The Central African Republic: familiar faces

independent.co.uk

independent.co.uk

Joseph Kony

The Central African Republic’s government are reporting that ‘Kony’ is hiding out in the bush regions in the south of the country with 7,000 followers.

The warlord came to prominence after a video documenting his abuses went viral in 2012. It currently has over 98,500,000 views.

It is thought that Kony is in poor health and that he is being hunted for the 5 million dollar bounty that is hanging over his head.

U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon voiced his concern at the threat posed by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army saying, “I reiterate my call on the international community to support ongoing efforts to address the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in order to ensure that the progress achieved over the past several years is sustained.”

“Despite the decrease in Lord’s Resistance Army-related incidents and a reduction in the number of displaced people in the affected areas, the force remains a serious threat, with its senior leadership intact and with an enormous capacity for brutality,” Mr. Ban said in his report presented to the security council last week.

Mary Robinson

Yesterday, senior United Nations special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson began a week long mission to bolster peace efforts in the region.

The former Irish President is in Rwanda today and will then move on to the Republic of Congo. On 27-29 November, she will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Kinshasa, the capital, and Goma, the main city in the vast country’s east.

“We must work to restore trust and take the steps that are needed to resolve the underlying causes of conflict and instability to the region,” she said.

On 30 November, she will attend the East African Community (EAC) Summit of Heads of States in Kampala, where she intends to mobilise international support for regional organizations as part of the broader Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework agenda for enhanced regional integration.

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

The Central African Republic: silencing the press

Credit GlobalPost

Credit GlobalPost

Conditions for journalists have deteriorated quickly in the Central African Republic. The country was ranked 65th in Reporters Without Borders’s 2013 Press Freedom Index, ahead of countries like Greece and Bosnia Herzegovinia.

In October, Reporters Without Boarders reported there have been “arbitrary arrests and serious threats targeting journalists in the country since the Seleka rebels came to power.”

The NGO reported that “there has been a major escalation in harassment, threats and intimidation against journalists with privately-owned media, which is being carried out or encouraged by the authorities”.

Amnesty International released a detailed report concerning human rights abuses in the country on October 30th of this year. The October report was damning and painted a portrait of a failed state in need international intervention: “The security forces are out of control and urgent action is needed by the national authorities and the international community to establish law and order”.

Amnesty international told News Anois they currently have no representatives on the ground but are hopeful they will have people back in the country documenting what is happening by Christmas.

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

The Central African Republic: state of chaos

Credit www.voanews.com

Credit voanews.com

Although this war has gone largely unreported it is an unfortunately familiar story – quasi-religious warlords, armies of child soldiers, sexual violence as military strategy, burnt out villages and hostile neighbours.

France is looking to increase their military presence in the region – pending UN backing. They already have 400 troops stationed there.

The Central African Republic (CAR), is a former French colony. It has been in a state of turmoil since December of 2012. Seleka rebels seized power last March and have recently been overthrown by the Comité extraordinaire de défense des acquis démocratiques-(CEDAD)

In July, the ‘African Union’ authorised a peacekeeping mission, 3,600 strong, in an effort to stablise the country.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius described the situation in CAR as bordering on an, “imminent threat of a humanitarian disaster.”

Roughly 460,000 people have been displaced during the conflict so far and there are fears the chaos may spread to neighbouring countries.

“Now the country is facing its worst crisis. In this failed state, entire swaths of land are given over to violence by armed gangs. Looting, the recruitment of child soldiers, burned villages, rapes, summary executions” [are commonplace] he said.

The French government are concerned the violence will spread into the surrounding countries, with South Sudan, Congo, Chad and Cameroon likely to be affected.

U.N. deputy general Jan Eliasson has warned the region is descending into “complete chaos before our eyes. The situation requires prompt and decisive action…There is a breakdown of law and order. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination” he said.

Amnesty International has issued a statement calling on the U.N to take action in the region.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland called on the U.N to “work with other members of the international community, in particular, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, and France to ensure that immediate concrete measures are put in place to establish law and order in the country”.

Since independence in 1960 political instability has been rife in the CAR, with eight coups or mutinies having taking place after the state’s foundation.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders is an independent medical humanitarian aid organisation and has been working in the CAR since 1996. It runs seven regular projects in five of the seven health districts and supports up to seven hospitals and around 40 health centres. In 2012, a total of 600,000 consultations were provided.

Emergency Coordinator, Rosa Crestani described the situation in the region: “Our teams who were already present in the country wanted to reinforce their capability to respond quickly to requirements…The aim is to get as soon as possible to areas where a new outbreak of violence has occurred, to assess and meet the needs.”

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

Scotland to decide on independence

Credit thetypewriter.org

Credit thetypewriter.org

The 18th September 2014 is the day Scotland decides if it wants to remain part of Britain or go it alone.

The Scottish National party (SNP) launched its 670-page independence manifesto today in Glasgow.

Alex Sammond, the Scottish first minister has been campaigning for a referendum for some time now.

“Independence will put the people of Scotland in charge of our own destiny,” he said.

He cited Scotland’s gas and oil fields as a way of propping up the economy as the country adapts to independence.

Scotland has been part of the union with England for over 300 years and the UK government is hoping to retain the current status quo.

“It won’t be decided by me, it won’t be decided by our opponents, it won’t be decided by the media. It will be decided by the people,” he said.

The Scottish Labour party argue the SNP have been misleading the public. ”The SNP have been letting Scotland down. It now appears they will say whatever you want to hear, do whatever it takes, promise you independence will be whatever you want it to be, to get your vote on polling day,” according to Labour.

There are 295 days left to polling day.

Simon Maguire

UK fishing vessel in breach of EU fishing regulations

Credit: military.ie

Credit military.ie

A UK registered fishing vessel was detained by the Irish Naval Service today after it was found to be in breach of fishing regulations.

The vessel is being handed over to the UK Maritime Management Office and will return to the UK this evening.

Speaking to News Anois, the Naval Service revealed that the reason for returning the vessel to the UK rather than seeking prosecution in Ireland is because the breach is of “EU fishing regulations”, not just those of Ireland.

Regardless of the EU country that the law is broken in, anyone in breach of these fishing regulations is guilty of “the same breach” and prosecution can be carried out in any EU country.

The vessel will be turned over to the appropriate authorities in the UK where the breach will be investigated further.

Lauren O’Halleron

Relations stirred in light of Iran nuclear deal

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

 

Israel accused Iran of “deception and self-delusion” in what has been called the most significant development between the United States and the Iran in the last 34 years.

Barack Obama said that “Diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure, a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear programme.”

The deal commits Iran to stop uranium enrichment above five per cent, limit existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, stop further development of the Arak reactor and allow increased inspections of its nuclear sites.

In turn, the six world super powers – the U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (P5+1) – are committed to relieve economic sanctions on Iran.

The compromise reached in Geneva may only be for six months but it has significantly reshuffled alliances in the middle east and inevitably caused controversy. The United States have called it a “great deal”, a standpoint that contradicts that of their Israeli allies who are calling it a “historic mistake”.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet: “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world”.

Remaining highly critical of negations between Iran and U.S, the Israeli embassy in Dublin reiterated today that, “The agreement that was signed between Iran and the P5+1 is a bad agreement and a mistake. Iran received the deal it wanted, and the West received a very bad and dangerous deal. There is no such thing as a half solution in a matter like this; the example of North Korea shows that when extremist regimes get a soft deal like this it does not produce stability in the long-term but merely buys the regime time to further its ambitions.”

With such a strong reaction from the Israeli side,  it can’t but highlight the fact that Israel refuses to acknowledge publicly that it has nuclear weapons. The U.S government also officially does not acknowledge the existence of such a program.

Lilah Gaafar

Increasingly popular right wing conspiracy theorist clashes with police at JFK anniversary

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, accompanied by a group of supporters, has clashed with police in Texas during a protest at a public commemoration of President Kennedy.

November 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.

Jones and co were demanding that the US government ‘STOP THE COVER UP’ of the facts surrounding the President’s murder.

Jones – who also maintains that the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, as well as the Boston bombing were ‘false flag’ operations – has clashed with police on numerous occasions.

When asked by News Anois about the increase in support for conspiracy theorists such as Jones, as well as many American’s insistence on heavily arming themselves, Prof. Noam Chomsky said

“….he’s symptomatic of much deeper currents in the country.  It’s always been a very frightened country, back to colonial days, but these fears have been escalating very sharply in recent years, and the gun culture is one aspect of it. “They” are coming after us, and “we” have to defend ourselves – where “they” can be non-whites, Muslims, the Feds, the UN, aliens,…. ”

Jones has gradually grown in support over the past 12 months – particularly in the wake of the NSA scandal – as Americans become increasingly disillusioned with their government. Increasingly, American’s believe that US authorities are not only spying on them, but are also responsible for attacks on their own citizens.

“…It’s a kind of social pathology…And like other such pathologies, it has a kind of basis.  One element is that whites are becoming a minority, so “they” are taking our country away from us.  Another is the very real fact that the re-design of the economy and political system in the past 30+ years has hit the majority while vastly enriching and empowering a tiny fraction of the population, which leads to bitterness and fear, fanned by propaganda, leading to things like the Jones phenomenon.”

Paul Doyle

OPINION – Why are Ukraine unwilling to join the EU?

Credit: www.mhpc.com

Credit mhpc.com

Last Thursday the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, announced that his country would not sign a landmark partnership agreement with the European Union.

‘Ukraine is a sovereign state and we respect its decision. Nevertheless in the same time we would like to express our strong disappointment that the process of association with the EU was suspended on the final straight’ said Marcin Wojciechowski, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

The comprehensive free trade agreement was seen as the linchpin of a renewed EU commitment to engage with the states of the former Soviet Union. ‘Ukraine’s decision may, unfortunately, lead to indefinite suspension of the talks with the UE and to irreversible losses in the process of modernisation, reform and democratisation that the country needs so much today’ added Mr Wojciechowski. There is a risk of losing what has been achieved as a result of long and difficult preparations to sign the Association Agreement.

The most probable reason of suspending the talks is Kremlin economic pressure according Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of the Republic of Poland and EU representative in Ukrainian negotiations. Independent Ukraine keeps on balancing between the East and the West, remaining uncommitted to either side and trying to obtain as much advantage as possible from its situation.

For now, Yanukovych has agreed to Russia’s principal demand: to boycott the EU deal. Even if Yanukovych resists Moscow’s blandishments and still does not want to see Ukraine fully absorbed into Russia’s Eurasian structures, he seems unwilling to do anything to prevent his country’s continued dependency on Russia while at the same time declaring the will for closer relations with Europe.

On top of his foreign relations issues, Yanukovych needs to cope with every-day domestic problems – his decision to suspend the deal prompted more than 100,000 protestors to take to the streets in Kiev, resulting in clashes with the militia and the deployment of tear gas. Additionally, Yulia Tymoshenko, the jailed former prime minister of Ukraine, has begun a hunger strike in protest of the president’s reluctance to join the EU. This has caught the attention of foreign governments and human rights watch organisations, and it now seems unlikely that Yanukovyvh will be re-elected in 2015.

Considering the above, Ukrainian authorities bear the full responsibility for their exclusion from the EU. Poland and the European Union itself were prepared to make a far-reaching compromise, benefiting Ukraine more than the other member states. Yanukovych, meeting the European leaders in Vilnius later this week, will have an opportunity to sound out what he might be able to salvage from the wreckage of the deal. Until then, the true nature of his motives remains a mystery.

Katarzyna Sowa

New law in Egypt provides police with legal framework to use against protesters

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

 

Human rights groups in Egypt have expressed concern in light of a new protest law put in place on Sunday. The law gives security forces free reign to use unnecessary forces against demonstrators.

It also prohibits protests without prior police approval. Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi said the new law requires protesters to give notice rather than seek permission.

International concern is rising due to demonstration being presented as a “crime punishable by law” in a country that “has become a nation of protesters”, according to BBC correspondent, Orla Guerin, in Cairo.

Hassiba Hanj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International said “It is a dangerous sign that the first piece of legislation regulating rights and freedoms passed since the ousting of Mohamed Morsi curtails freedom of assembly and treats peaceful protesters like criminals”.

“Not only does it allows the police to disperse peaceful demonstrations, but gives them the power to shoot protesters who pose no threat to the lives or safety of others” he added.

This has been viewed as a step backwards in improving Egypt’s human rights.  Amnesty International believe “Instead of investigating the large number of killings of protesters since the ‘January 25 Revolution’ and punishing those responsible, the current government seems to be rewarding security forces for their excesses and providing them with further legal means to trample on rights.”

The law was signed in light of more protests on Monday when security forces fired tear-gas to disperse university students who had defied a new law that restricts demonstrations, the state news agency reported.

Students of Al-Azhar University and Assiut University in Assiut province, south of Cairo, staged a protest, chanting against the army and police in defiance of the new law.

Criminalising protesters is not the progressive answer to Egypt’s on-going problems according to 19 Egyptian organisations.  In a joint statement, they said:  “The draft law seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and gives the state free hand to disperse peaceful gatherings by use of force”.

The consul in the Egyptian embassy in Dublin, Mr. Abdul Atif, said: “The new law, regulating the right to protests, aims to organise the process itself. Some people agree and some people don’t like the idea of regulating the rights of protesters. In general political powers in Egypt believe that there should be a free right for demonstrators to express political views on what is going on in Egypt. Clearly, some political powers have taken advantage of the freedom of demonstration and used arms and violence. The law is being put in place in a bid to guarantee no arms or violence”.

There are, however, concerns the law may be misused. “The unfair protest law will be broken,” Ahmed Mahler told Reuters, whose April 6 movement helped lead the uprising against autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Lilah Gafaar 

OPINION – Success of the climate summit in Warsaw – conclusions after COP19

Credit BBC.co.uk

Credit bbc.co.uk

Here are four reasons why the UN organised 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) should be remembered as extraordinarily successful despite strained emotions, problems and controversies.

1.       Hosts’ success despite ecologic NGOs anti-Polish actions

Despite several initial difficulties, Poland managed to perform its role as the host of COP19 well. The main concern was the real possibility of hostile actions by ecology-oriented Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), aiming to boycott Poland’s position as host due to its opposition to decarbonisation policies and 90% of its economy being based on coal. Some NGOs came to Warsaw with the aim of confronting and discrediting the host of the summit, regardless of the power and virtue of their arguments. They appeared to forget that harassment and humiliation is not a path to progress. While calling Poland ‘Coaland’ and its government ‘Coalish’ might have brought attention to their position, in reality they only strengthened the Polish position as a strong and reliable government able to act diplomatically and be decisive even in such unfavourable conditions.

2.       Industry get involved

It may be hard to believe, but this summit was the first in the history of COP conferences when industrial lobbies took an active part on an equal footing to other organisations. Until now all the political decisions on CO2 reduction quotas were made without any consultation with industry representatives.

3.       Resolution – all for one, one for all  

One of the aims of the Polish presidency was to encourage all of the member states to participate in the future agreement, so the Paris resolution would have a worldwide and legally binding character. This was a turning point in international eco politics, as it created a real opportunity to make developing countries take an active part in counteracting climate change.

4.       The €25million budget was not wasted

The estimated cost of organizing COP19 was €25million. That is, indeed, a lot, but looking at the ultimate result of the conference, it is undeniable that the budget was well spent. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, the summit has shown that Poland is not only capable of hosting one of the most important international political events, but can also do so with considerable success.

Katarzyna Sowa