Dismay over attacks on churches in Nigeria

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The recent attacks on the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) – a World Council of Churches member church – and the Kulp Bible College, among other churches in Nigeria, have prompted an expression of profound dismay from the general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

The attacks in the last week of October in Nigeria are linked to the militant group Boko Haram, according to media reports.

“We want to offer our support and solidarity to the whole people of Nigeria, and its government,” Tveit said in a statement issued on 5 November from the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“It is vital that the government take immediate and proactive steps to protect all the people of Nigeria and work strategically to defend them against such attacks, as well as supporting practically those who have recently experienced these atrocities,” said Tveit.

In his statement, the WCC general secretary appreciated efforts by the Christian Council of Nigeria in working with other organizations to provide aid to people fleeing the violence. A large number of the local population fled to the Cameroon border in order to escape the violence.

Tveit also drew attention to the plight of more than 200 school girls who were abducted six months ago and are still held captive. “We believe this to be totally unacceptable. We call upon the government to continue to work for their well-being and speedy release,” he said.

Tveit affirmed a statement from the EYN president Dr Samuel Dante Dali, who said, “We need urgent help from the international community if the global community can have compassion on us… The future of Nigeria is getting darker and darker day by day, but Nigerian political leadership do not seem to take the suffering of the people very seriously. The government of Nigeria with all its security seems very weak and helpless in handling the crisis.”

Tveit invited Christians and people of good will to hold Nigerian people in prayers.

Categories: AFRICA

UNAMID investigates alleged mass rape in North Darfur, calls for access

EL FASHER (DARFUR), Sudan, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is deeply concerned about the media reports of an alleged mass rape of 200 women and girls in Tabit, located 45 kilometers south-west of El Fasher, in North Darfur, and it is investigating the veracity of this information.

In doing so, UNAMID sent a verification patrol on 4 November to Tabit. However, the patrol was denied access at the outskirts of the town by Sudanese military at a checkpoint. Attempts to negotiate access to Tabit were unfruitful. The Mission leadership is calling on authorities of the Government of Sudan to grant UNAMID’s unhindered access to all Darfur, especially to areas were alleged incidents affecting civilians have been reported, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Determined to obtain crucial information and leads, a UNAMID integrated mission was dispatched to Zamzam camp for internally displaced people on 5 November, with the purpose of assessing and determining possible displacements from Tabit as alleged in media reports. Following a thorough assessment and interaction with residents and community leaders in the Zamzam area, the UNAMID team concluded that no recent displacement from Tabit had occurred.

As part of the investigation, UNAMID’s Human Rights officers have met with the Chief Prosecutor of North Darfur who stated that not a single complaint about any rape incident was received from Tabit.

Categories: AFRICA

Champions of the Earth Awards 2014

NAIROBI, Kenya, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Leading African Activist to be Announced as Winner of Top Global Environmental Prize

What: Announcing African Winner of Champions of the Earth 2014

When: Friday 7 November, 2014 10.30am – 11.30am

Where: The Hilton Hotel, City Centre, Nairobi

Who: Fatima Jibrell, Founder of ADESO and Champions of the Earth Winner

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP Deputy Executive Director

Paolo Toselli, European Union

Fatima Jibrell, one of Africa’s leading environmental activists and founder of Adeso (formerly known as Horn Relief), is to become the first Somali to win a Champions of the Earth award.

The Inspiration and Action award, which has been won in previous years by Brian McClendon of Google Earth, and Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food, will be awarded to Fatima Jibrell for her outstanding contribution and service to the planet through her efforts to build peace, advocate for better environmental practices, and protect the livelihoods of Somalia’s pastoralists.

We invite you to attend the historic announcement of the award and to hear from Fatima Jibrell in her own words, what this award signifies to her, to Somalia, and to Kenya, where her organization undertakes work of critical importance to the environment and to the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.

Champions of the Earth is the United Nations’ flagship environmental award launched in 2005 that recognizes outstanding visionaries and leaders in the fields of policy, science, entrepreneurship, and civil society action.

Whether by helping to improve the management of natural resources, demonstrating new ways to tackle climate change or raising awareness of emerging environmental challenges, Champions of the Earth should serve as an inspiration for transformative action across the world.

Past laureates have included Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, Felipe Calderon, Mohamed Nasheed, Marina Silva, Vinod Khosla, and many other such exemplary leaders on the environment and development front.

The full Awards Ceremony will take place at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. on November 19th, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Categories: AFRICA

Nigeria: Aid for more than 50,000 violence-displaced people in north-east

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Thousands of people displaced by conflict in north-eastern Nigeria have taken refuge in Maiduguri.

On 3 November, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross Society completed the distribution of food and household essentials to over 50,000 people living in extremely difficult conditions. “Not only did people have to flee their homes in Kodunga, Kaga, Gwoza and Damboa, they also lost all their belongings and their means of earning a living. They didn’t have enough food and they lacked important basic items,” said Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria. “The additional strain placed on communities by hosting the displaced reached the point where it was more than they could bear.”

After carrying out an assessment of the situation, the ICRC and the Nigerian Red Cross launched an emergency operation to meet urgent needs. ICRC staff and more than a hundred Nigerian Red Cross volunteers distributed 960 metric tonnes of food and other relief items to 51,000 people.

Food and other items for needy people in the north-east

Most displaced people who arrived in Maiduguri in the past few months were settled in government buildings, schools or official camps. Some stayed with relatives or host families, with whom they shared scant resources, while others found refuge in informal settlements. Whatever their living arrangements, the displaced cannot afford to buy their own food and therefore have had to depend on aid provided by the State or on the generosity of others to survive.

“In the short term, the aid we have just distributed will improve significantly the well-being of the displaced,” said Janet Angelei, an ICRC economic-security specialist working in Nigeria. “The kitchen sets, blankets, soap, mats, hygiene items and tarpaulins we have provided will meet some of their immediate needs and reduce the burden on the hosting families.”

The ICRC also distributed about a month’s supply of rice, beans, oil and salt. “Since fleeing our homes, we had not received any significant help,” said Abdullahi Abuya from Konduga. “Some of us had barely had anything to eat for weeks, but now things are better.”

Health care

In cooperation with the health ministry, the ICRC has undertaken to upgrade the Mala Kachalla primary health-care centre in Maiduguri and to train the centre’s staff. It has built a water tower with a 4,000-litre tank and installed a solar-powered water-supply system. In addition, it has completely renovated the facility’s floors, ceilings, doors and windows. “The centre, which is now fully operational, offers general outpatient services with a special focus on children under five years of age, ante-natal, delivery and post-natal services, and patient stabilization prior to referral for secondary care,” said Bernadette Gleeson, head of ICRC surgical and first-aid programmes in Nigeria. Because of the displaced people arriving in Maiduguri, the centre’s catchment population is now estimated to be in excess of 100,000.

Emergency aid for Nigerians who fled to Niger

Civilians fleeing fighting between the Nigerian army and armed groups have recently arrived in the Diffa area, in easternmost Niger. The displaced, mainly women and children, arrived from the Abadam area and Nigerian villages near Lake Chad. They have lost everything and are entirely dependent on host communities and on aid provided by humanitarian organizations. At the beginning of October, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger distributed food to more than 2,000 people in Diffa and to over 3,500 people who have taken refuge on islands in Lake Chad.

In 2014, the ICRC has also:

• visited detainees in over 20 detention facilities to assess the conditions in which they were being held. The findings were shared in full confidentiality with the authorities. In addition, ICRC staff provided detainees with blankets, mosquito nets and cleaning and hygiene items, improved hygiene conditions and helped make safe drinking water more easily available;

• restored access to clean water for more than 80,000 people in Kaduna and Plateau states;

• provided monthly food aid for 880 women in Maiduguri who lost their husbands in the ongoing conflict;

• provided food and other aid for over 37,000 people displaced as a result of intercommunal violence in Kaduna and Plateau states;

• taken part in a campaign launched at the end of October to vaccinate 150,000 head of cattle and 50,000 head of sheep and goats in partnership with the Plateau Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

• supplied fertilizer and maize seed to close to 2,000 families in Plateau to enable them to restart their farming activities;

• sent a mobile surgical team to help treat over 70 people injured in bomb blasts in Jos (in May) and in Kaduna (in July);

• provided first-aid training for 1,850 people in cooperation with the Nigerian Red Cross;

• taught more than a thousand people, mostly from the Nigerian military and the Nigerian Red Cross, how to handle mortal remains properly.

Categories: AFRICA

Statement at the Conclusion of the 2014 Article IV Consultation Mission to Gabon

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Mr. Montfort Mlachila visited Libreville from October 22 to November 5, 2014 to conduct the 2014 Article IV consultation discussions1.

The mission had constructive meetings with Mr. Daniel Ona Ondo, Prime Minister; Mr. Régis Immongault, Minister of Economy, Investment Promotion and Prospective; Mr. Christian Magnagna, Minister of Budget and Public Accounts; Mr. Etienne Ngoubou, Minister of Oil and Hydrocarbons; Mr. Christophe Akagha-Mba, Minister of Mining, Industry and Tourism; Mme. Rose Rogombé, President of the Senate; Mr. Denis Meporewa, National Director of the BEAC; Members of the Finance Committees of the National Assembly and the Senate; and other senior government officials. The mission also exchanged views with representatives of the private sector, civil society, and development partners.

At the conclusion of the mission, Mr. Mlachila made the following statement:

“Against the backdrop of weak economic performance, especially low growth (less than 1 percent on average between 2000 and 2009) and relatively high unemployment of about 20 percent in 2010, the government appropriately launched an ambitious reform plan, the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan (PSGE), to transform Gabon into an emerging and diversified economy by 2025. The plan is underpinned by a rapid scaling up of the public investment program in order to address infrastructure bottlenecks.

“Gabon’s growth performance has been strong over the last four years. Real GDP growth has averaged about 6 percent during the period 2010-13 on the back of substantial scaling-up of public investment. However, there has been a slowdown in growth in 2014, from an estimated 5.6 percent in 2013 to a projected 5.1 percent in 2014, in part reflecting a substantial reduction in public spending. The adjustment in government expenditure in 2014 responded to a considerable weakening of the fiscal position caused by rapid increases in public investment spending in the past few years. By 2013 overall budget surplus (commitment basis) had virtually disappeared from a high of about 6 percent of GDP in 2009, and significant payment arrears had accumulated. In line with developments in the sub-region, inflation pressures have risen.

“The growth outlook remains robust in the medium term, averaging about 6 percent for the next five years, notwithstanding a projected decline in oil production. Growth is projected to be driven by public investment, non-oil natural resources, and services. A number of projects underway in agro-industry, mining, and wood processing should help sustain the projected non-oil growth.

“The foremost downside risk to the economic outlook in the short to medium term is loose fiscal policy and weak investment execution capacity, leading to further depletion of fiscal buffers and insufficient fiscal space to address binding constraints to growth. This is particularly the case in the context of the weak commodity price outlook, especially for oil.

“Given the economic challenges facing Gabon, the Article IV consultation was centered on how to make the PSGE a reality while ensuring fiscal sustainability. Specifically, the discussion focused on the following issues: (i) creating the fiscal space necessary to finance the PSGE on a fiscally sustainable basis, notably by keeping rapid public debt accumulation in check; (ii) policies to strengthen competitiveness and promote economic diversification; and (iii) deepening the financial sector and enhancing financial stability.

“The mission commends the authorities for starting to address the emerging fiscal strains, including the accumulated arrears, in the context of the revised 2014 budget and the draft 2015 budget. Further efforts will be needed to ensure that the PSGE is well-financed on a fiscally-sustainable basis. This can be done by greater control of the wage bill and progressive reductions in costly and inequitable fuel subsidies, as well as enhanced prioritization within the investment budget to focus on infrastructure with the highest economic benefits. Nonetheless, well-targeted spending on key social areas should be protected. Given generous tax benefits already provided to some industries under the PSGE, it is necessary to expand the non-oil revenue tax base, notably by reducing tax exemptions.

“The mission supports the government’s efforts to improve the business environment and the quality of human capital. These are necessary ingredients for the success of the PSGE as they are needed to boost productivity. The success of the government’s program depends on the speed and intensity of structural reforms. Efforts such as strengthening the enforcement of creditor rights should foster financial deepening and access to credit. At the same time, the authorities need to address the financial situation of weak public banks to enhance financial stability.

“The mission underscored that the IMF is committed to strengthening relations with the Gabonese authorities to address these challenges. The Executive Board of the IMF is expected to consider the staff report on the Article IV consultation in January 2015.

“The mission wishes to thank the authorities for their warm hospitality as well as for their very close and constructive collaboration.”

1 Under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country authorities.

Categories: AFRICA

Statement by the Press Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, on the legislative election in Sao Tome and Principe (dispatch of an election observer)

TOKYO, Japan, November 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — 1. The government of Japan welcomes the fact that the voting for the parliamentary election, the local election, and the autonomous regional election in the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe took place on October 12 in a peaceful manner.

2. Upon the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, Japan dispatched an election observer (Ms. Kimura Ayaka, secretary of Embassy of the Japan in the Portuguese Republic) from October 8 to October 15 as part of our cooperation for the reinforcement of democracy in Sao Tome and Principe. This was the third time for Japan to dispatch election observers to Sao Tome and Principe, following the parliamentary election in 2010 and the presidential election in 2011.

3. The government of Japan expects that all parties concerned will accept the final results of the elections which the Constitutional Court announced on October 23 and that they vigorously pursue the further progress of democracy and foster the development of the country.

Categories: AFRICA