Category Archives: Africa

Conflict drives global rise in sexual violence against women

Attack A woman rests at a camp for people fleeing conflict in the Congolese province of Kasai. Photograph: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Sexual violence is on the increase both inside and outside of wartime contexts and women remain the primary victims, warns new research.

In their report, researchers from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) analysed data gathered from 400 recorded sexual violence events that occurred between January 2018 and June 2019.

They found an overall increase in reported events where the offender directly targeted women and girls; in only 5% of cases were the victims male.

At 140, the total number of reported events nearly doubled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

The report’s authors said this was “largely due to an upward trend in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consistently registers high levels of reported sexual violence”.

Dr Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at Acled, said: “It is important to remember that sexual violence in or outside of conflict remains a pressing issue for victims, regardless of gender or age.”

Identifying that the primary perpetrators of public, political sexual attacks were regional political militias followed by state forces, Acled compared statistics for 2018 and 2019 in order to identify high-risk regions where women are more vulnerable to attack.

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the list followed by South Sudan, Burundi, India and Sudan. By 2019, the list had changed, with India rising to second place behind the DRC. South Sudan and Burundi followed, with Mozambique and Zimbabwe in equal fifth position.

In both years, researchers found that events were often accompanied by lethal attacks, especially during armed conflict.

Breaking down the data into regions, Acled found that the largest proportion of reported events were committed by political militias, anonymous or unidentified armed groups in Africa and south Asia. In the Middle East, south-east Asia, eastern and south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, events were carried out by state forces.

In the same time period, more than 100 government-perpetrated sexual violence events were recorded, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents that occurred or were most common in India, the DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan, Burundi, and Sudan.

There are no comprehensive statistics for the number of women and men subjected to sexual violence during conflict, but the figures are believed to be in the thousands

According to Acled, women are frequently targeted during political violence, which makes up only one-third of all events involving violence targeting women and extends beyond sexual violence, where they say that levels of organised violence are high.

However, even where they identified that organised violence was not the primary objective, women often still face high levels of targeting outside of conventional conflict: for example, attempts by a state to enforce order through repression, or a mob targeting a woman accused of indecency. Such instances have arisen in Burundi and Pakistan, which provide indicative case studies.

“On the heels of commemorating the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we need the support of states to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kishi.

“It is damning to find that some states are among the primary perpetrators of such violence themselves. Impunity plays a troubling role in the continuation of such violence.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/28/congo-abuses-drive-global-rise-in-sexual-violence-against-women

DRC Ebola outbreak still not global emergency, says WHO

EbolaThe current outbreak is the second-deadliest in history [Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) does not qualify as an international threat, even though cases have been confirmed in neighbouring Uganda.

“It was the view of the committee that the outbreak is a health emergency in DRC and the region, but does not meet the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern,” the United Nations health agency’s expert committee said in a statement on Friday after an emergency meeting.

Despite the outcome of the deliberations, “this outbreak is very much an emergency,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva press conference via telephone from the DRC.

The virus has killed more than 1,400 people since its outbreak – the second-deadliest in history – was declared in August last year after emerging in eastern DRC’s northern Kivu and Ituri provinces.

To be declared a global emergency, an outbreak must constitute a risk to other countries and require a coordinated response. The declaration typically triggers more funding and political attention.

Speaking from the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, said there was now a stronger political engagement to make sure the outbreak was contained.

“It will take longer than originally anticipated,” she told Al Jazeera.

“However, we still believe that it can be contained. It will need a multi-facet response not a simple public health response as had initially been thought. But we anticipate that it will eventually be contained.”

Uganda cases

On Thursday, the WHO acknowledged that it had been unable to track the origins of nearly half of new Ebola cases in the DRC, suggesting it did not know where the virus was spreading.

The United Nations health agency said on Thursday that two people had died in Uganda after arriving with the disease from the DRC.

Its expert committee has met twice previously to consider the situation in the DRC. In April, the WHO said the outbreak was of “deep concern” but officials were “moderately optimistic” it could be contained within a “foreseeable time.”

The outbreak, occurring close to the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, has been like no other. Community mistrust has been high and attacks by rebel groups have undermined aid efforts.

Experts say people are still dying outside of Ebola treatment centres, exposing their families to the disease, and many do not appear on lists of known contacts being monitored.

“Vaccines alone can’t work if community hides cases due to distrust. Violence persists. We are in this for the long haul,” Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said, referring to deadly attacks on health facilities in the DRC.

According to the WHO, more than 100 attacks on treatment centres and health workers in the DRC have been recorded since the beginning of this year.

As the far deadlier 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak raged in West Africa, the WHO was heavily criticised for not declaring a global emergency until nearly 1,000 people had died and the virus had spread to at least three countries.

Internal WHO documents later showed that the agency feared the declaration would have economic and social implications for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 11,300 people died in the three countries.

Before the WHO panel’s move, Axelle Ronsse, emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, had expressed uncertainty whether a declaration would help. She said outbreak responders, including the WHO, should reevaluate their strategies to contain the spiralling outbreak.

“It’s quite clear that it’s not under control,” she said. “Now may be the time to reset and see what should be changed at this point.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/dangerous-iran-denies-claims-gulf-tankers-190614151217769.html

Liberian priest’s wide-ranging accusations against two bishops include sexual harassment

HarrassementCredit: Fotos593/Shutterstock.

. Liberian Church leaders have visited the Vatican after a priest claimed to have been mentally and psychologically abused by two bishops, reportedly in retaliation against him for refusing sexual relations.

Father Gabriel Sawyer, who has since left ministry and attempted to marry, made the accusations against Archbishop Lewis Zeigler of Monrovia and Bishop Andrew Karnley of Cape Palmas in an Aug. 15, 2018 letter to the apostolic nuncio to Liberia, Archbishop Dagoberto Campos Salas.

Archbishop Zeigler declined comment to Front Page Africa, while Bishop Karnley characterized Sawyer’s claims as “a campaign of lies and falsehoods against me.”

The visit took place the last week of May, the news site Crux reported. The Vatican meeting included Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga, who heads the Liberian bishops’ conference; Father Dennis Cephus Nimene, secretary of the bishops’ conference; and Campos, the nuncio.

The alleged victim said in his letter to the nuncio that the harassment was constant and systematic for over 14 years.

In a May 23 Front Page Africa / New Narratives report, the priest said he was left destitute and waited for a year and a half for an investigation. He claims to have then attempted to marry a friend in February 2019 “to protect my own life.” He said he faced threats and he accused his ecclesiastical superiors of refusing to provide him with necessary healthcare.

“Once the information got out they were sending me threatening messages,” he said. “I am the first person to speak out on these homosexuality and sex abuse charges. And these things have haunted the Church for years. I felt it is time someone speaks out about them.”

Sawyer said the retaliatory incidents involving Karnley lasted more than two decades, dating back to his time as a seminarian when Karnley was vocations director.

Karnley made sexual advances towards him “continuously” when they traveled by car together, Sawyer alleged.

In one incident, Sawyer said, Karnley tried to touch him sexually when he was half-asleep in his room. When he refused the bishop further sexual activity, the retaliation began, the priest claims.

“He quietly and calmly left my room, telling me at the same time, that he will make sure that I did not become a priest,” said the priest, who said the previous Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis, assigned him to another priest for evaluation before approving his ordination to the priesthood. Francis died in 2013.

Sawyer said he kept quiet “in order to save my vocation.” He said he discussed the retaliatory behavior with his classmates, though not Karnley’s alleged sexual advances.

Karnley, 52, has served as Bishop of Cape Palmas since 2011. He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Liberia, and was its apostolic administrator from 2005-2009.

The 75-years-old Zeigler has been Monrovia’s archbishop since 2011. He is the former Bishop of Gbarnga.

New Narratives said it has interviewed five other priests and lay people who affirmed Sawyer suffered abuse from the two bishops. These alleged witnesses asked for their identities to be withheld for fear of retribution from Church leadership.

Moses Carter, a spokesman for the Liberia National Police, affirmed that the country’s laws will be enforced if anyone is convicted, explaining, “If any individual in the Catholic Church commits an act it does not becloud the entire church said individual must be made to face the full weight of the law.”

“Whoever claims they were sodomized or attempts were made on them, the law is always there for everyone. They can come over to the (Liberia National Police),” said Carter.

Liberia’s penal code bars “involuntary sodomy,” classifying as a third-degree felony “deviate sexual intercourse” or causing someone to engage in such intercourse. It is unclear whether the law would apply in Sawyer’s case.

Sawyer has also charged that the archbishop abused his power and refused him leave to go to Ghana for treatment for an illness.

The harassment was so severe it has caused him “untold sufferings and mental disorders,” he charged, including “psychological breakdown” and even a periodic “state of paralysis.” He also suffers from acute gastrointestinal disorder.

Explaining his sex abuse claim against Zeigler, Sawyer said the archbishop “told me that I was looking nice and he loves me.” It appears to be based in the archbishop’s recommendation that “I should make time available to visit him at his house,” which Sawyer said he realized meant “something else.” In Sawyer’s account, the bishop later repeated such a proposal.

“This time I told him I was not interested and cannot reduce myself to that level. I was so upset and left his office without discussing what I went to see him about,” the priest said.

Another priest speaking anonymously to Front Page Africa said that Zeigler has professed his innocence of the allegations in meetings with clergy.

Karnley told Front Page Africa, “I challenge Father Sawyer in the name of God to take me to any court and prove it, not only him but any man living or dead.”

News reports cited a leaked email to Sawyer from Bishop Borwah, dated Dec. 4, 2018, that appears to show Borwah asking Sawyer to “please keep things away from the media, public and the court.”

The bishop, who was ordained a priest of the Monrovia archdiocese in 1996, appeared to want the priest’s side heard.

“You have the right to be listened to and protected by the Church,” said the bishop, who pledged his help to bring the process to a successful conclusion “as much as I can with God’s help.”

Sawyer has supporters and detractors.

One lay Catholic, Aaron Weah, told Front Page Africa he supported “a strong and impartial investigation.”

“I believe that if they are verified to be lies it will help the Church. If these acts are actually happening in the Church and they can be verified and authenticated it will also help our faith,” Weah said.

Others were critical of the accuser.

“I think it is misinformation,” Solo Otto Gaye, a journalist and a Catholic who volunteers with the Cape Palmas diocese, said of Sawyer’s claims. “This is hard to believe because (the) bishop is an African man from the village. I run his social media page. I have gone from village to village with him. We even sleep together. If he is gay I would know.”

Some reactions came from the pulpit.

“What you are hearing is because an individual is hurt and decided to smear the image of the church,” Sacred Heart Cathedral’s administrator, Father Alphonsus Momoh, said to a Sunday congregation in Monrovia. “One day the truth will be told by the one who told the lie. Some believe it, some don’t and some are standing firm.”

He attributed the controversy to greed and a desire for money, saying, “Nobody wants to go through the proper channel. You will go and tarnish the name of the institution you belong to. There is no trust. We find in our midst- pulling down each other.”

A division of the Catholic fraternity Knights of St. John International, based at the same cathedral, expelled a member who spoke to the press about the matter and criticized the Church.

Sawyer said harassment continued after his ordination, though indirectly. He charged that Karnley and his allies conspired to oust him from his parish assignment, leaving him destitute and forced to beg for money at times.

His letter objected that the bishop’s office provided him insufficient funds to secure a visa to the U.K. for studies, and provided insufficient funds to support him while studying in the U.K., which similarly forced him to beg.

Upon his return, he was assigned to pastors who failed to provide his basic material needs. Sawyer contended his assignment as an associate priest after having served as pastor was non-canonical and a “total abuse of ecclesiastical power.”

A pastor he served under, he said, called the bishop and falsely reported that Sawyer threatened to kill the pastor “with a cutlass.” Sawyer also claimed that Karnley falsely accused him of having affairs with women, because of his refusal of sexual advances.

Sawyer claimed that his refusal of Zeigler’s alleged sexual advances meant that the bishop would listen to gossip about him rather than fairly investigate the accusations and unjustly kicked the priest out of his assignments. He claimed that the archbishop showed insufficient empathy to the priest and did not pay sufficient respect to his family after his father’s death. The priest’s letter speculated on whether this apparent inaction was due to an Ebola outbreak.

Both bishops ignored canon law, the priest charged.

The series on the Liberian bishops was produced by New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project. It acknowledges funding from the Australian government agency Australian Aid, with the disclaimer that the funder had no say in the content.

The New Narratives project’s international partners are the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the U.K.-based charitable arm of the news network, and Chime for Change, founded by the Italian luxury fashion company Gucci in 2013. The Chime for Change campaign on its website describes as an effort “to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for gender equality.”

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/liberian-priests-wide-ranging-accusations-against-two-bishops-include-sexual-harassment-43668

Global heating to inflict more droughts on Africa as well as floods

droughtFlooding in the Tana river area of Kenya in 2018, when 60,000 people were forced to move home. Photograph: Andrew Kasuku/AFP

Global heating could bring many more bouts of severe drought as well as increased flooding to Africa than previously forecast, scientists have warned.

New research says the continent will experience many extreme outbreaks of intense rainfall over the next 80 years. These could trigger devastating floods, storms and disruption of farming. In addition, these events are likely to be interspersed with more crippling droughts during the growing season and these could also damage crop and food production.

“Essentially we have found that both ends of Africa’s weather extremes will get more severe,” said Elizabeth Kendon of the Met Office’s Hadley Centre in Exeter. “The wet extreme will get worse, but also the appearance of dry spells during the growing season will also get more severe.”

This meteorological double whammy is blamed on the burning of fossil fuels, which is increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and causing it to heat up. Last month levels of carbon dioxide reached 415 parts per million, their highest level since Homo sapiens first appeared on Earth – and scientists warn that they are likely to continue on this upward curve for several decades. Global temperatures will be raised dangerously as a result.

The new meteorology study – carried out by scientists at the Met Office in collaboration with researchers at the Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science at Leeds University – reports on the likely impact on Africa of these temperature rises and indicates that western and central areas will suffer the worst impacts of weather disruptions. Many countries in these regions – including Niger, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – are expected to experience substantial growth in population over that time and will be particularly vulnerable to severe floods.

At the other end of the precipitation spectrum, the study revealed there would be an increase in occasions when severe drought would occur for up to 10 days in the midst of the most critical part of a region’s growing season. The result could cause severe disruption to crop production.

“We have been able to model – in much finer detail than was previously possible – the manner in which rainfall patterns will change over Africa,” said Kendon. In the past it was thought intense rainfalls would occur in a region every 30 years. The new study, funded by UK foreign aid, indicates this is more likely to happen every three or four years.

An example of such flooding occurred two weeks ago when it was reported that eight people had died south of Kampala in Uganda after torrential rain hit the region. Similarly, at least 15 people were reported to have died during floods in Kenya last year. Thousands lost their homes.

“Our research suggests that extreme bouts of rainfall are likely to be seven or eight times more frequent than they are today,” said Kendon.

The new research, which is published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, is based on forecasts of rainfall in Africa that were achieved by analysing weather patterns in great detail.

“Africa is one of the parts of the planet that is going to be most vulnerable to climate change,” said Kendon. “Our study of rainfall patterns shows there are going to be some very severe problems to face food security and dealing with droughts.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/14/africa-global-heating-more-droughts-and-flooding-threat

Nigerian troops evacuate ‘entire town’ in security operation: UN

Nig photoA surge in attacks in December saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri [File:Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

Up to 10,000 civilians have been forcibly relocated because of a military operation against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, the United Nations said on Thursday, calling for better protection.

At least 2,000 people were initially said to have been moved the 40km from Jakana to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, on Tuesday. But the UN said five times as many were forced to flee.

“The military ordered the immediate departure and forced the relocation of up to 10,000 civilians in the middle of the night, without prior warning,” it said in a statement.

“The entire town of Jakana was emptied, and people were forced to move to Maiduguri with very little time to collect personal belongings,” added UN Humanitarian Coordinator Edward Kallon. “Some people said they arrived in Maiduguri with nothing, not even with shoes on their feet.”

The northeast is the battleground in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against the armed group of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Boko Haram.

A surge in attacks in December in which towns and military bases were overrun saw tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into Maiduguri and swelling the population of existing camps.

Humanitarian concerns

The armed groups have in the last few weeks been hit by intensive air and ground offensives from coalition forces involving Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon in the Lake Chad region, according to military sources and armed fighters.

But there are fresh concerns about the effects of the conflict on civilians after nearly 10 years of fighting, more than 27,000 deaths and 1.8 million made homeless.

Previous mass displacements of civilians have forced them into already overcrowded camps for the internally displaced in Maiduguri, putting pressure on the authorities.

“The United Nations is urging the government to urgently provide safety, shelter, food, water and medical care to the displaced civilians, in addition to information about when they will be allowed to return home,” said Kallon.

Jakana lies on a known crossing route for ISWAP fighters moving between their camps in the Benisheikh forest area of Borno and their hideouts in the Buni Yadi area of Yobe.

In January, ISWAP sent letters to Jakana and Mainok residents telling them to vacate their homes for an impending raid on the military.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/nigerian-troops-evacuate-entire-town-security-operation-190411103958546.html

Kenya teacher from remote village crowned world’s best, wins $1m

Teacher photoPeter Tabichi gives away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students [Jon Gambrell/AP]

A maths and physics teacher from a secondary school in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley has won the $1m Global Teacher Prize for 2019, organisers have said.

Peter Tabichi, who is giving away 80 percent of his salary to support poor students, received the prize at a ceremony on Saturday in Dubai, hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter … This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.

“This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything,” he added after beating nine finalists from around the world to claim the award.

The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation, which organises the event and handed out the prize for the fifth time, praised Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent”.

All this combined, it said in a statement, “has led his poorly-resource school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions”.

Tabichi, 36, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent.

Around 95 percent of the school’s pupils “hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home,” the statement added.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common,” the statement read.

To get to school, some students have to walk 7km along roads that become impassable during the rainy season.

The school, with a student-teacher ratio of 58 to 1, has only one desktop computer for the pupils and poor internet, but despite that Tabichi “uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students”, the foundation said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video message, saying “your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent”.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/kenya-teacher-remote-village-crowned-world-wins-1m-190325054958871.html

UN identifies South Sudan’s mass rapists, killers and torturers

UN photo 1Violence continues despite South Sudan’s main warring parties signing a peace deal last September [File: Andreea Campeanu/Reuters]

A United Nations report says its investigators have identified alleged perpetrators of pervasive rape, killings and torture in South Sudan’s civil war – violence they believe was driven by oil revenues.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on Wednesday said the army, national security, military intelligence, rebel forces and affiliated armed groups committed serious human rights breaches.

The UN body had drawn up a confidential list of suspects including army and opposition commanders, two state governors and a county commissioner.

Its 212-page report detailed people being held for years and tortured in secret, vermin-ridden detention centres, children being run down by tanks, rape of girls as young as seven, and babies being drowned, starved or smashed against trees.

In some stricken areas, 65 percent of women and 36 percent of men may have been sexually abused, according to the report.

Peace deal

Although South Sudan’s main warring parties signed a peace deal in September, widespread violence, especially rape, has continued.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the three-person commission, said it was outraged by reports of further fighting between government forces and the rebel National Salvation Front, which was not part of the peace agreement, in the Yei River area.

“There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy in which the parties to the conflict are attacking the villages, torching the homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls,” Clapham said.

The United States, Britain and Norway jointly expressed their alarm at the reports of escalating violence in Yei.

“These military actions, and the trading of blame, must stop,” they said in a joint statement.

Clapham said that more than 5,000 refugees had reached neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and up to 20,000 people were expected to be displaced by the latest fighting.

Oil and conflict

The report cited a close connection between oil and the conflict.

A law ensuring that South Sudan’s oil-producing regions and communities received two and three percent of its oil revenue respectively had triggered a redrawing of provincial boundaries and ethnic conflict.

“We feel the national security services are very much involved in the siphoning off of the oil money,” said Clapham.

The Human Rights Council should get to the bottom of the sums involved and where the money was going, he told reporters, noting that health and education spending was “minuscule”.

“If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes. There are Council members that we think have a responsibility to look more carefully at this.”

At war since 2013, South Sudan has seen horrific levels of sexual violence.

The South Sudan commission, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, is tasked with collecting evidence that could be used to prosecute individuals for major atrocities in the conflict.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/identifies-south-sudan-mass-rapists-killers-torturers-190220160817331.html