Abyei Solution Elusive as UN Extends Peacekeepers’ Mandate

NAIROBI, KENYA � The U.N. Security Council voted this week to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping force in the disputed oil-rich Abyei area between South Sudan and Sudan, a region long beset by conflict. It also urged the two countries to resume talks on resolving the area’s status.

Talks toward that goal have long been stalled. Both countries claim the Abyei area, but neither side wants to change the current situation, according to Small Arms Survey researcher Joshua Craze.

Sudan benefits from the current situation in so far as they control the oil and they placate an important political constituency, the Missiriya, said Craze. South Sudan benefits from the current situation because they get to placate the relatively important political constituency, the Dinka Ngok, while not running the risk of alienating Sudan, which is what would happen if they tried to actually press for the territory of Abyei.

Abyei has been the traditional home of the Ngok Dinka, while northern Arabic-speaking Missiriya herders pass through seasonally with their cattle.

The 2005 peace agreement specified that Abyei residents should have a referendum to determine their status in January 2011. That poll was postponed.

An unofficial referendum took place in 2013, boycotted by the Missiriya, in which participants voted to go with South Sudan. The poll was not recognized by Sudan, South Sudan, or the African Union.

Originally from Abyei, Mustafa Biong is the former director general of South Sudan’s ministry of information. He says that until Abyei’s status can be determined through a proper referendum, there should be another way for people to obtain services and security.

Our thinking, our people have said they would prefer [that] if the two countries are not prepared for a referendum, let Abyei be put under the United Nations so it can be developed, until the two countries have agreed in the future. Rather than leaving the area without proper administration, said Biong.

Violence is another problem in the area. Attacks between 2007 and 2011 left tens of thousands of people displaced. In May 2013, a member of the Missiriya killed the Ngok Dinka’s chief.

The U.N. Interim Security Force of Abyei mandate was extended to May 15, 2017, with the Security Council demanding South Sudan and Sudan urgently establish an Abyei Area Administration and Council, as well as a police service that would protect oil infrastructure.

Source: Voice of America

Read more

Colombia: UN-led mechanism investigating alleged ceasefire violation

The tripartite Mechanism coordinated by the United Nations and comprising the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) has started investigations into a 15 November incident in the country’s Santa Rosa municipality that resulted in the deaths of two FARC-EP members.

The tripartite Mechanism deeply regrets and expresses concern about the first deaths since the beginning of the Bilateral Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities, on 29 August, read a news release issued by the Mechanism, which is coordinated by the UN Mission in Colombia.

Upon completing the investigation, the Mechanism will issue the necessary recommendations to avoid recurrence of such incidents, it added.

A third FARC-EP member � who was unharmed in the incident � is also being investigated, noted the release.

The tripartite Mechanism is monitoring and verifying the ceasefire under a protocol, agreed by the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP, according to which they agreed not to enter armed contact and to maintain the discipline and control of the units so as not to generate acts or incidents that endanger the ceasefire.

As part of its mandate, the Mechanism is also investigating another alleged incident in the municipality of Tumaco, department of NariAo (located in southwest Colombia).

Also in the news release, the Mechanism called upon the two parties to facilitate the flow of information and to maintain communications that will strengthen its coordination. It also said that it is open to receiving information from civilians and social organizations.

The release also highlighted that the Mechanism underlined the importance of maintaining the parties’ commitment to respect the Bilateral Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities.

Source: UN News Center

Read more

South Sudan continues to face persistent challenges to peace and stability, Security Council told

Briefing the United Nations Security Council for the last time, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan called on the 15-member body to continue to accord priority to the country and to consider the future of its people in taking any decisions.

The people of South Sudan have suffered far too much and for far too long. The victims of this conflict still carry hope and have high expectations from the international community, Ellen Margrethe LA�j told the Council today.

I urge all involved and especially the South Sudanese leaders never to lose sight of the ultimate goal � a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of South Sudan, she added.

Ms. LA�j underscored that the difference between the success and failure of the South Sudanese Peace Agreement lay in its comprehensive and inclusive implementation by its parties and called for sustained regional and international support to the country.

Further in her briefing, she highlighted that the security situation in the country, particularly in the Greater Equatorias, in parts of Unity, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states, remained volatile, with frequent attacks that resulted in civilian casualties and displacement, as well as disrupted supply of essential goods, including food.

The envoy also said the increasingly fragmented conflict � often with ethnic undertones � continued to push the country towards further division and risked a full-scale civil conflict.

Much more needs to be done by the Transitional Government [of National Unity] to put a stop to these security incidents that contribute to an environment of instability and violence, lead to displacement and exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation, she said, underscoring the need to take actions that arrest the increasing ethnic tensions.

UNMISS chief cites ‘dire’ humanitarian situation

Ms. LA�j, also the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), informed the Council that despite an agreement between the Government and the Mission on freedom of movement, military commanders on the ground were either not informed of or disregarded the agreement, causing significant challenges to the Mission’s movement and patrols.

In addition, she drew attention to the humanitarian situation that remained dire with some 4.8 million people estimated to be severely food insecure and farmers in parts of the country likely to miss the upcoming planting season due to lack of availability of seeds, caused by fragile security.

Our humanitarian colleagues are doing their outmost best to reach people in need but they continue to face obstacles in terms of movement, bureaucratic procedures and criminality, she said.

This briefing was Ms. LA�j’s last briefing to the Security Council in her current post. She steps down from these positions at the end of November.

Special Advisor sees ‘all the warning signs’ conflict could spiral into genocide

Recalling his recent visit to South Sudan, Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, painted a grave picture of the situation, saying he had undertaken the trip because of his growing concern about ethnically-fuelled violence, which is taking place against a breakdown in the political process and a stalled peace agreement.

In the course of the week he was in the country, he had met a variety of stakeholders, including religious and community leaders, including in Yei, which been spared the widespread violence of other areas but has now been identified among the country’s conflict hotspots, with escalating violence against multiple tribe and ethnic groups, reportedly carried out by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the SPLA in Opposition, as well as unidentified armed groups and bandits.

I was dismayed that what I saw confirmed my concern that there is strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with a potential to spiral into genocide; I do not say that lightly, Mr. Dieg told the Council, noting that the ongoing conflict is also taking an ever-increasing economic toll, both domestically and internationally, causing a drain on funds that could be devoted to much-needed humanitarian assistance.

South Sudan will see neither growth nor development as long as security accounts for half of Government spending, he warned.

He went on to say that the early July outbreak of violence is fresh in the minds of people he had met and they noted the potential for more such violence in the coming dry season. Violations of the ceasefire by all sides, widespread impunity and lack of accountability, were clearly evident and the feeling seemed to be that what had once been an undisciplined army formed out of two opposing groups is now an amorphous and undisciplined force that has splintered into multiple armed groups, criminal gangs and bandits, over which the Government is failing to exercise control.

What began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

Mr. Dieng said he had sensed a tremendous mistrust between civilians and the military and rather than as a source of protection, many ordinary people saw the armed forces as an entity to be feared or joined as one of the country’s few employers. One elder had given him a chilling assessment of the ethnic polarization: in the eyes [of some people] he saw fear, while in the eyes of others, he saw enthusiasm.

The Special Advisor went on to express deep concern about inflammatory rhetoric, stereotyping and name calling have been accompanied by targeted killings and rape of members of particular ethnic groups, and by violent attacks against individuals or communities on the basis of their perceived political affiliation. The media, including social media, are being used to spread hatred and encourage ethnic polarization.

I am particularly concerned by the involvement of the youth of this country in this dangerous spread of hatred and hostility, as they are particularly susceptible to divisions within society, continued Mr. Dieng, underscoring: So, all the warning signs are there, that what began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war.

Indeed, he said the stalled peace agreement, stagnating economy and spread of arms are the ingredients for a dangerous escalation of violence � because both motivation and a means are present in South Sudan.

Here, he emphasized that genocide is a process. It does not happen overnight. And because it is a process and one that takes time to prepare, it can be prevented. Action can and must be taken now to address some of the factors that could provide fertile ground for genocide.

While the political leadership in South Sudan has and urgent and primary responsibility to this end, the Security Council could also consider, among other options, publicly calling for the political leadership to immediately condemn and take steps against any actions that could constitute incitement to violence, he said.

Moreover, African leaders must coalesce around a coherent strategy to prevent an escalation of violence. I saw all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it. I urge the Security Council and Member States of the region to take action, Mr. Dieng concluded.

Source: UN News Center

Read more

Russian Rejection of International Court Alarms Rights Monitors

MOSCOW � Overwrite earlier story “Russia’s ICC Withdrawal Called Bad Sign for Justice, ” Note new headline, teaser, addition of contributing lines, enable update time to current

Human rights groups around the world have condemned Russia’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court as an alarming signal of Moscow’s “retreat” from international justice and institutions, and an unhappy portent for ordinary Russians worried about their human rights protections.

The Kremlin decree issued Wednesday will have little to no effect on ICC operations, international jurists said. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Rome Statute two years after it created the court in 1998, but Moscow’s parliament never ratified the pact.

However, Russia’s action also follows several African nations’ recent decisions to leave the court. “We are at a really key moment,” said Elizabeth Evenson, Human Rights Watch’s associate director of international justice. She spoke to VOA from The Hague.

Crimea ruling enraged Kremlin

The ICC, the first international legal body with jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, enraged the Kremlin this week by issuing a report concluding that Russia carried out a military conflict against Ukraine in early 2014, and that the resulting annexation by Moscow of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula was an “occupation.”

Russian state media said the ICC’s verdict on what happened in Crimea was “absolutely contradicting reality,” but the court’s report was endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee. Putin acted the very next day, declaring that Russia would not remain a member of the Rome Statute because almost all ICC decisions were either politicized or biased against Moscow.

An ICC spokesman, Fadi El Abdallah, gave a neutral reaction to Russia’s decision. “Membership of the Rome Statute is a voluntary and sovereign decision which is the prerogative of all states,” Abdallah told VOA by email.

Amnesty International’s Russia director, Sergei Nikitin, said even though Moscow’s declaration would scarcely affect the ICC, “the decision is an alarming indication of Russia’s unwillingness to cooperate with international justice systems.”

Moscow’s cooperation ‘unraveling’

Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director for Human Rights Watch in Moscow, agreed with the Amnesty official. Withdrawing from the ICC is symbolically important, she said, signaling the dramatic unraveling of Russia’s cooperation with international justice and international institutions.

In signing the Rome Statute 16 years ago, “Russia demonstrated its good will to consider ratification,” Lokshina said. ” … Now the Kremlin says, loud and clear, ‘We don’t like what the ICC is doing and we reject international justice.’ It says much more about Russia’s retreat from international justice and institutions, and the harm it will do to the human rights of its own citizens.”

Rights groups have condemned Russia’s repeated blocking of U.N. Security Council efforts to have the ICC investigate the Syrian conflict for possible war crimes committed by Syrian and Russian forces.

The ICC “is far from perfect,” Amnesty’s Nikitin said, but he derided Moscow’s statements as “nothing more than a hypocritical attempt by Russia to withdraw from responsibility for some of their own failures.”

‘Court of last resort’

The ICC is “a court of last resort,” spokesman Abdallah said, “designed not to replace national judicial systems but to intervene and complement them only when national authorities are not willing or not capable to bring justice to victims.”

Russia’s nonratification of the Rome Statute and now its withdrawal from the ICC will not have any significant effect, according to Kirill Koroteyev, legal director at the Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow, since Russia and Russian nationals can face prosecution by the ICC under the jurisdiction granted to it.

Russia’s renunciation of the court follows similar moves by South Africa, Burundi and Gambia. They contend the ICC is excessively focused on African states.

While the court is pursuing several cases related to African countries, it is also conducting investigations into and cases involving Afghanistan, Colombia, Cambodia and other states.

ICC defectors ‘avoid prosecution’

Some states “apparently have been masquerading in recent years as countries devoted to criminal accountability,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said Wednesday in The Hague. “If they want to leave, then they should leave.”

The U.N. official said he was not convinced that complaints about the court are based entirely on principle. “Quite the opposite,” he added. Such objections appear “to aim more at protecting their leaders from prosecution.”

The court has an arrest warrant out for Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, for crimes committed in Darfur. It also dropped a case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for postelection violence in 2007 and 2008.

Without Russia, the International Criminal Court still has 124 member states. The United States withdrew its participation in 2002, during the George W. Bush administration, but re-established some cooperation under President Barack Obama. China and India also are among those nations that have declined to ratify the Rome Statute.

Source: Voice of America

Read more
1 280 281 282 283 284 394