Category Archives: Legal and Judicial

Rwanda’s President Leads Ceremonies Marking Genocide Anniversary

KIGALI Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has led commemorations marking the 25 anniversary of the genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people with a stern warning to those with plans to destabilize the country.

For those from here or from outside who think our country has not seen enough of a mess and want to mess with us, in defense of those children you saw and our nation, I want to say, we will mess up with them big time, Kagame told thousands of people gathered to remember those killed in 1994. We claim no special place, but we have a place to claim. The fighting spirit is alive in us. What happened here will never happen again.

In the lead up to 25th genocide commemoration, tensions have been mounting between Rwanda and Uganda.

Rwanda accused Uganda of supporting groups opposed to the government in Kigali. Uganda rejects those accusations.

A frequent guest to commemoration events, Uganda President Yoweli Museveni was absent this time. He was represented by his foreign affairs minister Sam Kuteesa.

We are the last people in the world who should succumb to complacency. The suffering we have endured should be enough to keep our fighting spirit alive, said Kagame.

The commemoration began with lighting of the flame and laying of wreaths at the Kigali Genocide memorial where close to 250,000 remains were buried. In all, about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists.

Honore Gatera, coordinator of Kigali memorial center said the flame they were lighting was a symbol of courage and resilience that Rwanda has shown for the past quarter of a century.

Young Rwandans, aged 25 years and representing the new generation of Rwanda, handed over the flame that will burn for the next 100 days to Kagame. One of them said This is a light of remembrance, the light of life.

President Kagame thanked countries who have been with Rwanda through its journey of reconstruction.

On a day like this, when language fails, the first words that come, are words of gratitude. To you, the friends by our side on this heavy day, including the different leaders present, we say thank you, he said. In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness. Today, light radiates from this place.

President Paul Kagame also paid tribute to foreigners who helped survivors and later died too.

Joining us today are families from other countries, whose husbands, fathers, sisters, and aunts were claimed by the same deadly ideology, said Kagame. The only comfort we can offer is the commonality of sorrow, and the respect owed to those who had the courage to do the right thing.

A notable absentee at the commemoration was French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country stands accused of aiding the genocide. Macron proposed an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide on Sunday, according to AFP.

A Rwandan-born Member of Parliament Herve Berville who was orphaned in the 1993 violence led the French delegation.

Belgium, which colonized Rwanda. was represented by Prime Minister Charles Michel, who admitted part of responsibility of Belgium in the 1994 genocide.

Michel said genocide was a failure of the international community. He said he was moved by the courage, resilience and empathy of the Rwandan people.

In a tweet, British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote, Today I am reflecting on the thousands of lives lost in the Rwandan genocide 25 years ago. This was a tragedy and it remains as important as ever to make sure such atrocities are not repeated.

Sunday’s ceremonies marked the beginning of 100 days commemoration.

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Deploys Troops Bracing for Anti-Biya Protests

YAOUNDE Cameroon has deployed troops to crack down on protesters calling for the release from jail of 150 opposition party members, including their leader Maurice Kamto, who says he won the October presidential election, not long-serving President Paul Biya. Kamto has been in jail for more than two months and his supporters say he should be unconditionally released.

It was a quiet but tense Saturday morning in some neighborhoods of Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, as residents went about their daily activities, watched by combat-ready police. Half a dozen officers have been deployed around the headquarters of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement party of Kamto, who remains in jail and insists he won the presidential election on Oct. 7, even though official results give a decisive victory to incumbent Biya.

Territorial Administration Minister Paul Atanga Nji said security forces are there to protect the population from the opposition political party that he said wants to see the country in chaos.

He said even though President Biya has kept Cameroon democratic and peaceful, with freedoms and liberties, authorities will not accept protests carried out in disrespect of the law and they will not tolerate those who want to use violence to make their voices heard. He said Cameroonians are peace-loving people who reject the violence some opposition parties want to bring.

Nji said Saturday the government banned protests organized by the opposition MRC party until April 13 because the action is provocative and intended to create an uprising in a country that already has Boko Haram terrorism to contend with on its northern border with Nigeria. He pointed out that Cameroon also has suffered from carnage that has spilled over from the neighboring Central African Republic on its eastern border and has had to deal with the separatist crisis that killed at least 1,000 people in the English-speaking regions of the bilingual country that also has French as its official language.

Nji said April 6, which the MRC chose for its protests, remains a painful day for Cameroonians because it is the anniversary of a 1984 coup attempt to oust Biya from power. He said he has instructed all 10 regional governors to arrest anyone who protests.

MRC Party Secretary General Christopher Ndong says members are mobilized and ready to demonstrate their support for jailed members of their party and Kamto, who claims his victory was stolen by Biya.

“Do you expect us to fold our hands and stand. Professor Maurice Kamto won the 2018 presidential election and the president that was supposed to be [in power] was the one caught and locked up. The government does not want him to take over power. Our liberties are infringed, our right to freedom of speech infringed. It is not because the government is clamping down on us that will make the population fear,” Ndong said.

The protesters had asked for authorization to march and asked the government to solve the crisis in the English-speaking regions that has gone on for three years.

Pierre Hubert Mbida of the Cameroon Citizenship Movement said by refusing to authorize the protest and deploying security forces to clamp down on protesters, Cameroon is simply confirming that it disrespects people’s rights and freedoms.

He said the Cameroon government is abusing public liberties and people’s freedoms and expresses joy only when its supporters sing praises about its management of public affairs, governance and its long serving leader Biya. He said it is funny that when people go to the streets to complain that they lack water to drink, they are described as unpatriotic citizens who are a menace to public order. He said it is intolerable that for quite some time now, Cameroon has continued to recruit soldiers to protect its leaders.

Biya, who has led Cameroon for 36 years, won 71.3 percent of the vote, far ahead of Kamto’s 14.2 percent, according to official results of the Oct. 7 poll.

Police arrested Kamto and his supporters more than two months ago after days of peaceful protests turned violent in Yaounde and three other cities.

Kamto is charged with sedition, insurrection and inciting violence in Cameroon and its embassies, including in Paris and Berlin.

Source: Voice of America

Sustaining peace at the local level: How to strengthen social cohesion at the Mauritania-Mali border

Bassikounou is a moughataa (district) and town of Hodh el Chargui region in Southeastern Mauritania, almost 1,200 kilometres from the capital Nouakchott. On the border with Mali, the landscape is dominated by sand dunes. Rain and pasture have become sparser over the last few years, and yet large herds of cows, sheep, goats, donkeys and camels roam the scant grasslands. They represent the livelihoods of the mostly nomadic communities on both sides of the border.

Like in many parts of the Sahel, the border here is invisible, and Mauritanians and Malians are linked by family ties, religion and trade. Since the start of the conflict in Mali in 2011, Malians have crossed the border and have not yet been able to return because of ongoing instability. Over 50,000 Malians live in a refugee camp about 20 kilometres from Bassikounou, effectively doubling the population of the district and making it Mauritania’s second largest urban area.

The increased pressure on natural resources and social services can lead to conflicts between refugees and hosts. And while tensions do exist in Bassikounou, the local population has been remarkably effective in ensuring that peace prevails. There is mediation by village elders, or through the local prefect, and more recently also the village committees. Shared religious values and a century-old culture of hospitality have also helped. And the government and international partners have done their utmost to support both refugees and locals.

However, there is always the risk of escalating tensions because of a continuous influx of refugees due to persistent insecurity and conflict in Mali, the very real risk of climate shocks, and limited public services and economic opportunities.

A peace lens

The international community has started to look at a more long-term approach, thinking about a developmental instead of a purely humanitarian response. This requires, among other things, deciding how refugees and their hosts can live together in dignity and harmony.

So how can we, as the UN contribute to sustained peace in Bassikounou? Together with the government, the UN has convened locals and the international community to start thinking about planning for the district, considering likely climate scenarios.

To put a peace lens into this development thinking, we deployed to Bassikounou as part of an interagency mission comprised of UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and OHCHR to jointly develop a project proposal to respond to the challenges they face.

We met both the international community and local leaders, including political and administrative authorities and mayors. We also met village committees, women’s cooperatives, teachers and parents, as well as youth representatives from the district and the refugee camp.

Their main concern? Contested natural resources, such as water, pastures and firewood. Vulnerable groups, including rural communities, women and youth, have limited work and limited government services. However, it also became clear that the village committees and networks of women and young people are important for building social cohesion. One way the UN can contribute to social cohesion and the prevention of crises in Bassikounou is by building on these local strengths.

The mission developed several approaches for this:

Support a joint plan to manage scarce natural resources. The participation of village committees?�?especially female members?�?will ensure inclusivity. They will monitor implementation and resolve disputes.

Enable district authorities to encourage local economic development, including a diversification of the economy. Joint cooperatives and shared value chains can create benefits for both refugees and hosts. One example is the production of leather goods by nomadic herders and local communities.

Support young people, in particular women, both in and out of school, to become peace agents and leaders. This involves training for non-violence and community leadership, joint activities between refugee and host community youth, and shared spaces to exchange economic and other learning skills.

Bassikounou demonstrates the often-overlooked potential for sustaining peace. It also illustrates the complexity of the challenges that communities across the Sahel face when the effects of instability spill over and affect their fragile livelihoods. Crucially, our experience taught us that working in these contexts requires UN agencies to pool their expertise and resources and work with national and local partners. Given the cross-border nature of social, community and economic life in Bassikounou, a comprehensive approach to sustaining peace could, as a next step, involve communities in Mali.

There is still much to learn about the ways in which the UN can work with governments and societies to sustain peace, where challenges are complex and?�?as is the case in Bassikounou?�?are compounded by regional instability, and the effects of climate change. A first step is to ask locals what works best.

About the authors

Tanya Pedersen Sierra is a programme analyst working with UNDP on local governance in fragile and crisis settings.

Laura Rutishauser is a political scientist who formerly worked as a programme analyst specializing in governance and peacebuilding at UNDP.

Henrik Hartmann is a specialist in peacebuilding, risk and resilience, formerly working with UNICEF.

Source: UN Development Programme

Pope Tells Moroccans ‘We Are Brothers and Sisters’

RABAT Pope Francis sought Sunday to encourage greater fraternity between Christians and Muslims in Morocco, telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of the same human family will help stamp out extremism.

On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis told Catholic priests and sisters that even though they are few in number, they shouldn’t seek to convert others to Christianity but rather engage in dialogue and charity.

“In this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict,” he said. “For we know that fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated, destabilize our communities and leave them spiritually defenseless.”

Francis has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first trip to Morocco, a majority Muslim nation of 36 million. Proselytism is a sensitive topic in religious discourse in the North African nation, even though Christians, Muslims and Jews have coexisted peacefully here for centuries.

After reaching out Saturday to Morocco’s Sunni majority, Francis turned his attention Sunday to the country’s Christian minority, celebrating a Mass for about 10,000 people representing 60 countries, many of them sub-Saharan African migrants and other foreigners.

In his homily, delivered in his native Spanish and translated into French, Francis urged them to resist the temptation to sow division and confrontation and instead remember “we are brothers and sisters.”

“Experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples’ soul, poisoning our children’s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish,” Francis told the faithful, who gathered in a sports arena in Rabat.

Francis’ aim was to highlight the constructive presence of Christians in Moroccan life and how they are part of its human fabric alongside Muslims and people of other faith.

He started his day Sunday by visiting a social center run by Catholic religious sisters that serves a poor Muslim community south of the capital, Rabat, with medical, educational and vocational services. The Temara center operates a preschool, treats burn victims, trains women in sewing and provides meals for 150 children a day.

Catholic teachings are not taught at the preschool.

“Their teachers are all Muslims and speak in Arabic and they prepare them on Muslim religion,” said sister Gloria Carrillero. “We did not come here with the purpose of doing proselytism. We came here just to help.”

Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign-born migrants. Morocco also has up to 6,000 homegrown converts to Christianity who are obliged to practice their faith privately because Morocco prohibits Muslim conversions.

These Moroccan converts often celebrate Masses in their homes and hide their religious affiliations for fear of prosecution and arrest. Yet many flocked to Francis’ afternoon Mass in a Rabat sports stadium Sunday with the hope that the pope’s visit would compel Moroccan authorities to be more tolerant of religious diversity.

“With this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud to be Christians,” said Moroccan Christian Adam Rbati, who was attending the Mass with his Christian wife and newborn son. “It might not change much, but it will certainly create the space for future positive change.”

Francis touched on the issue of religious freedom in his opening speech to King Mohammed VI on Saturday, urging Morocco to move beyond just freedom of worship to true respect for an individual’s faith.

“That is why freedom of conscience and religious freedom � which is not limited to freedom of worship alone, but allows all to live in accordance with their religious convictions � are inseparably linked to human dignity,” he said.

In a speech to Catholic priests in the city cathedral Sunday, Francis drew applause when he told them they should not proselytize. The church grows, he said, when people are attracted to its message, witness its charity and engage in dialogue as part of a human family.

He called for prayer “in the name of this fraternity, torn apart by the policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies, which manipulate the actions and the future of men and women.”

Among the priests on the altar to greet the pope was the Rev. Jean-Pierre Schumacher, the last survivor of the Tibhirine monks.

Schumacher and his brother monks had decided to stay in their monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria, alongside locals during the country’s civil war, despite the threats against them. Seven monks were abducted and beheaded in 1996, their skulls discovered nearby. A radical group was blamed for their beheadings, but some observers have suggested that Algeria’s military was responsible.

Francis kissed Schumacher’s hand in a sign of respect, and the stooped 95-year-old priest reciprocated.

Last year, the seven monks and 12 other religious sisters and Catholics killed during Algeria’s civil war were beatified in Algiers.

Source: Voice of America

Pope Tells Moroccans ‘We Are Brothers and Sisters’

RABAT Pope Francis sought Sunday to encourage greater fraternity between Christians and Muslims in Morocco, telling his flock that showing the country’s Muslim majority they are part of the same human family will help stamp out extremism.

On his second and final day in Morocco, Francis told Catholic priests and sisters that even though they are few in number, they shouldn’t seek to convert others to Christianity but rather engage in dialogue and charity.

“In this way, you will unmask and lay bare every attempt to exploit differences and ignorance in order to sow fear, hatred and conflict,” he said. “For we know that fear and hatred, nurtured and manipulated, destabilize our communities and leave them spiritually defenseless.”

Francis has stressed a message of Christian-Muslim fraternity during his first trip to Morocco, a majority Muslim nation of 36 million. Proselytism is a sensitive topic in religious discourse in the North African nation, even though Christians, Muslims and Jews have coexisted peacefully here for centuries.

After reaching out Saturday to Morocco’s Sunni majority, Francis turned his attention Sunday to the country’s Christian minority, celebrating a Mass for about 10,000 people representing 60 countries, many of them sub-Saharan African migrants and other foreigners.

In his homily, delivered in his native Spanish and translated into French, Francis urged them to resist the temptation to sow division and confrontation and instead remember “we are brothers and sisters.”

“Experience tells us that hatred, division and revenge succeed only in killing our peoples’ soul, poisoning our children’s hopes, and destroying and sweeping away everything we cherish,” Francis told the faithful, who gathered in a sports arena in Rabat.

Francis’ aim was to highlight the constructive presence of Christians in Moroccan life and how they are part of its human fabric alongside Muslims and people of other faith.

He started his day Sunday by visiting a social center run by Catholic religious sisters that serves a poor Muslim community south of the capital, Rabat, with medical, educational and vocational services. The Temara center operates a preschool, treats burn victims, trains women in sewing and provides meals for 150 children a day.

Catholic teachings are not taught at the preschool.

“Their teachers are all Muslims and speak in Arabic and they prepare them on Muslim religion,” said sister Gloria Carrillero. “We did not come here with the purpose of doing proselytism. We came here just to help.”

Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Morocco’s population and most are foreign-born migrants. Morocco also has up to 6,000 homegrown converts to Christianity who are obliged to practice their faith privately because Morocco prohibits Muslim conversions.

These Moroccan converts often celebrate Masses in their homes and hide their religious affiliations for fear of prosecution and arrest. Yet many flocked to Francis’ afternoon Mass in a Rabat sports stadium Sunday with the hope that the pope’s visit would compel Moroccan authorities to be more tolerant of religious diversity.

“With this visit, we want to tell the pope and the Moroccan society that we are proud to be Christians,” said Moroccan Christian Adam Rbati, who was attending the Mass with his Christian wife and newborn son. “It might not change much, but it will certainly create the space for future positive change.”

Francis touched on the issue of religious freedom in his opening speech to King Mohammed VI on Saturday, urging Morocco to move beyond just freedom of worship to true respect for an individual’s faith.

“That is why freedom of conscience and religious freedom � which is not limited to freedom of worship alone, but allows all to live in accordance with their religious convictions � are inseparably linked to human dignity,” he said.

In a speech to Catholic priests in the city cathedral Sunday, Francis drew applause when he told them they should not proselytize. The church grows, he said, when people are attracted to its message, witness its charity and engage in dialogue as part of a human family.

He called for prayer “in the name of this fraternity, torn apart by the policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies, which manipulate the actions and the future of men and women.”

Among the priests on the altar to greet the pope was the Rev. Jean-Pierre Schumacher, the last survivor of the Tibhirine monks.

Schumacher and his brother monks had decided to stay in their monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria, alongside locals during the country’s civil war, despite the threats against them. Seven monks were abducted and beheaded in 1996, their skulls discovered nearby. A radical group was blamed for their beheadings, but some observers have suggested that Algeria’s military was responsible.

Francis kissed Schumacher’s hand in a sign of respect, and the stooped 95-year-old priest reciprocated.

Last year, the seven monks and 12 other religious sisters and Catholics killed during Algeria’s civil war were beatified in Algiers.

Source: Voice of America