Central African Republic: The violence has ended but the emergency continues
PARIS, France, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Serge St-Louis has returned from nine months as MSF's head of mission in the Central African Republic (CAR). He was in the field in late 2012, when Seleka, a new coalition of Central African rebel groups, took control of several towns before finally entering Bangui, the capital, in late March. He updates us on the post-conflict situation, including the issues and outlook for the country, its health care system and MSF.
“At the height of the crisis, confrontations, shootings and abuses occurred daily. Today, tension and violence have subsided and we are now in a particularly delicate phase - a sort of false calm that is both fragile and potentially explosive. Seleka's two main groups will have to begin negotiations to establish an imminent power-sharing arrangement. There could be friction and clashes within this young coalition.
The CAR context has also become more complex. Seleka undertook a massive recruitment campaign four or five months ago, bringing in foreigners, mercenaries and, unfortunately, child soldiers. On March 24, approximately 3,000 men entered Bangui and recruitment continues. There are two sets of leadership – the official Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and the de facto Seleka. Many outside actors have also been involved in this conflict, with Chad, Sudan, Libya and others supplying men, weapons and uniforms.
As a medical organization, we are very concerned about the unmet needs among a population that was already very vulnerable prior to the Seleka offensive. There are thousands of displaced persons who now live in extremely precarious conditions, without medical care, shelter, food or water. The health situation is critical in several regions. There are serious shortages of drugs and supplies and there are no health care personnel in the medical facilities. Based on our latest admission figures, the seasonal epidemic of malaria, which is endemic in the CAR, appears to have begun and will surge in the rainy season. Medicine will arrive, but it will be a challenge to distribute it on flooded, impassable roads and in areas lacking security and health care workers. Food stores have also been looted, the fields cannot be maintained and, although it is too soon to tell, nutritional status could deteriorate.
MSF is working throughout the CAR, regardless of which party to the conflict is controlling the particular region. In Carnot, in the southwest area of the country, for example, the situation remains calm for now. The Seleka does not know this area very well. It has no support or economic interests there, given that the diamond mines are not currently operating. However, several men were recruited locally to maintain a minimal presence in this “gray” area, where we must also take account of other actors, including members of the former presidential guard who are now unemployed, poachers, highway bandits taking advantage of the chaos and armed groups from neighboring Cameroon. When economic activity resumes, the risk of theft and looting – including of international NGOs – will increase. It may now be possible to launch the MSF measles vaccination campaign scheduled prior to the conflict, to begin in Carnot, but only in the city. Given the lack of security in surrounding areas, it will be more complicated to work in the outskirts. We have also decided to transfer part of our activities in Paoua to various partners. However, while we may be able arrange this transfer working with local and, possibly, regional authorities, it will be more complicated at the national level. Last, on May 1, our teams treated 850 patients at the Bangui community hospital, most of whom had bullet wounds. We have been supporting the emergency and surgery departments there since late March. We expect to withdraw in the next few weeks. We will draw up an organizational and action plan so that we will be able to resume our activities immediately in the event of new spikes of violence and based on needs.
The NGOs – including MSF, which has become a leading health actor in the country – will have a critical role because the emergency continues. We must assess the risks and determine how we can best meet the needs”.
Life expectancy in the CAR is 48 years, among the lowest in the world. At a time when the population is in great need of help – particularly medical assistance – the latest looting and destruction of health care facilities will create additional obstacles to obtaining care for people who have already suffered greatly. MSF is particularly concerned about patients who have had to stop their HIV/AIDs and/or tuberculosis treatment.
MSF has been working in the CAR since 1996. The teams are leading seven projects in five of the country's seven health districts. MSF supports seven hospitals and approximately 38 health centers. In 2012, MSF provided 600,000 medical consultations and treated more than 260,000 cases of malaria. More than 1,600 people receive antiretroviral treatment.
MSF hospital in South Sudan targeted and purposefully damaged to render it inoperative
LONDON, United-Kingdom, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the destruction at its hospital in Pibor town, South Sudan, purposefully conducted to render the hospital inoperative. This leaves around 100,000 people, who had fled into the bush seeking safety from the conflict between the SPLA (South Sudan Army) and the David YauYau armed militia group, deprived of healthcare.
Therapeutic medical food and hospital beds were looted from MSF's hospital over the weekend of 11 and 12 May. But more extraordinary is the systematic and purposeful damage to the infrastructure that renders the hospital unusable until major repair work has been conducted. “A special effort was made to destroy drug supplies, strewing them on the ground, to cut and slash the warehouse tents, to ransack the hospital wards, and even to cut electricity cables and rip them from the walls,” says Richard Veerman, MSF Coordinator of Operations for South Sudan.
The MSF hospital is the only hospital facility for Pibor county, the nearest alternative being more than 150km away. 3,000 patients have been treated over the first three months of the year in this hospital. More than 100 patients, including SPLA soldiers, received surgery for war wounds.
“The rainy season has just started and we know from previous years that malaria and respiratory diseases such as pneumonia will start to claim lives if there is no healthcare available,” says Veerman. In a report issued in November last year, ‘South Sudan's Hidden Crisis', MSF documented the devastating health consequences when people have to flee to the bush and when medical assistance is unavailable.
Humanitarian access and medical assistance need to be resumed in Pibor county in the coming days or weeks. “It is unthinkable that there will be no healthcare whatsoever for the next six months for some 100,000 frightened and vulnerable people hiding in the swamps ,” continues Veerman. “But unless we can return to resume medical activities and have the freedom to move to wherever people need assistance, this unthinkable scenario may become the horrific reality.”
This is the sixth time an MSF medical facility has been looted or damaged in Jonglei State in the past two years. More recently, MSF had suspended activities in Pibor on 19 April this year because of threats and intimidation of staff and patients. Having sought assurances that medical humanitarian activities and staff would be respected and could be pursued without hindrance or obstacles, an MSF team was preparing to return and restart medical activities when the looting and destruction occurred.
MSF urges the Government of South Sudan to meet its responsibilities to ensure full respect of medical humanitarian facilities and activities. MSF also calls urgently for assurances from all parties in the Jonglei State conflict that its medical teams will have unhindered freedom to return to Pibor and impartially reach out to any people on either side of the conflict in need of medical assistance.
Youth Forum to address Africa's transformational agenda as AU marks golden jubilee
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The month of May will be marked by celebrations to mark 50 years since the establishment of the Organization for African Unity, now the African Union, around the theme: “Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.” To mark the Golden Jubilee, the African Union Commission's Youth Division and its partner the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) will be organizing a Youth forum in Addis Ababa from 22- 25th May 2013.
The main objective of the symposium will be to seize the opportunity of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary celebrations and provide a platform for dialogue on the morning of 24th May between selected African Heads of States and young people on major policy initiatives. According to the organizers, this is of particular significance in view of Africa Youth decade 2009-2018. The forum will bring young people at the heart of social and political discourse to enable them to make contributions to current policy debates. More importantly, it is intended to promote a youth focused policy priority and support the vision of youth development among the urgent actions by African heads of states.
The organization of the golden jubilee is underpinned by the consciousness and principles of Pan-Africanism championed by Africa's founders, which pointed towards the realization of a democratic, prosperous and politically stable continent. It especially recognized political freedom, particularly sovereignty and liberation, as being central to its socio-economic transformation.
According to the organizers, the continent has come a long way from the struggle for political independence to the post-colonial struggles for economic progress, “yet Pan-Africanism remains as relevant to Africa's development project today as it did fifty years ago.”
Furthermore, a defining feature of Africa's independence movements and unification was the commitment and struggle by youth led movements.
“Today, history offers this generation once again, a greater chance to reflect on the past 50 years and mobilize themselves to determine a renewed consciousness for the upcoming fifty years in fulfilling a democratic and prosperous continent by creating organic strategies for deepening sustainable development and resilient economies,” point out the two institutions.
Through this an opportunity has arisen, for young people to step forward to build on recent experiences and chart the way forward for Africa. As the new generation enamored with the idea and ideals of Pan-Africanism, young people can play a substantial role and serve as dynamic agents of structural transformation for the continent's development
The forum will bring to the fore, the key questions of how Africa's most powerful resource, its youth, can contribute to its socioeconomic transformation.
IOM Supports Migration and Development Policy Process in Namibia
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM Namibia, in cooperation with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, has organized a workshop on migration and development in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
The May 15th-17th event, financed by the IOM Development Fund, was attended by representatives from various government ministries.
Namibia is faced with various migration challenges, including irregular migration, human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants. The country has one of the highest percentages of international migrants in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is also experiencing an increase in internal migration.
The development potential of migration remains largely untapped. But many see it as a potential contributor to development priorities including economic growth, reduced unemployment and increased income equality.
Workshop participants discussed these issues and drew up a set of concrete recommendations and a road map that will feed into the migration and development policy debate.
Opening the workshop, Namibian Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Pendukeni IIvula-Ithana noted that migration can be used effectively as a tool of development and that there is a need for new policies that recognize this potential.
"This workshop is a stepping stone towards a comprehensive migration policy for Namibia which would allow the country to maximize the development benefits of migration, while minimizing its challenges," said IOM Head of Office, Ms Elham Pourazar.
Psychosocial Course Aims to Heal Scars Caused by Libyan Conflict
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM, in partnership with Tripoli University, has completed a six-month course for 31 Libyan health, educational and social experts on how to cope with psychological reactions in the aftermath of 2011 Libyan conflict.
The "Psychosocial Responses in War-Torn Societies" programme was designed to increase knowledge and awareness of psychosocial approaches in addressing psychological and social impacts of collective violence.
It aimed to equip a group of professionals with relevant concepts, theories and practical skills in working with individuals and groups affected by the Libyan conflict.
The course was one of the main components of IOM's Psychosocial Assistance Programme for Crisis-Affected Families in Libya, launched in early 2012 and funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The armed conflict in Libya affected thousands of Libyan civilians, largely destroying the country's once strong social fabric. Children were particularly affected by the violence that they witnessed. Some young people were forced to take part in the acts of violence, while others were deliberately targeted.
Parents interviewed by the project said that their children lived in fear of random violence. Psychological tension often manifested itself in physical symptoms such as bed wetting, withdrawal and cruelty to animals.
"Finding collective elements of community empowerment is the essence of social healing, and this is the main principle of psychosocial assistance," says IOM Libya Psychosocial Programme Manager Marcio Gagliato.
The programme was started in September 2012 and offered to participants from Tripoli, Benghazi, Misratah, Al Beida and Sabha. Most were professionals with training as social workers, psychologists, artists and political figures.
IOM has been asked by the Libyan government to continue to provide expertise and capacity building in psychosocial assistance for social and health professionals in Libya. Tripoli University is now planning to create a psychosocial research unit as a consequence of the collaboration.
Spindelegger: “Nigeria needs dialogue between the religions” / Vice-Chancellor concerned about escalation of violence in Nigeria
VIENNA, Austria, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed his concern about the escalation of violence in Nigeria over the past few days and weeks that has caused more than 2000 fatalities. Nigeria has declared a state of emergency because of extremist acts of violence committed in three federal states in the north of the country. The most recent case of extremist violence that has become known is the murder of Reverend Faye Pama Musa, a high-ranking representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The Vice-Chancellor expressed his sympathy for the victim's family.
Spindelegger made reference to his visit to Nigeria last year where he also met the most high-ranking representatives of the Christian and Muslim communities. The Vice-Chancellor mentioned the high degree of readiness of the two parties to enter into dialogue. “I was impressed by the resolve with which the large majority of both Christians and Muslims want to embark on the path towards reconciliation and dialogue. The people in Nigeria wish for peace and reconciliation”, Spindelegger said.
The Austrian Vice-Chancellor also recalled the opening of the International Centre for Interreligious Dialogue in Vienna last November which was attended by the most high-ranking representatives of the Christian and Muslim communities of Nigeria. “Vienna with its long-standing tradition of dialogue lends itself as the ideal place for encounters between the religious communities of Nigeria“, Spindelegger concluded.
Press statement of the 376th PSC meeting on the situation in Mali
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 376thmeeting held on 16May 2013, was briefed by the Commissioner for Peace and Security on the latest developments in the situation in Mali. Council further took note of the statements made by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, the representatives of Mali, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), as well as by the representatives of France, United Kingdom and the United States, in their capacity as permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Council conveyed its sincere condolences to the Government and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following the crash of a military jet which caused the death of two pilots ofthe Nigerian military personnel of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), as well as to the Government and people of the Republic of Niger, following the death, on 11 May 2013, of General Yaya Garba, Deputy Force Commander of the AFISMA Force. Council reiterated its gratitude to all the troop and police contributing countries to AFISMA for their commitment and sacrifices for peace, security and stability in Mali.
Council welcomed the progress that continues to be made in the security and stability areas in the north of Mali, and encouraged the Malian authorities to continue, with the support of the international community, their efforts aimed at establishing the conditions conducive to the return to normalcy, as well as the repatriation and reintegration of the refugees and the internally displaced persons. Council further stressed the urgent need to pursue and intensify humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.
Council reaffirmed its demand for the unconditional disarmament of all the non-state entities in Mali, particularly the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and the unequivocal affirmation by this group of its acceptance to respect the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, as a prerequisite for its participation in the political process. In this regard, Council welcomed the ongoing initiatives under the leadership of the High Representative of the AU for Mali and the Sahel and Head of the AFISMA, former President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, in order to find, in consultation with the Mediator of ECOWAS, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and in cooperation with the UN, the EU and other partners, a peaceful solution to the issue of the effective restoration of administration and the Malian Defence and Security Forces in Kidal.
Council took note of the progress made in the implementation by the Malian authorities of the Roadmap of the Transition. In this regard, Council welcomed the regular consultations between the Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission (CDR) and the Head of AFISMA. Council reiterated its request to the Commission, in cooperation with ECOWAS, to help mobilize technical and financial support for the smooth functioning of the CDR.
Council stressed the importance of organizing free, fair andcredible elections throughout the Malian territory, in order to complete the process of restoring constitutional order and legitimacy in the country. In this regard, Council noted the strong will of the Malian authorities to organize elections in July 2013 and urged the Commission, the Member States and international partners to provide the necessary support to the electoral process in Mali.
Council welcomed the outcomes of the, Donors' Conference held on 15 May 2013, in Brussels, at the initiative and the co-chairmanship of the EU, Mali and France, to support the post-conflict reconstruction and development in Mali. Council urged all the stakeholders concerned to speedily translate into deeds the important commitments made. Council encouraged the Commission to design a support programme for Mali within the framework of the African Solidarity Initiative (ASI).
Council took note of resolution 2100 (2013) of the UN Security Council authorizing the transformation of AFISMA into a UN operation, and reiterated the parameters defined in the communiqués of its 358thand 371stmeetings held respectively on 7 March and 25 April 2013. Council took note of the measures taken by the Commission, in cooperation with the ECOWAS Commission and in relation with the UN Secretariat, with a view to ensuring a harmonious transition from AFISMA to a UN Integrated Mission for Stabilization in Mali(MINUSMA), including the meeting which the three organizations held in Addis Ababa, on 8 and 9 May 2013. Council stressed the need for the AU and ECOWAS to cooperate closely in order to ensure a harmonious presence in Mali, with the aim of pursuing, with greater effectiveness and in cooperation with the UN and other international partners, their collective action for a lasting solution to the multidimensional crisis faced by Mali.Council requested the Commission to continue to ensure the smooth running of the deliberations of the frameworks of coordination and consultation which the AU has established within this framework.
Communique of the 376th meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) on the situation in Madagascar
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 376th meeting held in Addis Ababa, on 16 May 2013, adopted the following decision on the situation in Madagascar:
1. Takes note of the briefing made by the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security. Council further takes note of the statements made by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, as well as by the representatives of Mozambique, as the Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Rwanda, the United Nations (UN), France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU);
2. Recalls its previous communiqués and press statements on the situation in Madagascar, particularly the communiqué adopted at its 368th meeting, held at ministerial level, in Dar-es-Salaam, on 22 April 2013;
3. Expresses its deep concern on the decision of the Special Electoral Court (CES) of Madagascar to validate the illegitimate candidatures of Lalao Ravalomanana, former President Didier Ratsiraka and Andry Rajoelina, President of the Transition, to the forthcoming presidential elections in Madagascar. Council believes that this decision violates the national law of Madagascar applicable to this matter. In this regard, Council regrets that Andry Rajoelina breached his solemn commitment not to stand for the presidential elections after a similar commitment made by the former President Marc Ravolomanana. Council also regrets the decision of the CES of Madagascar of 3 May 2013;
4. Recalls paragraph 6 (i) of the decision Assembly/AU/Dec.269(XIV) Rev.1 adopted by the 14thordinary session of the Assembly of the Union, held in Addis Ababa, from 31 January to 2 February 2010, which states particularly that the perpetrators of an unconstitutional change of Government cannot participate in elections organized to restore constitutional order, as well as the provisions of article 25 (4) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which stipulates that the perpetrators of an unconstitutional change of Government cannot participate in the elections organized to restore the democratic order nor occupy post of responsibility in the political institutions of their State. Council also recalls its previous appeals to all the Malagasy parties to demonstrate a sense of responsibility and place the interest of their country and the people above partisan considerations and personal ambitions, as well as its determination expressed particularly in its communiqué PSC/MIN/COMM.(CCCLXVIII), to reject any initiative aimed at undermining the Roadmap to end the crisis in Madagascar, signed on 17 September 2011 and take all the necessary measures against all those who tried to impede the ongoing efforts;
5. Welcomes the communiqué on the situation in Madagascar, adopted by the Summit of the Troïka of the SADC Organ of Heads of State and Government, held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 10 May 2013. Council stresses that the AU will not recognize the Malagasy authorities which would be elected in violation of the relevant AU and SADC decisions;
6. Requests all the Malagasy parties concerned to comply scrupulously with the present decision, particularly with its paragraphs 4 and 5 and to take the appropriate measures for the continuation of the process to end the crisis, in conformity with the Roadmap;
7. Expresses once again its appreciation to Former President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, SADC Mediator for Madagascar, for his commitment and tireless efforts towards a solution to the crisis in that country, and encourages him to pursue and intensify his efforts;
8. Appeals to all the partners of the AU to give full support to the decision of SADC mentioned in paragraph 5 above and to this decision;
9. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.
Children treated after attack in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
LONDON, United-Kingdom, May 17, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is treating survivors of an attack on Mpeti in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The village, which is home to around one thousand people, was attacked by men armed with bayonets, machetes and wooden clubs on Tuesday morning.
Among the three wounded being treated at Mweso hospital some 40 km away are two young children, one of whom was orphaned in the attack. The mother and 18 month old baby brother of the other child were also killed.
Surgeon Martin Jarmin said, “We've received two young children with multiple stab injuries in the chest, back and head, and one adult male with multiple stab injuries in the back and neck. Currently all patients are stable and we hope they will make a good recovery."
MSF carries out mobile clinics in Mpeti that treat around 300 patients every week, mostly for diseases such as malaria. Since the beginning of the year, fighting and insecurity in the area has at times prevented the team from accessing patients in need. Fighting between armed militias in control of different parts of the area had led to regular displacement of the population in previous months. The village is fully deserted at the moment.
Survivors of the attack told MSF that the violence was directly aimed at civilians and that indiscriminate killing resulted in many deaths. Corpses were apparently thrown in the river.
“This was a deplorable and brutal attack in which young children were targeted and their parents killed,” said Hugues Robert, MSF's head of mission in Goma. “MSF condemns in the strongest terms attacks of this kind against civilians.”
“I suspect that many more died in Mpeti during this attack, either directly from their injuries or because they were unable to get immediate medical attention in the hours that followed. I fear that the patients we have been able to treat are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Canada and Tanzania Sign Investment Treaty
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, May 16, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Bernard Membe, Tanzania's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, today issued the following statement upon signing the Canada-Tanzania Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA):
“The agreement signed today will strengthen economic ties between our two countries and help our companies invest with greater confidence in our respective markets. Facilitating two-way investment helps generate jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians and Tanzanians.
“A FIPA is a treaty designed to protect and promote investment abroad through legally binding provisions, as well as to promote inward foreign investment. By ensuring greater protection against discriminatory and arbitrary practices, and by enhancing the market predictability, a FIPA provides businesses with greater investment confidence.
“We are committed to creating the right conditions for businesses to compete and succeed internationally, which in turn will contribute to jobs and economic growth in both Canada and Tanzania.
“Now that the agreement has been signed, both countries will proceed with their ratification processes. The agreement will come into force once each country's domestic approval process is complete.”