The African Union Commission participates at the model of the African Union in Bayreuth, Germany

H.E. Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission was represented by Amb. Salah S. Hammad, Senior. Human Rights Expert, at the 1st Model African Union, which was held in Bayreuth, Germany. The conference took place in Bayreuth from 21st to 24th April 2016.

The Model African Union was organized by the International Graduate School of African Studies-BIGSAS, at Bayreuth University in Germany under the theme “Towards a peaceful, prosperous and more integrated Africa”.

The Model African Union Bayreuth (MAU-Bayreuth) is an education-oriented association with particular focus on Africa, with membership comprising of students of all levels and disciplines at the University of Bayreuth. The first of its kind in Germany, this association seeks to build academic as well as non-academic competences and practical skills among its members in diverse areas of socio-political, economic and educational issues.

In his statement, Amb. Hammad stated that “if ever there was a time that we should cherish the ideals and the messages in the voices and words of the founding fathers that time is now. More than ever before, the Union that you have all established with foresight and vision is faced with the challenge of asserting its values and political interests in a context of diversity and difference. The need for political unity was echoed as far back as 1961 by the illustrious Dr. Kwame Nkrumah when he wrote that ‘individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people.”

Amb. Hammad also added that “the commitment to a political union and an optimum balance has created within the African Union, a momentum towards developing and domesticating inspiring shared values. Certainly, by way of adopting collective instruments, Member States have demonstrated a desire for an integrated future through value harmonisation on the basis of agreed principles and practices. Hence, there has never been any doubt that adopted shared values serve to inspire action and are the operational mechanisms for achieving the desire for a better future for all. These instruments and the practical modalities for their implementation further serve to indicate that shared values are more than just philosophical dispositions and can and do serve to assert common approaches to challenges and provide the African voice on the global stage. With the adopted shared values, we have witnessed that the Union and its Member States have become less reserved in their approach to identifying challenges, as they should, when problems are confronted. Member States have also reflected that they are cognizant and appreciative of local circumstances in the applicability of collectively established standards and, at the same time, have demonstrated a willingness to uphold our global commitments.”

The Conference brought together students interested in Africa issues from a number of German universities’ and it was well attended. The Conference ended by adopting three resolutions including one on supporting the fight against female genital mutilation.

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

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Categories: AFRICA

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark to Visit Kenya to Promote Wildlife Conservation

The UNDP Administrator Helen Clark will visit Kenya on an official mission to promote wildlife conservation on 29th and 30th April. The visit will coincide with the world’s largest destruction of elephant tusks by the Government of Kenya. During her visit she will emphasize the importance of conservation and the role played by UNDP and other UN agencies to support countries in their conservation efforts. She will also attend a Giants Club meeting to discuss and identify global opportunities to curb poaching and trafficking of wildlife.

African countries are currently fighting to protect their natural heritage, including wildlife, which has traditionally made an important social and economic contribution. Kenya has a thriving tourism industry with over one million tourists visiting its game parks and wildlife sanctuaries, contributing close to 12% of Kenya’s GDP and directly employing more than one million people.

“The poaching and trafficking of wildlife is abhorrent and threatens to rob us of our common heritage,” said Helen Clark in an opinion piece for The Independent newspaper. “This multi-billion dollar worldwide trade is at once a security issue, an environmental issue, and a development issue – and is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction. At the current rate of loss, wildlife species like African elephants could disappear from the wild in our lifetimes.”

Combating the illegal wildlife trade is central to making progress on the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. The new global platform for development recognizes that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions is a global challenge that we must all work hard to achieve, and that maintaining the integrity of the natural ecosystems is critical for global development and poverty reduction. Goal 14 calls for the conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This goal calls for an end to illegal and unreported fishing, and destructive fishing practices. In addition SDG 15 seeks to ‘Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss’. This goal has targets aimed at stopping the poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna.

UNDP is currently supporting the Kenya Wildlife Service and local community partners, in the Amboseli-Chyulu ecosystem to invest in successful community conservancies’ approach, in which Kenya is a world leader. Also, through the GEF-funded Small Grants Programme, UNDP has supported the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, a national network organization.
The UNDP Kenya programme also supports the country to meet obligations to international environment agreements while enhancing the contribution of natural resources and the environment to poverty reduction and sustainable socio-economic development. UNDP seeks to realize this by supporting the government to develop appropriate policies, strategies, tools and innovative programs that integrate environment into national planning and budgeting processes together with promoting effective management of natural resources for production and income diversification. To do this UNDP Kenya has an environmental portfolio of about USD 82 million to be implemented in the next three years.

UNDP also works with various global partners like the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Asian Development Bank, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the World Wildlife Fund to enhance conservation and protection of wildlife through financial and technical support.

Editor’s Note: Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and the former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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Categories: AFRICA

PIDA a strategic continental initiative for Africa’s Integration

The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is a strategic continental initiative which has the buy-in of all African countries, for mobilizing resources to transform Africa through modern infrastructure which will unlock the continent’s huge growth potential and put Africa on the path to accelerated economic and social development.

African economies are growing rapidly propelled by new resource discoveries, urbanization, a youthful population, deepening regional integration arrangements and increased integration of the continent into the global economy. These developments require sound and versatile infrastructure and the enabling environment for the infrastructure systems to perform efficiently and optimally. PIDA identifies priority continental projects in trans-boundary water, energy, transport and ICT to be realised by 2040, will have the greatest transformational impact on the continent. That is – projects that, if executed – will catalyse further infrastructure investments; open up important trade routes for landlocked countries; dramatically increase access to improved transport, electricity, ICT and water services; and support other economic activities. The total estimated investment cost is US$360 billion, or around US$9 billion per year which is less than 1% of Africa’s GDP.

The PIDA Priority Action Plan (PAP) includes 51 priority projects and programmes across the major infrastructure sectors and regions of Africa at a cost of US$68 billion. Africa presently receives about US$50 billion per annum in development assistance, and imports around US$55 billion in food every year. Investing less than US$70 billion over the next 8 years in the selected infrastructure projects could unlock an increase in trade up to 25% and additional GDP growth of up to 2% per year.

PIDA priority projects were selected based on rigorous economic analysis and selection criteria, taking into account national and regional infrastructure development plans, and in close consultation with Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), development partners and the private sector.

At their 18thAfrican Union Assembly, African Heads of State and Government formally adopted PIDA as a continental programme signalling high-level political commitment to adopting a coordinated continental strategy to tackle the continent’s infrastructure needs in a bold and innovative way. In approving PIDA, the Heads of State called for concerted action by all concerned to mobilise the necessary resources to make PIDA a reality by rallying African and international partners, both public and private to work together to make the vision of a transformed Africa, a reality.

The African policy makers recognised that the lack of capacity and funds in project preparation combined with a weak involvement of the private sector are the main issues that constitute the bottlenecks to PIDA implementation.

As a response, they set up the Continental Business Network (CBN) to facilitate private sector involvement in essential continent-wide infrastructure projects through the creation of a high-level private sector forum. This is an outstanding instrument towards a common understanding of the investment risks (and rewards) regarding infrastructure projects.

As a means to fast-track the implementation of PIDA Priority Action Plan (PIDA-PAP), the African Union Commission (AUC), the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) organized the First PIDA Week from 13 to 17 November 2015 in Abidjan.

The PIDA Week was attended by representatives of continental institutions (AUC, AfDB, NPCA), Regional Economic Communities RECs (ECOWAS, ECCAS, COMESA, SADC, UMA), UNECA, development partners (Germany, European Union, Japan), regional banks (DBSA), private sector, academia, journalists, etc. 120 people attended the PIDA Week.

On the ground some PIDA projects have made significant move among which: The Kaleta hydropower project in Guinea is currently operational. This project that significantly improves the energy supply in Guinea is funded by Chinese cooperation. Other important project such as the Internet Exchange point implemented by African Union Commission, the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, and the Abidjan-Lagos Transport Corridor can be mentioned as well.

In collaboration with NPCA, AfDB and RECs with the support of keys partners, AUC is focusing on the implementation of following activities: Strengthen the PIDA SDM to grow to targeted value of $5 million and increase funding of Nepad Infrastructure Projects Preparation Facility (NEPAD IPPF) with the contribution of AU States members; Establish a sub-committee to develop regional frameworks for infrastructure financing that includes innovative financing such as blended financing, diaspora bonds, and domestic resources. Bridge Infrastructure Financing gaps through well prepared projects

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

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Categories: AFRICA

MSD Joins Campaign to ‘Close the Immunization Gap’and “Stay Polio Free” in Africa

MSD (www.MSD.com), known as Merck & Co., Inc. in the United States and Canada, has added its voice to the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to promote the use of vaccines against some of the world’s deadliest diseases, and for countries to strengthen immunization services and systems.

World Immunization Week, a global awareness campaign launched by WHO in 2012 and commemorated in the last week of April, aims to promote the use of vaccines to help protect people of all ages against disease. For the second year running, the Close the Immunization Gap campaign will be celebrating the achievements to date with an emphasis on the unmet need amongst adolescents and adult vaccine uptake(1).

The theme for African Vaccination Week 2016 is “Close the immunization gap. Stay polio free!” (#AVW16) focusing attention on the need to attain universal immunization coverage in the African region. The theme also marks the celebration of the important polio eradication milestone that has been reached in the African region, and calls on African countries to stay vigilant in the fight against polio, and stay polio free.

“Vaccines are one of the greatest public health success stories in history. For more than 100 years, our scientists have been discovering vaccines that have been impacting lives. By helping healthy people stay healthy, vaccines remove a major barrier to human an economic development,” said Farouk Shamas Jiwa, sub-Saharan Africa director for Policy and Corporate Responsibility at MSD.

Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases have been eliminated through wide-scale immunisation programmes. Vaccines are available in public vaccination programmes in the vast majority of African countries, thanks to sustained political will, international support and innovative public/private partnerships(2). Despite recent progress within African countries, there are still significant opportunities provided by immunization, particularly to help protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

Africa and Human Papillomavirus

  • An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of those deaths occur among women in developing countries. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035; and virtually all of those deaths will be in developing countries(3).
  • Cervical cancer is the most common of all cancers in Africa and thus continues to be a significant threat that demands urgent attention in the African Region. In 2012, over half a million new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide with 1 in 5 being in sub-Saharan Africa(4).
  • The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk HPV. HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut(4).
  • Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(5).

In 2016, MSD is celebrating its 125th year and the 10th anniversary of its vaccines for rotavirus, human papilloma virus, and shingles.

“We must continue to build on the wonderful momentum we have. It will take a collective, collaborative effort involving governments, donors, patient organizations, healthcare professionals, NGOs, multilateral organizations and others in the private sector – to increase access to life-saving vaccines and to strengthen immunization programmes. Preventing disease though vaccination is about securing the future – in particular for African women and girls. Our goal is to sustain and improve the quality of life and health of communities and countries across Africa. Our commitment is steadfast as we work to increase access to vaccines now and in the future,” Mr. Jiwa said.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of MSD.

Media Contacts:
Muchena Zigomo
(+27) 11 655 3000
muchena.zigomo@merck.com

Farouk Shamas Jiwa
(+41) 799 623 934
farouk.jiwa@merck.com

About MSD
For 125 years, MSD (www.MSD.com) has been a global health care leader working to help the world be well. MSD is a tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., USA. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.MSD.com or www.MSD.co. za.

References:
1. http://who.int/campaigns/immunization-week/2016/event/en/
2. http://sa.au.int/en/sites/default/files/2014_Status_Report_on%20MNCH%20-%20English_1.pdf
3. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/?utm_source=The+Alliance+at+work&utm_campaign=c7db6ec405-The_Alliance_at_Work_Issue_7&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b075913875-c7db6ec405-407303021
4. http://www.afro.who.int/en/media-centre/pressreleases/item/7550-implementing-cervical-cancer-interventions-key-to-save-african-women.html
5. http://www.gavi.org/support/nvs/human-papillomavirus-vaccine-support/

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Categories: AFRICA

The African Union Welcomes the Return of Dr. Riek Machar to Juba

The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union [AU], Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, welcomes the return of the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/IO), Dr. Riek Machar, to Juba on 26 April 2016. In this context, the Chairperson equally thanks President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Government of South Sudan for facilitating the immediate swearing-in of Dr. Machar as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. The Chairperson expresses her hope and expectation that these measures will boost the efforts towards the immediate formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity.

On this happy occasion, the Chairperson congratulates the people of South Sudan, and commends the leadership displayed by President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, in their commitment to fully implement the Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, and their patriotic action to promote the long?term stabilization and reconstruction of the country. The Chairperson encourages the two leaders to maintain the momentum and accelerate the work of the Transitional Government of National Unity, and calls upon all South Sudanese to dedicate themselves to rebuild their country in earnest, foster strong institutions necessary for an enduring political system and revitalize their national economy. She stresses the imperative of a united South Sudan, as the country embarks on a new chapter in its history.

The Chairperson commends the work of the AU High Representative for South Sudan, former President Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali, for the dedication he showed in continuously engaging with the South Sudanese, regional and international stakeholders in successfully facilitating the return of Dr. Riek Machar to Juba. In the same vein, the Chairperson commends the ongoing efforts of the Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, former President Festus Gontebanye Mogae.

The Chairperson hails the IGAD Member Countries, the members of the AU High Level ad hoc Committee for South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the international partners for their continued support in the promotion of peace and security in South Sudan. While urging all South Sudanese stakeholders to continue rebuilding their country, the Chairperson reassures the people and Government of South Sudan of the AU’s unwavering support in their national endeavor.

– See more at: http://www.peaceau.org/en/article/african-union-welcomes-the-return-of-dr-riek-machar-to-juba#sthash.cv1Rs0vb.dpuf

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

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Categories: AFRICA

Congo : Serious human rights violations behind closed doors in the Pool

FIDH, OCDH and the #MyVoteMustCount Coalition member organisations are extremely concerned about the major military and police operations currently ongoing in the Pool region. The violence has already led to dozens of people killed and injured, the destruction of many buildings including schools, medical centers and churches, and numerous arrests. While the security forces prohibit almost all access to the Pool department, our organisations are concerned about a crackdown behind closed doors against opponents to the recent and contested re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Our organisations urge the authorities to stop all operations of the security forces, to allow access to populations and to conduct independent investigations into these events.

For over two weeks, the Congolese army and police have been conducting major operations in the Pool region, officially against former members of the Ninja militia and its former leader, Frédéric Bintsmou aka Pastor Ntumi, former general delegate to the President in charge of the promotion of peace and war-related reparations. Until April 14, defence and security forces also conducted shelling with heavy weapons and bombardments, followed by ground offensives, including against the villages of Vindza, Kibouendé, Soumouna and Mayama. Even though the authorities assert that there are no civilian casualties, the testimonies received by our organisations mention dozens of people killed and injured. Many protected buildings such as schools, medical centers and churches have been struck, or even targeted. Populations have deserted cities and sought refuge in the bush where they survive in extreme precariousness and insecurity. Meanwhile, security forces carry out waves of arrests of people suspected to be former Ninja fighters, Pastor Ntumi rebel group. For instance in Brazzaville, Kinkala and Kindamba dozens of young people identified as former Ninjas were arrested after the events of April 4 in Brazzaville and during the ongoing operations in the Pool Department, and are still being held in Brazzaville. Congolese authorities also subject the Pool region to a complete blockade, preventing all non-tightly controlled access, raising fears that serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are perpetrated behind closed doors against the civilian population.

” Congolese authorities must immediately stop all operations by security forces in the Pool, and facilitate the return and access to affected populations. The ongoing blockade is unacceptable. All light must be shed on recent weeks’ events”, declared Dismas Kitenge, FIDH vice-president.

Congolese authorities seem to have engaged those military operations in the Pool in response to the violence that occurred on April 4, the night before the validation by the Constitutional Court of Denis Sassou-Nguesso first round victory at the presidential election with over 60% of votes. That day, heavy and automatic weapon shots have been heard in the southern districts of Brazzaville. In particular, a military barracks was attacked, two police stations and a municipality building were burnt to the ground and hundreds of people fled to reach the north of Brazzaville. The violence that occurred in Brazzaville between April 4 and 10 reportedly killed at least 17 people and injured dozens, according to various sources.

The authorities have however provided no toll of these events, qualifying them as “terrorist acts” perpetrated by members of the Ninja rebel militias under the supervision of Pastor Ntumi. While the Congolese authorities justify their operations in the Pool as a fight against terrorism, Pastor Ntumi denied any involvement in the April 4 events in Brazzaville in a statement published on April 5. Dozens of people, presented as Ninjas combatants and suspected of being behind those attacks, were arrested by the police in the days following the violence. Series of arrests of high profile individuals, including executives of campaign directories of the candidates Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Okombi Salissa accused of “endangering the security of the state”, also continue.

” The confiscation of power and the inability of alternating heads of States adds to the the population’s frustrationsand increases the temptation for the opposition to the regime to radicalize. The manipulation of the fight against terrorism for the purpose of political repression against entire groups of the population could degenerate into a real crisis or even plunge the country into a civil war. To avoid chaos, the government must release all opponents, open an inclusive political dialogue and commit to respecting public and individual freedoms”, declared Trésor Nzila, OCDH executive director.

After 32 years in power, Denis Sassou-Nguesso was sworn in on April 16, for a five year term, following an election that took place during a nationwide telecommunication blackout – suspended for safety reasons according to the government. The election was widely marred by frauds and irregularities, denounced by Congolese opposition and civil society, as well as part of the international community, including Canada, the United States and the European Union.

Denis Sassou-Nguesso has forced its way through his “re-election” in defiance of constitutional legality and African Union texts. Barred from running by the provisions of the previous Constitution, the ruling regime organized on October 25, 2015, less than 5 months before the presidential election, a referendum to adopt a new constitution. This new Constitution in force since November 6, 2015 allows the president to run for further terms. By advancing the elections by several months and organizing the victory of the ruling president with a “knock-out”, according to the words consecrated by several African leaders, the regime organized a real coup

” The pre-election period was marked by numerous human rights violations and fundamental freedoms abuses, including against opposition activists who have been subject to several arrests and detentions. Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s regime responded to the mobilisation of the opposition and civil society against the constitutional amendment through repression. After the presidential election, intimidations continue and freedoms are still confiscated in what appears to be a clear strategy to silence all dissenting voices” said our organizations.

Context

President Denis Sassou Nguesso was sworn in on April 16, 2016 for a third term after a disputed election. On September 22, 2015, he expressed his willingness to organise a referendum to decide on a “change” of the constitution in force since 2002. This amendment intended to allow him to run for a third consecutive presidential term. Opponents, who considered it an attempted constitutional coup, massively mobilized and were severely repressed on October 20 and 21, 2015. At least 20 people were killed in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire and in other parts of the country according to the figures ascertained by our organisations.

Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979. In 1992, he lost the first pluralist elections before returning to power by force of arms in 1997, following more than two years of civil war that has led to the death of 4 000 to 10 000 people as well as thousands of displaced and refugees. Over those years, Denis Sassou Nguesso Cobras militias have successively confronted Congolese armed forces and the Zoulous and Cocoyes militias of the president Pascal Lissouba, then the ninjas militias of the prime minister Bernard Kolélas. The intervention of the Angolan armed forces of José Eduardo Dos Santos allowed him to prevail militarily and to regain power. Fighting resumed against the Ninja militias led by Pastor Ntumi in the Pool region that became inaccessible and where the civilian population was victim of many abuses. In 1999 the government’s security services were accused of having massacred more than 300 refugees returning to the Congo on Brazzaville Beach. The case is still pending before French courts. Since the 2002 election, Denis Sassou Nguesso has been reelected in disputed elections.

“The #MyVoteMustCount coalition”

Between 2014 and 2016, 52 elections including 25 presidential elections have been scheduled in 27 African countries. To avoid manipulation, fraud, and violence resulting from shortened elections, African and international civil societies have decided to mobilize through the #MyVoteMustCount campaign. Civil societies are demanding that their leaders respect the legitimate rights of the people to choose their representatives in fair, free and transparent elections through public awareness, field actions and political advocacy prior to each election between now and 2016.

FIDH, OCDH and the #MyVoteMustCount Coalition member organisations are extremely concerned about the major military and police operations currently ongoing in the Pool region. The violence has already led to dozens of people killed and injured, the destruction of many buildings including schools, medical centers and churches, and numerous arrests. While the security forces prohibit almost all access to the Pool department, our organisations are concerned about a crackdown behind closed doors against opponents to the recent and contested re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Our organisations urge the authorities to stop all operations of the security forces, to allow access to populations and to conduct independent investigations into these events.

[Congo – repression in the Pool]
© AFP

For over two weeks, the Congolese army and police have been conducting major operations in the Pool region, officially against former members of the Ninja militia and its former leader, Frédéric Bintsmou aka Pastor Ntumi, former general delegate to the President in charge of the promotion of peace and war-related reparations. Until April 14, defence and security forces also conducted shelling with heavy weapons and bombardments, followed by ground offensives, including against the villages of Vindza, Kibouendé, Soumouna and Mayama. Even though the authorities assert that there are no civilian casualties, the testimonies received by our organisations mention dozens of people killed and injured. Many protected buildings such as schools, medical centers and churches have been struck, or even targeted. Populations have deserted cities and sought refuge in the bush where they survive in extreme precariousness and insecurity. Meanwhile, security forces carry out waves of arrests of people suspected to be former Ninja fighters, Pastor Ntumi rebel group. For instance in Brazzaville, Kinkala and Kindamba dozens of young people identified as former Ninjas were arrested after the events of April 4 in Brazzaville and during the ongoing operations in the Pool Department, and are still being held in Brazzaville. Congolese authorities also subject the Pool region to a complete blockade, preventing all non-tightly controlled access, raising fears that serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are perpetrated behind closed doors against the civilian population.

” Congolese authorities must immediately stop all operations by security forces in the Pool, and facilitate the return and access to affected populations. The ongoing blockade is unacceptable. All light must be shed on recent weeks’ events”, declared Dismas Kitenge, FIDH vice-president.

Congolese authorities seem to have engaged those military operations in the Pool in response to the violence that occurred on April 4, the night before the validation by the Constitutional Court of Denis Sassou-Nguesso first round victory at the presidential election with over 60% of votes. That day, heavy and automatic weapon shots have been heard in the southern districts of Brazzaville. In particular, a military barracks was attacked, two police stations and a municipality building were burnt to the ground and hundreds of people fled to reach the north of Brazzaville. The violence that occurred in Brazzaville between April 4 and 10 reportedly killed at least 17 people and injured dozens, according to various sources.

The authorities have however provided no toll of these events, qualifying them as “terrorist acts” perpetrated by members of the Ninja rebel militias under the supervision of Pastor Ntumi. While the Congolese authorities justify their operations in the Pool as a fight against terrorism, Pastor Ntumi denied any involvement in the April 4 events in Brazzaville in a statement published on April 5. Dozens of people, presented as Ninjas combatants and suspected of being behind those attacks, were arrested by the police in the days following the violence. Series of arrests of high profile individuals, including executives of campaign directories of the candidates Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Okombi Salissa accused of “endangering the security of the state”, also continue.

” The confiscation of power and the inability of alternating heads of States adds to the the population’s frustrationsand increases the temptation for the opposition to the regime to radicalize. The manipulation of the fight against terrorism for the purpose of political repression against entire groups of the population could degenerate into a real crisis or even plunge the country into a civil war. To avoid chaos, the government must release all opponents, open an inclusive political dialogue and commit to respecting public and individual freedoms”, declared Trésor Nzila, OCDH executive director.

After 32 years in power, Denis Sassou-Nguesso was sworn in on April 16, for a five year term, following an election that took place during a nationwide telecommunication blackout – suspended for safety reasons according to the government. The election was widely marred by frauds and irregularities, denounced by Congolese opposition and civil society, as well as part of the international community, including Canada, the United States and the European Union.

Denis Sassou-Nguesso has forced its way through his “re-election” in defiance of constitutional legality and African Union texts. Barred from running by the provisions of the previous Constitution, the ruling regime organized on October 25, 2015, less than 5 months before the presidential election, a referendum to adopt a new constitution. This new Constitution in force since November 6, 2015 allows the president to run for further terms. By advancing the elections by several months and organizing the victory of the ruling president with a “knock-out”, according to the words consecrated by several African leaders, the regime organized a real coup

” The pre-election period was marked by numerous human rights violations and fundamental freedoms abuses, including against opposition activists who have been subject to several arrests and detentions. Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s regime responded to the mobilisation of the opposition and civil society against the constitutional amendment through repression. After the presidential election, intimidations continue and freedoms are still confiscated in what appears to be a clear strategy to silence all dissenting voices” said our organizations.

Context

President Denis Sassou Nguesso was sworn in on April 16, 2016 for a third term after a disputed election. On September 22, 2015, he expressed his willingness to organise a referendum to decide on a “change” of the constitution in force since 2002. This amendment intended to allow him to run for a third consecutive presidential term. Opponents, who considered it an attempted constitutional coup, massively mobilized and were severely repressed on October 20 and 21, 2015. At least 20 people were killed in Brazzaville, Pointe Noire and in other parts of the country according to the figures ascertained by our organisations.

Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power since 1979. In 1992, he lost the first pluralist elections before returning to power by force of arms in 1997, following more than two years of civil war that has led to the death of 4 000 to 10 000 people as well as thousands of displaced and refugees. Over those years, Denis Sassou Nguesso Cobras militias have successively confronted Congolese armed forces and the Zoulous and Cocoyes militias of the president Pascal Lissouba, then the ninjas militias of the prime minister Bernard Kolélas. The intervention of the Angolan armed forces of José Eduardo Dos Santos allowed him to prevail militarily and to regain power. Fighting resumed against the Ninja militias led by Pastor Ntumi in the Pool region that became inaccessible and where the civilian population was victim of many abuses. In 1999 the government’s security services were accused of having massacred more than 300 refugees returning to the Congo on Brazzaville Beach. The case is still pending before French courts. Since the 2002 election, Denis Sassou Nguesso has been reelected in disputed elections.

“The #MyVoteMustCount coalition”

Between 2014 and 2016, 52 elections including 25 presidential elections have been scheduled in 27 African countries. To avoid manipulation, fraud, and violence resulting from shortened elections, African and international civil societies have decided to mobilize through the #MyVoteMustCount campaign. Civil societies are demanding that their leaders respect the legitimate rights of the people to choose their representatives in fair, free and transparent elections through public awareness, field actions and political advocacy prior to each election between now and 2016.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

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Source:: Congo : Serious human rights violations behind closed doors in the Pool

Categories: AFRICA

It’s time to ReThink Security Management

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

R. Buckminster Fuller said those words decades ago, but they still ring true in present times, especially when it comes to the progression and innovation in technology. Here at Check Point (http://www.CheckPoint.com), we do a lot of thinking about future trends and potential threats, as well as innovating and building solutions to combat these cybersecurity challenges.

To be as effective as possible, threat defences need to be observed and managed in real time to give as much time to respond as possible. Robust security management is a solution that includes the installation of high-tech systems designed to protect an organisation’s data, networks and devices, while providing real-time visibility into security risk.

This includes the development, documentation, and implementation of policies and procedures for protecting these assets. Unfortunately, the response to potential threats tends to be point product or the reactive construction of new policies and rules, which only serve as a Band-Aid, at best. This is largely because a unified security program – based on integrated technology – is often not being used.

Start Solving Real Problems

The security industry does not need more point products to duct-tape solutions together and hope for the best. Companies need real solutions – ones that can integrate their system and give them visibility into the security risk of the environment. A powerful security management platform gives your company a strategic and tactical advantage by enabling the management of potential threats, without inhibiting business innovation.

With that said, there are four primary ways in which you can help secure your company’s environment:

  1. Conquer with Consolidation

Security complexity can be conquered through consolidation – bringing all security protections and functions under one umbrella. By consolidating security on a single platform, companies gain more control over their security, get better insight into their security posture and can respond more quickly to shut down threats to their entire environment.

  1. Unified Policy Management

Ultimately, when policies are misconfigured, the organisation is not able to protect and gain visibility into the increasing number of business segments. This puts the entire organisation at risk. The key to strong security architecture that can overcome the most difficult cybersecurity challenges can only be delivered by using a security management solution that delivers unparalleled operational efficiency.

  1. Integrated Threat Management

You cannot monitor or protect devices you don’t know about. Security challenges are increased when there is a lack of proper visibility for incident detection and response. This is precisely the reason why a single, visual dashboard is so important for event analysis, and threat monitoring and mitigation, to ensure full-spectrum visibility into threats across the entire perimeter and beyond.

  1. Automated Operations

By automating operations, security teams have the confidence to integrate ticketing, network management or cloud orchestration systems, knowing that they can limit exactly what integrated systems have access to and what they are capable of doing.

Consolidate and Optimise

As evasion techniques evolve and become more intelligent, so must the technology to keep your business secure. A robust security management platform allows your company to be proactive in its approach to security, rather than reactive.

To provide security professionals with a comprehensive resource on security management, we’ve developed a whitepaper that provides you with solutions to tackle the most complex environments.

We invite you to rethink your current security posture, and enable strong protections for the organisation. Everything from technology, people, policy, operations and management must be considered in a new light, with a fresh mindset.

Download our free whitepaper to learn more: http://www.apo.af/9x2ZWt

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd..

Media Contact
WE Communications South Africa
+27 11 550 5400
checkpointsa@we-worldwide.com

About Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (http://www.CheckPoint.com) is the largest network cyber security vendor globally, providing industry-leading solutions and protecting customers from cyberattacks with an unmatched catch rate of malware and other types of threats. Check Point offers a complete security architecture defending enterprises – from networks to mobile devices – in addition to the most comprehensive and intuitive security management. Check Point protects over 100,000 organisations of all sizes.

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Zeid condemns spate of assassinations in Burundi

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday condemned the increasing number of attacks against high level officials in Burundi, including most recently the assassination of Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza and his wife on Monday, and the apparent assassination attempt against the Minister of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender, Martin Nivyabandi, the previous day, Sunday 24 April.

“I strongly condemn these attacks,” Zeid said. “They must be properly investigated and the killers must be arrested and brought before the law. Some 31 people have been killed in attacks so far in April, compared to a total of nine people in the last month. The great majority of these attacks were carried out by unidentified armed men. I fear that the increasing number of targeted assassinations will inevitably exacerbate the already extremely dangerous spiral of violence and unrest in Burundi.”

The High Commissioner strongly encouraged all parties to seize the opportunity of the upcoming East African Community-led Burundian talks in Arusha to engage in a meaningful dialogue, with the aim of improving the human rights situation and finding a lasting solution to the ongoing political crisis.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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Categories: AFRICA

United States Announces Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the People of South Sudan

The United States today announced more than $86 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help conflict-affected people in South Sudan, as well as South Sudanese refugees in the region.

This new funding will provide much-needed safe drinking water, emergency health care, nutrition services, shelter, improved sanitation facilities, agricultural training, and seeds, tools, and fishing supplies for the most vulnerable families and communities. These include internally displaced persons both within and outside of UN Protection of Civilians sites, refugees seeking asylum in South Sudan, and South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries. The U.S. Government is also supporting clinical and psychological treatment for survivors of gender-based violence, as well as the transport of life-saving supplies and aid workers to ensure that people who are living in remote and hard-to-reach areas quickly receive assistance.

For more than two years, the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance has been seriously disrupted by the denial of movement and access perpetrated by all parties to the conflict. As we anticipate the quick formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity and a renewed commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement, the United States expects a fundamental shift in the relationship with the humanitarian community. Specifically, we expect the transitional government to adhere to core humanitarian principles and to change past policy and practice to ensure aid reaches those in need without regard to ethnic or political discrimination. We furthermore expect the transitional government to take action to prevent the extortion, theft, and physical harm of aid workers. Leaders must also allow full freedom of movement for all civilians.

This new assistance announced today underscores the long-standing commitment of the American people to the people of South Sudan. The United States is the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan. This additional funding raises the total of U.S. humanitarian aid to nearly $1.6 billion since the start of the current conflict in December 2013.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of U.S. Embassy in Juba.

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Categories: AFRICA

Togo National Day

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Washington, DC

April 27, 2016

On behalf of President Obama and American people, I wish to extend congratulations to the people of Togo on the 56th anniversary of your independence.

Togo and the United States enjoy excellent relations, based on a mutual interest in strengthening democracy and rule of law, supporting economic development, and ensuring citizen security in Togo. Our strong partnership works to improve health, education, agriculture, and the environment.

The United States looks forward to deepening the strong relationship we enjoy with Togo and supporting your efforts towards a prosperous and secure future.

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

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Sierra Leone National Day

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Washington, DC

April 27, 2016

On behalf of President Obama and American people, I am delighted to congratulate the people of Sierra Leone on the 55th anniversary of their country’s independence.

The government, families, and communities of Sierra Leone face a wide range of daunting challenges, yet continue to do the hard and sometimes painstaking work of building a democratic and prosperous society for themselves and for future generations.

The United States is committed to doing its part to help Sierra Leone strengthen its governing institutions, expand economic opportunities, and support the recovery of its health care system. And we are dedicated to deepening the bonds of friendship between our two nations and remaining a partner in Sierra Leone’s pursuit of peace, growth, security, and progress for all its citizens.

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

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Government launches Child Friendly Justice Handbook to protect rights of children in contact with the law

The Government of Uganda and UNICEF have today launched a child-friendly justice handbook to guide prosecutors and other actors in the criminal justice system, in handling child-related cases in a child-friendly and gender responsive manner.

The handbook is produced by the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with technical and financial support from UNICEF as well as financial support from the Justice Law and Order Sector. The UK government provided financial support to the process through UNICEF. The handbook will be used by prosecutors and other state as well as non-state actors and institutions in the criminal justice system.

“The handbook is an excellent guide in improving the delivery of justice to children, strengthening child protection structures and helping build a protective environment for children. It will subsequently lead to the rehabilitation and reintegration of children in conflict with the law,” says Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

According to the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Annual Report 2013, there were 1,256 juvenile offenders in the year 2011-12. In 2012, the Uganda Police Force arrested an average of six juveniles per 100,000 of the child population.

More often than not, prior to sentencing, child offenders are held with adults, due to lack of separate holding facilities at police stations, which increases the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. The conditions of detention are sometimes sub-standard, overcrowded and deny children their rights, such as the right to legal representation, parental access, and appropriate standards of health. Detention rarely results in the child’s reintegration and the child assuming a constructive role in society, which should be the objective of any justice intervention in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).

In addition, children’s cases are often processed through justice systems designed for adults that are not adapted to children’s rights and specific needs.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which Uganda signed, ratified and domesticated recognises the importance of child friendly justice. In addition, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child also highlights the right of the African child to special treatment in a manner consistent with the child’s sense of dignity and worth and which reinforces the child’s respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. It prohibits child labour and harmful cultural practices that put children at risk. At national level, the Constitution of Uganda sets out rights of children, including of those in conflict with the law. The Children’s Act Cap 59 further makes specific provision on the processes of arrest and charging, pre-trial detention and hearings, adopting the child rights based approach.

However, despite the existence of the mentioned legal frameworks, the justice system in Uganda is still faced with severe constraints especially as far as child protection and justice is concerned. With the existing system, children are marginalised by the limited application of a child-rights based approach by relevant institutions charged with child justice and inadequate systems and procedures for justice for children.

Regarding sexual violence, Uganda is a signatory to international and regional instruments on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) which include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, 1995, the Great Lakes Protocol on the Prevention and Suppression of Sexual Violence Against Women and Children 2009, the SADC addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children (Addendum to the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development). The Government of Uganda has undertaken steps to address sexual violence by enacting a gender sensitive constitution and drafting laws that prohibit violence against women and children, including the 2007 Penal Code Amendment Act No. 8, the Domestic Violence Act, the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009 and The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010.

Despite these efforts on the legislative front, the criminal justice system’s response to gender-based violence falls short of the country’s international regional and national obligations to prevent violence against children and women and to ensure their access to justice. Perpetrators still escape prosecution and punishment for their crimes. Delays in the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of SGBV crimes, poor case handling methods including exhibit mishandling, poor statement recording, outdated evidential admission requirements to name but a few, lead to poor case outcomes. The lowly response of the criminal justice system to the determination of SGBV cases is reflected in the DPP performance statistics. For example, the DPP 2015 statistics show that the total number of defilement cases handled that year was 26,900. 8,176 of these were newly registered cases. About 8,000 of these cases were being mentioned in court, meaning that investigations in these cases were still ongoing. About 7,800 cases were under prosecution and only 1197 cases were concluded.

“No matter how children come into contact with judicial or non-judicial proceedings, their rights have to be protected from the time they enter into the formal justice system to completion,” Ms. Noreen Prendiville, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Uganda, emphasized.

As part of the process of the development of the handbook, the Director of Public Prosecutions appointed a task force consisting of prosecutors and members of the DPP policy unit that conducted field consultations, which identified gaps and challenges in the implementation of a child friendly criminal justice system. The consultative meetings established that one of the main problems faced by prosecutors, adjudicators and investigators was the failure to understand and therefore apply the concept of “child friendly justice”.

What is Child-Friendly Justice?

Child-Friendly Justice refers to justice systems which guarantee the respect and the effective implementation of all children’s rights. The key issues for consideration in determining whether or not an intervention is child-friendly are:

– Is this proposed action in the best interests of the children?

– Does it safeguard their life and survival and actively contribute to their development?

– Is it taking into consideration the needs of all children, without discrimination against particular groups?

– Are there adequate resources available?

In summary this concept requires that children in contact with the law either as victims, witnesses or those in conflict with the law, be handled in a way that is humane and which recognises their legal and physical vulnerabilities. Such a system should be adapted to and focused on the needs of the child.

This hand book therefore delves into the subjects of child friendly justice, diversion, child age determination, detention of children, evidence of children, statement taking, and working with child victims and witnesses of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Crimes as well as the child justice institutional set up and mandates. It provides child justice practitioners with the basic tools of how to handle children in contact with the law.

“UNICEF pledges to continue working with the Government to promote the strengthening of all parts of the child protection system, including the justice mechanisms, to operate in the best interest of the child,” Ms. Prendiville concluded.

About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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

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Source:: Government launches Child Friendly Justice Handbook to protect rights of children in contact with the law

Categories: AFRICA