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UN chief warns CAR could break up

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Ban Ki-Moon says de facto partition of Central African Republic into Christian and Muslim regions is “a distinct risk”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said there is “a distinct risk” the Central African Republic could end up divided as a result of sectarian violence and called for an international force to combat escalating atrocities.

Ban raised the possibility of the country being divided into Christian and Muslim regions for the first time late on Tuesday and said the global response was not matching the gravity of the situtation, the Associated Press news agency reported.

“Both Muslims and Christians have been murdered and forced to flee their homes,” Ban said. “The sectarian brutality is changing the country’s demography. The de facto partition of the CAR is a distinct risk.”

He urged the international community to support an African Union force and said that other nations should contribute troops to help stabilise the country.

“We cannot just continue to say ‘never again’. This, we have said so many times,” Ban said. “We must act concertedly and now to avoid continued atrocities on a massive scale.”

More than 1,000 people have been killed and nearly one million forced from their homes in CAR since December in violence pitting Christians and Muslims against each other.

Warning the situation was worsening, Ban announced he was sending Edmond Mulet, assistant secretary general for peacekeeping, to the country to consult with the African Union about transforming its force there into a UN peacekeeping contingent.

Activists in CAR have long called for a UN force, believing that it will be better-equipped and include a police contingent that could help better secure the capital Bangui.

Fleeing the capital

Ban also called on the European Union to accelerate the deployment of a promised military operation, and said he spoke to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and asked him to consider sending more troops.

France has sent 1,600 soldiers to its former colony to bolster the nearly 6,000 peacekeepers from African nations.

The EU mission, expected to be made up of 500 to 600 troops, will be deployed to guard the airport in Bangui, where 100,000 people have taken refuge.

The poor, landlocked country descended into chaos after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in March. Looting, rape and murder followed, bringing international pressure that saw Seleka leader Michel Djotodia resign last month. That in turn has been followed by Christian militia attacks on Muslims.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled Bangui in recent months.

The UN has said that the Vatican should “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.

The UN watchdog for children’s rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies which allowed priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

In a report, it also criticised Vatican attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The Vatican responded by saying it would examine the report – but also accused its authors of interference.

A group representing the victims of abuse by priests in the US welcomed the report.

In its findings, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the Holy See should open its files on members of the clergy who had “concealed their crimes” so that they could be held accountable by the authorities.

It said it was gravely concerned that the Holy See had not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, and expressed its “deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide”.

It also lambasted the “practice of offenders’ mobility”, referring to the transfer of child abusers from parish to parish within countries, and sometimes abroad.

The committee said this practice placed “children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children”.

The UN report called on a Vatican commission created by Pope Francis in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse “as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them”.

Ireland’s Magdalene laundries scandal was singled out by the report as an example of how the Vatican had failed to provide justice despite “slavery-like” conditions, including degrading treatment, violence and sexual abuse.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses where some 10,000 women and girls were required to do unpaid manual labour between 1922 and 1996.

The report’s findings come after Vatican officials were questioned in public last month in Geneva about why they would not release data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse.

The Vatican has denied any official cover-up. However, in December it refused a UN request for data on abuse on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

n January, the Vatican confirmed that almost 400 priests had been defrocked in a two-year period by the former Pope Benedict XVI over claims of child abuse.

The UN committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism.

‘Non-negotiable’

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the Vatican has set up new guidelines to protect children from predatory priests.

But, he adds, bishops in many parts of the world have tended to concentrate on protecting and defending the reputation of priests rather than listening to the complaints of victims of paedophile priests.

Meanwhile several Catholic dioceses in the US have been forced into bankruptcy after paying out huge sums in compensation to victims of abuse by clergy.

The Vatican said in a statement following the report’s publication: “The Holy See takes note of the concluding observations…which will be submitted to a thorough study and examination… according to international law and practice.”

But it added that it “regrets to see in some points of the concluding observations an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of human person and in the exercise of religious freedom” and “reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child… according to the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine”.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, head of the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio the report had failed to take into account the fact that the Vatican had made “a series of changes for the protection of children”, and its efforts at reform were “fact, evidence, which cannot be distorted”.

He added that the UN could not ask the Church to change its “non-negotiable” moral teachings.

Victims groups welcomed the report as a wake-up call to secular law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute Church officials who were still protecting “predator priests”.

Barbara Blaine, president of a group representing US victims of abuse by priests – Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) – told the BBC that the UN report “reaffirms everything we’ve been saying. It shows that the Vatican has put the reputation of Church officials above protection of children”.

“Church officials knew about it and they refused to stop it. Nothing has changed. Despite all the rhetoric from Pope Francis and Vatican officials, they refuse to take action that will make this stop.”

Africa Sahel belt region faces ‘desperate food crisis’

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 4 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The UN has appealed for more than $2bn to care for 20 million “food insecure” people across Africa’s Sahel belt, an impoverished area that includes Sudan and Central African Republic.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says conflicts in these countries and elsewhere meant the situation for many was still desperate.

The belt is a semi-arid area stretching from the Atlantic east to the Red Sea.

Donors gave just over 60% of the $1.7bn the UN appealed for for Sahel in 2013.

Countries in the Sahel region – south of the Sahara desert – facing food crises include Mauritania, The Gambia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon, the UN said.

“The situation for countless communities across the region… is still desperate,” the OCHA factsheet says.

It outlines five key points about “one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions”.

  • The number of people who do not know where their next meal will come from has almost doubled in the past year
  • Food and nutrition are at the heart of the crisis, but there are many other factors at play
  • A new approach is needed to break this cycle of hunger and vulnerability
  • Humanitarian groups are collaborating with governments and development agencies
  • Aid groups are confident they can make a huge difference

UN Regional Humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel Robert Piper told the Reuters news agency that the region now faces “make or break time”.

“It’s the year we see if we can translate theory into practice and start bringing aid workers together to work with national governments and reverse these trends that have been deteriorating year after year,” he said.

Rebel fighter in South Sudan
Food insecurity has been made worse by conflict in the region, OCHA says

However Mr Piper warned that funding may fall short because of a slow global economic recovery and the UN’s $6.5bn appeal for Syria, the largest humanitarian campaign in its history.

He said that five million children under five years old are classified as acutely malnourished in the Sahel belt.

The doubling of food insecurity figures to 20 million in the belt is highlighted by the OCHA. It is measured according to the level of hunger within a population due to conflict or climate.

An estimated 2.5 million people out of those affected need urgent humanitarian assistance just to survive, the OCHA factsheet says.

“In south-east Niger, for example, a convergence of floods, droughts and conflict in neighbouring Nigeria means that people near the town of Diffa cannot grow enough food to get by.”

While the Sahel belt often sees floods, droughts, locust infestations and epidemics, it has also been hit more recently by conflicts in several countries including Nigeria, South Sudan and Central African Republic.

“Across the Sahel, more than 1.2 million people have had to flee violence and insecurity, with most of them crossing into neighbouring countries as refugees where they place further strain on already limited resources,” the factsheet says.

“People are highly vulnerable to disease and epidemics, and because health infrastructure is so limited, many people die of illnesses that they should survive.”

South Sudan conflict: 3.7m in ‘need of food’, says UN

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 2 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The United Nations has said it estimates 3.7 million people are in acute need of food in South Sudan as a result of the civil conflict there.

The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan Toby Lanzer told the BBC $1.3bn (£790m) was needed to deal with the crisis.

Violence broke out in South Sudan on 15 December, starting as violence between rival army factions.

It has now killed thousands of people and displaced around 860,000.

Mr Lanzer said it had also had profound effects on the country’s economy. “Largely because markets have been disrupted, people have been living under extreme duress, people aren’t able to move as they normally would,” he said.

“Nobody in mid-December… could have foreseen the scale of the emergency that now faces us. We are doing everything we can to avoid a catastrophe,” he added.

The number of those needing food represented around a third of South Sudan’s population, he said.

He said that in the city of Malakal, some civilians had stormed a warehouse where aid was being kept and “helped themselves”.

“Most of the looting was done by people who were so desperate for the aid that they simply couldn’t wait,” he said.

He said over that of 863,000 people who have been displaced; 740,000 of them are still in South Sudan and the others have left for neighbouring countries.

Fighting continues

A fragile ceasefire was agreed last week between the two sides ahead of a second round of peace talks due to start on 7 February.

However, earlier this week, the medical charity MSF says 240 of its staff in South Sudan were forced to flee into the bush because of continuing insecurity.

MSF said the workers were among thousands of people trying to escape fighting in Unity State between government forces and rebels.

The fighting was sparked by a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar on 15 December.

Although both men have supporters from across South Sudan’s ethnic divides, fighting has often been communal, with rebels targeting members of Mr Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and government soldiers attacking Nuers, the group from which Mr Machar hails.

A ceasefire was agreed after talks between the two but fighting has continued in some areas and correspondents say it could be further jeopardised by treason charges against some of Mr Machar’s allies over what authorities say was a “coup attempt” in December.

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