Daily Archives: March 10, 2015

"Vicous" attacks on albino children require immediate action, says human rights chief

10 Mar 2015

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An Albino student (right) attends school in Niambly, near Duekoue, Côte d’Ivoire. Photo: UNHCR/H. Caux

A series of horrific attacks on children with albinism in east Africa has been condemned by the UN human rights chief who says that many people with the condition now live in “abject fear”.
Victims as young as 12 months have been kidnapped and mutilated, including a six-year-old boy in Tanzania whose hand was severed by a machete.
Reacting to the attacks, UN Human Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for governments to find those responsible and do more to discourage discrimination. Daniel Johnson has more.
At least 15 people with albinism have been abducted, wounded or killed in Tanzania, Malawi and Burundi in a growing spate of attacks in the last six months, the UN said Tuesday.
Three gruesome assaults happened in the last week alone, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
It described groups of men “roaming around” hunting for people with albinism in Machinga District in the south of Malawi, in apparent witchcraft-related attacks.
Here’s UN human rights office spokesperson Rupert Colville:
“These attacks are often stunningly vicious with children in particular being targeted. As a result many people with albinism are living in abject fear.”
In Malawi, a man who helped kidnap his 11-year-old niece in January was reportedly promised $6,500 for her body, the UN human rights office said.
In response to the attacks, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for governments bring the perpetrators of such assaults to justice.
The ban on witchcraft in Tanzania was a “step in the right direction”, the high Commissioner said in a statement.
But he added that more needed to be done all over the world to end discrimination against people with albinism who suffer social rejection and poverty.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations.
Duration: 1’04”

Surge in ‘stunningly vicious' attacks on albino children in East Africa, UN rights chief warns

10 March 2015 – The United Nations human rights chief expressed revulsion at a recent spike in gruesome attacks against people with albinism in several East African countries where in the past six months, at least 15 albinos were abducted, wounded, or killed, including three such incidents last week.
“These attacks are often stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a statement to the press.
“As a result, many people with albinism are living in abject fear. Some no longer dare to go outside, and children with albinism have stopped attending school because of the recent spate of assaults, murders and kidnappings,” he added.
In Malawi alone, at least six incidents have been reported in the first ten weeks of this year, compared to four incidents recorded over the previous two years. In the south of the country, where several kidnappings and killings have taken place, groups of men are reported to be roaming around hunting for people with albinism.
On 4 March, a 14-year-old girl was abducted by two men, but managed to escape. The following night, a two-year-old boy was reportedly kidnapped in another village. Four other attacks targeting people with albinism have been documented in Malawi since the beginning of the year.
On 22 January, a nine-year-old girl with albinism was kidnapped and is believed to have been killed. Four days earlier, a 68-year-old woman with albinism went missing and the following day, her dismembered body was found near her home, buried minus arms, legs and head. On 16 January, a two-year-old girl was kidnapped from her home and has not been seen since. And on 5 January, 11-year-old Mina Jeffrey was kidnapped during the night by three men, including an uncle, but managed to escape. Her uncle later said he had been promised $6,500 for her body.
The situation has been worsening in Tanzania as well. Last Saturday, a six-year-old boy, Baraka Cosmas Rusambo, was attacked in his home. The attackers fled with his right hand after cutting it off with a machete. Baraka and his mother, who suffered serious head injuries, are both in hospital. The police have moved Baraka’s two siblings, who also have albinism, to a safer place and have arrested seven suspects, including Baraka’s father.
“Since January, two other incidents have been reported, including the attempted kidnapping of a four-year-old boy, and the atrocious killing of a one-year-old baby, Yohana Bahati, who was kidnapped from his home on 17 February and later killed, with his arms and legs hacked off,” Mr. Zeid said.
A total of eight attacks have been reported in Tanzania since August 2014, during which two people with albinism were killed; one was kidnapped and is still missing; two others had limbs cut off by attackers; one was gang-raped; and two managed to escape from their kidnappers.
“The ban on witchcraft imposed by the Tanzanian authorities in January is a step in the right direction, as is the conviction of four people in Tanzania over the 2008 killing of a woman with albinism,” Mr. Zeid said. “However, I am concerned at the death sentences pronounced by the Court and I hope Tanzania will maintain its moratorium on the death penalty.”
Mr. Zeid called on authorities to prevent attacks on people with albinism in all countries where they are occurring, bring to justice alleged perpetrators and ensure that redress and rehabilitation for survivors and their families are made a priority.
Attacks against people with albinism have also taken place in Burundi, where 19 people from albinism have been killed since 2008. The latest incident took place on 12 December 2014, when a man was found dead, with a leg hacked off. According to reports, 11 people have been arrested in relation to attacks against people with albinism in Burundi, of whom six escaped and one was convicted. National policy to protect the rights of people with albinism in Burundi has been proposed but not yet initiated.
Mr. Zeid also highlighted the result of a recent study in Pakistan, which showed the multiple layers of human rights problems faced by people with albinism, including social rejection, medical and psychological problems, as well as confinement to poverty.

Commission on the Status of Women Kicks Off in New York

The United Nations released a new report on Monday to mark the launch of the Commission on the Status of Women and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the key “Beijing Conference” 20 years ago. The data were problematic. “Despite the gains women have made in education, health and even political power in the course of a generation, violence against women and girls worldwide “persists at alarmingly high levels,” according to a United Nations analysis that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon presented to the General Assembly on Monday. About 35 percent of women worldwide — more than one in three — said they had experienced physical violence in their lifetime, the report finds. One in 10 girls under the age of 18 was forced to have sex, it says. The subject is under sharp focus as delegates from around the world gather here starting on Monday to assess how well governments have done since they promised to ensure women’s equality at a landmark conference in Beijing 20 years ago — and what to do next.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1AYA8mO)
UK Signs 0.7% Target into Law…“The UK has passed a bill that enshrines in law its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on aid every year, making it the first G7 country to meet the UN’s 45-year-old aid spending target. The international development bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords on Monday and will now receive royal assent. Britain met the 0.7% target for the first time last year when it spent £11.4bn – or 0.72% of its GNI – on overseas aid.” (Guardianhttp://bit.ly/1AYyNwu )
On the docket today…Hillary Clinton is giving remarks at the Beijing+20/UN Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations today. This marks the 20th anniversary of her famous invocation: Women’s Rights are Human Rights. And human rights are women’s rights.“
About ten Chadian soldiers died in fighting to free two towns in northern Nigeria previously held by Boko Haram, the first gains against the militants made in a joint offensive launched with Niger at the weekend, military sources said on Monday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wTRfLH)
Judges at the International Criminal Court have called on the U.N. Security Council to “take the necessary measures” to tackle Sudan’s persistent refusal to arrest the country’s president and send him to The Hague to stand trial on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wkyf8E)
Troops from Chad and Niger have retaken the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak as part of regional efforts to combat the Islamists who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants. (AFPhttp://yhoo.it/1E1f7Kp)
Newly-elected Zambian president Edgar Lungu has been advised by doctors to undergo specialist treatment abroad to correct a narrowing of the food pipe which caused him to fall ill over the weekend, the presidency said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1E1f0OY)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to block a lawsuit filed by a group of Somalis against their country’s former prime minister seeking to hold him responsible for torture and human rights abuses in Somalia. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wTRfve)
Mali vowed Monday not to surrender to terror and to punish the jihadists behind a deadly nightclub attack in the capital, as local and French investigators joined forces to hunt the killers. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1E1f69i)
Uganda’s government has asked parliament to approve an increase of more than five percent in public spending for this financial year but opponents said it was a campaign ploy to win votes in next year’s elections that could weaken the currency. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wkBcpK)
Islamic State militants in Libya seized a group of foreigners at the al-Ghani oilfield last week, a spokesman for the Austrian foreign ministry said citing “secure information” on Monday, adding that they were alive when taken. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wTRdUc)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to halt the destruction byIslamic State jihadists of Iraqi archaeological sites, branding the smashing of priceless and ancient artifacts a “war crime”. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1wTRkz1)
African migrants who originally planned to make the perilous crossing from Morocco to Europe are increasingly deciding instead to set up shop in the North African kingdom, taking advantage of new laws that make it easier for the migrants to obtain permanent residency and work permits here. (APhttp://yhoo.it/1MlrrcM)
A United Nations report has found Australia’s asylum-seeker policies violate international conventions against torture, with one official offering a scathing criticism about an Australian-run immigration center in Papua New Guinea, where an inmate was killed last year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Bp2YR8)
An Indian news channel ran a silent on-air protest late Sunday after the government banned the station from airing a BBC documentary about the brutal rape of a Delhi student in 2012. (VOAhttp://bit.ly/1MltbD7)
A Pakistani court on Monday upheld the death sentence for a former police commando convicted of killing a provincial governor he had accused of blasphemy but threw out terrorism charges against him. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E1f5SQ)
Five Chinese feminist activists remained in police custody Monday after authorities detained at least 10 women’s rights proponents across the country in the run-up to International Women’s Day, according to a Chinese activist. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E1f3KG)
Experts from the UN nuclear watchdog held talks in Tehran Monday in their investigation into decade-old allegations of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, the ISNA news agency reported. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1wky4u0)
Philippine forces have killed 73 hard-line Muslim rebels and a suspected foreign militant in a three-week offensive in the restive south, where 44 anti-terror police commandos were killed in January in a clash with insurgents, the military said Monday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wky5xW)
A United Nations human rights investigator on Monday recommended international pressure be put on North Korea to clarify the fate of hundreds of foreign nationals allegedly abducted over decades, mainly from Japan and South Korea. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MlrpBK)
The Americas
Tens of thousands of Colombian took to the streets nationwide Sunday to denounce violence and express support for a deal to end the country’s half-century conflict. (AP http://yhoo.it/1E1f1m4)
A team of independent investigators is alleging that St. Lucia’s police force maintained “death lists” of people deemed to be criminals and planted guns at the scenes of police shootings to legitimize their unlawful actions, the Caribbean country’s leader announced. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wTRh6d)
President Dilma Rousseff asked Brazilians for patience as the country deals with a flagging economy and a widening corruption probe involving the state-run oil company and dozens of top politicians. (APhttp://yhoo.it/1E1f3dw)
…and the rest
In the past 20 years the world’s women and girls have made significant progress in health, education and legal rights but wide gender gaps remain in economic participation, political leadership and security, according to research released Monday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1wTRgiK)
Dutch prosecutors have fined three people for racist comments posted online last year in reaction to a selfie featuring nine members of the national team. (AP http://yhoo.it/1wTRjLC)
Media and NGOs: One academic’s take on how the two can work together (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1aXhG9n)
Map of the Day: The Gates-Clinton Data Viz Collaboration (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1wkJ9v4)
The ICC’s Crisis Mentality and the Limits of Global Justice (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/1A99FD6)
A Crisis of Anxiety Among Aid Workers (NY Times http://nyti.ms/1wkCP6W)
Liberia’s Ebola hunters are trying to strike a death blow to the epidemic (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1wTR3fn)
What dissident’s jailbreak means for a tense Burundi (IRIN http://bit.ly/1wkzPr5)
Proper Sanitary Pads Are Keeping Girls In School (NPR http://n.pr/1Mlta23)
Rolling the dice in Liberia (Macleans http://bit.ly/1wkBTzf)
Will There Ever Be Peace In South Sudan? (Daily Beast http://thebea.st/1aXqv2S)
Redefining Gender in Mexico City (New York Times http://nyti.ms/1A9aiwe)


Russia returns to Africa amid increasing isolation (Al Jazeera)

Using old Soviet connections, Uganda and Russia sealed an energy deal – the latest in a string of Moscow moves.

A recent announcement by Uganda’s Oil Ministry that a Russian company – RT Global Resources – won the bid to build a $3bn oil refinery highlights the Kremlin’s attempts to return as a major player in Africa.
RT Global Resources is a subsidiary of Russia’s largest state-backed corporation Rostec whose CEO, Sergey Chemezov, is on US and EU sanctions lists after Russia’s moves in Ukraine.
Chemezov, nicknamed “Putin’s arms dealer” and a longtime friend of the president, is leading the company in moves designed to ease Russia’s access to strategic minerals, build much-needed trade, and bolster employment in Russia, analysts say. 
Moscow’s interest in Africa is also about “soft power”, said Keir Giles, director of the UK’s Conflict Studies Research Centre.
“They are alert to ways of gathering influence through third-party nations in order to increase their relative weight in international bodies like the United Nations,” Giles told Al Jazeera.
China’s many interests in Africa have received strong attention, but the return of Russia to its former Cold War theatre of operations has been mostly ignored, except by a few regional specialists.
Last year Russia launched a satellite system in partnership with South Africa, known as Project Condor, providing surveillance of the entire African continent, according to spy cables leaked to Al Jazeera. 
The cables identify South African and Russian military intelligence (GRU) as being the “key role players” in the project.
In Soviet times
Relations between the former Soviet Union and Africa took hold when Nikita Khrushchev came to power following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953. 
At the same time Africa was kicking off the reins of colonialism and a wave of independence movements came to the forefront of African politics. Russia and the US then became locked in a geopolitical tussle that saw them backing constantly shifting rebellions by funding and arming opposing sides.
Within two years the Soviet Union made its first major arms transfer to Africa in a deal with Egypt. 
But attempts to promote socialist revolutions among countries the Kremlin supported backfired with a series of military coups in Algeria, Ghana, and Mali.
Several African leaders were educated in Moscow and the USSR invested huge amounts of money and manpower in the form of military advisers, equipment and support from the KGB – the Soviet security service.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, more than 50,000 Africans had studied in Soviet universities and military institutes, and at least another 200,000 Africans had received Soviet training in Africa. 
Then Russia lost interest in Africa – until recently.
Giles said what’s interesting is when Russia tried to resuscitate these Cold War links with Africa, “how much of a role was played by those who were active in Africa during those days – the military, the KGB always seems to be the first line into actually getting something done”.
Uganda’s developing story
For Uganda, the refinery is an opportunity to develop its newly found oil on the western borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The oil offers the nation a chance to transform itself into an important economic power in the region.
The project involves building a refinery with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day, storage facilities on site, as well as a 205km pipeline to a terminal near the capital city, Kampala. 
Foreign oil companies that have contracts to exploit the Ugandan oil blocs, including Tullow Oil and Total, wanted to build a pipeline to the coast in Kenya. Uganda’s oil is “waxy” so the pipe would have to be heated for the oil to flow.
Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama said a pipeline to the Indian Ocean coast would mean that Uganda would lose economic independence and the benefits of an internal market, thus a homegrown refinery would prevent the type of commodity export economy that went bust in the 1960s.
“Despite talk of industrialisation, countries like Uganda never recovered from the process of trying to build indigenous industries,” Izama said.
George Boden, from the activist group Global Witness, told Al Jazeera: “A good deal could potentially generate more wealth, it could generate more jobs and development. But a bad deal could leave Uganda subsidising an inefficient refinery – particularly with people counting the social and environmental costs.”  
Some analysts fear the new-found oil wealth may cause Uganda to suffer from a “resource curse”, in which corrupt governments collude with oil companies to siphon off funds leading to a failure in public trust and an increase in political tension.
Izama said transparency in oil deals is vital. “It is a prophylactic against the kinds of excess we see in other countries – public access allows countries to build consensus around decisions it makes, therefore lessening the possibility for conflict,” he said.
Classified information
Rostec, through its subsidiary Rosoboronexport, is the Russian state’s major defence company.

There will be questions as to whether the oil refinery is the only part of the deal, or is it part of a broader package,” Boden said.
Rosoboronexport supplied six Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets to Uganda in a 2011 deal that was said to be worth at least $744m. It was mired in controversy when it emerged the money was obtained from the Bank of Uganda, without parliamentary approval.
Uganda is a highly militarised nation with military officers holding 10 parliamentary seats, including General Aronda Nyakairima in the cabinet as the internal affairs minister.  
By positioning itself as a key ally in the “war on terror” and sending troops to Iraq and Somalia, Uganda has developed strong relations with the United States.
Uganda is also giving military support to Salva Kiir in neighbouring South Sudan.
Officials close to the negotiations for the refinery contract – who spoke anonymously because they weren’t authorised to talk to the press – said initially Russia didn’t seem interested. Rostec appeared to be favoured only after President Yoweri Museveni dispatched the permanent secretary of the energy ministry to Moscow and “backchannels” were opened.
Giles explained this is the Russian way of doing business.
“You have a closed network of people who, despite the Russian system, have learned to trust each other because they go a long way back to military or KGB service,” he said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a security source told Al Jazeera the refinery deal is a problem.
“The Ugandan military, which has a good relationship with the Russian government, is at the centre of it. Seen from their perspective, it does make sense because they can provide concessionary terms for weapons.”
Within days of the refinery deal announcement, Uganda media claimed the army was requesting $168m to buy military equipment and the Ministry of Defence had already negotiated a procurement loan of $170m from a bank in Russia with help from Rosoboronexport. 
When asked if the story was true and whether the refinery contract was linked to a weapons deal with Russia, Ugandan military spokesman, Lt Colonel Paddy Ankunda, told Al Jazeera: “That is classified information and I can’t discuss that.”
He insisted the refinery contract was not linked to a weapons deal.
Professor Andrey Makarychev of Tartu University told Al Jazeera that Russia’s economic woes could weigh heavy on the deal with Kampala.  
“The Uganda project looks problematic against the backdrop of growing financial problems inside Russia where funds are in deficit, the rouble is unstable, as is the banking system. Russia’s credit rating is at junk level.” 

“Huge investments abroad in a situation of austerity measures at home might only exacerbate Russia’s troubles,” Makarychev said.

Zambia president to seek treatment in South Africa (Al Jazeera)

Edgar Lungu, who assumed office in January, to travel for further tests following a health scare over the weekend.

Newly elected Zambian president Edgar Lungu will travel to South Africa for further medical tests after a suspected narrowing of the food pipe caused him to fall ill over the weekend.
“I am feeling much better but I have to go to South Africa this afternoon. I need to go for further tests and then if there will be need for other procedures such as surgery they will tell us,” Lungu said on Tuesday.
“I hope to come back alive, no one wants to die,” he said, laughing.
Lungu, 58, was discharged from the hospital on Monday where he had been receiving treatment after feeling unwell while at an International Women’s Day event in the capital on Sunday.
Lungu assumed the presidency in January after winning a narrow victory in an election to replace former leader Michael Sata, who died in October, while undergoing treatment in London.
Doctors had advised Lungu to undergo specialist treatment abroad to correct the narrowing of the food pipe, which was a recurring condition.
Zambia’s kwacha shed over one percent against US dollar on Tuesday as concerns over Lungu’s health weighed on market sentiment.