Daily Archives: July 11, 2017

SOUTHERN AFRICAN GROUPING PLANS TO TURN SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM INTO A REGIONAL PARLIAMENT

MAHE, SEYCHELLES, The Speaker of the Angolan National Assembly, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, has re-affirmed the intention to turn the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum into the sub-regional grouping’s Parliament.

Addressing the opening of the 41st session of the plenary assembly of the SADC Parliamentary Forum here Monday, being held under the theme, “Exploiting the demographic dividend through youth investments”, he pledged to keep working on the long-standing aspiration of the forum to transform into a Regional Parliament.

For this purpose, he sought the advice and support of the President of Seychelles, Danny Faure.

He recalled that the SADC-PF, had been set up in 1997 as part of the efforts to achieve regional integration to provide a valuable platform for dialogue and sharing of experiences among democratically elected parliamentarians and as a consultative body for the southern Africa sub-region.

Dos Santos added that the theme of this year’s meeting reflected the continent’s demographic structure which has a high proportion of young people of working age.

The five-day session of the forum is being chaired by dos Santos, who was elected to helm the body in November 2016.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

After an Internet blackout, Congolese are taking to the streets of Brazzaville: Here’s why

Last month, people in the Republic of Congo lost their Internet � and they remained offline for a week. People immediately suspectedthe government was behind the shutoff. This would come as no surprise as the government has taken increasingly bold steps in recent years to stifle dissent and quash protests � protests like the one on July 10, when state security services were out in full force as Congolese citizens took to the streets. The president reacted to the protest by forbidding public gatherings and confiscating reporters’ cameras.

It turns out that the Internet shutdown had a more innocuous cause: a fishing vessel severed an undersea cord. Still, the assumption that the government was responsible for the outage demonstrates that the level of trust between citizens and government is exceedingly low in this part of the world. And actions by the government preceding this incident did re-enforce this narrative.

The Republic of Congo (RoC) is an oil-producing country of 4.6 million people in central Africa and about three times the size of the state of Pennsylvania. It is sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville after its largest city, which sits across the river from Kinshasa, the capitol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The country’s second civil war came to an end in 1999 with the intervention of Angolan armed forces, who reinstated former president Denis Sassou Nguesso. The former president had come to power in 1979 and was defeated in democratic elections in 1992, just before the first civil war broke out in 1993.

The RoC is also one of several countries in central Africa that has seen violent repression of civil protest, as well as referendums resulting in the lifting of presidential term limits. Its neighbor across the river, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was supposed to hold elections in November 2016, and the government claims the country still can’t afford to hold elections this year, keeping the president in power despite the constitutional requirement that he step down. In Uganda, presidential term limits were eliminated in 2005 and last year the president came to power again in highly contested elections. In Burundi, the president said his first term didn’t count as it was part of a transition where he was not elected, and since 2016 parliament has been considering scrapping term limits. In Rwanda, presidential term limits were dropped and President Kagame is likely to win upcoming elections in August. Dissent and opposition have been treated harshly in all of these contexts with the expectation that it will weaken their influence and allow for a continuation of the status quo.

This may work, up to a point. But in RoC, it could ultimately backfire as the country prepares for legislative elections on July 16. As Brett Carter writes on African Arguments: The current crisis is strikingly similar to the one that culminated in the National Conference of 1991 and Sassou Nguesso’s electoral humiliation of 1992 in which he came third. The president knows this, as does the opposition.

A widely opposed referendum in 2015 changed the constitution so that Sassou Nguesso could run for a third term, which he did, and won the election of 2016. Since then, protests have been met with brutal crackdowns. Opposition candidates and civil society leaders have been arrested and thrown in jail. The government also began an offensive on the region of Pool, near the capital Brazzaville, in April 2016.

Carter writes:

By launching a military assault on the area � which is largely populated by ethnic Lari, long opposed to the government � Sassou Nguesso has sought to discourage citizens in Brazzaville from contesting his hold on power. For international cover when first attacking the region in April 2016, Sassou Nguesso claimed to be fighting the terrorist Pastor Ntoumi, a former militia leader based in Tsoumouna, Pool. But the accusation was absurd; Ntoumi disbanded his militia in 2006. Opposition leader Claudine Munari denounced the assault as genocide against ethnic Lari. However, while Ntoumi had no militia when operations began, he has since acquired supporters and weapons. He has captured weapons from police and military outposts, received supplies from disgruntled quarters of the military, and amassed a small group of ethnic Lari young men, who have little choice but to fight back.

Over 80,000 people have fled their homes in Pool since last year, and the UN has launched a $20 million emergency appeal for humanitarian relief.

People are angry about political repression and the crackdowns in Pool; but compounding frustrations are the economic crisis and fuel shortage. The bankrupt, state-owned oil company has a monopoly on oil imports and is owned by the president’s son. The IMF, despite public opposition and a campaign called Don’t Save the Tyrant, is considering bailing out the government.

Although the internet outage was an accident, the fact that many people at first believed it to be an intentional cut by Sassou Nguesso speaks to the level of distrust between the people and the current government. This means that the draconian measures taken against prominent opposition leaders and public dissent is less likely to frighten people into submission and more likely to lead to broad support for opposition parties at the polls on July 16.

Source: UN Dispatch

TechGirls From the Middle East and North Africa Invest in STEM Futures

Teenage girls from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia will participate in the U.S. Department of State’s TechGirls exchange program from July 12�August 3. During their three weeks in the United States, participants will strengthen and develop technical skills, form invaluable networks, and establish relationships with mentors that will influence their future tech careers. The TechGirls initiative empowers girls around the world to become leaders in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The 28 TechGirls will attend leadership clinics and project management workshops at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA and in Washington, D.C. While at Virginia Tech, the teens will also participate in an eight day, interactive technology and coding camp conducted by the Department of Computer Science Training, participate in a day of job shadowing with top tech companies in the Washington, D.C.-area, and engage in community service activities. Top leaders in the tech industry from the United States and the Middle East and North Africa will mentor the girls throughout the program.

The State Department and program partner Legacy International have teamed up with both public and private sector partners for this year’s TechGirls program, including: AT&T, Byte Back, Echo & Co, FCC, i Strategies Lab, Islamic Relief, Nokia, NPR, Relief International, Synoptos, TechChange, Vox Media, and 18F.

TechGirls exchange alumnae, now totaling 130, have utilized the program’s lessons to train more than 2,300 peers in their home countries. The achievements of these alumnae and the talent of the incoming class contribute to the U.S. global commitment to advance the rights of women and girls around the world, as well as STEM education.

Source: U.S Department of State

AOUN PLEDGES TO BUILD STATE, BUT SAYS REFORM NEEDS MORE THAN SEVEN MONTHS

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, reiterated his intention to build the Lebanese state as per the Presidential oath, especially in terms of respecting the constitution and the implementation of laws.

“The Lebanese expectations of this presidential era are high; however, reform cannot be achieved in just seven months because sabotage is easy and of quick results, whereas reconstruction requires time and patience,” the President told visiting delegations from the town of Ghazir, Keserwan caza.

“Today, we are suffering a cultural crisis as we lack a complete political culture and suffer a lack of knowledge on the true concept of the state. We have begun to study the ways in which the government can help to make our economy based on production,” the President said.

Aoun also hailed efforts exerted by the Lebanese Army and security forces to maintain stability across Lebanon, promising to achieve more positive results in the economic and development fields “despite the difficulties that arise from time to time, and campaigns aimed at obstructing our work.”

“The Lebanese should have confidence that reform will be achieved and there is no way to steer clear from this fact,” the President added.

Separately, Aoun welcomed head of the Lebanese Red Cross, Dr. Antoine Zoghbi, and the Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Haj Amando Si, accompanied by Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General, George Kettani.

Si briefed the President on the activities of the Union, which was founded in 1929 and includes 190 members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and whose office of the Middle East and North Africa region is in Beirut.

The President praised the ICRC’s support for the Red Cross, “which enables it to carry out many of the tasks that are at the heart of the work of the international humanitarian organization.”

Aoun also stressed the importance of the continued communication with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, pointing out that Beirut office will receive all the required support from the Lebanese side.

He also highlighted the importance of strengthening the activities of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Lebanon through holding conferences and workshops.

Also on Tuesday, and within the framework of international institutions’ interest in Lebanon, President Aoun received a delegation from Barclays Bank, including the Chairman of the Regional Board, Makram Azar, and the Regional Head of Markets at the Bank, Walid Mezher, who briefed the President on the Bank’s activities in Lebanon and the region, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

Both men expressed Barclays’ desire to contribute to the development of the Lebanese economy and investment in the Lebanese economic sectors, especially as Barclays participated in the issuance of treasury bonds by the Ministry of Finance.

Aoun welcomed the visiting delegation and stressed that the process of economic advancement had begun, and was gradually attaining positive results. He also pointed to the growing desire of major banking and international companies to invest in Lebanon, deeming it a proof of confidence in the country’s ability to rise again and achieve the goals desired by its people.

On a different level, Aoun telephoned Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, congratulating him on the liberation of Mosul from the clutches of terrorists.

“This achievement is an advanced step towards the restoration of Iraq’s unity and health, as well as an important milestone in stabilizing the region as a whole. It also represents a major blow to terrorists, who wish to spread a culture of murder and criminality,” Aoun told the Iraqi president.

Source: National News Agency

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Guest

My guest today will be Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs [DESA]. He will be here to brief you on the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York and should be arriving in the next hour or so.

Yesterday, as you will have seen, he held separate meetings with the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Speaker of the Parliament of Ukraine. He also had discussions with people who had been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine. Speaking to the press along with President [Petro] Poroshenko, the Secretary-General highlighted his strong emotional ties to the Ukrainian people. He said that he deeply felt the suffering of those who have been displaced and stressed his commitment to address their plight.

On Saturday, he wrapped up his participation at the G-20 [Group of Twenty] Summit in Hamburg, Germany. In the morning, he attended an event to promote women’s entrepreneurship hosted by the White House and the World Bank, followed by a G-20 working session on partnership with Africa, migration and health. The Secretary-General also met with President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and took part on a lunch on digitalization and women’s empowerment.

**Iraq

We issued a statement earlier today on the recovery of Mosul.

The recovery of Mosul is a significant step in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

The Secretary-General pays tribute to the people and Government of Iraq for their courage, determination and perseverance. He also expresses his sincere condolences for the loss of lives and wishes speedy recovery to those injured.

The United Nations will stand by the Government of Iraq in the tasks ahead of creating the necessary conditions for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of displaced communities, restoring the rule of law in freed up areas, preventing a return to violence and fostering accountability for all violations committed.

Our colleagues on the ground tell us that while there may be an end to military conflict in Mosul, there is still no end in sight to the humanitarian crisis. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, will continue to play a key role in assisting displaced Iraqis for as long as it is necessary.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced; many have lost relatives, their homes, and have been injured. It’s likely that many thousands of people may have to remain in displacement for months to come. More details in UNHCR briefing notes.

Humanitarian workers report that, of the 54 residential neighbourhoods in western Mosul, 15 are heavily damaged and at least 23 are moderately damaged. Humanitarians are also concerned for civilians who are trapped in the areas where fighting is likely to occur, including Tel Afar, Hawija and western Anbar.

**Syria

The latest round of talks among the Syrian parties began today in Geneva. Speaking to the press, Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy, noted that we are witnessing a phase of simplification of one of the most complex conflicts of our time.

He highlighted a pragmatic approach to institutional engineering and the need for incremental progress. His remarks are available on our webcast and the transcript will be done shortly.

We issued a statement earlier today on Syria, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Governments of Jordan, Russia and the United States of a de-escalation zone and arrangements to support a ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian assistance in southwest Syria.

This is a significant step towards reducing violence and increasing humanitarian access across Syria, in line with the pursuit of the goal of a comprehensive, nationwide ceasefire, as endorsed by multiple Security Council resolutions.

Notwithstanding this positive development, the Secretary-General urges all countries to preserve the right for all Syrians to seek asylum and enjoy refugee protection until conditions are conducive for return in safety and dignity.

As the UN reconvenes the intra-Syrian talks on a political settlement based on Security Council resolution 2254, the Secretary-General urged all parties to redouble efforts for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

**South Sudan

Our colleagues from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) report that peacekeepers on Saturday prevented the abduction of internally displaced people by two armed individuals wearing uniforms of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) outside the protection of civilians site in Bentiu in Unity State. A Mongolian Quick Reaction Force was deployed to the scene when the UN Mission first noticed the soldiers harassing the civilians. The troops fired warning shots over the heads of the soldiers, who were also behaving aggressively towards the peacekeepers, including firing at them. The soldiers fled to the bush. No casualties were reported.

The UN Mission has reported the incident to the SPLA leadership in the region, who assured the Mission that they will investigate the issue.

**Colombia

Back here, the Security Council today adopted a resolution to establish a political mission in Colombia, called the UN Verification Mission, for an initial period of 12 months, headed by a Special Representative of the Secretary-General. That Mission will begin its activities on 26 September of this year.

According to the resolution, the Verification Mission shall verify implementation by the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army] of different parts of the Final Agreement, including the process of political, economic and social reincorporation of the FARC-EP and the implementation of personal and collective security guarantees, as well as comprehensive programmes on security and protection measures for communities and organizations in the territories.

**Somalia

Yesterday in Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in that country, Michael Keating, welcomed the opening of the second session of the Somali Parliament.

He congratulated the Speaker and the parliamentarians and stressed that they can make significant progress by passing key legislation, including the electoral law, legislation enabling a constitutional review and revenue-generating laws.

Mr. Keating added that real sovereignty for Somalia depends upon the country reducing its dependency upon others, and its ability to raise revenues and shape its own agenda.

**Yemen

Our humanitarian colleagues inform us that the unprecedented cholera outbreak in Yemen has now surged passed 300,000 suspected cases, with over 1,700 associated deaths in just 75 days.

Cholera is present in 92 per cent of Yemen’s districts, in all governorates except Socotra Island. Children under the age of 15 account for 40 per cent and 25 per cent of suspected cases and fatalities respectively. People over 60 also represent 30 per cent of fatalities.

**Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it will be able to provide food assistance to more than 577,000 people in need, thanks to a $20 million dollar contribution by the United States.

The money will be spent to buy local wheat flour, salt, yellow peas and cooking oil, among other supplies, and will benefit internally displaced people, people affected by natural disasters and people who struggle to feed their families at certain times of the year.

**Migrant Children

UNHCR, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], and the International Rescue Committee today issued a road map for action to improve the situation of refugee and migrant children arriving and staying in Europe without their parents or care givers. More information on UNCHR’s website.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference here on marine biodiversity, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Belgium to the UN.

Speakers will include: Jose Maria Figueres, former President of Costa Rica and Co-Chair of the Global Ocean Commission; Sophie Mirgaux, the senior international negotiator for Belgium’s Department for the Marine Environment; Ambassador Juan Jose Gomez Camacho of Mexico; and Dr. Lucy Woodall of Oxford University.

**Questions and Answers

Sir?

Question: Happy Monday. Thanks, Steph. Anything

Spokesman: It is so far.

Question: Anything let’s change that for you. Anything on the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]? The head of the Electoral Commission there has said that it’s not going to be possible to hold presidential elections before the end of the year. How concerned are you that that is an indication that President [Joseph] Kabila will stay on even longer beyond his term?

Spokesman: We’ve taken note of the comments made by the President of the Electoral Commission. We trust that the commission will soon publish an electoral calendar, clarifying when exactly the presidential and legislative elections will take place. The head of the peacekeeping department, Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix, will be briefing the Council tomorrow, and we’ll have more information on this issue on the focus on the Congolese authorities and the electoral calendar. Yes, sir?

Question: Do we have a number for the number for the displaced persons in near Mosul or more generally in Iraq with the UNHCR?

Spokesman: Sure. The number let me find out. We’ve had that number for a while. The latest, as of couple of weeks ago, I think the basically, about 862,000 [people] had been displaced. So, we can imagine that number is now slightly higher. As we’ve said, you know, we obviously welcome the end of the fighting. The humanitarian crisis continues. And, obviously, the quick the focus will be on providing humanitarian assistance and rebuilding basic services as quickly as possible in the city, focusing, obviously, on water and the issue of electricity grid. We’ve been in touch with Lise Grande’s office, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and we’re trying to get her to brief you here this week by video conference. Mr. Lee?

Question: Sure. Some other things, but I wanted something else on DRC. There’s been a letter by ten US senators bip pretty much bipartisan about the killings of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan. And I wanted to ask you about this sentence in it. They said that they they you know, they’ve heard of the UN Board of Inquiry [BOI], but they understand, quote, it will not seek to identify perpetrators or what happened to Mr. Sharp’s and Ms. Catalan’s Congolese interpreter and drivers. So, they’re asking for a more serious investigation. One, I wanted to know, generally, just what’s the status of that Board of Inquiry given the the interest and what happened. And is it true that the Board of Inquiry, as as these senators are saying, will not look at all at what happened into the UN contracted interpreter and driver?

Spokesman: No. The BOI is under way. We last I’d heard, we expect it for the end of this month. As we’ve said, we would effort to make some of its findings public. The BOI was appointed to establish the facts and, if possible, identify the perpetrators around the killings. We’ll submit a report with recommendations as to the next step. We’re also looking at further options that may be available to us. Obviously, first and foremost, the responsibility lies on the Congolese authorities. We cannot substitute ourselves for a national criminal investigation unless, of course, there is a Security Council mandate. I think I would urge you to wait and see what the findings are, and then we can take it, next step. My understanding also is that the letter was addressed, from what I saw in the press reports, to Ambassador [Nikki] Haley, not to the Secretary General.

Question: Oh, no, absolutely

Spokesman: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, I’m just

Question: Because I made the what I wanted to know is, one, I remember at the time, there was some dispute about whether the in fact, the interpreter of the two experts had also been found dead. Is that is your understanding that he has?

Spokesman: My I don’t have an understanding into that. I think we have to wait for the BOI and see what facts they would have been able to clear up. Nabil and then Linda.

Question: On de escalation zones in Syria, is the UN a partner in in these agreements, or do you have any role to monitor them?

Spokesman: No, my understanding is that we are not a partner. Obviously, as the Secretary General said, we welcome them. We welcome anything that would lessen the violence and also help us improve the humanitarian access, which has been so challenging, to say the least.

Question: And is Mr. de Mistura planning to brief the Council later this week from here or from Geneva?

Spokesman: He is in Geneva, I think, at least through he’s not moving until the talks finish. From what I remember hearing just a few minutes ago from the press conference, I think they’re looking till Friday or Saturday. I think you have to check with what he actually said, but he’s not going to leave Geneva. Linda?

Question: Thank you, Steph. Again, regarding the talks, I was wondering, is there a list of the participants, primarily, for example you know, the Syrian participants?

Spokesman: You mean the Syrian talks. We’ll put you in touch with our colleagues in Geneva. I don’t have that information with me. Yes, ma’am?

Question: Thank you. Does the United Nations have any comment on the joint press statement by the US, the UK, and France on 7 July, which places them in direct violation of article 6 of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which requires them to negotiate the disarmament of nuclear weapons in good faith? They stated, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become a party to the treaty,” which was adopted by 122 Member States. Is does the UN have any reaction to this? And I’m assuming that the treaty, which was just adopted, is considered entirely legitimate and a a United Nations

Spokesman: Well, there’s no issue on the legitimacy of the treaty. It was passed with the needed votes. The Secretary General welcomed the adoption of the treaty as an important step towards building a nuclear free world. The treaty, my understanding, will be open for signature in September, as the Secretary General is the depositary of the treaty. And, as I said, we welcome it as an important step towards building a nuclear free world. We hope that all Member States, like as with all UN treaties, we hope that all Member States will eventually support the treaty.

Question: The violation of article 6 of the nuclear non proliferation

Spokesman: I’ve said what I’ve had to say. Mr. Lee?

Question: Sure. Sure. I wanted to ask you, there’s Nigeria has summoned the the representative of Cameroon. They say that up to 97 Nigerians or ethnic Nigerians were killed in Bakassi by by Cameroonian forces. Given the UN’s role in the Bakassi Peninsula, [inaudible]

Spokesman: I’ll check. [inaudible]

Question: you haven’t seen this one? And I also wanted to ask you, on Cameroon, the former UN legal adviser, Mr. Felix Agbor Balla, has now been moved to solitary confinement. It’s all over the press in Cameroon. I just I want to ask you again, particularly particularly but not only because he’s a former UN official now placed in solitary confinement facing the death penalty for advocacy of of autonomy, is there any

Spokesman: I don’t have anything on that today, but I will try to get you something. One last one.

Question: And I wanted to ask you whether whether the Secretary General there’s a there’s an interview with Louise Arbour on the topic of migration in the Corriere della Sera, and she says clear you know, she says, “Giving” quote, “Giving money to the Libyans will only serve to increase the migration flows,” quote, “granting funds to the safe Coast Guard is not the solution.” So, since she is the Special Adviser on migration, are these the Secretary General’s views?

Spokesman: I think the Secretary General’s view is that we need a comprehensive compact between those countries of origin, those countries of transit, and the countries of destination to manage the flow of people, of migrants, which has been in existence since time in memoriam and will continue. It needs to be managed in the best possible way. Thank you. I’ll get to our guest.

Source: United Nations