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Where are Burundi’s missing witnesses to crimes against humanity?

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:22:41 +0000

In Burundi, it’s not just witnesses to the politically motivated string of murders, torture, and rapes who are going missing, it’s also the perpetrators, underscoring the enormous scale of the challenge now facing the International Criminal Court. So great are the risks to the “life and wellbeing” of potential witnesses to alleged crimes against humanity committed by state agents here that ICC judges agreed for the first time to deliberate in secret before deciding the tribunal’s chief prosecutor could step up her enquiries. Fears of a Kenya-style witness tampering campaign appear well-founded: Several people with first-hand knowledge of crimes implicating police, soldiers, and militia members have disappeared or been killed in Burundi, according to relatives and rights groups. An ICC judges’ ruling has authorised Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to elevate her “preliminary examination” to an “investigation”, paving the way for eventual arrest warrants, criminal charges, and trials. The judges cited Bensouda’s affirmation: “[The] Government of Burundi has not merely been uncooperative but has actively sought to target, both in Burundi and abroad, persons who it perceives could implicate it in the crimes alleged, as established by additional sources.” And, in another unprecedented decision, the judges allowed Bensouda to wait a full 10 days before informing the Burundian government that such permission had been granted. In so doing, they granted time for witness protection measures to be put in place and lent credence to Bensouda’s view that the “concrete possibility of an investigation [was] likely to affect the calculations of those implicated by the crimes”. The alleged crimes in question include: murder and attempted murder, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty, torture, rape, enforced disappearance, and persecution. According to the prosecutor, high-ranking officials of the Burundian government, the police, the intelligence service, the military, and also the Imbonerakure (the ruling party’s youth wing), appear to be those most responsible for the most serious crimes. “The Chamber considers that multiple sources indicate that the Government of Burundi has interfered with, intimidated, or harmed victims and witnesses,” the judges’ decision read. 30 months of hell Such a campaign appears to have begun soon after the country was plunged into a violent crisis in April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term in office (widely deemed unconstitutional) prompted street protests, a heavy-handed response from security forces, and an attempted coup. A list of dozens of Burundians “forcibly disappeared” over the past two-and-a-half years has been published on a dedicated website called Ndondeza, which is the Kirundi for “Help me to find him”. Names on the list include those of activists and politicians from various parties, journalists, state intelligence agents, police and army officers, Imbonerakure members, and would-be refugees detained while trying to leave Burundi. “People implicated in crimes are often eliminated in the same way as their victims,” explaned Pacifique Nininahazwe, who is president of the Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement (the organisation behind the Ndondeza campaign) as well as a leading opponent of Nkurunziza’s third term in office. Speaking to IRIN by phone from Europe where he is living in exile, Nininahazwe said there were already several cases of Imbonerakure members being eliminated after having been “implicated in odious crimes”, including those who attempted to assassinate Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, the country’s leading human rights activist. Missing perpetrators Among this category of missing is Aimé Aloys Manirakiza, who has not been seen since May 2017. “He was one of the Imbonerakure in Musaga zone,” Manirakiza’s wife, Allaine Vanessa Kaneza, said in a blog post, the authenticity of which she confirmed to IRIN by phone from Rwanda, to where she fled in Octo[...]



South Sudan needs bold alternatives, not this dumpster fire of failed interventions

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:03:17 +0000

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, did not mince her words. "We are not waiting anymore. We need to see a change,” she announced after meeting South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir on a visit to Juba last month. “We have lost trust in the government."   Haley has steadily escalated her rhetoric against Kiir throughout the first year of President Donald Trump’s administration. However, this rhetoric still awaits a clear policy, while the international community is continuing to back a failed power-sharing agreement instead of seeking bold alternatives to end the war.   As I wrote here a year ago, South Sudan’s collapse is a product of its winner-take-all political competition in a country that is, fundamentally, a stateless union of ethnopolitical blocs.    The volatile combustion that this radical experiment produced continues to erupt and spill over, with estimates of 100,000 killed, and 6.2 million – more than half the population – in need of aid.   Fragmentation   The downward spiral of political dissolution continues. Kiir’s own political coalition continues to shrink. The rebels lack ammunition, let alone enough guns. Government soldiers go unpaid. Fighters from both groups regularly desert to Uganda for food.    Both sides of the conflict are now more focused on internal fighting than the wider war. In Kajo Keji, in southern Equatoria, two competing opposition forces under rebel leaders Riek Machar and Thomas Cirillo Swaka recently clashed for days in a bitter turf war until the government seized the opportunity and routed both groups.    Along the Uganda border, I met yet another wave of fleeing refugees as local elders described their failed attempts to mediate between the two rebel camps.   Meanwhile, Kiir’s Dinka power base is cracking along clan lines, as evidenced in the standoff with his former army chief Paul Malong Awan, whom Kiir arrested and put under house arrest in Juba.    It has escalated into an especially bitter feud between Kiir’s Warrap and the neighbouring Dinka communities of Malong’s Aweil, which supplied the bulk of Kiir’s fighting force for the war against Machar’s rebel SPLA-IO since 2014.    In private, senior Juba officials readily admit the severity of the dispute, with one describing it as a “time bomb”.   No end is in sight to South Sudan’s misery. The deadly fighting season, when rains dry up, is fast approaching. Neighbouring countries must prepare for even more refugees.   South Sudan is politically insolvent and, if lives matter, too big to fail. If it were a bank, regulators would propose it be wound down or restructured. Since it is an African state, we prefer to keep piling it back up – each time with more and more debt of justice unpaid – and throw our hands in the air when it falls back apart.    Trump’s administration can rightly complain it was handed a lousy baton by former president Barack Obama, whose policy on South Sudan had collapsed. In the Obama administration’s final months, the country it midwived to independence in 2011 was declared at risk of genocide by the UN as hundreds of thousands of refugees streamed out of the country. There was no peace process. Albert González Farran/IRIN Back to IGAD   However, the United States is directing its new diplomatic energy towards pressuring South Sudan into a new push to “revitalise” the Obama administration’s failed 2015 peace accord, based on the mediation of the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development.    The decision to continue with the embrace of the collapsed IGAD power-sharing agreement is head-scratching, since South Sudan is one area where Trump’s proclivity for zigging wherever the Obama administration zagged is clearly a timely correction.   The last attempt to impose this peace accord failed in colossal fashion in July 2016, with the blast radius extending far past South Sudan's borders into Congo and Uganda as the civil war reignited.   Rather than di[...]



A shot across the bows from The Hague as ICC investigates Burundi

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 15:23:59 +0000

By authorising a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed by state actors in Burundi, judges of the International Criminal Court want to send a clear message to perpetrators of such crimes across the world: If you think pulling out of this tribunal will let you off the hook, think again. On 27 October, Burundi became the first party to withdraw from the Rome Statue, the ICC’s legal foundation. But in response to an unpublicised 5 September request from the court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber III ruled that the court still “has jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed while Burundi was a state party to the ICC Rome Statute”. The judges handed down the ruling on 25 October but kept it under seal in order to protect witnesses until a redacted version was released on Thursday. In a crucial interpretation of the statue, which sets an important precedent, they determined that the ICC’s jurisdiction “remains unaffected by a withdrawal of a State Party from the Statute”. “It was a surprise move for everyone, including the government of Burundi,” international law expert Benjamin Dürr told IRIN. Step forward By elevating its engagement with Burundi from the “preliminary examination” started in March 2016 – a process that simply determines issues of jurisdiction and admissibility – to an “investigation”, the judges have now opened the door to indictments and arrest warrants being issued. This is precisely what a UN Commission of Enquiry urged the court to do in a September report that detailed crimes allegedly committed by people at “the highest level of the state” and within the security services in Burundi since April 2015, when protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office prompted protests met with a very harsh response. Crimes allegedly include “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearances”. In their ruling, the judges referred to estimates that “at least 1,200 persons were allegedly killed, thousands illegally detained, thousands reportedly tortured and hundreds disappeared”. Roadblocks However, the ruling doesn’t mean international prosecutions of these crimes are now inevitable, let alone imminent. Burundi has the right to ask the ICC prosecutor to defer the investigation on the grounds that the crimes in question are being investigated by domestic courts. Even if this claim lacks much foundation (the ICC judges deemed Burundian authorities “inactive” in this regard), such a move would oblige the prosecutor to issue a fresh request to the judges to open an investigation. Both Burundi and the prosecutor would then be allowed to appeal the judges’ response to such a request. This process could take years. Another caveat: The collapse of ICC cases against prominent Kenyans, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, and the moribund state of the case against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, illustrate how hard it is to prosecute incumbent leaders. The judges also ruled that Burundi is still obliged to cooperate with the ICC despite its withdrawal. If it fails do so, the UN Security Council could in theory impose sanctions, as it already threatened to do in August amid worsening security. Those in power unmoved The response from the country’s government and Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD party was vitriolic. The country’s ambassador to the UN, Albert Shingiro, tweeted that the judges’ ruling was a “non-event” and described it as “another attempt to destabilise Burundi that will fail as its previous [attempts did]”. Government spokesman Willy Nyamitwe was equally strident, saying on Twitter: “As usual, the @IntlCrimCourt plunges into outrageous lies to implement Westerners’ hidden agenda to destabilise #Africa.” Justice Minister Aimée Laurentine Kanyana went as far as challenging the lega[...]



US ramps up military strikes in Somalia

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 10:45:30 +0000

When Ali Osman Diblawe arrived in Bariire he was barefoot and winded. He had sprinted the 2.5 kilometres from his farm to the southern Somali town after hearing a barrage of gunfire tear through his small village soon after the early morning prayer. That was on 25 August. In the days prior, he and at least two others on the farm had seen what they thought was an odd-looking black bird in the sky. “There was something small and dark that was flying high over the town in the morning when we went to our farms and in the evening when we came home,” Diblawe told IRIN over a phone. “It was far away, but I thought that’s a drone, that looks like a drone.” Anxious, he approached the local Somali National Army commander to voice his concerns over what he suspected was US surveillance of the village. He explained that although the farmers had small arms – as many do in rural Somalia, where there are ongoing clan conflicts – they were not members of the jihadist group al-Shabab. He returned to his village on 24 August hoping he had been listened to. The next morning the shooting started and Diblawe ran. When he plucked up the courage to return home he saw the bodies of 10 of his neighbours sprawled on the ground. Standing over them were the SNA soldiers who had killed them, and the handful of US Special Operators who had orchestrated the operation. Diblawe’s warning had fallen on deaf ears. Local media first misreported the incident as a US drone strike. They later clarified that the 10 people had been killed in a joint US-Somali ground operation – confirmed in a statement issued by the US Africa Command, known as AFRICOM. The raid came six months after President Donald Trump had loosened regulations restricting operations in Somalia, and five months after the first US soldier was killed in the country since the infamous Black Hawk Down incident in 1993. The Bariire raid exemplifies what has been a gradual ramping-up of US military activity in Somalia over the last three years, one in which drones – both armed and for surveillance – have played a central role. This includes the first air strike against so-called Islamic State in Somalia on 3 November.  According to an AFRICOM statement, the drone attack killed “several terrorists” near Qandala, a small port town in northeastern Puntland that IS briefly occupied late last year. “In 2011 there were four or five maybe six [air] strikes and US ground operations, and that trend continued up until 2015,” said Jack Serle, a specialist investigator with the Bureau for Investigative Journalism’s drone warfare team. “But in 2015 the pace of strikes really accelerated and we’re now tracking at least 20 airstrikes and ground operations this year, which is the highest we’ve ever recorded.” Christina Goldbaum/IRIN Somali soldier with Ugandan AMISOM troops Relaxed rules of engagement In March, the Trump administration designated parts of southern Somalia an “area of active hostilities”, a move which gives commanders in the field greater autonomy over the use of force. Prior to the policy change, US forces in Somalia had been operating under the more restrictive Barrack Obama-era guidelines known as the Presidential Policy Guidance. Implemented in May 2013 in an effort to reduce the number of civilian casualties in counter-terrorism operations, the guidelines require high-level deliberations among cabinet officials to confirm that targets outside of traditional war zones pose a threat to Americans, and that there is near certainty no civilians will be killed. The undoing of these regulations came after significant lobbying from the Pentagon and General Thomas Waldhauser, the AFRICOM commander. Yet in the initial three months after the new policy was implemented, there was no change in the number of strikes: there was one strike in April, one in May, and one in June. But then in July something change[...]



Oil-rich yet on edge in Turkana

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:49:58 +0000

Rebecca Ekale doesn’t believe anything good can come from the black gold bonanza that will bring untold riches to arid Turkana, the poorest county in Kenya. “I have no interest in oil,” the mother of six told IRIN outside her brick-and-thatch home in the village of Lomokamar. Like many pastoralist herders, Ekale has been hit hard by a fierce and prolonged drought: the bones of 16 goats lie on the ground nearby. But life here is hard at the best of times. Around 90 percent of the county’s 1.3 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and some 80 percent have never attended school. Chronic marginalisation has left Turkana with a dearth of basic services, and there are few opportunities in the private sector for making a living outside the precarious realm of pastoralism. Yet unimaginable wealth lies beneath the county’s soil: an estimated 750 million recoverable barrels of oil. In early 2021, construction is set to begin on an 820-kilometre, $2.1 billion pipeline from Turkana to the Kenyan coast. Within a few years, this is expected to start generating billions of dollars annually for the Kenyan state, with at least five percent (there is an almighty row over the figure) earmarked for local communities and 20 percent going to the county government – an entity set up in a landmark devolutionary constitution adopted in 2010. Opinion is divided between those who think the oil boom will provide Turkana with an economic lifeline and those who fear production will exacerbate existing conflicts driven by competition over scarce pasture and water resources. “Nothing but a curse” Ekale already seems to have made her mind up. “It has brought us nothing but a curse,” she said, as a pungent smell wafted through her homestead. Ekale said the stench came from a tailings dump just two kilometres away. “It’s killing our goats and I have not seen the national or county government coming to our rescue,” she complained. Other local residents told IRIN that when it rains, chemicals enter water sources and make their animals sick. Tullow Oil, the British firm that discovered Turkana’s oil in 2012, operates (in some blocs in partnership with Africa Oil) across 48,000 square kilometres of Kenya leased from various county governments. Exploration and appraisal is taking place in several dozen sites located within community-owned land in Turkana. One of these sites lies 14 kilometres from Ekale’s home. Tullow denies releasing toxic waste, but told IRIN it temporarily stores mud residue from drill sites in a manner approved by the National Environmental Management Authority, and that it conducts environmental and social impact assessments before starting any new projects. Restricted mobility Aside from the disputed issue of waste, a common complaint about the oil installations is that they get in the way. “Our animals have no access to pasture,” explained Ekale. To keep their millions of animals healthy, Turkana’s pastoralists have to be able to herd them across long distances to reach water and, since they are picky eaters, the right kind and sufficient quantity of grass. Oil is just one of many barriers to this “strategic mobility”. Sites where oil is already being extracted – in the South Lokichar Basin – have been fenced off (Tullow didn’t specify exactly how much land is involved). According to Thomas Nyapid, a livestock herder who also runs a peacebuilding and sustainability programme in Lodwar, the county capital, Tullow has failed to fully take into account local dynamics. For instance, he said, South Lokichar Basin has long been used as a dry-season grazing reserve. Sophia Mbugua/IRIN Rebecca Ekale, who lost 16 goats to drought, doubts oil will make her life easier Ahead of the oil operations, “no one took an interest in telling us what was happening, or understanding how we used the land and how it would a[...]



Rebellion fears grow in eastern Congo

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 16:05:53 +0000

While attention has focused on the raging conflict and humanitarian crisis in Kasai in the southern Democratic Republic of Congo, armed opposition groups in the east of the country have stepped up attacks and are threatening to wage all-out war. Tension and frustration are mounting across Congo as President Joseph Kabila clings to power well after his second and supposedly final term in office expired last year. Eastern Congo was the main theatre of two devastating civil wars, fought in 1996-1997 and then from 1998 to 2003. It still plays host to dozens of small, armed groups, many of them local “self-defence” militias known as Mai-Mai. But recent months have seen the emergence of at least two new insurgencies that claim to have increasingly broad support in their shared aim of toppling Kabila. South Kivu In June, the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNSPC), led by former national army ally William Yakutumba, began taking on army positions in South Kivu Province. In late September, it attacked the lakeside town of Uvira, using heavy weapons and speedboats, before being beaten back by UN peacekeepers. Yakutumba has publicly boasted of having 10,000 fighters under his command. While the true number is impossible to establish, analysts suggest it could be fewer than 1,000. In late September, top army General Didier Etumba described CNSPC as a “flash in the pan” and said: “We’re going to put it out.” But Delphin Ntanyoma Rukumbuzi, a conflict reseracher and Congo expert at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, told IRIN that Yakutumba’s force drove the national army out of a fairly large area and resisted counter-attacks, although it is unclear where it is now. “He has disappeared into thin air with his weapons and fighters, which also raises questions about his plans for the near future,” he said. “Anything is possible, but I think he will need more military tactics, as well as human, financial, and political resources to overthrow the Kabila regime.” For Rukumbuzi, youths recruited by CNSPC are also more likely to be motivated by chronic marginalisation and historic inter-ethnic rivalries than by any preoccupation with who is in power in distant Kinshasa. Noting that South Kivu is also home to a range of other armed groups, Rukumbuzi warned: “It is a volatile situation that could set this Great Lakes region alight if it is not contained.” North Kivu In neighbouring North Kivu, another group, calling itself the National Movement of Revolutionaries (MNR), has been attacking villages and towns since June. MNR spokesman John Mahangaiko Apipawe told IRIN the group had been set up in 2015 and spent the next two years discreetly organising and planning its actions. “At the outset, we couldn’t give out information about our operations for fear of being stillborn. If, today, we are in a position to claim certain actions, it is because we are already strong,” he said. Speaking on the UN’s Radio Okapi in July, North Kivu Governor Julien Pulaku said recent attacks appeared to be beyond the capabilities of local Mai-Mai groups and that a new rebellion was emerging. When the Mai-Mai launch attacks, “they only resist the army’s firepower for 30 or 40 minutes. What we are seeing today is that the alleged Mai-Mai are resisting for one or two or three hours and plan attacks on three, four, or five locations within a month. This suggests a supply of munitions and heavy weapons.” However, government spokesman Lambert Mende told IRIN the attacks claimed by MNR are the work of bandits. “They are only there to loot people and our natural resources. That’s why we take this opportunity to warn them. Whatever their demands, whatever their origins, whatever internal or external support they have, there is no more time for negotiation,” said Mende. “Just as we defeated the M23 [rebels in 2013], we will also meet them with arms. Our forces a[...]



Pastoralism and its future

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:26:56 +0000

In dryland areas across the world, tens of millions of people raise domesticated animals on open rangeland. Extreme variations in weather mean such pastoralists have to be highly adaptive and deploy a range of specialised skills. Climate change is making this way of life increasingly precarious. This factfile sets out some of the key issues: What is pastoralism? Pastoralism is a type of livelihood in which income and social status depend mostly on livestock grazed on communal open rangeland where the availability of nutrients and water vary greatly over both time and space. In other words, pastoralists are herders (mostly of cows, sheep, goats and camels, but also of yaks, horses, llamas, alpacas, reindeer and vicunas) who are frequently on the move in inherently unstable environments. This defining characteristic of pastoralism is known as “strategic mobility.” It’s “strategic” because, while appearing aimless or haphazard to the untrained eye, its motive is to enhance production and herd size by ensuring livestock consumes the most nutritional grass available. When this mobility takes the form of regular back-and-forth trips between the same departure and destination areas, it is known as “transhumance”, whereas “nomadism” describes journeys that vary according to the location of the best resources. Pastoralism is therefore a very specialised system that requires extensive social networks and deep knowledge – honed over centuries – of weather patterns, breeding techniques, herd management, and the intricate characteristics of different species of animal and vegetation. Put in economic terms, pastoralism is a complex exercise in the perpetual analysis and management of costs, risks, and benefits. But what is being tested now more than ever is the ability of pastoralists to constantly adapt to changing circumstances. Why is it important? What chiefly distinguishes pastoralism from sedentary agriculture is that, thanks to strategic mobility, environmental variations are (except in times of drought) seen as an asset rather than a problem: If you can move, good grass is always within reach. In dryland environments, pastoralism tends to deliver better food security than crops and produces edible proteins more efficiently than intensive livestock systems. Pastoralist regions are often undervalued or even ignored by national governments. As African countries decolonised in the 1960s, development policies tended to borrow from European models, emphasising “modernisation” and the commercialisation of agriculture and privatisation of pastoral rangelands. Yet the contributions pastoralist systems make to national economies are frequently considerable: As well as supplying meat and milk to growing urban populations, they often provide jobs in the transport and food sectors, for example. How many pastoralists are there? Estimates of the total number of people living a pastoral livelihood vary widely. A 2006 study published by the Food and Agriculture Organization put the number at 120 million, which includes some people who also grow crops (known as “agro-pastoralists”). Of these, 50 million are in sub-Saharan Africa, 31 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 25 million in Central Asia, 10 million in South Asia, and five million in South and Central America. Not long after the FAO published its study the International Fund for Agricultural Development said there were 200 million pastoralists in the world. A 2007 estimate put the number of animals raised in pastoral production systems in Kenya alone at 14.1 million, with a value of $860 million. Why is it under threat? In many parts of the world, government policy poses significant hurdles for pastoralists. For example, a 2015 paper by the Forced Migration Review explains how the governments of Oman and Mongolia “encourage settlement or provide only limited support for customary mo[...]



Why can’t booming Ethiopia handle this year’s drought?

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:59:30 +0000

Ethiopia can’t seem to escape the blight of drought, no matter how hard it tries. Despite impressive economic growth and decades of capacity building, it faces another humanitarian crisis as one of the worst droughts in living memory scorches the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the year, 5.6 million Ethiopians were in need of food aid, primarily in the south and southeast of the country. That number recently jumped to 8.5 million. An additional headache is that this year’s response by the government and international partners is proving less decisive than last year’s effort. In 2016, more than 10 million people were reached, food aid poured in, and the government spent hundreds of millions of its own money averting a major humanitarian catastrophe. Why are the numbers in need increasing? The January estimate of 5.6 million came from the government’s Humanitarian Requirements Document, an annual assessment in collaboration with international partners detailing Ethiopia’s humanitarian needs. The revised figure followed spring rains in April that petered out too soon, taking any hopes of revival with them. “The situation is unprecedented,” said Sam Wood, Save the Children’s humanitarian director in Ethiopia. “That was the third failed rainy season in a row, so it’s a cumulative effect of failed rains hitting vulnerable communities. “Ethiopia has made lots of progress, but when you have a problem of this sort of scale, duration and scope, any system is going to be overwhelmed.” Adding to concerns is the chance the Hagaya/Deyr short rains (October to December), accounting for up to 35 percent of annual rainfall in the southeast, could prove a dud too due to the continuing El Niño effect.   The current humanitarian bill is $1.26 billion. So far only $334 million has been received. Why the cash shortfall? At the beginning of the year, the UN warned that 20 million people were at risk of starvation in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northeast Nigeria. “Aid budgets from donor countries have already committed most of their funding responding to other conflicts or disasters for this year, and this resulted in less funding for drought-affected people in Ethiopia,” said Geno Teofilo with the Norwegian Refugee Council. “There is also donor fatigue regarding droughts in East Africa,” he added. Others note how droughts don’t seize the public imagination to the same extent as disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, meaning there’s less motivation to delve into one’s pockets. This year, the Ethiopian government has committed $147 million compared to last year’s unprecedented $700 million. “The government has many development demands,” Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia’s state minister of agriculture and commissioner for its National Disaster Risk Management Commission, told IRIN. “If we divert too many funds to humanitarian needs, it will be difficult to continue growth, so we have to request support from the international community.’’ What are the consequences on the ground? Pastoralists in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, bearing the brunt of this drought, have lost hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats, and camels. Often whole flocks have died, representing a family’s entire livelihood, leaving people no choice but to retreat to makeshift settlements, surviving on aid from the government and international agencies. A survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration between May and June 2017 identified 264 of these sites containing around 577,711 internally displaced persons, or IDPs. Overwhelmed by numbers and additionally challenged by diminishing funds, aid agencies began cutting food rations and faced running out of money entirely this July, until last minute donations from Britain, the EU, and the United States guaranteed food shipments through to the end of the year. At t[...]



South Sudan: Seize this chance for peace

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 07:10:10 +0000

In the coming weeks South Sudan’s leadership, the opposition, and a cadre of armed groups are expected to come together to reignite peace talks. For the first time in months, an air of possibility floats over the war-ravaged nation. But many critical questions remain unanswered about who will be included in the talks and exactly what will be negotiated. It is vital that smart and effective external pressure is placed on the men with guns and power. Now, more than ever, neighbours and influential nations must spare no effort to help end this horrific man-made catastrophe. The east African regional body, IGAD, is meant to lead the process to end the war. The rest of us must do everything in our power to support them. Previous talks have been led by the “Troika”, an alliance of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Norway. They helped end the Sudanese civil war and ensure independence for South Sudan in 2011. They also supported the talks that led to this young and troubled nation’s peace agreement in 2015. But the international players on the peace field have changed drastically, and support for South Sudan has waned. President Donald Trump’s America first policy has left the United States yet to outline a policy for South Sudan, or even to appoint a special envoy. This leaves the remaining two Troika members – Norway and the United Kingdom – with a big responsibility in supporting IGAD. They have a unique opportunity to guide international efforts toward a sustainable peace for the nation they helped create. Not stepping up now will have deadly consequences. Africa’s largest refugee crisis The past 12 months has driven South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis to new lows. Armed conflict has spread. Militia groups have fragmented and multiplied. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated. Some 7.6 million South Sudanese – about two in every three people – depend on aid to survive. Famine has been declared in two regions this year, and the number of people on the brink of mass starvation is climbing. Nearly four million people have fled their homes and across borders to Uganda and elsewhere, making it Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. For ordinary South Sudanese, continued conflict will incite even more suffering. The repercussions of failure will reach far beyond South Sudan’s borders, as refugees will continue to flood out of the country and place ever greater strain on their neighbours, already buckling under the pressure of hosting two million refugees. A chance for lasting peace This human suffering is untenable. Concerted multilateral action is needed to stop the fighting and deliver a peace process accepted by all. The forum created to resuscitate the peace agreement, known as the High Level Revitalisation Forum, will bring conflict parties together under the regional bloc’s leadership. Within this forum, the UK and Norway can lobby for three concrete things to facilitate a real chance of lasting peace. Firstly, they should advocate that the broad state-building ambitions of the 2015 peace deal not be abandoned. The original agreement was not ideal, but it was a compromise agreed by all sides. It contained mechanisms and institutions that can still be the foundation of good governance: Something the South Sudanese desperately need. Secondly, the UK and Norway must enable IGAD to deliver a process that is inclusive. This means recognising the fragmentation that has occurred within the armed opposition groups, and bringing all of today’s warring factions to the table – not just the original signatories of the 2015 agreement. Finally, the peace forum must involve a real inclusion of civil society and civilian opposition figures. The UK and Norway should push the talks beyond merely replicating the elite power-sharing model of the original p[...]



In their own words: How drought is bringing despair to Kenyan herders

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 12:29:34 +0000

Turkana is one of several arid counties in Kenya in the throes of a prolonged and extreme drought. Most people in these areas raise livestock for a living, grazing their sheep, goats, cows, and camels on open rangeland. Usually, two annual rainy seasons ensure there’s enough grass to keep the millions of animals healthy. But this year, hundreds of thousands of animals have died of hunger, thirst, and disease. IRIN spoke to several Turkana residents about the impact the drought was having on their lives.   Lucas Lotieng Fredrik Lerneryd/IRIN Since we met four years ago most of my livestock has died, I only have five animals left. I had 250 goats and 50 sheep. They died because of the drought – they had nothing to eat. Normally, we take our animals to graze on the hills, but you can see there is no grass there now. When I was young, we could predict when the rains would come – we knew it would fall after six months. When I had animals, we had enough to eat. We used to eat meat and drink milk and sometimes the blood of sheep and goats. We would only sell livestock when we were hungry – during the good times when they could graze well we did not sell them. There has always been drought, but this one is the worst in my lifetime because it has killed so many animals, and the problem is spreading to humans – we are getting sick. Recently, there were showers for just three days, and the grass started growing for about a month. But that was not enough for the animals to grow healthy. It is like this everywhere in Turkana. If it rains, I will get more animals if my daughter gets married and I get a bride price. If it doesn’t rain, I will be left with nothing. If I could talk to the county governor, I would tell [him] about our way of life and ask him to help us with maize. We need development, to have more bore holes so that we can start farming. I would like to both farm and raise livestock. I see things are changing and the changes that are coming make me sad. If we old ones die, everything will change, the younger ones will move away from the life we have lived. The way we used to live was good. We lived a free life. We could go where we wanted.   Ewoton Epeot   Your browser does not support the video tag. I was born in 1947 and I grew up here. My father worked this plot of land and also raised livestock. Now my husband is dead and I have no sons to help me. There are only widows who work this land. Sometimes, animals come and destroy our work so we have to chase them away. Before, I also had livestock. I would buy animals by selling the surplus from my crops. But over the past three years, when the drought came, it took all my animals; they died of hunger, including the newborns, so I stopped being a pastoralist, and I only farm now. When there was no drought and I had livestock, life was good. When the animals gave birth, we had milk. We ate our crops and gave the chaff to the animals. Now there is only hunger – I have nothing to eat. We receive a cash transfer of Ksh5,000 ($50) every three months – I am not sure who pays it. We would like to get the money more often. People depending only on that money will die of hunger. Earlier this year I planted maize on this plot but it became infested with insects, so we had to dig up the maize and destroy it. Now we will plant sorghum. When we have finished working the soil, we will open up the channels to let in water [from a nearby borehole]. It’s hard work – it takes two months just to plough and sow the land. When I feel hungry I go and look for wild fruit. But when you eat that every day, you get diarrhoea. We only eat it because we are hungry. If the government wants to support us, they should buy livestock for us or give us some food. But they should give it to us direct[...]