Daily Archives: August 18, 2015

The Last-Ditch South Sudan Peace Talks Are On the Brink of Collapse

Leaders met in Addis Ababa yesterday in a last ditch effort to bring peace to South Sudan after 18 months of war. The conflict that shattered the temporary peace achieved after a 2005 agreement with Sudan continues to take its toll on the country’s population and threaten regional security. However, despite strong pressure from the international community, the South Sudanese government walked away from yesterday’s talks without signing the proposed agreement, leaving many to wonder what is left to be done to finally resolve the conflict.

A History of Violence

Over the last 65 years, South Sudan has known little peace. With the exception of a 10 year period from 1972 to 1982, war has been a way of life for the South Sudanese. For successive generations, war has been a constant condition that defined the state and their lives. There were high hopes for peace in 2011 when the country officially gained its independence from Sudan, but conflict broke out in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, even before the South Sudan celebrated its official independence.

Conflict continued with various groups throughout the country until a power struggle fractured the ruling government in December 2013, a mere 17 months into the country’s independence. The resulting civil war has already killed tens of thousands of people and displaced nearly 2 million people.

Peace Deal on the Ropes

The high stakes of the conflict has brought regional and international heavyweights into the fold to try and find a solution to the fighting. The current peace process is led by the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and supported by the United Nations, the African Union, the Western troika of the US, the UK and Norway, as well as China and the EU. But even with economic and political pressure exerted by all these players, progress has been slow as both the South Sudanese government led by President Salva Kiir and the main rebel group led by Riek Machar dragged their feet. Only the threat of additional targeted sanctions brought Kiir to the talks at the last minute in an effort to meet IGAD’s deadline of August 17 to sign a peace deal after numerous rounds of negotiations. In the end, while Machar signed the deal in a ceremony held in Addis Ababa, Kiir left without signing, calling the agreement a “sellout” and leaving little hope that a resolution will be reached within the 15 day timeframe for additional consultations granted by IGAD.

The current proposed peace plan, negotiated over a period of 17 months, offers a transitional power-sharing government, a plan for a permanent constitution and the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to ensure accountability for all sides of the conflict. But despite the hardship experienced by civilians – the UN estimates that 4.6 million people are in need of food aid – and the growing pressure to reach a peace deal, the warring factions have been hesitant to stop fighting. Numerous ceasefire agreements over the last 18 months have failed, often within hours or days of going into effect. Yesterday’s attempt to finalize the peace agreement illustrated this hesitancy once again, and demonstrated how much further the country has to go before real peace can be achieved.

In many ways the conflict and the difficulties in resolving it are the outcome of the South Sudan’s long history of conflict. When war becomes normal, it also becomes the preferred solution to all political problems and the impetuses to find peace disappears. Many of the country’s political elites, both within the government and the various rebel groups, earned their political clout on the battlefield. With a poorly developed local civil society and few civilians in positions of power, it will take far more incentive than just the threat of sanctions to change the course South Sudan is on.

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Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 17 August 2015

This report is 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 the parties and security considerations*. Ceasefire violations were recorded in numerous locations. The SMM verified a number of civilian casualties on both sides of the contact line.

Positioned in “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled city centre Donetsk, the SMM throughout the night heard over a hundred explosions – both incoming and outgoing – mostly at locations to the north-west. Earlier in the day – positioned 1km south-east of the destroyed “DPR”-controlled airport (9km north-west of Donetsk) – the SMM heard 67 explosions between 08:15 and 10:55hrs; and an additional 26 between 13:00 and 15:45hrs.[1]

In government-controlled Sartana (15km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM observed and carried out analysis on 11 craters, concluding that either 122 or 152mm artillery rounds – mostly fired from the east – had caused them. Residents told the SMM that two civilians had been killed in the shelling – later confirmed by the morgue in Mariupol – and six injured. The SMM subsequently verified the reported injuries, visiting two hospitals in Mariupol, where it was told one of the injured included a girl who had lost one of her legs. The mayor of Mariupol told the SMM in Mariupol that the shelling in the village had occurred late the previous night, resulting in damage to 54 houses, five of which were completely destroyed. He added that electricity, gas and water supplies had been cut in at least some parts of the village because of the shelling. The SMM at the scene observed 25 partially and severely damaged residential dwellings.

In addition to monitoring the scene of shelling in Sartana, the SMM – through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – registered other indications of fighting in areas to the east, north and north-east of Mariupol. In “DPR”-controlled areas, SMM UAVs spotted nine main battle tanks (MBT) in Starolaspa (60km north-east of Mariupol), one MBT in Novolaspa (60km north-east-north of Mariupol), three artillery pieces in Oktiabr (30km north-east of Mariupol) and four towed artillery pieces covered by camouflage netting in Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol). In government-controlled areas, SMM UAVs spotted: one MBT in Hranitne (48km north-east of Mariupol), five self-propelled howitzers and one command vehicle in Pryovrazhne (20km north-east of Mariupol) and two heavy artillery pieces in Aslanove (15km north-east of Mariupol). Also, while flying over government-controlled Lebedynske (16km east of Mariupol), Lomakyne (16km north-east of Mariupol), Sartana and Talakivka (17km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM UAVs observed many fresh shelling craters both in fields and in inhabited areas.

In a roughly one-square-kilometre area in “DPR”-controlled Krasnyi Partizan (22km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed 15 craters, carrying out analysis on eight of them. It assessed that 122mm Grad multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) rockets – fired from the west-north-west – had caused the craters. Residents told the SMM that the shelling had occurred at around midnight on 16 August. They said there had been no casualties. The SMM observed shattered windows in and shrapnel-damage to exterior walls of private residences, a school and a kindergarten, and one completely destroyed private dwelling and a garage. 

In “DPR”-controlled Panteleimonivka (26km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM – acting on “DPR”-supplied information about an alleged shelling incident in the village and intending to carry out crater analysis – was met on arrival by approximately 50 aggressive people – of mixed age and gender – screaming and blaming the SMM. Three of them – two men and one woman – threatened to harm the SMM monitors while some others filmed the confrontation. Three of the four armed “DPR” members – who had been providing an escort to the SMM – removed themselves from the area. After 30 minutes, the crowd allowed the SMM to conduct analysis on two craters. The SMM concluded that they had been caused by 122mm artillery rounds fired from the west-north-west. Some of those present told the SMM that one civilian had been killed in the shelling incident.

In government-controlled Avdiivka (15km north-north-west of Donetsk), the SMM conducted analysis on a crater, assessing that a 122mm artillery round – fired from the south – had caused it.

In government-controlled Maiorsk (45km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM noted an unexploded 120mm mortar shell embedded in asphalt, with just its tail visible.

The situation in the Luhansk region was relatively calm but tense. The SMM did, however, note ceasefire violations, the most serious of which occurred close to government-controlled Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk), where the SMM heard three 120mm mortar rounds, outgoing from a location approximately 1km south-east of its position.

Near government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed a fresh crater, which it assessed to have been likely caused by a 120mm mortar round. Earlier, a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander present told the SMM that more than 20 120mm mortars had impacted in the area during the day.

Two kilometres south of “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled Pryshyb (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed a private residence with shattered windows and five craters around it, one in front and four in its back garden. Having performed analysis on two of them, the SMM concluded they had been caused by tank rounds fired from the north.

In government-controlled Kramatorsk (80km north of Donetsk), the director of a gas-electric welding and metal-cutting company told the SMM that production was down 17% compared to 2013, mostly due to a sharp decrease in sales to the Russian Federation which had constituted its main market before the conflict. He cited freedom of movement restrictions as a major impediment for the company. He added that the company had laid off approximately 10% of its workforce since the start of the conflict.

The head of the civil-military administration in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) told the SMM that the town’s pre-conflict population of 15,000 people had almost halved. He added that his administration was planning – pending security guarantees – to open a “humanitarian logistic centre” in the town, which would allow people on both sides of the contact line to access banking services and buy food and medicine.

The SMM re-visited two “DPR” and eight Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas, whose locations comply with the respective Minsk withdrawal lines. At one “DPR” holding area, the SMM noted the absence of two 152mm artillery pieces, whilst at the other, all previously-recorded weapons were present. At Ukrainian Armed Forces sites, the SMM noted the absence of the following previously-recorded weapons: nine towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm); 10 MLRS (BM-21 Grad, 122mm); four towed anti-tank guns (2A19 MT-12 Rapira, 100mm); four self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm); four towed guns (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm); eight anti-tank missile systems (9P149 Shturm-S); and five self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152 mm).

In addition to weapons spotted by SMM UAVS in areas around Mariupol, the SMM observed the following weapons in areas that are non-compliant with the Minsk withdrawal lines: in “DPR”-controlled areas, 18 T-72 main battle tanks – in two separate areas – and a 122mm artillery piece; and, in a government-controlled area, a military-type truck towing a 120mm mortar piece.

On 15 August at a focus group discussion in Ivano-Frankivsk, 36 internally displaced persons (IDP) told the SMM that IDPs faced no difficulties with host communities in the city. They did, however, say they faced problems with accommodation, and received little help from municipal agencies in this regard.

The SMM observed approximately 60 people – mostly young men – outside a Russian-owned bank in Lviv (sharing the same building with the SMM), urging people to boycott Russian goods and services. The half-hour peaceful protest – overseen by 10 police officers – included a display in front of the bank of damaged rocket propelled grenade launchers, meant, according to protesters, to symbolize what they see as the link between finance and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The SMM observed a Right Sector-organized protest in Babiche (60km north-east of Lviv), which saw approximately 50 people – five wearing camouflage – block the main Lviv-Lutsk road. The peaceful assembly – meant to highlight poor road conditions – was overseen by four police officers.

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

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

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the parties and security considerations, including mine threats, and 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. Members of the “LPR” continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring most areas close to the border with the Russian Federation.

Denied access:

  • In Donetsk city, “DPR” “police” – explaining that they had received orders to do so – insisted that the SMM return to its residence.
  • On 16 August in government-controlled Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk),  a Ukrainian Armed Forces commander refused to allow the SMM to proceed, initially citing security concerns and later giving the fact that Ukrainian Armed Forces positions were ahead as a reason. The following day, at the same location, the commander again denied passage to the SMM, saying he could not guarantee the SMM’s security.

[1] For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations observed, please see the annexed table.

* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.

News in Brief 18 August 2015 (AM)

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The conflict in Yemen particularly affects the most vulnerable which includes the elderly, children, women and the disabled. UN File Photo: OCHA/Eman Al-Awami

Civilian casualties in Yemen continue to be reported

Civilian casualties continue to be reported as a consequence of the armed conflict in Yemen, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

Estimates indicate that during the first two weeks of August, at least 119 civilians were killed or injured in the Middle Eastern country.

Since the escalation of the armed conflict at the end of March due to fighting between government and rebel forces, OHCHR has recorded at least 1,950 civilians killed.

“Grisly” details of asphyxiation shared with IOM staff

Details of an asphyxiation that claimed dozens of migrants’ lives have been shared with staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The UN partner agency met survivors of what was described as “another Mediterranean tragedy” over this past weekend.

On Saturday, in the Channel of Sicily, 49 migrants were found dead on a ship carrying over 300 people.

The survivors were rescued by an Italian Navy ship, 21 miles off Libya’s coast.

Frontline heroes lauded on eve of World Humanitarian Day

Frontline heroes are being lauded by the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) ahead of World Humanitarian Day marked annually on 19 August.

In a statement on Tuesday, Ertharin Cousin said she was paying tribute to those who selflessly strive to meet the pressing needs of the vulnerable.

With 80 percent of humanitarian work now in countries and regions affected by conflict, she said the task of giving life-saving assistance is increasingly life-threatening.

She added that over the last year, four WFP staff members in South Sudan disappeared without a trace.

Stephanie Coutrix, United Nations

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Minister to Unveil Ghana’s Agriculture Masterplan at 3rd Africa Palm Oil (Rubber & Cocoa) Summit in Accra

ACCRA, Ghana, Aug. 18, 2015 / PRNewswire — From 13-15 October, 2015, Accra will host a delegation of plantation owners, agri-traders, investors and government officials coming together to tap the vast commercial opportunities in Africa’s three major cash crops — palm oil, rubber and cocoa.

Honorable Minister Fiifi Kwetey, Minister of Agriculture, Ministry of Food & Agriculture, Ghana will open the summit with an official speech on ‘Masterplan for Ghana’s Agriculture Industry including New Regulations and Policies for Investment’. He will be joined by key players including — Siat Gabon’s Chief Operating Officer — Gert Vandersmissen outlining the ‘Sustainability in Rubber and Oil Palm Plantations’ in Africa, Olam International’s Vice President — Gurinder Goindi talking about ‘Sustainable Cocoa Program and Value Chain Activities in Ghana’ and President, Oil Palm Development Association in Ghana — Samuel Avaala sharing details of ‘Boosting Palm Oil Production in Ghana’. Other topic highlights are:

  • Liberia: Oil Palm Sector and the Rubber Value Chain — Agro Inc
  • Cameroon: Palm Oil Plantations and the Governments Implementation Program to Improve the Industry — Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development
  • Rejuvenating Cameroon’s Cocoa Industry — Institute of Agricultural Research for the Development (IRAD)
  • Gabon: Developing Large Scale Sustainable Plantations in PPP — Olam Gabon
  • Nigeria: Upstream and Downstream Investment Opportunities in the Rubber Industry — Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria
  • Nigeria: Stepping into the future of Palm oil production and processing — The Okomu Oil Palm Company
  • Development Equity and its Role in the Palm Oil Sector — AAF’s Palm Oil Investments in Sierra Leone and DRC — Golden Oil Holdings

The summit also spotlights on Solidaridad West Africa’s initiatives for small & medium scale farmers in the oil palm sector, PalmElit SAS’s latest oil palm breeding/ disease resistance technologies, ICL Specialty Fertilizers’ sustainable plant nutrition concept and Biotec International’s first large-scale biogas plants in Africa.

Other noteworthy line-up include Hardman & Co commenting on cocoa market in Africa and Africa Renewables talking about biomass in West Africa and an optional site visit to GOPDC, on 16 October, 2015.

Meanwhile Yara Ghana, Olam and ICL Specialty Fertilizers have joined as Platinum Sponsor, Dinner Reception sponsor and Associate Sponsor cum Exhibitor respectively. Also exhibiting at the summit are GRAINE and BIOTEC.

Visit event website or contact Ms. Hafizah at +65-6346-9218 and hafizah@cmtsp.com.sg for more details.

Le ministre va dévoiler le schéma pour l’agriculture du Ghana lors du 3e sommet africain sur l’huile de palme (le caoutchouc et le cacao) qui aura lieu à Accra

ACCRA, Ghana, 18 août 2015 /PRNewswire/ – Du 13 au 15 octobre 2015, Accra va accueillir une délégation de propriétaires de plantations, d’agro-commerçants, d’investisseurs et de responsables gouvernementaux qui se réuniront pour exploiter les vastes opportunités commerciales offertes par les trois principales cultures de rente en Afrique – l’huile de palme, le caoutchouc et le cacao.

L’honorable ministre Fiifi Kwetey, ministre de l’Agriculture, ministère de l’Alimentation et de l’Agriculture du Ghana, va inaugurer le sommet avec un discours officiel portant sur le « schéma directeur pour le secteur agricole du Ghana qui englobe les nouvelles réglementations et politiques d’investissement ». Il sera accompagné par des acteurs clés des secteurs de l’huile de palme, dont le directeur d’exploitation de Siat Gabon, Gert Vandersmissen, qui exposera les grandes lignes de la « durabilité dans les plantations de caoutchouc et d’huile de palme en Afrique » –, le vice-président d’Olam International, Gurinder Goindi, qui parlera du « programme pour un cacao durable et des activités de la chaîne de valeur au Ghana », ainsi que le président de l’Oil Palm Development Association in Ghana), Samuel Avaala, qui donnera des détails sur « l’encouragement de la production d’huile de palme au Ghana ». Les autres points mis en avant sont :

  • Libéria : le secteur de l’huile de palme et la chaîne de valeur du caoutchouc — Agro Inc
  • Cameroun : les plantations d’huile de palme et le programme de mise en œuvre des gouvernements pour améliorer le secteur – Ministère de l’Agriculture et du Développement Rural
  • Rajeunir l’industrie du cacao au Cameroun – Institut de Recherche Agricole pour le Développement (IRAD)
  • Gabon : développer les plantations durables à grande échelle dans les PPP (partenariats public-privé) — Olam Gabon
  • Nigéria : opportunités d’investissement en amont et en aval dans l’industrie du caoutchouc — Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria
  • Nigéria : une incursion dans l’avenir de la production et du traitement de l’huile de palme — The Okomu Oil Palm Company
  • Équité du développement et rôle qu’elle joue dans le secteur de l’huile de palme – Investissements en huile du palme de l’AAF (Fonds Africain pour l’Agriculture) en Sierra Leone et en RDC — Golden Oil Holdings

Le sommet met également l’accent sur les initiatives de Solidaridad West Africa pour les petits et moyens exploitants agricoles du secteur de l’huile de palme, sur les dernières technologies de culture et de résistance aux maladies pour l’huile de palme de PalmElit SAS, sur le concept de nutrition durable des plantes d’ICL Specialty Fertilizers, ainsi que sur les premières centrales de biogaz de grande envergure en Afrique de Biotec International.

Parmi les autres présentations d’intérêt, on trouve les observations de Hardman & Co sur le marché du cacao en Afrique et les colloques d’Africa Renewables sur la biomasse en Afrique de l’Ouest, ainsi qu’une visite optionnelle de l’entreprise GOPDC, le 16 octobre 2015.

Pendant ce temps-là, Yara Ghana, Olam et ICL Specialty Fertilizers ont rejoint l’évènement en qualité de sponsor Platine, sponsor du dîner de réception et sponsor associé avec l’exposant, respectivement. GRAINE et BIOTEC feront également des présentations sur le sommet.

Veuillez visiter le site web de l’évènement ou contacter Mme Hafizah au +65 6346 9218 ou à l’adresse hafizah@cmtsp.com.sg pour obtenir plus de détails.