Daily Archives: March 30, 2015

Boko Haram ‘weakened’ but still committing ‘horrendous’ acts, says UN regional envoy

30 March 2015 – As the Security Council met this morning to discuss threats to international peace and security caused by terrorism, top United Nations officials briefed the 15-member body on the impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria and beyond, warning of the group’s intensified violence and brutality.

“Though weakened, the group continues to commit horrendous acts against civilians, including against women and children,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA). “Boko Haram’s recent allegiance to the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), whether for publicity reasons or to tap into ISIL’s support, is also of concern as it is gives a clear signal that Boko Haram’s agenda goes well beyond Nigeria.”

Mr. Chambas, who was joined in the Council by Assistant Secretary-General Kyung Wha-Kang of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, outlined reports of the abduction, abuse, recruiting, maiming and killing of children, saying schools in the country’s north-east and in areas of Cameroon and Niger targeted by Boko Haram no longer safe places of learning, with many attacked, looted, and destroyed.

“In 2014, the group also commenced using young girls as suicide bombers for attacks in populated urban areas,” he said. “We have also observed an alarming trend of children being used by the group as human shields.”

Ms Kang described the humanitarian needs arising from Boko Haram attacks, saying that more than 7,300 civilians had been killed by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014 in the three ‘state of emergency’ States, including 1,000 people this year alone.

As many as three million people in northern Nigeria would not be able to meet their basic food needs after July 2015 without humanitarian aid and the work of Federal and State authorities was not enough to meet those needs.

“The humanitarian situation in north-east Nigeria and in the conflict-affected areas in neighbouring countries remains dire,” said Ms. Kang. “The conflict continues to have a devastating impact on women, children and young people, as well as on many others who have been traumatized by violence. Additional funding to address the acute humanitarian needs of those affected by the conflict is urgently needed.”

She said Boko Haram’s activities had created tens of thousands of refugees, returnees and internally displaced people in Chad, Cameroon and Niger, with schools and health services badly affected, and frequent reports of gross human rights violations.

Mr. Chambas stressed the issue of human rights abuses, pointing to evaluation missions launched by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that visited the Far North region of Cameroon and the Diffa region of Niger. Both found human rights abuses, including indiscriminate killing of civilians, abductions and forcible recruitment of civilians into combat.

Since Boko Haram attacks in Diffa in February, Mr. Chambas said schools in the region remained closed, depriving children of the right to be educated.

“The local economy in the Diffa region is also being negatively affected by a continuing State of Emergency,” he said. “In response to these and other concerns, the United Nations is in the process of scaling up its presence and operations in Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.”

Mr. Chambas commended the response of the Lake Chad Basin Commission countries, notably the joint regional offensive, which involved troops from all four countries and which resulted in the recapture of several key towns in north-east Nigeria.

“At the beginning of the year, Boko Haram controlled some 20 local governmental districts in the three north-eastern states in Nigeria,” he said. “Today, Boko Haram holds only a few areas in Borno State. Moreover, according to reports by the Nigerian Army, on 27 March, Boko Haram’s headquarters in Gwoza was captured.”

Stressing UN support for such efforts, he underlined that counter-insurgency operations must be free from human rights violations.

“This is not only an absolutely vital principle, but also an effective strategy,” he said. “Communities which believe that their Government seeks to protect them are far more likely to cooperate with the authorities, and far less likely to support insurgent groups.”

He also reiterated the Secretary-General’s message that a military approach alone would not suffice in containing the Boko Haram threat, and stressed the international community’s obligation to help the countries of the region to address the social, economic and political challenges associated with Boko Haram.

Both Mr. Chambas and Ms Kang made reference to general elections that took place in Nigeria over the previous weekend. Mr. Chambas said that the observation mission by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had noted only “pockets of incidents and logistical challenges,” with the elections passing the test as “free and transparent.”

Ms. Kang added that despite reports of suspected Boko Haram attacks in Yobe, Gombe and Borno States, no additional humanitarian needs had so far emerged as a result of the election.

Nigeria Election Winner Is…

It’s still too soon to tell. Some news reports suggest that the results will be released today. Others suggest that final results will be announced on Tuesday. In either case, the election was largely peaceful, except for a few instances. In one notable incident, election commission headquarters were torched in the heavily disputed Rivers state. Voting was also extended in some districts by one day after election-technology related glitches were reported. Here are a few #NigeriaDecides resources to follow today and tomorrow. 

Overview: Voters unable to cast their ballot because of technical problems in Nigeria’s general election returned to the polls on Sunday, as the main parties traded blows over the use of the technology. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NseE8Z) 

Reports of Violence: Thousands of supporters of Nigeria’s main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BUvWVA) 

Up to the Moment Live Updates (This Day http://bit.ly/19xTNDW)

Australia To Join Asia Infrastructure Dev Bank…The China-led rival to the World Bank gets another western country to join its ranks. The USA is still on the outside looking in. “The Beijing-based bank was launched late last year and is designed to help finance development projects like road, rail and power infrastructure in the rapidly growing Asian region. More than 20 countries have signed on as founding members. In the past month, major Western powers including Britain, France, Germany and Italy have also announced their intention to join. Australia had resisted joining, but a joint statement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Government would sign the MOU that would allow Australia to participate as a prospective founding member.” (ABC Online http://ab.co/19xSvst) 

Is a Ground Invasion of Yemen Near? Arab leaders ­announced Sunday that they would form a joint military force to intervene in neighboring states grappling with armed insurgencies. It is a dramatic step to quell the unrest that has broken out in the wake of the region’s uprisings, but some analysts warned it could exacerbate the conflicts that have polarized countries and left hundreds of thousands dead. (WaPo http://wapo.st/19xUkFT)

Iran Nuke Talks Down to the Wire: http://bbc.in/19xTTeO 

Africa 

The West African countries hit hardest by Ebola are ramping up efforts to eradicate the deadly disease using lockdowns, restrictions on burials and a warning to survivors about the potential dangers of unprotected sex. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NseGxC) 

Residents of eastern Cameroon killed several suspected fighters from a Central African Republic rebel group who were trying to carry out a large-scale kidnapping, a local official said Sunday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BUvQxo)

Guinea’s President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day “health emergency” in five regions in the west and southwest of the Ebola-hit nation in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly disease. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BByjgq) 

A bucketload of human excrement flung at a statue has toppled a symbol of British imperialism in South Africa, marking the emergence of a new generation of black protest against white oppression. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NseEpB) 

The head of the UN’s Ebola fighting force on Sunday warned against complacency as the battle against the disease entered its final lap while also hailing Guinea for tightening surveillance. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1EmQltH)

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi was elected head of the ruling party Frelimo on Sunday, allaying fears his predecessor was planning to cling to power behind the scenes. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BUvUNq) 

A fifth Kenyan minister has temporarily stepped down over a probe by the country’s anti-corruption commission, leaving the cabinet without more than a quarter of its members, the presidency announced Sunday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BUvWFb) 

Liberian authorities are urging Ebola survivors to refrain from unprotected sex beyond the recommended 90 days, after the country’s first Ebola death in more than a month. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OO3oau) 

MENA

Yemeni fighters loyal to the Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi clashed with Iranian-allied Houthi fighters on Sunday in Aden, the absent leader’s last major foothold in the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NseBu4) 

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees needs around $415 million, of which $250 million would fund its cash program — which provides cash distributions for roughly half a million Palestinian refugees affected by the war in Syria. (AP http://yhoo.it/1EmQiho)

 

Tunisian forces killed nine militants during a raid in a southern region as part of crackdown following the attack on the Tunis Bardo museum that targeted foreign tourists, an interior ministry official said on Sunday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1OO3sqI)

 

The Dutch city of Amsterdam on Sunday donated 500 second-hand bicycles for Syrian refugees to use in the huge Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BUvYwO)

Asia

 Over a dozen debt-laden farmers have committed suicide in recent weeks in India, and discontent in many rural areas against government policies is turning into anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi less than a year after he swept into office. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1G6lSza) 

India’s upstart Common Man’s Party was seen by many as a breath of fresh air in the chaotic, corruption-tainted world of Indian politics. Now, however, with its top leaders spending the weekend slugging it out in public, it seems the party that promised to transform India’s political landscape is more likely to bring disappointment to millions of Indians despairing of their politicians. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NseHBQ)

Book publishers and authors are warning that censorship is increasing in Hong Kong. They say bookstores are returning books connected to authors who have been involved in the recent pro-democracy protests. (VOA http://bit.ly/1BBymZv) 

The Americas 

The indigenous Aymara women in Bolivia have centuries of experience of knitting and weaving distinctive woollen hats, sweaters and blankets. Now, they are applying their expertise to a hi-tech medical product – which is used to seal up a “hole in the heart” which some babies are born with. (BBC http://bbc.in/1F7AY66) 

…and the rest

The growing numbers of Britons turning to food banks run by charities to get by has become a key political issue weeks from a May 7 general election. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1G6lVuC)

Opinion/Blogs

Improving the odds for progress in Nigeria (ODI http://bit.ly/1F7AMDJ)

Africa’s political event of the decade? Nigeria goes to the polls (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ESmfJA)

The west is trying to understand China, but don’t expect trust (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ESmGnc)

Can You Live on Less than $1.50 a Day? (Center for Financial Inclusion http://bit.ly/19xNIaE) 

1/4 of the world’s people already subject to large annual wealth tax to tackle poverty. Has anyone told Piketty? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/19xNSih) 

UK passes bill to honour pledge of 0.7% foreign aid target, and a note on SDGs (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1xqSAcV) 

Nigeria: What is to be done? (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1GF9wyA) 

politics in everything: trees in Africa (Haba na Haba http://bit.ly/1xqSKB7) 

A Note on Trends in Armed Conflict (Dart Throwing Chimp http://bit.ly/1xqSsu0) 

“politically robust” experimental design in democracies and a plea for more experience sharing (Heather Lanthorn http://bit.ly/1xqSjH1)

Discussion

comments…

Ster-Kinekor Adds Two IMAX® Theatres To Circuit (PR Newswire)

IMAX Expands Partnership with Africa’s Largest Exhibitor, Bringing Number of IMAX® Theatres to Six in Under Two Years

NEW YORK, March 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX) and Ster-Kinekor Theatres, a division of Primedia (Pty) Ltd., today announced an agreement for two additional IMAX ® theatres.  The first IMAX theatre will be added to the exhibitor’s upcoming multiplex at the Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth, with a second to be added to an existing multiplex at the Cradlestone Mall in Johannesburg. The deal brings Ster-Kinekor’s IMAX footprint to six theatres with three currently open in Durban, Pretoria and Cape Town and another slated to open in Johannesburg.

“It is our aim to pioneer the advancement of cinema across South Africa as well as Africa, to ensure that consumers get to experience movies the way they were meant to be,” said Doug Place, Marketing Executive, Ster-Kinekor. “IMAX is a key enabler of this strategy and we’re delighted to expand our relationship, which is directly related to our complexes’ incremental box office as a result of IMAX.”

“In just 15 months, Ster-Kinekor opened its first IMAX theatre and, building on its success, has since gone on to expand its IMAX commitment to six theatres in the very important South African market,”  said Andrew Cripps, President of IMAX EMEA.  “As the industry leader in Africa, with a presence in five countries, Ster-Kinekor is actively growing its network as evidenced by its new build in Port Elizabeth. As an extraordinary operator and IMAX brand ambassador, Ster-Kinekor is the perfect partner to help us grow our business in Africa.”

About Ster-Kinekor Theatres
Ster-Kinekor Theatres is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Primedia Group and is the largest movie exhibitor on the African continent. The company operates 54 commercial cinema complexes in South Africa, with five international sites based in Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The cinema chain’s sites house more than 450 large-scale screens, over 64000 seats and the largest 3D footprint featuring more than 120 state-of-the-art 3D screens across the country.

As the industry leader, Ster-Kinekor has pioneered cinema concepts such as Cinema Nouveau, one of the world’s largest dedicated art-house multiplex circuits, and the luxurious Cine Prestige theatres, the first ‘business class’ cinema experience in South Africa. It boasts one of the few cinemas on the continent that is fitted with the advanced Dolby Atmos sound system (at Gateway in Durban); and has headed the return of The IMAX® Experience, with the opening of the IMAX® Theatre at Gateway in 2013, and The Grove in June and Cape Gate in December 2014.. As one of South Africa’s most loved brands, it is Ster-Kinekor’s ongoing mission to become synonymous with the unrivalled magic of the cinema experience, by providing ‘Great Moments at Their Greatest’. During 2013, the company embarked on a massive roll-out project to convert and equip every cinema with the very latest in digital projection and sound technology. The result of this upgrade is that every cinema now boasts state-of-the-art cinema technology that encompasses 2K and 4K digital projection and 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems.

The award-winning SK App, which is downloadable on all smart phone operating systems, is interactive, user-friendly and feature-rich, and has recently recorded over 1.6-million downloads. The new-look SK Club loyalty programme rewards members with redeemable points when they swipe their card when buying movie tickets or catering. Combined with industry leading loyalty programmes from Edcon and Discovery Vitality, these give Ster-Kinekor a strong consumer value proposition and competitive advantage.

As the market leader, Ster-Kinekor aims to spearhead the advancement of cinema across both South Africa and the rest of Africa, to ensure that consumers continue to experience movies as they were made to be seen – on the big screen.

See more at: www.sterkinekor.com

About IMAX Corporation
IMAX, an innovator in entertainment technology, combines proprietary software, architecture and equipment to create experiences that take you beyond the edge of your seat to a world you’ve never imagined. Top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and, as such, IMAX’s network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing.  As of Dec. 31, 2014, there were 934 IMAX theaters (809 commercial multiplexes, 19 commercial destinations and 106 institutions) in 62 countries.

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience®, The IMAX Experience®, IMAX Is Believing® and IMAX nXos® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at www.imax.com. You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/imax), Twitter ( www.twitter.com/imax) and YouTube ( www.youtube.com/imaxmovies).

This press release contains forward looking statements that are based on IMAX management’s assumptions and existing information and involve certain risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward looking statements. These risks and uncertainties are discussed in IMAX’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and most recent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q.

For additional information please contact:

SOURCE IMAX Corporation

Senegal, The Philippines, And Uruguay Make Major Strides Towards Universal Access To Reproductive Health

– Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health honors innovative leadership

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and the Aspen Institute announced today the winners of the 2015 Resolve Award, which recognizes countries that are making landmark progress towards the goal of universal access to reproductive health. This year’s awards are focused on approaches that are anchored in rights-based principles and promote equitable access. Senegal and the Philippines are being honored for exceptional achievements in service delivery and policy development, with special mention to Uruguay for its pioneering approach to risk reduction.

Global Leaders Council Reproductive Health Logo Senegal, The Philippines, And Uruguay Make Major Strides Towards Universal Access To Reproductive Health

Global Leaders Council logo (PRNewsFoto/Global Leaders Council)

Logo –
http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150329/195106LOGO

http://reproductivehealth.aspeninstitute.org/

Delivering on the promise of universal access to reproductive health is one of the key human rights challenges facing governments today, and is central to developing a just, equitable, and sustainable world.

The Honorable Joy Phumaphi, Chair of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, will present the awards to representatives of each country on May 21, 2015, at a ceremony coinciding with the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Winning Countries
Senegal is the winner of the 2015 Resolve Award for Service Delivery. The country is revolutionizing the availability and supply of contraceptives with its Informed Push Model of distribution. Informed Push uses techniques borrowed from the commercial sector to eliminate inventory stockouts and ensure that women have access to a consistent, reliable supply of family planning products. Development of the system was led by the Ministry of Health, which collaborated with a range of public and private partners to build a robust, sustainable program. The success in Senegal has been dramatic–with stockout frequencies reduced from 80 percent to less than 10 percent–and is already serving as a model for other countries in the region.

The 2015 Resolve Award for Policy Development recognizes the Philippines for its game-changing transformations in the political and regulatory environment for reproductive health. The country’s newly enacted reproductive health law is the result of a 13-year campaign to establish a national reproductive rights and health framework, despite a difficult political climate. The successful culmination of this effort, which was supported by a broad consortium of civil society advocates and government leaders, heralds a new era in health and rights for all Filipinos.

Uruguay is being honored with a Special Mention for its innovative risk reduction approach to unsafe abortion. The Uruguayan model is designed to maximize women’s healthcare options even in a restrictive legal environment, with a focus on treating abortion and unwanted pregnancy as medical issues. As a result, maternal deaths from unsafe abortion have been virtually eliminated in Uruguay. This risk reduction model has been replicated in other countries across Latin America, and is now being implemented in Africa and the Arab world.

About the Awards
The Resolve Award was launched in 2011 by the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, in partnership with Aspen Global Health and Development, the World Health Organization Department of Reproductive Health and Research, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to recognize country-led innovations that result in increased access to family planning and reproductive health. Past recipients include Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal, and Yemen (2012); the Gambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Zambia (2013); and Afghanistan, Cambodia, Peru, and Tanzania (2014).

The awards ceremony will be broadcast live on May 21, 2015. Additional information will follow. Join the conversation on Twitter @GLCRHresolve and #Resolve.

The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, established by The Aspen Institute in 2010, is composed of sixteen sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders who build political leadership for increased financial and technical support for reproductive health. The Council works to revitalize political commitments to reproductive health by increasing awareness of reproductive health issues, supporting the effective use of donor resources, and championing policies dedicated to achieving universal access to reproductive health. For more information please visit: http://reproductivehealth.aspeninstitute.org/

Aspen Global Health and Development, one of the largest policy programs at the Aspen Institute, is a force for fresh thinking, unlikely collaborations, and nimble action within the global health and development field. Today, GHD’s small, dynamic team works on a collection of issue-specific initiatives – all aimed at catalyzing policy work that better connects champions at the highest levels, development practitioners in the field, and the poorest and most vulnerable on the ground. For more information please visit: http://www.aspeninstitute.org/policy-work/global-health-development

ANC and Cosatu to Let Maintenance Defaulters ‘Off the Hook’ By Opposing Bill [press release]

The ANC members in Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services have unanimously agreed to oppose the black-listing of maintenance defaulters.

Committee Chairperson, Mathole Motshekga, has in turn instructed the Department of Justice to re-draft the Maintenance Amendment Bill in order to see to it that clause 11, which deals with black-listing, is deleted.

This move by the ANC runs counter to strengthening the struggling maintenance system. Adding black-listing as a punitive measure for defaulters is a crucial means of promoting compliance with maintenance orders.

The ANC initially supported a proposal by the DA in committee that clause 11 be amended to state that maintenance defaulters found to be in arrears by a court, should have their details supplied to Credit Bureaus for black-listing.

However, during the public comment process, Cosatu came out gly against the clause in consideration. Last Thursday, in an unexpected U-turn, the ANC members in committee registered their opposition to the proposal to blacklist maintenance defaulters. In the process, the interests of children exposed by the frailties of the maintenance system was pushed aside by political considerations.

Amid recent calls for unity within the tripartite alliance, it is no surprise that the ANC have bowed to Cosatu’s opposition to this clause. But the ANC must call it what it is – the protection of maintenance defaulters from becoming blacklisted, at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society.

The DA will, in the interest of thousands of vulnerable children, oppose any version of a reintroduced bill that does not contain clause 11, and will continue to push for the inclusion of a black-listing clause in the final version of the Bill.

Werner Horn

Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services

Source : Democratic Alliance