Cameroon: UN experts on minorities and indigenous peoples concerned about destruction of pastoralist homes

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on minority issues, Rita Izsák, and on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, today called on the Government and the Catholic University in Bamenda, Cameroon, to urgently review the evictions and demolition of houses of a Mbororo pastoralist community. An estimated 300 people have reportedly been made homeless and evicted from their ancestral lands in the locality of Banjah, Bamenda.

The location of the evictions is the scene of a long-term land dispute between the Mbororo community and the Catholic University. Mbororo pastoralist communities, who identify as indigenous minorities, account for some 12 per cent of Cameroon’s population and often face conflicts over access to and ownership of land and access to water.

The University claims to have paid compensation to community members to acquire and build on the site. Community members claim to have been misled regarding payments and state that they would not voluntarily have agreed to quit their homes and land that they have occupied since 1904.

“I urge the authorities and the Catholic University in Bamenda to review these actions and their impact on this community and immediately seek a settlement with them,” said Ms. Izsák, who visited the Mbororo community in Banjah during her 2013 official mission* to Cameroon.

Mr. Anaya recalled furthermore that “indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly relocated from their lands or territories,” quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement of fair and just compensation.”

The human rights experts highlighted that “appropriate alternative accommodation must still be provided to community members who have been left homeless and extremely vulnerable, even if the evictions are found to be legally justified based on international standards and within a participatory, consensus building process involving the Mbororo people.”

“Where possible,” the Special Rapporteurs stressed, “the Mbororo must be provided with the opportunity to return to their traditional lands.”

“We are saddened that a community whose survival depends on their lands and cattle is now deprived of access to their ancestral lands,” they said. “This also contravenes the UN Declaration on Minorities which requires the protection of existence of minorities, and their unique ethnic, cultural and linguistic identity within the territories in which they live.”

Three bulldozers, escorted by armed gendarmes reportedly arrived on 3 April 2014 to start demolishing the Mbororo homes. Community members have no alternative accommodation.

“I referred to this worrying case in my report on my visit to Cameroon presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014,” the Special Rapporteur on minority issues said. “I stand ready to continue consultations with all parties to identify possible solutions to avoid rendering this community even more vulnerable.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s mission report to the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

Source: APO

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Canada Resumes Direct Bilateral Assistance to the Republic of Mali / Canada supports Mali’s development efforts to improve living conditions and reinforce democracy as well as security

OTTAWA, Canada, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, confirmed today that, following a successful democratic transition by means of Presidential and legislative elections, Canada will resume direct bilateral assistance to the government of the Republic of Mali. Canada’s bilateral assistance to Mali will contribute to the country’s development, to the improvement of the condition of women and children, and will support the government’s efforts to reinforce democracy and security.

“Our government supports a concerted international approach to the ongoing challenges in the Sahel region,” said Minister Paradis. “Canada’s long-term development assistance is critical to social and economic stability in Mali. We are satisfied that a civilian-led democratic government in Mali is working to overcome the challenges affecting the region.”

Quick Facts

• Canada was one of the first countries to suspend direct bilateral aid to the Government of Mali following the coup in March 2012.

• During the crisis, Canada continued its vital development work in Mali through support for multilateral partners, as well as for Canadian and international organizations.

• Mali is a country prone to recurrent drought and it continues to face the consequences of the food and nutrition crisis that affected much of the Sahel region in 2012. In 2014, the number of food-insecure Malians is estimated at 3.3 million.

• Humanitarian needs are compounded by the conflict in the north of Mali, which has caused the displacement of more than 472,000 people, including 171,000 Malians who fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence. Women and children represent the majority of people affected and in need of assistance.

• Canada’s humanitarian assistance is helping meet the needs of vulnerable populations affected by ongoing conflict and food insecurities.

Source: APO

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African Ombudsmen and mediators to join AU peacemaking and preventive diplomacy initiatives

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Members of the African Ombudsmen and Mediators Association(AOMA) will henceforth join various African Union peacemaking and preventive diplomacy initiatives and missions. The AU Commission Chairperson, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma affirmed this engagement during an audience she granted a delegation of the AOMA, led by the Association President, Dr. Paulo Tjipilca. They met at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 9 April 2014.

The delegation paid a courtesy visit to the AUC Chairperson as well as to present the letter of credence to the Union, of its new Permanent Representative to the African Union and Chief Ombudsman of Ethiopia, Mrs. Fozia Amin.

Following a brief presentation of the association and its membership, Dr. Paulo Tjipilca expressed the association’s interest in integrating into the structures of the AU, being present and participating in its activities, including those of the AU Panel of the Wise.

AOMA and the AU Commission had in 2011, signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to promote the strategic priorities of the AUC in the realms of democracy, good governance, promoting and protecting human rights, transparency and administrative justice, elections observation and peace and security.

Appreciating the important role of the AU in the continent and around the world, including the compelling vision of developing Agenda 2063, and the inspirational “E-mail from the Future,” the Association did not want to feel left out. Its president promised to provide the list of its members for consideration in various high level missions and initiatives.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma expressed delight in welcoming the delegation to Addis Ababa, and to work with the association in various areas. “Being their last line of defense, our citizens expect you to fully promote and protect their right,” she concluded.

Source: APO

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COMMEMORATION OF THE 20TH OF ANNIVERSARY OF THE RWANDA GENOCIDE

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Addis Ababa will jointly organize the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide. The event will take place at the African Union Nelson Mandela Hall on 11April 2014 from 9:00am to 1:00pm, New Conference Center of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The event will be organized under the theme: “Remember, Unite, and Renew”.

The event is expected to be attended by over 300 participants from the government of Ethiopia, AU Commission, diplomatic community, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia, Rwandan Community living in Ethiopia and civil society among others.

It will be marked by the relay of a “flame of remembrance” among youth from the five regions of Africa. The flame symbolizes memory as well as hope and resolves to prevent genocide on the African continent and elsewhere in the world.

The event’s highlight will be a high level panel discussion by eminent personalities whose presentations will focus on: response of the AU to the Rwandan Genocide and lessons learned; better management of diversity; capacity to prevent conflicts as well as post conflict reforms required to manage conflicts. It will also be an occasion to launch the bid for the design of the African Union Human Rights Memorial at the African Union Commission.

The media is invited and welcome to participate and cover this memorable event and to contribute to “Never Again” campaign.

JOURNALISTS ARE INVITED TO COVER THE EVENT

Source: APO

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Experts agree that more needs to be done to expand and intensify interventions to reach zero new HIV infections in South Africa

PRETORIA, South-Africa, April 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — During a two-day consultation, HIV surveillance experts in South Africa agreed that the large scale AIDS response in South Africa has resulted in significant gains. The country made remarkable progress in expanding access to antiretroviral treatment that increased life expectancy amongst people living with HIV and massive declines in the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission. However, the experts agreed on the need to further expand and intensify current efforts to reduce the impact of AIDS.

Acknowledging the complex nature of the HIV epidemic in South Africa, participants noted the need to effectively deal with social and structural issues that increase vulnerability to HIV and TB infection and hinder access and uptake of HIV services. The experts also agreed that combination prevention – biomedical and behavioural interventions – and expansion of antiretroviral treatment programme is necessary to reverse the epidemic in South Africa. They also stressed the importance of empowering women to reduce their risk of HIV infection; ensuring individual’s comprehensive and accurate understanding of HIV and adherence to treatment; scaling up of HIV counselling and testing (HCT) and creating linkages to HIV treatment and care services; voluntary medical male circumcision; as well as distribution and consistent use of condoms, to decreasing the levels of new infections in the country.

With regard to the prevalence and incidence of HIV there was agreement on the following:

• Overall, the HIV prevalence – the proportion of individuals in a population who are living with HIV annually – has increased. This reflects South Africa’s success in expanding antiretroviral coverage, resulting in people living with HIV to live longer which increases the HIV prevalence in the country – increase in prevalence is clearly seen in adults aged 34 years and older. With 2.6 million people accessing antiretroviral treatment in 2012, South Africa currently has the largest antiretroviral treatment programme in the world. This rapid scale-up of the national antiretroviral treatment programme has also resulted in a stable HIV

prevalence among women attending antenatal clinics.

• In the younger age groups (15 to 24 years) prevalence has decreased due to declining new infections. Successful implementation of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme has led to massive declines in children acquiring HIV infection during pregnancy and childbirth. This success must be celebrated and sustained. Overall, less than 3% of infants of mothers living with HIV are born with HIV. These transmission rates were measured at six weeks after delivery and the results of the on-going Medical Research Council PMTCT evaluation will provide further details on mother-to-child transmission rates at 9 and 18 months.

• New HIV infections – the estimated total number of new (diagnosed and undiagnosed) cases – in the total population are still high. However, there is an indication that new HIV infections are declining in young people aged 15 – 24 years, although these still remain high in adults aged 25 years and older. The experts agreed on the need to analyse drivers of new infections to better understand, prioritise and develop targeted interventions.

• The experts reiterated their commitment in supporting the government to fully understand the HIV epidemic in relation to incidence in particular and committed to work together to this end.

The consultation meeting which was held over two days (April 7-8) was jointly hosted by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD/NHLS) and the National Department of Health.

The experts were drawn from various institutions including the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, Centre for the AIDS programme of research in South Africa (CAPRISA), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the HIV Modelling Consortium, Health and Development Africa, Wits Health Consortium Health Economics and Epidemiology Research (HE2RO), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Public Health England, National Department of Health, NICD/NHLS, South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), South Africa National AIDS Council (SANAC), Statistics South Africa, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WHRI), UNAIDS, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), University of Cape Town Center for Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology Research and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Source: APO

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