Rape in Congo Devastates Male Victims
Publisher: VOA, Voice of America
Story date: 21/11/2011
Language: English

Of the millions of rape victims in Congo, only a small percentage are male. But activists say the rape of men, boys and babies is still a weapon used in the conflict that plagues eastern Congo's countryside. Victims are left physically and mentally devastated, and many are suicidal.
This boy says a lieutenant in the army raped him while another man held him down. He passed out during the attack, but when he came to, unlike most male rape victims in Congo, he went to the police. He says the police did not believe him until he showed an officer his injuries. He then accused the soldier publicly. He says he was terrified of reprisals, but wanted justice more.

Victims' rights advocate and lawyer Florentin Basima says he asked the court to lock up the officer, and order $10,000 in reparations.

Basima says reparations are almost never actually paid, despite court orders. But he says in this case, the army officer was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The case is unusual in that male victims almost never seek help. Basima says most are psychologically and physically devastated, and too humiliated to tell anyone. Male victims often die from physical trauma or commit suicide.

Justine Masika, who heads Synergy of Women for Victims of Sexual Violence, says her organization has helped 18 male victims in the past few years. Five of them died because they didn't seek medical treatment soon enough after the attack.

She says when men or boys are raped it is usually by another man in attempt to humiliate the victim. But sometimes, she says, women can rape men as an act of revenge. Female members of the many armed groups still battling in the countryside are often rape victims themselves. Masika helped one victim who was raped by female soldiers who drugged him before they attacked.

U.N. officials have called the Congo the global epicenter of rape as a tool of war. Earlier this year, the American Journal of Public Health released a landmark study showing close to 2 million women in Congo have been raped in their lifetime. It is one of the most complete looks to date at the prevalence of sexual violence in this country. Yet the impact on men and the numbers of male victims are still in the shadows due to the unique stigma.

Emmanuel Atibasay is a psychologist that helps victims prepare for court. His organization has seen boys as young as two years old sexually abused. But he says it is the men whom are harder to help.

Atibasay says male victims in this deeply conservative society lose their identity as men. He says Congolese culture rejects homosexuality, further humiliating the male victims by bringing their sexual preference into question.

Atibasay notes that although attacks are on men are rare, they remain a part of the war that has plagued the Congolese countryside for decades.

Activists say the only way to end the attacks, is to end the conflict. Army officers say while the war officially ended years ago, the fighting never really stopped. Homegrown militias loosely integrated into the army fight rebel forces originating from neighboring Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Other battles are internal, among warring Congolese communities.

Congolese Army Colonel Seraphin Mirindi says while the social consequences of the conflict are extreme, the causes are political rivalries and bad governance. He says eastern Congo is still besieged by war and chaos.

But with Congo about to hold its second set of elections in 40 years, political change might offer some relief to the beleaguered eastern provinces. Tensions are high here in North Kivu province, with reports of pre-election violence and rumors that the elections are already rigged. But Congolese aid workers say the prospect of change offers hope for victims, hope that one day the conflict and the rapes will end.
 

INTERVIEW-Africa leads climate push as its people go hungry
Publisher: Reuters News
Author: By Katy Migiro
Story date: 21/11/2011
Language: English

NAIROBI, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Africa is leading the push for clean energy policy-making as climate change turns millions of its people into "food refugees", the head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner said.

"On the African continent, there is sometimes more leadership being shown by countries, by governments, than we see in some of the industrialised nations," Steiner told Reuters.

"Kenya is currently doubling its energy and electricity generating infrastructure largely using renewables. These are policies that are pioneering, that are innovative," he said.

Kenya generates most of its energy from hydroelectric dams but water levels have fallen due to recurring drought. It is now investing heavily in geothermal and wind power.

The African Development Bank is financing Africa's biggest wind farm on the shores of Lake Turkana, one of the windiest places on Earth. The $819-million project aims to produce 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year, boosting Kenya's energy supply by 30 percent.

Toyota and Hyundai are building a fourth geothermal power station in Naivasha, 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Nairobi, which will increase geothermal capacity from 115 MW to 395 MW by 2014.

"We see across the continent both a realisation of how threatening climate change really is and also the inevitable necessity that governments have an interest in beginning to put their own development priorities on a different trajectory," said Steiner.

Investments in renewable energy are hitting record levels. In 2010, $211 billion dollars was invested in renewable energy, the majority of it in the developing world, Steiner said.

"TERRIBLE PRICE"

As the world's poorest continent, Africa is also the most vulnerable to the extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels brought by climate change.

"The consequence of global warming for Africa is one of disruption, of greater vulnerability, higher risks and enormous expenditures to cope with these changes," said Steiner.

In the Horn of Africa, some 13 million people are going hungry due to prolonged drought. In Somalia, the crisis is compounded by conflict.

"The spectre of having millions of people being food refugees at the moment is one that simply should not happen," said Steiner. "What we have seen here over the last five, six months I think is a shame for the world."

Time has run out to get a new binding deal on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in place before the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

Expectations are low that U.N. climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, from Nov. 28, will achieve anything more than modest steps towards a broader deal.

The Kyoto Protocol obliges developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent of 1990 levels by the end of 2012.

Scientists say pledges so far to curb emissions will not prevent the planet heating up beyond the two degrees Celsius threshold they say risks more extreme weather, crop failure and major floods. Global average temperatures rose by 0.7C over pre-industrial times during the 20th century.

"The world is facing a situation where the only protocol that it has been able to put in place to address climate change is on the verge of actually being abandoned in Durban and that is a very serious situation," said Steiner.

He estimated that it could take two to five years to reach another global agreement.

The European Union, Russia, Japan and Canada have said they will not sign a second commitment period unless bigger emitters, notably China and the United States, provide firm evidence that they would join too.

"The world is going to pay a terrible price for this standoff and Africa in particular," said Steiner.

(Katy Migiro reports for AlertNet, a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more stories and information, visit www.trust.org/alertnet)

(Editing by Barry Malone and Janet Lawrence)
 

U.S. Keeps Wary Eye On Kenya's Campaign In Somalia
Publisher: NPR, National Public Radio, USA
Author: by Michele Kelemen
Story date: 21/11/2011
Language: English

Kenya is deciding whether to send thousands more troops into Somalia — this time to join African Union forces that are propping up a transitional government in Mogadishu.

Kenya already has a few thousand troops in the lawless country, trying to pursue a militant Islamist group called al-Shabab. That month-old incursion caught the United States and others off guard and has raised alarms among aid groups.

"We surprised ourselves," says Kenya's ambassador to the United Nations, Macharia Kamau. "We have never in our history engaged in any kind of foreign adventure of a military sort. But I think what it is, is that matters did come to a head."

Kenya Takes Action

Tens of thousands of Somalis have been pouring into Kenya — fleeing famine and instability at home. The al-Shabab militia, which controls much of south-central Somalia, has carried out repeated terrorist attacks and kidnappings inside Kenya.

"When you are dealing with a violent group of murderous individuals, you have to come to a point where you make a decision: Do you continue to allow the slow bleed to happen, so that the country becomes completely anemic and unable to function, or do you, after 25 years of living next to a failed state, make a decision that you can no longer afford to tolerate the situation?" Kamau says.

Though critics see Kenya's military actions as misguided and uncoordinated, Kamau says Kenya is working with Somalia's transitional government to secure Kenya's borders and go after the al-Shabab militia. The ambassador came to Washington this week to seek U.S. help.

"We would love to have the United States engage, provide the logistics support, intelligence, maybe even in combat form," he says. "They don't need to put troops on the ground, no boots on the ground — we can do that. But we are also looking for other countries — Ethiopia, Djibouti — to step up their game so that they are able to help us secure the peace in Somalia. This is about saving Somalia. It's not about just the pursuit of Kenya's objectives."

The U.S. Is Watching

Pentagon officials say the U.S. is monitoring the Kenyan incursion, but not providing assistance. The State Department is advising caution, says Donald Yamamoto, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa.

"You don't know what the consequences are going to be," he says. "Look at the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia, look at our own personal history. It's fraught with a lot of problems and dangers. The Somalis just do not like foreigners in their area."

Yamamoto says Kenya's motivations were understandable, but the U.S. has tried to keep focused on beefing up the African Union forces, supporting a transitional government and reaching out to major clans.

"The overall issue and solution to the Somalia problem is going to have to be a regional, concerted approach, [an] international approach, but also ultimately the Somalis themselves will have to resolve this," Yamamoto says.

Aid For Victims

One British diplomat told NPR that countries ought to help Kenya come up with an exit strategy. There are fears that its incursion could make it harder for aid workers to reach famine victims.

The Africa director of the United Nations' refugee agency, George Okoth-Obbo, points to one ominous sign: The flow of refugees into Kenya has fallen drastically — perhaps because Somalis are trapped by the fighting.

"When the military operation started on the 16th of October, up to that period we were having on average something like 1,000 new arrivals every day from Somalia," he says. "Sometimes there would be fewer; sometimes there would be a bit more. Since that time, we have not had any new arrivals. The numbers have gone down practically to zero."

Okoth-Obbo says Kenyans are doing more to provide security at a massive refugee camp — but aid groups have had to scale back their work after a kidnapping there last month.
 

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