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World: The IKEA Foundation helps UNICEF bring the gift of play to children affected by emergencies around the world

Source: UN Children's Fund
Country: World

NEW YORK, 25 July, 2013 – In an innovative collaboration, the IKEA Foundation is donating a range of IKEA toys to UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits to help meet the needs of some the most vulnerable young children in the world.

Over the next two years, the kits will be distributed to an estimated 1.2 million children living in emergency or post-conflict settings.

UNICEF’s ECD kit was designed for children under the age of six living in these difficult circumstances. It aims to focus attention on the needs of young children and to support the development of play and learning under extreme conditions.

The IKEA Foundation has committed to provide eight toys from the current children’s range sold in IKEA stores worldwide for each kit. The toys, with an estimated value of US$2 million, are a donation to UNICEF and will be used in 24,000 ECD kits that will be distributed around the world over the next two years. The kits will help to ensure that some 1.2 million children will have more opportunities for a better start in life.

When young children are caught up in conflicts or emergencies, the opportunity to experience childhood can be lost. A staggering two thirds of the world’s child population, 1.5 billion children, live in countries affected by crises. With the ECD kits, caregivers can use materials that help to create a reassuring and safe learning environment for children living in such situations.

Each of the IKEA products was chosen by UNICEF’s educational specialists. The items include a shape sorter, a sort and stack set, finger puppets, hand puppets, school scissors, coloured building blocks, a paper pad and paper roll. It is estimated that 12,000 kits will be required annually by the UNICEF offices that implement programmes for children in conflict situations and emergencies. "Research shows that early childhood is the most critical time for brain development. With the additional help of toys such as those donated by the IKEA Foundation, children can develop their cognitive, verbal, visual, auditory and social skills,” said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships.

“Each of the IKEA toys was chosen to stimulate and engage the minds of young children. The toys are part of a treasure box that makes up the ECD kits, and help restore a sense of hope and normalcy to children living in extremely difficult environments."

“Providing these IKEA children’s products is another way for the IKEA Foundation to support UNICEF in their special efforts to reach out to vulnerable children who have been caught up in disasters or emergencies,” said Per Heggenes, IKEA Foundation CEO. “We believe that the selected IKEA products can help where the need is the greatest and hopefully bring some smiles back to these children’s faces.”

The innovative kit packed with the IKEA products is showcased in the 2014 IKEA catalogue.

For more than 10 years, the IKEA Foundation has been a key partner and supporter of UNICEF’s work, based on a shared commitment to realizing the rights of all children. Since 2001, the IKEA Foundation has donated and pledged more than US$200 million to UNICEF in cash and in kind, and today the IKEA Foundation is UNICEF’s largest corporate donor.


About the IKEA Foundation The IKEA Foundation aims to improve opportunities for children and youth in the world’s poorest communities by funding holistic, long-term programmes that can create substantial, lasting change. The Foundation works with strong strategic partners applying innovative approaches to achieve large-scale results in four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and sustainable family income. Currently-funded programmes benefit an estimated 100 million children by 2015. Learn more at www.ikeafoundation.org.

About UNICEF UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.

For more information, please contact: Larissa Schlotterbeck Communication Specialist UNICEF Geneva Tel: +41 22 909 5477 lschlotterbeck@unicef.org

Jonathan Spampinato Head of Communications & Strategic Planning Ikea Foundation, Tel: +31 611 756 336 Jonathan.spampinato@ikeafoundation.org

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Situation sécuritaire dans l’Est de la RDC

Source: Radio Okapi
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Deux sujets sont au centre de notre Tribune de la presse. Il s’agit de:

  1. Situation sécuritaire dans l’Est de la RDC

  2. Clôture du forum de la Société civile de la RDC.

Benoit Kambere, rédacteur en chef du Magazine Les échos de la région des grands lacs, un mensuel paraissant à Kinshasa.
Marcellin Manduakila, directeur de rédaction au quotidien Forum des As, un journal qui parait à Kinshasa.
Clément Mangubu, éditeur du journal Mwangaza, un hebdomadaire qui parait à Kisangani en Province Orientale.


Sudan: Severe weather ravages homes in South Darfur camp

Source: Radio Dabanga
Country: Sudan


Torrential rains accompanied by severe wind this week destroyed more than 225 houses at El Salam camp for the displaced near Nyala, capital of South Darfur.

Reporting to Radio Dabanga from the camp, Sheikh Mahjoub Adam Tabaldiya said that the rainfall and wind that began on Wednesday and continued into Thursday have left the affected families in the open without shelter, food or medicine.

Sheikh Tabaldiya expressed concern that the resulting pools of standing water will lead to breeding flies and mosquitoes and consequently the spread of diseases – a health and environmental threat that is currently challenging most camps for the displaced throughout Darfur.

He appealed to the humanitarian organisations to intervene by bridging, draining and spraying the pools of water.

Togo: African Union observers say Togo vote acceptable

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Togo

07/27/2013 16:54 GMT

LOME, July 27, 2013 (AFP) - African Union observers said Saturday that Togo's parliamentary elections were held in acceptable conditions despite the opposition alleging irregularities, as partial results showed the ruling party ahead.

"Despite several incidents recorded on the day of the vote, (the elections) allowed Togolese voters to express their choice in a calm and serene atmosphere," a statement from the AU's 32-member observer team said.

"As a result, the mission finds that the July 25, 2013 election was held in acceptable conditions."

Observers noted organisational issues, such as the late opening of some polling stations.

The 15-nation West African bloc ECOWAS, which sent 80 observers, had on Friday announced similar findings.

President Faure Gnassingbe's UNIR party was ahead in partial, provisional results from the electoral commission, while the Let's Save Togo coalition was the strongest opposition contender.

Let's Save Togo has alleged irregularities in connection with the vote.

Full provisional results along with a breakdown of the number of seats for each party under the proportional electoral system were expected in a day or two.

The long-delayed polls came after months of protests in the West African nation, with the opposition seeking to weaken the ruling family's decades-long grip on power.

The polls were the latest step in the impoverished country's transition to democracy after Gnassingbe Eyadema's rule from 1967 to his death in 2005, when the military installed his son as president.

Gnassingbe has since won elections in 2005 and 2010 in the country of six million people, but the opposition has denounced both as fraudulent.

His party won 50 of 81 seats in the last legislative polls in 2007, with 91 seats up for grabs this time.

Presidential polls in 2005 were marred by deadly violence, while 2007 and 2010 elections were viewed by observers as significant steps forward.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Mali: Mali on the brink of make-or-break election

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Mali

07/27/2013 10:07 GMT

by Frankie TAGGART

BAMAKO, July 27, 2013 (AFP) - Millions of Malians are expected to vote Sunday in "imperfect" elections they hope will usher in a new dawn of peace and stability in a country torn apart by an 18-month political crisis and armed conflict.

Voters will have a choice of 27 candidates as they go to the polls for the first time since a separatist uprising led to a coup and then a sweeping Islamist offensive last year which upended one of the region's most stable democracies.

The three-week campaign came to a close Friday without major incidents but played out in the shadow of violence in the north which has cast doubt over Mali's readiness to deliver a safe and credible election.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Mali's interim leader Dioncounda Traore have acknowledged that the vote may be "imperfect" in a country with 500,000 citizens displaced by conflict but have urged Malians to respect the outcome.

Critics of the process at home and abroad have argued that Mali, under pressure from the international community, is rushing to the polls and risking a botched election which could do more harm than good.

But Louis Michel, the head of the European Union observation mission, sounded a note of optimism Friday, saying conditions had been met for a credible first round as it emerged that 85 percent of voter cards had been distributed.

"I believe that these elections can take place in a context and in conditions that are acceptable and do not allow for a distortion or an abuse of the result," he told reporters in the capital Bamako.

"I really think the personality who emerges during this election will have more than enough legitimacy."

The United States has urged Malians to vote, including in the restive north, and said it would have observers on the ground to bolster the European Union mission comprised of 100 observers.

"We encourage all Malians to take full advantage of this opportunity to express their will through the ballot box and to remain peacefully engaged in the political process as we approach election day," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Thursday.

Much of the worry ahead of the polls has been focused on Kidal, occupied for five months by Tuareg separatists until a ceasefire accord allowed the Malian army earlier this month to provide security.

Clashes between Tuaregs and black Africans a week ago left four people dead while five polling officials were kidnapped in Tessalit, 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Kidal, by gunmen thought to be from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

The ballot will be the first since a coup in March last year that toppled democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure and created an opening that allowed the MNLA and groups allied to Al-Qaeda to seize northern Mali.

A UN peacekeeping mission integrating more than 6,000 west African soldiers into its ranks is charged with ensuring security during and after the election, and will grow to 11,200 troops, plus 1,400 police, by the end of the year.

The deployment allows France to start withdrawing most of the 4,500 troops it sent to Mali in January to stop the Islamists from advancing towards Bamako from their northern strongholds.

France plans to have just 1,000 troops on the ground before the end of 2013 and has been pushing for a quick election in the hopes of restoring order to the country, under the control of an interim government since the coup.

The list of candidates to Mali's next president features four former prime ministers and an array of political heavyweights -- but just one woman.

Haidara Aichata Cisse, a legislator for a constituency near the northern city of Gao, will go head-to-head with 26 men, including past premiers Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Cheick Modibo Diarra, Modibo Sidibe and Soumana Sacko.

Keita, prime minister from 1994 to 2000 and president of the National Assembly for five years from 2002, is seen as the main frontrunner alongside Soumaila Cisse, a former chairman of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union.

"I have rarely felt such a fusion with the people of Mali, I have rarely felt such a communion, I have rarely seen rising in me such fervour," Keita said Thursday in an interview with AFP.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Somalia: Suicide attack on Mogadishu Turkish compound kills two

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Somalia

07/28/2013 00:43 GMT

MOGADISHU, July 28, 2013 (AFP) - Shebab Islamists claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack on a Turkish embassy annex in Mogadishu Saturday that killed a Turkish guard and a Somali bystander.

The Shebab claimed the attack in a post on their Twitter feed.

A Somali witness told AFP that an explosives-laden vehicle rammed the gates of a building housing embassy staff and exploded, also killing a passer-by.

Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement: "One of our policemen from the special forces tasked with protecting the embassy annex targeted in the attack has unfortunately died."

It said that three other Turkish security forces were wounded, one of them seriously, in the attack, one of the worst against the Turkish presence in Mogadishu.

A diplomat in Istanbul said Turkish guards had managed to kill two attackers before a third detonated his vehicle.

The wounded "policemen have been taken to a hospital in Mogadishu. We are sending a medically equipped plane to repatriate them," the diplomat told AFP.

"Turkey is very active in Somalia and when you are very active you become a target quite easily," he said.

The Shebab statement said its forces "have just carried out an operation targeting a group of Turkish diplomats.

"The Turkish are part of a group of nations bolstering the apostate regime and attempting to suppress the establishment of Islamic sharia," the Islamists said.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the attack and praised Turkey's role in the country.

"This cowardly act will not shake our commitment to continue working for the brighter, more democratic and prosperous future the people of Somalia deserve," she added.

Earlier Saturday a bomb attack on a Somali government vehicle claimed one victim.

"One person was killed in the blast, which destroyed a car belonging to the public works ministry," Muhidin Hassan Jurus, Yaqshid district commissioner told reporters.

Local resident Ali Mohamed said it looked as if a device attached to the vehicle had exploded.

Turkey in 2011 launched a major diplomatic, economic and humanitarian push in war-torn Somalia, one of the very few nations to set up an embassy in the capital.

It was opened following a visit in August by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the second major leader to visit post-civil war Mogadishu, a few months after Uganda's Yoweri Museveni.

Direct flights between Somalia and Turkey started in March 2012. Turkey has helped build hospitals and renovate other buildings in the capital.

Al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have carried out a series of bombings, attacks and killings in a bid to overthrow the internationally backed government.

On July 12, just a couple of days into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Somali insurgents killed at least five people in multiple attacks in the capital. A suicide bomber rammed an African Union convoy and a grenade was thrown into a hotel.

Shebab fighters claimed members of their suicide brigade carried out the attack, calling it "a martyrdom operation targeting a convoy of crusaders".

Ramadan often sees a surge in Shebab attacks, with gunmen urged on by extremist preachers.

The AU mission confirmed a car packed with explosives "attempted to hit" one of their armoured troop transport vehicles along one of Mogadishu's main central highways, but that none of its troops were killed in the blast.

Later the same day unknown insurgents hurled a grenade into the Barwaqo hotel in central Mogadishu, killing two people and wounding at least 10.

In mid-June Shebab insurgents killed nine people as they shot and blasted their way in broad daylight into the fortified UN compound in Mogadishu, the most serious attack on the United Nations there in recent years.

The UN compound attack used similar tactics to those employed in April, when a nine-man suicide commando unit blasted its way into Mogadishu's main court complex, killing 34 people.

Key Shebab strongholds remaining include rural southern and central Somalia, while another faction has dug into remote and rugged mountains in the northern, semi-autonomous Puntland region.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Egypt: At least 72 killed at pro-Morsi Cairo rallies

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Egypt

07/28/2013 02:29 GMT

by Samer al-Atrush

CAIRO, July 28, 2013 (AFP) - At least 72 people were killed during clashes in Cairo on Saturday, Egypt's health ministry said, after violence erupted at a demonstration in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

The ministry said nine others had died in violence in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, a day earlier, putting the toll in two days of unrest at 81.

The Cairo bloodshed was the worst since Morsi's ouster in a military-led coup on July 3, prompting domestic and international condemnation, as protesters accused security forces of using live ammunition.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose country contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt, expressed Washington's "deep concern" about the bloodshed.

In a statement, Kerry called on the authorities to "respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression".

Ahmed Aref, a spokesman for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, said 66 people were killed at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of the ousted president have been camped demanding his reinstatement.

An AFP correspondent counted 37 bodies in an Islamist-run field hospital at the mosque, and the emergency services said other hospitals received an additional 29 corpses.

Saturday's violence came after mass rival demonstrations in Cairo and other parts of Egypt the night before.

Witnesses told AFP that security forces had fired live bullets but the interior ministry insisted that only tear gas was used. It blamed the clashes on stone-throwing Islamists on the road to the airport.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim had warned that pro-Morsi demonstrations would be dispersed "in a legal fashion" and "as soon as possible". He called on protestors to "come to their senses" and go home.

A Muslim Brotherhood statement however, said the "inhuman massacre" had only strengthened their resolve to peacefully resist the "coup d'etat".

By midday, medical workers began ferrying bodies wrapped in white shrouds to hospitals, carrying them on blood-soaked stretchers past furious Morsi loyalists.

Some wept and women ululated as each body was taken from the makeshift morgue in a marble-floored section of the mosque.

The health ministry said 748 people had been injured on Friday and Saturday, including 269 at Rabaa al-Adawiya.

The Cairo violence was the deadliest since 53 Morsi supporters were killed outside the Republican Guard headquarters in the capital on July 8.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the grand imam at Al-Azhar, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim authority, condemned the violence, calling for an "urgent judicial investigation" and for those responsible to be punished "regardless of their affiliation".

Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, who joined the transitional government that replaced Morsi's administration, denounced what he called "excessive use of force".

The National Salvation Front, a coalition of leftist and liberal groups, expressed "grief" over the deaths, but said Morsi's Brotherhood bore some of the blame for its "provocative approach".

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she deplored the killings.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has infuriated Egypt's interim administration by maintaining his support for Morsi, denounced what he described as massacres.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged the authorities to "cease the use of violence against protesters, including live fire, and to hold to account those responsible".

But Egypt's interior ministry said police "did not use more than tear gas" and accused Islamists of firing on the security forces, wounding 14 policemen, two in the head.

By Saturday evening, the mood in Rabaa al-Adawiya was largely calm. Demonstrators had draped new banners with the word "peaceful" written in Arabic and English around the area.

The bloodshed came after army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the coup that ousted Morsi, called for a mass show of support for a crackdown on "terrorism".

Hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters obliged, thronging Cairo's Tahrir Square and around the Ittihadiya presidential palace on Friday.

But Morsi supporters said their turnout showed many "reject the bloody, military fascist coup that wants to set the wheel of history back".

On Friday, authorities remanded Morsi in custody for 15 days, accusing him of the "premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers" when he broke out of prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, state news agency MENA said.

He also stands accused of conspiring to "storm prisons and destroy them... allowing prisoners to escape, including himself".

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, has been rocked by violence that has now killed more than 300 people in the less than four weeks since the coup.

Political polarisation has raised fears of prolonged violence, and even a militant backlash, including in the Sinai Peninsula, where the army is already facing daily attacks.

A civilian was killed and a police officer died of his injuries there, security sources said.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Egypt: Many Protesters Shot in Head or Chest

Source: Human Rights Watch
Country: Egypt

Risk of Further Killings as Security Officials Threaten to Forcibly Break up Sit-Ins

(London, July 28, 2013) – Many of the at least 74 pro-Morsy protesters killed in clashes with Egypt’s riot police and plain clothed men who stood alongside were shot in the head or chest, Human Rights Watch said today. They were killed on July 27 over a period of several hours during clashes on a road near the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo.

Human Rights Watch interviewed seven witnesses to the violence and reviewed extensive video footage of the events. Medical staff interviewed by Human Rights Watch judged some of the deaths to be targeted killings because the position of the shots would likely result in death.

The violence came hours after Interim President Adly Mansour announced, “the state has to impose order by all force and decisiveness.” The same day, Interior Minister Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim warned that security forces would be clearing pro-Morsy sit-ins from Rabaa and Nahda squares “soon.”

Protesters were shot and killed over a period of at least six hours, during clashes with Central Security Forces (riot police) on a major Cairo road. Human Rights Watch was in the field hospital as many of the dead and wounded were brought in, and was told by medical staff that the “majority of the bullet injuries were to the head, neck, and chest.” Four doctors interviewed said that the angle of gunshot wounds indicated they were shot from above.

The Ministry of Health announced that at least 74 civilians died in the morning’s violence. At a press conference earlier that day, the minister of interior insisted that “We never, as police, pointed any firearms at the chest of any demonstrator.”

“The use of deadly fire on such a scale so soon after the interim president announced the need to impose order by force suggests a shocking willingness by the police and by certain politicians to ratchet up violence against pro-Morsy protesters,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It is almost impossible to imagine that so many killings would take place without an intention to kill, or at least a criminal disregard for people’s lives.”

According to seven witnesses and footage reviewed by Human Rights Watch, protesters threw rocks and teargas canisters at the police. Egypt’s minister of interior, during a press conference held later the same morning, said that police officers had sustained injuries from both birdshot and live fire, but cited no police fatalities as a result of the clashes that lasted at least nine hours. Riot police maintained their position on the road, blocked by armored vehicles, for at least 11 hours.

Protesters at the clashes and doctors providing first aid to protesters said that the first shots were fired against protesters at approximately 1 a.m., and witnesses said they continued until at least 7 o’clock in the morning.

Egypt’s military and civilian interim rulers should immediately order an end to the use of live gunfire except where strictly necessary to protect life, Human Rights Watch said.

According to seven witnesses and footage reviewed by Human Rights Watch, the clashes between pro-Morsy supporters and police accompanied by men dressed in civilian clothes began at approximately 11 p.m., as pro-Morsy protesters approached the off ramp of the 6th of October bridge leading to Nasr Road. The site was just a few minutes’ walk from Rabaa mosque, where pro-Morsy supporters have been staging a 30 day sit-in. A doctor who was accompanying the protesters said that police, accompanied by men in plain clothes and armored police vehicles, were under the 6th of October bridge and initially fired teargas at the crowd. In videos posted online, Human Rights Watch also viewed a large group of civilians standing opposite pro-Morsy protestors, flanked by at least four armored police vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as Central Security Force officers.

According to a doctor who was at the scene, the police began to fire teargas when the protesters were approximately 200 meters away. A skirmish ensued between the protesters and the police and men in civilian clothes, lasting for about two hours: protesters set cars on fire and threw rocks, while police fired birdshot and more teargas from their position near the bridge. The doctor told Human Rights Watch that after approximately two hours, live bullets were fired at the protesters from what appeared to be an elevated position, possibly from a nearby building. The timing was corroborated by two other witnesses. Fouad, another doctor working in the Rabaa field hospital, said, “The pattern of injuries we saw here was completely the opposite of the Republican Guard. In the Republican Guard incident [on July 8, 2013] it was mostly random live fire, it only looked like 10 percent [of those killed] were shot by snipers. This time it was like 80 percent were shot by snipers targeted from above.”

The violent response by the police came after days of official statements threatening severe responses to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood protests. On Wednesday July 24, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for Egyptians to gather “to give [him] a mandate and an order to confront potential violence and terrorism.”

Just before 1 a.m. on July 27, Interior Minister Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim announced that the ministry would clear pro-Morsy protests at Nahda Square in Giza and at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City “soon” and “in a legal way,” according to the Ahram daily newspaper. In a televised interview with al-Hayat channel shortly after, Interim President Adly Mansour said that the government “cannot accept security disorder, cutting roads and bridges, attacking public buildings. The state has to impose order by all force and decisiveness.”

Ibrahim, a medic who accompanied the protesters, said they were approaching the bridge when they were blocked by Central Security Force police wearing black uniforms. Another protester described how, while the police fired teargas, he and other protestors threw rocks at the police and civilians standing opposite them, and how the others threw rocks as well. Ahmed, another protestor, said he and others picked up teargas canisters thrown into the crowd and lobbed them back towards the opposite side.

The police responded by firing teargas and birdshot at the crowd, protesters said. Within two hours, beginning after 1 a.m., three witnesses reported that live bullets were fired into the crowd, followed by more teargas, which protesters described as “dense.” One protester interviewed said that he fainted at the site from teargas inhalation and woke up in the field hospital.

Four eyewitnesses who were with the protesters described the sounds of successive gun shots and men in the crowd falling to the ground. Ibrahim, a doctor treating protesters at the site, told Human Rights Watch, “at 11 p.m. they fired teargas and birdshot; the teargas continued and then the live fire started. It was aimed single-fire.” Eyewitnesses repeatedly told Human Rights Watch that the scene was dark and the air heavy with teargas, limiting their visibility, but that they were being fired upon from an elevated position, as well as by the police positioned in front of them. Beginning at approximately 1:30 a.m., Ibrahim said, “I picked up five men all [hit] with a single shot to the head.”

At approximately 1:45 a.m., the first dead body arrived at the Rabaa al-Adawiya field hospital, a witness who recorded the details at the time told Human Rights Watch. Four doctors interviewed at the field hospital said that fatalities arrived in a steady stream beginning at approximately 2 a.m. and ending between 7 and 8 a.m. Another doctor who treated protesters with emergency first-response care, Mohammed, told Human Rights Watch that at around 2:45 a.m., he started consistently treating protesters who had been shot in the head and chest, as well as others wounded by birdshot.

Human Rights Watch arrived at the Rabaa al-Adawiya field hospital at approximately 4:30 a.m. to find a steady stream of wounded being carried into the hospital. During a 30 minute period, eight men with bullet injuries entered the hospital, of whom five had been shot with live bullets in the head, neck, or upper chest. During the next two and a half hours, Human Rights Watch researchers saw approximately six dead bodies being brought from the protest frontline into the makeshift field clinic. Medical staff told researchers that at least two of the dead, including a 22-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy, had received single gunshot wounds to the forehead.

Doctors at the field hospital told Human Rights Watch that they had moved at least two other bodies with identical wounds to the nearby Health Insurance Hospital. The four other fatalities witnessed by Human Rights Watch sustained single gunshot wounds to the chest and torso.

“Opening deadly fire for hours on end is no way to respond to civilians who are mainly throwing stones and teargas canisters,” Houry said. “If this is the new leadership’s idea of a ‘lawful’ response, it sets a very grim tone for days to come.”

During a press conference conducted at approximately 12:30 p.m. on July 27, Interior Minister Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim announced:

“[Protesters] were trying to block the bridge. We were successful in driving them back to the military parade grounds using only teargas. At this point we were surprised to find them firing live ammunition, birdshot, and throwing stones on security forces. This continued for some time, when some residents from nearby neighborhoods came to fight with them [the pro-Morsy protesters], and the back and forth continued with us attempting to separate between the two sides through the early hours of the morning.

[From the] security forces, I have a large number of wounded with birdshot and live rounds from among the conscripts; maybe the worst of these is two officers currently in the Nasr City hospital. One has a bullet wound to the head, entering through his left eye and exiting through the right, in addition to birdshot pellets in his [inaudible] and stomach.

We never, as police, pointed any firearms at the chest of any demonstrator.”

Over the past several years Human Rights Watch has documented the shooting of protesters with live ammunition and birdshot by the Central Security Forces, including during the uprising in January 2011, in November 2011 during the Mohamed Mahmoud protests which left 45 dead, and in January 2013 in Port Said which left 46 dead. The ministry of health put the death toll at 74 by the end of the day.

Under international human rights standards applicable to Egypt at all times, law enforcement officials need to take all reasonable steps to protect lives, especially when aware of specific threats. But they may only use intentional lethal force when it is strictly necessary to protect life. Both the past excessive use of lethal force and police failure to minimize casualties during protests indicate the pressing need for security sector reform and accountability for abuses perpetrated by the police and military.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Egypt, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/egypt

Somalia: UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay on the attack against Turkish targets in Mogadishu

Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia
Country: Somalia

Mogadishu, 27 July 2013 - SRSG Nicholas Kay strongly condemns the suicide attack against an office housing Turkish staff earlier today in Mogadishu which reportedly ended in deaths and injuries.

This is one of the several attacks that Al Shabaab has carried out during the holy month of Ramadan.

SRSG Kay said “My deep sympathy and sincere condolences go to the Turkish government, the victims and those who have lost their loved ones. Turkey has been working tirelessly and bravely to help the Somali people over the last few years.”

“I condemn all acts of terrorism. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and international partners will stand firm in our efforts to help the Somali people to enjoy the peace and development they so desperately want and need" SRSG Kay added.


Get updates from UNSOM:




occupied Palestinian territory: Gaza: Let Media Offices Reopen

Source: Human Rights Watch
Country: occupied Palestinian territory

Accused of ‘Fabricating’ Reports

(Jerusalem, July 28, 2013) – The Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip should immediately revoke the summary closure of two media offices, Human Rights Watch said today. Gaza officials’ allegations that the media offices had “fabricated” reports do not justify their closure under international law. The authorities’ refusal to provide the media offices with copies of the closure order impedes their ability to challenge the closures before the courts.

In a statement to the news media, Ismail Jaber, the Gaza prosecutor general, said on July 25, 2013, that he had ordered the closure of the Gaza offices of the regional broadcaster al-Arabiya and the Ma’an News Agency, a Palestinian outlet, because they had “fabricat[ed] news and diffused false rumors and baseless information, threatening civil peace and harming the Palestinian people and their resistance.” The two outlets had broadcast and published reports implicating Hamas in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

“If the Gaza authorities think that these news outlets have misrepresented them, it should be easy enough to provide accurate information and debunk their stories, but they shouldn’t just shut down their critics,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “These actions do not square with Gaza authorities’ claims to respect media freedom.”

The prosecutor general closed al-Arabiya’s office “for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what’s happening in Egypt,” Agence France Presse reported on July 25, citing an unnamed Hamas official. Al Resalah, a pro-Hamas newspaper, quoted a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, as stating that al-Arabiya “aims to distort the image of the Palestinian resistance by means of lying to the Egyptian people that the Palestinians are involved in the turmoil in Egypt.”

Egyptian officials and media have alleged that Hamas fighters helped senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood escape from Egypt’s Wati Natroun prison during the January 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

At about 4:30 p.m. on July 25, police detectives from the General Investigation Department arrived at the offices of al-Arabiya in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City and said that they had an order from the prosecutor general to close the office, that they would arrest anyone entering it, and that no one should remove any of its contents, al-Arabiya staff told Human Rights Watch.

“The detectives didn’t give us a copy of the order,” the bureau chief, Islam Abdul Karim, told Human Rights Watch. “We were surprised, but two days previously Hamas had issued statements against al-Arabiya, so maybe we shouldn’t have been.” He said that police detectives told him the closure order was “temporary” but did not say how long the office would be closed. Al-Arabiya had not yet decided whether to file a legal appeal against the order, he said. “First we will try to give diplomacy a chance,” he said. Eleven people work in the office.

Ma’an News reported that “officials from the Ministry of Information and security forces” closed its Gaza office and questioned its bureau chief there about a July 24 article. The article cited an Israeli news report that six Muslim Brotherhood officials from Egypt had “smuggled themselves into Gaza to plan an uprising against the [Egyptian] military” on behalf of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy, the head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. Ma’an News reported that it had complained to the office of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Information Ministry.

Police detectives also refused to provide staff of Ma’an News with a copy of the prosecutor general’s closure order, staff told Human Rights Watch. A lawyer for Ma’an News, Shawqi Aissa, told Human Rights Watch that he had not seen the order but hoped to learn more details on July 28 or 29.

Ma’an News quoted an unnamed Hamas official as saying the Gaza government had ordered its closure because it considered that the news agency “deliberately publishes false news reports seeking to incite against Gaza” and was “complicit with Egyptian media outlets in incitement against the Strip and making up lies to harm the image of Palestinian resistance.”

The prosecutor general said the closure orders against al-Arabiya and Ma’an News were “temporary,” but did not specify when the two media offices could reopen.

The prosecutor general also ordered police to close a Gaza media production company, Lens, because it had provided broadcast services to I24 News, a channel based in Israel. Human Rights Watch is investigating whether the closure violated the Gaza government’s pledges to uphold human rights norms.

The New York Times reported that a Lens employee had said the head of the Gaza government’s media office told him on July 25 that Lens was violating a government decision in January to bar Palestinians in Gaza from working with Israeli news organizations.

The Hamas-run Gaza government is not internationally recognized as a state and therefore cannot ratify international human rights treaties, but it has repeatedly pledged to uphold human rights standards, including freedom of the press.

Under human rights law, everyone is ensured the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds. Governments may restrict the content of what the media can broadcast or print but only in narrow and clearly prescribed circumstances, for reasons of national security, public order, or public health or morals. The United Nations Human Rights Committee stated in a general comment that restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be “provided by law,” may only be imposed for a legitimate reason, and must conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Israel and Palestine, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/israel-palestine

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Egypt, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/egypt

For Human Rights Watch’s December 2012 news release on unlawful Israeli airstrikes on media facilities and journalists in Gaza during the November 2012 hostilities, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/12/20/israelgaza-unlawful-israeli-attacks-p...

For Human Rights Watch’s April 2012 news release on arbitrary arrests of journalists by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and Israel’s closure of media offices, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/03/palestinian-authorityisrael-escalatin...

For Human Rights Watch’s 2011 report about harassment of journalists by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/04/06/west-bankgaza-stop-harassing-journalists

Mali: Malian rebel bastion to stage 'Caesarian section' election

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Mali

07/27/2013 20:45 GMT

by Thibauld Malterre

KIDAL, July 27, 2013 (AFP) - On the eve of Mali's watershed presidential election, the authorities in the rebel bastion of Kidal were confident Saturday of well-run polls, although they were under no illusions about getting a big turn-out.

There was no evidence on dusty, sun-baked streets of the remote desert settlement that polls seen as pivotal to conflict-scarred Mali's future were less than 24 hours away -- no campaign posters or slogans, no Malian flags even. "There was no campaign here," said one resident. One emblem, however, was ubiquitous: the four-colour flag of Azawad, the name Tuareg separatists give to northern Mali.

Graffiti on the walls of Kidal, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Bamako, proclaims: "We are not Malians.""I am responsible for organising the elections, I am not responsible for delivering the voters," smiled Kidal governor Adama Kamissoko, who has temporarily abandoned his army colonel's uniform and wears a "Mali elections 2013" cap.

"But at least 13,000 voter cards have been distributed within a fortnight in the Kidal region, which is very encouraging." Kidal has 35,000 people on the electoral roll, a drop in the ocean when seen in terms of the seven million voters registered nationwide. But well-run polls in the settlement, near the Algerian border, are vital for the credibility of the elections nationwide.

Kidal, the cultural stronghold of the Tuareg people and the historic birthplace of their most influential clans, is also something of a powder-keg.

The region, also called Kidal, has been marginalised by successive administrations since Mali gained independence and the town has been the centre of various Tuareg uprisings.

A kidnapping of five election officials in the Kidal region last week was blamed on the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a rebel group founded to fight for independence for Mali's minority Tuareg.

The election is considered vital to the future of Mali which is battling to restore democracy after an 18-month crisis that saw it suffer a Tuareg rebellion, a military coup and the seizure of more than half its territory by Islamist extremists.

The MNLA took control of Kidal in February after a French-led military intervention ousted Al Qaeda-linked fighters who had piggybacked on the Tuareg rebellion to take control of most of northern Mali then chase out their former MNLA allies and impose a brutal form of Islamic law.

The Malian authorities finally reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire deal with the MNLA on June 18 in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

The kidnappings came after violence between the lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Mali's majority black population rocked Kidal earlier this month, leaving four people dead, businesses looted and ransacked and the city's central market burned.

Meanwhile observers have increasingly cast doubt on whether Kidal will be ready for the election.

One of 28 presidential candidates, Tiebile Drame, dropped out of the race ahead of the election saying the country was not prepared, especially Kidal.

"This election is a political Caesarean section, an abnormal birth that makes the mother suffer. But that doesn't mean that it generates a stillborn child," said Ambeiry Ag Rhisa, acting secretary-general of the MNLA. "But it is necessary for Azawad and Mali to establish an agreement that recognises Azawad with its own personality and acceptable governance, which leaves us to manage our business by ourselves."

Aliou Zeimi, 18, who will vote for the first time on Sunday, said he was backing Dramane Dembele of Adema, Mali's largest party, as he picked up his voting card at his former school, which has been vandalised and closed for more than a year. "These are the bandits of Azawad who did this. It is important to vote for our country, we want peace. We want to take back our country," said Zeimi, a member of Kidal's black community.

If the MNLA's official line is to back the election, this position has nothing like unanimous support among the rank-and-file.

Many Tuareg do not feel a "Mali" election has anything to do with them, a little over a year after their brief proclamation of independence for Azawad.

"I am a member of MNLA but I am against the Ouagadougou agreements, like everyone else here. We respect them because we gave our word, but not the Malians, they haven't released a single prisoner," said Aminatou Walet Bibi.

The activist, who has organised several demonstrations by women against the return of the Malian government and soldiers to Kidal, said her people would "rise up again" if the Azawad issue was not resolved. "We have no water and no electricity but we do not need it if it comes from Mali. If Mali is staying here, I'd rather die.

"My father died in the revolution against France, my uncle took part in the revolt in the 60s, my brother in the 90s... My son will be another revolutionary. Until we are liberated from Mali, it will be revolution, generation after generation." thm/stb/ft/lc

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

South Sudan (Republic of): S. Sudan appoints new foreign minister: state radio

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: South Sudan (Republic of)

07/27/2013 21:13 GMT

JUBA, July 27, 2013 (AFP) - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir on Saturday started his new cabinet announcement by naming the man he last week sacked as information minister as the new foreign minister, state radio said.

"President Salva Kiir has issued a decree appointing Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin minister of foreign affairs ..." the radio said, adding that the appointment takes effect immediately.

Kiir, the leader of the world's newest nation, on Tuesday fired his vice president Riek Machar as well as all 28 cabinet ministers and their deputies as he announced that his next government would consist of only 19 ministries.

Many of the sacked ministers were key figures in the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement or its armed wing that fought a brutal 1983-2005 war against the government of Sudan, which led to a 2011 referendum in which South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to split from the north and form a new nation.

Marial replaces Nhial Deng Nhial, for whom no new post has so far been announced.

The radio gave no indication as to when further appointments will be made public.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone with Kiir on Friday and urged him to form a government reflecting the diversity of his country's people "quickly and transparently" the State Department said.

Kerry's remarks echoed recommendations made in a joint statement from the African Union, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Britain and the United States.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai tells Mugabe not to 'steal' Zimbabwe vote

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Zimbabwe

07/27/2013 21:28 GMT

CHINHOYI, July 27, 2013 (AFP) - Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday warned President Robert Mugabe not to "steal" a crunch vote next week, so that his veteran rival could exit office with dignity.

"Mugabe stole an election in 2002, he stole the election in 2008. This time we want to tell him that he will not steal again," Tsvangirai said to thousands of supporters.

"As a party we don't have intentions of retribution. What we only want and what we are saying is: 'Mr Mugabe run this election freely and fairly so that we can give you a dignified exit.'"

After two previous polls condemned by observers as unfair, Tsvangirai is vying to end Mugabe's 33-year rule and a four-year shaky coalition forced after chaotic elections in 2008.

Speaking in the farming town of Chinhoyi, 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of the capital Harare, he hit out at the electoral authority after a disorganised special early vote and the absence of an electoral roll.

"I have not been given the voters roll, three days before the elections," Tsvangirai said, saying this was a loop-hole for rigging.

He again accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of printing eight million ballots -- instead of 6.2 million, the number of registered voters.

"I am saying this in full view of observers," he said.

"We know you have printed eight million ballots for (the) presidential election, eight million for (the) parliamentary election. You don't explain why you need two extra million ballots."

The lead-up to the July 31 election has been marred by flawed voter registration, chaotic early polling for security forces, and lopsided campaign coverage in state media.

A special early vote held on July 14 and 15 for police officers and soldiers saw polling stations open without ballot papers, leaving thousands unable to cast their vote.

The country's Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that the thousands of officers who were unable to vote due to the disorganisation, will get a second chance to cast ballots during the Wednesday general elections.

Tsvangirai claims his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party had also discovered that some of the ballot papers that were cast were later thrown away.

"You (ZEC) messed up the special vote of 70,000 people. In two days you could not handle those people," he said.

"How are you going to handle the 6.2 million voters who are going to line up for one day."


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Colombia: No ceasefire with FARC, says Colombia's president

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Colombia

07/28/2013 00:32 GMT

BOGOTA, July 28, 2013 (AFP) - Colombia will not agree to a ceasefire with FARC rebels, the country's president stressed Saturday ahead of a resumption of peace talks.

Juan Manuel Santos said that, since the start of the talks last year, his government has put Latin America's longest-fighting insurgency on notice that there would be no truce until a five-point agenda had been agreed.

"So (now, too) the military offensive is maintained, it is strengthened because that is what is going to get us to the end of this conflict fastest," Santos said.

"If we let down our guard there will be no incentive to wrap up the conflict in any foreseeable future."

Peace talks between the rebels and the government opened last November in Cuba, the fourth attempt since the 1980s to end Latin America's longest-running armed conflict.

The next round of negotiations was scheduled to resume in Cuba's capital Havana on Sunday.

The half-century old guerrilla war has left 600,000 dead, more than 3.7 million displaced and 15,000 missing.

Formed in 1964, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC by its Spanish acronym, is the country's largest guerrilla group, with an estimated 8,000 fighters.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Mali: Malians to defy death threats to vote in new leader

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Mali

07/28/2013 01:30 GMT

by Frankie Taggart

BAMAKO, July 28, 2013 (AFP) - Malians were preparing Sunday to defy Islamist death threats and vote in their millions for a president expected to usher in a new dawn of peace and stability in the conflict-scarred nation.

They will have a choice of 27 candidates as they vote for the first time since last year's military coup upended one of the region's most stable democracies, as Islamist militants hijacked a separatist uprising to seize much of the country.

The ballot is due to open at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) under heavy security after one of the main Islamist armed groups in northern Mali said Saturday it would "strike" polling stations.

"The polling stations and other voting places for what they are calling the elections will be targeted by mujahideen strikes," the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) said in a statement carried by the Mauritanian ANI news agency.

It did not specify what form the attacks would take.

The group warned Malian Muslims against taking part in the election, ordering them to "stay away from the polls".

Although the three-week campaign ended Friday without major incident, it played out in the shadow of violence in the north that has cast doubt over Mali's readiness to deliver a safe and credible election.

Critics at home and abroad have argued that Mali, under pressure from the international community, is rushing to the polls and risking a botched election that could do more harm than good.

But Louis Michel, the head of the European Union observation mission, sounded a note of optimism Friday, saying conditions had been met for a credible first round.

"I believe that these elections can take place in a context and in conditions that are acceptable and do not allow for a distortion or an abuse of the result," he told reporters in the capital Bamako.

Much of the worry ahead of the polls has been focused on Kidal, occupied for five months by Tuareg separatists until a ceasefire accord allowed the Malian army earlier this month to provide security.

Clashes between Tuaregs and black Africans in the run-up to the election left four people dead. And gunmen thought to be from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) have kidnapped five polling officials 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Kidal.

The ballot will be the first since the military mutiny in March last year that toppled democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure. The ensuing confusion helped the MNLA, MUJAO and other groups allied to Al-Qaeda to seize northern Mali.

On the eve of the election, acting president Dioncounda Traore, in a televised address, urged Malians to ensure a massive turnout in a country where the participation rate is usually around 40 percent. Traore himself is not a candidate.

A UN peacekeeping mission integrating more than 6,000 African soldiers into its ranks is charged with ensuring security Sunday and in the months after the election. By the end of the year it will have grown to 11,200 troops and 1,400 police.

The deployment allows France to start withdrawing most of the 4,500 troops it sent to Mali in January to stop the Islamists from advancing towards Bamako from their northern strongholds.

Haidara Aichata Cisse, the only woman in the race, will go head-to-head with 26 men, including past premiers Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Cheick Modibo Diarra, Modibo Sidibe and Soumana Sacko.

Keita is seen as the main frontrunner alongside Soumaila Cisse, a former chairman of the Commission of the West African Monetary Union.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

China: Gansu grapples with wet weather

Source: Mercy Corps
Country: China

MR team distributed first batch of relief supplies to 500 displaced families

Gansu, 25 July – The devastating 6.6 magnitude earthquake which hit Gansu province on Monday morning caused immense damage across its Min and Zhang counties, where nearly 100 lives perished and 300,000 more displaced from their homes. Responding to a direct request for humanitarian assistance from the Zhang County Poverty Alleviation & Development Bureau (ZCPADB), Mercy Relief’s (MR) 4-man team reached the affected village of Jiu Dian this afternoon to distribute survival essentials to the displaced survivors there.

The MR team landed in Gansu via Sichuan, within 24 hours of receiving the appeal for assistance, and met with the Head of ZCPADB, Chang Yu Zhong, to receive first-hand information on the situation, and personally recce the affected grounds. Amidst temperatures hovering 14 degrees Celsius and persistent rains, the team went on to procure the first batch of supplies including 500 blankets, paediatric medicines and 6,000 milk packs to address the basic needs of the survivors, particularly the young, sick and vulnerable. The RMB60,000-worth of supplies reached Jiu Dian village on Thursday afternoon and saw the immediate distribution to 500 affected families.

Commenting from Zhang county, MR Senior Programme Manager for China, Tsai Pi Kuang shared, “Similar to the Lushan earthquake which we responded to back in April, this wet weather condition further exposes the displaced victims to natural elements such as rains and strong winds. Mudslides and landslides further threaten the safety and well-being of the survivors, rescuers and aid workers, and in tandem, delaying the delivery of relief supplies and hinder rescue work. Due to the high altitude, it is important that aid supplies, including blankets and medicines, reach the survivors quickly to prevent or mitigate any risk of a secondary disaster such as an outbreak of diseases.”

Back at its Singapore HQ, MR has launched a public fundraising appeal from 25th Jul to 31st Aug 2013 to support its relief and recovery efforts for the quake victims.

Modes of donations:

  1. Cross cheque to Mercy Relief, with ‘Gansu Quake Relief 2013’ written on the reverse, and mail to 160, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-1568, S310160;

Cash donations at 160, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-1568, S310160;

Funds transfer to Mercy Relief’s DBS Current Account 054-900742-0;

Credit Card donation via www.mercyrelief.org (GIVE page, Pledge to “Foreign Fundraising 1”)

For more information, public can reach MR’s office at 6332 6320 or email intouch@mercyrelief.org.

Mali: Le Mali traumatisé par 18 mois de crise élit un nouveau président

Source: Agence France-Presse
Country: Mali

07/28/2013 06:03 GMT

Par Ahamadou CISSE

BAMAKO, 28 juillet 2013 (AFP) - Près de sept millions de Maliens sont appelés à voter dimanche au premier tour d'une présidentielle qui doit permettre d'entamer le redressement et la réconciliation de leur pays traumatisé par 18 mois de crise politique et militaire.

A la veille du scrutin, le président malien par intérim Dioncounda Traoré, qui ne se présente pas, a affirmé que l'Etat était "le garant d'élections régulières et crédibles" et appelé ses compatriotes à aller voter massivement, alors qu'au Mali le taux de participation aux élections est généralement faible, autour de 40%.

Vingt-sept candidats se présentent à ce premier tour qui devrait être suivi le 11 août d'un second tour entre les deux candidats arrivés en tête.

L'ex-Premier ministre et ex-président de l'Assemblée nationale Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, 69 ans, et l'ex-ministre des Finances et ex-dirigeant de l'Union économique et monétaire (Uémoa) Soumaïla Cissé, 63 ans, sont les deux grands favoris, suivis d'un autre ancien Premier ministre, Modibo Sidibé, 60 ans.

Cette élection doit rétablir l'ordre constitutionnel interrompu le 22 mars 2012 par un coup d'Etat qui a précipité la chute du Nord du Mali aux mains de groupes islamistes de la mouvance Al-Qaïda, alliés dans un premier temps à la rébellion touareg du Mouvement national de libération de l'Azawad (MNLA).

Elle intervient six mois après le début en janvier d'une intervention militaire internationale menée par la France pour stopper une avancée vers le Sud des islamistes armés et les chasser du Nord qu'ils occupaient depuis neuf mois.

Cette intervention de la France a été unanimement saluée dans le monde et au Mali qui était sur le point de devenir un nouveau sanctuaire pour les jihadistes.

Mais la forte pression exercée ensuite par Paris sur le régime de transition à Bamako pour qu'il organise au plus vite des élections a suscité des interrogations et des critiques sur cette précipitation qui risque d'aboutir à un scrutin "bâclé" et des résultats contestés.

Un des candidats, Tiébilé Dramé, artisan d'un accord de paix signé en juin à Ouagadougou entre Bamako et la rébellion touareg, qui avait réclamé en vain un report du scrutin, a retiré sa candidature pour protester contre son manque de préparation et l'attitude de la France qui, selon lui, a par ses pressions porté atteinte à la "dignité" des Maliens.

Menace jihadiste

Si 85% des cartes des 6,9 millions d'électeurs ont été distribuées, plusieurs obstacles au bon déroulement du scrutin subsistent: redéploiement inachevé de l'administration centrale dans le Nord, absence de retour chez eux de 500.000 réfugiés et déplacés ayant fui le conflit et dont la plupart risquent de ne pas pouvoir voter.

Et l'un des groupes jihadistes qui ont occupé le Nord, le Mouvement pour l'unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l'ouest (Mujao), a menacé de "frapper" les bureaux de vote et mis en garde "les musulmans maliens contre la participation à ces élections".

Louis Michel, chef de la centaine d'observateurs de l'Union européenne (UE) déployés au Mali, a affirmé qu'en dépit des craintes et des insuffisances, "ces élections peuvent se dérouler dans un contexte et dans des conditions acceptables qui ne permettront pas une interprétation ou un dévoiement du résultat".

Une tâche immense attend le nouveau président, tant le Mali sort exsangue et plus que jamais divisé par ces 18 mois de crise qui l'ont plongé dans la récession et ont renforcé la pauvreté. Il pourra compter sur le soutien massif de la communauté internationale qui a promis plus de trois milliards d'euros d'aide.

Mais sa mission la plus délicate sera de réconcilier les différentes communautés qui composent le Mali: les tensions entre elles ont été exacerbées par la rébellion touareg et l'occupation islamiste, Touareg et Arabes étant souvent assimilés par les Noirs à des rebelles ou à des jihadistes.

La ville de Kidal (nord-est), fief des Touareg et du MNLA qui prône l'autonomie du Nord, illustre ces divisions. Des violences meurtrières y ont eu lieu il y a deux semaines entre des habitants touareg et noirs, en partie provoquées par le retour de soldats maliens dans la ville le 5 juillet.

La sécurité du scrutin sera assurée par quelque 6.300 soldats de la force de l'ONU, la Minusma, aidée des 3.200 soldats français encore présents au Mali.


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

Democratic Republic of the Congo: MONUSCO denounces serious abuses by M23, calls for humanitarian access

Source: UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kinshasa, 27 July 2013 – The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO, is highly alarmed over the allegations of killings, forced recruitment and illegal detention of civilians by the March 23 Movement, M23.

MONUSCO has received credible reports indicating that ten people were forcefully recruited by the M23 combatants on 22 July 2013 at Kibumba, in the territory of Nyiragongo, North-Kivu province. Three of the ten victims were reportedly killed by the M23 combatants as they were attempting to escape.

MONUSCO also received reliable allegations that approximately twenty houses were looted by members of the M23 in Kiwanja, located in Rutshuru territory, North-Kivu province, on 24 July 2013. After the looting, members of the M23 allegedly abducted at least forty men accused of participating in the looting and subsequent torching of huts and payment points used by M23 combatants.

Since new hostilities broke out in mid-July with the FARDC, the M23 has been preventing humanitarian access to some towns and areas devastated by the fighting, especially Mutaho. These actions by the rebel group come at a time when many displaced persons are in dire need of humanitarian assistance such as food, shelter, water, health care and sanitation.

“The Mission condemns all serious human rights violations attributed to the members of the M23 and reiterates its call to the M23 to fully respect human rights and international humanitarian law” said Abdallah Wafy, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the DRC in charge of the rule of law. Mr. Wafy added: “MONUSCO warns the M23 that it will be held responsible for the fate of anyone it has abducted or forcibly recruited.”

MONUSCO reminded that Sultani Makenga and several senior members of the M23 have previously been involved in other serious human rights violations, including the widespread extra-judicial executions perpetrated in Kiwanja on 4 and 5 November 2008.

Syrian Arab Republic: Talks on chemical weapons probe 'productive'– UN and Syria jointly say

Source: UN News Service
Country: Syrian Arab Republic

27 July 2013 – The United Nations disarmament chief and the head of the team probing the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria have had “thorough and productive” discussions with the Government that led to an agreement on moving forward.

At the invitation of the Government of Syria, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, and Åke Sellström, the head of the UN fact-finding mission set up in March to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, visited Damascus on 24 and 25 July.

They met with Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, to discuss the work of the Mission.

In a joint statement with the Government, the UN said “discussions were thorough and productive and led to an agreement on the way forward.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called on Damascus to grant the team access to the country so that it can carry out an on-the-ground investigation into the allegations.

Since fighting began in March 2011 between the Syrian Government and opposition groups seeking to oust President Bashar Al-Assad as many as 100,000 people have been killed, almost 2 million have fled to neighbouring countries and a further 4 million have been internally displaced. In addition, at least 6.8 million Syrian require urgent humanitarian assistance.

Egypt: UN chief condemns violence in Egypt, urges security forces to respect human rights

Source: UN News Service
Country: Egypt

27 July 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned the deadly upsurge of violence in Egypt and called on security forces to respect the right to free speech and assembly while urging protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

Protests on Friday and Saturday have left scores of people dead and hundreds others injured.

“The Secretary-General once again calls on the interim authorities to assume full responsibility for the peaceful management of the demonstrations and ensure the protection of all Egyptians,” Mr. Ban's spokesperson said in a statement.

He added that Egypt's security forces must act with full respect for human rights, including guaranteeing the rights to free speech and assembly.

Mr. Ban also urged demonstrators to exercise restraint and preserve the peaceful nature of their protests.

“The Secretary-General appeals to all the people of Egypt to address their differences through dialogue and again renews his calls to all parties to engage in an inclusive and meaningful reconciliation process,” according to the statement.

Mr. Ban underlined that violence is not a substitute for a political solution and, therefore, “calls on all Egyptian leaders to put the interest of Egypt above all individual, group and political interests.”

The crisis in the country escalated earlier this month, resulting in the Egyptian military deposing President Mohamed Morsi amid widespread protests in which dozens of people were killed and wounded. The Constitution was then suspended and an interim government set up.

Mr. Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders currently in detention should immediately be released or have their cases reviewed in full transparency, Mr. Ban urged in the statement.

He also expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims in the latest round of protests and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.

Yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed that it is extremely important that security forces in Egypt do not resort to excessive use of force, and that her office would be closely following how the situation develops.

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