International Monetary Fund Holds Informal Board Briefing on Burundi

On January 17, 2018, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was briefed by staff on economic and social developments in Burundi, whose Article IV consultation is delayed by 24 months.

Informal sessions to brief the Board are based on information available to the staff. They are held for members whose Article IV consultations are delayed by more than 18 months.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Ethiopia: Prisoner Release Should Be First Step

In response to the Ethiopian government’s release of more than 700 political prisoners this week, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The release of hundreds of political prisoners, including prominent opposition leaders and journalists, is a commendable step toward greater respect for fundamental rights,” said Jon Temin, Director of Africa programs at Freedom House. ‘The Government of Ethiopia should follow this with broader reform measures to promote democratic governance, such as repealing draconian civil society and antiterrorism laws, allowing independent media to operate without harassment, and ensuring the independence of democratic institutions, including the judiciary.”

Background:

Since the January 3, 2018 announcement of its intention to release political prisoners and close the Federal Crime Investigation Unit (Maekelawi), the Ethiopian government has released over 3,000 political prisoners through pardons and dropping of charges. Prominent political prisoners including Merera Gudina, Bekele Gerba and Andualem Arage, and journalists Eskinder Nega and Wubshet Taye, were among those released.

Ethiopia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2018, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2017, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2017.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Freedom House.

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Ugandan journalist seized in Kampala following investigative report

Ugandan authorities must make every effort to secure the safe release of Charles Etukuri, an investigative journalist for the state-owned New Visionnewspaper, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Five unidentified men dressed in military camouflage seized Etukuri outside the newspaper’s office in Kampala yesterday, days after he published an investigation into the murder of a foreign national in Uganda, the paper’s editor John Kakande and the Independent Media Council of Uganda executive secretary, Haruna Kanaabi, told CPJ.

Several eyewitnesses, including two New Vision employees, reported that the men were waiting in a white car and forced Etukuri into the vehicle when he left the building for lunch at approximately 2 p.m., said Kakande.

Soon after, Etukuri called his supervisor, who CPJ has not named for safety reasons, to say that he was “safe,” and that the seizure was related to his recent articles, Kakande told CPJ. The journalist has been unreachable since this phone call, according to the paper’s editor.

New Vision’s management yesterday reported Etukuri’s disappearance to police as a kidnapping, Kakande said.

“Ugandan authorities should immediately produce Charles Etukuri unharmed or prosecute those responsible for his disappearance,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Any impunity will simply result in further self-censorship and intimidation of the press in Uganda.”

Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima on Tuesday told CPJ that the journalist was not in police custody and that they would investigate the case. Kayima was not reachable on his cellphone on Wednesday and did not immediately respond to text messages from CPJ.

The military, through spokesperson Richard Karemire, said that it had no knowledge of Etukuri’s case beyond the reports published by the media. The head of the Internal Security Organization (ISO), Frank Bagyenda Kaka, said he could not comment on the case and referred CPJ to security minister Henry Tumukunde who was not reachable on his cellphone Wednesday afternoon.

In a story published online, the New Vision says that it suspects that the journalist was targeted in retaliation for two articles published on Saturday and Sunday linking agents from the ISO and the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) to the death of a Finnish businessman in a local hotel.

Etukuri’s case comes amid increasing tensions between different government security agencies over their jurisdictions, according to media reports.

Etukuri is close to the leadership of the police, according to a report by The Observer and two Ugandan journalists who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Conditions for the press in Uganda have deteriorated and over the last two years CPJ has documented cases of the government shuttering newspapers, arbitrary arrests of journalists, and a partial internet shutdown. Uganda was the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa as of December 1, according to CPJ’s 2017 census of imprisoned journalists.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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Recognising Economic Community of West African States and Civil Society’s Role in Resolving Crisis in Guinea-Bissau

Speech: David Clay, UK Deputy Political Counsellor to the United Nations, at the Security Council Briefing on Guinea-Bissau:

Delivered on: 14 February 2018 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)

Thank you Mr President, and thanks to SRSG Toure and the other briefers for sharing their views and insights.

The situation in Guinea Bissau is concerning. It is not the first country in the world to experience a political impasse. But it is a country still emerging from serious instability and violence in its recent past.

This political impasse has prevented progress on reforms that are critical to addressing key conflict risks in Guinea Bissau. The situation is only likely to become more volatile as we move towards elections. We have already seen violent confrontations between demonstrators and police, and witnessed worrying efforts to curb political freedoms. Economic growth is at risk and a serious deterioration in stability would be deeply damaging for development and human rights. The illicit economy and transnational organised crime risk becoming further entrenched – with global implications. More broadly, instability in Guinea Bissau will affect the wider region, which over the last year has been, for the most part, the site of positive political progress.

Mr President,

The United Kingdom welcomes the leadership shown by the West African region, particularly through ECOWAS. It has shown persistence and patience; this is a crisis that started in 2015. It brokered the Conakry Agreement 15 months ago. It has agreed to countless communiques and published innumerable statements. It has sent numerous high level delegations to Guinea Bissau – three in the last six months alone.

But now those most responsible for Guinea Bissau’s crisis responded with stubborn refusal to give ground and find compromise.

Therefore, it is understandable that the region’s patience has worn thin. ECOWAS has now forced to sanctions against individuals deemed responsible for impeding implementation of the Conakry Agreement. The African Union PSC has endorsed this move. The United Kingdom supports ECOWAS decision and we urge the Security Council and the whole international community to remain united in support of ECOWAS efforts.

We also believe it is important to recognise the bold efforts of civil society in Guinea Bissau to resolve the crisis. In particular, the mediation efforts led by the Women Facilitator’s Group were an encouraging initiative and we welcome the support given to them by the UN.

As set out in resolution 2343, political support from UNIOGBIS for efforts towards implementation on the Conakry Agreement should be a priority for UNIOGBIS. The key next step remains appointment of a consensus Prime Minister so that preparations can go ahead for legislative elections in 2018, as per the country’s constitution.

As we open discussions on its renewal, the UK will focus on ensuring the Mission’s mandate responds to the political reality on the ground today and that it is focused on the highest priority needs.

Mr President,

Guinea Bissau’s people watched the country emerge from a period of instability but then found their hopes for democracy obstructed by a political knot which their own leaders tied. Support from the region and the international community to prevent the country from backsliding further will not succeed until those who tied the knot untangle it. We hope that good sense, compromise and a commitment to Guinea Bissau’s future prevails.

Thank you.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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