WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Vice President Biden called the Chairperson of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan and South Sudan and former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki today to discuss Sudan. Vice President Biden thanked President Mbeki for his leadership and his efforts to bring the many Sudanese groups together, and the two discussed the importance of establishing one nation-wide approach to ending the conflicts in Sudan. Vice President Biden and President Mbeki discussed the urgent need for continued pressure on the Sudanese government and opposition leaders, as well as civil society groups, to begin the process of a national dialogue. The Vice President emphasized that African Union leadership will be crucial to promoting inclusive governance, ensuring respect for human rights, and urgently bringing the conflicts in Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and Darfur to a peaceful end. They agreed to continue closely coordinating African Union and U.S. efforts.
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 26, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The peace process in South Sudan and efforts from churches towards reconciliation were the focus of a meeting between Ellen Margrethe Løj, special representative and head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The meeting was held on 25 March at the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“I have had a very useful meeting with the staff members of the World Council of Churches, where we have discussed the absence of the peace agreement in South Sudan,” shared Løj.
“A peace agreement in South Sudan is needed. And I can only encourage all parties to contribute to the achievement of a peace agreement for the benefit of the people of South Sudan,” she added.
In the meeting, the WCC general secretary highlighted the churches’ commitment towards a “just peace” in South Sudan, mentioning initiatives undertaken by the South Sudanese churches.
“We would like to confirm our commitment as the World Council of Churches to accompany the churches in the country and the South Sudan Council of Churches – as they speak on behalf of the people and call their leaders to make peace,” said Tveit.
“For us it is also important to work with the UN and see how we can take new initiatives to support churches and help in the progress of peace negotiations – something desperately needed by the churches and the people of South Sudan,” he added.
The WCC has been deeply engaged in the peace process in South Sudan. The country has suffered conflict since December 2013. The WCC has been supporting the local churches engaged in peace talks to resolve the crisis. The WCC Executive Committee issued a Minute on South Sudan in 2014 asking all the stakeholders to “recommit themselves to a sustained and long term process of reconciliation and healing, in order to build confidence among citizens, restore trust and to promote peace”.
JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, March 26, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — In line with Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) projected economic growth of 4.9%(1) this year, which is double the projection for advanced economies (2.4%)(2), DHL SSA (http://www.dpdhl.com) expects 2015 to be a year of growth for the logistics industry on the African continent, largely driven by increased consumer demand and the rapidly developing e-commerce industry.
Photo Charles Brewer: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/photos/charles-brewer-1.jpg (Charles Brewer, Managing Director for DHL Express Sub-Saharan Africa)
This is according to Charles Brewer, Managing Director of DHL Express SSA, who was commenting against the backdrop of Deutsche Post DHL Group’s full year results released in March. DPDHL Group ended 2014 with revenues of EUR 56.6 billion, up 3.1% compared to 2013. He says that the company’s increased focus on e-commerce and emerging markets, including Africa, has led the group to achieve growth in both volume and revenue in 2014.
A new report by yStats.com2 revealed that despite Africa lagging behind other regions when it comes to the development of online infrastructure, business-to-consumer (B2C) sales will grow to double-digit numbers in EUR billions in the next three years.
Brewer says that as such, a key focus for DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa in 2015 is to further strengthen connectivity, both within the continent and globally. He says that this will be crucial to meeting the growing e-commerce market on the continent, and assist in driving further growth.
“There is a growing B2C e-commerce market in Africa due to the development and accessibility of technology on the continent, so it is no longer just the larger corporations that need to make use of logistics and delivery services, but individual consumers and small businesses too. Our goal is to develop the necessary infrastructure in Africa to make the global market more accessible. Our aggressive expansion strategy has seen us grow our retail presence from 300 outlets to over 3,800 outlets in just over 3 years.”
Brewer believes that intra-African trade will continue to grow in 2015, and continue to improve on the growth witnessed by the group in 2014. “There are a number of successful trade blocs in place which focus on better connecting the region. A good example of this is the recent and rapid progress made by the East Africa Community (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) who are working incredibly hard on developing a number of critical and trade boosting areas, for example, they are working to improve the roads, ports, rail and critically, the customs border environment and have recently introduced a common visa for the region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and The African Economic Community (AEC) are other prime examples,” adds Brewer.
Brewer points to International Data Corporation (IDC) statistics, which predict that closer intra-Africa trade will be witnessed in 2015, promoted by ICT initiatives such as payment systems, financial inclusion initiatives, and cross-border payments.
“While markets within Africa offer numerous opportunities, there are also challenges. Underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of air connectivity and customs inconsistencies remain very real issues that can hamper growth on the continent. With that said, the situation is improving, and more countries are recognising that they need to find ways to make their markets accessible and easier to do business with. We will continue our aggressive investment and expansion strategy on the continent, with a number of planned upgrades scheduled for 2015, including state of the art smartphone scanners to further enhance our tracking capabilities.”
“We firmly believe that Africa is the place to be and that it offers unlimited growth opportunities. We aim to drive this growth with strategic investments and programs that will make the global market more accessible. We are committed to connecting Africa to the world, and the world to Africa,” concludes Brewer.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Deutsche Post DHL.
Notes to editor:
(1) IMF World Economic Outlook Update – January 2015: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2015/update/01/pdf/0115.pdf
(2) yStats.com: Africa B2C E-Commerce Market: https://www.reportbuyer.com/product/1930492/africa-b2c-e-commerce-market-2015.html
Megan Collinicos. Head: Advertising & Public Relations, Sub-Saharan Africa
Tel +27 21 409 3613 Mobile +27 76 411 8570
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DHL – The logistics company for the world
DHL (http://www.dpdhl.com) is the leading global brand in the logistics industry. DHL’s family of divisions offer an unrivalled portfolio of logistics services ranging from national and international parcel delivery, international express, road, air and ocean transport to industrial supply chain management. With more than 325,000 employees in over 220 countries and territories worldwide, they connect people and businesses securely and reliably, enabling global trade flows. With specialized solutions for growth markets and industries including e-Commerce, technology, life science and healthcare, energy, automotive and retail, a proven commitment to corporate responsibility and an unrivalled presence in developing markets, DHL is decisively positioned as “The logistics company for the world”.
DHL is part of Deutsche Post DHL Group. The Group generated revenues of more than 56 billion euros in 2014.
Nigeria: At Least 1,000 Civilians Dead Since January / Urgent Need for Aid, Protection for Fleeing Civilians
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 26, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Attacks by the Islamist armed group Boko Haram killed more than 1,000 civilians in 2015, based on witness accounts and an analysis of media reports, Human Rights Watch said today. Boko Haram fighters have deliberately attacked villages and committed mass killings and abductions as their attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger since February.
Human Rights Watch interviews in late January with people who fled Yobe, Adamawa, and Borno states in northeastern Nigeria revealed horrific levels of brutality. Since mid-2014, Boko Haram fighters have seized control of scores of towns and villages covering 17 local government areas in these northeastern states, some of which were recaptured by Nigerian and Chadian forces in March 2015.
“Each week that passes we learn of more brutal Boko Haram abuses against civilians,” said Mausi Segun, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Nigerian government needs to make protecting civilians a priority in military operations against Boko Haram.”
The findings underscore the human toll of the conflict between Boko Haram and forces from from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency says that nearly one million people have been forced to flee since the Islamist rebel group began its violent uprising in July 2009. During 2014, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 3,750 civilians died during Boko Haram attacks in these areas. Attacks in the first quarter of 2015 have increased compared to the same period in 2014, including seven suicide bombings allegedly using women and children.
The group also abducted hundreds of women and girls many of whom were subjected to forced conversion, forced marriage, rape, and other abuse. Scores of young men and boys were forced to join Boko Haram’s ranks or face death, according to Human Rights Watch research. Hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to flee the area, either because Boko Haram fighters ordered them to leave or out of fear for their lives.
Displaced people told Human Rights Watch they had fled with only the clothes on their backs after witnessing killings and the burning of their homes and communities by Boko Haram, and in one case by Nigerian security forces.
“As bombs thrown up by Boko Haram started exploding around us on the hills, I saw body parts scatter in different directions,” one witness of attacks in the Gwoza hills in Borno State told Human Rights Watch in late January. “Those already weakened by starvation and thirst coughed repeatedly from the smoke of the explosions until they passed out… I escaped at night.”
Displaced people also described targeted burning of schools by Boko Haram, and a few instances in which government forces took over schools. Deliberate attacks on schools and other civilian structures not being used for military purposes are war crimes. Attacks on schools by Boko Haram, displacement as a result of attacks on villages, and the use of schools by Nigerian army soldiers not only damage schools but interfere with access to education for thousands of children in the northeast.
According to Human Rights Watch research, Nigerian security forces failed to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population in their military operations against Boko Haram.
In December, Nigerian security forces attacked and burned down the village of Mundu near a Boko Haram base in Bauchi State, witnesses told Human Rights Watch, leaving 5 civilians dead and 70 families homeless. Villagers told Human Rights Watch that Boko Haram was not present in the village when it was attacked.
“The soldiers were shouting in what sounded like English, which most of us did not understand,” the village leader told Human Rights Watch. “We all began running when the soldiers started shooting and setting fire to our homes and other buildings. We returned two days later to find five bodies.” The dead included an 80-year-old blind man burned in his home, a homeless woman with mental disabilities, two visitors attending a wedding in the village, and a 20-year-old man, all of whom were shot.
Army authorities in Abuja said they were unaware of the incident when presented with Human Rights Watch’s findings on March 11, but said they had ordered military police to investigate the claims.
According to media reports, between September and March, Nigerian military authorities charged and tried 307 soldiers who had been on operations in the north for “cowardice,” mutiny, and other military offenses, sentencing 70 of them to death. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. No military personnel have faced prosecution for human rights abuses against civilians in the northeast.
“Civilians in the northeast desperately need protection from Boko Haram attacks and they should never be targeted by the very soldiers who are supposed to be defending them,” Segun said. “The military’s decision to investigate the alleged violations in Mundu is an important first step toward ensuring accountability and compensation for the victims.”
In January, the African Union (AU) endorsed a multinational task force comprising of troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger to fight Boko Haram after the insurgents increased cross border attacks into Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. The action followed attacks on numerous villages and towns in northeastern Nigeria.
The AU is seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution to endorse the task force. Since early March, Nigerian security forces aided by forces from Cameroon, Chad, and Niger have dislodged Boko Haram from some areas of Nigeria’s northeast.
The situation in Nigeria is under preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor. Preliminary examination may or may not lead to the opening of an ICC investigation. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on February 2, 2015, warned that persons inciting or engaging in acts of violence in Nigeria within the ICC’s jurisdiction are liable to prosecution by Nigerian Courts or the ICC. The ICC is a court of last resort, which intervenes only when national courts are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute serious crimes violating international law.
Nigerian authorities should ensure that the December 6 attack on Mundu is effectively investigated and that any military personnel, including commanders, responsible for human rights abuses and war crimes are held to account. War crimes by Boko Haram should be properly investigated and the perpetrators held to account in fair trials, Human Rights Watch said.
“The increased military effort has not made the situation for civilians in northeastern Nigeria any less desperate,” Segun said. “Without a stronger effort to protect civilians and accountability for abuses, the situation can only get worse.”
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Meeting with Nigerian Minister of Defense Aliyu Mohammed Gusau
WASHINGTON, March 26, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met today with Defense Minister Aliyu Mohammed Gusau of Nigeria. Ambassador Rice noted Nigeria’s upcoming presidential elections on March 28, and, echoing President Obama’s message to the Nigerian people earlier this week, she underscored the importance of a transparent, free, fair, and inclusive electoral process without violence. She also highlighted the critical need for the Nigerian security forces to remain apolitical while providing election security. Additionally, Ambassador Rice noted recent progress Nigeria and its neighbors have achieved in the campaign against Boko Haram. She reaffirmed the United States’ support for a regional campaign to counter the terrorist group while respecting human rights and addressing the underlying causes of Boko Haram’s founding and territorial expansion. Ambassador Rice reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to continue to support Nigeria and its regional partners in their efforts to end Boko Haram’s deplorable violence, protect civilians, and restore security throughout the Lake Chad Basin region.
LONDON, United-Kingdom, March 25, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Africa Minister James Duddridge appalled by abhorrent abduction of women and children in northern Nigeria
Following reports of the further abductions from Damask, Northern Nigeria, the Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP said:
“I am appalled at reports that up to 500 young women and children have been abducted from the town of Damask in northern Nigeria. I condemn Boko Haram’s abhorrent practice of abduction in the strongest terms and call for all those taken to be released immediately. The UK stands with Nigeria and its people at this difficult time, and will continue to support the region in countering the threat posed by Boko Haram.”