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Archive for December 12th, 2011

Khalil, “The Taliban saw me coming”

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

Khalil at Mirwais hospital in Kandahar after being hit by a bomb

KANDAHAR,  – Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar has long seen violence between insurgents and government or international forces, and a growing number of children have become victims. Khalil – from the province’s Zhari District, who goes by only one name and says he is “about 15” – told IRIN of a bomb blast in which he lost his leg.

“I am from Kholk village in Zhari District. Around two weeks ago I went to visit my sister. When I was coming back from her house I saw three men putting something in the ground. I didn’t know they were planting a mine. When I reached the spot I tripped on a wire. Three steps later the mine exploded. This [he points to his severely injured leg] is what happened. I think the men who planted the mine were hiding somewhere very close.

“After a while, some people took me to the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] hospital, but there wasn’t much they could do so they took me to Kandahar airport for a night and finally here [to Mirwais hospital in Kandahar]. I have been here for the last 10-13 days.

“There are many cases like this in my district. Many times people lose their hands, legs, eyes and ears. I know other children and older people who have received serious injuries or were even killed.

“I blame the Taliban for this. The Taliban saw me coming towards the mine but they did not warn me. They plant a lot of mines in the area. Once they planted a mine in front of our house.

“I don’t know why we are oppressed all the time. I can’t even go to school. They closed the school down, and now the government is using our school as a checkpoint. I am only studying in a mosque. I wanted to become successful, but it doesn’t look like I can achieve that now.

“I feel pain in my injured leg. Hundreds have been victims of bombs like me. I am happy that I am still alive. The doctor said they would make a [prosthetic] leg for me. I don’t know how I will cope with one leg.”

bm/mp/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Land deals “threaten South Sudan’s development”

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011


The vast majority of people in South Sudan depend on land for their livelihoods

JUBA,  – Land deals done in newly-independent South Sudan “threaten to undermine the land rights of rural communities, increase food insecurity, entrench poverty, and skew development patterns” in the resource-rich but poor nation, a new report says. 

The US-based Oakland Institute (OI) says deals done prior to South Sudan’s independence this year for almost 9 percent of the new nation’s land will do little to help the nation build itself up from one of the least developed countries in the world. 

“In order to meet its developmental challenges, the government of South Sudan has begun promoting large-scale private investments as a short cut to rapid economic development. However, recent data about the rate at which the government is leasing land to foreign and domestic companies” shows questionable benefit, the report says. 

South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July when it seceded from the north after decades of war. 

OI’s research follows on from a report by aid agency Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). In March NPA said over five million hectares of land had already been signed away for investment for biofuels, ecotourism, agriculture and forestry in the four years leading up to a January 2011 referendum on independence. 

“The government’s support for land investments is predicated on the myth that large-scale development projects are the quickest way to improve food security and stimulate the economy in South Sudan,” OI reports. 

But evidence from documented deals “suggests that these projects are far more likely to undermine food security by dispossessing people from land and natural resources that are indispensable to their daily livelihoods”, it says, as deals have been struck with individuals with little or no community benefit or consultation. 

''The government’s support for land investments is predicated on the myth that large-scale development projects are the quickest way to improve food security and stimulate the economy in South Sudan.''

The government has said it will review all the deals done by foreign companies and try to close the many legal loopholes that have allowed foreign companies to “grab” large tracts of land without the knowledge of government and communities. 

Organizations such as OI and NPA have urged a moratorium on new land deals until the right framework is in place to avoid exploitation. 

Flawed 2009 Land Act? 

Jeremiah Swaka, undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice, says the government is aware that a 2009 Land Act – passed in a hurry without a policy to clarify land tenure and usage – has allowed foreign companies to buy up the country’s fertile and largely uncultivated land.

“It was like putting the cart before the horse,” he said, stating that many people did not understand the Act and it left all stakeholders confused about their roles. 

Like many other sectors in South Sudan such as oil and construction, Swaka says land deals are another case of “hit and run” by foreigners wanting to exploit the country’s wealth and cannot be called “investment”. 

NPA is working to empower civil society organizations in all 10 of South Sudan’s states this year to try and prevent more land being sold from under communities’ feet. 

“There’s so much focus on getting investment to South Sudan, and we’re a little concerned if the people negotiating the terms really know the value of the land they are selling”, said Nina Pedersen, manager of NPA’s Civil Society Development Project. 

In many cases, aid agencies say deals were done between companies and a single local signatory without local consultations or the input of local, state and central government. 

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with the government and carrying out consultations in all 10 states to draft a land policy which was submitted to the government in February. But the country has 98 pieces of legislation to pass as it takes baby steps towards building a nation from scratch. 

Until there is a clear policy which should amend the Act, USAID Economist David Gosney thinks South Sudan would have to “get lucky” in attracting the right kind of investor. 

Gosney said the two classes of investors currently coming to South Sudan were those looking for quick returns or buying speculatively in a murky market. 

“The only real demarcated lands you have are in Juba and maybe two other towns”, he said, noting that vague concepts of land ownership were open to different interpretations. 

Swaka said the government’s role as “trustee” has disenfranchized it from the entire system, making it very hard to intervene in deals which dispossess and displace communities. 

In addition to transparency over who has the right to lease, sell or buy land and up to what limit, USAID is also hoping the new policy will create greater equity to ensure land rights for all. 

Gosney said it aims at “balancing South Sudan’s cultural history with returnees, gender issues, who owns land when somebody dies”, and especially for women, who traditionally have no rights to land and inheritance. 

Land and conflict 

Robert Lado, who heads South Sudan’s Land Commission, a body tasked with advising the government and drawing up the new policy, is pushing for land administrations at county and sub-county level that are run by community members, including women and tribal elders. 

“Everything rests on land because we depend on oil exploration, our resources beneath the ground, subterranean resources, and we have arable land in South Sudan” which supports its 80 percent pastoralist people, Lado said. 

He said avoiding disputes over land was key to ensuring peace, but issued a warning to foreign companies which have entered into dubious deals: “Their projects will never be realized as people will rise up.” 


Photo: Hannah McNeish/IRIN
Know your rights… NPA’s Nina Pederson displays advocacy material about the new Land Act

In a country with high levels of inter-ethnic violence and cattle raiding often sparked by disputes over grazing land and resources such as water, other aid agencies are concerned at the potential for violence. 

USAID fears that if large tracts of land are suddenly taken over, communities already contesting the use of undefined land could turn on each other and the state. 

Lado said locals had threatened to kill a chief who signed a deal with US-based company Nile Trading and Development (NTD) in Lainya County, Central Equatoria State. 

Biofuels 

NTD’s 2008 deal to lease up to a million hectares of land to produce biofuels has been described as “South Sudan’s largest land grab”. 

“Evidence suggests that the companies are using the agro-forestry venture as a means of advancing their oil, gas, and mining interests in South Sudan”, OI’s December report said of NTD’s 49-year lease signed with an allegedly fictitious cooperative in a densely populated area. 

OI worked with the local community to obtain South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s promise to overturn the deal. Executive Director Anuradha Mittal called this “a rare example of a community viewed by investors as near-squatters and essentially dispensable who are getting their voices heard by the highest officials in government”. 

Road-building 

While everyone agrees that agriculture is the key to weaning the new nation off a 98 percent dependency on oil and turning it from an import-reliant subsistence market to an export one, it needs proper investment at a national level. 

“If food is going to be produced for export, then there is no way it is going to help the local community…. On the other hand, if fertile land is taken away by foreign companies, it will impact food security negatively,” said NPA’s project manager for land and resources, Jamus Joseph. 

Joseph wants investors to sign leases for up to 99 years to help build roads to feed a nation where one in three is food insecure. 

In a September report, aid agency Oxfam said large-scale land investment in Africa was “putting development in reverse”. It said drought, high commodity prices and biofuel mandates aimed at combating climate change had fuelled a new scramble for land in Africa. 

hm/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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Is another cholera epidemic on the way?

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

A nurse taking care of a child cholera patient during the 2008/2009 outbreak of the waterborne disease

HARARE,  – Waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, dysentery and watery diarrhoea – all approaching epidemic levels – are creating concerns that conditions exist for a reprise of the 2008/09 cholera epidemic, which killed more than 4,000 people and infected nearly 100,000 others.

The Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) for Zimbabwe, launched on 9 December, is asking for US$268 million for humanitarian assistance in 2012. The CAP highlights a decade of “neglect” of the country’s water sanitation and hygiene sector (WASH), which has left 8 million people, or about two-thirds of the population, “with limited access to WASH and health services”.

“A third of rural Zimbabweans still drink from unprotected water sources and are thus exposed to waterborne diseases. While cholera incidence is significantly decreased compared to past years, localized outbreaks continued in 2011 due to poor infrastructure for water, sanitation, hygiene and health,” the CAP pointed out.

Since the year-long cholera epidemic, which spilled across the border into neighbouring South Africa, donors have spent about $80 million on the sector, although the Country Status Overview (CSO2) Report for Zimbabwe, by the World Bank and the government, estimates that to salvage the sector and “bring basic services to reliable and sustainable levels both in rural and urban areas” will require an annual investment of $800 million.

The CAP has earmarked $23.6 million for WASH in 2012, the third-highest sector appeal. Food is allocated $127 million, and agriculture $32 million. It is projected that about one million people will require food assistance in the first quarter of 2012, as “Rates for chronic and acute child malnutrition still stand at 34 percent and 2.4 percent respectively.”

In recent months hundreds of typhoid cases have been reported in the capital, Harare, mostly in the densely populated Dzivarasekwa township.

Intermittent water supplies in urban areas because of the dilapidated water and sanitation infrastructure, the start of the rainy season, and cut-offs of water to households unable to pay their bills, have forced the urban poor to sink shallow wells, which are easily contaminated. Media reports say shallow wells in Dzivarasekwa have tested positive for typhoid.

The latest Zimbabwe Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin, for weeks 46 and 47, published jointly by Zimbabwe’s health ministry and World Health Organization, say dysentery and diarrhoea are approaching epidemic levels, although there are no confirmed cases of cholera in the bulletin for these weeks.

Monitoring

A health sector official, who declined to be identified, told IRIN that cases of watery diarrhoea in Chipinge and other parts of the eastern province of Manicaland were being closely watched after reports of a suspected outbreak of cholera, but this has not been officially confirmed.

A senior official of a humanitarian NGO, who also did not wish to be named, told IRIN: “We are closely monitoring the situation and will only comment and activate our programmes if the presence of cholera is officially confirmed.”

Cephas Zinhumwe, head of the National Association of Non Governmental Organizations (NANGO), an umbrella group for NGOs, told IRIN that “The resurgence of waterborne diseases like typhoid and cholera [although unconfirmed], the risk of malaria in the presence of collapsing waste management services and excessive heat, are equally disturbing developments.”

Despite a bleak outlook for WASH, “Major potential disasters have been contained and many utilities, including in Harare, are now strengthened and able to provide more reliable services,” the CAP noted.

“In rural areas, although situations have improved and the incidence of cholera emergencies has reduced throughout the country, there are still highly vulnerable areas like Chipinge and Chiredzi in the eastern and southeastern parts of Zimbabwe,” the CAP said, “where situations contributing to cholera outbreaks have not yet been fully put under control, and unnecessary loss of life due to cholera and other WASH-related diseases still continues.”

dd/go/he source http://www.irinnews.or
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Fatou Bensouda will take over from Moreno Ocampo in June 2012 as ICC Chief prosecutor

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

By api

It is now clear that the controversial Chief Prosecutor Ocampo will not be able to see the Kenyan cases through if those he has prosecuted are to face a full trial. He will quit in June next year, leaving the mantle to Gambian born Fatou Bensouda who has been his deputy.

Bensouda is soft-spoken person and handles matters differently from Ocampo. The ICC member states chose her as a compromise candidate.

It is not known what Mr Ocampo will do after he quits as Chief prosecutor. What is known about him is that he has politicised the Kenyan case and may be eyeing for some other jobs in the UN.

Mr Ocampo has been accused that he has used the ICC to target African leaders. When he started the Kenyan cases he told the media that he wanted Kenya to serve as an example for Africa. This alone has left him with suspicion as someone who hates African leaders.

Recently, he decided to collect former Ivorian president Gbagbo – locking him up in the Hague.

He has stated that he will get more leaders who worked with Gbagbo arrested and airlifted to face trial.

African leaders are now hoping that Bensouda, one of Africa’s moderate prosecutors will treat Africa differently than Ocampo.

End

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Kenya celebrates independence day

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

by api

The Kenyans are today in high gear, celebrating their independence day. This came about after they defeated the colonial rulers – the British in 1963. Today’s celebration will be led by the sitting president Mr Mwai Kibaki who is the third president since independence.

The Nation’s founding father, the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister of the country and later in 1964 when the country became a republic, he took over as the President. He was succeeded in 1978 by the immediate former President Daniel Arap Moi who had served for many years as his vice President.

The country chose to keep the English language as the official language after independence.

The British were lucky when Kenya became independent because the leaders chose a conciliatory tone and allowed many British white settlers to remain in the country.

Britain and Kenya still have strong relationship and are good trading partners.

API congratulates the Kenyan people for gaining their freedom that December day 1963 after hard struggle to get rid of the colonialists.

End

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mwai kibakicolonial rulersconciliatory tonejomo kenyatta, and president daniel.

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Evading the cholera epidemic

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

An actor, personifying cholera, tries to creep up on his victims

CONAKRY, – With just two cholera cases reported in 2011 Guinea escaped a West and Central Africa-widecholera epidemic that infected 85,000 people and killed 2,500 in the first ten months of 2011. Luck, as well as targeted prevention efforts on the part of aid agencies and the government, brought this about, specialists told IRIN, but a far deeper overhaul of the water and sanitation system is needed country-wide to diminish the likelihood of such disease outbreaks in the long term.

After a cholera outbreak in 2009 the government and aid agencies boosted prevention efforts – making chlorine to sterilize water more readily available, spreading hand washing and clean water storage messages, and improving access to drinking water in schools and villages. These efforts have paid off: “Cholera is one of the few highlights” in Guinea this year, said UNICEF head in Guinea, Julien Harneis.

Fish feces and hand washing

Prevention worked better than in the past partly because aid agencies have developed a more sophisticated understanding of what drives cholera country by country. In coastal areas of Guinea, including the capital Conakry, fish proved to be an effective cholera host – passing on the disease through their feces at markets across the city.

Cases dropped significantly once the fish storage and transportation process was cleaned up, said aid workers. “Approaches to cholera treatment and prevention are more sophisticated now – and are based on more in-depth scientific understanding,” said Harneis, who had recently returned from a regional workshop in Senegalese capital, Dakar on how cholera is spread in the region.

A cholera emergency contingency team made up of representatives from the Ministry of Health, the International Committee of the Red Cross, administrators from the principal hospital, Donka, NGOs such as Action Contre la Faim and UN agencies, including UNICEF, now meets regularly to discuss early warning and response.

While both hygiene practices and access to clean water are the problems in Guinea, the latter is an issue of pollution rather than access – some 95 percent of Conakry residents have access to drinking water- and the country, known as the reservoir of West Africa, is flush with fresh water sources.

When it comes to hygiene, one marker of poor practices is that diarrhoea prevalence is similar in areas with high or low access to clean water, and in Conakry is double that of rural regions. –

WASH head at UNICEF in Guinea, Lalit Patra, told IRIN: “The vast majority of people use unsanitary shared latrines…and the seaside is used for defecation in large parts of the city.”


Photo: Anna Jefferys/IRIN
ACF pays Conakry residents to clear up rubbish to create a more sanitary environment

More emphasis needs to be put on improving water storage, in closed, clean containers, according to UNICEF.

NGO Action contre la faim attacks cholera prevention from all sides – conducting street theatres to warn residents of at-risk neighbourhoods of how to contract and prevent cholera, backed up by house-to-house visits where they distribute hygiene kits and give further advice.

In Matoto in northeast Conakry, a scary-looking actor, personifying cholera, infects all who approach him. In the question and answer session following the skit, animator Kablu Abubakar Mohamed asks the audience – mainly women and children – “How can someone be contaminated by cholera?” A woman grabs the microphone to answer: “With dirty hands – and when you store you water well,” she said.

Hand washing and other hygiene practices have improved, Joint National Director of Community Health, Hawa Touré, told IRIN. “People are doing better – they wash their hands, there are more toilets in schools, but there remains too much to do.”

Lots of water, but is it clean?

Emergency prevention and response in Guinea is working well now, but a more holistic water and sanitation strategy is needed to prevent future outbreaks, said Lalit Patra, head of WASH at UNICEF.

Cholera is unlikely to disappear anytime soon – the nature of cholera has changed in the region, to become ‘hyper-endemic’ – that is, ever-present, with regular peaks, say aid agencies.

There has been no systematic water quality surveillance in Guinea to date, but it is highly likely to be dirty, as sources are not protected and sewage can enter pipes.

While the work of aid agencies such as ACF and UNICEF has had an impact – UNICEF has for instance helped build more water points and latrines in schools for instance, and has worked with communities in 120 villages to try to stop open defecation –more resources are needed to scale up such work throughout the country, and more thought needs to go into how to make water access cheaper, said Patra.

The government, private sector and large agencies have traditionally turned to drilling boreholes as the answer to lack of water, but at $10,000-12,0000 per borehole, this approach is very expensive, said Patra. Cheaper solutions include using local equipment to manual drilling – which has been tried successfully in Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo; installing hand-pumps; or building water pipe systems in mountainous regions. “I was shocked that nothing else had yet been tried here,” he told IRIN.

Patra came to Guinea after his experience of promoting governance and community management of locally-appropriate WASH technologies in Bangladesh, Indonesia and India.

Trying alternatives would not be easy – trainers would need to be imported from abroad and a monopoly by French and Germany manufacturers of WASH parts would need to be dismantled, said Patra, who suggests India as a cheaper alternative.

But bold steps are needed to keep Guinea cholera-free in the long term. As Harneis put it: “We have been lucky…but whether or not we get cholera next year – that is the real lesson.”

aj/ic/he source http://www.irinnews.org

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Counter-trafficking measures trail commitments

Posted by African Press International on December 12, 2011

by api

An NGO worker with two children suspected of being trafficked into South Africa from Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG,  – At any given time, an estimated 130,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in forced labour as a result of trafficking. It is a fraction of the global figure, which the International Labour Organization (ILO) puts at 2.5 million, but this highly lucrative and concealed crime is on the rise in Africa and traffickers usually operate with impunity.

Southern Africa has many of the conditions traffickers capitalize on: endemic poverty and unemployment that create a demand for better opportunities, and high rates of regular and irregular migration that mask the movements of traffickers and their victims.

The region has no shortage of protocols, frameworks and action plans for dealing with human trafficking, but the net result of all these agreements has been no more than a handful of prosecutions.

“African countries are more than happy to sign documents and attend conferences, but step out of the room and they’re happy to have lunch and forget about it,” said Ottilia Maunganidze, a researcher on the International Crime in Africa Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria.

Maunganidze was addressing a roomful of experts and government officials mainly from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently to look at ways of turning commitments to counter human trafficking into action.

The key international framework for combating this crime is the 2000 UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, also known as the Palermo Protocol. Its lengthy definition of human trafficking includes “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception…for the purpose of exploitation.” Twelve of the SADC’s 15 member states have ratified the protocol, which committed them to enact legislation to make human trafficking a criminal offence.

''If trafficking is not a crime in your country, everything else is symptomatic''

More than a decade later, only six have passed comprehensive laws. Several others have partial laws or, in the case of South Africa, bills waiting to be passed, while five countries lack any specific legislation.

“If trafficking is not a crime in your country, everything else is symptomatic,” warned Johan Kruger of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Maunganidze pointed out that merely passing legislation is not enough. Mozambique has passed legislation, but has never prosecuted a case. “Criminalisation has to happen in practice,” she told the meeting.

This means developing national action plans that involve social workers, medical professionals, public prosecutors and the police; establishing a central anti-trafficking unit; allocating resources to assisting victims; and signing bilateral and multilateral agreements with the countries victims originate from and pass through.

SADC countries adopted a 10-year strategic plan of action to combat trafficking in persons in 2009 that incorporates many of these measures. There is also a protocol on gender and development with a deadline of 2015 to put in place measures to eradicate trafficking. Maunganidze says this is “probably very idealistic”, and cites the difficulty of identifying and addressing some of the root causes of trafficking, as well as the limited resources and political will so far devoted to responses.

Most trafficking in southern Africa is for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but trafficking for forced labour is growing and is even more hidden, according to Bernardo Mariano-Joaquim, regional representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Criminal syndicates are usually engaged in these activities, and many people still lack a clear understanding of what trafficking is, adding to the difficulty of detection and prosecution. “Organized crime can’t be prosecuted in the same fashion as other crimes,” said Kruger. “You have to connect the dots, you need proactive intelligence and international cooperation.”

“In Africa, we’re making some progress in creating an environment to assist victims, but where we need more work is prosecutions,” Mariano-Joaquim told IRIN. “Prosecution is lagging behind the identification of victims, and even prevention.”

ks/he
source http://www.irinnews.org

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definition of human traffickinginternational labour organizationjohannesburg south africairregular migration, andtrafficking in persons.

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