Kenya, you’ve upped your own game and you’re going to have to follow through

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Well, thanks Kenya. It wasn’t enough that you guys haven’t let anyone else win a prize-money marathon in decades? Or that you genetically Barack, like, Obama’d? No, you had to go and effectively Arab-Spring the rest of Africa with your High Court ruling and your election second-attempt. My goodness, what divas. The entire world has […]

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Burundi: Target for ICC?

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi. The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.

Read reactions to the report

By Pierre Emmanuel Ndgendakumana 

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Burundi: Target for ICC?

Bujumbura (Burundi) – The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi. The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.

This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.

Read reactions to the report

By Pierre Emmanuel Ndgendakumana 

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For future disaster preparedness, Sierra Leone could look to Cuba

On August 14th, Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed 1,000 people, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital. Despite its portrayal as a natural disaster caused by days of heavy rain, “the tragedy was entirely man-made,” as writer Lansana Gberie states bluntly. The result of environmental degradation, lack of disaster preparedness and substandard housing for the poor, these deaths could have been avoided.

Much like the Ebola epidemic that killed 4,000 Sierra Leoneans in 2014, the deep roots of this disaster are the neocolonial structures and neoliberal policies that govern Sierra Leone. They assure, as Joshua Lew McDermott, the President of the African Socialist Movement International Support Committee, argues in Jacobin: that “… the levers of the Sierra Leonean state that could have checked the wealth extraction and bolstered domestic industries and social services were done away with in the name of fiscal austerity, debt repayment, and incentivizing foreign investment.”

While poverty constrains the resources available for disaster response, not all governments in poor countries are equally ineffective. The difference in government response is highlighted every time there is a major hurricane in the Caribbean, and many more die in Haiti than in Cuba. For example, Hurricane Matthew killed 546 in Haiti and only four in Cuba despite being of similar intensity in both locations (it also killed 47 Americans).

The government of Cuba, unlike Haiti’s, invests in meteorology, with dozens of weather stations to monitor, predict and track incoming storms. The victims in Sierra Leone sadly had no similar warning system. In Cuba, there are annual preparations and drills in May at the beginning of hurricane season. The military and police make plans for evacuations. In “areas identified as vulnerable,” authorities provide “electrical generators, drinking water and additional medical personnel in advance of the storm’s approach, as members of the community are bestowed with the responsibility of providing such essential services.”

Furthermore, the Cuban government provides its citizens with health care and education. “Compared to their Caribbean neighbors, Cubans are far better prepared for emergencies. Not only do they benefit from better infrastructure and housing, as well as a highly effective risk communication system, but more importantly, Cuba is populated by the most educated population in the developing world.” A more educated population better understands the risks posed by hurricanes and how to respond to them.

Although many dismiss Cuba’s success at minimizing the number of deaths due to hurricanes and other natural disasters as possible only in one-party state, “there’s little about its hurricane program that rests on authoritarianism.” While, “the hurricane response may be directed from the top down… it’s carried out by ordinary Cubans in their local communities, building on the regular training they receive.” There is no technical reason why Sierra Leone could not follow such a model of “total mobilization.” The problem is political will.

The real impediment is that neocolonialism and neoliberalism deprive the Sierra Leonean government of the fiscal capacity and policy space to solve the problems of substandard housing and lack of disaster preparedness. Many NGOs are doing an admirable job of replying to the crisis, but disaster relief is a core government function and the Sierra Leonean government is simply too small and disorganized to handle such crises.

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By Francisco Perez

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For future disaster preparedness, Sierra Leone could look to Cuba

On August 14th, Mudslides in Freetown, Sierra Leone killed 1,000 people, mostly inhabitants of the urban slums in the hills above the capital. Despite its portrayal as a natural disaster caused by days of heavy rain, “the tragedy was entirely man-made,” as writer Lansana Gberie states bluntly. The result of environmental degradation, lack of disaster preparedness and substandard housing for the poor, these deaths could have been avoided.

Much like the Ebola epidemic that killed 4,000 Sierra Leoneans in 2014, the deep roots of this disaster are the neocolonial structures and neoliberal policies that govern Sierra Leone. They assure, as Joshua Lew McDermott, the President of the African Socialist Movement International Support Committee, argues in Jacobin: that “… the levers of the Sierra Leonean state that could have checked the wealth extraction and bolstered domestic industries and social services were done away with in the name of fiscal austerity, debt repayment, and incentivizing foreign investment.”

While poverty constrains the resources available for disaster response, not all governments in poor countries are equally ineffective. The difference in government response is highlighted every time there is a major hurricane in the Caribbean, and many more die in Haiti than in Cuba. For example, Hurricane Matthew killed 546 in Haiti and only four in Cuba despite being of similar intensity in both locations (it also killed 47 Americans).

The government of Cuba, unlike Haiti’s, invests in meteorology, with dozens of weather stations to monitor, predict and track incoming storms. The victims in Sierra Leone sadly had no similar warning system. In Cuba, there are annual preparations and drills in May at the beginning of hurricane season. The military and police make plans for evacuations. In “areas identified as vulnerable,” authorities provide “electrical generators, drinking water and additional medical personnel in advance of the storm’s approach, as members of the community are bestowed with the responsibility of providing such essential services.”

Furthermore, the Cuban government provides its citizens with health care and education. “Compared to their Caribbean neighbors, Cubans are far better prepared for emergencies. Not only do they benefit from better infrastructure and housing, as well as a highly effective risk communication system, but more importantly, Cuba is populated by the most educated population in the developing world.” A more educated population better understands the risks posed by hurricanes and how to respond to them.

Although many dismiss Cuba’s success at minimizing the number of deaths due to hurricanes and other natural disasters as possible only in one-party state, “there’s little about its hurricane program that rests on authoritarianism.” While, “the hurricane response may be directed from the top down… it’s carried out by ordinary Cubans in their local communities, building on the regular training they receive.” There is no technical reason why Sierra Leone could not follow such a model of “total mobilization.” The problem is political will.

The real impediment is that neocolonialism and neoliberalism deprive the Sierra Leonean government of the fiscal capacity and policy space to solve the problems of substandard housing and lack of disaster preparedness. Many NGOs are doing an admirable job of replying to the crisis, but disaster relief is a core government function and the Sierra Leonean government is simply too small and disorganized to handle such crises.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Francisco Perez

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Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Continue reading on IPS

By Baher Kamal

Continue Reading

Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

Rome – When officials and experts from all over the world started the first-ever environmental summit hosted by China, they were already aware that climate and weather-related disasters were already seriously beginning to set the international agenda – unprecedented floods in South Asia, strongest ever hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and catastrophic droughts striking the Horn of Africa, among the most impacting recent events.

In fact, Ordos, China has been the venue of the 13th summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which has been focusing over the period 6-16 September on ways to further mitigate and prevent the steadily advancing desertification and land degradation worldwide.

Officials and experts from 196 countries attending the UNCCD 13th session –known as COP 13- are now expected to agree on a 12-year Strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water security.

Countries are also expected to announce their targets for land restoration, to agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and to agree on actions to strengthen the resilience of communities to droughts.

Desertification Everywhere

No wonder—globally, as many as 169 countries are affected by desertification, with China accounting for the largest population and area impacted, UNCCD warns.

Desertification is not just photogenic images of oceans of sand and dunes – it is a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilising communities on a global scale, according to UNCCD.

“As the effects of climate change undermine livelihoods, inter-ethnic clashes are breaking out within and across states and fragile states are turning to militarisation to control the situation.”

“If we are to restore peace, security and international stability in a context where changing weather events are threatening the livelihoods of more and more people, survival options are declining and state capacities are overburdened, then more should be done to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought. Otherwise, many small-scale farmers and poor, land-dependent communities face two choices: fight or flight.“

Famine in Africa, Again

Meanwhile, the most impacted continent by climate change and weather induced disasters – Africa, which contributes only 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – is now experiencing a scenario in its Eastern region of consecutive climate shocks causing back-to-back droughts that have left at least 8.5 million people in Ethiopia in dire need of food aid.

At the same time, severe drought has deepened in Somalia with the risk of famine looming on about half the population.

The death of livestock in the impacted areas has caused a breakdown in pastoral livelihoods, contributing to soaring hunger levels and alarming increases in malnutrition rates.

This is just a quick summary of the dramatic situation facing these two East African countries, which are home to a combined population of 113 million people (101,5 million in Ethiopia and 11,5 million in Somalia), and which are in need of additional urgent resources to prevent any further deterioration.

The situation has rapidly deteriorated, and the heads of the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, at the conclusion of a four-day visit to the affected areas, called for greater investment in long-term activities that strengthen people’s resilience to drought and the impacts of climate shocks.

“This drought has been going on for a long time and we have lost much of our livestock… If we didn’t get food assistance, we would be in big trouble – but this is still not enough to feed us all,” Hajiji Abdi, a community elder, last week said to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Continue reading on IPS

By Baher Kamal

Continue Reading