Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Uganadan rebel leader fleeing towards Ethiopia - Ethiopia, Eritrea risk starting new war says UN envoy

KAMPALA, Mar 24, 2005 (New Vision) -- Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels are now in Bor in Jonglei, moving towards the Sudan/ Ethiopia border. Intelligence sources said the rebels had temporarily camped at Mangala, far north of the southern Sudanese city of Juba.

"There are indications that the rebels are heading to either Bor or the Ethiopian border. They are fleeing from intensive pressure inside Uganda and Sudan," a source said.

Army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza said, "I think they are heading to the Ethiopian border. I have confirmed that Kony and Vincent Otti are in the group."

He said the UPDF was considering seeking permission from Sudan to pursue the rebels.

"I think we deserve to be cleared. Ever since we went behind the former red-lines near Juba, we have achieved tremendous success against the rebels," Bantariza said.

Kony's flight deeper into Sudan puts more pressure on the Sudan People's Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army to locate and capture him. UPDF soldiers are deployed in eastern Equatoria province as part of a protocol between Khartoum and Kampala.

Kony's departure also means that hopes of ending the war through peaceful means have died. Betty Bigombe, the chief mediator of the peace process, also returned to the US, where she works for the World Bank.
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Ethiopia, Eritrea risk starting new war - UN envoy

OTTAWA, March 24 (Reuters) - Ethiopia and Eritrea run the risk of starting a new war over a long-running border dispute, with tensions being fueled by irresponsible arms sales to both impoverished African nations, a senior United Nations official said on Thursday.

"Time is running out. Both countries are acquiring additional arms, increasing the number of forces at their borders," said former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, the special U.N. envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea.

"I still believe however that war can averted," he told Parliament's foreign affairs committee in Ottawa.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year border war from 1998 to 2000 in which more than 70,000 people died.

The conflict ended with a peace deal that set up a commission to determine where the border should lie. Ethiopia, which objects to some of the commission's conclusions, recently moved troops into the buffer zone along the border.

Axworthy noted the two sides had adopted "a more military tone to the dialogue" and called on the international community to clamp down on arms sales to the two nations.

"There are a lot of countries who should know better who are making good profit off the arms sales and I think some effort through the (U.N. Security) Council to put some limitations on that would be well worth looking at," he said.
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Ethiopian troops murdered scores, says rights group

NAIROBI, March 24 (Reuters) - A New York-based human rights group said on Thursday that Ethiopian soldiers have murdered, raped and tortured hundreds of people in the country's remote southwestern region of Gambella since December 2003.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has in the past dismissed allegations that his army was involved in killings in Gambella, telling Reuters they were "a fiction".

Human Rights Watch said in a 64-page report, researched last December, that the acts against the Anuak population could amount to crimes against humanity.

"The prevailing climate of impunity that now exists in Gambella has allowed ENDF (Ethiopia National Defence Forces) soldiers to prey upon and terrorise the Anuak communities they patrol," the report said.

"The Ethiopian government must address its responsibility for the horrific crimes that the army has committed," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Africa division, said in a statement.

But Ethiopia's minister for information Bereket Simon dismissed the report, saying it was authored by government opponents seeking to make political capital ahead of elections in May.

"The Human Rights (Watch) accusations are unfounded and unacceptable," Bereket told Reuters in Addis Ababa.

"The report is based on false information by the (local) Ethiopia Human Rights Council. We know that the leaders of this group want to make political gain from this issue."

Ethiopia will hold elections for its 547-seat federal parliament on May 15, 2005.

Human Rights Watch said Ethiopian soldiers from highland areas were attacking Anuak lowlanders in retaliation for ambushes staged by Anuak rebels in Gambella, some 700 km (435 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.

Ethnic tensions between highlanders and lowlanders boiled over into riots in December 2003 in which Human Rights Watch said mobs and soldiers massacred some 400 Anuaks.

One person described by Human Rights Watch as a witness to the December 2003 killings described seeing soldiers tie an Anuak man's hands to his legs before running him over with a military truck.

The report also quoted an Anuak woman as saying she was beaten and gang-raped by 12 soldiers on her way to a village in early 2004.

Six soldiers are due to be prosecuted for their roles in violence in Gambella, Ethiopian officials said last week.

The government has said 60 people were killed in December 2003, while another rights group, the Swiss-based World Organisation Against Torture, put the figure at more than 1,100 people.

Human Rights Watch said the unrest had forced 6,000 people to flee Gambella, with many crossing into Kenya and Sudan.

Human Rights Watch researcher Chris Albin-Lackey said Ethiopian soldiers had also destroyed more than 1,000 homes in a series of attacks on Anuak villages.
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Troop massing designed to send message to Eritrea- Ethiopian PM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 18, 2005 (IRIN) -- Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is one of 17 commissioners who last week released a report by British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa. In an interview with IRIN in Addis Ababa on Friday, Meles explained his views on the report, and its role in fostering greater development in Africa. Here are excerpts from that interview:

[IRIN] The report was launched in Africa Hall [in Addis Ababa], where the founding fathers launched the organization of African Unity in 1963. What do you think they would say if they saw the state of Africa today, more than 40 years later?

[Meles] I think they would say that things have not gone as well as they should. But I hope they would recognize that over the past few years, and with the coming of the Commission for Africa report, Africa has been making significant efforts in moving forward.

[IRIN] What are you most pleased about with the recommendations made by the Commission for Africa?

[Meles] It is really the fundamentals of that report, based on the need for inclusive and fair globalization. That is the fundamental point based on the recognition that Africa should be in the driving seat. For me it is a new paradigm, no matter what happens in terms of the specifics. If the report is endorsed by the G8, that in itself would be an historic achievement.

[IRIN] You say the report has been infused with African spirit. Fine words, but what do you really mean by that?

[Meles] Well, as I said in my speech, it is about Africa. It is about globalization. It recognizes that in the end, Africa has to stand up for itself, and has to do what it has to do. And it is about the rest of the world recognizing that it is in their interests, and that they are closely linked to Africa doing much better than it has done before.

[IRIN] What do the Commission for Africa's recommendations mean for Ethiopia?

[Meles] It means legitimacy in terms of our rights, and it sets [an] agenda of development cooperation which is much more productive, in my view, than has been the case over the past 30 or 40 years. It creates the right framework for pro-poor growth in this country, as well as on the continent.

[IRIN] Do you think you can set an example by settling, once and for all, the dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea?

[Meles] We will try. We have tried in the past, but as I have said, it takes two to tango.

[IRIN] What is required on that then?

[Meles] A willingness on the part of our fellows in Eritrea to talk. The outcome of the talks is open, but in the final analysis, the dispute will have to be resolved through dialogue. Talking with each other. That is not available to us right now.

[IRIN] But obviously you accept that peace and security are core themes of the commission's work?

[Meles] Nothing good will happen to Africa unless we address the security and governance issues, and that means, in specific terms, in the case of Ethiopia, we have to rule out the possibility of conflict between ourselves and Eritrea for good. We have to recognize that this problem can be, and should only be, resolved by peaceful means through dialogue.

[IRIN] There has been concern about Ethiopia moving troops to the border and the potential problems this might lead to. What is your view on this?

[Meles] The bottom line is we will not initiate a conflict with Eritrea or anybody else. We have had enough. We believe the problem between ourselves and Eritrea can be resolved through dialogue. And so everything we do is calculated to reinforce this message; including the troop movement. The troop movement is designed to send a message to our brothers that the option of violence is not an attractive option to any side. In the end, we have got to sit around the table. There is no way round it.

[IRIN] The measure of success for the Commission for Africa is to see the implementation of the recommendations, to see real action. What specifically will you be looking for?

[Meles] The first thing, and for me the most important thing, is that the report should be addressed. I am confident that Africa will address the report, and I very much hope that the G8 will address the report. Once we have the paradigm in place, then we would expect our G8 partners to move expeditiously on improving the quantity and quality of aid, debt cancellation and the [World Trade organization] Doha round of trade negotiations that provide real and non-reciprocal access for African goods.

[IRIN] What sort of Africa do you see without the implementation of this report?

[Meles] Well, clearly either we have to move forward aggressively, or we are going to move backwards, and we have examples of both. Moving backward means going in the direction of, let us say, Somalia, Liberia and so on. Moving forward means moving forward in the direction of, let us say, Botswana. Despite the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Botswana has done very well in terms of governance and economic development, and there are many other African countries that can be cited. So either we move in the direction of Botswana and company, or we move in the direction of Somalia and company.

[IRIN] You have been in power now 14 years. In that time, I am sure, you have had a lot of promises from various countries that have not been fulfilled. Why do you think these promises [by the Commission for Africa] will be fulfilled?

[Meles] First, I am not banking on specific promises per se, I am banking on the paradigm as a whole. Secondly, despite some disappointments, we have seen some countries moving in the direction of implementing their programmes. For example, I can cite, in the case of Ethiopia - Sweden, Ireland and the UK who have improved both the quantity, but more importantly the quality of their assistance to us.

[IRIN] And realistically where do you think Africa will be in five years time?

[Meles] It may not be the case that Africa, or every African country, will have done well by then, but I think there will be enough countries in Africa that are moving more aggressively to achieving the [UN] Millennium Development Goals.

[IRIN] Is this a landmark document, a blueprint, something that people will look back on and say "that was a turning point for Africa"?

[Meles] That is exactly the case for me, and I would have thought so for every other African.

[Report courtesy]

Monday, March 21, 2005

Rebels mutilate women in northern Uganda

March 21, 2005 AFP report:

Insurgents of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) chopped off lips, ears and breasts of seven women in northern Uganda's Kitgum district.

The incident occurred near Patika camp for displaced people about 48 kilometres from Kitgum town, the state-run New Vision newspaper said.

"They (rebels) just cut off the breasts of the seven women," Walter Ocholla, the chairman of northern Gulu district, said.

The New Vision said the insurgents, who have been carrying out a brutal campaign against civilians in northern Uganda, also chopped off lips and ears of the women as they were collecting firewood.

The rebels also took an unknown number of women hostage while the mutilated women were admitted to a nearby health facility.

Army spokesman Lieutenant Kiconco Tabaro said soldiers were pursuing the attackers.

"Our forces are tracking the attackers to make sure that they are punished for the crimes they are committing against humanity," Lt Tabaro told the newspaper.

Last month, the rebels sliced the lips off eight women in another raid in northern Uganda.

Several attempts to sign a truce and launch formal peace talks have failed amid growing mistrust between the warring sides.

The LRA, which operates from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, has been fighting President Yoweri Museveni's secular government since 1988, ostensibly to replace it with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments.

It is notorious for its ruthlessness against the people of northern Uganda, where more than 1.6 million people have been displaced from their homes and are living in camps.

The rebel group tends to grow its ranks by raiding camps for displaced people in northern Uganda and kidnapping children living there, forcing the boys into combat and the girls into sexual slavery.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Africa experiences the devastating effect of two tsunamis every month

The following editiorial is a copy of a 9 March 2005 London Reuters report by Ruth Gidley.

Brutal conflicts in Congo, Uganda and Sudan are the world's three biggest "forgotten emergencies", each dwarfing the toll of the Asian tsunami but attracting scant media interest, a new Reuters AlertNet poll of experts shows.

War in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country two-thirds the size of Western Europe, has claimed at least 10 times as many lives as the December tsunami yet remains almost unheard of outside of Africa, key players in the aid world said.

"It's the worst humanitarian tragedy since the Holocaust," John O'Shea, chief executive of Irish relief agency GOAL, told AlertNet. "The greatest example on the planet of man's inhumanity to man."

AlertNet asked 102 humanitarian professionals, media personalities, academics and policymakers which "forgotten" crises they would urge the media to focus on in 2005.

Answers came back from across the spectrum, from royal connections, acting stars and a Nobel prize winner, as well as various U.N. agencies and dozens of NGOs.

Many experts accused the Western media of routinely ignoring emergencies in countries of low geopolitical importance for big powers despite the enormous scale of suffering.

"One television news producer we met in the U.S. summed up the situation since spring 2003 this way: 'Look, we've got three foreign news priorities these days: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq," said Gareth Evans, president of Belgian think tank Crisis Group.

Almost half of those polled -- including U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland and U.S. leftwing intellectual Noam Chomsky -- nominated Congo, citing the brutality of an ugly, tangled war that has killed 3.8 million people since 1998, according to the International Rescue Committee.


"It's Africa's First World War," said British journalist Jon Snow, news anchorman for Channel 4 television.

The details of northern Uganda's hidden war - the silver prize-winner in the AlertNet ranking - are even more sensational.

Ninety-five percent of the population in the conflict zone have been uprooted, and some 25,000 children have been abducted to fight as soldiers and sex slaves.

Rural children who live in the rural danger zone are called "night commuters" because they take refuge at night in the relative safety of cities to escape abduction by the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army, which has waged a bloody 18-year insurgency. Eighty percent of its troops are estimated to be children.

"Like many people, I didn't have any idea of the scale of this conflict," said British Hollywood star Helen Mirren, who travelled to Uganda with relief agency Oxfam. "Nearly two million people have been made homeless and hundreds of thousands more have been killed."

The experts' third most neglected emergency was Sudan, where four million people have yet to go home after Africa's longest-running civil war in the south and atrocities in the western Darfur region have raised the spectre of genocide.

"Darfur has slipped from the front pages, but the situation there is again going from terrible to being absolutely horrendous," U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland said.

Africa featured heavily in the top 10, taking half the top spots, but news coverage outside the region is minimal.

"Africa experiences the devastating effect of two tsunamis every month", said Amy Slorach, appeal coordinator for British nongovernmental relief agency Tearfund.


West Africa's wars encompass Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone, briefly infamous for the large numbers of civilian amputees who lost their arms and legs to crazed soldiers' machetes.

AlertNet left it up to respondents how to define emergencies, and quite a few chose health disasters, with HIV/AIDS voted number four in the poll.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund voted for women survivors of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, who are now dying as a consequence of being raped by HIV-positive attackers.

"The genocide happened 10 years ago, but its legacy continues to destroy lives today," said Lucinda MacPherson, the Fund's senior press and communications officer.

Other infectious diseases - tuberculosis and malaria in particular - made number 10 in the poll. Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds, while tuberculosis kills about 2 million a year worldwide.

Two Latin American crises ranked high in the survey. Colombia - where nearly 3 million people have fled their homes because of violence that has been raging since 1948 -- was voted into sixth place

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, was number nine. The Caribbean nation is wracked with an ongoing political crisis, and U.N. troops have failed to quell the violence.

Conflict in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya, number seven in the AlertNet survey, has been simmering since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and at least 13,000 Russian troops.


Nepal's insurgency - which has toppled into a crisis since the king sacked the government in early February - was voted number eight on the list.

Crisis Group's Evans called it "the deadliest conflict in Asia, with some 10,000 killed over the past few years".

Food shortages in Africa - especially in Eritrea and Zimbabwe - featured in the survey responses, but narrowly missed the top 10.

"More people die every year of causes related to hunger and malnutrition than the total number who die of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined," said James Morris, chief executive of the U.N. World Food Programme.

"Of the 10 million people who die each year from hunger and malnutrition, just 8 percent die in the kind of emergencies we hear about on the evening news."

Annabel Brown of Community Aid Abroad - the Australian Oxfam -- told AlertNet: "Natural disasters capture the attention of the world, but it is the manmade crisis situations -- resulting in part from the disparities and injustices in the world - that rich countries should continue to be aware of and forced to take some responsibility for."

Noam Chomsky chose Congo and Colombia, Haiti and the Israel-Palestine conflict, but also nominated a series of low-profile emergencies. The MIT professor chose to highlight West Papua, natural disasters and child labour in Nicaragua, displacement of Turkish Kurds, and horrifying conditions in rural India and China.

The Asian Development Bank's vice president, Geert van der Linden, voted for human trafficking.

Other organisations - such as Medecins sans Frontieres and the United Nations -- have tried to bring global attention to neglected emergencies.

Northern Uganda took the number one slot in the MSF Top 10 Most Underreported Stories of 2004

Uganda also tops the United Nations' "10 stories the world should hear more about".

"The attention span of most media on most stories is way too short," said Jody Williams, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1997 for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"The media should do a much better job educating itself - and then the public - on the root causes of 'emergencies'," she said.