Category Archives: Politics

WHO: Progress Made Containing Ebola in Eastern DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports substantial progress is being made in containing the spread of the Ebola virus in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It warns, however, that new hotspots are appearing. The WHO says the number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in the DRC stands at 143, including 97 deaths.
WHO officials say they are pleased with the progress being made in limiting the spread of the Ebola virus, but that the outbreak of this fatal disease in Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces remains active and vigilance must be maintained.
WHO reports the situation in Mangina, the initial epicenter of the epidemic in North Kivu, is stabilizing. WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told VOA there are no security problems there, so health workers are able to safely access the area and treat those affected by the disease. But there are exceptions.
“Immediately to the east is an inaccessible area. This region is in a security level four, which is one of the highest in the U.N. security phasing system. For example, the road from Beni to Oicha is in the ‘red zone’… So, in some places, we are really able to move to work. In some other places, it is more difficult,” she said.
Chaib said the cities of Beni and Butembo have become the new hotspots, noting that Butembo is in the red zone.
The WHO spokeswoman said there is significant risk that Ebola could spread there, and health workers have to remain on top of the many challenges facing them.
Among the challenges is a growing resistance in some communities to measures used to contain the virus.
For example, Chaib said, some people are reluctant to go to treatment centers for care. Others are unwilling to change traditional burial practices, such as touching the bodies of those who have died from Ebola. WHO warns this is one of the surest ways of spreading the infection. The outbreak in the DRC is the 10th since Ebola was first identified in 1976.

Source: Voice of America

Somali Girls’ Deaths Spur More Calls to End FGM

A spate of deaths of young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) has renewed calls for Somalia to outlaw the tradition.
Four girls, ages 10 and 11, from central and northern Somalia have died in the last three months after having been cut, and seven others are in hospitals, activists said.
“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a local women’s group in the east African country.
“These cases confirm what we have been saying all along — that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it,” Mohamed said. “The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”
An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, the United Nations says.
One of 28 African countries where the tradition is endemic, Somalia has the world’s highest rates of FGM — 98 percent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone the ritual.
Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing voters who view FGM as a part of their tradition.
Government and hospital officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths or hospital admissions.
The charity Save the Children said it rescued seven girls — aged between 5 and 8 years old — on Sunday from Somalia’s northern Puntland state. The girls had undergone FGM and were bleeding excessively; they are now receiving hospital treatment.
“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more cases go unreported,” said Timothy Bishop, country director of Save the Children in Somalia.
Campaigners said Suheyra Qorane Farah, 10, from Puntland died Sunday after contracting tetanus, having undergone FGM on Aug. 29.
Two sisters, Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, age 10 and 11, from the same region bled to death Sept. 11 after visiting a cutter across the border in neighboring Ethiopia.
The death of Deeqa Nuur, 10, in July from severe bleeding following FGM prompted the attorney general to initiate Somalia’s first prosecution against FGM — using existing laws — but the investigation has faced challenges.

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.
“A specific law can express punishments and specify stiffer penalties, ensure that all accomplices are held accountable, and gives guidance on the kind of evidence needed to prove the crime,” she said.

Source: Voice of America

UN: Widespread Violations in Burundi May Amount to Crimes Against Humanity

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi accused the country of persistent and widespread violations of human rights, some of which it says constitute crimes against humanity.
The Commission presented its final report on the situation in Burundi to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. It says violations — which include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and sexual violence — are used by the government and its allies to bend the Burundian people to its will.
The Commission accuses members of the National Intelligence Service, including senior officials and the police, of serious violations. It also expresses concern about the growing role played by the youth militia, the Imbonerakure, in controlling the population.
Commission member Francoise Hampson says the Burundian state is to blame for the wrongful acts committed by the Imbonerakure, since it exercises overall effective control.
“The climate of disregard for human rights in Burundi continues to be fomented by repeated calls for hatred and violence by authorities, including the head of state … and by an overall context of impunity,” she said. “The judiciary in Burundi is not independent, and has not been so for several years.”
The government of Burundi has refused to cooperate with the Commission, declaring its members persona non grata. The Commission has collected more than 400 testimonial accounts from victims and witnesses in neighboring countries, as well as remotely from Burundians residing in the country.
The Commission is appealing to the U.N. Council to renew its mandate for one more year, especially in light of the preparation for the 2020 elections. It notes the number of serious human rights violations that occurred in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for and won a controversial third term.
Burundi’s Ambassador to the U.N. RenovatTabu rejected the report, calling it false, politically motivated, insulting and derogatory. He says the report is scandalous and a flagrant violation of Burundi’s sovereignty.

Source: Voice of America

Two Girls Die After Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia

Despite sustained efforts to stop the practice, Somali doctors and rights activists say two sisters bled to death after undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) last week in central Somalia.

Doctors and activist confirmed that the girls died in Bur Salah village about 75km west of Galkayo town, but the mutilation took place near the town of Galladi across the border in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Galkayo hospital is the closest main health facility used by the Somali nomads who live along the border areas between Somali and Ethiopia.

Dr. Mohamed Hussein Aden, who interviewed relatives who tried to save the girls, said the mutilation took place either on September 11 or the day before.

Aden said the victims were aged 10 and 11, adding, “There is no other way to describe it, it’s brutal.”

Aden says the news of the incident is “heartbreaking” and said another emergency call came in Sunday for a young girl who had been circumcised. She was also being brought to Galkayo hospital.

Rights activists Hawa Aden Mohamed is the founder and director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, which educates about 400 young girls in Galkayo.

She said she sent staffers to visit the girl’s village but was told it will take days to locate parents. Mohamed fears the family may be avoiding contact for fear of prosecution.

Aden said Somali society is conservative and even the mother who lost the children may not tell the whole story.

He also said not all incidents are reported.

“It’s shocking, this month we heard five cases including these two deaths,” he said. “Sometimes a month passes without hearing any incident, but it actually happens at homes, we just don’t hear it.”
Mohamed says incidents of female genital mutilation occur often, but people avoid talking about it because “it’s like a taboo. They often use traditional midwifes, sometimes people who perform are not midwives at all because they believe it’s a tradition they have to do it. It’s a deadly tradition.”

Mohamed says some mothers at her center ask her to give their daughters time off from school in order for them to be circumcised.

“They ask for a week’s holiday saying they want to circumcise, they (mothers) argue ‘If I don’t circumcise she is going to chase men,” Mohamed says. “I try to explain to them, ‘No’, I shout, but when you push them they threaten to remove girls out of the school.”

Mohamed says in a patriarchal society like Somalia, the bulk of responsibility to stop this practice rests with male family members.

“This can be stopped and it should be stopped,” she said. “Mothers have learned this custom from their mothers and foremothers, or they are in remote areas and they have not heard a different opinion,” she said. “If the father stands up, or the brother, and uncles, and say ‘our daughters cannot be touched’ this will change.”

FGM involves removing part or all of the clitoris and labia for non-medical reasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) says cutting, often performed on girls 15 and younger, can result in bleeding, infection, problems with urination and complications with childbearing.

Somalia is in the top three countries in the world for FGM violations, according to the WHO.

Source: Voice of America


BRAZZAVILLE (CONGO) — Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto is persuading African countries yet to join the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) to do so in order to maximize on trade benefits.

Ruto who is in the Republic of Congo said 9 countries including Kenya have already ratified the TFTA agreement enabling them access a market of more than 650 million people in 26 countries and an estimated Gross Domestic Product of US Dollars 1.3 trillion per annum.

The TFTA agreement was launched in June 2015 in Egypt and to date, 22 of the 27 Member States have signed the Agreement with only 9 member states having ratified the agreement.

Ruto urged the Republic of Congo to ratify the agreement saying it would expand markets for member state products as well as facilitate legal and institutional arrangements for regional cooperation among the 26 countries who are members of COMESA, EAC and SADC.

The Agreement will enter into force once it has been ratified by 14 Member States.

Ruto witnessed the signing of a framework agreement for cooperation between Kenya and the Government of the Republic of Congo.

The cooperation was in areas of mutual interest including political consultations, economics, trade and investment, agriculture, science and technology, culture and arts, education, health, media and film and sports.