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African Press Organisation

U.S. Welcomes Joint AMISOM-Somali National Army Efforts Against al-Shabaab

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Press Statement

Jen Psaki

Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

March 12, 2014

The AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops working jointly with the Somali National Army have liberated several towns from al-Shabaab in Western Somalia. These efforts will help spread security and stability to all the Somali people, and accelerate the return of government institutions and services. Our focus will not wane on meeting Somalia's continued humanitarian needs as the offensive continues.

The United States supports AMISOM and the Somali people's efforts to defeat al-Shabaab and bring greater peace to their country. We continue to support AMISOM and the Somali National Security Services through the provision of equipment, logistics, and training support. The United States has obligated over $512 million since 2007 to support AMISOM, and over $171 million to build a more effective and professional Somali National Army.

Central African Republic: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement condemns the killing of yet another Red Cross worker

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement condemns the killing of Patrick Matede, a 36-year-old volunteer with the Central African Red Cross Society who was gunned down in Bangui on Sunday 9 March.

A first aid worker for the past five years, Patrick was one of the first to start helping people when violence erupted in the capital in early December.

On 8 March, just one day earlier, an employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed during an armed attack at a site where ICRC workers were staying in the northern town of Ndele.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which in the Central African Republic comprises the Central African Red Cross Society, the French Red Cross Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, is appalled by the killings and by the prevailing lack of respect for international humanitarian law.

We urgently call on those involved in the fighting to refrain from harming volunteers from the Central African Red Cross Society and other personnel affiliated with the Movement, and to allow them to carry out their life-saving work.

Announcement of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the TICAD Process

TOKYO, Japan, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- 1. The Joint Monitoring Committee of the TICAD Process will be held on March 14 at JICA Research Institute. The Committee will be chaired by Amb. Yoshifumi Okamura, Director-General for African Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and will be attended by representatives of the ministries concerned, government agencies, TICAD co-organizers (the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Bank), the Permanent Representatives Committee of the African Union (PRC), African Diplomatic Corps, New Partnership for Africa's Development(NEPAD), international organizations and the donor countries.

2. The Joint Monitoring Committee is designed to serve as a venue to ensure a more effective monitoring and follow-up of the TICAD process by the Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017. At the Committee, preparation for the first TICADV Ministerial Meeting and outcome documents will be discussed among the participants.

References TICAD Follow-up Mechanism

1. Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017 sets forth the Three-Tier structure of the Follow-up Mechanism established as follows:

(1) Joint Secretariat: MOFA Japan, African Union Commission, UNOSAA, UNDP and World Bank;

(2) Joint Monitoring Committee composed of Japanese Government and related governmental Organizations, TICAD Co-organizers, Permanent Representatives Committee of the African Union (PRC), African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo (ADC) and NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, International Organizations and donor countries

(3) Follow-up Meetings

・Annual Senior Officials Meeting

・Annual Ministerial Meeting

・Summit (Every five years)

2. Dialogues between MOFA Japan and the African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo (ADC) on the TICAD are held regularly.

Accusations against UN mission in South Sudan are unacceptable

OSLO, Norway, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- “The unreasonable and groundless accusations that have been made against the UN mission in South Sudan the last few days are unacceptable. The UN represents the entire international community in its efforts to support South Sudan on the path towards peace, reconciliation and economic and social development,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

“Both before and since South Sudan became independent in 2011, the UN has been the most important international partner for the people of the country. The recent accusations against the UN are therefore unacceptable, and are undermining the relationship of trust between the authorities and the international community. Norway has full confidence in UNMISS and the head of mission, Hilde Frafjord Johnson,” said Mr Brende.

The UN has refuted claims that it has smuggled weapons to the insurgents. The UN has also expressed regret that the UN guidelines for transport of weapons were not followed.

“It is now important to restore a relationship of trust between the UN and the authorities in South Sudan. I expect the Government of South Sudan and President Salva Kiir to cooperate fully with the UN in resolving the humanitarian, security and political challenges the country is facing,” said Mr Brende.

The PSC of the AU, at its 423rd meeting held on 10 March 2014, adopted a decision on the situation in Sudan

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 423rd meeting held on 10 March 2014, adopted the following decision on the situation in Sudan:


1. Takes note of the briefing made by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the statement made by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sudan. Council also takes note of the statements made by Rwanda, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America in their capacity as members of United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as by the Representatives of the UN and the European Union;

2. Recalls its earlier communiqués and press statements requesting the Sudanese Parties to the conflict in the “Two Areas” of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states in the Republic of Sudan, namely the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLMN) to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict between them, under the facilitation of the AUHIP and the Chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD);

3. Further recalls the UN Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), which endorsed the Roadmap adopted by Council on 24 April 2012, and commends the UN, in particular its Special Envoy, Haile Menkerios, as well as other bilateral and multilateral partners, for their continued support to the AU-led efforts;

4. Reiterates its continuing concern with the acute humanitarian crisis in the Two Areas, which is causing loss of life among innocent civilians, and renews its call upon the Parties to facilitate immediate provision of unhindered humanitarian assistance to the war-affected civilian population, in accordance with the spirit of the Tripartite Agreement, as proposed by the AUHIP, and in the context of a cessation of hostilities;

5. Reiterates its firm conviction that there can be no military solution to the conflict in the Two Areas, and that there is no alternative to the Parties than engaging in direct negotiations towards a comprehensive political settlement;

6. Re-emphasizes the urgency of stopping the war and giving a chance to dialogue to resolve the deep-rooted problems of Sudan; recognizes that an end to armed conflict is the overwhelming demand of the people of Sudan and to this end, welcomes the Draft Agreement of 18 February 2014, as proposed by the AUHIP, which it considers as an appropriate framework to serve as a basis for negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Two Areas;

7. Notes the Government of Sudan's response to the AUHIP's proposed Draft Framework Agreement of 18 February 2014 and encourages the SPLM-N to respond in accordance with the request made by the AUHIP. Council further encourages the two Parties to continue the bilateral consultations they have initiated to reach a better understanding and solution. In this regard, Council requests the AUHIP to continue to assist the Parties to reach an agreement by 30 April 2014;

8. Further notes the yearning of the people of Sudan to overcome their past predicament and history of conflict, and to move forward to a new and more peaceful and democratic stage of their country's development;

9. Reaffirms the mandate given to the AUHIP by the AU PSC at its 207th meeting on 29 October 2009, inter alia “to assist in the implementation of all aspects of the AUPD [African Union High-Level Panel on Darfur] recommendations, as well as to assist the Sudanese parties in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and other related processes, as part of the democratic transformation of the Sudan”;

10. Welcomes the initiative by the GoS to open a process of holistic national dialogue and constitutional review. Council acknowledges the fact that after the separation of South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan remains with a formidable challenge of achieving unity in diversity, and encourages the political parties, civil society and armed opposition in Sudan to engage in dialogue to address the challenges of peace and security, democratization, the forging a new constitution for Sudan appropriate to the needs of its people, economic reform and the management of identity and diversity. Council emphasizes that bringing to an end all armed conflicts in Sudan is an important component for paving the way towards such a national dialogue to proceed and reach a successful conclusion. In this respect, Council expresses its deep solidarity with the people of Sudan as they approach this historic opportunity to overcome past grievances and move forward to a new era;

11. Commends the efforts of the AUHIP and the IGAD Chairperson and calls upon them to continue to assist the Parties in their efforts to resolve the conflict in the Two Areas in a comprehensive manner. Council further calls upon the AUHIP to play a role in facilitating the Sudanese process of holistic national dialogue, as deemed appropriate by the Sudanese parties.

12. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Briefing to the Security Council by Ambassador Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia

NEW YORK, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- [AS DELIVERED]

Madam President, Members of the Council

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to brief the Council from Mogadishu today, and for your continued support to Somalia's peace-building and state-building. I am on the ground in Mogadishu and not with you in New York due to the intensity of events at this moment. I hope you understand.

Madam President

The best hope for peace and stability in Somalia, the Horn of Africa and beyond remains a united, secure and federal Somalia. This is achievable. Somalia can reach its goal of an agreed constitution, a nation-wide electoral process and increased security by 2016. But times are tough, and in the short term may get tougher. Insecurity in Mogadishu poses challenges for Somalis, the UN and the international community. 2014 is a crucial year. It is marked, I would say, by security and political challenges, which will be overcome if the Federal Government of Somalia and international partners remain united and if both accelerate delivery of their mutual commitments.

Madam President

As I speak, an expanded AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) are prosecuting a renewed offensive against Al Shabaab, made possible by UN Security Council Resolution 2124. It will be the most significant and geographically extensive military advance since AMISOM started, and there have already been notable successes. I pay tribute to the commitment and sacrifices made by AMISOM and its police and troop contributing states. Under Ambassador Annadif's leadership, AMISOM continues to be the single most important contributor to the security of Somalia, and a vital partner for the Federal Government and the United Nations in peace-building, state-building and stabilisation. Ethiopian troops were officially incorporated into AMISOM earlier this year. The UN has played its part in preparing for the new operations. Supplies of food, fuel and water were stockpiled by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) in all sectors in advance of the operations. UNSOA and UNSOM have been supporting the training of Somali National Army troops. This includes training in human rights and humanitarian law, in accordance with the Secretary-General's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.

As you will be aware, in Mogadishu the security situation has deteriorated since the last time I briefed the Council in December. A suicide attack carried out on a UN convoy, a complex suicide attack against the Presidential compound in Villa Somalia, and another suicide attack near the National Intelligence headquarters, all in the month of February, are sharp reminders. The risk of further attacks against Somali government and international targets remains high.

The Federal Government and AMISOM have increased their security operations in the city and the Government has developed a new Mogadishu security strategy. I look forward to its early implementation and I hope international partners will actively support it and respond rapidly to requests from the Government.

The UN has taken measures to improve its own security. Planning for the UN Guard Unit, endorsed in February by the Council to protect UN personnel and facilities in Mogadishu, is underway, with the first deployments expected in April. I take this opportunity to thank the Council and the Government of Uganda for their support in establishing the Guard Unit. I would also like to thank AMISOM for their cooperation in facilitating its deployment.

Madam President

Vital though they are, military operations alone will not achieve sustainable peace-building and state-building. The Government has established a framework for the stabilisation of areas that will become accessible as a result of these operations, including the establishment of interim local administrations. UNSOM has been working closely with partners to support this.

As AMISOM and the Somali National Army begin their offensive, we are all conscious of the need to uphold humanitarian principles and respect for international humanitarian law. We also need resources. I urge donors and partners to contribute to the trust fund for the supply of non-lethal support to the Somali National Army in line with resolution 2124. Such UN support for a national army is groundbreaking, and requires our collective effort and determination to succeed.

Developing strong, professional Somali security forces is essential. Progress is being made, but it is made harder by the continuing insecurity and conflict. UNSOM's work on security sector reform continues. We are, for example, taking some practical steps such as supporting biometric registration and the provision of uniforms. We plan to support the Somali Police Force's recruitment of 2,300 additional police officers in 2014. Somalia's security institutions need urgently to be properly funded. I hope that international partners will work with UNSOM, AMISOM and the Federal Government to work out how to do this in a timely and effective manner.

I am pleased also to report that in February the European Union training mission began its training programmes inside Somalia. This is a significant step that deserves our recognition.

Madam President

Achieving greater security is a vital task for 2014. But the political dimension of state-building and peace-building is equally vital this year. After nearly three months of negotiation, Somalia now has a new Federal Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. The Cabinet contains experienced and technocratic Ministers whose workplans are built around the priorities identified in the New Deal Compact. On 24 February, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and I co-chaired, in Mogadishu, the first meeting of the High-Level Partnership Forum, the body overseeing the implementation of the Compact. The Forum concluded that now was the time for both the Government and international partners to convert plans into actions, pledges into tangible projects and to make real political progress. I am pleased to report that as we meet, the Federal Government is finalising a detailed plan and timetable for a process leading to the formation of Federal States, a final Constitution and democratisation by 2016. I expect this timetable, called broadly Vision 2016, will have concrete and realistic deliverables, to be published in the coming weeks following further consultation with stakeholders, including Puntland and the Interim Jubba Administration. The UN stands ready to play a central role in supporting its implementation.

Strengthened public financial management is another pillar of state-building. Following the resignation of the former Central Bank Governor in November 2013, the Government has made progress towards rebuilding national and international confidence in its financial institutions. A key step has been the establishment of a Financial Governance Committee, involving experts from the government and international financial institutions to advise on financial management. Alongside other key measures, the Federal Government has agreed to share the existing strategic concession contracts with the Committee for technical review and expert advice. Improved transparency and accountability are critical steps in initiating aid flows. The World Bank, I should note, has been intrepid in supporting on the ground the progress we are beginning to see.

Madam President,

The formation of Federal States needs to be accelerated. I said the same in my briefing to you in December. It is even more true today.

In Baidoa, in south west Somalia, the gulf between two rival camps, advocating a six- and three-region state respectively, remains wide. On the 3rd of March, I called on all parties to respect the Constitution and existing agreements of the Federal Government and to resolve disputes through inclusive dialogue. I continue to offer UNSOM's good offices to support a Federal Government-led process. The Government has clearly stated its commitment to a three region state, a position that should be respected.

In Southern Somalia, the formation of the Interim Jubba Administration continued with the announcement of ministerial positions on the 20th of February. There have been positive steps towards reconciliation and inclusivity. But the full implementation of the 28 August Addis Ababa Agreement requires continued engagement and compromise. I salute the efforts of Ethiopia as Chair of the Council of Ministers of IGAD and guarantor of the Addis Ababa agreement. UNSOM is working with the Federal Government, the Interim Jubba Administration and partners to mobilise resources to manage an increased caseload of disengaged combatants in Kismayo and to take forward reconciliation initiatives.

To the north, in Puntland, on 8th of January I witnessed, along with several members of the international community, the election of President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas and the peaceful handover by former President Abdurahman Mohamed Farole. UNSOM supported critical mediation efforts in the run-up to the elections and advocated, among other things, for greater women's political participation. I am encouraged by the new Government's commitment to resumption of Puntland's suspended democratisation process and the restoration of relations with the Federal Government of Somalia. President Gaas has highlighted the difficult budget situation and the shortage of funds to pay salaries of Puntland government officials, including security forces. I hope that donor efforts to find an interim solution will bear fruit.

I am also inspired by the vigour and enthusiasm of Somali women's political advocacy. Twenty-three women's organisations from South-Central Somalia and Puntland have established the Somali Women Leadership Initiative to campaign for increased political participation of women. UNSOM remains firmly committed to enhancing women's participation in national decision-making. Encouragingly in Puntland, President Abdiweli Gaas appointed five women to cabinet, more than any of his predecessors.

Madam President,

Promotion and respect for human rights is at the core of UNSOM's support to the Federal Government. We have been working with both AMISOM and the Somali National Army to provide training on human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law. A Joint Working Group on human rights due diligence, which includes AMISOM, UNSOA and UNSOM has been established. I hope that in the near future it will also include the Federal Government. The consultative process to create a National Human Rights Commission is still delayed against a background of sustained attacks against human rights defenders and journalists and the continued application of the death penalty. I am also deeply concerned about the ongoing incidence of sexual violence in Somalia. I look forward to the implementation of the recommendations of the Team of Experts on Sexual Violence established under Council Resolution 1888 (2009). The Team of Experts visited Somalia in December 2013.

Madam President,

Despite significant humanitarian crises around the world and within the region, I believe Somalia must remain a priority. The country's humanitarian crisis is among the largest and most complex in the world. An estimated 2.9 million people will need immediate life-saving and livelihood support in the next six months. Recent improvements in the humanitarian situation are fragile and risk reversal if the current trend of low and slow funding for the 2014 humanitarian appeal continues.

There have been reports recently also of displacement as a result of the fighting, especially in Bay and Bakol. As of the 9th of March some 3,700 newly displaced people arrived in Baidoa, mainly due to fear of attacks. As of today they have all started receiving shelter and household items. We also had reports of some 700 previously displaced families that have returned to Hudur after it was recaptured by Somali National Army and AMISOM forces. Humanitarian access due to the volatile security situation remains a major challenge. Humanitarian partners are working to determine urgent needs and how to best respond.

On the 10th of December last year a tripartite agreement was signed between the governments of Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya. But conditions in Somalia are not yet conducive for wide-scale refugee return. Without sufficient preparation, mass returns could in fact cause instability and worsen the humanitarian situation in the country.

As a result of changes in its legislation, in December 2013, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia began deporting Somali nationals as well as other migrant workers. It is estimated that more than 22,000 have returned to Somalia so far. The International Organisation for Migration expects as many as an additional 33,000 people could be deported in the next three months. Such an influx to Mogadishu could exacerbate the plight of the internally displaced in the capital.

Madam President,

Progress in Somalia has been mixed so far, but it is progress. We still have a long way to go. The targets which the Federal Government has set itself, in partnership with the international community, remain relevant and feasible. National reconciliation, federalism, the conclusion of the constitutional process and the rebuilding of security institutions are critical. Despite setbacks and delays, none of these tasks remain out of our collective reach. But time is of the essence. The time for action is now.

Madam President,

To conclude, Somalia and Somalis desperately need improved security. I firmly believe this can be achieved, but it requires a collective effort.

Secondly, national reconciliation must be fast-tracked. The establishment of Federal States is critical to the creation of a cohesive and effective federal structure in Somalia. Reconciliation efforts must continue, and will be an additional tool in the fight against the enemies of peace. Legislation to set the constitutional and electoral processes in motion must be must enacted.

Finally, I urge the international community to continue to provide the support necessary to build the Federal Government's capacity to undertake the significant work that remains. Somalis need to see and feel the benefit of increasing peace and security. We need to convert good plans into more concrete assistance, or as a Somali proverb says “A sweet hand is better than a sweet mouth”. The Federal Government is frustrated with the slow delivery of tangible assistance. A country broken from decades of conflict has huge needs. Not all can or will be met quickly, especially while conflict continues. But I wonder if together we could not achieve some faster success in rebuilding Somalia's shattered state.

As friends and partners of Somalia, we need to stay the course. Now is not the time to prevaricate. We have to be prepared for setbacks, but remain resolute. After nearly a quarter of a century of wars, state collapse and immense human suffering, Somalis are determined to build a lasting peace. They need and deserve our continued support.

I thank you very much.

MISCA escorts another convoy of 120 commercial and humanitarian vehicles to Bangui

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic-CAR (MISCA), yesterday, completed the escort of another 120 vehicles into Bangui. Most of the vehicles were heavy-duty trucks transporting shipping containers loaded with commercial goods and humanitarian supplies from the Cameroon seaport of Douala into the CAR. This brings to 1,205 the total number of vehicles MISCA has successfully escorted from the Cameroon border to the CAR capital, since the Mission was launched on 19 December 2013.

MISCA Force Commander, Brigadier General Martin Tumenta, declared that MISCA troops have completely secured the road linking the Cameroon border town of Garoua Boulai to the CAR capital, Bangui. He commended MISCA forces for their discipline and professionalism and urged them to continue implementing the mandate of the Mission with the same dedication. “The overall security situation in the country has considerably improved, despite a few isolated cases of violence. Our forces have been deployed throughout Bangui and are progressively spreading out into other parts of the country. As part of our mandate, we are determined to protect the civilian population and help this beautiful African country to regain peace, security and stability.” The Force Commander stated.

Security for the convoy which arrived in Bangui yesterday was provided by MISCA's Burundi Contingent whose Commander, Lt. Col. Pontien Hakizimana, praised the CAR population for its cooperation with MISCA. “Since our arrival in CAR, the Burundian contingent has been warmly welcomed by the population and I think the Commanders of the other contingents would agree with me that the cooperation of the civilian population has greatly facilitated our job of safely escorting these convoys from the Cameroon border and improving the security situation in the country, particularly here in Bangui. During escort operations of the convoy which arrived today, our forces dismantled four illegal checkpoints and captured several anti-Balaka militiamen who are currently in our custody. They shall be handed over to the CAR authorities, in accordance with international Human Rights and Humanitarian law. Overall, I think the escort operations have been very successful.” Lt. Col. Hakizimana said.

As New Land Law in Liberia Moves towards Finalization, Women from Across Africa Call for Equal Protection to Land Ownership Rights

MONROVIA, Liberia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf, along with Liberian Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassel, welcome land reform recommendations from Central and West Africa regional organization REFACOF (African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests) and Liberia's Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI).


Photo 1 (Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf):

Photo 2 (Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf):

As honored guests at Liberia's International Women's Day Celebrations in Monrovia on Saturday, March 8, REFACOF and FCI presented a statement to President Sirleaf urging the President to include “clear safeguards and specifics on how women's rights to own, access, use and control land would be recognized and protected” in Liberia's New Land Law, currently being vetted by Liberia's internal vetting committee. In an open statement to participants, REFACOF President Cécile Ndjebet stressed the importance of securing women's rights to land and providing equal protection of these rights to enhancing women's status and accelerating prosperity in Liberia and across Africa.

“For real political and social change to take place, there are three issues that need to be addressed, we need legislation that protects equal rights for women, mechanisms that provide for political and social equity, and a change in social and cultural perceptions of women,” said Cécile Ndjebet.

The recommendations presented were the outcomes of the Third Regional Workshop on Gender, Climate Change, Land and Forest Tenures in Africa, co-organized by REFACOF and FCI, with support from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) ( The workshop convened women participants from 16 African countries, and included donors, development partners, and issue experts.

During the workshop, participants discussed the insecurity of women's land protection in Liberia's current land reform policy. Despite the promise made by President Sirleaf in an interview with Reuters ( last year, in which she stated, “women will have the full right to own their land like anyone else,” clear safeguards and specifics on how these rights would be realized in practice have yet to be included.

“We must remember that action is necessary and we need more than just promises,” said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Africa Program Director for RRI.

In Liberia, land conflicts remain the single most explosive issue, which, if not adequately addressed, could undo years of progress. The requested policy provisions not only stand to prevent rollback, but provide a path forward in empowering women and enhancing their representation and participation in all aspects of life, not just in Liberia, but across Central and West Africa. Should REFACOF and FCI's recommendation come to pass, they could propel land equality, and greater gender equality, across the region, in country such as Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Senegal, where land reform processes are just beginning.

From woman to woman, a call to action

To help demonstrate solidarity and apply pressure on President Sirleaf, REFACOF garnered international support through an online petition ( that gathered signatures from across the globe, in six continents.

As Guest of Honor Julia Duncan-Cassel remarked, the Celebration not only marked a day “to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights” but, to further empower Liberian women at home.

Secure rights to land are a necessary step in realizing equality. Not only do they enable women to combat poverty, provide food and income for their households, and protect themselves against domestic violence and the contraction of HIV/AIDs, they provide greater opportunities for women to become active participants in political and social processes.

“Women have to be there to play, and to be in to win. Women need to start with registration for transformation. If women want women's representation, they need to put them there through their vote,” said President Sirleaf.

Julia Weah, Executive Director of FCI, reiterated the importance of the day's events, stating: “These are critical moments in history for women in Liberia, a game-changing moment for women's secure ownership rights to land, and we don't want to miss it.”

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

For more information, please contact:

Monrovia, Liberia: Julie T. B. Weah, +231 886 566856 / +231 77344931

Yaoundé, Cameroon: Chantal Wandja, + 237 96 61 13 30

Washington, D.C., USA: Jenna DiPaolo Colley, +1 202 412 0331

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) ( is a global coalition of 13 Partners and over 140 international, regional and community organizations advancing forest tenure, policy and market reforms. RRI leverages the strategic collaboration and investment of its Partners and Collaborators around the world by working together on research, advocacy, and convening strategic actors to catalyze change on the ground. RRI is coordinated by the Rights and Resources Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit

Formally established in 2010, the Network of African Women for Community Forest Management (REFACOF) is a network created by 45 women from 8 countries in West and Central Africa. On a regional scale, REFACOF is devoted to collective action by African women to cope with the social, political, legislative and economic issues related to forest management in Africa. In this process, particular attention is given to limitations on the participation of women. For more information, please visit

Founded in Liberia in 2004, Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) works with women's groups in rural forest communities in three counties to help them gain a voice in how natural resources in their communities are managed. While women are the primary individual users of forest products in Liberia (for example, they collect and sell firewood to earn an income), they are largely absent from discussions and decision-making processes that are taking place in their communities and in the natural resources sector.

Statement on the Occasion of the Republic of Mauritius' National Day

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Press Statement

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Washington, DC

March 11, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate all citizens of Mauritius as you celebrate the 46th year of your independence on March 12. The American people share your pride in the long-established democratic traditions that form the bedrock of our nations' friendship. Mauritius has embraced the principles of democratic governance, economic reform, and social tolerance that serve as a model to others around the world. The United States appreciates Mauritius' support for efforts to promote regional security and economic development. As you celebrate with family and friends, we wish the people of Mauritius continued peace and prosperity.

Statement by the IMF Mission at the end of a visit to the Union of the Comoros

MORONI, Comoros, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Moroni from February 25 to March 11 to review developments during the last quarter of 2013, assess the current situation, and lay the basis for discussions on a new program. The mission met with His Excellency Dr. Ikililou Dhoinine, President of the Union, and held discussions with Vice-President and Finance Minister Soilihi, Governor of the Central Bank of the Comoros (BCC) Chanfiou, Permanent Secretary of the Committee to Monitor Reforms Oubeidi, and other government and central bank officials, as well as representatives of the private sector, the National Assembly, officials of the islands of Grande Comore and Anjouan, and the donor community.

Mr. Harry Trines, the IMF mission chief, issued the following statement today in Moroni:

“Developments in the fourth quarter of 2013 were broadly as expected. Real GDP growth in 2013 is estimated at 3.5 percent and inflation remained favorable. Fiscal revenues met expectations but capital expenses were somewhat higher than previously envisaged. The current account deficit widened compared to 2012 mainly due to lower transfers related to the Economic Citizenship Program (ECP).

“The mission discussed the outlook for 2014 and the challenges facing the government in implementing reforms that have been approved. The mission welcomes the work on a new national strategy for accelerated growth and durable development (SCA2D) and is looking forward to its completion later this year.

“On the fiscal side, renewed efforts are needed to strengthen public financial management and mobilize domestic budget resources, to create room for the government to increase priority current and capital spending, including infrastructure. The IMF will continue to provide technical assistance to help the government achieve progress in these areas. Efforts will also be needed to continue reforms in the energy and telecommunications sectors to create an environment more conducive to economic growth.

“The mission will return to Comoros in the second half of the year to conduct discussions for the Article IV consultation and continue dialogue on a possible follow up program with the Fund.

“An arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) approved in September 2009 (Press Release No. 09/315) expired at end 2013 following the final review (Press Release No. 13/509).

“The mission wishes to thank the authorities for their excellent cooperation and warm hospitality.” sudoku