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Pope to visit mosque, slum, refugee camp in Africa: Vatican
October 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Vatican City (AFP) – Pope Francis will visit a refugee camp and a mosque in the Central African Republic as well as a slum in Kenya during a trip to Africa next month loaded with potential security risks.

[caption id="attachment_21604" align="alignleft" width="268"]Sudanese Christian woman who faced death for faith meets Pope Francis - LA Time Sudanese Christian woman who faced death for faith meets Pope Francis – LA Time[/caption]

The pontiff will be in Kenya from November 25 to 27, spend the next two days in Uganda and travel on to the Central African Republic (CAR), where the trip will end on November 30, according to a Vatican itinerary published Saturday.

The three countries have significant Catholic communities and have been troubled by civil conflicts and violence, which will increase concerns surrounding possible attacks during the visit.

In Nairobi, Francis will tour the Kangemi slum, home to some 100,000 people who live in shacks without sewerage systems, including 20,000 who belong to the local Catholic parish.

Though he regularly visited slums in Buenos Aires in his native Argentina before becoming pope, Francis’s tendency to head off unannounced from secured areas to mingle with the crowds will be a headache for his bodyguards.

Islamic rebels have staged a string of attacks in Kenya, including the April massacre at Garissa university in which 148 people — mostly Christians — died, and the 2013 assault on the Westgate shopping mall that killed 67.

The pontiff will meet with representatives of Kenya’s multi-faith community in a bid to promote inter-religious dialogue.

In Entebbe in Uganda, Francis will commemorate the canonisation by Paul VI in 1964 of the first African saints — 22 young people killed in 1878 on the orders of the local ruler because they refused to renounce their Christian faith.

And in Bangui, the CAR capital, the pontiff will tour a refugee camp before visiting the city’s central Koudoukou mosque to meet representatives of the Muslim community.

The trip will wind up with a final mass in the Barthelemy Boganda football stadium.

Here too security will be tight: the CAR descended into bloodshed after a 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize unleashed a wave of violence, pitting Christian anti-balaka militias against mostly Muslim Seleka rebels.

Security at the Vatican was stepped up in February because of a perceived heightened risk of attacks by Islamist militants, with the head of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard confirming additional precautions had been taken to ensure the safety of Pope Francis.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Less poverty in Africa but numbers remain stubbornly high
October 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Emmanuel Vorgbe with Marie Wolfrom* [caption id="attachment_21596" align="alignleft" width="300"]Labourers pick tea in Rwanda, which has made clear progress thanks to advances in agriculture, World Bank vice-president Makhtar Diop told AFP (AFP Photo/Phil Moore) Labourers pick tea in Rwanda, which has made clear progress thanks to advances in agriculture, World Bank vice-president Makhtar Diop told AFP (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)[/caption] Accra (AFP) – Poverty has slightly eased in sub-Saharan Africa in the past 20 years but the population boom means the numbers living in extreme conditions remains stubbornly high, a World Bank study showed Friday.

Almost half of the continent’s population (43 percent) was living below the poverty line in 2012, defined as surviving on less than $1.90 a day. In 1990, it was 56 percent.

Strong economic growth has helped achieve advances in health and education, but the rapid rise in population has led to an increase in the overall number of extreme poor, the study says.

Poverty remains more deep-rooted in Africa than in any other continent. Some 388 million people were considered to be living in poverty in 2012 compared to 280 million two decades earlier.

Africa’s population has grown from around 600 million in 1990 to over a billion in 2012 and will continue to grow to an estimated 1.6 billion by 2030, according to the African Development Bank.

Poverty figures mask wide disparities from country to country and also between urban and rural areas, the report shows, highlighting the difficulty of bringing together data from across the African continent.

Ghana, where the report was launched by World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, is a success, having cut its poverty rate from 53 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2012.

Rwanda and Ethiopia have also made clear progress thanks to advances in agriculture, World Bank vice-president Makhtar Diop told AFP in an interview.

“Rwanda has done impressive work in hill terracing,” Diop said, which had led to a doubling of the corn harvest and a 130-percent increase in the potato crop.

In a continent where 60-70 percent of people live in rural areas, “the growth rate in agriculture makes an enormous contribution to reducing poverty,” said Diop, a Senegalese economist.

Other countries, including Tanzania and Senegal, have achieved success using a scheme pioneered in Brazil under which the state gives non-financial aid to the poorest families, for example in the form of free vaccines.

– Fewer conflicts –

Unsurprisingly, war and violence remain the principal obstacles to reducing poverty.

In Burundi, the proportion of people living under the poverty threshold went from 21 percent before the 1993-2006 civil war to 64 percent in 2007.

But “there are fewer conflicts than before and they are changing in nature and are more local,” Diop said. [caption id="attachment_21597" align="alignright" width="300"]A local vendor offers her goods in Kumasi, Ghana which has cut its poverty rate from 53 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2012 (AFP Photo/Joe Klamar) A local vendor offers her goods in Kumasi, Ghana which has cut its poverty rate from 53 percent in 1991 to 21 percent in 2012 (AFP Photo/Joe Klamar)[/caption] The report also points to the “worrisome development” that people living in countries rich in resources such as oil, gold and diamonds are paying what it calls “a human development penalty”.

Their life expectancy is 10 percent shorter on average, they are less literate, suffer higher levels of malnutrition and also experience more domestic violence.

The six countries where the inequality is greatest — Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia — are all situated in the south where diamond and mineral deposits are high.

The disparities in wealth can also be seen within countries — in Kenya, for example, 8,000 people hold almost two-thirds of the wealth.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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UNHCR: Africa set to conclude one of its longest-standing refugee situations
October 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

200Delegations from Rwanda and 11 major host countries in Africa, the African Union and UNHCR met today to agree on the final steps to end one of the world’s longest-standing displacement situations. This is the concluding phase of a comprehensive strategy to solve the situation of Rwandan refugees who fled their country between 1959 and 31 December 1998. The meeting’s participants have agreed on a timetable to help former refugees who wish to return to Rwanda by December 2016 and to intensify local integration efforts for former refugees who have developed close links with their host communities by the end of 2017. “This is a beacon of hope, showing that even in today’s world with multiple conflicts and growing displacement, it is possible to resolve refugee situations”, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk said. The strategy to end the Rwandan refugee chapter has four components: voluntary repatriation to Rwanda, local integration or legal alternatives in countries of asylum, retention of refugee status for those still in need of international protection and, finally, the cessation of refugee status. In June 2013, UNHCR recommended that refugee status could be ceased for Rwandans who had fled their country before 31 December 1998. “African countries have set an example to the world by looking at local integration as a real possibility for tens of thousands of Rwandan former refugees”, Türk observed. Participants called on the international community to support this final phase of the process, to ensure that remaining former refugees can successfully integrate in Rwanda or be productive members of society in their former country of asylum. In the wake of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the armed clashes in the northwest of the country in 1997 and 1998, more than 3.5 million Rwandans became refugees.  All but 48,000 have now found a solution that allowed them to close the refugee chapter of their life. Most of them returned to Rwanda and others were able to remain in a different capacity in their former country of asylum.  In addition, there is a large group of Rwandans living in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Some 24,000 have been registered, but Government pre-registration estimates stand at nearly 250,000 people.  Biometric registration is expected to be completed by the end of January 2016 and that will give a better idea of how many people are involved and what the best solution would be for them. Delegations from the main countries hosting Rwandan former refugees namely Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbawbe, as well as from Rwanda and the African Union  participated in this meeting together with UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. *Source APO/UNHCR]]>

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Military Coups See Beginning of Their End in Africa
October 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

By *

A woman walks past a wall with graffiti reading "Justice for the economic crimes" in Ouagadougou on October 1, 2015. General Gilbert Diendere, the leader of Burkina Faso's short-lived coup, was in police custody on October 1, a security source told AFP.  AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU        (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman walks past a wall with graffiti reading “Justice for the economic crimes” in Ouagadougou on October 1, 2015. General Gilbert Diendere, the leader of Burkina Faso’s short-lived coup, was in police custody on October 1, a security source told AFP. AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)

The land of the upright man – the literal meaning of the West African country of Burkina Faso – has been in the spotlight lately for all the wrong reasons. A year ago, a popular uprising forced its long-term leader, Blaise Compaoré, out of office after close to three decades in power. The political crisis began when Mr. Compaoré attempted to change the constitution in order to stay in power, as he has successfully done on several previous occasions. He fled and found refuge in neighboring Ivory Coast.

A new transitional government was put in place and normalcy seemed to be returning. Then came General Gilbert Diendéré, a former army chief of staff and protégé of Mr. Compaoré and the head of the elite army unit of Presidential Guard, who attempted a short-lived coup d’état last month. He has just surrendered and is now in custody, and the transitional government is back running the business of government.

No one could have predicted that within six days, Mr. Diendéré’s coup attempt would be foiled. A combination of popular opposition, regional pressure and a strong opposition from the regular army defied Mr. Diendéré and his men until they backed down, with little bloodbath. The question is whether this is a unique Burkina Faso experiment or something of a new normal in Africa. New coup plotters aren’t finding acceptance on the continent as easy as their predecessors once did. It is becoming increasingly difficult for a coup d’etat to succeed in Africa.

During the cold war era, coup d’états were an attractive means of taking control of the state apparatus and gaining power in the developing world. Times have changed since as the quest for strong institutions has spread and taken roots around the world.

From 1970 to 1989, according to a study by the African Development Bank, there were 99 coup attempts in Sub-Saharan Africa. But from 1990 to 2010, the region witnessed 67 coup attempts, still a high occurrence in comparison to the rest of the world, but nonetheless a decrease of about one third in two decades. A combination of three main factors explains why it is becoming more difficult for coup leaders to succeed or for strongmen to play with their countries’ constitutions on the continent.

The first is the rise of a new generation of Africans, particularly young people and the burgeoning middle class. Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with more than half of the population below the age of 25 and a growing population projected to double to two billion by 2050. These young people, who are largely unemployed or underemployed, are frustrated and outspoken about the plight of their countries and the slow pace of change, and are eager to challenge their leaders. This is putting pressure on leaders to deliver on their promises to improve people’s living conditions or face the furor of netizens. At the same time, there is a small but steadily growing middle class, ever more eager for accountability, fairness, freedom and respect of rights. This breed of Africans is inspiring new grassroots movements and civil society organizations to fight attempts to deny people their constitutional rights.

This is what happened in Senegal with “Y’en a Marre”, which means “Fed Up”, a group of Senegalese rappers and journalists who mobilized young people in 2011 to protest ineffective government. The following year they helped prevent the former president Abdoulaye Wade from changing the Constitution in order to allow himself a bid for re-election. A similar group, the “Balai Citoyen“, played a key role in the fall from power of Mr. Compaoré last year, and again mobilized young people and citizens in mass protest against the coup leader two weeks ago.

The second factor is the “changed” international environment. During the cold war era, when coup d’états were frequent, foreign interests were to a certain extent factors in supporting or abetting many of the coups d’états in Africa. Interference in the domestic affairs of African states was common and deemed important to maintain an international balance of power, and access to cheap raw materials. Since the end of the cold war, the world is a more complex place. The bipolar world with its divergent interests became something of the past and the top-down unipolar world in the post-cold-war era is ending. Military coups are no longer an attractive international activity to shape internal affairs of smaller, poorer countries.

The third factor is the pressure from the African Union and regional organizations like The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well the international community, to not only condemn in words but also place sanctions on individuals responsible of overthrowing democratically elected governments. More than ever, those organizations are vigorously setting in place rules and regulations against any form of unconstitutional change of government, including military coup attempts.

In the case of Burkina Faso, the African Union condemned the coup in the strongest possible terms and immediately suspended Burkina Faso and threatened to impose drastic sanctions within 96 hours if civilian rule wasn’t re-instated. And following the Senegalese President Macky Sall’s unpopular deal to end the crisis, the heads of states of ECOWAS member states met in Abuja and took a clear position to support the people of Burkina Faso. They called for the coup leader to disarm and return power back to the transitional government. The same organization took a stand against coup leaders Dadis Camara in Guinea in December 2008 and Moussa Sanogo of Mali in March 2012.

These forces are making it harder and harder to mount a successful military coup against a legitimate government. It might not yet be the end of military coup d’états in Africa but coup plotters are sure to be challenged from many fronts. Democracy is never smooth sailing. The good thing for the rest of the continent is that ideas are contagious. Burkina Faso has just set a good example.

*Source Huffington Post.Co-author Bernard Zongo is a consultant in international development and the founding member of the “Collectif Tekre”, a group of Burkinabè artists and movie producers in the United States that supports a peaceful political transition in Burkina Faso. He holds a M.A. in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

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Congo forest initiative welcome but must be followed by meaningful action – Greenpeace
October 2, 2015 | 0 Comments

greenpeaceThe Central African Forest Initiative, announced during the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York this week, will see donors including Norway, Germany, the UK and the European Union pledge financial support for countries including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon and Gabon to protect their forests and slow illegal logging and conversion of forests. “Greenpeace welcomes this initiative, we believe that rainforest protection can only be effective if there is a joint and strong commitment from both African governments and international donors,” said Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Senior forest campaign manager with Greenpeace Africa. “But any such agreement has to be backed up with meaningful action. Strong pre-conditions need to be set up for disbursing funds and safeguards aimed at eradicating corruption in the forestry sector need to be instituted. Governments need the means and capacity to ensure these reforms can realistically be implemented.” Norway was the first donor to announce its financial support, pledging up to $47 million annually between 2016 and 2020. “Experience tell us that such agreements are easier said than done,” said Wabiwa Betoko. “Communities on the ground who depend on the Congo Basin forests for their livelihoods are often the first to lose out when it comes to weak forest governance and weak political will to ensure words become actions.” *APO]]>

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Amnesty warns of conflict diamond stockpile in C.Africa
September 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Ruth Holmes* [caption id="attachment_21077" align="alignleft" width="300"]The export of diamonds from the Central African Republic was banned in 2013 under the Kimberley Process, which aims to stem the flow of so-called "conflict diamonds" (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo) The export of diamonds from the Central African Republic was banned in 2013 under the Kimberley Process, which aims to stem the flow of so-called “conflict diamonds” (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)[/caption]

London (AFP) – Amnesty International on Wednesday called on the Central African Republic to confiscate and sell diamonds amassed by traders worth millions that could be fuelling militia violence and child labour.

Huge stockpiles of possible conflict diamonds could end up on the global market when a ban on exports from the country is lifted, the rights group said in a report.

Researchers also documented a string of human rights abuses in CAR diamond mines, with children as young as 11 working in hazardous conditions, carrying out “backbreaking work for very little money”.

The export of diamonds from the Central African Republic was banned in 2013 under the Kimberley Process, which aims to stem the flow of so-called “conflict diamonds”.

The ban will be partially lifted once the government meets conditions set in July 2015 by the Kimberley Process.

However, trade in diamonds has continued despite the ban, with thousands of small artisanal miners selling to traders who sell on to export companies in Bangui, according to the report.

Militias responsible for ongoing sectarian violence could be profiting from the sales due to inadequate checks by diamond firms, the rights group warned.

Many of the diamonds remain stockpiled in the capital, while others have been smuggled to neighbouring Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo from where they are “highly likely” to be sold on the international market, it said.

The UN estimates that 140,000 carats of diamonds have been smuggled out since mid-2013.

– ‘Illicit flow’ –

“The government should confiscate any blood diamonds, sell them and use the money for the public benefit,” said Lucy Graham, a legal adviser for Amnesty and author of the report.

“The people of CAR have a right to profit from their own natural resources,” she said.

The report also looked at the key diamond trading centres of Dubai and Antwerp, in Belgium, accusing traders of price manipulation and tax avoidance. It claimed that “the UAE government may be complicit in the illicit flow of wealth out of Africa”.

The Central African Republic erupted into sectarian violence following a 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize that pitted mainly Muslim Seleka rebels against predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias.

Amnesty International said both groups were profiting from the diamond trade by controlling mines and extorting protection money from miners and traders.

[caption id="attachment_21079" align="alignright" width="300"]Men work in a diamond mine in Banengbele, on May 22, 2015 in the Central African Republic (AFP Photo/Patrick Fort) Men work in a diamond mine in Banengbele, on May 22, 2015 in the Central African Republic (AFP Photo/Patrick Fort)[/caption] It accused two major buying houses, Badica and Sodiam, of purchasing diamonds “without adequately investigating whether they have funded armed groups”. Sodiam has amassed a 60,000 carat diamond stockpile worth US$7 million (6.2 million euros), the report said. The report comes after a UN sanctions committee imposed an assets freeze in August on Badica and its sister company Kardiam for supporting armed groups in CAR through illegal trading. Sodiam denies ever buying conflict diamonds and says that it does not buy diamonds from mines controlled by rebel groups or traders known to associate with them. Violence flared again in Central African Republic at the weekend when deadly clashes broke out following the murder of a Muslim motorcycle-taxi driver in Bangui.

The streets of the capital were deserted Tuesday with terrified residents sheltering indoors and tens of thousands fleeing their homes after three days of shooting and bloodshed that have left at least 36 dead, according to the UN.

The country is preparing for key parliamentary and presidential elections in October, seen as a test of progress in its political transition.

*Source Yahoo/AFP]]>

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Amnesty International to launch report on blood diamonds from CAR
September 25, 2015 | 0 Comments

200 (1)On 30 September 2015, Amnesty International will launch a new report on the diamond industry, focused on the Central African Republic (CAR) where the trade continues unabated despite sweeping conflict. The report will reveal systematic failures to prevent the trading of blood diamonds, and will address illegal and unethical practices across the sector including: •    How abusive armed groups in CAR profit from the diamond trade. •    How diamond traders in CAR and global trading centres profit from illegal and unethical activity. •    How diamond producing and trading countries are failing to stop the smuggling of CAR’s diamonds into global markets. •    How tax abuse by some international diamond traders means companies make massive profits at the expense of human rights in poor diamond-producing countries. •    How the Kimberley Process hides human rights abuses and illegality within the diamond trade. The report draws on research in the Central African Republic, neighbouring countries and the world’s largest diamond trading centres, Antwerp and Dubai. *APO/Amnesty]]>

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Pope Francis to Make First Visit to Africa
September 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

Six-day trip to three countries continues theme of focusing on the developing world By FRANCIS X. ROCCA* [caption id="attachment_20840" align="alignleft" width="267"]Pope Francis receives Bishops from Benin Pope Francis receives Bishops from Benin[/caption] ROME— Pope Francis will make his first trip to Africa in November, for a six-day visit that will take him to three countries, the Vatican said Thursday. The pope will visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic from Nov. 25-30, an itinerary that extends his practice of focusing his international travel on the developing world. Pope Francis has made poverty and the inequities of globalization major themes of his pontificate and is likely to address those topics during his African visit. The Central African Republic is one of the world’s poorest countries, according to the CIA World Factbook, with an estimated per capita GDP for 2014 of $600. Pope Francis’ visit to the CAR will take place a month after scheduled general elections, the first since 2011. Since that time, the country has been wracked by civil war between government forces and several rebel groups. The government still lacks control of the entire country. Kenya and Uganda have per capita GDPs of $3,100 and $1,800, respectively. The pope’s itinerary will allow him to address the broader concerns of French-speaking Africa, represented by the CAR, and English-speaking countries, which include Kenya and Uganda. Pope Francis’ visit to Africa will be his 11th trip out of Italy since his election as pope in March 2013. He is scheduled to visit Cuba and the U.S. from Sept. 19 to Sept. 27. *Source WSJ]]>

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C.Africa to limit president to two terms under new charter
August 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

Central African Republic members of parliament meet to debate the new constitution on August 30, 2015 in Bangui (AFP Photo/Edouard Dropsy) Central African Republic members of parliament meet to debate the new constitution on August 30, 2015 in Bangui (AFP Photo/Edouard Dropsy)[/caption] Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) – Central African Republic’s transitional government on Sunday adopted a new constitution that would limit future presidents to two terms in office as the country seeks to end more than a year of sectarian violence. The new charter would limit the president’s mandate to five years that can only be renewed once and cannot be prolonged for any reason, and would create a new senate to help govern. The constitution, which will now be put to a public vote, also includes the creation of a special court to judge the most serious crimes. “I urge the Central African people, when the time comes, to give strong backing to this new fundamental law to allow our country to get back on the path to a normal constitutional order,” said Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, chairman of the National Transitional Council. The Central African Republic descended into bloodshed after a 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize unleashed a wave of violence, pitting Christian anti-Balaka militias against mostly Muslim Seleka rebels. Its transitional leaders have planned a constitutional referendum before the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for October 18. But the elections have already been delayed twice due to the logistical and security challenges of holding the vote in regions still gripped by violence. In the latest incident, at least 20 people were killed last week and many others injured in days of sectarian clashes sparked by the death of a young Muslim, police sources said. *Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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August 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

newsletter-special-brazzaville-2015-englishThe 11th Edition of the African Games is scheduled to take place on 4th to 19th September, 2015, in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. This edition will mark the 50th Anniversary of the African Games, since the 1st edition in 1965 that was also hosted by the Republic of Congo. Approximately 7000 athletes from 50 African countries will converge back to the birth place of the African Games in Brazzaville to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the African Union in the spirit of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

This edition is also a milestone for the AU as it is the first one under the auspices of the African Union as the owner of the Games, following the dissolution of the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) as well as the integration of the functions of the SCSA into the AU. The integrated functions of the SCSA include the ownership, coordination and organization of the African Games.

The opening ceremony will take place on 4th September, 2015, and will be presided over by H.E. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, and attended by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, H.E. Dr Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs and H.E. Martial de Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. The African Games will be preceded by the Bureau Meeting of the Specialized Technical Committees on Youth, Culture and Sport and a Sub-Committee of the STC Ministers of Sport on 3th September, 2015.

During the games, the AU will rally the continent around the spirit of Pan-Africanism through its key message i.e. “I am African, I am the African Union” and through its 50 year Agenda 2063 development framework. Agenda 2063″ is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years. The agenda will assist the continent achieve its vision, i.e. an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.

“Because of the power of sport, we see this event as an important milestone on the road to achieving the objectives of our continental vision and action plan, which Africa has christened Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want”, said AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

SOURCE African Union Commission (AUC)

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Kinshasa to try troops accused of rape in C. Africa
August 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

The 12,000-strong MINUSCA force, which took over from an African Union mission nearly a year ago, has been plagued by a series of allegations involving its peacekeeping forces (AFP Photo/Pacome Pabamdji) The 12,000-strong MINUSCA force, which took over from an African Union mission nearly a year ago, has been plagued by a series of allegations involving its peacekeeping forces (AFP Photo/Pacome Pabamdji)[/caption] Kinshasa (AFP) – Three UN soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo accused of rape in the neighbouring Central African Republic will be put on trial, the justice minister told AFP on Thursday.

The soldiers are alleged to have raped three young women — the latest in a series of claims against the UN mission in the Central African Republic, known by its acronym MINUSCA.

“I have ordered General (Joseph) Ponde, the prosecutor of the armed forces, to start proceedings (based) on the dossier the UN has put at our disposal,” Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said.

He said Kinshasa would not “tolerate” such acts, adding that the accused would be repatriated and judged in a military court.

The rapes allegedly took place in the town of Bambari, northeast of the capital Bangui, in recent weeks. The victims’ families notified the mission on August 12. One of the alleged victims is a minor.

UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci confirmed the allegations to reporters on Wednesday but declined to name the nationality of the accused troops.

Sources said they were from DR Congo.

The 12,000-strong MINUSCA force, which took over from an African Union mission nearly a year ago, has been plagued by a series of allegations involving its peacekeeping forces.

There have been at least 61 claims of misconduct against them, 12 of which involve sexual abuse. That led UN chief Ban Ki-moon to declare “enough is enough” and announced last Thursday he had sacked the mission’s chief, Senegalese general Babacar Gaye. Ban has denounced sexual abuse in UN peacekeeping as a “cancer in our system” and vowed to name and shame countries that fail to take action against their accused soldiers.

UN peacekeeping officials had requested an urgent meeting with DR Congo officials to discuss the latest allegations and gave them 10 days to decide whether to investigate.

Under UN rules, it is up to the troop-contributing country to investigate and prosecute soldiers accused of misconduct while serving under the UN flag.

The Central African Republic is struggling to recover from sectarian violence that exploded after a 2013 coup, pitting mainly Muslim rebels against Christian militias.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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European timber firms help fund C.Africa conflict: watchdog
July 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Anti-Balaka militia members rest in the outskirts of Bambari, Central African Republic, on July 31, 2014 (AFP Photo/Andoni Lubaki) Anti-Balaka militia members rest in the outskirts of Bambari, Central African Republic, on July 31, 2014 (AFP Photo/Andoni Lubaki)[/caption] Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) – European timber companies have helped fund the conflict in the Central African Republic by doing business with logging firms that have paid millions of euros (dollars) to rebels, according to a watchdog group report released Wednesday. The money has gone to support “rebels guilty of mass murder, kidnappings, rapes and the forced recruitment of child soldiers,” Global Witness campaign leader Alexandra Pardal said. “These companies should be tried as accessories to war crimes,” she added. Thousands died in violence and hundreds of thousands remain displaced from their homes since a March 2013 coup. Atrocities committed by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels led to reprisals by vigilantes, so-called anti-Balaka, from the Christian majority. European firms do business with Central African Republic (CAR) companies that paid — in 2013 alone — 3.4 million euros ($3.7 million) to rebels in order to continue logging illegally, said the report titled “Blood Timber.” Global Witness said the CAR companies paid bribes to get through roadblocks, for armed escort and for protection of their logging sites. The logging industry is one of the primary resources of the restive, landlocked country of nearly five million, which is hard hit by poverty. Diamonds pulled from the ground in African nations have been exported in a similar type of trafficking. Official CAR statistics suggest 59 percent of the timber exports go to Europe. About 32 percent of total exports head to Germany, 20 percent to France and some five percent to Britain, said Global Witness. The first beneficiaries of the money were Seleka rebels, who were chased from power in early 2014 by an international intervention to stop the bloody sectarian conflict, the report said. “But armed gangs still partition the country, killing, looting and terrorising local population,” Global witness said. “Logging payments to Seleka’s rivals, the anti-Balaka, have helped the group maintain their presence… in the southwest.” *AFP/Yahoo]]>

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