Hundreds of children released from armed groups in South Sudan – UNICEF

More than 200 children were released by armed groups in South Sudan on Tuesday. This was the second release of children in a series, supported by UNICEF, that will see almost 1,000 children released from the ranks of armed groups in the coming months.

The first release of children took place in Yambio Town in early February, where more than 300 children were released to return to their families, or to UNICEF-supported care centres. This latest release of a further 207 children continues that effort and took place in a rural community called Bakiwiri, about an hour’s drive from Yambio, in Western Equatoria State.

“No child should ever have to pick up a weapon and fight” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan. “For every child released, today marks the start of a new life. UNICEF is proud to support these children as they return to their families and start to build a brighter future.”

During the ceremony, the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes. Medical screenings will now be carried out, and children will receive counselling and psychosocial support as part of the reintegration programme, which is implemented by UNICEF and partners.

When the children return to their homes, their families will be provided with three months’ worth of food assistance to support their initial reintegration. The children will also be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security. Being unable to support themselves economically can be a key factor in children becoming associated with armed groups. In addition to services related to livelihoods, UNICEF and partners will ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres.

“UNICEF, UNMISS and government partners have negotiated tirelessly with parties to the conflict so as to enable this release of children” said Mr. Mdoe. “But the work does not stop here. The reintegration process is a delicate one and we must now ensure the children have all the support they need to make a success of their lives.”

The 207 children released (112 boys, 95 girls), were from the ranks of the South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM) – which in 2016 signed a peace agreement with the Government and is now integrating its ranks into the national army – and from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO). An upsurge of fighting in July 2016 stalled the original plans to release children, but momentum is now building for further releases in the future.

Despite this progress, there are still around 19,000 children serving in the ranks of armed forces and groups in South Sudan. So long as the recruitment and use of children by armed groups continues, these groups fail on their commitment to uphold the rights of children under international law. As peace talks resume and the future of the transitional government is debated, UNICEF urges all parties to the conflict to end the recruitment of children and to release all children in their ranks.

Adequate funding for UNICEF’s release programme is also essential. UNICEF South Sudan requires US$45 million to support release, demobilization and reintegration of 19,000 children over the next three years.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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Source:: Hundreds of children released from armed groups in South Sudan – UNICEF

      

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Central Africa Region Ready for Africities Summit 2018

The United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) (www.UCLGa.org) Regional Strategic Meeting for Central Africa, was held at Le Méridien Re-Ndama Hotel in Libreville, Gabon, April 16-17, 2018.

The meeting was organized in partnership with the Libreville Municipality. Six of the eight countries in the Central African region participated in the meeting: Cameroon, Congo, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Chad. Delegates were Presidents from the national associations of local governments, leaders from the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) and the permanent secretaries of the national associations.

The meeting was officially opened by Mrs. Judith Koumba Pemba Mombo, Secretary General representing the Minister of the Interior and Security in charge of Decentralization and Local Development, in the presence of: Mr. Diderot Moutsinga Kebila, Governor of the Estuaire Province; Mrs. Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, Mayor of Libreville, Vice-President of UCLG for Africa; Mr. Christian Roger Okemba, Mayor of Brazzaville (Congo) and Vice President of UCLG Africa for the Central Africa Region; Mrs. Celestine Ketcha Courtès, President of REFELA; Mr. Mohamed Yassine Daoudi, Vice President of the Moroccan Association of Presidents of Municipal Councils (AMPCC); and Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.

The proceedings were chaired by Mr. Christian Roger Okemba, Mayor of Brazzaville (Congo) and Vice-President of UCLG Africa for the Central Africa Region and moderated by Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.

The first day was devoted to an exchange of information on the state of decentralization in the countries of the Central Africa region and the role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063, and the international agendas adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and 2016. The session also provided an update on the signing and ratification of the African Charter on the Values ​​and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development, as well as the creation of the High Council of Local Authorities as an advisory body of the African Union.

The participants from the Central Africa region are facing several similar realities in implementing the decentralization process in their country. Where the legislation governing decentralization exists, its implementation is slow to materialize. According to the UCLG Africa report on “Assessing the Institutional Environment of Local Governments in Africa,” the Central African region is the lowest ranked country in terms of a climate favorable to local authorities.

Members of UCLG Africa in the region were invited to contribute to the update of their country fact sheet within this report and also to advocate for their country’s ratification of the “African Charter on the Values ​​and Principles of Decentralization, Local Governance and Local Development.” Since its adoption in Malabo in 2014, the charter has been signed by 13 countries and ratified by only 3 countries (Madagascar, Burundi and Namibia), with none from Central Africa. The Charter will become a legal instrument of the African Union when it is signed and ratified by 15 countries and filed with the African Union Commission. Concerning this point, a delegation was received by the Interior Minister of Gabon who pledged to raise the issue to ensure the ratification of the charter in his country by June-July 2018.

The national associations were also invited to write memoranda on the state of decentralization in their country and to mark the celebration of African Decentralization Day, a day to be celebrated annually on August 10th by the African Union.

Participants examined their involvement in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and were invited to invent their own urbanization. Only 12 countries on the African continent have a national urbanization policy. They were encouraged to make twinnings between cities and universities to produce quality data adapted to the realities of each African city (slums, household waste, etc).

Regarding the SDGs, they filled in the questionnaire of the UCLG World Organization on the localization of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The results of the questionnaire will represent the voice of local Africa in a report that UCLG will produce for the commissions of the United Nations Regional Offices and for the United Nations High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in July 2018.

During the second day, attention focused on UCLG Africa’s relations with the European Union. In 2013, the EU adopted a communication, which for the first time recognizes local authorities as full-fledged public authorities. Following this recognition, the European Union has entered into a framework partnership agreement with international and continental associations of local governments, including UCLG Africa. The participants were also informed of the fact that, in accordance with the provisions of the 2013 EU Communication on Local Authorities, national associations can be considered as being in a situation of monopoly in their respective countries and as such can access EU cooperation funds allocated to local authorities without going through a call for proposals, provided that they present and discuss with the EU delegation an implementation program agreed with the members of the said national association. The participants were also informed of the start of negotiations on the post-Cotonou Agreement that will govern the cooperation relationship between the African Union and the European Union for the next 20 years.

UCLG members from Central Africa were urged to advocate with their national governments for local and regional authorities to participate as key partners in the various stages of discussion of the agreement. It was also recommended that a delegation of political decision-makers from UCLG Africa should meet the President of the African Union Commission to request that the territorial authorities be involved alongside the African Union Commission from the beginning of the negotiations of the post-Cotonou agreement. In addition, UCLG Africa members from the Central Africa region were asked to meet with EU delegations in their respective countries to discuss the implementation of the provisions of the 2013 Communication. One of the problems raised was that of the weak capacity of national associations to prepare applications that are eligible for European funding. Members asked the secretariat to consider setting up a technical support unit for associations to prepare funding requests. This unit should also be deployed at the level of the regional offices.

Participants discussed the establishment of a local authorities transparency and integrity index. This concern is increasingly highlighted by citizens as well as by central governments and the financial community. As such, it is necessary to anticipate the demand for transparency, for which territorial authorities are being increasingly challenged to act. This was followed by discussion of Internet-based communication strategies and the Secretariat’s offer to members to assist them in setting up their websites.

Members were informed of the launch of the three main campaigns at the heart of the 2018-2020 three-year action plan of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA): African Cities without Street Children; African Cities: Zero Tolerance to Violence Against Women; and African Cities Promoting Women’s Leadership and Economic Empowerment. The local governments of Central Africa subscribed to the “African Streets without Street Children” campaign, which will be officially launched at the Africities 8 summit in Marrakech, Morocco from November 20-24, 2018.

Members were invited to participate in large numbers in the summit and were also informed of the importance of their participation in the General Assembly of UCLG Africa and in the Assembly of the Network of Locally Elected Women of Africa (REFELA) to be held during the summit. They were also reminded of the rules and procedures of the Elective General Assembly to be held on November 23 at the Africities Summit.

The official launch of the 8th edition of the Africities Summit will take place in Rabat, Morocco on May 15, 2018. The theme of this edition is, “The transition to sustainable cities and territories: the role of local African governments.” The Africities Summit will also be the setting of the elective general assembly of UCLG Africa (November 23, 2018). In order to submit the candidacies of the Central Africa region to the various bodies of the organization, a caucus, bringing together the presidents of the various national associations, was held on April 17 and resulted in the nominations included in the final declaration of the regional meeting (https://goo.gl/qU8cSE).

The regional strategic meeting held in Libreville followed that was held in Nairobi, Kenya April 9-10, 2018 for the East Africa region. Further meetings scheduled include the Strategic Meeting of Southern Africa in Walvis Bay, Namibia, May 7-8, 2018; the Strategic Meeting of West Africa in Accra, Ghana, May 28-29, 2018; and the North Africa Strategic Meeting in Rabat, Morocco, June 18-19, 2018.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).

For further information, please contact:
Gaëlle Yomi: Tel: + 212 610 56 71 45
E-mail: GYomi@UCLGA.org

Source:: Central Africa Region Ready for Africities Summit 2018

      

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Remarks by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the Opening of the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Committee of the African Union on Libya, Addis Ababa, 17 April 2018

Remarks by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the Opening of the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Committee of the African Union on Libya, Addis Ababa, 17 April 2018:

Mr. Chairman of the High Level Ad Hoc Committee at Ministerial Level,

Distinguished representatives of the Member States of the High Level Committee,

Distinguished Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome you to Addis Ababa and to the headquarters of the African Union. This meeting is a new step in our collective action to find a solution to the Libyan crisis and thus sustainably promote peace, security, stability and reconciliation in that country.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Ministers and other Heads of delegation here present. By travelling to Addis Ababa, you, once again, bear testimony of your commitment and that of your respective countries to fulfil the mandate entrusted to the High-Level Committee on Libya.

I thank the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Libya, our brother Ghassan Salamé. I commend the determination and dynamism with which he carries out his heavy responsibilities.

His presence in our midst attests to the dynamism of the partnership that the African Union and the United Nations are endeavouring to build in the service of the cause of peace in Africa.

May I also highlight the resolute action of President Denis Sassou N’guesso, who heads the High-Level Committee on Libya. This action is particularly remarkable and reflects his PanAfrican commitment.

The Committee, as you know, are to be a vector of solidarity or, more precisely, of mutual aid: by helping Libya, we are helping ourselves, as it is true that the stability of Libya is also an asset for the whole continent, especially in this phase of acceleration of the African integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This fifth meeting of the High-level Committee, at ministerial level, is being held in a context of continued stalemate in the Libyan political process and persistent volatility of the security environment. The hopes raised following the meeting in Brazzaville, in September 2017, unfortunately have not been fulfilled.

Despite the care of the international community, Libyan actors have so far been unable to overcome their differences. The lack of a consensus on the revision of the Libyan Political Agreement is a clear illustration of this.

Selfish interests and parochial concerns of all kind have prevailed over the general interest.

Many criminal groups and militias operate in the Libyan territory and continue to engage in unspeakable abuses and trample underfoot the most basic humanitarian standards.

The authority of the State is all but nominal. As a result, terrorist groups have been able to establish themselves in various parts of the Libyan territory.

This situation poses a twofold threat: to Libya, of course, and its people, whose aspirations for well-being and freedom have been betrayed; but also to the neighbouring countries, which pay a heavy price because of the instability and insecurity that are today the main characteristics of the Libyan situation.

The fate of African migrant workers tragically illustrates the seriousness of the situation and the depth of the abyss into which Libya has fallen.

For us, at the African Union, this is a source of serious and constant concern. This situation is morally intolerable. Everything must be done to put an end to it.

I seize this opportunity to commend the close cooperation that has developed between the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union, within the framework of the Troika we are piloting. The objective is to help the repatriation of African migrants and put an end to despicable attacks on the human dignity to which they are subjected daily at the hands of criminal groups.

This action will be pursued.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The overall situation is, therefore, most alarming. It calls for an even more sustained action on our part.

From this point of view, if there is one thing that the efforts made in recent years have shown, it is the need for us to work together, to enhance our complementarities and to promote synergies. No organisation, no entity can, on its own, take up the challenges at hand.

This fact underlines the importance of this meeting.

By bringing together the neighbouring countries and other actors, the relevant regional entity and the world organisation, it makes it possible to pool the efforts of one and the other, to ensure that they all converge towards the only goal that is worthwhile: putting an end to the Libyan tragedy, enabling the reconstruction of a legitimate authority accepted by all and making Libya a beacon of peace and stability.

I would like to underscore here the central nature of the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations. Libya affords the opportunity to demonstrate its relevance and undeniable value added.

In our action in the coming period, priority must be given to establishing conditions conducive to the organisation of elections envisaged by the Libyan actors. These must be a milestone in the stabilisation of Libya and not a factor aggravating existing cleavages.

To do this, it is essential that reconciliation between the Libyans progresses. The joint organisation of a Reconciliation Conference by the African Union and the United Nations is, therefore, most appropriate. The aim is to mend the social fabric and re-establish the minimum bases of wanting to live together.

With regard more specifically to the African Union, it is crucial that we increase our involvement to fully play the role expected of us and better support the Ad Hoc Committee in fulfilling its responsibilities. Three actions must guide these efforts:

(1) the relocation of our Office for Libya to Tripoli to operate as closely as possible to the realities on the ground;

(2) raising the level of daily interaction of our Office with the Libyan and international actors; and

(3) the reactivation of the International Contact Group on Libya, as decided by the African Union Summit last January.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

However, let us not delude ourselves: no international effort can replace the will of the Libyan actors to iron out their differences and put the interest of their people above the narrow considerations that have hitherto prevailed and thwarted all attempts at mediation.

The fact that two million voters have already registered for the upcoming polls is a powerful expression that the Libyan people are fed up. May their cry of distress be heard!

I wish full success to your deliberations.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).

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Source:: Remarks by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the Opening of the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Committee of the African Union on Libya, Addis Ababa, 17 April 2018

      

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Statement attributable to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau

Statement attributable to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau:

The Secretary-General welcomes the appointment of Aristides Gomes as Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau on 16 April. Mr. Gomes’ appointment was made on the basis of consensus arrived at by the key national political stakeholders. The Secretary-General also welcomes the announcement that the country’s legislative elections will take place on 18 November 2018. The announcement provides a clear mandate for the urgent preparations for these elections. These developments followed an Extraordinary Session of the Authority of the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Guinea-Bissau, held in Lomé, Togo on 14 April 2018. The Secretary-General commends the role played by the President of the ECOWAS Authority, President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, and the ECOWAS Mediator for Guinea-Bissau, President Alpha Condé of the Republic of Guinea.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by the spirit of compromise and leadership demonstrated by President Jose Mario Vaz, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and the Party for Social Renewal (PRS). He urges all parties to promptly take the next crucial steps, including the formation of an inclusive Government, reopening of the National Assembly and implementation of the remaining provisions of the Conakry Agreement.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment to continue to work closely with the African Union, the ECOWAS, the European Union and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP) in supporting peacebuilding and consolidation efforts in Guinea-Bissau.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Source:: Statement attributable to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau

      

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