Daily Archives: June 15, 2015

News in Brief 15 June 2015 (PM)

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Staffan de Mistura. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe (file)

UN Envoy for Syria to meet with the Government in Damascus

The UN Special Envoy for Syria has started a visit to the country’s capital Damascus, following an invitation by the Syrian Government.

Staffan de Mistura said that he looks forward to meeting with senior Syrian officials to give them the opportunity to express their own views on consultations currently taking place in Geneva.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the UN Envoy plans to discuss the present humanitarian situation.

“Mr de Mistura intends to raise with the Syrian Government the issue of protection of civilians, underlining once again the unacceptable use of barrel bombs and the incontestable duty of any government, in all circumstances, to protect its civilians, under international humanitarian law.”

Report on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel welcomed

A report on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel in peacekeeping operations has been welcomed by the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare.

It was published by the UN Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Mr Khare said the report provides insight on how the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse is handled, where progress has been made and where challenges still exist.

He described sexual exploitation and abuse when allegedly committed by those who should be protectors as “truly abhorrent”.

Thousands of South Sudanese refugees flee to Sudan

Some 14,000 South Sudanese, mainly women and children, have fled into Sudan over the past two days, according to the UN Refugee Agency ,UNHCR.

The agency described the situation as an emergency within an emergency, with close to 160,000 refugees registered in Sudan since fighting broke out in South Sudan in December 2013.

So far only 10 per cent of the US$152 million requested by the UN to assist South Sudanese refugees in Sudan has been contributed.

Suicide bomb attacks in Chad condemned by UN chief

Suicide bomb attacks which reportedly killed more than 25 people in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena, have been strongly condemned by the UN Secretary-General.

Dozens of others were injured in the blasts on Monday which the Chadian government has, according to reports, blamed on the Nigeria-based Boko Haram terrorist group.

In a statement, Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of enhanced collaboration among countries in West and Central Africa to more effectively combat the threat of Boko Haram.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 2’41″

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Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 14 June 2015

This report is provided for the media and the general public.

The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations*. The SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations at and around Donetsk airport. The SMM visited weapons holding areas and observed that some weapons previously documented were no longer present, both at government-controlled and “DPR”-controlled sites.

During the weekend, fighting intensified in Donetsk, with substantially more shelling observed. The level of violence in areas around “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Donetsk airport remains high.

Over a period of two days, the SMM at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation point at Donetsk central railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre) observed a total of at least 594 explosions caused by incoming and outgoing artillery and mortar fire, as well as small arms and light weapons (SALW), including heavy machine-gun fire. The SMM concluded that the explosions occurred at locations to the north, north-west, north-east, west, and south-west and at distances ranging between 2 and 10km from its position.

At the JCCC headquarters in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM was presented with separate ceasefire log files covering 11 June by representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and representatives of the Russian Federation Armed Forces. The Ukrainian Armed Forces had logged 99 violations and reported six Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers killed and eleven wounded in action, and the Russian Federation Armed Forces had logged 103 violations. While the majority of violations in the Ukrainian Armed Forces log targeted Ukrainian positions in and around Donetsk airport, violations were also recorded in Horlivka (“DPR”-controlled, 37km north-east of Donetsk) and in the Luhansk region. 

From observation points located 1.5 and 3.5km west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), over two days the SMM observed a total of 180 explosions caused by 82mm and 120mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers and artillery, as well as small arms, including heavy machine-gun fire. An SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted six mortar positions in Shyrokyne on 13 June.

On 13 June, the SMM observed a military parade held in Mariupol (government-controlled, 103km south of Donetsk). The parade was organized by the Azov volunteer battalion within the Ministry of Internal Affairs to mark the first anniversary of what the Ukrainian authorities refer to as the liberation of the city of Mariupol from “DPR” forces, and was attended by the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council and the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine as well as other high-ranking government officials. There were some 100 regular Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and Azov battalion members present. The parade consisted of three trucks pulling artillery pieces (one 100mm 2A29 “Rapira” and two 122mm D30 howitzers), present in violation of Minsk withdrawal lines; one armoured personnel vehicle (BTR); one “Spartan” armoured vehicle; and twelve pick-ups with “Azov” insignia. Four vehicles were pulling mortars (2B11 “Sani”, 122mm). The military parade was followed by a concert attended by up to 1,000 people.

During the weekend, the overall situation in Luhansk remained calm. On 14 June, while stationary in government-controlled Toshkivka (60km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM heard a series of 10 to 12 incoming and outgoing explosions from a south-easterly direction 10km from its position.

On 14 June, five kilometres north of government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) the SMM observed four impact craters, each with a diameter of 3-5m and a depth of 1 to 1.5m. The SMM observed the remains of a rocket and identified it as having been fired from a multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) (BM-21 “Grad”, 120mm). The positioning indicated that the rocket was likely fired from an east-north-easterly direction.

On 14 June, in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM was told by residents about early morning grenade and Grad rocket explosions. The SMM observed a hole in the roof of an abandoned building. On the ground near the building the SMM observed metal pieces from the rockets. Five metres south of the village’s main road, the SMM located a crater with a Grad rocket casing. Another crater was observed approximately 30m from the road in the area of the local tuberculosis hospital. The SMM observed several metal pieces around the crater. Based on analysis at the scene, the fire had been incoming from the south-west. No casualties were reported.

On 13 June, the SMM visited the Luhansk water supply company customer service department to gather updates on the current water supply situation. Two administrative staff told the SMM that the water supply had been restored in all districts in Luhansk city in the past week. This was due, they said, to the partial re-opening of government-controlled supply systems, and Luhansk city households are now provided with water for four hours every evening. The current water supply is limited to 30% of the usual supply capacity. The deputy head of the Luhansk regional state administration said the supply of water from government-controlled areas to “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled areas had been limited due to technical reasons.

During a two-day period, the SMM revisited seven “DPR” weapons holding areas, whose locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. At five of them, all weapons previously observed were in situ. Two of them, each of which had previously stored six 122mm howitzers, were abandoned. At one of the sites, only one SMM patrol member was permitted to enter the venue.

On 14 June, the SMM was not granted access to a Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding area as the commander was not present nor reachable via phone despite several attempts.  The SMM revisited three Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas in the vicinity of Soledar, whose locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines. At the first site the SMM was initially denied entry. Following intercession by the JCCC, the SMM was granted access and observed only two self-propelled howitzers (2S1 “Gvozdika”, 122mm) and two self-propelled howitzers (2S3 “Akatsiya”, 152mm) at the site, where nine 2S1 and eight 2S3 systems were previously recorded. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel stated that the missing weapons were used for training in the area. The SMM also noted that two anti-aircraft missile systems (9K35 “Strela-10”) previously present at the position were now absent. The SMM visited another Ukrainian Armed Forces holding area where twelve anti-tank guns (MT-12, 100mm) had previously been present. This site was found to be unoccupied. At a third holding area, the SMM confirmed that five MT-12 guns remained in place in accordance with SMM records.

Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed weapons in areas that are in violation of Minsk withdrawal lines. On 13 June, the SMM observed two MBTs (one T-64, the other unidentified) being transported southward from Luhansk city on trailers. On 13 June, on the outskirts of Amrosiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 53km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed six self-propelled howitzers (122mm, 2S1) heading south. In Ternove (60km south-east of Donetsk, “DPR” controlled), the SMM observed a shooting range used by the “DPR” on both 13 and 14 June and on both occasions saw 18 stationary main battle tanks (MBT) (T-64s and T-72s), and other military vehicles.

On 14 June, the SMM observed ten self-propelled howitzers (2S3 “Akatsiya”, 152mm) moving away from the line of contact along the road from Soledar to Sloviansk (government-controlled, 95km north of Donetsk). On 14 June, an SMM UAV observed a concentration of 53 MBTs (unknown type), six towed howitzers (D30, 122mm) and ten military trucks in Torez (“DPR”-controlled, 60km east of Donetsk); seven MBTs (unknown type), 23 armoured personnel carriers (APC) and at least nine trucks and other vehicles in Komsomolske (“DPR”-controlled, 43km south of Donetsk); four self-propelled howitzers in Vasylivka (“DPR”-controlled, 50km south-east of Donetsk); one MBT (unknown type), 14 APCs, and six military trucks in Bezimenne (“DPR”-controlled, 28km east of Mariupol). In addition, an SMM UAV observed six covered artillery pieces in Paraskoviivka (government-controlled, 29km south-west of Donetsk) and additional surface-to-air missile systems in the region.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Chernivtsi.

* Restrictions on SMM monitoring, access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by third parties and security considerations including the presence of mines, the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines, as well as damaged infrastructure. The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere. Self-imposed restrictions on movement into high risk areas have impinged on SMM patrolling activities, particularly in areas not controlled by the government.

Delays:

  • On 13 June, the SMM was held at the checkpoint south of Artemivsk (government-controlled, 67km north of Donetsk) for approximately 50 minutes, ostensibly due to the disposal of an unexploded 82mm mortar round. However, the SMM did not hear any explosions that would have indicated ordnance disposal.
  • On 14 June, at a Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding area, the SMM was initially denied entry. Following intercession by the JCCC, the SMM was granted access to the site.

Prevented access:

Sudan's Bashir Flies out of S.Africa, Defying Court Order

NNA – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir flew out of South Africa on Monday, dodging a court order for him to stay as judges weighed up whether he should be arrested over alleged war crimes and genocide.

Bashir had traveled to Johannesburg for an African Union summit that was overshadowed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling for him to be detained on long-standing arrest warrants over the Darfur conflict.
Even as his plane took off from Waterkloof military airport outside Pretoria, the local high court heard legal arguments over the application to force the authorities to arrest him.
On Sunday, Judge Hans Fabricius ordered authorities to stop Bashir from leaving the country after the Southern African Litigation Center, a legal rights group, lodged its urgent case.
The president’s hurried exit from South Africa appeared to be a violation of the court order, and it immediately sparked anger from rights’ groups.
“(The) world stood (with) South Africa to fight apartheid but it stands for impunity for mass murder of Africans,” Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.
“South Africa has shamefully flouted ICC and domestic court to free man wanted for mass murder of Africans,” he added.
South Africa is a signatory of the ICC, which has often been criticized for only targeting Africa leaders.
“President Bashir’s plane took off from Johannesburg and will arrive around 6:30 pm (1530 GMT),” State Minister for Information Yasir Yousef told AFP in Khartoum.
“Bashir will address the crowds that will gather to meet him.”
At the summit, Bashir attended a group photograph on Sunday along with South African host President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who is the chair of the 54-member group.
Monday is the closing day of the summit.
Sudan officials in Johannesburg had earlier brushed off the court case and said the South African government had given them assurances about Bashir’s trip before the summit.
The ICC indictments relate to the western Sudanese region of Darfur, which erupted into conflict in 2003 when black insurgents launched a campaign against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, complaining of marginalization.
Khartoum unleashed a bloody counter-insurgency using the armed forces and allied militia.
The United Nations says 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict and another 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.
Khartoum, however, disputes the figures, estimating the death toll at no more than 10,000.
The ICC had called on South Africa “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants” against Bashir, 71, who seized power in Sudan in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
The South African government and African Union made no immediate comment on Bashir’s exit.
The European Union had issued a statement saying it “expects South Africa… (to act) in executing the arrest warrant against any ICC indictee present in the country.”
The United States, which is not a participant in the ICC, said it “strongly support(ed) international efforts to hold accountable those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

==============A.M.

East Africa Conference Builds Next Generation of Innovators and Entrepreneurs

NAIROBI, Kenya, / PRNewswire – More than 100 rising African leaders met in Nairobi, Kenya, for U.S. President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship East Africa Regional Conference last week. Discussions focused on issues of regional integration, inclusive development, youth entrepreneurship, and peace and security across East Africa.

The conference drew over 100 participants from Kenya, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Mandela Washington Fellows participated in discussions on philanthropic responsibility, leadership pathways and the future of African leaders. The event was held June 7-9 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship brings 500 young African professionals from across the continent to U.S. universities for six weeks of leadership training in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management. Competitively selected for this prestigious program, the fellows represent the continent’s emerging generation of entrepreneurs, community leaders, and public officials.

The conference placed heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship, gearing up for the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Kenya in July. It also enabled fellows to work with partners to showcase their projects and ideas on regional and global platforms.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec urged Fellows “to engage across borders and as with the private sector…The next generation of leaders in East Africa must inspire future leaders to be agents of change.” He noted that “President Obama will visit Kenya as part of the first-ever Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Sub-Saharan Africa. The opening of the Regional Leadership Center, YALI and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, all represent President Obama’s commitment to invest in the next generation of African leaders, empowering youth to bring about change.”

Charlene Migwe, a Mandela Washington Fellow from Kenya, cited the advantages of the international conference. “The Regional Conference provided fellows with the opportunity to cement what they have started, grow regional partnerships and inspire a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.”

USAID and IREX support Mandela Washington Fellows with continuing professional development opportunities in Africa, to advance these young leaders along their professional leadership trajectories.

Photos and video from the conference are available online.

Contact: Jennifer Nevin, +1-202-628-8188, jnevin@irex.org