Daily Archives: June 2, 2015

South Sudan Boots a Top UN Official Over His Tweets

South Sudan is on the verge of a famine. So why would the country expel the one UN official in charge of coordinating international aid to stave off mass starvation?

The numbers are staggering.  Some 1.5 million people are internally displaced by a civil war that erupted last year and half a million people have fled as refugees. This includes over 121,ooo people who fled to UN Peacekeeping bases that are serving as de-facto IDP camps. The food security situation is particularly worrisome. We are now in the middle of what’s known as “lean season” and some 4.6 million people are considered “extremely food insecure.” The ability of humanitarian agencies to do their job has been hampered by ongoing fighting, looting and general insecurity.

According to the World Food Program, South Sudan faces “the worst levels of food insecurity in the young country’s history” in which “millions of people in South Sudan are trapped by a terrible mix of brutal conflict, rising hunger and a deepening economic crisis.”

Given this morass, you would think the Government of South Sudan would do all it can to support the efforts of the United Nations humanitarians who are doing what they can to help South Sudanese, despite the huge challenges.

Alas, that’s not the case. Just yesterday, the government in Juba expelled the top UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer. Apparently, they didn’t appreciate the perfectly factual things he’s been Tweeting.

@TobyLanzer, who I’ve followed for months, is an important source of news from South Sudan, particularly as it relates to humanitarian issues.  Here are a sample of of his tweets that seemed to have piqued Juba.

Toby Lanzer Tweets

As you can see, it’s hardly controversial stuff. But apparently, the government in Juba found these factual statements too hard to face. The AFP reported that Juba is justifying the expulsions because Lanzer’s Tweets were “not giving hope to the people of South Sudan.”

“The mandate of the United Nations in South Sudan is to supplement, is to support the government of South Sudan, it is not to cause a havoc,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told reporters.

He said the UN’s outspoken aid coordinator Toby Lanzer had crossed the line.

“He has made a statement which is not responsible and completely against the government. Toby Lanzer’s statement was not giving hope to the people of South Sudan given that he was predicting the total collapse” of the country that is wracked by civil war, he added.

What makes this all the more curious is that Lanzer was scheduled to leave South Sudan in just a few weeks to take up a new job as the humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel crisis. But rather than wait a short while, the South Sudanese government apparently wanted to send a message to the UN that publicly discussing South Sudan’s immense humanitarian challenges, insecurity and instability is not to be tolerated.

Ban Ki Moon has issued a harsh statement criticizing Juba’s decision to expel Lanzer. But harsh statements are pretty much the fullest extent of what he can do to try and reverse Juba’s decision.

The Security Council, on the other hand, has previously warned that government officials and rebel fights who are undermining peace efforts may be singled out for targeted sanctions, like a travel ban and asset freeze. This includes individuals who are:

“obstructing the work of international peacekeeping, diplomatic or humanitarian missions or hindering the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid or access to such aid” (emphasis mine).

The ball is very much now in the Security Council’s court. They now have a decision to make on how to respond to this affront from the government. It would seem only appropriate that as lean season sets in and the scourge of a potential famine looms on the horizon, that the Security Council sends a strong message that interfering with humanitarian operations is not to be tolerated.

Discussion

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Briefing: Darfur's deepening conflict

NAIROBI, 2 June 2015 (IRIN) – Violence in Sudan’s Darfur has surged to levels not seen in a decade, with more than 150,000 people driven from their homes this year alone. The region’s long-suffering residents are also bearing the brunt of a measles epidemic.

It is a conflict to which the international community appears to have no answer and which risks being overshadowed by other crises in East Africa and beyond. The humanitarian and security challenges are vast.

Here’s why:

How did we get here?

Darfur’s war began in 2003 with a rebellion by tribes complaining of political and economic marginalisation against the Arab-dominated government of President Omar al-Bashir. Khartoum’s counter-insurgency campaign has relied heavily on locally-recruited Arab militias who have been accused of mass killings of civilians in non-Arab areas suspected of supporting the rebels. According to the UN, the conflict has left as many as 300,000 people dead and displaced another 2.5 million.

Over the years, the conflict has grown increasingly complex, with rebel movements splintering into numerous rival factions – some of which made peace, at least temporarily – and Arab groups turning against each other and the central government in ethnic disputes often linked to land rights and political power.

After years of failed international peace initiatives, and the indictment of Bashir by the International Criminal Court for crimes including genocide, the conflict has intensified since 2013 with the government launching dry-season offensives against the rebels in Darfur as well as the neighbouring Kordofan region.

Surging violence

This year, government troops, including former militias now called Rapid Support Forces, have attacked numerous settlements in purported rebel strongholds including the Jebel Marra mountains.
Recent media reports show scores of civilians sheltering in caves in the mountains, and telling of an aerial bombardment near the village of Golo in January that left an unknown number of people dead and others wounded. 

In May, the government paraded trucks piled high with weapons they said were seized from the rebel Justice and Equality Movement after a major battle in the Tullus area of South Darfur on 26 April. 
There have also been several major tribal clashes.

Most recently, fighting broke out on 11 May between Ma’aliya and Reizegat tribesmen near the town of Abu Karinka in East Darfur state over a long-running land dispute. The battles reportedly left hundreds of dead and wounded and displaced thousands. The two Arab tribes have clashed repeatedly in recent years, despite mediation efforts. Hundreds were killed and thousands displaced by fighting between the two groups in the same area last year.

In North Darfur state, a series of deadly attacks this year has fomented tensions between the Berti and Zayadia tribes and displaced thousands more people. Berti student leaders reportedly suspect Musa Hilal, a prominent Arab militia chief, of stirring trouble in the province. Hilal is a political rival to North Darfur’s Berti governor, Osman Mohamed Yousif Kibir, who stands accused of recruiting an ethnic militia of his own.

Displacement

In all, about 430,000 people have been displaced in Darfur since the start of 2014, bringing the total in the region to 2.5 million, according to the UN. Some 1.5 million of those are children. About 3.1 million people are displaced in Sudan as a whole. 

Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur have little prospect of returning to their homes.
Aristide Nononsi, the UN independent expert on human rights in Sudan, said after visiting Darfur in May that the displaced lived in fear of armed groups and criminality.

While most IDPs want to go back to their homelands, “many interlocutors whom I met, in particular in North and South Darfur states, remain anxious about the security situation in their areas of origin… as well as the restoration of sustainable peace in the region,” Nononsi said in a statement.

The fighting around Abu Karinka reportedly saw more than 650 homes burned, and an estimated 24,000 families displaced. Hundreds more families fled with their livestock to neighbouring North Kordofan state before violence broke out, according to the UN’s humanitarian coordination body, OCHA.

“The victims are in need of water, food, shelter and medecines,” East Darfuri humanitarian aid commissioner Abdu Abdelmahmound said on May 15.

According to UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, more than 9,000 new IDPs had arrived in the Mellit locality alone as a result of the fighting between the Berti and Zayadia tribes. It said it was also assisting new IDPs in seven other locations in North Darfur.

Assistance

According to OCHA, about 1.5 million of those displaced in Darfur live in camps or “camp-like settings.”

“The provision of basic services in these locations, relative to the rest of Darfur, is mostly adequate,” Damien Rance, a spokesman for OCHA in Khartoum, told IRIN. “The quality of basic service delivery however has deteriorated over the years as the number of displaced people continues to grow, fewer NGOs remain to deliver these services, reduced funding is being channelled to these services, and the political interest of the international community wanes.”

Access

A long-standing problem facing humanitarian agencies in Darfur has been access to vulnerable populations, particularly in active conflict zones.

After the violence in Abu Karinka, for example, OCHA said humanitarian partners were standing by to move food, emergency shelters and household items. However, authorities have denied UNAMID – the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur – access to the town to carry out an assessment.

Around 430,000 people have been displaced in Darfur since the start of 2014

“The government has said that, at this stage, it is providing all of the aid that is required,” OCHA’s Rance said. “The international humanitarian community stands ready, willing and able to assist.”

More broadly, OCHA said that access restrictions and insecurity had prevented it and its partners from verifying the situation of 92,000 of those reportedly displaced by recent fighting, including in the Jebel Marra mountains.

Food Security

Militias allied with the government have long been accused of adopting “scorched-earth” tactics, destroying homes and livelihoods in rebel strongholds and thus contributing to high levels of malnutrition.

According to UNICEF, some two million Sudanese children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition, of which 550,000 are severely malnourished and at risk of death.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which resumed work in Sudan in September after an eight-month suspension, recently appealed to donors for more funds so that it could expand its operations in Darfur.

“The ongoing conflict is still taking a heavy toll on civilians,” said Eric Marclay, ICRC’s head of operations for East Africa. “We want to assist both the displaced and host communities directly… seed and tools are needed now to prepare for the next planting season. The additional funding will also finance medical care and the building of water and sanitation facilities.”

Health

According to UNICEF, frequent population displacement and high rates of malnutrition as well as very low vaccination rates contributed to an outbreak of measles in April. The disease has since reached epidemic levels in 14 states, prompting UNICEF to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign. Of the 35 reported deaths so far, 25 have occurred in Darfur.

UNICEF country representative Geert Cappelaere said about 50,000 children are being deprived of humanitarian aid, including essential vaccines, in the Jebel Marra area.

“Because of conflict, we have not been able to access the population in some areas for the last four years,” Cappelaere told Voice of America. “So, we have there a massive group of children that are unvaccinated and may be one of the causes of the outbreak of measles we are having today.”
  
Funding and capacity

The UN’s 2015 response plan for Sudan seeking about US$1 billion is just 28 percent funded, leaving huge gaps in areas including security and livelihoods assistance. UNICEF said its Sudan 2015 appeal was only 14 percent funded. 

Humanitarian agencies also face a vastly diminished operational capacity since the government expelled more than a dozen international aid groups in 2009.

According to OCHA’s Rance, the number of aid workers in Darfur has fallen from 17,700 before the expulsions to just 5,540 in November last year.

“This decline in skilled workers obviously leads to a significant capacity deficit, particularly when seen against that fact that we have seen more new displacement in 2014 than in any single year since 2004. Accordingly, the ability to deliver adequate levels of basic humanitarian services has been adversely affected,” Rance said.

Outlook

The prospects for an end to the conflict appear bleak.

While President Bashir, who was elected to another five-year term in April, has said he will launch a national dialogue after his inauguration, it remains unclear which members of the opposition and rebel movements will take part.

Analysts and opponents say Bashir’s apparent divide-and-rule policies in Darfur, which have seen the region divided into five provinces, are unlikely to change.

“These policies have destroyed the social fabric in the western region, which has led to the numerous violent conflicts between tribes, in particular the Arab tribes,” said Yousef Hussein of the Sudanese Communist Party. “The government now holds Darfur hostage.”

Meanwhile, the UNAMID peacekeeping mission has faced accusations of timidity and of covering up abuses by Sudanese government forces and is under pressure from Khartoum to scale back its mission or withdraw completely.

Reports of abuses continue unchecked.

“Our concerns run the gamut from conflict-related abuses such as attacks on civilians by government forces and sexual violence by the RSF, to indiscriminate aerial bombing on villages, and the utter lack of accountability,” said Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch.

sg/am/ag

Nippon Foundation Establishes Support Center; 10 Billion Japanese Yen to Support Paralympics

TOKYO, June 2, 2015 / PRNewswire — A press conference was held on June 2, 2015, to announce the launch of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, which will support the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The Tokyo 2020 Games will never be a success without the success of the Paralympic. The Nippon Foundation will donate 10 billion Japanese yen to promote the Paralympic Movement in supporting the Japanese Paralympic Committee (JPC), National para-sport Federations (NFs) and para-athletes.

The Support Center will be chaired by Yasushi Yamawaki, President of JPC. Yoshiro Mori, President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, has agreed to serve as Supreme Advisor to the Support Center, and Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and Yoichi Masuzoe, Governor of Tokyo have been named as Special Advisors. In addition, Mitsunori Torihara, Chairman of JPC, serves as a Support Center Counselor. The Support Center will bring together a wide range of advisors, presenting an All-Japan team for hosting a successful Paralympics.

Sports for athletes with impairments were previously governed by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, but in 2014, primary jurisdiction was transferred to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), alongside general sports, with both the JPC and JOC receiving funds from MEXT. Reinforcement of the organizational base of NFs, which enables NFs to receive funds for their activities, is an urgent issue to be dealt with. The Support Center will supply offices to NFs at the Support Center and also provide various services in supporting management and governance of NFs.

The Support Center will also endeavor to create an environment where para-athletes can concentrate on their sports, train qualified volunteers for Paralympics, raise public awareness of Paralympics, and conduct academic research, and will also consider supporting para-sports in developing countries.

At the press conference, which was attended by President Mori, MEXT Minister Hakubun Shimomura, and Governor Masuzoe, Mr. Yamawaki explained the Support Center’s planned activities.

The Support Center will contribute to the promotion of the Paralympic Movement, which is connected to the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will change social perceptions, remove barriers in people’s minds towards impairment and will be a gateway to an equitable, comfortable and inclusive society.

For more information: http://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/what/projects/paralympic/

Contact:
Natsuko Tominaga
PR Department
The Nippon Foundation
+81-3-6229-5131
pr@ps.nippon-foundation.or.jp