Category Archives: Africa

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

With Nigerian elections postponed, Catholic leaders stress peace

Catholic leaders photoCredit: Labrador Photo Video/Shutterstock

Lagos, Nigeria,(CNA/EWTN News) Catholic leaders have voiced disappointment at a last-minute delay in Nigerian elections, but called for Christians to remain peaceful and participate in the postponed vote next weekend.

Just before polls were set to open Feb. 16, election officials announced that the presidential and national assembly elections were being postponed until Feb. 23.

Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), said the decision was due to a delay in the delivery of ballots, and not a political move.

“Our decision was entirely taken by the commission. It has nothing to do with security, nothing to do with political influence, nothing to do with availability of resources,” said Yakubu, according to Africa News.

Catholic Action Nigeria said the delay places a burden on citizens, especially those who underwent difficult travels to vote. The group asked Yakubu to consider resignation if the delay continues.

“INEC had four whole years to plan for this election. No matter the excuses being bandied now, the postponement makes us doubt the readiness, sincerity and capacity of INEC to give Nigerians a free and fair and credible election they truly deserve, even in the coming week,” the statement read, according to NAIJ.

At the same time, Catholic Action encouraged Nigerians to vote in the rescheduled election. The group said residents cannot quit working for a better nation.

Electors should “vote in a government that will put Nigeria and Nigerians first and uphold the values and dignity of human life as espoused through the social teachings of the Catholic Church,” the group said in its statement.

Catholics in the country also offered prayers for the future of their nation.

Father Ben Alozie challenged parishioners at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Catholic Church in Lagos to entrust the upcoming election to God’s providence.
“As a church, we are first Nigerians before being members of our congregation; therefore, we need to take that which is of concern to our country to God in the same way we take our individual needs to God for a solution,” he said Feb. 17, according to NAIJ.

“Saturday’s elections will determine to a large extent the fate of our dear country in the next four years; so, no amount of supplication is enough to God in order for us to have a peaceful country after the polls.”

Africa Independent Television reported that Bishop Paulinus Ezeokafor of Awka asked Nigerians to take the rescheduling in good faith and not give up on INEC.

He disagreed with the call for Yakubu’s resignation, saying this would only lead to confusion at a time when the nation needs unity and a focus on a successful election.

The election in Nigeria comes as crashing oil prices leave the country facing economic uncertainty. The most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria for years has faced attacks and kidnappings by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Over the weekend, 11 people were killed in an attack by the group south of Maiduguri, the BBC reported.

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/with-nigerian-elections-postponed-catholic-leaders-stress-peace-54372

UN: Boko Haram threat displaces 30,000 from Nigeria’s Rann town

boko haram photo

More than 30,000 people fled the Nigerian town of Rann over the weekend amid fears of renewed attacks by the Boko Haram armed group, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday the town’s population “seems to be panicking and they are on the run as a pre-emptive measure to save their lives.”

Rann, near the border with Cameroon in northern Borno state, already saw an exodus of about 9,000 people earlier this month to Cameroon after a Boko Haram attack on January 14 killed 14 people.

Baloch said Cameroon sent back the 9,000 refugees and initially deployed troops that are part of a multinational taskforce to protect the town.

“It was a bit peaceful, but as far as we understand now, that multinational taskforce has left,” he said.

Refugees told aid workers that Boko Haram fighters had “promised to return to Rann”, he said, explaining the panic.

Baloch said UNHCR was reiterating its call to Cameroonian authorities “to keep the borders open, as we see thousands fleeing every day”.

Tough living conditions

Baloch said a recent upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria had driven more than 80,000 civilians to seek refuge in already crowded camps or in towns in Borno state, “where they are surviving in tough living conditions”.

Rann, he said, had already been housing about 80,000 displaced people.

“The escalation in the conflict has thwarted people’s intention of returning to their homes,” he said, adding some refugees who attempted to return home from Cameroon had been displaced multiple times inside Nigeria or forced to become refugees again in Cameroon.

“The hostilities have strained humanitarian operations there and forced aid workers to pull out from some locations,” he said.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency, told reporters that 260 aid workers were withdrawn from three locations in Borno state since early December.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/boko-haram-threat-displaces-30000-nigeria-rann-town-190129112148918.html

Holy Cross Sisters help Ugandan women resist domestic violence

domestic-violence photoYoung women chat Nov. 11, 2018, in Mbale, Uganda. The Holy Cross Sisters in eastern Uganda have launched a campaign to end violence against women and girls. (CNS/Doreen Ajiambo)

by Doreen Ajiambo

Not all that long ago, family members and residents of this small town in western Uganda mourned the loss of Sarah Baguma, who was stabbed to death by her husband in a domestic wrangle.

Her cousin, Rachael Nabirye, told police that Baguma was stabbed six times in her abdomen and head.

“My cousin’s husband accused her of returning home late before he began beating her,” said Nabirye, who was staying with the couple at the time of the attack. “They had been fighting every time, and we had advised them to separate. It’s very unfortunate that she had to die.”

The killing highlighted how widespread domestic violence is in the East Africa nation. The situation is so serious that women religious of the Holy Cross Sisters have intervened by launching community discussions designed to increase awareness about the prevalence of family violence.

During discussions, women and other stakeholders are given the opportunity to share their experience and identify the causes and possibly solutions to the violence they face. Participants learn about their legal rights and are encouraged to report any form of violence meted against them to authorities.

Holy Cross Sr. Semerita Mbambu said the order introduced the effort in the hope of reducing, even ending, violence against women and girls. Many women facing domestic violence in their marriages or relationships have been rescued, taken to various parishes and given funds to start a business to generate some income, she said.

“We have realized that the main cause of domestic violence in many families is poverty,” Mbambu told Catholic News Service. “Men don’t want to work and support their wives. They want to drink alcohol the whole day and leave all responsibilities to the women. They beat their wives if they refuse to give them money for drinking alcohol.”

Violence against women and girls is on the rise in Uganda despite stringent laws to protect victims and survivors. Gender-based violence increased from 38,651 incidents in 2015 to 40,258 in 2016, according to Ugandan police. Domestic violence is more common in rural areas than in cities, a report from police said.

Fifty-six percent of women 15 years and older experience physical violence, according to the 2017 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. The findings show that local police agencies reported 341 women and girls were killed in domestic conflicts in 2015 and 2016.

Authorities have blamed Ugandan culture as the main cause of violence against women and girls. They have called on religious leaders to help society as a whole to understand the consequences of violence and the rights of everyone to live a violence-free life.

“The society believes that a man has a right to beat a woman,” said Solomon Mugisa, a government representative in Kabarole district in western Uganda, where domestic violence has been increasing. “They beat women to maintain the status quo and they are celebrated by members of the society as heroes. I want to tell them that it’s a criminal offense to beat a woman, and we’re going to arrest perpetrators when such incidents are reported to us.”

The Holy Cross Sisters have made it their mission to end violence against women, eliminate poverty and build communities of justice and love.

Recently, the Holy Cross Sisters joined other religious congregations in rescuing hundreds of women facing violence. Those rescued were helped with food and monetary donations and taught about their legal rights.

The sisters also conduct monthly meetings with other religious leaders to create awareness and seek solutions for the women living in dire circumstances.

Mbambu, who has been leading other women religious in a campaign against domestic violence, said empowering women and girls was the only way to protect their rights.

“We need to empower women by helping them start income-generating activities and also encourage young girls to go to school,” she told CNS. “If we do that, our country is going to develop very quickly. We should remember that domestic violence hinders development in the country.”

Joyce Mugasa, 35, said she appreciated the sisters’ work in rescuing her from an abusive marriage and helping her to start a business. Mugasa recounted how her husband used to hit, kick and slap her while he was drunk. She said her husband had been mistreating her, but she had been holding on to the marriage because she had nowhere else to go.

“I want to thank the sisters for helping me and also saving my life,” said Mugasa, a mother of three who now owns a grocery store in the town of Kabarole. “My husband used to beat me mercilessly, but I wanted to stay in marriage and raise my children. But when he threatened to kill me, I was forced to run and seek refuge in one of the parishes. I’m now free, and I thank God.”

Back in Kyenjojo, Nabirye wished her cousin could have sought refuge in a church. She said she wants the government and the church to ensure that no woman goes through the same experience.

“I want to urge Sisters of the Holy Cross family to ensure that no woman dies in the hands of her husband because of love,” she said. “They should help women who are suffering in silence in villages. I don’t want any woman to go through the same situation as that of my cousin.”

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/equality/holy-cross-sisters-help-ugandan-women-resist-domestic-violence-55779?utm_source=GSR+digest+1-17-19&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email

The Adolescent Girl Holds the Key to Kenya’s Economic Transformation and Prosperity

Kenya photo
Dr Natalia Kanem, Chief of UNFPA, “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”. Credit: UNFPA Tanzania

By Siddharth Chatterjee

NAIROBI, Kenya, Teenage pregnancy in Kenya is a crisis of hope, education and opportunity.

The New Year has begun. Can 2019 be a year of affirmative action to ensure hope and opportunity for Kenya’s adolescent girl?

Consider this. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that when a young adolescent girl is not married during her childhood, is not forced to leave school nor exposed to pregnancies, when she is not high risk of illness and death nor suffering maternal morbidities, when she is not exposed to informal work, insecurity and displacement; and is not drawn into an insecure old age-she becomes an asset for a country’s potential to seize the demographic dividend.

So what is the demographic dividend?

It means when a household has fewer children that they need to take care of, and a larger number of people have decent jobs, the household can save and invest more money. Better nutrition, education and opportunities and more disposable income at the household level. When this happens on a large scale, economies can benefit from a boost of economic growth.

One of the goals of development policies is to create an environment for rapid economic growth. The economic successes of the “Asian Tigers” during the 1960s and 1970s have led to a comprehensive way of thinking about how different sectors can work together to make this growth a reality. This helps explain the experience of some countries in Asia, and later successes in Latin America, and optimism for improving the economic well-being of countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Republic of Korea is the classic example of how its gross domestic product (GDP) grew over 2,000 percent by investing in voluntary family planning coupled with educating the population and preparing them for the types of jobs that were going to be available.

With over 70% of Kenya’s population less than 30 years of age, the country’s favorable demographic ratios could unlock a potential source of demand and growth, Kenya is currently in a “sweet spot”. Fertility levels are declining gradually and Kenyans are living longer. There is reason for optimism that Kenya can benefit from a demographic dividend within 15 to 20 years. It is estimated that its working age population will grow to 73 per cent by 2050, bolstering the country’s GDP per capita 12 times higher than the present, with nearly 90 percent of the working age in employment.

The key to harnessing the demographic dividend is enabling young people and adolescent girls in particular, to enjoy their human rights and achieve their full human potential. Every girl must be empowered, educated and given opportunities for employment, and above all is able to plan her future family, this is the very essence of reaping a demographic dividend.

Each extra year a girl stays in high school, for example, delivers an 11.6 per cent increase in her average annual wage for the rest of her life.

The UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem has said: “We are steadfastly committed to our three goals: Zero preventable maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and the elimination of harmful practices including violence that affect women and girls”.

So what can be done?

First, end all practices that harm girls. This means, for example, enforcing laws that end female genital mutilations and child marriage.

Second, enable girls to stay in school, at least through high school. Studies have shown the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to become pregnant as an adolescent and the more likely to grow up healthy and join the paid labour force.

Third, reach the marginalized and impoverished girls who have traditionally been left behind.

Forth, make sure girls, before they reach puberty, have access to information about their bodies. Later in adolescence, they need information and services to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Finally, take steps to protect girls’ – and everyone’s – rights.

As we countdown to 2019, let us prioritize the development of every girl’s full human potential. Our collective future depends on it. We must do everything in our power to ignite that potential-for her sake and for the sake of human development and humanity.
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/adolescent-girl-holds-key-kenyas-economic-transformation-prosperity/

Congo’s bishops call for release of election results

election congo photoKinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: StreetVJ / Shutterstock

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, (CNA).- The bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for the release of the result of the country’s presidential election. The Church sent thousands of election monitors to assist at polling stations across the central African country during the vote, which was the subject of numerous delays, with many reporting irregularities.

The vote to determine a successor for President Joseph Kabila was rescheduled for December 30 after numerous delays. The election was originally slated for November 2016. The result is expected to produce the first peaceful transition of power in the DRC since independence in 1960.

The results are expected to be released on Sunday, but Corneille Nangaa, head of the country’s national electoral commission, has said the final announcement could be delayed. Nangaa said that officials were still waiting for final vote counts from 80% of local polling stations.

Some communities in the North Kivu and Mai-Ndombe regions will not be able to vote until March, after the vote there was delayed over security concerns and Ebola outbreaks.

Nevertheless, while calling for the winner to be announced, the Congolese bishops said that the winner was clear according to results seen by them. The bishops’ conference did not say who they believed had won the election.

The DRC bishops’ conference was among several organizations to send election observers to polling stations across the country, commissioning more than 40,000 observers to report on the election process.

In an earlier statement on Dec. 31, the conference highlighted concerns about voters being turned away from the polls and monitors being removed by police from voting stations in different parts of the country.

While not officially backing any one candidate in the election, the bishops were vocal in their opposition to Kabila’s remaining in power past his constitutionally imposed term limit.

Kabila was set to leave office in December 2016, following the election of his successor, but the vote was successively postponed by government authorities, resulting in widespread civil unrest.

Since that time, Kabila has remained in office.

The bishops of the country played a key role in mediating an agreement between the Congo’s ruling political coalition and opposition leaders, culminating in a Dec. 31, 2016, agreement that allowed Kabila to remain in office beyond his mandate but said he must step down after an election in 2018.

Nearly two dozen candidates entered the race to replace Kabila, who has been in power for 17 years. He acceded to the presidency at the age of 29, following the assassination of the previous president, his father, Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He was reelected in 2006 and 2011.

The front runners in the election have been former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive, and Felix Tshisekedi, son of a prominent opposition party leader.

Shadary, a self-described “fervent Christian” and practicing Catholic, previously stated that he had “placed his campaign in God’s hands.” Shadary is also the preferred candidate and would-be successor of President Kabila.

President Kabila’s administration has come under sustained criticism both before and during the election campaign. Last year, 15 people were killed while attending peaceful, Church-organized rallies against the government.
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/congos-bishops-call-for-release-of-election-results-23987

Sudan detains nine opposition leaders ahead of planned protest

Sudan photoSudan has been rocked by more than a week of protests sparked by rise in bread prices [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Arrests came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Authorities in Sudan have arrested at least nine opposition leaders and activists, according to a civil society group, in the face of fresh anti-government protests expected after the weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.

Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.

At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. However, rights group Amnesty International put the death toll at 37.

The arrests of opposition leaders occurred late on Thursday after security forces raided their meeting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, according to a statement by a committee of professional organisations involved in the protests.

The nine arrested included Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.

The raid came after opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.

Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were briefly held last Saturday.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the protests were getting increased backing from political and civil society groups.

“It is not clear if the government would allow the protests to go, we have seen on Tuesday how they responded with tear gas and live ammunition,” she said, adding: “And this is basically what might be happening today again that more live ammunition and tear gas will be used and that the death toll will rise.”

Economic crisis

Protests initially started in towns and villages more than a week ago and later spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three ($0.02 to $0.06).

Demonstrators have also been marching against Sudan’s dire economic situation and some have called for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation.

Doctors and journalists have launched a strike in support of the protests.

Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis since 2011 when the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.

The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.

Opposition groups blame Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 coup, for the mismanagement.

A series of economic measures, including a sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.

In January 2018, Sudan was shaken by rare nationwide protests triggered by high bread prices.

But the recent protests that began on December 19 appear to be more serious.

Since the demonstrations began, police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators, according to residents.

The authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and a state of emergency in several regions.

Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed next to the independent newspaper’s offices.
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/sudan-detains-opposition-leaders-planned-protest-181228102006637.html