- By Albert Musasia
Archive for July 22nd, 2012
Posted by African Press International on July 22, 2012
Posted by African Press International on July 22, 2012
ZWEDRU, – Like most of his fellow refugees in Grand Gedeh county in the far east of Liberia, “Da Tatouwa” is from the Guéré ethnic group, and fear of an “anti-Guéré genocide” made him flee his home town of Bloléquin in the far west of Côte d’Ivoire in March 2011, as forces loyal to incoming President Alassane Ouattara overran the region. “What we are still waiting for is for Ouattara to offer his own mea culpa [admission that it is his fault], to account for what his allies did to us… Then we might think about going back.”
Da Tatouwa, the name he chooses to go by, is a senior figure in the Ivorian refugee community in Zwedru, the capital of Grand Gedeh, which enjoys strong ties with the Krahn of eastern Liberia. “I got away, but my uncle and brother were killed by the enemy as they took too long crossing the river,” he said.
He makes no secret of his allegiance to ousted Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo or his membership of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) – Ivorian Popular Front – but insists that “it is a question of ideology, not of personalities”.
Scars and memories
When a UN delegation visited the refugee camp established on land previously owned by the Prime Timber Production (PTP) company near Zwedru in May 2012, the US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told refugees, “We would like to understand better from you what conditions have to be present so you would feel comfortable to return home.” Thousands of refugees have crossed back into Côte d’Ivoire, but many remaining in the camps and host communities around Zwedru still talk bitterly of what they lived through and why they cannot go home.
Leontine, from Bloléquin, recalled watching rebels cut her husband’s throat in front of her, and then staying for days by his corpse. She was raped and robbed before making her way into Liberia. After receiving medical treatment in Monrovia, the capital, Leontine settled in Zwedru, living with her in-laws and two of her four children.
Annik Naho lives in the Solo refugee camp, 20km outside Zwedru. Her husband died of his wounds after a vicious attack when he crossed into Côte d’Ivoire to look for his son. Naho talked bitterly of living in the camp, the boredom and frustration, the difficulty of feeding and clothing children “who are still crying for their father”.
Asked if she planned to resettle in Côte d’Ivoire, Naho snapped back angrily, “There is no way I could go back – that is where they tried to cut my husband to pieces. There is nothing for me there. Find me another country which is safe and where my children can be looked after, but I am not going home.”
Waiting on Ouattara
The extreme violence perpetrated in western Côte d’Ivoire, including summary executions, rapes and brutal abductions, has been documented at length in reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others.
|There is no way I could go back – that is where they tried to cut my husband to pieces|
While pro-Gbagbo militias, Liberian mercenaries and regular troops have been accused of serious violations, so too have forces nominally aligned with Ouattara – notably the Dozos, traditional hunter-warriors from the north, the Forces Républicains de Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) – Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire – and assorted militias that had fought under the umbrella of the Forces Nouvelles since 2002.
Human rights activists have persistently called on Côte d’Ivoire President Ouattara to shed light on the atrocities committed by these combatants and to pursue the perpetrators, but have not been impressed by the response.
In April, Ouattara toured several former flashpoints in the west, including Bloléquin, Duékoué and Toulépleu. He called on refugees to return and pleaded for harmony and honesty, arguing that “reconciliation comes through pardon and repentance”, and that “those who seek forgiveness will see things go easier for them”.
Da Tatouwa is highly sceptical. “You have to question the sincerity of a man who talks of reconciliation while still carrying out witch-hunts inside Côte d’Ivoire, and while warlords are still calling the shots in the west.”
The Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission, comprising religious leaders, regional representatives and celebrities, has made little progress since it was set up by the Ivorian government in September 2011, and lacks effective leadership and direction, say Ivoirian rights groups.
The legacy of land disputes
For hardcore Gbagbo and FPI supporters, grievances focus more on the legacy of conflict in the west than on the national situation. Pierre Perico Nemonglo, a past associate of pro-Gbagbo youth leader Charles Blé Goudé, reels off a standard, pro-FPI narrative on the breakdown in Côte d’Ivoire, dismissing Ouattara as “the candidate of France – the France of Sarkozy”, and anticipates a new rash of protests when Gbagbo’s trial begins in the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 13 August.
“But it’s not now about Gbagbo and Ouattara - the real problems are in the west,” Nemonglo said. He warned that longstanding, complex land disputes – “les problèmes fonciers” (problems of land ownership) – which have pitted the Guéré against rival communities for years, could derail any prospects of genuine peace if not properly handled. “Ouattara is the president. It is now up to him to show he has the courage to deal with all this.”
Death in the forest
The killing of seven UN peacekeepers and a dozen civilians near Tai in southwestern Côte d’Ivoire on 8 June has not eased the refugees’ concerns. Rumours proliferate as to who was responsible – pro-Gbagbo militias, Liberian mercenaries, disaffected fighters who had supported Ouattara’s deceased occasional ally, Ibrahim Coulibaly, or even bandits. “We heard about the attack, but we have no real understanding of what went on there,” said Samuel, a stone mason from Toulépleu.
Liberian and Ivorian authorities responded quickly to the Tai incident. Liberia announced Operation Restore Hope, closed the frontier, dispatched troops to Zwedru and other border regions, issued a hastily compiled list of “wanted” individuals suspected of being involved in mercenary activity, and after the briefest of court hearings, extradited 41 Ivorian nationals who had spent months in detention. Liberia also promised much stronger cross-border cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire. Official enquiries into the Tai incident continue.
Mindful of the military
Senior aid officials acknowledge that Operation Restore Hope, the first large-scale security operation of its kind since the departure of former President Charles Taylor in 2003, has meant adapting to new, if temporary realities, having to consult with bodies like the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence and the senior command of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
Their hope is that the security goals will be rapidly obtained, the borders will soon reopen and the steady repatriation of refugees will resume. Until recently, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its local counterpart, the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) had presided over a steady repatriation of Ivorian refugees.
Biometric studies are still underway, but refugee numbers are now reportedly around 70,000, down from a peak of over 200,000. Liberians, who lose their refugee status at the end of July, have been steadily returning.
Chantal, a hairdresser from Abidjan, the commercial capital of Côte d’Ivoire, who lives in the PTP camp in Liberia, said the deployment of troops had been intimidating. “When the soldiers first came, they were very violent. You don’t want to see guns and uniforms when you’ve been through what we have.”
She was less keen to talk politics than some of her friends. While they showed communiqués full of refugee concerns, or proposed solutions to land disputes in Côte d’Ivoire, she spoke simply of her desire to get to “some other country – not Liberia, not Côte d’Ivoire – somewhere better.”
cs/aj/he source www.irinnews.org
Posted by African Press International on July 22, 2012
KATHMANDU, – Nepal’s politicians should give greater consideration to the distribution of natural resources in their ethnicity-based quarrels over how to federalize the fledging Himalayan democracy.
“If state restructuring is not properly planned, taking into account the distribution of Nepal’s natural resources, people will eventually be at each other’s throats,” Ratna Sansar Shrestha, a water analyst affiliated to Kathmandu University, warned. The geographically diverse and resource-rich but impoverished nation of 30 million wedged between China and India has been without an effective government since 2010.
Nepal’s road to democracy has not been easy, with much of the current debate now focusing on ethnic federalism and how to implement it. In late May 2012, the 600-member Constituent Assembly (CA) was dissolved after failing to draw up a constitution in its fourth and final attempt since the 10-year armed conflict between Maoist insurgents and security forces, which left over 13,000 people dead, ended in 2006. The next CA election will be held on 22 November 2012.
A 2012 World Bank outlook points out that 25 percent of Nepalese live below the international poverty line of less than US$1.25 per day, and two out of three live in rural areas, where they depend on agriculture for their livelihood. In the UN Human Development Index it is ranked at 157 out of 187 countries – among the poorest in the world. Only 16.7 percent of Nepal’s land is arable, yet agriculture makes up one-third of its GDP.
Although the situation now is relatively calm, some experts believe that access to natural resources – specifically water, forests and land – could easily prove a flashpoint for future discontent. A report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional think-tank, noted that local-level conflicts, caused by scarcity and the multifunctional nature of resources, were an inevitable part of Nepalese society. Many believe Nepal’s most recent armed conflict, which devastated the country, was sparked in part by regressive policies regarding people’s rights to access natural resources.
Hari Roka, a member of the recently dissolved CA and its Committee for Natural Resources and Means (CNRM), said the uneven distribution of resources had been a factor in high rates of under- or unemployment, leading to growing dissatisfaction with the ruling elite.
Political parties have not paid enough attention to how the boundaries in a federalized Nepal would separate dependent communities from their access to resources, said Jailab Rai, a researcher at the local NGO, Forest Action, and a lecturer at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University. “Our leaders have not yet meaningfully engaged on this issue and its implications – It seems they are not serious about the customary rights of indigenous communities.”
A few years ago, residents in mountainous Manang District fought with the villagers of neighbouring Gorkha District over the right to harvest “yartsa gunbu”, a fungus found in Manang District, which resulted in seven deaths.
The only thing everyone agrees on is that dividing up this landlocked nation and keeping everyone happy won’t be easy. Nepal has 102 ethnic groups and 17 officially recognized languages. The four failed attempts to produce a constitution illustrate the impact of their competing demands.
There are five development regions – Eastern, Central, Western, Mid-Western, and Far-Western – and 75 districts. Once a new CA has been elected, critical talks on resource distribution in relation to federalism should be held as soon as possible. “No one state or ethnicity will be immune. For better or for worse, the redistributed access to resources will affect everyone,” said Shanta Chaudhary, another former CA member.
Water as a flashpoint
Everyone needs water – for irrigation, drinking, transportation, energy, and even to promote tourism. In an underdeveloped setting like Nepal, “Federalisation… could lead to conflicting claims on the shares of water for irrigation and drinking,” said Pitamber Sharma, chair of the Resources Himalaya Foundation, a think-tank based in Kathmandu, the capital.
The “increasing production and productivity of hill agriculture is contingent on the expansion of year-round irrigation facilities. Sharing of water in the case of inter-provincial rivers could be a very contested issue,” Sharma noted. Less than half the cultivable land – 47.5 percent – is irrigated.
The World Food Programme (WFP) lists Nepal as a food deficit state, with rates of chronic malnourishment in children aged under five estimated at 48 percent, and an average rate of 60 percent in mountain areas, which is comparable to the rate of 42 percent found in Somalia.
With a number of major international dam projects now in the works – including a $1.8 billion dam being built by the Chinese across Nepal’s West Seti River – provinces with high hydro-potential in the hill and mountain areas may have an edge on economic and developmental progress as opposed to the southern Terai region, which is known as the country’s bread basket but has traditionally been under-represented in national politics.
How much energy a province – many of which stand to make millions by selling electricity to neighbouring India and China – should make available to others is still being disputed. The former CNRM’s Roka said ways should be found to ensure that local inhabitants also benefit from hydropower.
Kathmandu University’s Shrestha warned of “resource colonization”, in which the demands of neighbouring countries for energy ignore the needs of the Nepalese people.
“Provinces formed on the basis of single ethnic identity are likely to divide hydro-potential watersheds between provinces, leading to possible conflicts over the location of dams, sharing of costs – economic and environmental – and benefits from power generation,” Sharma said.
The 1991 Water Resources Act prioritizes water usage, with drinking water followed by irrigation in the top two spots, and hydropower placed fourth.
Roka said the CNRM had discussed the distribution and protection of resources, as well as the economic and environmental impact on provinces – for example, how deforestation in the Terai would have an effect on mountain regions.
“To ensure users’ rights, the CNRM proposed a federal act that gives the right to use forests, as well as the responsibility to protect them, to the locals.” But there is no way of knowing what support such a bill would have once it is formally tabled in a newly elected CA.
Other experts have suggested that many of the members on the CNRM knew very little about natural resources, which hampered their progress. Rai cautioned that a driver of resource-fuelled conflict could be how politicians deal with communities, and whether they act with votes or economic and social development in mind. Chaudhary notes that ongoing water-sharing disputes in India have affected the way communities defend their user rights.
“Inter-provincial tensions may arise when upstream communities are unable to use their water source lest it affect the capacity of the hydro-project downstream,” Shrestha warned. Politicians should not buy into the stereotype that Nepal is a water-rich country. “We have a severe temporal problem – four months of the year we have too much water, resulting in destructive flooding, and during the other eight months we have effective droughts,” he pointed out.
Most farmers rely on rainwater, but water shortages, more extreme temperatures and poor crop yields are pushing rural villagers closer to the brink as climate change grips Nepal, according to Oxfam.
Meanwhile, questions such as what provisions for water resources should be included in the new constitution are still being asked, with many now requesting additional research.
Posted by African Press International on July 22, 2012
KINSHASA, – Thousands of goat farmers in parts of Bandundu Province in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are counting their losses after an outbreak of the deadly livestock disease peste des petits ruminants (PPR).
“[Livestock] farmers have become miserable with many unable to sustain their livelihoods after the death of their goats and sheep,” Romain Badalalabuna, chairman of the livestock farmers’ association in the worst-hit area, Masimanimba Territory, told IRIN.
Badalalabuna, who is also the chief veterinarian there, had a flock of 38 goats, but 30 have died.
PPR symptoms include lassitude, fever, discharges from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, laboured breathing and diarrhoea.
The disease was first reported in 2012 in the Bandundu district of Kwango before spreading to Masimanimba where it has killed an estimated 24,000 sheep and goats, according to Anne Mbusu, Masimanimba Territory’s administrator. It has also spread to neighbouring Bas-Congo, Equateur and Kasai provinces.
The current outbreak is particularly lethal, with an 86 percent mortality rate in goats, according to a statement by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which said DRC is believed to have been infected since 2008 when the provinces of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa reported PPR outbreaks.
Masimanimba was home to 560,000 goats and sheep before the current outbreak.
The local authorities have been trying to raise awareness of the disease. “We went to radio stations to sensitize farmers that it was in their interest to slaughter animals that have caught the disease to protect those farmers that haven’t been affected yet,” said Mbusu.
PPR is not spread from livestock to humans.
Just over 80,000 goats and 40 sheep have died in Bandundu, according to Roger Penekoko, a provincial official in charge of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
The deaths have affected household incomes and could affect nutrition too.
“My goats were like a bank account for me. I could sell a goat to pay school fees, or hospital fees whenever a member of my family fell sick,” Dephin Mferre, a goat farmer, told IRIN.
Of Mferre’s initial flock of 21 goats, 20 have died since April, meaning that he is now unable to prepare his five children for the next school year.
Sheep and goats are generally kept by poor farmers – those least able to absorb the loss of one of their few assets, says FAO.
Government compensation for affected farmers has been ruled out. “Bandundu Province has a small budget of US$250,000. We don’t have a budget for emergencies like this disease,” said Penekoko, noting that the disease had stabilized in Masimanimba and other parts of Bandundu Province but that the vaccination of healthy animals was yet to start.
PPR, which is caused by a virus, is vaccine preventable.
FAO said the outbreak was a threat to DRC food security and could spread to southern African countries which have never had it. The government estimates that one million goats and 600,000 sheep are at risk of contracting PPR – a quarter of goats and two-thirds of sheep in the country.
In response to the current outbreak, farmers have been moving their animals away from infected villages to where, so far, there have been no outbreaks, said FAO representative in the DRC Ndiaga Gueye.
According to FAO, PPR, like rinderpest, can be eradicated “should there be the political will”.
“Excellent vaccines exist to protect small ruminants from PPR, and these can be a key weapon in combating it,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO’s chief veterinary officer.
FAO will provide funds for vaccinating at least 500,000 sheep and goats in areas that are not yet affected as well as other control measures such as limiting animal movements, awareness-raising and increasing surveillance.