Sep 082014
 

NAIROBI, Kenya, September 8, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have sexually abused and exploited vulnerable Somali women and girls on their bases in Mogadishu, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Troop-contributing countries, the African Union (AU), and donors to AMISOM should urgently address these abuses and strengthen procedures inside Somalia to seek justice.

The 71-page report, “‘The Power These Men Have Over Us': Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia,” documents the sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women and girls on two AMISOM bases in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, since 2013. The AU soldiers, relying on Somali intermediaries, have used a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid, to coerce vulnerable women and girls into sexual activity. They have also raped or otherwise sexually assaulted women who were seeking medical assistance or water at AMISOM bases. Human Rights Watch interviewed 21 women and girls who described being raped or sexually exploited by Ugandan or Burundian military personnel serving with the AU forces.

“Some African Union soldiers have misused their positions of power to exploit Somalia’s most vulnerable women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Somalia has many intractable problems, but the Somali and AU leadership could end sexual exploitation and abuse by pressing troop-sending countries to hold abusers responsible.”

The AU and AMISOM should foster an organizational culture of “zero tolerance” of unlawful activities on their bases, Human Rights Watch said. They should establish or strengthen instruments and bodies that have responsibility for addressing these abuses, such as conduct and discipline units, and an independent investigative body at the AU level.

Human Rights Watch conducted research in Somalia, Uganda, and Burundi. All of the Somali women and girls interviewed were from displaced communities from south-central Somalia. In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed over 30 witnesses, foreign observers, military personnel, and officials from troop-contributing countries. The research focused on incidents in Mogadishu, where Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are present and does not preclude the possibility that similar abuses have occurred elsewhere.

Years of conflict and famine in Somalia have displaced tens of thousands of women and girls from their communities, and from their family and clan support networks. Without employment options and basic resources, many must rely completely on outside assistance and are forced into exploitative and abusive situations to sustain themselves and their children.

The African Union Peace and Security Council deployed the peace support troops known as AMISOM to Somalia in 2007 under a United Nations Security Council mandate, to protect Somali infrastructure and government officials and to contribute to delivering humanitarian assistance. Since then, AMISOM’s mandate, size, and geographical presence have steadily increased. The force draws its military personnel from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sierra Leone.

Women and girls seeking assistance at AMISOM camps in Mogadishu do so at significant risk, Human Rights Watch found. For instance, in late 2013, Qamar R. (not her real name), 15, went to the Burundian contingent’s base to get medicine for her sick mother. A Somali interpreter told her to follow two Burundian soldiers to get medicine. They took her to a remote area and one of the soldiers raped her. She told Human Rights Watch: “First he ripped off my hijab and then he attacked me.” As she was leaving, the second Burundian soldier gave her US$10.

Some soldiers have exploited women’s poverty and lack of food for sex. In May 2013, Kassa D. was introduced to a Somali interpreter at AMISOM’s base camp. “I was worried,” she said. “I wanted to run but I knew that the same thing that brought me here would get me through this – my hunger. I had made a choice and I couldn’t turn back now.” After she had sexual intercourse with a Ugandan soldier, the interpreter paid her $10.

The UN secretary-general’s 2003 bulletin on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse is a groundbreaking policy document for UN peacekeeping missions. It explicitly prohibits peacekeepers from exchanging any money, goods, or services for sex.

Evidence suggests that sexual exploitation is not a secret at AMISOM’s Mogadishu bases, Human Rights Watch said. The women and girls have entered the camps through official guarded gates and accessed areas that are in theory protected zones. Two women told Human Rights Watch that the soldiers they had sex with for money gave them official AMISOM badges to facilitate their entry to the base.

“The AU military and political leadership needs to do more to prevent, identify, and punish sexual abuse by their troops,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “As another food crisis looms in Mogadishu’s displacement camps, women and girls are once again desperate for food and medicine. They should not have to sell their bodies for their families to survive.”

AMISOM soldiers have also subjected women and girls to other abuses and exposed them to serious health risks, Human Rights Watch said. Several women described being slapped and beaten by the soldiers with whom they had sex. Others said that soldiers had refused to wear condoms, passing on sexually transmitted infections.

Some of the women interviewed said they did not report their experiences because they feared reprisals from their attackers, the authorities, and the Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabaab, as well as stigma and retribution from their own families. Others told Human Rights Watch they were reluctant to lose their only source of income. As a result, Human Rights Watch could not draw conclusions about the extent of the problem or official levels of involvement.

Countries providing troops to AMISOM are primarily responsible for the conduct of their forces in Somalia and have exclusive jurisdiction over their personnel for any criminal offenses. These countries have, to varying degrees, established procedures to deal with misconduct including deploying legal advisors and military investigators and, in Uganda’s case, temporarily sending a court martial to Somalia to try cases.

Yet troop-contributing countries have not provided the necessary resources to investigate allegations or made the investigation and prosecution of sexual exploitation and abuse a priority, Human Rights Watch said. Only one rape case, in which the victim was a child, is before Uganda’s military court in Kampala.

AMISOM’s leadership has taken some measures to address sexual and gender-based violence, including drafting a policy on prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse, and doing outreach. However, more should be done to ensure that these efforts provide justice for victims, Human Rights Watch said.

The AU force, along with the UN and the Somali government, should adopt measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse while creating an environment in which women can come forward and report abuses. Troop-contributing countries should reinforce their investigative and prosecutorial capacities inside Somalia. They also should ensure, along with AMISOM and the UN, that survivors receive adequate medical and psychosocial care and protection, particularly during investigations and prosecutions.

International donors, particularly the United Nations, European Union, United States, and United Kingdom should support greater independent oversight of the conduct of AU troops and civilian personnel and ensure that they are not complicit in abuses committed by AMISOM forces, Human Rights Watch said.

“The AU can no longer turn a blind eye to the abuses on AMISOM bases, as its undermining the very credibility of the mission,” Gerntholtz said. “Governments supporting AMISOM should work with the AU to end sexual abuse and exploitation of Somali women and girls by their troops, take action against forces contributing to it, and do what they can to prevent further sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women.”

“‘The Power These Men Have Over Us': Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia” is available at:

http://hrw.org/node/128407

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Somalia, please visit:

http://www.hrw.org/africa/somalia

Sep 082014
 

GENEVA, Switzerland, September 8, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — After two days of discussion on potential Ebola therapies and vaccines, more than 150 participants, representing the fields of research and clinical investigation, ethics, legal, regulatory, financing, and data collection, identified several therapeutic and vaccine interventions that should be the focus of priority clinical evaluation at this time.

Currently, none of these vaccines or therapies have been approved for human use to prevent or treat EVD. A number of candidate vaccines and therapies have been developed and tested in animal models and some have demonstrated promising results. In view of the urgency of these outbreaks, the international community is mobilizing to find ways to accelerate the evaluation and use of these compounds.

Safety in humans is also unknown, raising the possibility of adverse side effects when administered. Use of some of these products is demanding and requires intravenous administration and infrastructure, such as cold chain, and facilities able to offer a good and safe standard of care.

The experts determined:

• There was consensus that the use of whole blood therapies and convalescent blood serums needs to be considered as a matter of priority.

• Safety studies of the two most advanced vaccines identified – based on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV-EBO) and chimpanzee adenovirus (ChAd-EBO) – are being initiated in the United States of America and will be started in Africa and Europe in mid-September. WHO will work with all the relevant stakeholders to accelerate their development and safe use in affected countries. If proven safe, a vaccine could be available in November 2014 for priority use in health-care workers.

• In addition to blood therapies and candidate vaccines, the participants discussed the availability and evidence supporting the use of novel therapeutic drugs, including monoclonal antibodies, RNA-based drugs, and small antiviral molecules. They also considered the potential use of existing drugs approved for other diseases and conditions. Of the novel products discussed, some have shown great promise in monkey models and have been used in a few Ebola patients (although, in too few cases to permit any conclusion about efficacy).

Existing supplies of all experimental medicines are limited. While many efforts are underway to accelerate production, supplies will not be sufficient for several months to come. The prospects of having augmented supplies of vaccines rapidly look slightly better.

The participants cautioned that investigation of these interventions should not detract attention from the implementation of effective clinical care, rigorous infection prevention and control, careful contact tracing and follow-up, effective risk communication, and social mobilization, all of which are crucial for ending these outbreaks.

The recipients of experimental interventions, location of studies, and study design, should be based on the aim to learn as much as we can as fast as we can without compromising patient care or health worker safety.

The recipients of experimental interventions, locations of studies, and study design should be based on the aim to learn as much as we can as fast as we can without compromising patient care or health worker safety, with active participation of local scientists, and proper consultation with communities.

This will require the following crucial elements:

• Appropriate protocols must be rapidly developed for informed consent and safe use.

• A mechanism for evaluating pre-clinical data should be put in place in order to recommend which interventions should be evaluated as a first priority.

• A platform must be established for transparent, real-time collection and sharing of data.

• A safety monitoring board needs to be established to evaluate the data from all interventions.

All of these will require continued ethical oversight.

Sep 062014
 

Plano, TX, September 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — DreamTrips™ Vacation Club (https://www.dreamtrips.com), one of the world’s leading travel and vacation club membership organizations, was recognized as “Africa’s Leading Travel Club” for 2014 as part of the World Travel Awards (WTA)—the second WTA regional award for the travel club this year. The World Travel Awards Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony was held at Transcorp Hilton Abuja in Abuja, Nigeria on Friday, Sept. 5, with hundreds of tourism professionals in attendance.

Logo: http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/plog-content/images/apo/logos/atc.jpg

The award acknowledges DreamTrips’ distinguished travel club excellence in the Africa (https://www.dreamtrips.com/experience-more) and Indian Ocean regions within the last year. Industry leaders from across both regions identified DreamTrips for exceptional service and product offerings. Nominees in other Africa and Indian Ocean travel categories include Four Seasons Hotels, Hilton, Marriott, Kenya Airways and Royal Air Maroc.

“We are grateful to be recognized as Africa’s best travel club a month after DreamTrips was named Europe’s Leading Travel Club,” WorldVentures Co-Founder and CEO Mike Azcue said. “Together with Rovia, our travel agency partner, the team composes unforgettable travel experiences, which include a unique product offering and exceptional customer service for our worldwide membership. This is a warm handshake from the tourism industry’s leadership.”

Since 1993, WTA has acknowledged and celebrated excellence across all sectors of the global tourism industry. Last year, DreamTrips was named “World’s Leading Travel Club” at the 2013 WTA Grand Finals. The Africa & Indian Ocean Gala Ceremony is the fourth stop on the annual Grand Tour which visited Dubai, Greece and Ecuador earlier this year, and will include stops in India and Anguilla before arriving in Morocco for the Grand Finals in November.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of DreamTrips™ Vacation Club.

For inquiries, contact:

Laura Wards

Email: press@worldventures.com

About DreamTrips

DreamTrips (http://www.dreamtrips.com/experience-more ) delivers high-quality, one-of-a-kind curated travel and vacation experiences to its vacation club members. More information can be found at

www.dreamtrips.com/experience-more.

About World Travel Awards

The World Travel Awards (http://www.worldtravelawards.com) was launched in 1993 to acknowledge and recognize excellence in the global travel and tourism industry. Now celebrating its 21st anniversary, it is regarded as the highest achievement a travel product or service could hope to receive. More information can be found at http://www.worldtravelawards.com.

Sep 052014
 

WASHINGTON, September 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 5, 2014

The United States congratulates the people of Mozambique for the agreement reached to bring an end to ho…

Sep 052014
 

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, September 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The East and West Africa Malaria Task Force, launched four years ago, has matured into a robust collaboration between East and West African countries and the United States. More than 60 senior medical representatives from member states met in Bujumbura, Burundi, on August 25 for the opening ceremonies of the Task Force conference.

As part of the U.S. effort to eradicate malaria on the African continent, in Burundi alone the United States has provided more than $40 million through USAID to help build capacity of Burundi’s malaria prevention and control program. “Malaria affects productivity and the ability of troops to fight during peace-keeping operations,” said Ambassador Liberi, U.S. Ambassador to Burundi. Ninety percent of malaria deaths in 2010 were recorded in Africa.

The United States Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center-Global Emerging Infection Surveillance and Response System (AFHSC-GEIS) funded the meeting, which was coordinated by U.S. Africa Command. “The hard work and accomplishments of both the East and the West African Malaria task forces are now being integrated into a combined, synergistic effort against this devastating infectious disease,” stated U.S. Army Colonel James F. Cummings, Director of GEIS at AFHSC. ”We stand proudly with our East and West African partners to defeat the scourge that is malaria.”

“The meeting is very important because malaria impacts half of the countries in the world. Burundi is a key member of the peace-keeping process in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as are many countries in East and West Africa,” said Ambassador Liberi. The United States is committed to supporting global efforts against the deadly disease by contributing about one-third of the funding to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GFATM).

“This meeting is important because it allows us to be here to address ways of malaria prevention and ways of controlling malaria infection,” said Kenya’s Brigadier General Kristopher Osirarrumm, a member of the East Africa Malaria Task Force.

“At U.S. Africa Command, we share the belief that a safe, stable and secure Africa is in everyone’s best interest,” said Navy Captain David Weiss, AFRICOM Command Surgeon. “I truly believe that a regional approach to a common problem is the most effective form of engagement and the most efficient way to learn. This week, we meet to share experiences, knowledge and best practices with each other.”

Sep 052014
 

WASHINGTON, September 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 5, 2014

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to the people of th…