United States Concerned about Prison Conditions in Burundi

Media Note

John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

March 31, 2016

The United States expresses deep concern over the death yesterday of Jacques Bihozagara, a former Rwandan ambassador and government minister, in the Bujumbura, Burundi, prison where he had been detained since 2015. Mr. Bihozagara’s death highlights abiding concerns about inhumane prison conditions in Burundi, as well as persistent credible reports of arbitrary arrests, increased torture, the presence of underground detention facilities, and disappearances of individuals detained by security forces.

While Burundian authorities have allowed independent experts from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) access to some political prisoners, the conditions for thousands of prisoners are unknown. We remain concerned about a lack of due process in many of their cases. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid reported to the Security Council this month that over half the detainees his team met with in Burundi showed signs of having been tortured.

We call on the Government of Burundi to provide unfettered access to monitors and observers from OHCHR, the AU, and other independent organizations to monitor the conditions of prisoners and prison facilities, as well as to investigate broader allegations of human rights abuses.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: United States Concerned about Prison Conditions in Burundi

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Secretary Kerry’s Meeting with Federal Republic of Nigeria President Buhari

Readout

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

March 31, 2016

The following is attributable to Spokesperson John Kirby:

Secretary Kerry met today on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit with Federal Republic of Nigeria President Buhari.

The Secretary expressed a firm commitment to continue working closely with Nigeria, highlighting the country’s importance to the region and to the continent. He offered continued U.S. support for efforts to increase security and stability, and to promote development in the areas of northeast Nigeria that have fallen victim to terrorist attacks by Boko Haram.

Secretary Kerry also offered continued U.S. support to locate and help with tracing and investigating looted funds. He noted Nigeria’s potential to enhance its agricultural production and infrastructure, and the potential of these industries to generate more employment opportunities, especially for Nigerian youth. He encouraged President Buhari to take steps to leverage private sector investment in these areas.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Source:: Secretary Kerry’s Meeting with Federal Republic of Nigeria President Buhari

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Concerns Regarding Sentencing of Angolan Activists

Press Statement

John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

March 31, 2016

The United States believes the harsh sentences levied this week by an Angolan court against the Angola 15+2 activists threaten the exercise of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. Both freedoms are enshrined in the Angolan Constitution, protected under Angola’s international human rights obligations, and are core values of any strong and functioning democracy.

We are also concerned about reports of procedural irregularities and lack of transparency in the trial, which raise questions about whether the rule of law has prevailed in this case.

We are encouraged, however, that the trial of the 15+2 activists has become a matter of national Angolan debate. We call on the Government of Angola to protect Angolans’ constitutional right to engage in peaceful, open, and public discourse.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Concerns Regarding Sentencing of Angolan Activists

Press Statement

John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

March 31, 2016

The United States believes the harsh sentences levied this week by an Angolan court against the Angola 15+2 activists threaten the exercise of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. Both freedoms are enshrined in the Angolan Constitution, protected under Angola’s international human rights obligations, and are core values of any strong and functioning democracy.

We are also concerned about reports of procedural irregularities and lack of transparency in the trial, which raise questions about whether the rule of law has prevailed in this case.

We are encouraged, however, that the trial of the 15+2 activists has become a matter of national Angolan debate. We call on the Government of Angola to protect Angolans’ constitutional right to engage in peaceful, open, and public discourse.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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Statement of the Secretary-General on the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic

Statement of the Secretary-General on the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic

I am shocked to the core by the latest allegations of abuse by international forces in the Central African Republic. Our focus must be on the victims and their families. We are talking about women and young children who have been traumatized in the worst imaginable way.

Yesterday, the Central African Republic inaugurated a new democratically elected President, marking the end of a transition period. The interventions of the international community helped save the CAR from an unspeakable fate. Yet we must face the fact that a number of troops who were sent to protect people instead acted with hearts of darkness.

These crimes only fester in silence. That is why the United Nations is shining a spotlight on these despicable, depraved and deeply disturbing allegations. I will continue to be unrelenting in confronting this scourge and raising it proactively at every opportunity. This constant and loud advocacy must be matched by the actions of Member States who alone have the power to discipline their forces with consequences. This is essential to restoring trust in the invaluable institution of peacekeeping and – even more importantly – to provide a full measure of justice and healing to the affected communities.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Source:: Statement of the Secretary-General on the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2016 Article IV Consultation with Nigeria

On March, 30, 2016, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV Consultation [1] with Nigeria.

The Nigerian economy is facing substantial challenges. While the non-oil sector accounts for 90 percent of GDP, the oil sector plays a central role in the economy. Lower oil prices have significantly affected the fiscal and external accounts, decimating government revenues to just 7.8 percent of GDP and resulting in the doubling of the general government deficit to about 3.7 percent of GDP in 2015. Exports dropped about 40 percent in 2015, pushing the current account from a surplus of 0.2 percent of GDP to a deficit projected at 2.4 percent of GDP. With foreign portfolio inflows slowing significantly, reserves fell to $28.3 billion at end-2015. Exchange restrictions introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to protect reserves have impacted significantly segments of the private sector that depend on an adequate supply of foreign currencies. Coupled with fuel shortages in the first half of the year and lower investor confidence, growth slowed sharply from 6.3 percent in 2014 to an estimated 2.7 percent in 2015, weakening corporate balance sheets, lowering the resilience of the banking system, and likely reversing progress in reducing unemployment and poverty. Inflation increased to 9.6 percent in January (up from 7.9 percent in December, 2014), above the CBN’s medium-term target range of 6–9 percent.

The recovery in economic activity is likely to be modest over the medium term, but with significant downside risks. Growth in 2016 is expected to decline further to 2.3 percent, with non-oil sector growth projected to slow from 3.6 percent in 2015 to 3.1 percent in 2016 before recovering to 3.5 percent in 2017, based on the results of policies under implementation—particularly in the oil sector—as well as an improvement in the terms of trade. The general government deficit is projected to widen somewhat in 2016 before improving in 2017, while the external current account deficit is likely to worsen further. Key risks to the outlook include lower oil prices, shortfalls in non-oil revenues, a further deterioration in finances of state and local Governments, deepening disruptions in private sector activity due to constraints on access to foreign exchange, and resurgence in security concerns.

Executive Board Assessment[2]

Executive Directors welcomed the authorities’ policy agenda of enhancing transparency, strengthening governance, improving security, and creating jobs. Directors noted that the Nigerian economy has been hit hard by the decline in oil prices, which has slowed growth sharply and led to macroeconomic imbalances. Given the uncertain global outlook and the likelihood of oil prices remaining low, Directors stressed the need for significant macroeconomic adjustment. They highlighted the importance of implementing urgently a coherent package of policies, in consultation with Fund staff and development partners, to safeguard fiscal sustainability and reduce external imbalances, and advancing structural reforms to support inclusive growth.

Directors emphasized the critical need to raise non‑oil revenues to ensure fiscal sustainability while maintaining infrastructure and social spending. They urged a gradual increase in the VAT rate, further improvements in revenue administration, and a broadening of the tax base. Directors supported an orderly adjustment of budgets at the sub‑national level through reform in budget preparation and execution. They also stressed the importance of strengthened public financial management and service delivery. Directors encouraged the implementation of an independent price‑setting mechanism to address petroleum subsidies, while strengthening the social safety net. Directors underlined the need for continued efforts to foster transparency and enhanced accountability.

Directors noted that the policy approach of expansionary monetary policy, together with a relatively fixed exchange rate and exchange restrictions had adversely impacted economic activity. It also raised concerns about the authorities’ commitment to their inflation objective. They underscored the need for credible adjustment to the large terms‑of‑trade shock, including through greater exchange rate flexibility and speedy unwinding of exchange restrictions to facilitate an exchange rate consistent with fundamentals. In this context, they welcomed the recent monetary policy tightening and recommended that the central bank target price stability to maintain inflation within the target range.

Directors observed that further strengthening of the regulatory and supervisory frameworks would help improve resilience even as financial sector soundness indicators remain favorable. With declining asset quality a concern as growth slows, intensified monitoring of

banks and enhanced contingency planning and resolution frameworks would be important. Directors also noted that lowering interest rate spreads and increasing efficiency could enhance credit growth, especially for small and medium enterprises.

Directors stressed the need for structural reforms to enhance competitiveness and support investment. They encouraged the authorities to continue core infrastructure investment, further reduce the cost of doing business through greater transparency and accountability, and promote employment of youth and women. Directors welcomed renewed effort to adopt legislation to spur investment in the oil and gas sector, and promote policies to strengthen governance of the sector, including targeted AML/CFT measures.

Directors welcomed progress in improving the quality and availability of economic statistics. They welcomed the authorities’ commitment to implement the e‑GDDS, including a National Summary Data Page, and encouraged efforts to improve balance of payments data and compilation of sub‑national fiscal accounts.

[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.

[2] 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’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Source:: IMF Executive Board Concludes 2016 Article IV Consultation with Nigeria

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IMF Executive Board Concludes 2016 Article IV Consultation with Nigeria

On March, 30, 2016, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV Consultation [1] with Nigeria.

The Nigerian economy is facing substantial challenges. While the non-oil sector accounts for 90 percent of GDP, the oil sector plays a central role in the economy. Lower oil prices have significantly affected the fiscal and external accounts, decimating government revenues to just 7.8 percent of GDP and resulting in the doubling of the general government deficit to about 3.7 percent of GDP in 2015. Exports dropped about 40 percent in 2015, pushing the current account from a surplus of 0.2 percent of GDP to a deficit projected at 2.4 percent of GDP. With foreign portfolio inflows slowing significantly, reserves fell to $28.3 billion at end-2015. Exchange restrictions introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to protect reserves have impacted significantly segments of the private sector that depend on an adequate supply of foreign currencies. Coupled with fuel shortages in the first half of the year and lower investor confidence, growth slowed sharply from 6.3 percent in 2014 to an estimated 2.7 percent in 2015, weakening corporate balance sheets, lowering the resilience of the banking system, and likely reversing progress in reducing unemployment and poverty. Inflation increased to 9.6 percent in January (up from 7.9 percent in December, 2014), above the CBN’s medium-term target range of 6–9 percent.

The recovery in economic activity is likely to be modest over the medium term, but with significant downside risks. Growth in 2016 is expected to decline further to 2.3 percent, with non-oil sector growth projected to slow from 3.6 percent in 2015 to 3.1 percent in 2016 before recovering to 3.5 percent in 2017, based on the results of policies under implementation—particularly in the oil sector—as well as an improvement in the terms of trade. The general government deficit is projected to widen somewhat in 2016 before improving in 2017, while the external current account deficit is likely to worsen further. Key risks to the outlook include lower oil prices, shortfalls in non-oil revenues, a further deterioration in finances of state and local Governments, deepening disruptions in private sector activity due to constraints on access to foreign exchange, and resurgence in security concerns.

Executive Board Assessment[2]

Executive Directors welcomed the authorities’ policy agenda of enhancing transparency, strengthening governance, improving security, and creating jobs. Directors noted that the Nigerian economy has been hit hard by the decline in oil prices, which has slowed growth sharply and led to macroeconomic imbalances. Given the uncertain global outlook and the likelihood of oil prices remaining low, Directors stressed the need for significant macroeconomic adjustment. They highlighted the importance of implementing urgently a coherent package of policies, in consultation with Fund staff and development partners, to safeguard fiscal sustainability and reduce external imbalances, and advancing structural reforms to support inclusive growth.

Directors emphasized the critical need to raise non‑oil revenues to ensure fiscal sustainability while maintaining infrastructure and social spending. They urged a gradual increase in the VAT rate, further improvements in revenue administration, and a broadening of the tax base. Directors supported an orderly adjustment of budgets at the sub‑national level through reform in budget preparation and execution. They also stressed the importance of strengthened public financial management and service delivery. Directors encouraged the implementation of an independent price‑setting mechanism to address petroleum subsidies, while strengthening the social safety net. Directors underlined the need for continued efforts to foster transparency and enhanced accountability.

Directors noted that the policy approach of expansionary monetary policy, together with a relatively fixed exchange rate and exchange restrictions had adversely impacted economic activity. It also raised concerns about the authorities’ commitment to their inflation objective. They underscored the need for credible adjustment to the large terms‑of‑trade shock, including through greater exchange rate flexibility and speedy unwinding of exchange restrictions to facilitate an exchange rate consistent with fundamentals. In this context, they welcomed the recent monetary policy tightening and recommended that the central bank target price stability to maintain inflation within the target range.

Directors observed that further strengthening of the regulatory and supervisory frameworks would help improve resilience even as financial sector soundness indicators remain favorable. With declining asset quality a concern as growth slows, intensified monitoring of

banks and enhanced contingency planning and resolution frameworks would be important. Directors also noted that lowering interest rate spreads and increasing efficiency could enhance credit growth, especially for small and medium enterprises.

Directors stressed the need for structural reforms to enhance competitiveness and support investment. They encouraged the authorities to continue core infrastructure investment, further reduce the cost of doing business through greater transparency and accountability, and promote employment of youth and women. Directors welcomed renewed effort to adopt legislation to spur investment in the oil and gas sector, and promote policies to strengthen governance of the sector, including targeted AML/CFT measures.

Directors welcomed progress in improving the quality and availability of economic statistics. They welcomed the authorities’ commitment to implement the e‑GDDS, including a National Summary Data Page, and encouraged efforts to improve balance of payments data and compilation of sub‑national fiscal accounts.

[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.

[2] 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’s authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/misc/qualifiers.htm.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Source:: IMF Executive Board Concludes 2016 Article IV Consultation with Nigeria

FCO Minister responds to reports of abuses by UN peacekeepers in the CAR

I am appalled by the sickening allegations emerging from the Central African Republic. They mark a new and disturbing low. I urge the UN and Member States to investigate these claims urgently and thoroughly. The perpetrators must be held to account.

The Secretary-General is working hard to eliminate all instances of sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers. We must all support his efforts, including through the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2272. I urge all Governments to take responsibility for the actions of the troops they deploy, and to work together to ensure the success of the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance approach.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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Source:: FCO Minister responds to reports of abuses by UN peacekeepers in the CAR

Categories: AFRICA

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the arrival of the Libyan Presidency Council in Tripoli

The Secretary-General welcomes the arrival of the Libyan Presidency Council in Tripoli on 30 March, which marks an important step in the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement. He calls on all actors to respect the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the Libyan people for peace, stability and prosperity.

The Secretary-General urges all political actors and public institutions to facilitate an immediate and peaceful handover of power. He reminds all security actors of their responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the Presidency Council and urges them to refrain from any action that could undermine their work.

The Secretary-General commends the Presidency Council for their courage and leadership. He reiterates the United Nations’ readiness to assist the Libyan authorities and people so that their country can continue its democratic transition.

New York, 31 March 2016

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Source:: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the arrival of the Libyan Presidency Council in Tripoli

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USAID Inaugurates Seed Inspection Unit in Tamale

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) convened to inaugurate a newly constructed seed inspection laboratory on March 31st in Tamale, Ghana. The USAID-constructed Ghana Seed Inspection Unit (GSIU) aims to provide smallholder farmers in Northern Ghana with quality seed at affordable costs.

The United States Ambassador, Robert F. Jackson, inaugurated the facility on behalf of the U.S. government. The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Muniru Limuna, and the Northern Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, William Boakye-Acheampong, were also in attendance.

GSIU is a unit of the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate of MOFA and its purpose is to increase the quantity and quality of high yielding seeds available to rural farmers. The GSIU located in Tamale is one of three seed inspection laboratories constructed by USAID in partnership with MOFA. The laboratories will improve agricultural productivity by increasing access to improved seeds.

“The labs will help make certified seeds more available, so that even farmers in the most remote areas are able to use seeds that bring more bountiful harvests,” remarked United States Ambassador Robert. P. Jackson. “It is up to the Ghana Seed Inspection Unit of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to ensure seeds sold to farmers are true-to-type and high quality. It is important that we all collaborate to ensure Ghana’s seed sector thrives.”

The new seed laboratory was constructed through USAID’s Agriculture Technology Transfer project, which is part of Feed the Future. Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, which works to reduce poverty and enhance the nutritional status of rural populations, particularly women and children.

About USAID

USAID is the lead U.S. government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. For more than 50 years, USAID has supported Ghana in increasing food security, improving basic health care, enhancing access to quality basic education, and strengthening local governance to benefit all Ghanaian people.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien

CHECKED AGAINST DELIVERY

Mr. President,

Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.

When I briefed the Council last month, I drew attention to the deepening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Some six million people, more than half of the population, are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, of these, a staggering 2.8 million people are severely food insecure; over two million people have been forced to flee their homes; and more than half of all school-aged children are not attending class.

Mr. President,

Despite the Council’s Presidential Statement on 17 March calling on all parties to protect civilians, allow people to move freely, and to facilitate timely, full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access; yet again I have to report the situation remains dire. Civilians continue to be targeted, attacked and displaced, and acute humanitarian needs persist, exacerbated by recurrent access challenges.

In addition to the unimaginable individual and community abuses that the people of South Sudan have sustained, I must also highlight that despite the call for a Cessation of Hostilities in the Peace Agreement, the geographic scope of conflict has grown. In recent months, as we have just heard from SRSG Løj, we have seen new outbreaks of violence in areas around Western Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria, Jonglei and Malakal. Such violence has resulted in the displacement of well over 150,000 people, with many forced to flee their homes repeatedly – some more than ten times.

By way of example, on the same day I briefed the Council last month, fighting erupted in Pibor and surrounding areas, resulting in the displacement of around 13,000 people. Further, some 8,000 internally displaced people seeking refuge in Mboro, Western Bahr el Ghazal, were forced to flee that area again when fighting erupted on 21 March. A woman who had sought refuge in Mboro and then had to flee to Wau said, “We survived on leaves and turmeric; all our belongings, including food, were looted.”

Let us not forget that nearly 200,000 people continue to seek protection inside United Nations Protection of Civilians Sites, as they still do not feel that it is safe enough to return home. Regrettably, the sanctity of these sites has not been respected, and more than 25,000 people remain displaced as a result of the events in Malakal. Humanitarians and UNMISS continue to work together to make the conditions in these sites as decent as possible, however, the sites will never be a replacement for the places that people call home.

Children remain particularly vulnerable to the expanding conflict. In recent months, children have been separated from their parents while trying to flee the fighting, including at 84 documented cases following the events in Malakal. Moreover, schools and health facilities – inviolable under International Humanitarian Law – have been damaged or destroyed, denying children access to education and healthcare.

Mr. President,

These new conflict-afflicted areas are the same locations where people are most desperate for help. Displaced, food insecure and vulnerable, these are the populations we must be seeking to aid and protect. However they cannot be reached by aid workers due to a host of impediments that continue to hamper aid operations. In 2015, more than 900 access incidents were reported by humanitarian partners in South Sudan, representing a 14 per cent increase from the previous year and a 68 per cent increase from the year before that. This year, the trend continues.

In the 14 days since the Presidential Statement of 17 March, more than 17 incidents of obstruction of access for humanitarian activities have been reported; comprising interference by parties from individual armed actors through to national authorities. The true number is likely to be far higher given some humanitarian partners are reluctant to report every incident out of fear of retribution or harassment.

For example, last week in Unity, local authorities demanded free transport to Juba aboard the contracted plane of an international NGO. When the pilots refused, citing their duty to uphold humanitarian principles, a truck loaded with armed men arrived at the airstrip and threatened to detain the pilots if they did not oblige. Such action compromises the ability of humanitarians to safely and effectively deliver humanitarian assistance, and is simply unacceptable.

In Malakal, after the horrific violence in mid-February, humanitarians were denied river access to Wau Shilluk for over one month, disrupting the delivery of life-saving assistance to over 27,000 people. In a location where homes and businesses had been looted or destroyed, leaving only minimal resources, the denial of access presents a genuine threat to lives. Access was finally granted when remaining water and nutrition supplies were days away from exhaustion and schools had already closed as supplies had run out. The lifting of restrictions came only after interventions from the humanitarian community, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), the Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), and visits by several Ambassadors from various countries to Malakal to speak with the Governor.

Mr. President,

Delays in delivery of assistance cost lives and expends precious resources. What humanitarians need is timely, unimpeded access to those we assess are in vital need. Not ad hoc, case by case considerations after much attention, pressure and persuasion.

The challenge in South Sudan is an increasing disconnect between the assurances of national and the actions of local groups. All too often, even when official assurances are received at the national level they are not respected by local actors. Illegal exactions and taxes remain rampant, and humanitarian convoys are consistently subjected to demands for payment at check points. Despite the Government’s statement that humanitarians should not pay at such points, authorities at the local level have conveyed a very different message, noting that humanitarians should “expect” to make such payments. Convoys travelling from Juba to Bentiu by road recently reported over 50 checkpoints, with each truck required to pay a total of more than 30,000 South Sudanese Pounds, that is about US$1,000, in exactions. Such extortions are unacceptable and must stop.

The United Nations Department of Safety and Security has also been denied access to conduct Security Risk Assessments in areas where fighting has taken place. Since January 2016, Security Risk Assessment Missions have been denied six times in Central Equatoria alone. These risk assessments are a critical first step to assessing, preparing and enabling effective humanitarian action.

In addition to the expanding geographic scope to the conflict, new drivers of crises are emerging and vulnerabilities are being exacerbated, resulting in additional humanitarian and protection needs. Most notably, the deteriorating economic situation is driving instability. As a result of the economic crisis, the monthly cost of food and clean water for an average family now amounts to more than ten times the salary of a teacher. Such pressures are felt most acutely in urban and population centres. In the north-western areas of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap, heightened food insecurity, compounded by economic downturn and growing unrest, has resulted in the flight of some 38,000 people into East and South Darfur since end of January.

Mr. President,

On average, more than half of the access incidents reported involve violence against humanitarian personnel or their assets. When I briefed the Council last month, I reported that 47 humanitarian staff had been killed since December 2013. I am appalled to report that this number has now risen to 49. The most recent case is that of Mr. Yien Malouth, an Integrated Community Case Worker for Save the Children, a husband and father of two children, who was tragically shot in Akobo, Jonglei. Greater action must be taken to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers.

Since the beginning of 2016, there have been at least four major instances of the destruction or looting of humanitarian supplies and facilities. These have taken place in Malakal, Pibor and Western Equatoria. Vital goods, such as nutritional supplements, education materials and water treatment supplies have been burned or deliberately destroyed. A conservative estimate places the value of humanitarian losses since the beginning of 2016 at around US$10 million, including more than US$5 million in damages to the Malakal Protection of Civilians site.

Much more important than the monetary losses is the loss of human life that results from these wanton attacks against humanitarian facilities and assets. Each time a facility or compound is damaged or destroyed, and each time supplies are looted, vulnerable civilians are denied vital assistance.

Mr. President,

Despite the challenges, humanitarian partners continue to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan. In 2015, and despite the access challenges presented to them, partners were able to reach more than 4.5 million people with assistance, often in the most remote areas. In the first two months of 2016 alone, partners reached more than one million people. Humanitarians continue to find innovative ways to save lives, even in areas where formal access is not granted. For example, partners reached over 100,000 people with life-saving assistance in Unity last year amidst violent conflict and access denials.

However, despite the courageous efforts of our colleagues on the frontlines, and the intensive work of humanitarian partners to scale-up their capacity, a critical lack of funding continues to severely hobble the humanitarian effort today. Of the required $1.3 billion dollars earmarked to reach over 5 million people, only 9 per cent – yes only nine per cent – of the funding has been received from the international community. Amidst a food and nutrition security crisis, NGO partners are scaling down nutrition and health programmes because they simply have not received the funding needed to operate. The small window of opportunity afforded by the dry season will close in the coming weeks, and the funding received has only allowed humanitarians to pre-position 35 per cent of the required supplies across the country. As a result, more supplies will have to be moved by air during the rainy season, increasing the cost of delivery by up to six times.

Mr. President,

The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, will speak in greater detail to the human rights violations and grave protection concerns in South Sudan, but what is clear from the humanitarian perspective is that both parties have failed to abide by their obligation to protect civilians and civilian facilities and simultaneously failed to allow full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to those in critical need.

Mr. President,

The terms of the peace agreement have clearly not been enough to halt the rapidly escalating and worsening situation and its implications for millions of civilians across the country. We need action. To this end, I ask the Council to call on the parties to the conflict and all armed actors operating in South Sudan to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to protect civilians, allow free and unhindered humanitarian access and to protect humanitarian workers and their assets.

Since my last report, since the peace agreement, let my message to this Council today be unequivocal: the hideous facts on the ground are that the humanitarian situation has severely worsened in that short time, it continues to worsen and the only measure I am using are the lives, the suffering and deaths of millions of innocent of women, girls, boys and men caught up in the horrendous fight between two sides who have no care for the people they claim to represent. In light of this, I call upon the Security Council to stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan, and to advocate within your areas of influence to seek an end to the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.

Thank you.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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Source:: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien

Categories: AFRICA

Chairperson of the African Union Commission strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Pakistan

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, strongly condemns the indiscriminate attacks at the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, as Christians were celebrating Easter, which reportedly killed at least 70 people and injured over 300 others.

The Chairperson expresses the AU’s solidarity with the Government and people of Pakistan, offers her condolences to the bereaved families and wishes speedy recovery to the injured.

The Chairperson reaffirms the AU’s strong rejection of all acts of terrorism and violent extremism by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes. She reiterates the AU’s commitment to continue working with Pakistan and the international community at large, in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The Chairperson also reiterates the need for enhanced international cooperation and coordination within the framework of the relevant AU and international counter-terrorism instruments.

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

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Source:: Chairperson of the African Union Commission strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Pakistan

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