oil through Sudan's pipelines. The beleaguered Khartoum regime, which is under pressure on political, economic, and multiple military fronts and increasingly concerned about the prospects of an Arab Spring uprising, cannot afford to sustain such losses.

RISKY STRATEGIES 

A game of "chicken" appears to be underway, in which both sides embark on risky strategies in the hope that the other will blink first. If neither does, the outcome will be disastrous for both.

(PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir/Wikipedia)Some suspect that President Kiir's tactics are intended to provoke a popular uprising in the North -- that he is gambling the attack on Heglig may be the proverbial straw that breaks the back of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). However, little thought seems to have been given to the consequences if President Bashir is removed from power. Unlike Egypt, Sudan lacks a single, legitimate institution that could manage a peaceful transfer of power.

Bashir, who became president following a 1989 military coup, and his close associates have fragmented the security services and rely on personal loyalty and increasingly expensive patronage to retain control. He and security hardliners continue to pursue divide and rule tactics to prevent the emergence of a unified counterweight to NCP dominance of the centre. Bashir's fall could trigger a wild scramble by multiple armed actors for control of Khartoum and other parts of the country that would be hard, if not impossible, to restrain.

Kiir and the SPLM are also dangerously exposed. With South Sudan's decision to stop oil production, 98 per cent of its governmental revenue has disappeared. Reserves and other stop-gap measures can only tide Juba over for some months, after which the SPLM would have to impose draconian budget cuts, including on the SPLA, which is a fractious force that includes many former foes. Khartoum has a long history of supporting its enemy's enemies. At relatively little cost it could continue to support Juba's opponents and compound domestic instability for a government already plagued by weak institutions, limited reach and increasingly untenable financial circumstances.

Khartoum and Juba need to exercise restraint and consider carefully the consequences of their actions. The decision to abandon negotiations and resort to increasingly bellicose posturing can only hurt both. Each government, with its own domestic challenges, may reap short-term political benefit from externalizing its problems, but there is no military solution, and both sides would suffer from all-out war. The destruction of oil infrastructure would have long-term economic consequences. Stability is necessary in both the North and the South for either to develop and prosper and, in turn, enjoy long-term stability.

(PHOTO: South Sudanese refugees at a camp in Unity State/UNHCR)DECADES OF MISTRUST

Decades of mutual distrust prevent either side from making good-will gestures and pursuing win-win negotiations. In such a febrile environment, the UN Security Council must reassert itself to preserve international peace and security. It should mobilize all possible leverage to bring the parties back to negotiations and agreement on the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), as well as encourage implementation of the border monitoring tasks outlined for the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) in Resolution 2024 (2011), particularly near Heglig and Jau.

The parties and UNISFA must operationalize the JBVMM to investigate and verify claims either side is undermining peace or violating existing and future agreements, including for the necessary withdrawal of SPLA forces from the Heglig area and cessation of SAF bombing of South Sudanese territory. The monitoring mechanism needs to be flexible with high mobility. Lessons should be drawn from previous monitoring missions in Sudan, during which building confidence among Sudanese parties and supporting mutually-agreed arrangements were at least as important as verifying and reporting on legal obligations.

UNIMPLEMENTED CPA PROVISIONS, POST REFERENDUM ISSUES

Fundamentally, the current conflict is rooted in the CPA's unimplemented provisions, such as the status of Abyei, the cancelled popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and disputed borders, as well as unresolved issues stemming from separation. While they have acknowledged their interdependence, the two countries must still reach detailed agreements on many divisive issues, such as the joint exploitation of oil, transitional financial arrangements, citizenship, security and trade. The time for posturing and brinkmanship is past; they must return to the table promptly and sustain the focus and commitment necessary to hammer out and implement deals. Otherwise, if these critical issues are allowed to fester, they will undermine any ceasefire or limited peace deal.

Absent the democratic transformation long overdue in Khartoum, Sudan remains unstable as power, resources and development continue to be overly concentrated in the centre. A "new South" has emerged in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile that - along with Darfur, the East and other marginal areas - chafes under NCP domination. Because of historic ties, and despite South Sudan's separation, the North's centre-periphery wars continue to draw in Juba.

The call by the North's opposition parties for a national dialogue in the context of a wider constitutional review conference suggests a way forward. Such a conference should be seen as a more extensive national consultative process, to accommodate the stymied popular consultations in the transitional areas and the Darfur people-to-people dialogue.

Those latter two processes, if run separately, will not lead to political stability and lasting peace in the whole country.

A NEW UNIFIED INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY

With developments increasingly appearing to be spiraling out of control, a new strategy is needed to avert an even bigger crisis. As Crisis Group noted in its September 26, 2011 Conflict Alert, any solution must be comprehensive. The international community must focus not only on North-South issues or the situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, but also require the NCP to agree to an immediate, inclusive, national reform process. The first priority needs to be for a security deal that stops both the fighting between the North and the South, as well as Khartoum and the SRF, but for this to hold it must also be clearly linked to binding commitments to discuss and implement political reforms.

(PHOTO: Taken March 28, 2012 shows destruction in Sudan's southern oil centre of Heglig after South Sudanese troops & government forces clashed along the border, sparking international alarm/AFP)The UN - the Security Council - should exert pressure on the two presidents to meet and negotiate an immediate ceasefire. This should be based on the June 29, 2011 Agreement on Border Security and the Joint Political and Security Mechanism, as well as the February 10, 2012 Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation. They also need to reach common ground on a security deal for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile based on the June 24, 2011 Framework Agreement, to be monitored by an enhanced JBVMM.

To encourage reforms in Khartoum, a united international community, particularly the African Union (AU), Arab League and UN, should put pressure on the NCP to accept a free and unhindered national dialogue aimed at creating a national stabilization program that includes defined principles for establishing an inclusive constitutional arrangement accepted by all. A national reform agenda should include a program that accommodates all the people of Sudan and supports inclusive governance.

The NCP must make genuine efforts to end impunity in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access, as well as support the efforts of the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and UNISFA to protect civilians.

If the NCP commits seriously to such a national reform agenda, regional actors and the wider international community should offer assistance.

Major players like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the Arab League, China, the US, EU and AU must recognize that reform is necessary for stability and requires their support. If the NCP accepts an inclusive reform process, for example, the U.S. should provide incentives under its normalization package to bolster that process. These could include easing debts, lifting economic sanctions and removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Meanwhile, North-South relations may also be improved by greater domestic stability in South Sudan.  Building institutions, extending service delivery, bolstering economic growth, and calming inter-communal tensions are among the priorities, and will be served in part by advancing promised political reforms. This includes an opening of political space inside and outside the SPLM, and an inclusive constitution-making process, that should be supported by partners and donors.

--- Editorial originally published by the International Crisis Group, HERE.

Friday
Mar022012

UN-Leashing the Power of Women (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: Kate Holt, IRIN) (HN, March 2, 2012) -- This week, the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women opened on Monday at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It's special focus? The development of `Rural Women'. 

For the next two weeks, leaders - men and women alike - are meeting  to focus on women's visibility, contributions, and empowerment, in poverty and hunger eradication, development, climate change adaptation, conflict resolution, gender inequality, technology and energy access, and ending female genital mutilation and sex slavery.

The session, led by Chile's former President and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, is also preparing the agenda for the UN Rio+20 Conference that Brazil will host in June. The Commission was established by ECOSOC resolution 11, June 21, 1946; just a year after the signing of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945. Of the 160 signatories, only 4 were women - Minerva Bernardino (Dominican Republic), Virginia Gildersleeve (United States), Bertha Lutz (Brazil) and Wu Yi-Fang (China).

(PHOTO: Minerva Bernardino/Archive) The Commission's mandate was expanded in 1987 to include the functions of promoting the objectives of equality, development and peace at the national, sub regional, regional and global levels. Following the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, the General Assembly mandated the Commission to integrate into its program a follow-up process to the Conference, regularly reviewing the critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action and to develop its catalytic role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in United Nations activities.

45 member states of the UN serve as members of the Commission at any one time. The Commission consists of one representative from each country elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: 13 members from Africa; 11 from Asia; 9 from Latin America and Caribbean; 8 from Western Europe and other States and 4 from Eastern Europe. Members are elected for a period of 4 years(SEE BELOW FOR FULL LIST)

In her opening speech to delegates, UN Deputy Secretary General Aisha-Rose Migiro welcomed attendees from around the world which included government officials, rural women, representatives of the UN and civil society; the media and the private sector to review progress, share experiences, good practices, analyze gaps and agree on actions to empower rural women.

(PHOTO: Opening session of the 56th UN Women's Conference/UN News Centre) Migiro, called for `systematic and comprehensive strategies' to empower women and girls in rural areas as `key agents of change' by maximizing their `potential to combat extreme poverty and hunger for themselves'.   "If rural women had equal access to productive resources", she said, "Agricultural yields would rise and hunger would decline".

Further, "They are leaders, producers, entrepreneurs and service providers, and their contributions are vital to the well-being of families, communities and economies, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".

World population demographics put the number of women and men in the world as roughly equal (with men just slightly ahead by a few hundred million). The idea is that women are becoming the most effective catalysts of sustainable development, and they must be supported.  

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said empowering women, "Requires a transformation in the way governments devise budgets and make and enforce laws, policies and land rights; including trade and agricultural policies, and how businesses invest and operate.  Private sector partnerships are crucial”, she said.

"Let us be clear. This is not just hurting the women.  It is hurting all of us”, said Bachelet.  "It's a matter of human rights, equality and justice on behalf of women.  

According to a UN Women's report released last week, rural women and girls comprise 1 in 4 people worldwide and they constitute a large share of the agricultural workforce.

(PHOTO: UN Multimedia) The gathering squarely noted that not only do women face gender inequality - despite progress; they also face blowback from Mother Nature too. How to bring women online while also creating sustainable solutions is a major focus of the conference.   

Some 86% of the global rural population of both genders derives a livelihood from agriculture,  with an estimated 1.3 billion people engaged in small scale farming or working as `landless laborers'.  Increasingly, almost 70% of agriculture laborers are women, producing the majority of global food grown; while playing key roles in rural economic activities, such as planting crops, saving seeds and selling their produce. Not to mention, performing virtually 100% of household labor.

In South Sudan, women farmers are working with a host of civil society groups like the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Norwegian People's Aid, Catholic Relief Services and Concern Worldwide, organizing themselves to engage in climate-resilient crop production and sustainable pursuits like goat rearing and bee keeping.  The women grow food drought-tolerant crops such as cereals, legumes, sorghum, bulrush or pearl millet and vegetables in order to improve their children’s overall nutrition and bring in a small, market-based income.

In Mexico, rural women have organized themselves to struggle against financial and environmental crises. In many cases, local NGOs have assisted in this process by building formal structures and developing capacities.  39% of Mexican households are rural.

(GRAPH: Poverty in the world, darker is worse/PRB.ORG)But still, generally worldwide, women continue to face lower mobility, less access to training, market information, and financial resources.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, rural women can tap just 5% of the services and facilities  including bank credits, public services, welfare, employment and the market; a mere 3% of the $7.5bn in official allocations for rural advancement and agriculture between 2008-2009 were assigned to gender equity.  Additionally, rural women constitute one-fourth of the world’s population and while women have equal property ownership rights in 115 countries and have equal inheritance rights in 93, gender disparities in land holdings persist worldwide."

The conference platform posits that if rural women had equal access to productive tools such as seeds, tools, and fertilizer; and laws were loosened -  agricultural yields would rise by up to 4% and there would be 100 million to 150 million fewer hungry people worldwide.  

Mobile is Key

Mobile phones are changing lives and strengthening economic enterprises, providing information about credit, markets, weather updates, transportation or health services - changing the way rural women and men obtain services and conduct business. 

In a recent global survey, 93% of women reported feeling safer because of their mobile phone, 85% reported feeling more independent, and 41% reported having increased income and professional opportunities.

(PHOTO: UNH WC Superhero/UNH) Sisters Doing it For Themselves

Women on the ground in the global South aren't waiting. They are already busy deploying a combination of indigenous techniques and adaptive agricultural methods to stave off the impacts of climate change, and in June on the eve of the Rio+20 Summit, UN Women will join the Government of Brazil in convening a high-level meeting on women and sustainable development.

It All Starts With Education

"Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people," the UN said and, "Just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school". Far fewer than rural boys (45%), urban girls (59%) and urban boys (60%).  A lack of a high school education can mean poverty and even earlier death, and even a lack of local schools is a reason fewer girls attend high school. 

"Data from 68 countries indicates that a woman’s education is a key factor in determining a child’s survival," according to UN statistics. "Every additional year of primary school increases girls’ eventual wages by 10–20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence."

(GRAPH: Girls, Women global education levels/PRB.ORG) If Women Ruled The World There Would Be No War

In a study of 24 major peace processes since 1992, UN Women  found that women composed only 2.5% of peace signatories, 3.2% of mediators, 5.5% of witnesses and 7.6% of negotiators.  

War is always most devastating to women and children who are often the victims of rape, abuse, and sexual slavery during and after conflict.   But when women's interests are not represented at the negotiation tables, in the post-resolution restructuring process, or in the governance bodies established after the war, the interests of children and families are almost always omitted from discussions.  The UN recognized this 12 years ago when it voted to "ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels; urging governments to `adopt a `gender perspective'".

For instance, in Egypt, rural women are receiving identity cards so they can obtain social services, and are able to vote and can have a say in shaping the future of their country.  In India, more than a million women are now members of local village councils.  This has changed their lives for the better, and also the lives around them.

(PHOTO: Martine Perret)From Costa Rica to Rwanda, where quotas have been used, more women are in positions of decision-making. They are using their voices to secure land rights, to understand political processes, to engage with governance and policy issues, to tackle domestic violence, to improve healthcare and employment, and to demand accountability.  

But in other parts of the world, a recent study which covered 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific showed that the proportion of elected representatives in rural councils who are women ranged only from 0.6 percent to 37%.

In her speech UN Women's Bachelet pointed the finger at her own organization, the UN too, saying, "Here in the United Nations, we must lead by example. From 2007 through 2010, the UN experienced an unprecedented increase in women at the most senior levels - from 17% to 29% at the Under-Secretary-General level, and from 20% to 25% at the Secretariat at the Assistant Secretary General level".

Last December the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Member States to take concrete steps to increase the political participation and leadership of women, including the follow through on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Labor Organization conventions,  the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the report on the Social Protection Floor, that UN Women launched last year.

(PHOTO: FAO) Still, despite all the progress of the global women's empowerment movement, many conference speakers have lamented the need to `reality-check' the situation by reminding delegates that currently in the world: "925 million people were chronically hungry, of whom 60 percent were women.  Moreover, 884 million people in the world lack access to potable drinking water; 2.6 billion people do not have access to sufficient sanitation facilities; and 1 billion people do not have adequate access to roads and transportation systems."

What future will we leave our children?

The African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) is a bold political initiative that aims to put women at the centre of development on the continent. Launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in October 2010, with roots traceable to the UN First World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City in 1975. However, the disheartening reality is that very few women in Africa actually know about the Women’s Decade and the policies set out to be implemented during this decade.   

What's clear from this 56th Conference on Women is that women worldwide want change, they want to have their voice be heard, and they are impatient for equality and solutions to their own problems.  Out of sheer survival, many women are taking circumstance into their own hands and making progress despite the world.

Because these life situations, cannot stand:  In Afghanistan - 87% of women are illiterate; in  Pakistan 90% of women face domestic violence and more than 1,000 women and girls are victims of honor killings every year according to the Human Rights Commission.  In the DRC  420,000 women are raped every year; while in India, 100 million people, mostly woman and girls are victims of traffickers.

Before they go though from UN Headquarters next week, the commission will agree on urgent actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of millions of rural women by making recommendations for other policy forums, such as the Rio+20 and, they will celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th.  A celebration indeed.  

Full List of Current UN Women's Commission Members:

Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Haiti, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, US, Uruguay, Zimbabwe.

---- HUMNEWS (c) 2012

Tuesday
Feb212012

10 million Africans face starvation (REPORT) 

 By Mel Frykberg

(GRAPHIC: FEWS Net)The UN warned on Saturday that 10 million people in Africa’s Sahel region faced starvation and called for a greater humanitarian response to the crisis, which is threatening eight countries, particularly Niger, where at least half of those at risk are situated. The Sahel countries include parts of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan, northern Cameroon and Eritrea.

Helen Clark, the UN development programme’s administrator, and the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and UN emergency relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, made the appeal during a visit to Niger’s Tillabery region.

Their visit entailed an inspection of an agricultural project supported by the UN, which grows vegetables in a sustainable way, while simultaneously improving the nutrition of the villagers and providing them with a source of income.

“This project shows how a tiny initial investment can make a major difference,” Amos said.

“Just a few kilometres from here, there is a village which has not had this investment, where people are leaving their homes and have taken their children out of school so that they can look for food,” she said.

(PHOTO: Aliyin Would Eleiat, the chief of a village in the Gorgol region of Mauritania shows 1 of few wells that still has water. It serves as the lifeline for 75 families/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)Clark stated that the wider crisis in the Sahel, where poor harvests following repeated droughts had caused severe shortages, threatened 10 million people in desperate need of assistance.

Furthermore, international non-governmental organisations warned that the Sahel could be crippled by this year.

Oxfam has announced that harvests plummeted 25% in the region compared to 2010 because of lack of rains. This will leave more than one million children threatened with severe malnutrition.

---This piece originally appeared in South Africa's New Age

RELATED:

(PHOTO: Baaba Maal with Oxfam in Mauritania/OXFAM)Senegal's Baaba Maal visits Mauritania with Oxfam: "The scale of this crisis is so great that I have to speak out so that the world reacts"

During a 48 hour visit to the Gorgol region of Mauritania, the musician Baaba Maal discovered the harsh reality for communities affected by a food crisis that now touches one in four people across the country. Today 700,000 people are food insecure in Mauritania.

"What is happening in this part of Africa is so close to my heart. People are suffering, especially children. I cannot watch and do nothing,” declared Senegalese singer Baaba Maal after visiting Mauritanian communities at the center of the current food crisis in the Sahel. Low rainfall, poor harvests, a lack of pasture and rising food prices are among the key factors driving this crisis.

Baaba Maal, who met populations in the south of the country, not far from his home village in Senegal, noted: “Some families have almost nothing to eat, and I worry about how they will feed themselves until the next harvest.”

(PHOTO: The Senegal River, which forms the natural border between Mauritania & Senegal, is too low for the crop season/Irina Fuhrmann, OXFAM)The Senegalese singer, internationally renowned and recognized for his commitment to development in Africa, launched an appeal to the international community for urgent action: “We cannot watch and do nothing while our brothers and sisters in Mauritania are victims of such a crisis. I have been able to see the solutions that are being put in place. We have to support and strengthen them."

"I met Hamila, a mother of five children, who had just bought a bag of rice thanks to money provided by Oxfam. This money will allow her to feed her family over the coming weeks. Hamila is among the most vulnerable people in her community but there are many other people who need our help,” explained Baaba Maal.

Last December, Oxfam and its partners launched a humanitarian response in the south of Mauritania in order to provide assistance to 30,000 people, and are planning to scale up operations to avoid a major crisis. In coordination with the emergency plan developed by the Government, the organisation has put in place cash transfers to allow populations to protect their livelihoods. Other actions to improve access to clean drinking water are also underway in order to prevent water-borne diseases that lead to malnutrition, especially in children.

"When I was young, this region was totally green but every year I see it becoming more and more dry. Yet water is there, in the river and in the ground. We have to work together and join forces to solve the problem, so that we never see this situation repeated again,” added Baaba Maal.

Oxfam is calling for urgent interventions to avoid the worst over the coming months, as well as long-term investments to strengthen the resilience of populations, allow communities to cope with bad years, and prevent crises of the future. As well as Mauritania, Oxfam is actively supporting communities affected by this crisis in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

--- This piece originally appeared on OXFAM

Thursday
Feb092012

South Sudan, Ethiopia Sign Oil Pipeline Deal 

(HN, 2/9/2012) -- South Sudan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia allowing it to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, said on Thursday than an unidentified Texas company could start working on a new pipeline in six months, the independent Sudan Tribune reports.

Land-locked South Sudan has been in a political dispute with Sudan’s government over oil transit fees – South Sudan gaining control over most of the region’s oil reserves in July, when it became an independent country, relying however, on export pipelines through Sudan.  

Last month, South Sudan accused Sudan of seizing more than $800 million worth of it oil from Port Sudan along the Red Sea.

Khartoum says it took the oil because the south would not pay transit fees on more than $30 per barrel.

In recent weeks, South Sudan has also discussed plans with Kenya to build oil pipelines to the coastal town of Lamu.

There has been much tension between Sudan and South Sudan, and leaders on both sides have said a return to war is possible.

The two countries have not been able to agree on how to demarcate their border or how to share oil revenue.

South Sudan said Wednesday it had completed the shutdown of 871 oil wells that were producing about 350,000 barrels per day. 

So far negotiations, hosted by the African Union, have failed to find a resolution to the oil row. 

- HUMNEWS Staff

Tuesday
Jan032012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - JANUARY 4, 2012

Afghanistan 

Triple bombing targets Kandahar police 

Antarctica 

(PHOTO: British scientists have discovered huge colonies of a new species of yeti crab on the sea floor near Antarctica. OXFORD UNIVERSITY)Yeti Crabs & Ghost Octopus! Unique Life Found at 1st Antarctic Deep-Sea Vents

Argentina 

Leaders' illnesses cloud South America's newfound stability

Mistakes cost dear in Third Stage of Dakar Rally

Australia

Clipper Round the World Race - Geraldton Western Australia takes lead 

Bangladesh

Dhaka calls Kathmandu for power 

Brazil

Brazil buys three BAE Ocean Patrol Vessels

(PHOTO: 'Geraldton Western Australia-Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race'. ONEDITION)Burundi

IRRI Releases Two New Rice Varieties In Burundi

Cameroon

Cameroon Villagers Pin Hopes on Diamond Mine

Cambodia 

Ancient City of Angkor may have been ruined by drought

Canada

More than 700 Canadians ‘brrrrrrave’ the cold for charity

Colombia

Colombian team to be disqualified from Dakar Rally

(PHOTO: Czechs held in Zambia Michal Vébr, Jiří Cetel, Jan Coufal. CZECH TELEVISION)Czech Republic

Czechs detained in Zambia return home (Audio)

El Salvador

El Salvador Murder Rate Highest Since End of Civil War

Ethiopia

Ethiopia discovers largest ever gold reserves 

Shell plans oil pipeline construction from South Sudan to Ethiopia 

France

Latin America leads Gourmand World Cookbook Awards

Gabon

45 challenges to Gabon's poll results

(PHOTO: In Haiti, some of the Hands Across the Sea students returning to school in 2012. HANDS ACROSS THE SEA) Gaza and West Bank

New bid to broker Middle East talks takes place

Guam

Humanities Council to hold film series on the Micronesian experience on Guam

Guatemala

Violent deaths in Guatemala down in 2011 

Guinea

Donor Assistance Will Reduce Contract Non-Payment Risks Despite Continued Risks of Sporadic Violence

Guinea-Bissau

Navy chief held in Guinea-Bissau after alleged coup attempt

Guyana

Guyanese cargo vessel goes missing after leaving T&T

Haiti

Haiti still recovering from deadly 2010 earthquake

(PHOTO: In the UAE new ID cards are being issued online, rather than at centers. UAE GOV) Iceland

Icelandic President decides not to run for re-election

India 

Chennai youth devises a new method to curb movie piracy

Coal India looks to buy coal assets in South Africa 

Detained Indian traders in Chinese hub are “fearing for their lives”

Indonesia

Indonesia sailors detained for killing Taiwan skipper

Indonesia Leads Southeast Asia With 6.5% Expansion In Q4

Indonesia sees 2012 unmilled rice output up

Iran 

Oil prices soar as Iran warns US aircraft carrier away from Persian Gulf

Iranian currency falls against U.S. dollar on fresh sanctions

(PHOTO: Iran's currency falls on fresh sanctions. GANT DAILY)Ireland

'Undocumented' are being forced to live in fear on margins of Irish society

Israel

Israel and Taiwan ink aviation agreement

Taiwan airlines have no immediate plans to run flights to Israel 

Jerusalem Marathon 2012: A race of nations (Press release)

Ivory Coast

Dry, windy weather darkens Ivorian cocoa outlook

Jamaica

OAS Secretary General Congratulates New Prime Minister of Jamaica 

Jordan

RefugeeLives program establishes mobile network in Jordan

Kazakhstan

South Kazakhstan companies pursue CSR policy

(PHOTO: The Communication Commission of Kenya headquarters along Waiyaki way in Nairobi. ANTHONY KAMAU) Kenya

Kenya Trailblazes in Mobile Money Transfer Services

Kenya to miss June date for digital switch over

Kuwait

New, social media ‘the tool’ of 2012 Assembly elections

Kuwait to build first-ever solar power station

Laos

Passenger Services Restored on Mekong River 

Latvia

Referendum to determine the status of Russian language in Latvia

Lebanon

(PHOTO: In Niger, the RAIN foundation is building community gardens. RAIN) aram, Niger.Lebanon to host U.N. conference on reform in Arab world

Libya

Libya seeks to boost tourism industry (Video)  

Malaysia

More flood victims evacuated in Pasir Puteh, Malaysia

LivingSocial enters Malaysia online shopping market

Maldives

Hotels forced to shut down spas across Maldives

Mali

Mali to give 40,000 tonnes of food to drought victims 

Malta

Malta Airport achieves record 3.5 million passengers in 2011

(PHOTO: New Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, (left, in white), is escorted by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil on his arrival at Tripoli International Airport, Libya. TRIPOLI POST) Marshall Islands

Former senator elected Marshall Islands president

Mexico

Mexico tries to rally its expatriates to vote

Mexico, war crimes and a slippery slope  (Perspective)

Mongolia

President talks past, present, and future at honor assembly 

Morocco

Moroccan king unveils Islamist-led government 

Mozambique

Mozambique to take up production of ARVs

New Mayors Sworn in

Myanmar

Burmese company to launch cheap mobile phone service

In Burmese Chanukah celebration, signs of Myanmar’s openness to the West

(PHOTO: In Uruguay, abortion decriminalization passes in Uruguay Senate LIFESITENEWS)Namibia

Tractor Shortage Delays Ploughing

Nepal

Darfur hearing begins

ADB to provide loan for six water projects in Nepal

New Zealand

New Zealand's "Solar Promise" Becomes Solar Policy

Passport checks find surge in fakes

Niger

Niger's anti-corruption files burn

Charitable trust invests in sustainable agriculture in Niger with RAIN

Nigeria

Fuel subsidy protests spread to Lagos

Reversing the Terrorist Tide in Nigeria: The Need for Smart Power (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Omani adventurer Nabil 'Nabs' Al Busaidi became the first Arab to walk to the magnetic North Pole. AL ARABIYA)Northern Mariana Islands

Election Dispute Brewing in Northern Mariana Islands

Norway

Bible becomes 2011 bestseller in Norway

Oman

Sultanate of Oman hosts GCC Health Ministers meeting tomorrow

New civil identity cards

Oman warns over illegal surveys

Seeb project to enhance greenery in Oman

Omani explorer's North Pole trek hits big screen

Pakistan

Pak-Tajik intertwined in bonds of religion says Pakistan National Speaker

Pakistan, India to start power, petro trade

Nimoo-Bazgo project: Pakistan to take dam dispute to world court

An unforgiveable sin (Perspective)

(PHOTO: The North Face of the Jungfrau Mountain in Switzerland, illuminated to celebrate 100 years. JUNGFRAUBAHN)Panama

Panama's president lambasts media owners for publishing about corruption scandals

Paraguay

Paraguay confirms new foot-and-mouth outbreak 

Peru

Peru to celebrate National Chocolate and Cocoa Day every October 1

Controversy in Peru for Possible Junk Food Tax

Peru’s Central Bank: Poverty Rate Could Drop to 17 Percent by 2016

Philippines

Disease Outbreak in Philippines after floods

Hackers attack Philippine vice president's website

Gov't plans to produce Panama disease-free banana seedlings soon

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: status vote set as crime, unemployment rise

Violence Continues in Puerto Rico After Close of Deadliest Year

Solar energy project in Puerto Rico completes financing, receives modules

(PHOTO: February Vogue 2011, who profiled first lady of Syria Asma al-Assad as a bright light in the Middle East. FROM THE ATLANTIC WIRE) Qatar

Taliban says it will open Qatar office for talks with U.S.

Federer trounces Davydenko in Qatar Open

Romania

Romania catches up on building highways

The number of active operators in Romania's organic farming sector has tripled this year

Romania to Resume Privatization of State-Owned Energy Companies

Rwanda

Rwandan President Visits UAE

A New Kid On the Block Within Telecoms

Innovative Businesses to Instill Entrepreneurship Spirit

Young Motorcyclists Still Cause Most Traffic Accidents

(PHOTO: In Africa kickboxers demonstrate their tactics at their training centre in Nimera Talaata in Juba, South Sudan where the East Africa Kickboxing Championships will take place. GURTONG)Saint Kitts & Nevis 

Solar Power Industries completes new solar installation

Saint Vincent & The Grenadines

Azerbaijani President receives Premier of Saint Vincent and Grenadines (VIDEO) 

Samoa

Samoa begins celebrating 50 years of independence

Samoa paper names PM as Person of Decade

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia arrests foreigner for celebrating New Year’s with balloons

Libya, Saudi Arabia to Restore Full Relations

Saudi Arabia/Islam-Media: 70% of new media related to Youth, according to Saudi Vice Minister of Culture and Information

Saudi healthcare grads snub private sector jobs

Senegal

Africa's 'most famous' singer N'Dour eyes Senegal presidency

Serbia

Serbian Princess to visit Halifax

(PHOTO: In Kremenchug, Ukraine’s new synagogue suffered its 2nd firebombing in as many months. CHABAD.ORG)Singapore

Greying Singapore taps robots, games in rehab

Singapore Press accuses Yahoo of plagiarism in copyright suit

Singapore's counter-terror success (Perspective)  

Slovakia

Slovaks made 12.5 million mobile phone calls and messages on December 31

South Africa

IMF head set for South Africa visit

Supercomputing: SA back in top 500

South Africa's holiday road death toll exceeds 1000

Controversy Over S. African Rhino Hunting

South Africa Seed Centre to Provide More, Cheaper Varieties

(PHOTO: In Taiwan, a convenience store every 500 meters. TAIWAN NEWS CHANNEL) South Korea

South Korea Lifts Ban On Travel To The North

South Korea hopes for 'new era' for Koreas

Korean mobile app Kakao Talk now sees 1 billion texts sent every day

South Sudan

South Sudanese 'massacred' after fleeing Pibor say reports

Shell eyes possible South Sudan opportunities

South Sudan To Host East African Kickboxing Championship

Spain

Spain selects site for nuclear waste storage

Spain's house prices 'have fallen significantly'

Spain: New Year brings end to bullfighting in Catalonia

New Year tradition of the 12 grapes

Sri Lanka

Lotus Tower will be South Asia’s tallest built in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka brimming with promise (Perspective)

(PHOTO: To these children in Nghe An, Vietnam, schooling is a risky adventure every day. TUOITRENEWS)Sudan

NHRI Condemns Shutting Down Ray Elsha'b Newspaper and Confiscating Its Assets

Sudan upgrading airbase in North Kordofan

Sudan Women's Advisory board 'seeks to improve health among females'

Malaria, bilharzia and filariasis endemic in South Darfur

Sweden

Swine flu victim tells of six-month fight for life

Swaziland

Aggrieved soldiers want to see the king

Security guard threatens ATM users with knife

Some contract teachers not paid in full

Paving Paradise (Perspective)

(PHOTO: Mt Cleveland, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA could be a problem in 2012) Switzerland

Boss of World's Largest Container Shipping Line Maersk, Taken Ill

Chunk of Swiss peak breaks off in massive rockslide

Jungfrau illuminated to celebrate mountain railway centenary

Syria

Syria and Iran Discuss Agricultural Cooperation

Philippine Government seeks Syria’s help with labor trafficking

Syrian state journalist, videographer killed

The Only Remaining Online Copy of Vogue's Asma al-Assad Profile

Taiwan

One convenience store every 500 meters in Taiwan

Taiwan, Germany Ink Agreement to Avoid Double Taxation 

Funds to be raised for East Africa famine relief 

Tanzania

Number of Tanzania Internet users is 5m

Hopes dashed as fuel prices go up

Financial constraints hamper Tanzania's London 2012 Olympic preparation

Lake Zone regions capitalise on sisal growing

(PHOTO: The African ECO-Challenge is taking place in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. MOTORSPORTS.COM)Thailand

Bangkok floods, reducing urban risk in a changing climate

Public debt forecast to rise rapidly on big borrowing

Thailand switches to Euro IV standard for gasoil, gasoline

Logistics sector needs to be prepared for emergencies (Perspective)

The Arctic

Solar charging panel generates call time for test team

The Netherlands

Dutch pension fund puts Walmart, PetroChina on investment blacklist

Tonga

Sending money home crucial for many immigrants

Trinidad and Tobago

Facebook and Trini life

Sabga pleads for efficient importation of pain medication for cancer patients

Former Chamber head backs removal of fuel subsidy in Trinidad and Tobago (Perspective)

Tunisia

Tunisian President on First State Trip Abroad Visits Libya

Tunisia is keen to strengthen relationship with India

Mother Plans Rally to Demand Return of Her Children

'Rouge Parole' by Tunisian director Baccar opens in Theaters On January 4th

Turks and Caicos

Expectation high for new tourism season

Turkey

GCC, Turkey to discuss investment

Tuberculosis still prevalent in Turkey

Tuvalu

DO highlights island migration

Uganda

Gay Activists Lash Out At Nsaba Buturo

Ugandans Abroad Want to Get More Involved in Business

Minister Storms Radio Station, Orders Arrests

Ukraine

Ukraine Synagogue Firebombed a Second Time in Two Months

Activ Solar completes Europe’s largest solar power plant

United Arab Emirates

Emirates Airline buys UK travel agent

UAE Facebook penetration rates among highest globally, while female use in the region lags

Seven new rules in UAE as new year starts

UAE’s Abu Dhabi facing water shortages

Young Future Energy Leaders Program

UAE camel festival features beauty contests, races

Volvo Ocean Race: Telefonica resumes Leg 2 tomorrow

Forecasts differ on the Dubai real estate market

UAE National ID card application and renewal can now be done online

Dubai gets own fog monitoring stations

United Kingdom

Mesothelioma Kills Over 150 Residents of Gwent, England

UK Faces Private Sector Pensions 'Collapse' (Video)

United States

Backgrounder: U.S. presidential nomination process and Iowa caucuses

Latest US military drone features 1.8 gigapixel camera

There's a New Volcano to Worry About, and This Time It's in the USA

Marines fighting mold problem at Parris Island

Congressman Ron Paul on Autism in America

US: Harsh Conditions for Young Lifers (Human Rights Watch report)

30 Statistics That Show The Middle Class Is Dying Right In Front Of Our Eyes (Perspective)

Uruguay 

Abortion decriminalization passes in Uruguay Senate

Uruguay’s citrus industry in the dumps due to rising costs

Uzbekistan 

Armenian Grigoryan to open boxing school in Uzbekistan 

Vanuatu 

Vanuatu’s President to be medi-vacced to Australia

Young players off to Vanuatu

Vatican City 

Vatican agency says at least 26 church workers killed in 2011

Venezuela 

Investment remains stagnant in 2011

Venezuelan TV shows will make it in Hollywood, a firm hopes

Vietnam 

Schooling in Vietnam: a stark contrast (Photos)

Vietnam has fewer than 50 wild tigers left 

Vietnam handbag exports cross US$1bn-mark

Search for missing Vinalines Queen Ship continues, Four days on

Falling home prices in Vietnam a positive development: ministry   

Western Sahara 

CCR: Schlesser keeps Africa Eco Race lead after stage 5

Yemen

Yemen PM to visit GCC countries Saturday to seek support

Yemen: On the Permaculture Map

Zambia 

Soya bean shortage concerns Zambian poultry industry

Diarrhea second leading cause of death in Zambia

Zimbabwe

Workers at Zimbabwe's Shabanie Mine Paid for First Time in Three Years

Growing risk of waterborne diseases in rural areas

Air Zimbabwe suspends flights to London after one of its planes is impounded over unpaid debts

2011 Art Year in Retrospect

China Pledge to Develop Martial Arts Wushu in Zimbabwe

WORLD

Where film is a risky biz

How mobile is reshaping the globe

Meeting food demands

Maggie Padlewska One-Woman Mission to Document Global Voices(PHOTO: Maggie Padlewska interviews Chief Antillano Flaco of Embera Quera Village, Panama, for the pilot documentary of her "One Year One World" project. (Elvin Flaco) EPOCH TIMES)

Friday
Oct212011

Great Game in the Horn of Africa (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Paul Mutter

Child soldier in Uganda, photo courtesy of UNICEFThe United States announced this past week that it is deploying a 100-man mission to assist the Ugandan government in tracking down the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a force whose bloody conflict with the Ugandan military has devastated northern Uganda and its environs since 1987.

But why now, in 2011, is the U.S. government making this commitment to combat the LRA?

The humanitarian impulse is certainly present among policymakers, if for no other reason than humanitarianism scores political points in Washington. Multiple human rights groups have been supportive of the announcement. The Ugandan government and people certainly desire an end to this conflict. As undemocratic as the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni has proven, the state the LRA would establish—if we take stock of their rule over parts of northern Uganda—would almost certainly be an even more nightmarish place. Joseph Kony, the founder of the LRA who masquerades as a champion of his Acholi ethnic group and as a Christian mystic, has ordered the killing, maiming, and rape of tens of thousands of people across northern Uganda and neighboring countries. This “army” relies heavily on child soldiers and "concubines," young girls abducted from churches and schools to serve as servants and sex slaves.

Make no mistake: the LRA is an abominable threat to the Ugandan people—and to the people of Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, countries the LRA moves in and out of seeking safe havens.

But we must not be blinded by the darkness of the LRA so much that we fail to see the tarnish that mars the U.S. and Ugandan governments’ joint interests in East Africa.

Why did Washington not intervene at any other point over the course of the LRA's horrendous, decades-long campaign in Northern Uganda, where civilians not caught in the sadistic sights of the LRA often found themselves in the crossfire between the terrorist army and the Ugandan military? George W. Bush sent advisers in 2008-9 to assist the Ugandan military in what is said to have been a botched capture operation, but why did it take five U.S. presidents to get to this stage—a stage in which the LRA has been, according to most reports, drastically weakened? What took Washington so long to finally accept this mandate, which human rights activists have been urging for years?

The Obama administration is not likely embracing a “Responsibility to Protect.” The sad answer is that only now, in the post-9/11 world, is there sufficient U.S. interest to risk getting "mired" in Africa. The unstated target of this 100-man deployment is, in fact, al-Qaeda.

AFRICOM and the Horn of Africa

The 100-strong force being sent to Uganda (ostensibly as advisers) will be overseen by AFRICOM, the new strategic command for Africa created by George W. Bush in 2007. AFRICOM provides billions of dollars worth of equipment to U.S. allies in Africa, as well as controversial training and intelligence-sharing programs, and even Special Forces deployments.

For AFRICOM, security imperatives intersect with economic ones. At AFRICOM's urging, for example, the U.S. military has designed war games involving the "fall" of Nigeria, the no. 5 source of U.S. oil imports, to insurgent forces. The United States has had a strategic interest since the 1990s in demonstrating its commitment to the security of Uganda, which has fought al-Shabab in Somalia and until recently bordered Sudan. Sudan, an Islamist pariah state and also an LRA supporter, is still on the radar for U.S. and Ugandan policymakers (especially with South Sudan's formation), but Somalia is the "new" looming terror threat, a "failed state" fought over by Islamist groups like al-Shabab and infiltrated by others. The United States asserts that a strong al-Qaeda presence there today has ill designs for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, Kenya, and as we saw in 2010, Uganda.

The Ugandans did not pull out from Somalia following the 2010 Kampala bombings, though, and remain committed to maintaining a force there, something other U.S. allies in Africa have been reluctant to do. Those boots on the ground might go some way in firmly establishing a central Somalia government the United States and Uganda can live with. As Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute has said:

To the extent the United States has any interest in Somalia being stabilized, it has an interest in seeing the Ugandan government able to keep its own country together, and able to keep it its own forces partially deployed to Somalia in order to help with that country where there have been al-Qaida related groups in the past.

The United States is waging a drone war in Somalia. Although it is not on the scale of the campaigns in Pakistan or Yemen, this may soon change. But with "Black Hawk Down" never far removed from Washington’s memory, sending troops into Somalia will be a hard decision for U.S. officials to make. Furthermore, the United States is, once again after its brief dalliance with "provincial reconstruction teams," no longer as interested in nation building as in effecting regime change and targeted assassinations. Uganda helps the latter along nicely in Somalia and may one day make the former possible there in concert with AFRICOM.

For now and for the foreseeable future, the Ugandan forces in Somalia are working in line with U.S. interests (as are the Kenyans, who this very Monday entered Somalia in force and are fighting against al-Shahab).

A War for Oil?

There are also economic considerations, though these may be secondary to security concerns. Uganda is indeed hoping to exploit newly discovered oil and gas reserves, and the government has undertaken a hurried development campaign. But the United States is not well-placed at this time to pursue energy extraction opportunities there: the UK-registered Tullow Oil, joined by the French Total AS and the PRC's China National Offshore Oil Corporation, holds the best energy extraction hand in Uganda today. The U.S. government is, naturally, keeping an eye on the sector, and as The Economist notes, "several jealous Western governments and companies want to stall China’s advance into the Congo basin, with its vast reserves of minerals and timber."

Whatever potential Uganda holds—in and of itself and as a gateway to the DRC—China's much stronger economic position in Uganda and the UK's ties to its former colony do not leave the United States much economic leeway besides foreign aid allocations at this point. But what is clear is that Washington’s commercial prospects in Uganda in the coming years will depend on the security situation.

Emboldening Museveni

Perhaps the most pressing issue for Ugandans, however, is the extent to which U.S. assistance might not only stir up a renewed conflict in the region but also embolden Yoweri Museveni—once hailed as an upstanding member of "a new generation of African leaders"—to further crack down on opposition politicians in Uganda, which until 2005 was an officially one-party state.

As Wikileaks disclosures show, the United States holds few illusions about the undemocratic and corrupt tendencies of Museveni and his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). "It appears Ugandan security services spend the majority their time tracking opposition leaders and critics of the NRM," reported a 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.

Museveni's participation in the Second Congolese War, in which Ugandan military forces and their Congolese allies were accused of trafficking "blood diamonds" and committing human rights abuses, also damaged his international image. His questionable domestic record on both human rights and corruption issues has further soured foreign lenders and leaders toward him. The presidential election held in Uganda earlier this year delivered Museveni another stellar victory, though it was marred by accusations of intimidation on the part of the security apparatus and ruling party, accusations that the U.S. Embassy found credible in previous elections.

Protests against Museveni's policies have frequently turned deadly thanks to the intervention of the state security apparatus, and just days after the U.S. deployment was announced, Ugandan security forces arrested 45 "Action 4 Change" activists, 15 of whom will be tried for treason. If convicted, they will be subject to a death sentence.

Action 4 Change is a coalition of opposition parties, community organizers, and rights groups who have undertaken a series of "walk to work" protests to demonstrate against food and fuel price increases. The Ugandan government asserts that Action 4 Change members are not nonviolent demonstrators but disgruntled electoral losers plotting the overthrow of the government. And Uganda Radio Network reports that a 500-man Coalition for Stable Uganda (CSU), led by an NRM member, has been formed "to counter activities of [the] Action for Change Coalition" because "there is no doubt in [the CSU's] minds that the opposition actions are well coordinated with backing from other forces bent [on] destabilizing Uganda, loot[ing] property, and caus[ing] deaths."

This landmark U.S. assistance to Uganda against the LRA, simply by putting boots on the grounds, surpasses any past offers of foreign or diplomatic aid from U.S. officials. But will Washington pressure Museveni to clean up corruption or scale back his crackdown on Action 4 Change? That's the sort of discussion that needs to be happening.

- Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus

Originally published by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Saturday
Sep102011

Horn of Africa Drought Case Load Jumps to Over 13 Million People (NEWS BRIEF)

Somali refugee children at the registration centre in Dolo Ado, southern Ethiopia. CREDIT: WFP/Natasha Scripture(HN, September 10, 2011) - As the drought in the Horn of Africa spreads, the number of people affected has jumped to 13.3 million people, including more than 840,000 refugees.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance was previously pegged by the UN at 12.4 million in four countries, Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS.

She said that boosting the numbers is the conflict in the Blue Nile State of eastern Sudan, which has displaced close to 20,000 Sudanese refugees into Ethiopia in early September. Humanitarian agencies are currently allocating some of their resources and personnel to this new emergency.

In Djibouti, increasing food prices are having an increasingly serious impact on the country, Byrs said. The country imports 95 per cent of its food, and about 146,000 people are in need of food assistance in the north-western regions of the country.

To be sure, the drought and food crisis has caused massive displacement in the worst-hit country - Somalia. UNHCR estimates that more than 917,000 Somalis now live as refugees in the four neighbouring countries: Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen. Approximately one in every three was forced to flee this year alone. Altogether, more than 1.4 million Somalis were displaced within the country. This makes a third of Somalia's estimated 7.5 million people displaced.

Analysts blame the convergence of civil unrest, climate chance and rising food prices as the cause of the ongoing crisis.

Despite heavy media coverage of the crisis, the UN's Horn of Africa Appeal is still in need of substantial funding. Byrs said it is 63 per cent funded with $1.56 billion received out of the $2.5 billion requested. 

Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Programme said since the beginning of July, the UN agency has assisted some 7.4 million people and that it is ramping up to reach more than 9.6 million people over the coming weeks. In Somalia, WFP is focusing its efforts over the next months on providing badly needed food assistance to 1.9 million people in areas to which WFP had access. So far the organization had assisted close to 1 million people. 

WFP has received $385 million in announced contributions, its budget shortfall for the Horn of Africa appeal for the next six months is US$215 million.

- UN, HUMNEWS staff

Tuesday
Aug302011

Sudan Complains to UNSC Against Republic of South Sudan (NEWS BRIEF) 

(HN, August 30, 2011) Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti has sent a message of complaint to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), accusing the South Sudan government of violating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the official SUNA news agency reported Tuesday.

"I'm committed to send you a complaint concerning violations by South Sudan's government during the past period. The Republic of South Sudan has adopted hostile stances towards the mother state ( the Republic of Sudan), starting from the negative signals embodied in the speech of Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of South Sudan, on the day South Sudan was declared independent," SUNA quoted Karti as saying in the message to the UNSC chairman.

The South Sudan president's "negative signals" included his reiteration to support the Darfur rebel movements, together with his remarks about the South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas, which belong to north Sudan, Karti said.

 The complaint came shortly after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint statement saying that their researchers led a week-long mission to the area in late August and were able to establish that SAF had carried out 13 air strikes in Kauda, Delami and Kurchi areas where at least 26 civilians were killed and more than 45 others injured since mid-June.

“The relentless bombing campaign is killing and maiming civilian men, women and children, displacing tens of thousands, putting them in desperate need of aid, and preventing entire communities from planting crops and feeding their children,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Sudanese government is literally getting away with murder and trying to keep the outside world from finding out” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor. “The international community, and particularly the UN Security Council, must stop looking the other way and act to address the situation”.

Karti went on to say that South Sudan has hosted the Darfur armed movements and provided them with shelter, training and arms, and it is still supporting them.

 Martin Majut, an official with South Sudan’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, told Bloomberg News, that the Sudanese charges were “baseless.”

The Sudanese minister went on to  reiterate commitment of the Republic of Sudan and its keenness to achieve a political settlement and stability, saying that the government's commitment to peace was represented in its signing and implementation of the CPA, including its recognition of the referendum results as well as of the newly-born South Sudan state.

Despite the violations by the government of South Sudan and its continuing support of the Darfur rebel movements to undermine security in Sudan, the Sudanese government has initiated a unilateral ceasefire for two weeks, Karti said, adding that the South Sudan government was still instigating the SPLM/northern sector to launch a war in South Kordofan.

The minister urged the UNSC to use its powers and means to push the government of South Sudan to commit to the agreements signed between the two countries and to immediately stop training, supporting and instigating the armed groups, whether in South Kordofan or Darfur.

He also called on the UNSC to urge the rebel groups in Darfur and South Kordofan to respond to the ceasefire declared by the government and sit directly with it to reach a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiations.

Southern Kordofan is Sudan’s only oil-producing state, accounting for 115,000 barrels a day, according to the energy ministry. South Sudan assumed control of 75 percent of the country’s former daily crude output of 490,000 barrels a day.

 - HUMNews Staff

Friday
Aug192011

WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY 2011 – `People Helping People’ 

-- Since 2009 the world’s community of nations has celebrated World Humanitarian Day on August 19, as a day dedicated to recognizing humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives working in service for humanitarian causes.

This year, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is focusing its attention on the devastating famine crisis in the Horn of Africa; but is also asking the global public for their ideas on how to change the world.  

 

The day is celebrated in honor of the tireless efforts of former UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died August 19, 2003 along with 21 other colleagues in a bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad, Iraq.  A national of Brazil, Sérgio Vieira de Mello died at age 55 after dedicating 34 years to the United Nations, international cause issues and bringing peace and comfort to the world’s citizens.  He served fearlessly in some of the most challenging humanitarian situations, and died at age 55 leaving a legacy of peaceful co-existence and awareness of the need for people to help people.

The Sérgio Vieira de Mello Foundation works to remind the world every day that the sacrifice and tragic loss of Vieira de Mello, and all humanitarian personnel who have made the ultimate effort to relieve the suffering of victims of war and inequity, have not been in vain.

Since 2006 the Vieira de Mello family and a group of close friends have dedicated their lives to continue his unfinished mission by supporting initiatives to promote dialogue for peaceful reconciliation of communities divided by conflict through an annual Sergio Vieira Mello Award, an Annual Sergio Vieira Mello Memorial Lecture, a Sergio Vieira de Mello Fellowship and advocating for the security and independence of humanitarians worldwide.

People helping people, Sergio Vieira de Mello would be proud.

On this day, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon offers this message:

“There is never a year without humanitarian crises.  And wherever there are people in need, there are people who help them – men and women coming together to ease suffering and bring hope.  From Japan to Sudan, from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa, aid workers help people who have lost their homes, loved ones and sources of income.  These humanitarians often brave great danger, far from home.  They work long hours, in the most difficult conditions.  Their efforts save lives in conflict and natural disaster.  They also draw the world closer together by reminding us that we are one family, sharing the same dreams for a peaceful planet, where all people can live in safety, and with dignity.

On World Humanitarian Day, we honour these aid workers and thank them for their dedication.  And we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – in Afghanistan, Haiti and beyond.  Too many have died, or suffered their own loss, in the course of duty.  We pledge to do all we can to ensure the world’s humanitarians are kept safe to do their essential work.   This is also a day to examine our own lives and consider what more we can do to help -- to reach out to people enduring conflict, disaster and hardship.  Let those we honour today inspire us to start our own journey to make the world a better place and bring our human family more closely together.”

--HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Aug172011

Celebrations Turn to Cautious Optimism in South Sudan (REPORT)

A welcome carpet at independence celebrations in Juba. CREDIT: Simon Ingram(HN, August 17, 2011) - As the smiles and celebrations fade from the tumultuous entry of South Sudan as Africa's newest state, concerns are rising about security issues and developmental issues.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July, following a referendum in January when the overwhelming majority of southerners elected to become independent, six years after a landmark peace agreement ended decades of war between the north and the south.

But tensions with the North over border areas and resources, a chronic health crisis and the knock-on impact of the global economic crisis are all conspiring to make for a difficult birth of the nation.

South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and almost half of the children in the country are malnourished.

Just today, South Sudan President Salva Kiir sacked his central bank governor and chief justice, about a month after the country launched a new currency. The currency has suffered a serious slide against the US dollar in recent weeks.

According to the UN, nearly 330,000 have returned to South Sudan since the end of October last year from Sudan, arriving by bus, train or river barge.

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai wrote in South Africa's Mail & Guardian that the new government and international community must not abandon South Sudan as it takes its first steps as an independent nation.

Wrote Maathai: "A priority for the government and the international community must be, as promised, to serve the interests of a population devastated by decades of civil war. And as the slow and painful process of development begins, leaders must also help to navigate the new-found role of statehood. It is a role that will come under increasing strain as the threat of a new war escalates along the still-contested border with the north."

South Sudan President Salva Kiir delivers a speech at independence celebrations. CREDIT: Simon IngramThe UN says it is doing what it can to assist returnees. Since the end of July, some 7,200 returnees have received 15-day food rations, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update. Shortages of non-food items, such as mosquito nets, have eased with the arrival of additional supplies, it added.

Aid agencies are rehabilitating latrines and supporting vaccination for some 3,000 new returnees who have arrives at the Juba river port on transit to Eastern and Western Equatoria states. Food, water and health services are also being supplied in Juba before those returning continue their journey to their areas of origin.

Reports of interference with relief efforts continue to be received in Warrab state, the UN says. Soldiers have forced UN and NGO vehicles to stop, often at gunpoint, and give lifts to armed and uniformed men on at least five occasions over the past week.

Writes Maathai: "We should share in the new hopes and dreams of the population of South Sudan as the people revel in the freedom to guide their own path. But as images of celebratory smiles and tears of joy fade from the television screens, let us not forget about the brewing crisis that threatens this hard-won independence.

"It is up to South Sudan's leaders and other heads of state in the region to ensure that these hopes and dreams do not fall into despair and further bloodshed."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN

Saturday
Jul092011

South Sudan: New Countries, Old Problems (PERSPECTIVE)

Even before today's independence celebrations, the GOSS had established offices in key African capitals, such as Addis Ababa. CREDIT: HUMNEWS

By Louise Arbour

South Sudan’s independence on Saturday will in some sense mark the welcome end of one of the most devastating conflicts of recent times. When decades of hostilities between North and South concluded with the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, several million people had already died as a result of the civil war, and millions more had lost their homes. As a culmination of that peace deal, independence would seem to be the last chapter of the story.

It is, however, anything but.

Saturday’s formal separation may have been an inevitable and even necessary step, but these two states will be tied together for many years to come. Trying to work through outstanding disagreements, many of them already violent, will require difficult negotiations, political savvy, and carefully considered international engagement to ensure both North and South develop into peaceful and stable states.

At this point, the signs do not look particularly good. Both sides have violated the 2005 agreement, and escalating tensions have sparked conflict in critical border areas. In May, Khartoum’s forces launched an attack on the contested town of Abyei.

Even more worrisome, there is wide-scale fighting between Northern and Southern forces in the border state of Southern Kordofan. Reportedly some 360,000 people have been displaced over the past six months, more than half in the last month.

The North, in particular the ruling National Congress Party (N.C.P.), is moving boldly both to assert control over Northern territory and to improve its negotiating position vis-à-vis the South on the post-independence arrangements. Of these, probably the most important to the North concerns oil revenue sharing, since Khartoum will lose a majority share of its primary income source, the petroleum being found predominantly in the South.

In any case, revenue sharing, border demarcation, the status of southern military units from northern regions, as well as future arrangements on citizenship and natural resource management will likely remain points of contention for years to come, and could trigger large-scale violence.

While both North and South will have to work closely together on these issues to avoid renewed war, each also faces extremely difficult internal challenges. In Khartoum, the ruling party’s rank and file are increasingly discontent. Despite austerity measures, the government is confronting a serious budget deficit and spiraling inflation, and it is not able to pay all salaries. The N.C.P.’s security-dominated policies are alienating huge swaths of Sudanese.

Northern opposition parties and rebel groups (from Darfur and elsewhere) are trying to position themselves for post-July, but they are weakened by the decision of some of them to enter into unilateral negotiations with the N.C.P. Unless the opposition forces present a much more unified front, it is quite likely that the N.C.P. will continue to stymie attempts to bring about badly needed government reforms.

Southern leaders meanwhile have to switch gears from the solidarity of the liberation struggle to the more mundane, though more divisive, tasks of running a democratic country. The signs are not encouraging. The new draft transitional constitution includes several red flags, including an amendment giving the president power to dismiss democratically elected governors as he pleases.

The leading party in the South, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (S.P.L.M.), has to open up political space — both inside and outside the party — to lay the foundations for a more inclusive multiparty landscape.

The international community also has an important role. Realizing that localized conflict in the new border zone will likely continue or even escalate if left to fester, it has to carry on acting as an impartial mediator, fact-checker and arbitrator, all the while dealing with President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

To deal with Southern Kordofan, external actors need to get leaders back to the negotiating table with sufficient political will to contain the violence, including a cease-fire and new security arrangements for the transitional states. The initiative undertaken by the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan, led by Thabo Mbeki, is a good first step. It helped lead to an agreement on Abyei, which is a welcome deescalation, but the international community can only preserve the status quo — both Khartoum and Juba need to make the hard decisions and compromises necessary for peaceful coexistence.

Southern independence will also mean that the international community must recalibrate its relationship with the S.P.L.M. and avoid the tendency to overlook its abuses and constrictions of political space.

If there is a single message for all parties it is surely “inclusion.” The leaders of North and South need to understand the broad spectrum of peoples and interests in their new polities and work hard to bring them in under their respective new roofs. And the international community must sustain its involvement and support to ensure that both North and South develop into peaceful and viable states.

Louise Arbour is president of the International Crisis Group.

Also read our article about how Ethiopia and other neighbouring states are eyeing tempting business opportunities in South Sudan

Friday
Jul012011

Ethiopia Eyes Tempting Business Opportunities in South Sudan (REPORT)

A sign in the central business district of Addis Abba directs people to the South Sudan office. CREDIT: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSFrom a HUM Correspondent in Addis Ababa 

Even before the January 2011 referendum confirming the birth of Africa's newest nation, business people in the region were already salivating at the tantalizing opportunities to bring South Sudan into the 20th century - and the global economy.

 

Outside the oil sector, there is little infrastructure in Southern Sudan. There is already some foreign investment in the beverage sector and Ethiopia has two banks active there.

The sense of excitement is palpable in Addis Ababa's five-star hotels. Earlier this week, representatives from South Sudan could be seen meeting with local businessmen in the bustling Sheraton Hotel.

One European businessman in Addis Ababa said that opportunities are especially ripe in the banking and telecommunications sectors. "Basically they need everything," he said in the lobby of a hotel in Ethiopia's capital.

Ethiopia's large water and construction firms also stand to benefit. "We are ready to execute as many projects as offered," says Awash Welday, chief of Ethiopia's Awash Welday Water Works and General Contractor.

Aside from Ethiopia, Kenyan and South African firms are also eyeing developments closely. Kenya Commercial Bank is reported to have plans to double the number of branches in Southern Sudan. Kenya East African Breweries also has a presence, as does SABMiller plc of the United Kingdom.

South Sudan is due to officially become an independent state on July 9, making it the world's newest country.

The new opportunities are important for Ethiopia as its strives to become a major economy on the horn of Africa. The country of 80 million people became landlocked after its former northern region, Eritreria, declared its independence in 1993.

On the diplomatic front, Ethiopia is already deeply entrenched in South Sudan: it is sending a 4,200-strong peace-keeping force on behalf of the UN to the disputed Abyei region, which sits astride the two halves of Sudan.

A new Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 at Addis Ababa International Airport. The flag carrier already serves two destinations in Southern Sudan. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSGiven Ethiopia's strategic location next to Sudan - coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit of its domestic and returnee Diaspora workforce - the country stands to benefit enormously from business opportunities in South Sudan. Emblematic of its importance is the existence of a Government of South Sudan liaison office situated in the Central Business District.

Among the flagship businesses in Ethiopia aggressively moving ahead to establish a presence in South Sudan is flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which already flies to the capital Juba, and as of June 17, to the Upper Nile region town of Malakal.

Ethiopia, the size of France and Spain combined, has undergone a major transformation in the last decade. It is the fifth-biggest economy in Africa - after South Africa, Nigeria, Angola and Sudan - climbing up from 10th in 2003. By 2023, its GDP purchasing power will hit about $500 billion - making it the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Ernst and Young. Agriculture contributes 45 percent of the GDP and more than three years ago a modern commodities exchange was opened to revolutionize trading.

Friday
May272011

Thousands Fleeing Conflict in Sudan's Disputed Abyei Region (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN May 27, 2011) - Thousands of people are fleeing the conflict in the disputed Abyei region between north and south Sudan, prompting aid agencies to rush support to neighbouring areas and triggering a harsh condemnation by the UN's human rights chief.

As the security situation in the area continues to be volatile, the UN and other agencies are providing trucks, essential non-food relief items, fuel and medicines to support humanitarian operations. However continued violence has forced some mission back.

Northern troops, aircraft and tanks overran the border town of Abyei on Saturday, sending 40,000 residents fleeing and drawing condemnation from the international community, saying the action is a threat to peace between north and south.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today called on both sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and respect international human rights and humanitarian law. “I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sides – this is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan,” she said.

“I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir bridge. I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.”

Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at a press briefing today in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS that it was also possible – but not confirmed – that UN offices and stocks in Abyei have been looted. 

Reports suggest that tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have poured into Southern Sudan's Warrap, Unity and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many are in need of food and water and, with the recent heavy rains, may be vulnerable to water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections. 

IOM says it has registered four truck loads of IDPs who arrived in Turalei in Warrap State on May 25th.  A further 1,000 IDPs arrived yesterday, May 26th , in Wunrok, south of Turalei. 

IOM, which has registered some 6,500 IDPs in the past two days, has also provided transport for 138 IDPs who were walking towards Gogrial West, south west of Wunrok.

IOM is also distributing 1,000 kits containing non-food relief items, including plastic sheeting, jerry cans, mosquito nets, soap, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking utensils in Mayen Abun, and Turalei in Warrap State. It is also helping to construct emergency latrines.

Tracking and assessing the displaced population has been difficult because many people are still on the move or are hiding in the bush.  The continued heavy rainfall has made some roads impassable and this has impeded access to areas where IDPs may be sheltering.

Also in the works for longer term assistance, which will include providing trucks to humanitarian organisations, coordinating the distribution of non-food relief items, procuring equipment to treat and distribute clean water, and organising the return of IDPs back to Abyei, once the crisis is over.  

- HUMNEWS staff, UN

Tuesday
May102011

Sudan: Abyei at a Dangerous Tipping Point (ANALYSIS)

Abyei, May 2011 - photo courtesy ICG - by The International Crisis Group (Nairobi/Brussels)

(May 10, 2011) -- Abyei is on the brink of dangerous new conflict that risks escalation of violent confrontation between security forces and other armed proxies from North and South Sudan on the eve of Southern independence.

Fighting in recent days follows months of recurring incidents in the hotly contested border territory, underscoring dangerous tensions both on the ground and between leaders of the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Khartoum and Juba, respectively.

North and South have deployed forces in and around Abyei in breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and subsequent security arrangements, as both seek to control the territory come Southern independence on 9 July.

While previous clashes have involved civilians, informal militias, and/or police, last week’s involved members of security forces on both sides. Further escalation and additional tit-for-tat deployments risk pushing Abyei beyond the tipping point, endangering lives and the fragile peace in Sudan.

Fighting broke out at a security checkpoint near Todach in the Abyei area on 1 May, after Sudan Armed Forces elements of the Joint Integrated Units (JIU, a largely failed CPA mechanism comprising troops drawn from the Northern and Southern armies) allegedly delivering an authorised weapons shipment were stopped by Southern police forces; fighting erupted leaving some 14 dead. In addition to the immediate threat posed to civilians in and around Abyei, at risk are recent gains of the CPA and the peaceful secession of the South.

Both North and South have unilaterally asserted claims over Abyei in recent weeks, either in public rhetoric or in draft constitutions; Khartoum has even threatened to withhold recognition of Southern independence, underscoring the stakes and the importance of a mutually agreed solution. Further deterioration also threatens ongoing negotiations toward a constructive post-2011 relationship and risks escalation of proxy conflicts in other parts of both North and South Sudan.

The dispute over Abyei -- a territory geographically, ethnically and politically caught between North and South -- is one of the most intractable in Sudan. The area is settled primarily by Ngok Dinka communities and has been used for hundreds of years by Misseriya pastoralists who migrate to and beyond the territory to graze huge cattle herds during the dry season. Clashes early in the year and unresolved tensions have again prevented the Misseriya migration south, and apparently large numbers of cattle may die for lack of grass and water.

The CPA granted Abyei its own referendum (a choice to join the new South or remain a special administrative territory within the North), but this did not take place in part because of heated disputes over who was eligible to vote. Ngok Dinka constituents are overwhelmingly in favour of joining the South, while Misseriya communities fear annexation could prevent migration and thus threaten their way of life.

But the Abyei dispute has also assumed broader political dimensions, and been used as a bargaining chip between North and South. Despite common perceptions, the dispute is not primarily about oil, as the fields currently in Abyei only constitute a very small percentage of Sudan’s total production.

The African Union and the U.S. have made numerous attempts to broker a solution, but none have borne fruit. The parties -- through President Omar al-Bashir in the North and President Salva Kiir in the South -- have agreed that the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), which is tasked to facilitate negotiations on outstanding post-referendum and CPA issues, will table a new proposal toward a political solution in late May.

In the meantime, forward progress on other post-referendum issues (oil, currency, debt, and citizenship) could alter the North-South equation and ideally present a better opportunity for a mutually agreeable solution on Abyei.

Meanwhile, tensions between the NCP and SPLM have spiked in neighbouring Southern Kordofan state where elections have just been held. The results have not yet been announced, but will impact North-South relations as well as the potential re-establishment of a Misseriya-dominated Western Kordofan state (in their traditional homeland), and thus further alter the political calculus in Abyei.

Ngok Dinka and Misseriya leaders, and their allies in Juba and Khartoum respectively, are engaged in aggressive posturing in an attempt to influence the political negotiations over the future status of Abyei. Both sides have legitimate concerns and grievances, but their tactics carry enormous risks for the people of Abyei and for peaceful relations between North and South more broadly.

Some believe only international intervention will solve the crisis, but perpetuating a destabilised situation to that end is both highly dangerous and uncertain to deliver results. The risks of miscalculation and crisis escalation are extremely high. No international intervention can substitute for a political agreement between the parties  that must also have buy-in on the ground.

Security has grown ever more precarious for the people of the region. Agreements negotiated under UN auspices  -- 13 and 17 January 2011 and 4 March 2011 -- to stem increasing violence resolved that security would be provided only by newly deployed Joint Integrated Units and Joint Integrated Police Units (created under the May 2008 Abyei roadmap).

However, poor performance, prior involvement of JIU troops in large-scale clashes in 2008 and some seemingly unauthorised relocation have fuelled mistrust. Furthermore, the number of new JIU battalions currently deployed is not enough to secure the entire area; some units, fearing attacks, have reportedly even left the area.

In addition to mobilising and arming civilians, reports indicate that both the SPLA and SAF have deployed additional battalions and heavy weapons to, or near, the area. Further mobilisation or additional deployments inside Abyei would increase the chances for conflict exponentially. The security situation is made all the more precarious by the presence of heavily armed Southern police units, Popular Defence Forces, Misseriya militias and other independent, often criminal, militias. Many of these forces are only loosely controlled, if at all.

The danger of new conflict is real. Failure to halt the downward trend toward violence in Abyei could unravel the tenuous peace that has been strong enough to get through the Southern Sudan referendum, but it could also intensify proxy war in other parts of Sudan, which will continue to feed the adversarial North-South relationship that both sides have so well accommodated over the course of the CPA period. 

The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.  Recommendations by ICG on the above topic can be found here. Originally published by ICG on May 8, 2011.