Daily Archives: June 23, 2015

How goes the hunt for Joseph Kony and the LRA?

KAMPALA, 23 June 2015 (IRIN) – US special forces joined the hunt for Joseph Kony and the leaders of his Lord’s Resistance Army almost four years ago. So, what progress has been made, are they any closer to catching him, and what else can be done?

Earlier this month, Kampala extended its amnesty for rebels who surrender, a measure largely directed at remnants of the LRA, which once terrorised northern Uganda, conscripting tens of thousands of children to join its cultish 1987-2006 campaign of massacre and mutilation.

See: Forgive and forget? Amnesty dilemma haunts Uganda

As well as this carrot, Kony and his few hundred remaining men – thought to be in remote parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – face the stick of a remorseless hunt by troops from Uganda and other regional states backed by US special forces.

This dual approach has seen some success. According to Uganda’s Amnesty Commission, around 200 LRA fighters who surrendered in CAR and DRC have returned to Uganda and received amnesty since 2011.

That was the year – in December – when the United States first deployed 100 special forces to help the African Union’s Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) eradicate the LRA. Last year, President Barack Obama sent an additional 150 troops, along with four CV-22 Ospreys, aircraft designed for resupplying and relocating special forces on long-range infiltration missions.

Since the start of the US deployment – which is limited to support and advice – more than 260 people have defected, escaped or been released from the LRA, and five of the group’s top commanders have been killed, captured or have surrendered, according to a US State Department official.

See: From jungle to justice – LRA at the Hague

“With US support, the AU-RTF has significantly degraded the LRA’s capacity to launch attacks on innocent civilians. In recent years, defections and releases from the LRA have significantly increased,” the official told IRIN, preferring not to give her name.

“These successes have changed the nature of the LRA threat to the region. The LRA has broken their fighters down into several small groups, spread across eastern CAR, DRC, and the disputed area of Kafia-Kingi [on the border between Sudan and South Sudan]. While they are still a threat to small communities, their attacks tend to focus more on supporting their own survival, rather than spreading terror or attempts to grow back into the force they once were,” she said.

“These small groups remain highly mobile and have less and less contact with each other. While this hinders their ability to coordinate attacks, it also makes them more difficult to track and target, especially considering the size and inaccessibility of the LRA-affected region.”

Uganda’s military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, agreed, saying US support “has greatly helped in incapacitating and diminishing the LRA’s ability to command, carry out major attacks, killings, abductions, recruitment and cause instability.”

“LRA are now incapable of making war. They are about 200-300 scattered in that huge territory with most of them not connected to each other,” he told IRIN.

But data collated from the LRA Crisis Tracker tells a slightly different story. While the last few years have seen a significant decline in LRA killings, the rate of civilian abductions has remained fairly constant (See chart below). So far this year, there have been nine killings and 320 abductions attributed to the LRA, compared to 13 killings and 628 abductions for the whole of 2014.

Despite some qualified successes, some analysts say they expected more of the US involvement and are calling for a change of tack.

“The mission of the US special forces was very clear – to hunt down, capture or kill top LRA command, in particular the elusive LRA leader Joseph Kony. And by this yardstick one can say the mission has been a failure,” said Stephen Oola of Makerere University’s Refugee Law Project.

“Four years in a very expensive operation with little if any tangible outcome is reason enough to rethink,” Oola told IRIN. “The nature of the LRA has been non-conventional warfare and it will continue for the foreseeable future thus making [an] alternative strategy of engagement the only viable [option].”

“Our experience with the LRA in the last 29 years is that a negotiated settlement offers the best possible chance to end the rebellion. What we need is a protracted and credible regional-led peace negotiation with the LRA to release abducted children, abandon its hostilities and remobilise, return and be reintegrated into their country, Uganda.”

Kasper Agger, a field researcher with the Enough Project, a Washington DC-based NGO that specialises on Kony and the LRA, disagreed.

“Obviously we would all have hoped that the mission would have finished by now, but it’s important to stay the course and see this through until the complete end of the LRA,” he told IRIN. “A premature withdrawal would risk losing the tremendous gains that have been made over the past four years.”

In May, a detailed report by the London-based NGO, Conciliation Resources, noted that although the African Union’s RTF task force had degraded LRA capacity and deterred attacks, its role in protecting civilians had been “limited and inconsistent.”

This was because, “RTF commanders and American advisers do not prioritise protection in their operational planning as a central objective. They have concentrated resources on tracking Joseph Kony and senior LRA members and been slow to respond to civilian reports of LRA sightings, or have not responded at all.

“The AU and international community must recognise that such a military approach is insufficient to address the security, political, social and economic problems fuelling conditions in the cross-border region that sustain the LRA,” the report said.

It added that the effectiveness of the RTF was also compromised by regional politics.

“The UPDF [Ugandan army] is still barred from operating in DRC, allowing LRA units to move across the CAR-DRC border and avoid contact with the UPDF. And Khartoum does not allow RTF units to enter the Kafia-Kingi enclave that it controls, despite widespread reports that Kony has found refuge there.”

Marco Jowell, a Great Lakes expert at SOAS, University of London, noted that, “coordination is poor between [troop contributing countries] and needs to improve. A proper joint mission in the sense of a full AU mandate, or at least more AU involvement, is key. At the moment the mission is…essentially national operations mainly by UPDF.”

Ankunda, the Ugandan military spokesman, went further, saying, “We are the only ones who have active troops on the ground and are making efforts to catch the guy [Kony].

“How will you ever get him or his commanders with a few troops on the ground in that vast territory, three times bigger than Uganda, with a very difficult terrain and much of it being ungoverned?”

“If we had troops from the other contributing countries to support the operation, we would have managed to defeat and eliminate Kony and his LRA completely.”

so/am/ag

Cholera outbreak kills at least 18 in South Sudan: Health Ministry

NNA – At least 18 people have died of cholera in war-torn South Sudan, the health ministry said Tuesday, as it declared an outbreak of the highly contagious infection.

Minister of Health Riek Gai Kok told reporters that 171 cholera cases have been confirmed in the outbreak, which began in crowded United Nations bases in the capital Juba and spread elsewhere in the city.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in the U.N. camps during 18 months of civil war.

At least 167 people died with over 6,400 cases reported in an outbreak last year, which was later contained.

“After subjecting cases to laboratory tests it was confirmed that there is a cholera outbreak,” Riek Gai Kok said, adding that the first case recorded was on June 1.

“The confirmation of the cases automatically triggers the activation of a full-scale response,” he added.

Stamping out cholera – transmitted through drinking water or eating food contaminated with faeces or dirty hands – poses an additional major challenge for the government and aid workers.

More than two million people been forced to flee during the war, with over 137,000 civilians sheltering in U.N. peacekeeping bases, including over 34,000 civilians crammed into camps in the capital alone.

Two-thirds of the country’s 12 million people need aid, with 4.5 million people facing severe food insecurity, according to the U.N..

Civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.

The conflict has been characterized by ethnic massacres, rape and the use of child soldiers.

After a short incubation period of two to five days, cholera disease causes severe diarrhoea, draining the body of its water. The dramatic loss of fluid is often fatal– AFP.

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EU Threatens Big Sanctions on Burundi

Meanwhile, a grenade attack in a bar killed four people. These attacks are becoming more commonplace in the run up to the presidential elections next month.  “The EU is determined to adopt, if necessary, targeted restrictive measures against those whose actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression and serious human rights violations,” EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement. The European Union funds about half the annual budget of Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations, and diplomats have said in the past donors would seek targeted sanctions rather than broad steps that could harm the population.” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1GjuMq6)

More Violence in Northern Nigeria…”As many as 30 people were killed Monday after a bomb exploded at a bus station in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria, in an attack likely to be blamed on the rebel group Boko Haram. The blast occurred near a fish market in the Baga Road area of the city, which has been repeatedly targeted in recent weeks by shelling, bombs and suicide attacks.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1Lh9b7m )

Quote of the Day The Pope is on a Roll: “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause. He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1Gju10o)

Africa

Eritrea has defended its controversial policy of decades-long national service from which some 5,000 people flee each month, saying it has “no other choice” due to threats from long-standing enemy Ethiopia. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudO98)

European Union foreign ministers threatened to sanction individuals involved in Burundi’s political violence. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1N0YYdI)

Amnesty International called on Cameroon to immediately release 84 children who have been held for months without charge, after the teachers at their Quranic schools were accused of running terrorist training camps. (DW http://bit.ly/1GCzC47)

Somalia’s security agency said Monday it carried out a night raid on key targets inside a Shebab-controlled town in southern Somalia, targeting “senior” commanders. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudR4B)

Anglo-Irish company Tullow Oil said Monday it had settled a long-running tax dispute in Uganda by agreeing to the payment of a $250 million bill. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1IudQhj)

MENA

Israel disputed on Monday the findings of a U.N. report that it may have committed war crimes in the 2014 Gaza conflict, saying its forces acted “according to the highest international standards”. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RBRZ)

Israeli Druze blocked an Israeli army ambulance they believed was transporting wounded Syrian rebels on Monday, local authorities said, a rare confrontation underscoring Druze concern for brethren caught up in the civil war next door. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6Rxl5)

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Egypt to stop what it describes as “a politically motivated campaign” against the pan-Arabic Al Jazeera network.  A CPJ statement Sunday also called on Germany to release jailed Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Mansour immediately. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TI2C1k)

Asia

An intense heat wave over three days has killed more than 180 people in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, officials said on Monday, leading authorities to declare an emergency as the electricity grid crashed and bodies stacked up in the morgues. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RvcY)

A co-ordinated Taliban attack on the Afghan parliament in Kabul has ended with all six gunmen killed, the interior ministry says. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Gjva8b)

Human Rights Watch on Monday criticized a Malaysian Islamic court for fining nine Muslim transgender women for cross-dressing and jailing two of them for a month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RrK6)

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is running for president next year, has resigned from the cabinet in a break with President Benigno Aquino as he is investigated for corruption. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1H6RDJl)

Malaysian authorities Monday gave a Muslim burial to 21 human trafficking victims, believed to be Rohingya Muslim refugees, found in shallow graves in jungles bordering Thailand. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudNlm)

Malaysia has stepped up health screenings at all entry points into the country, after the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was reported in neighboring Thailand last week. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1IudMxT)

The Americas

Authorities in Chile’s capital Santiago have imposed emergency measures amid rising pollution. According to city officials, pollution has reached a “critical level”. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bb2)

Dozens of Central American migrants say they have managed to escape from a gang that abducted them in southern Mexico. They migrants told police they had been held for hours by armed men who stopped their bus, but later fought back and broke free from their captors. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Lw2Bru)

El Salvador has just experienced one of its most violent months since the end of the civil war in 1992, with 635 homicides reported in May for the country of just over 6 million people. June is on track to break that mark, with the latest bloodshed coming Sunday when suspected gang members killed two soldiers guarding a bus terminal in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H6RtBH)

…and the rest

The European Union launched a naval operation Monday to try to stop human-traffickers from bringing migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe in unseaworthy boats, a lucrative and at times deadly practice. (AP http://yhoo.it/1IudM0M)

Russia plans to extend a ban on Western food imports for six months starting from early August and may add new products to the list, in retaliation to extended European sanctions against Moscow, officials said on Monday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eDO7vu)

Opinion/Blogs

Former Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky served four presidents and tells some great stories from her career in foreign policy. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1Lh9uyZ)

Pope Francis’ Timely Call to Action on Climate Change (IPS http://bit.ly/1Lw1k3J)

If we want to end poverty, we need to be able to measure it properly (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eDOWEN)

Argentine women hit back at violence (BBC http://bbc.in/1THXA4O)

Is South Africa On a Slippery Slope? (GroundUp http://bit.ly/1GCzv8E)

What if Beijing and Washington understood each other perfectly…but still clashed? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1dbwiCu)

We must protect women and girls during crises (Devex http://bit.ly/1dbwuBJ)

On Child Mortality (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1eDRra7)

Anticorruption Co-opted:  Problems with the Purported Polygamy-Corruption Connection (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1QM9PhQ)
The failure of the TPP matters, but not for economic reasons (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1QM9QT2)

Discussion

comments…

PHOTON Lab Ranks Risen Energy No. 2 for the Second Consecutive Year in its Outdoor Modules Test

NINGBO, China, June 23, 2015 / PRNewswire — Recently, PHOTON Lab announced the results of the 2014 outdoor modules tests. Risen Energy’s SYP190S-M mono modules won No.2 with excellent performance and quality. It’s the second time for Risen Energy.

PHOTON Lab is one of the world’s most authoritative testing organizations. It applies precise comparative tests by placing the PV modules outdoor without any shadow. The aim is to test the PV modules performance (performance ratio and yield) under practical conditions. PHOTON Lab applies advanced equipments to test modules to ensure the accuracy of results.

The participants included 174 PV modules, and Risen Energy’s module is No. 2 with 94.7% performance ratio and 1175.7KW yield. In addition, SYP250M mono module is No. 9 with 93.4% performance ratio and 1159.7KW yield. It may be noticed that the difference is not significant from the data.

Mr. Wanghong, the president of Risen Energy, said: “PHOTON Lab’s outdoor module test results indicate that Risen Energy’s PV modules quality has reached world-class levels. We will continue to improve our technology, pursue higher quality and performance, and provide customers with high-performance products.”

About Risen Energy
Risen Energy Co., Ltd. has been founded in 2002 and listed as a Chinese public company (Stock Code: 300118) in 2010. Risen Energy is one of the pioneers in solar industry and has been committed to this industry as a R&D expert, an integrated manufacturer from wafers to modules, a manufacturer of off-grid systems, and also an investor, a developer and an EPC of PV projects. Aiming to deliver the green energy worldwide, Risen Energy is developing internationally with offices and sales networks in China, Germany, Australia, Mexico, India, Chile, and Benin. After years of efforts, it has reached a module production capacity of 1.5GW and an accumulative shipment of 3GW. During rapid growing, Risen Energy keeps a stable pace with an average debt ratio at around 50% from 2011 to 2014 and it also makes innovations setting up subsidiaries for Internet Finance and Financial Leasing as one step towards “Internet Energy”.

For more information, please visit: www.risenenergy.com.

Photo Release — House of Sillage Announces launch of Inaugural Men’s Collection With Its Signature Scent: DIGNIFIED BY HOUSE OF SILLAGE Spring 2015

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., June 22, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — House of Sillage, a leading name in the world of Haute Parfumerie, is delighted to announce the much-anticipated release of its very first Men’s fragrance, DIGNIFIED by House of Sillage. Created for the man who provokes envy and admiration, a new class of man who cares deeply to distinguish his life and the story behind it.

A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=33964

The truly unique scent achieves a perfectly tailored balance of robust agar wood with compelling traces of smoked vetiver and sultry vanilla. A striking composition of fortified masculinity enhanced by an elegant spice veil of saffron and aged clove.

DIGNIFIED by House of Sillage is a riveting new addition to our world renowned parfum collections, sure to enthrall the most discerning men of the world.

For more information about Dignified by House of Sillage, please email info@houseofsillage.com or visit our website at www.HouseofSillage.com.

The photo is also available at Newscom, www.newscom.com, and via AP PhotoExpress.

CONTACT: House of Sillage
+949-200-9265
info@houseofsillage.com