SPEAK OUT FORCEFULLY AGAINST THREAT OF MASS ATROCITIES, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS AT LAUNCH OF KWIBUKA20 RWANDA GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION

NEW YORK, February 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the launch of Kwibuka20 in New York today:

I am honoured to be here for the New York launch of Kwibuka20, a series of events marking 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda. The theme for Kwibuka20, “Remember, Unite, Renew”, says it all.

We will always remember the more than 800,000 innocent people who were so brutally murdered. We draw inspiration from the ability of the Rwandan people to unite and show that reconciliation is possible even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions. And we marvel at the Rwandan people’s determination to renew their country and pave the way to a secure and prosperous future.

Remember, unite, renew: let us be inspired by those words during the weeks of reflection ahead. The Rwanda genocide was an epic failure of the international community to take action in the face of atrocity crimes. We have learned important lessons. We know more keenly than ever that genocide is not a single event but a process that evolves over time, and requires planning and resources to carry out. As chilling as that sounds, it also means that, with adequate information, mobilization, courage and political will, genocide can be prevented. We have applied those lessons in many ways to improve our responses since then. Member States adopted the “responsibility to protect” principle.

We have established the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. My Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, who is here with us today, monitors the world for signs of the crime’s known precursors, providing a vital early warning function for myself and the Security Council. My Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Jennifer Welsh, engages in political dialogue with Member States and others to put the concept into practice.

We have strengthened our capacities for mediation and preventive diplomacy. We have also undertaken new civilian protection efforts on the ground, most notably of late through the “open gates” policy in South Sudan. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has strengthened monitoring and field presences, as well as the assistance it provides to States in advancing human rights-friendly institutions and laws. We are promoting tolerance and mutual understanding, including through the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.

We are entering an age of accountability through the actions of the International Criminal Court, international tribunals and domestic courts. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, with the cooperation of Rwanda and other States, continues to prosecute people for their alleged responsibility in the genocide. Most recently, I launched a new initiative across the United Nations system called “Rights up front” to reinvigorate the UN’s commitment to human rights, and in particular to strengthen early action.

At the same time, 20 years after the Rwanda genocide, there is much more that all of us can do to fully internalize and implement its lessons. Our collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria over the past three years is a shameful indictment of the international community. The grave and blatant violations of human rights in the Central African Republic have led the Security Council to establish an international commission of inquiry. We also see civilians threatened in multiple regions, as well as other worrying trends, such as the rising bias against migrants, Muslims, Roma and other minorities in Europe and elsewhere.

We must speak out forcefully whenever communities are threatened by mass atrocities or their precursors. And we must never forget the victims, and make sure they receive the support they deserve. Last May, I visited the Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. I was moved to tears by the enormity of the violence that targeted a range of Rwanda’s people — Tutsi, Twa, moderate Hutu and others.

But, I also saw the remarkable progress that Rwanda has made over two decades. I encourage the people and Government of Rwanda to continue promoting the inclusive spirit necessary for healing and reconciliation, and to deepen respect for human rights. This will set the country firmly on course for a peaceful future and benefit the wider Great Lakes region, which continues to cope with the impact of the genocide. As we launch Kwibuka20, let us together commit to remember, unite and renew.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR AND UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS, VALERIE AMOS STATEMENT ON SOUTH SUDAN

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — I am deeply concerned by the grave humanitarian situation in South Sudan, where, despite the recent ceasefire agreement, the lives of millions of civilians are threatened by lack of food, outbreaks of disease, and continued violence.

Malakal, a city in Upper Nile State that I visited just a month ago, saw shocking violence and human rights abuses last week. More than 100 people were reported killed and injured, some of them attacked in the hospitals and churches, places of sanctuary, where they had sought refuge. The situation remains tense, with bodies left on the streets and over 20,000 people sheltering at the UN base. Civilians and local aid workers fear for their lives.

Across South Sudan, more than 900,000 people have been forced from their homes, some 190,000 of them fleeing into neighbouring countries. The situation remains tense in other parts of the country, including Bentiu and Leer, and the fear of violence is preventing families from tending their crops or livestock. 3.7 million people are now short of food.

All those who continue fighting in South Sudan must abide by their obligations under International Humanitarian and Human Rights laws: to protect civilians, to respect the ceasefire, to stop targeting civilian facilities, and to allow safe access for aid workers.

The United Nations and our humanitarian partners will continue to do our best to help the women, children and men of South Sudan to survive this crisis, despite the ongoing fighting and funding constraints.

The people of South Sudan want peace and stability and they want this conflict to end. I hope the fighters will put the people first and stop the unspeakable violence being meted out to ordinary women, children and men.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

UN rights expert urges Mauritania to turn pledges into deeds in the fight against slavery

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, February 28, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, today hailed Mauritania’s commitment and progress in the fight against slavery, but called on the authorities “to take more vigorous measures to eliminate slavery and to fully implement the laws and policies.”

Ms. Shahinian’s call comes at the end of a follow-up official visit to the country to assess new developments and the initiatives taken by the Mauritanian authorities in response to her previous recommendations.

“I commend the Government of Mauritania for the measures taken since my last mission in 2009 and for its commitment to ending slavery in the country,” said the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the use of contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences in the world.

“However,” she stressed, “the Government still has to turn its pledges into deeds, and to take more vigorous measures with a view to eliminating slavery and to fully implement the laws and policies”.

“The passing of the law criminalizing slavery in 2007 had been a milestone for the eradication of slavery practices in Mauritania, but still needs to be fully implemented to result in concrete changes in practice,” she said. The expert reiterated her concerns at the very low number of prosecutions under the Act, and stressed the need to amend it in order to ensure better protection for victims recognized as slaves.

“The fact that slavery has now officially been designated a crime constitutes a major achievement in the fight against slavery,” Ms. Shahinian said. Under the constitutional reform introduced in 2012, persons convicted of slavery can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison.

The Special Rapporteur welcomed the recent announcement of the establishment of a special Tribunal to prosecute crimes of slavery: “I believe that the setting-up of the Tribunal will bring the Mauritania one step closer to effectively ending the practice of slavery and call on the Government to deploy all necessary efforts to making this a reality.”

Ms. Shahinian noted that a number of legislative efforts launched in 2011 towards securing the rights of housemaids and domestic workers are an important element in the fight against slavery, but highlighted that “concerted action is required to fully realize their human rights.”

“The adoption of the road map for the implementation of my previous recommendations is a clear sign that Mauritania is on its way to eradicate slavery and its remnants once and for all,” she said. “I am sure that the 6 of March 2014, when the Government will adopt formally the road map, this will mark a turning point in the fight against slavery in country.”

The human rights expert welcomed the setting-up of ‘Tadamoun,’ the government agency charged explicitly with helping former slaves in Mauritania. “This is an important step towards more holistic and sustained approach in addressing all forms of discrimination together with poverty at all levels of society, which is essential to eradicate the legacy of slavery,” she said.

However, the Special Rapporteur stressed the need to ensure targeted and tailored solutions for former slaves in order to avoid that the eradication of the vestiges of slavery become incorporated in more general programmes on poverty alleviation.

“A prerequisite for the efficiency of these programmes is reliable information which is currently lacking, and that is why an urgent need exists to provide detailed and precise data, statistics and a thorough study,” she noted.

The Special Rapporteur also stressed the need to publish the anti-slavery conventions it ratified in Mauritania’s Official Gazette as soon as possible also in order to raise awareness that all work should be entered into freely and respect the fundamental rights of the human person.

During her four-day visit to Nouakchott, Ms. Shahinian met with various Government authorities, international organizations as well as non-governmental organizations, trade unions, community members and others working in the area of combatting all forms of slavery.

“Civil society has a tremendously important role in eradicating slavery, raising awareness, collecting materials, bringing cases before the court and in assisting victims of slavery,” she underscored.

The Special Rapporteur will present her findings and recommendations at a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2014.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

Statement attributable to the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan a.i. , Mr Adnan Khan, on direct talks between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Move

KHARTOUM, Sudan, February 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Sudan a.i., Mr. Adnan Khan, has welcomed the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel’s (AUHIP) invitation to the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) to re-engage in direct talks on 28 February in Addis Ababa. Mr. Khan urges the Government and the SPLM-N to take immediate steps to ensure that humanitarian needs can be addressed while political dialogue continues.

“After almost three years of armed conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile there is an urgent and critical need to address the humanitarian situation in affected areas,” said Mr. Khan. “We cannot allow innocent civilians to continue to pay the price of war, or to make the provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance somehow conditional upon political progress. What we need now is for the fighting to stop and for the parties to ensure that humanitarian actors have safe, unhindered and immediate access, so that the needs of all who are suffering can be met,” he said.

Since fighting began in July 2011, some 1.2 million people have been either internally displaced or severely affected by the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and nearly 240,000 people have sought refuge from the conflict in neighboring countries.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

FCO Press Release: Minister for Africa gives keynote address at Nigerian Centenary

LONDON, United-Kingdom, February 27, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Today Foreign Office Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds gave a keynote speech at the Nigerian centenary celebrations.

The Centenary was attended by Heads of State from across Africa. The Minister was speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister and brought a message from Her Majesty the Queen. He said:

AFRICAN CHOICES IN A NEW NIGERIAN CENTURY

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Thank you, Mr. President. Your Excellencies, distinguished guests: I am honoured to represent the British Government today – and to bring with me warm congratulations and best wishes from Her Majesty the Queen, on Nigeria’s 100th birthday.

It is a particular privilege to join you all as my Prime Minister’s representative, to celebrate this important day and to strengthen and renew the unique ties between Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

I am honoured, Mr President, to speak today of Nigeria and Africa. I am always struck by Nigeria’s youth and vitality. I believe strongly that your country, and the countries represented here today, should be viewed through the lens of promise and ambition. I want to take this opportunity to focus on the great future ahead of Nigeria and its African counterparts face.

It is a future that is closely linked to the achievement of prosperity, stability and democracy. And I believe that, as is the case in Europe, it is the choices African leaders make in these three areas that will determine Africa’s future.

Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, said on Independence Day in 1960 that Nigeria’s relations with the UK were “always as friends.” That is as true now as 54 years ago.

Our relationship is rooted in our joint history; in the large and important Nigerian community in the UK; the deep and expanding trade relationship; and our countless educational, sporting and cultural connections.

So it is exciting to recognize, as we stand at the dawn of a new century for Nigeria, that the future brings with it extraordinary possibilities for your country, and for many African nations.

In 1914, the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates and Lagos, brought together peoples, territory and resources that had never before considered themselves as having mutual interests. That brought challenges- and perhaps still does.

But Nigeria’s diversity has brought the Country strength, resilience and a multitude of talent. It has growing international influence as a peacekeeper, as a leader in the African Union and on the UN Security Council. The Country has become the driving economic and political force of its region.

A child born in 1914 in Nigeria, joined a population of just 17 and a half million people. Now, the population is 10 times that figure.

In Nigeria today, more than 18,000 children will be born. In their lives, they could see Africa’s population quadruple; its GDP triple; a world where one child in every three is African.

They could witness extraordinary social, political, and economic shifts, boosting this continent’s global role as never before.

But, they could also suffer from the impacts of climate change and witness unprecedented competition, at every level, and perhaps unsustainable demands on Africa’s resources and environment. They will need productive jobs and will want a political, economic and social voice. Managing these challenges will test the leadership and vision of all those here today.

I believe we share a vision that we want to see realised in our lifetime. It is the vision of independent, thriving and dynamic African countries, overcoming poverty, famine and conflict.

It is the vision of African families raised without disease; economies managed effectively, linked to open markets and providing jobs. It is the vision of African states governed with the consent and participation of their peoples and fundamental rights protected for everyone, regardless of your gender, ethnicity, belief, disability or sexuality.

Whether it is in the tech hubs of Lagos and Nairobi or the scientific innovation in South Africa, energy and ambition can be found everywhere in Africa. This is why the United Kingdom is positive about the bright future for many African nations. This is thanks in large part to the achievements that many African governments have made, over the last decade, in lifting millions of people out of poverty and conflict. I would like to put on the record my admiration for this achievement.

These achievements have brought African countries a long way. But if the vision that I have set out and which I believe we share is to be truly realised, African governments must now allow their countries to flourish. While some African governments are helping their countries to take off, others are yet to make a clear choice between building open governments, institutions and economies, or putting up barriers, oppressing minorities and ruling through fear and violence. I have no doubt about which choice Africans expect of their governments.

In 1914, as Nigeria was being born, Europe stood on the verge of tearing itself apart. Europe’s future was uncertain. Its path towards democracy, prosperity and stability unclear. It was the choices European leaders made that have brought European countries to where they are today. Many of those choices brought success. But, as we sadly know, some of the choices brought terror and devastation to millions.

If African nations are to avoid in the next century the mistakes European nations made over the last 100 years, then ultimately, African leaders – you here today – must make the right choices.

It is no exaggeration that the leaders here today hold in their hands the fate of possibly 1 billion people and their prosperity.

I have been privileged to see the ancient mosques of Timbuktu and to sit on the shores of Lake Kivu. I have been from Addis to Abidjan; from Cape Town to Khartoum. I’ve seen the mosaic of nations, cultures and histories that make up Africa’s richness.

Africa’s variety defies easy categorisation. But I believe there may be a guiding narrative that will critical to Africa’s emergence: three areas in which the success of African governments will not be judged by rhetoric, but by outcomes. They are democracy, prosperity and security.

The first choice is on democracy: African nations will need to direct themselves with determination towards democracy. This is a call from Africans themselves, who – with a smart-phone in their hand and twitter at their fingertips – want to shape and define their future; choose committed leaders and hold them accountable.

By virtue of her scale and energy, Nigeria could lead the way. Next February’s elections will be a vital milestone – Nigeria’s fifth consecutive Presidential election under civilian rule. Mr President, you have committed yourself to ensuring that the elections are free and fair. I am confident Nigerians will accept nothing less. And in doing so, you and your government could be a role model for many other African governments.

Secondly, thanks to the rising African middle class, strong growth rates, and increasing stability, African economies are on the verge of take off. But, to get the wheels off the ground, African economies will need to choose to couple transparent, capable and visionary economic management with investments in infrastructure, education and energy.

At the same time, the journey towards sustainable prosperity can only be fuelled through African governments taking strides to unlock barriers to markets; reducing the cost of doing business; and stamping out corruption.

Here, once again Nigeria is critical to success in the region and beyond. Non-oil growth is still 6%. But there’s potential for much more: genuinely transformational growth, especially if privatisation underway in the power sector delivers what it promises.

But democracies do not flourish nor do economies grow in the midst of instability. So the final area I want to highlight – for Nigeria and elsewhere – is the imperative of providing security for all citizens. Any government has the right, and indeed the obligation to defend its territory and people from terrorism. As it does so, it also has a duty to be the protector of its citizens and their universal and inalienable human rights.

The defence of Africa’s people, and the proportionate use of legal force, are mutually reinforcing. The UK will partner African governments in seeking the eradication of violent extremism. But if we ignore the values that we want our own children to benefit from, we will act as a recruiter for the likes of Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. We must not forget what it is that we defend.

The UK will continue to work with you all on African issues in the UN Security Council. We are partners in the Commonwealth, which African countries continue to join. We want to see a strong, ambitious African Union. We are opening Embassies and High Commissions across Africa, building linkages and strengthening our understanding. And we are expanding our network of trade and investment experts throughout African countries.

UK Aid has been transformative for many African countries, tackling the roots of poverty and conflict and building the foundations for countries that can flourish. Our commitment to working in partnership on development – as here in Nigeria – remains. It is right that my government made a brave decision in 2010, in spite of the UK’s serious economic challenges, not to balance our books on the backs of Africa’s poor.

We are one of Africa’s largest traders. Indeed, in Nigeria we remain the largest investor, and are making strides to meet our ambition to double bilateral trade here, from £4 billion in 2011 to £8 billion this year.

As one of the world’s largest exporters and with our global leadership in education; logistics; retailing; creative industries; hydrocarbons; agriculture; banking; renewable energy; pharmaceuticals; financial services; extractives; research and development; and with businesses that pride themselves on sound ethical governance, the UK has much to offer Africa’s emerging economies.

Some will say we are doing these things out of self-interest. Let’s be clear. It is in the UK interest to promote democracy, stability and prosperity. But it is also in Africa’s interest too. And it’s an indicator of Africa’s importance in the 21st Century that the UK, and many other nations, seeks to build and sustain the partnerships that will take African countries well into the next century.

I want to see Africa, Africans and African nations succeed. There is a bright future for this continent; fuelled by its energy, entrepreneurship and ambition. As Nigeria has shown, much has already been achieved.

Yet, the future journey will not be easy, the challenges will be great. But that opportunity that is at the fingertips of so many African people – with their governments’ help – must be seized. It is about making the right choices. It is about bringing true democracy, prosperity and stability to every one of your citizens.

Last year, we saw the parting of one of the World’s greatest leaders: Nelson Mandela. His death has left a challenge to all political leaders – Africa’s included – to meet the aspirations of our people, to demonstrate the same “servant leadership” that Mandela showed us. To choose transparency, to choose reconciliation, to choose partnership and opportunity for all.

So again I wish Nigeria a happy hundredth birthday. And I look forward to the next century of our partnership, and of Nigerian – and African – success.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

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