ReliefWeb Latest Reports for Country Office
• Flash floods in West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) over 23-25 Jan,
• One casualty, 21 affected villages, 2600 damaged houses, 7836 displaced people.
By SAW YAN NAING
Tensions remain high in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township after a bomb exploded in the town on Monday, injuring two people, according to local sources.
The explosion occurred outside the Jade City Hotel, a well-known hotel in the downtown area of Hpakant, located near a military base of the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 66.
Shwe Thein, head of the Hpakant branch office of the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that local residents are living in fear following the blast on Monday evening.
“The bomb went off around 6 pm,” he said. “It injured two people but no one died. Burma Army [soldiers] and police were deployed in the town. They formed an emergency checkpoint at the entrance to Hpakant town and searched everyone who entered.”
Recent fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) that broke out in the township on Jan. 15 forced up to 2,000 people to flee their homes, with many taking shelter in local churches.
Local residents are fearful that renewed fighting could erupt at any time. “We have to be on alert since the fighting broke out in Hpakant [on Jan. 15]. We live in worry,” Shwe Thein said.
The NLD official added that mining companies involved in the region’s lucrative jade industry were continuing to operate despite the instability, with Burma Army troops and police providing security.
Reverend Lama Yaw of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) told The Irrawaddy that the two men injured in Monday’s explosion were father and son.
“The bomb hit an old man and his son. We don’t know who is behind the explosion. But we also don’t think it will be disclosed,” Lama Yaw said.
On Jan. 15, a drive-by bombing involving an unknown motorcyclist at a police station in Lone Kin village, Hpakant Township, injured four family members of a police officer.
Local relief groups continue to voice concern for hundreds of villagers displaced in Hpakant with limited access to food, water and medical supplies. Some local sources have accused the military of using trapped villagers as human shields and forcibly conscripting some men into the Burma Army.
“We heard some 80 villagers, all men, were forced to go with Burma Army troops when they attacked the KIA recently,” Zua Naw of Tat Kaung Church in Myitkyina told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
Fresh fighting between Burma Army troops and allied forces of the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) also occurred in northern Shan State’s Namkham and Kutkai townships over the past few days, according to rebel sources.
TNLA spokesperson Mai Aie Kyaw confirmed to The Irrawaddy that fighting had broken out on Sunday and continued sporadically until noon on Tuesday.
Mai Aie Kyaw said government troops attacked TNLA forces when the latter group attempted to destroy a poppy plantation in an area of Namkham Township controlled by the Pansay militia, an influential local militia led by Kyaw Myint, a state-level parliamentarian from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
According to the TNLA’s information department, fighting in Namkham Township on Tuesday began around 8 am between TNLA Battalion 478 and Burma Army units from LID 88. No causalities have yet been reported.
The KIA and the TNLA are the only two major ethnic armed groups that have not signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government.
Speaking in Berlin today, foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen will express her appreciation and support for the work of Gavi – the vaccination alliance that runs major programmes in numerous developing countries. In her address to the Gavi Pledging Conference, her message will be clear: ‘Gavi is saving millions of lives, especially those of women and children. The results speak for themselves. That’s why the Netherlands firmly believes in supporting this work.’ Ms Ploumen will also announce an increase in the Netherlands’ support from €200 million to €250 million for the next five years.
Since the foundation of Gavi in 2000, almost 500 million children have been immunised against diseases like measles, German measles, diphtheria, tetanus and polio, as well as forms of diarrhoea, meningitis and pneumonia. As a result, six million lives have been saved. The partnership involving government authorities, various organisations, businesses and philanthropic foundations has also introduced the pentavalent five-in-one vaccine in all 73 Gavi-affiliated countries. The vaccine provides protection against five diseases and is therefore highly cost-effective, too.
In addition, some €50 million has also been recently invested in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. All three countries have been severely hit by Ebola, disrupting most of the routine vaccination programmes there. ‘Gavi is also playing a key role in encouraging the pharmaceutical industry to invest in developing an anti-Ebola vaccine,’ Ms Ploumen said.
The plans for 2016 to 2020 are ambitious. Over the next five years, Gavi wants to immunise another 300 million children and introduce 150 new vaccines. In addition, there are plans to vaccinate 30 million women against cervical cancer. In parallel with the HPV vaccine, information and services on a range of topics, including healthy nutrition and SRHR, will be made available to millions of adolescent girls.
Gavi’s innovative financing methods are also distinctive. Of the Dutch contribution, €180 million is being earmarked for basic financing. A new sum of €10 million is being donated to the Gavi Matching Fund: under this scheme, donations from the private sector are matched by public parties. The donation is made available if a business contributes an equal sum. According to Ms Ploumen, ‘This cooperation between the public and private sectors is very important. It means that more money becomes available and innovative plans can get off the ground much faster.’ The remaining €60 million will go to the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), which provides direct funding through the capital markets.
Zimbabwe: External evaluation of community based planning as an approach to facilitate durable solutions for internally displaced people in Zimbabwe
Final evaluation the NRCs Community Based Planning (CBP) project in Zimbabwe
The CBP project
In May 2014, NRC commissioned a final evaluation the Community Based Planning (CBP) project in Zimbabwe. The project, which had been running since 2010 was delivered in close partnership with local government actors and community leaders used CBP as an entry point to work with displacement affected communities. The main objective was to facilitate acceptance and reconciliation of IDPs, the host community and district actors and to link this to mainstream Government planning processes and ultimately the attainment of a ‘durable solution’ for Internally Displaced Persons and migrants.
Summary of NRC’s response to the evaluation
There are some important and valuable learning points in the evaluation which will be taken forward. However, the evaluation did not focus enough on how the CBP approach had been adapted to context of IDPs. It did not make any specific recommendations on the context nor evaluate on how successful the adaption of CBP for a humanitarian situation was.
Learning from the Evaluation
- CBP did bring reconciliation, recognition, acceptance and security for IDPs with host community. This was possible even with short term interventions and short funding periods
- CBP is an approach which build acceptance with local authorities and local leaders because it built on existing local structures and systems and complemented mainstream processes.
- There is a need to adapt the process to the local situation and context and adapt the tools and revise approach accordingly.
- There is a need to build in longer term funding cycles that enable NRC to build a level of sustainability which is not possible with shorter term interventions. This is particularly important when aiming to build capacity of communities and also to build local authority commitment to their responsibilities.
- The importance of including community based monitoring and reflection systems in the design and building this into project implementation from the start.
Planned use of the evaluation
- NRC used the evaluation to undertake advocacy with Local authorities and other stakeholders and in November and December 2014 NRC Zimbabwe incorporated some of the key message into the Exit Workshops.
- The country office will aim to further document some of the aspects of CBP that are not contained in this report.
- The experiences and lessons learned from the community based planning approach in Zimbabwe, beyond those included in the evaluation, must be captured in order to ensure organisational learning.
Advocacy with Local Authorities to mainstream CBP and to resource it from existing resourcing streams. Learning within NRC: in particular on
- how to facilitate community programming in different contexts,
- to identify the key elements of a community led development process,
- To develop community led monitoring and reflection systems and develop tools to facilitate this
Nashon Tado (20.01.2015)
NRC and Solvatten Foundation have partnered in Kenya’s Turkana County, supporting an innovative project that enables the local communities in Turkana West access safe water and improve their livelihood situation.
More households will be moving into the New Year with smiles on their faces as they become beneficiaries of the solar safe water equipment produced by Solvatten Foundation and distributed by NRC.
It is common knowledge that boiling can make water safe to drink. But it is not widely known that ultra-violet light also kills micro-organisms. The Solvatten jerrican uses heat, ultra-violet material and a built-in filter to deactivate the micro-organisms that cause disease. The equipment can treat water containing bacteria, viruses and parasites. Using a system similar to a portable solar heater, the simple technology can treat and heat 10 litres of water in 2 to 6 hours depending on sunlight intensity. Under optimal conditions, it can be used up to three times a day, providing 30 litres of safe and hot water to households.
Esther Lowoi, a mother of two children, is one of the beneficiaries of the Solvatten Solar Safe Water project. During an interview with NRC, she expressed her positive views about the technology, noting that it has significantly improved the lives of the community members using it, reducing reliance on firewood, freeing more time for income-generation and making it easier for families to cope with domestic duties.
“The jerrican helps me to prepare tea for my children, as well as warming water for bathing and laundry”, she said.
The refugee host community population is the main target of the project and members have been involved through Water, Sanitation and Hygiene committees established in the camps. Refugee new arrivals from South Sudan, settled in the new Kakuma 4 have also been targeted as they are more vulnerable to water-borne diseases.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:45 GMT
Author: Roshan Din Shad
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Financial hardship after a failed apple crop forced Aqeel Ahmed to give up his studies aged 20 and join a militant group fighting Indian rule across the border in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Read the full article on AlertNet.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Mbuji- mayi : le 2ème Secrétaire Exécutif Adjoint de la Caritas Congo ASBL en visite de solidarité et d’accompagnement
Mbujimayi, le 27 janvier 2015 (caritasdev.cd) : Monsieur Albert Mashika, 2ème Secrétaire Exécutif Adjoint de Caritas Congo ASBL vient d’effectuer une visite de solidarité et d’accompagnement à la Caritas développement Mbuji-Mayi (CDM) du 13 au 15 janvier.
Après avoir rappelé le rôle de la Caritas Congo ASBL vis-à-vis des Caritas diocésaines, à savoir veiller au respect de l’identité de l’Eglise et de sa doctrine sociale, coordonner les différentes activités du réseau Caritas en RDC, renforcer les capacités des Caritas Développement Diocésaines et mener un plaidoyer auprès des décideurs en vue de l’amélioration des conditions de vie de la population, le 2ème Secrétaire Exécutif Adjoint de la Caritas Congo ASBL s’est entretenu avec les différentes structures qui constituent la CDM, c’est-à-dire le Bureau Diocésain de Caritas (BDC), le Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD) et les services centraux (Administration, Finances, logistique).
Monsieur Albert Mashika a mis également son séjour kasaïen à profit pour évaluer sur terrain, en compagnie de Monsieur l’Abbé Alphonse Nkongolo Mulami, Coordonateur de la CDM, la mise en œuvre de quelques projets. C’est le cas de la construction des écoles à Tshitenge, à 15 km de Mbujimayi, et à Tshilenge, à 45 km de Mbujimayi, dans le cadre du Projet de Réhabilitation et Reconstruction des Infrastructures Scolaires (PRRIS).
Trois écoles ont été prises pour échantillon sur les dix à construire dans le diocèse de Mbujimayi, avec le financement du Gouvernement de la RDC par l’entremise du Bureau Central de coordination (BCECO). Il s’agit des écoles primaires Kambaja, Miya et Kibikonyi.
Le 2ème Secrétaire Exécutif Adjoint a clôturé sa mission par une réunion d’échanges avec Monsieur l’Abbé Coordonnateur de la CDM autour de différents points relevés au cours de sa visite.
MANILA, Jan. 28 -- Leaders from various sectors called on the public to remain committed to the peace process amidst recent challenges, especially the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25, which claimed nearly 50 lives.
“[It’s] difficult but we still have to believe in the peace process. My brother, a captain, was killed in Basilan in 1998. I dedicated my support to waging peace in memory of his sacrifice,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said. The solon intimated that among those killed in Mamasapano was his cousin.
“The natural emotional tendency is to condemn, to doubt, to grieve and to call for aggression,” he added. “But the courageous thing for us to do is to pray and to believe, still.”
“The CBCP [Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines] mourns with the families of the gallant policemen, victims of an utterly senseless act of violence in Mindanao,” CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said. According to Villegas, while the CBCP condemns such violence, “we cannot side with those who call for the discontinuance of peace talks.”
“If anything, this sad incident underscores the necessity and the urgency of arriving at a solution that is not rushed but that is inclusive, principled and just to all,” Villegas said.
Several civil society organizations also called on the public to remain sober in the wake of the tragedy and highlighted the necessity of continuing with the peace process.
“As a nation, we need to be reminded about the importance of peace in Mindanao. We reiterate that between an ‘all-out war’ vs. an ‘all-out peace’, the former has been proven to be the most expensive,” the Al Qalam Institute said in a statement.
“We call for sobriety for all, including our policy makers, pleading and imploring your kind hearts not to derail nor halt the legislative hearing on [the] Bangsamoro Basic Law [BBL] because this will just clearly hinder us in attaining our goals for lasting peace in Mindanao,” the statement of the Lanao Peace Advocates reads.
The organization also reminded the public that “the tragedy should not be used to blind us in attaining what we desired as outcome of the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF].”
“We call for all parties to continue pursuing the roadmap for peace in Mindanao,” it added.
“We maintain our support for the peace process,” the Mindanao Business Council said, while urging leaders in government and the private sector to be “careful and prudent in issuing public statements,” and asking members of the business community to extend assistance to the victims and their families.
“We need to recognize that our government and the MILF have established a ceasefire mechanism to handle proper coordination protocols on the ground,” the Al Qalam Institute reminded the public. “Despite several major conflicts in the past, the mechanism allowed the peace talks to continue and move forward for more than 16 years.”
Ceasefire is working
Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., chairman of the government’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), has reported that retrieval operations of the dead, wounded, and surviving Special Action Force personnel have been completed.
“We want also to report that we were able to immediately restore the ceasefire,” Galvez added in his report. Members of the government and MILF ceasefire committees, along with the International Monitoring Team also facilitated the retrieval of those who died and the safe passage of those who were still inside the area. More than 30 lives were saved from the brunt of the encounter in Mamasapano and civilians were spared from displacement through the ceasefire and peaceful evacuation of the troops.
“We would like to acknowledge the courage and boldness of our International Monitoring Team Member from Norway and Joint CCCH staff under MILF’s ceasefire chair, Rashid Ladiasan,” Galvez added. “Notwithstanding the ensuing intense firefight they proceeded to the encounter site to effect the ceasefire and facilitate the extrication of surviving troops and retrieve the cadavers under PNP SAF.”
The CCCH was created in 1997, and is composed of members from both the government and the MILF, along with neutral parties. Its mandate is to monitor the implementation of the GPH-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and settle complaints on ceasefire violations to contain and prevent conflicts from escalation.
The IMT, on the other hand, monitors the ceasefire, socio-economic and humanitarian agreements between the government and the MILF. (opapp.gov.ph)
Lessons from the Ebola crisis
The 2014–15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has demonstrated again the urgent need for strong leadership and coordination when responding to global health emergencies. All actors in the Ebola crisis appreciate that this has been a challenging response, and many agencies (including Oxfam) have struggled to identify and establish their role in the process. As a result, there have been multiple failures by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies. These failures have left many people vulnerable.
To ensure a better international response to future epidemics in developing countries, we need to learn lessons from the current crisis. An improved system is required. This discussion paper examines shortcomings of WHO and other agencies in the Ebola response and provides recommendations for improving international structures and governance. It is one of a series of Oxfam papers on the Ebola crisis and response.
26 janvier 2015 – La Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en République centrafricaine (MINUSCA) s'est déclaré indignée par l'enlèvement dimanche 25 janvier du Ministre centrafricain de la jeunesse et des sports, Armel Sayo.
« La MINUSCA condamne fermement cet enlèvement qui survient après plusieurs actes de même nature au cours de la semaine écoulée. Elle exige la libération immédiate et sans conditions du ministre et la fin de telles pratiques criminelles qui sapent les efforts destinés à restaurer l'autorité de l'Etat, faciliter la réconciliation nationale et le retour de la paix », a déclaré la Mission dans un communiqué de presse.
La Mission a ajouté qu'en soutien aux autorités nationales, elle mettait en œuvre tous les moyens que lui donne son mandat « pour trouver une issue heureuse à ce grave incident et pour éviter la répétition de tels actes intolérables ».
Ce weekend, la MINUSCA s'était réjouie de l'annonce vendredi de la libération d'une travailleuse humanitaire française et d'un religieux centrafricain qui avaient été enlevés.
Le Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général pour la République centrafricaine et Chef de la MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye, a exhorté les groupes armés à sortir de la spirale de violence inutile et à s'insérer résolument dans le cadre des consultations en vue de leur participation au Forum de Bangui destiné à créer les conditions d'une paix durable en République centrafricaine.
De son côté, la Coordonnatrice humanitaire principale pour le pays, Claire Bourgeois, a appelé à mieux protéger les communautés déplacées après avoir visité vendredi Batangafo, où se trouvent plus de 30.000 déplacés. Elle a estimé que des mesures urgentes étaient nécessaires pour protéger les civils qui risquent d'être attaqués, notamment dans l'ouest.
Finland has, on 26 January, granted one million euros in humanitarian aid to the International Red Cross for the work to combat Ebola in West Africa. This support for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is channelled through the Finnish Red Cross.
The Ebola epidemic that began in the south-eastern parts of Guinea in March 2014 has proved to be the worst in history, and cases of the disease still occur in the region. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries most affected by the Ebola virus, are in need of support because their already weak health care systems suffer from a lack of resources. At present it is particularly important to bring new infections to a halt. Although in places the number of infections has already been reduced, the number continues to rise in some areas. The United Nations is also concerned that donor interest in Ebola will end even though the epidemic has not been curbed yet.
The support granted by Finland is targeted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for its work to spread information, promote bringing to treatment and safe burial practices, and to provide psychosocial support and clinical care. The Finnish Red Cross will also participate in the opening of the new treatment centre set up in Kono, Sierra Leone through logistics and IT services as well as personnel assistance.
Finland thus far has granted a total of 3.9 million euros in humanitarian aid to the work against Ebola. In total, 2.2 million euros of this sum has been channelled through the Finnish Red Cross and IFRC. The support is paid from the appropriations for humanitarian assistance included in Finland’s development cooperation. Aside from humanitarian aid, Finland granted 7.1 million euros to the UN Ebola Response Fund established in October 2014.
Additional information: Anna Gebremedhin, Head of the Unit for Humanitarian Assistance, tel. +358 295 351 038
The African Development Bank Group is firmly committed to ensuring food security in the Sahel region, especially in Niger, to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations in this region.
On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, the Bank and the Government of Niger signed two agreements at the Bank's Abidjan headquarters. The first signature was for $42 million – $21 million in loans and $21 million as a grant. The second agreement relates to a grant equivalent of approximately $19.2 million.
Janvier Litse, AfDB Acting Vice-President responsible for Regional Operations, co-signed on behalf of the Bank. He said the agreements demonstrate a clear desire to move forward and fight poverty: "These two programmes to build socio-economic systems and resilience against food insecurity are strategic operations for the whole Sahel and particularly for Niger," he said, adding that interventions will be focused on a series of priority actions involving water management, protection of the environment, and improving agricultural production and productivity.”
Niger's Minister of Planning, Land Use Planning and Community Development Amadou Boubacar Cissé welcomed "these two important agreements for our country, for the implementation of a multi-national food security resilience programme in the Sahel. These two programmes are essential parts of our region's overall development strategy and we reiterate our gratitude to the whole Bank."
The Minister emphasised that "reaching an agreement on these two new operations reflects the relevance of our dialogue with the AfDB and of the efforts both parties are making."
The AfDB's total operations in Niger, since it started operations in that country in 1970, amount to approximately $1 billion.
MOGADISHU— Somalia's president signed into law the Convention on the Rights of the Child on January 20. Somalia’s children continue to face daily challenges posed by conflict, displacement, malnutrition and disease. One in seven die before reaching the age of five and fewer than half of the children attend school.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud officially ratified the convention on the rights of children at a ceremony held in a Mogadishu school.
“We want our children to be leaders who can take on national and international responsibilities. Some of the children in front of me today will be among the leaders that take responsibility for the Somali nation and the world as well,” said the president.
Somalia is the 195th state party to sign the document. The convention articulates a set of universal rights to protect children. Among them is right to life, survival and development.
Decades of conflict in the East African nation have raised its child and maternal mortality rates to among the worst in the world. But with the recent signing, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has expressed hope that in the near future Somalia's government will be in a position to protect its own children.
"UNICEF looks forward to working with the government to implement this Convention and work towards achieving key results on the protection of children's rights within the next two years. The next two years are actually key because as a government they will be submitting the first progress report of the implementation of this Convention,” said UNICEF Somalia country representative, Stephen Lauwerier.
According to U.N. figures, one in seven Somali children die before reaching the age of five, mostly from preventable illnesses, and only four in 10 children are in school.
Human rights activists in Mogadishu welcomed the signing as a positive step. Amina Arale of the Somali Women Development Center (SWDC) said the Somali government would now be held accountable for any violation against children.
“It’s the responsibility of the government to ensure the rights of children are protected. By signing the agreement, the government can be held accountable on any crime committed on children at the courts. The Somali children now have a golden opportunity and will have their rights protected,” she said.
Although implementing the accord will take time, the government said it would now work on drafting and adopting child-friendly policies and systems, implement measures to boost child survival, development, participation and protection, and provide regular reports on its progress to the U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: RD Congo - Sud-Kivu : Mouvements de population au 31 décembre 2014 (janvier 2009 - décembre 2014)
Le Sud-Kivu compte 609 566 personnes déplacées internes au 31 décembre 2014.
Ce chiffre représente une diminution de 8 760 déplacés soit 1,4% de moins qu’au 30 septembre 2014 (618 326). Cette faible variation du nombre total de déplacés est principalement due aux affrontements entre les Forces Armées de la RDC (FARDC) et la milice Raïya Mutomboki (RM), notamment dans les régions nord et est de Shabunda, ainsi que la région ouest de Kabare frontalière avec le Territoire de Walungu. 37 765 nouveaux déplacés ont été enregistrés durant la période d’octobre à décembre 2014 suite à l’insécurité.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: RDC - Province du Katanga : Personnes déplacées internes par zone de santé (décembre 2014)
The Council of Representatives (COR) today launched in Baghdad the NGO Human Rights Advisory Board, which will assist the parliament's Human Rights Committee to effectively engage with the civil society and promote human rights through the legislative body. The UN development agency (UNDP) played an instrumental role in creating this platform, first of its kind in Iraq.
"The parliament needs to consult and communicate with the Iraqi people; the board will handle the parliament's civil society consultations in relation to human rights laws," said Arshad Al Salihi, Head of the Human Rights Committee.
The main function of the board is to substantively contribute to the legislative process, particularly in relation to the development of human rights policies. The board, together with the Human Rights Committee and other relevant institutions, is also expected to strengthen the civil society oversight of the government’s performance.
In 2012, UNDP facilitated the first meeting between civil society organizations and the parliament. Consultations took place in different parts of the country. Civil society organizations nominated 19 representatives as members of the board. Three other members joined the NGO Human Rights Advisory Board to speak for Iraqi minorities.
“The promotion of participatory governance and human rights in Iraq requires that voices of people, their interests and opinions be incorporated in the legislative process and policy making," said Ms. Rini Reza representing UNDP. "The UN development agency will continue and provide support to a meaningful engagement and true partnership between the legislative body and civil society in Iraq," she concluded.
Dr. Slaeem Al Joubori, Speaker of the Council of Representatives, congratuled UNDP and the Human Rights Committee on the establishment of this advisory platform and promised to use this experience as a model for future councils supporting other parliamentary committees.
Nahid Hussein, Programme Manager Parliament, Human Rights and Civil Society
(m) +964 781 859 5630
Democratic Republic of the Congo: RDC - Province du Katanga: Personnes déplacées internes par territoire (décembre 2014)
Yemen’s UN-backed transition has unravelled and the country has entered a new, highly unstable phase. On 22 January President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the prime minister resigned after Huthi fighters seized the presidential palace and consolidated control of the capital. This has upended the troubled transition and raises the very real prospect of territorial fragmentation, economic meltdown and widespread violence if a compromise is not reached soon. At this point, there is little external actors can do, with the possible exceptions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, to influence the calculus of Yemeni stakeholders, and the choice for the Yemenis is stark: either agree to an inclusive political settlement based on compromise, or suffer a descent into Libyan-style violent conflict and national fragmentation. It is in no party’s interest, with the exception of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and, to a lesser extent, some components of the southern Hiraak, to let things go that far.
The most recent crisis was triggered by a dispute between the Huthis, a predominantly Zaydi/Shiite movement also known as Ansar Allah, and President Hadi over a draft constitution that has controversial language concerning the divisive, unsettled issue of the country’s future federal arrangement. It started when the Huthis kidnapped presidential adviser Ahmed Bin Mubarak earlier this month, which sent a message to Hadi that they would not accept a constitution based on six-region federalism, a division that Mubarak supported and that the Huthis suspected him of trying to push through without their consent. But the political challenge quickly morphed into a military confrontation between Huthi fighters, who had largely controlled the capital since September 2014, and Hadi’s special guards. The Huthis easily won, completing their military dominance and placing the president under virtual house arrest.
The two sides signed an agreement on 20 January in which the president capitulated to Huthi demands, all of which focused on speedy implementation of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), an accord signed in the wake of the September Huthi takeover of Sanaa and built on the country’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) completed in January 2014. In theory, their demands were reasonable, but any pretext of a political process had dissipated. The Huthis’ leader, Abdul-Malik al-Huthi, gave Hadi one week to implement the agreement, or “all options are on the table”, a thinly veiled threat of violence. Rather than implementing Huthi commands at gunpoint, Hadi and the prime minister resigned, throwing the political system into crisis.
Until now, the Huthis have been pushing against an open door politically and militarily, facing only pockets of resistance as they have spread south. They have capitalised on widespread frustration with the transition as well as the state’s weakness to rapidly expand their political support and territorial control far beyond their northern strongholds. Their anti-corruption and anti-old-regime narratives resonate widely, and in some ways the Huthis have now shifted power dynamics far more even than the 2011 uprising that precipitated the end of the Ali Abdullah Saleh regime. Indeed, and somewhat paradoxically, they aligned with disgruntled tribesmen and supporters of Saleh in 2013 and 2014 to defeat common enemies in the north – enemies including tribal elements affiliated with the Sunni Islamist party, Islah, the Ahmar family and General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a general who led the fight against the Huthis under Saleh but turned against his boss during the uprising. In September 2014, Huthi fighters took Sanaa easily. Large parts of the security forces – many affiliated with Saleh and all frustrated with President Hadi and the transition – either joined them or refused to fight.
But now the Huthis may have pushed too far and become victims of their own unexpected success. Already, their post-September consolidation of power in Sanaa and rapid expansion along the Red Sea coast and southward from the capital has sparked resistance, especially in predominantly Shafai (Sunni) areas like Taiz and Marib. In the latter, where Islah-affiliated tribesmen are aligning with AQAP to defend their areas against Huthi advances, the conflict is taking on a dangerous sectarian tone previously not present in Yemen. Southern separatists wary of their fate under a Huthi-dominated north and sensing a political opportunity to unify their divided ranks within the umbrella Hiraak movement and possibly gain regional support from Saudi Arabia, have redoubled their calls for independence.
Now the leadership vacuum has placed the Huthis and the country in a bind. The president and government ministers are under house arrest, and there is no consensus among the political groups on how to resolve the crisis. Parliament scheduled a session for 25 January to either confirm or reject Hadi’s resignation, but then was forced to postpone it, in part because of a boycott by southern members, thereby deepening the constitutional crisis and paralysis. Moreover, hours after Hadi announced his resignation, the security council of Aden governorate, a governmental body that includes the mayor and local security officials, declared it would no longer take orders from Sanaa.
Similar reactions are coming from central parts of Yemen, where the Huthis’ main political adversary, Islah, is seeing a new opportunity to fight back, organising popular demonstrations. Even Saleh, who has benefited from the Huthis’ victories against common enemies, is giving signals he may use the current circumstance to move against them and organise a comeback for his allies through elections.
The current situation is dire, but it offers opportunities as well. All political groups, as well as the majority of average citizens, are dissatisfied with Hadi’s stewardship of the transition. Since the September takeover, especially, he is widely perceived as weak and unable to put the political process back on track. His departure, while destabilising, offers a chance to Yemenis to select a more broadly acceptable and effective leadership. This, in turn, would make it possible to forge the informal political consensus necessary to implement and clarify existing transitional agreements.
Until now, the Huthis have had little incentive to compromise. As the victors, they have increasingly been enforcing their interpretation of existing agreements, while claiming to speak for all Yemenis. In doing so, however, they are alienating and even radicalising their opponents, particularly Islah and southern separatists. Under the current circumstances, any attempt by the Huthis (Ansar Allah as they prefer to be called) to form a military or presidential council without genuine buy-in from other parties would result in a significant domestic and international backlash against them.
They cannot run the government without participation from the political parties. Equally important, they need to maintain the support of donors to prevent a financial freefall and humanitarian disaster. Saudi Arabia, which has kept Yemen’s government afloat with over $4 billion since 2011, cut direct support to the government already in response to the September takeover. Were the Huthis to insist on unilateral control now, it would only toughen the Saudi position and encourage other donors to follow suit. Domestically it would fortify the south’s resolve for separation and could provide the incentive for Saudi Arabia to support its independence against a Huthi-dominated north. Central parts of the country also could fracture, especially oil-rich Marib. None of this would serve the Huthis’ interest. Huthi representatives say they want an inclusive solution, but their actions are what matter now.
The only peaceful solution that could halt centrifugal forces and economic collapse is a genuinely inclusive political settlement between all major stakeholders, including Ansar Allah, Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, the Joint Meeting Parties bloc (of which Islah is the main part) and as many southern movement components as possible. Until now, the Huthis undisputedly have had the upper hand. But their rash overextension offers other groups the opportunity to push back and make demands in return for their participation. The most immediate issue is executive authority, as the vacuum at the top is leaving a country already teetering on the economic abyss rudderless and dangerously adrift. A number of options are available, the most prominent of which are convincing Hadi to withdraw his resignation, forming a presidential committee to guide the transition until elections can be held or, alternatively, following the constitution by holding presidential elections 60 days after parliament meets and its speaker becomes acting president. Of these, reverting to Hadi after all that has transpired is probably the least desirable, as it is unlikely to change the transition’s downward spiral. Between the other two, there is no easy choice: both have advantages and disadvantages. There are also variations of these three positions under discussion. The most important thing is for Yemenis to agree together on the best path and to ensure that any solution reached produces an executive broadly acceptable to all parties. To the extent possible, it is also best that the solution chosen is accommodated within the framework of the constitution.
An agreement on the executive would be only the first step. Any durable settlement must address unresolved issues, particularly pre-election power sharing as well as the contentious matter of state structure and the future of the south. To the extent possible, the settlement also should reflect the NDC outcome, which benefited from wide participation not limited to those with guns. These issues have been a persistent source of conflict and will continue to plague any political process until they are addressed. If the heightened threat of fragmentation and serious conflict does not persuade all groups to make greater concessions, the country is likely to slide into sectarian conflict, egged on by regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It is up to the Yemenis to reach a compromise. External actors, with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia and Iran, have little leverage to influence the calculus of key players. Saudi Arabia theoretically has the financial clout and connections with all of them to encourage an inclusive settlement over unresolved issues, but until now it has chosen not to do so. Riyadh seems spooked by a perceived Iranian role in the Huthis’ victory, and therefore appears intent on reversing that victory by any means, whereas it is probably overstating Tehran’s hand and might be much more successful in keeping Yemen safely within its geostrategic orbit if it sought to negotiate with the Huthis, using the power of the purse. Encouraging the Huthis to be a constructive component within an inclusive national government would also work to resist al-Qaeda, a group anathema to both Saudi Arabia and the Huthis.
Thus far, the Huthis have had notable success in battling al-Qaeda. But, their willingness to lead the fight has also resulted in a recruitment boom for their adversary, who is aligning with tribes that view Huthis as invaders and is using explicit sectarian language against Shiites generally to catalyse the fight. U.S. interests would be well served by encouraging the Saudis to reach out to the Huthis and incentivise their integration into an inclusive government that can fight al-Qaeda. The Friends of Yemen group (which includes the GCC, members of the G8, and representatives of the UN, the EU, the Arab League, IMF and World Bank), should also urge the Saudis to support Yemen economically as a way of preventing an economic collapse and tying the Huthis into the state to avoid its disintegration.
Iran, too, could play a constructive role, namely by advising the Huthis against overstretch and exclusion, which is threatening the movement’s significant political gains. Irrespective of its exact relationship with Ansar Allah, Iran is enjoying a political and propaganda boost regionally as a result of the Huthis’ victories. Neither Iran nor the Huthis would benefit from the economic collapse and conflict that is sure to come if an inclusive national compromise is not reached soon.
The UN special envoy can also help to bring actors together, but the final decision to either fight or compromise lies squarely with the Yemenis. The Huthis, first and foremost, need to be convinced that their own long-term interest is to pursue a negotiated solution. If they can be, the other political parties and some of Hiraak’s components are likely to follow suit. But if, on the contrary, the Huthis proceed on their current perilous course, it will be “game on”, and their opponents will continue to gear up for a struggle no one can win.
Two persons were shot dead in North Darfur by militiamen on Sunday and Monday, and a number of people sustained injuries in a road robbery near a gold mining site. A hospital in Saraf Umra was robbed on Monday.
Members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) attacked Rahad Bisha in Kutum locality on Monday morning, and shot dead Aboud Nada. They also stole 1,100 camels and 210 cows. The MP for Um Baru and Karnoi constituencies, Mohamed Ahmed Minawi Digeish, further reported to Dabanga that the paramilitary force was stationed at Um Mahareik before it moved in dozens of vehicles to Rahad Bisha.
“Since the start of the military operations, militias have directly and systematically targeted civilians to impoverish and displace them, strip them off their wealth and property, destroy and occupy the water sources and deny citizens and all their livestock access for drinking water,” Digeish claimed.
On Sunday evening, pro-government militiamen killed a man in an area south-east of Kafod in El Fasher locality. A relative of the deceased Hassan Mahmoud explained that three militia members on camels attacked Taigi at 8 pm. After killing Mahmoud, they robbed about 100 of his sheep and goats.
A witness added that on Monday, a local rescue team tracked down the traces of the perpetrators, which ended up in Um Jalbak.
In Argo camp for internally displaced people, 200 sheep were stolen by militiamen early Monday morning. Omda Mukhtar Bosh reported to Dabanga that pro-government militiamen attacked the camp in Tawila locality at 1 am, while opening fire into the air. They took the sheep, all of which belonged to the displaced people who recently fled from the fighting in East Jebel Marra, and took off on their camels. The Omda reported no casualties or wounded.
Militiamen rob hospital
Pro-government militiamen also stole refrigerators and generators working on solar energy, from a hospital in Saraf Umra locality. The director of the hospital in Birkat Seira, Dr Mustafa Abaker Mustafa, also reported that medicines and hospital equipments were damaged during the robbery on Monday.
Meanwhile in the Jebel 'Amer gold mining area in El Sareif Beni Hussein locality, pro- government militia members intercepted a commercial vehicle while it was on its way to Saraf Umra. The militants, driving in a Land Cruiser, intercepted the vehicle at gunpoint and beat the passengers with rifle butts. The passengers were alternately robbed of their money, gold and mobile phones.
One of the victims revealed to Dabanga that the vehicle owner, named Adam Bella, was seriously injured and taken to a hospital in El Geneina for treatment
Senior doctors in Sudan and abroad have submitted a memorandum to the Sudanese president about the health situation of political prisoners.
The 109 signatories stressed that these detainees, of whom Faroug Abu Eisa and Dr Amin Mekki Madani are the most prominent, were degraded in their human dignity and diminished of the right to medical treatment.
In the memorandum, the doctors demanded a prompt decision to release the detainees or to guarantee their rights to health care, “in a manner that preserves their lives and dignity”. They also called for the formation of a neutral committee comprised of the signatories, that medically examines the political detainees.
The spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in December stated that she was concerned about the health of Abu Eisa and Dr Madani. “We have received information indicating that there are serious concerns about the health and safety of Dr Medani, 76 years, and Dr Eisa, 78 years. Both men require essential daily medication as they are diabetic and Dr Medani has high blood pressure while Dr Eissa suffers from cyanosis,” Ravina Shamdasani stressed in a press statement.
The signatories concluded the memorandum by wishing that those who have enforced the arbitrary detention and violated the rights of the detainees are held accountable for their crimes.
Abu Eisa, head of the National Consensus Forces, and Dr Madani, chairman of the Civil Society Initiative, signed the political communiqué named the Sudan Appeal with Sudanese rebel and opposition movements, They were detained by security officers in Khartoum after their arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 6 December. They are charged with undermining the constitutional order, and instigating war against the state.
Abu Eisa was taken to hospital on 24 December. His family worried that his health would deteriorate rapidly. “My father has lost a lot of weight caused by solitary confinement for more than two weeks,” daughter Nahla Abu Eisa told the press in Khartoum.
Their defence lawyers accused the Sudanese authorities of prolonging their detention without any legal justification. Many rights organisations and political parties have condemned the actions taken against the two Sudan Appeal signatories and a number of sit-ins have been held since their detention.