Story date: 04/05/2012
L'armée congolaise s'est rapprochée d'une localité proche de la ferme du général Bosco Ntaganda, jugé par les responsables de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC) "responsable" des
violents combats qui opposent l'armée et des mutins dans la province instable
du Nord-Kivu (est).
Les Forces armées (FARDC) ont commencé jeudi leur progression vers Mushaki,
une localité du territoire de Masisi où elles affrontent depuis dimanche des
soldats ex-membres du Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), dont
le général Ntaganda était chef d'état-major.
"Du côté de Mushaki, nous occupons déjà deux collines qui surplombent la
localité. Les mutins sont sur d'autres collines mais seront bientôt délogés",
a affirmé par téléphone à l'AFP un colonel des FARDC sur le terrain, alors que
des tirs étaient entendues près de lui.
Dans un entretien à l'AFP mardi dernier, le général Ntaganda, recherché par
la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), avait dit se trouver dans sa "ferme près
de Mushaki", avec l'aval de sa hiérarchie et en toute connaissance du "chef de
l'Etat" Joseph Kabila.
Il avait précisé n'avoir pas "paniqué" quand les combats ont commencé
dimanche à Mushaki parce qu'il est "militaire" et dispose d'une "garde
rapprochée", dont il n'a pas précisé l'effectif.
"Ntaganda est en train de rassembler les troupes qui lui sont fidèles", ont
mis en garde jeudi 142 organisations congolaises et internationales de la
société civile et de défense des droits humains, dans une lettre adressée à la
secrétaire d'Etat américaine, Hillary Clinton.
Le général Ntaganda lors de son entretien téléphonique avec l'AFP avait
qu'il n'était "pas impliqué dans les affrontements". Mercredi Kinshasa a fait
savoir que "tout ce qui se passe actuellement dans le Masisi" était de sa
"responsabilité". En cas d'arrestation, avait ajouté le responsable, Ntaganda
serait jugé par des "juridictions congolaises".
Le Conseil de sécurité de l'ONU -très inquiet pour les 20.000 déplacés,
dont plus de 3.500 au Rwanda voisin- a demandé jeudi "l'arrêt immédiat de la
rébellion" et déclaré "soutenir les efforts des autorités congolaises" pour
régler la crise.
Le général Ntaganda a été intégré avec les autres ex-CNDP dans l'armée en
2009, à la faveur d'accords de paix avec Kinshasa. Connu aussi sous le surnom
de "Terminator", il est visé depuis 2006 par un mandat d'arrêt de la CPI pour
enrôlement d'enfants quand il était dans une milice au début des années 2000.
Kinshasa a toujours refusé de l'arrêter, arguant que la paix primait sur la
Publisher: UN News Centre
Author: By Simplice Kpandji in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Anouck Bronee in Gisenyi, Rwanda
Story date: 04/05/2012
More than 20,000 people have fled fighting between government forces and renegade troops in eastern Congo in recent days and found shelter in areas near the provincial capital of Goma, UNHCR said Friday.
Meanwhile, UNHCR staff in Rwanda, said that as of Thursday evening, around 4,100 civilians had crossed the border at the Goma-Gisenyi crossing and been transferred to a transit centre, where they were receiving basic aid.
UNHCR field staff say people are still coming toward the North Kivu capital, Goma, and its environs from their homes in the affected Masisi and Walikale territories, but the flow has eased a bit. UNHCR staff have registered 10,300 people at a spontaneous site 25 kilometres from Goma and 9,000 in Mugunga III, one of 31 UNHCR-run settlements for internally displaced people (IDP) in North Kivu.
People are arriving at the two sites exhausted and hungry. They are carrying mattresses and buckets loaded with basic items. Many have children with them. Hundreds are sleeping in a school and church at the spontaneous site at Sake, while about 1,000 people are heading to South Kivu.
"We are working with our partners to provide assistance, including shelter and other non-food items," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said on Friday. "Our protection staff are in the field monitoring needs and identifying the most vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs)."
The latest figures add to the already massive displacement numbers recorded in North Kivu and neighbouring South Kivu so far this year. Conflict in the first quarter of the year is estimated to have displaced around 300,000 people, according to figures compiled by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) with input provided by UNHCR and other organizations. With the latest figures, more than 2 million people are now uprooted countrywide, including 1.4 million people in the two Kivus.
Most of the displaced are in South Kivu where, in the first three months of this year, 220,000 people have fled continuing clashes between the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mai Mai militia. Displacement has also been seen from joint military action by UN peacekeepers and the Congolese armed forces, although this operation has now been suspended.
In North Kivu, fighting between government forces and soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda intensified in April. An estimated 58,000 were newly displaced in the province between January and March. Thousands more moved in April.
We are particularly concerned for some 38,000 displaced people in Masisi and Walikale territories, which are located west and north-west of Goma. UNHCR is unable to access these people because of the insecurity. Many are in IDP settlements located in areas now under the influence of rebel or militia groups. They include the Mpati site, where there were more than 9,000 people, as well as Nyange (1,305 people) and Kivuye (2,717 people).
Displaced people who fled from Mpati have reported cases of harassment, forced labour and extortion. There have also been disturbing reports of rape late last week in Walikale territory.
UNHCR is appealing to all sides to urgently allow humanitarian access to these vulnerable groups and to respect their rights, including the rights to safety, medical help and freedom of movement. We also stress how important it is to maintain the civilian character of the camps and we urge the provincial authorities to increase security in and around the camps where possible.
Meanwhile, our office in Rwanda reports that an average of 1,000 people a day have been crossing into Rwanda at the Goma-Gisenyi border point since the weekend. Most are women, children and the elderly coming from Masisi and Walikale, via Goma. The new arrivals are being transferred to a transit centre about 20 kilometres inside Rwanda and receiving humanitarian assistance.
Publisher: UN News Centre
Author: By Greg Beals in Mai-Aini Refugee Camp, Ethiopia
Story date: 04/05/2012
They crossed the border at midnight, grief-stricken at the death of their daughter the previous day. Gebre's two-year-old girl Arsama perished from the flu. The night after they buried her, Gebre, 28, and his wife Teka, 25, decided to make their way to Ethiopia.
Arsama's death was just one reason for their escape. Gebre was exasperated with seven years in the military part of Eritrea's obligatory decades-long national service with not even enough money to pay for food for his family. There seemed no end to the misery, Gebre recalled, here in Ethiopia.
The crossing took place under a new moon. The plan was to go first to Sudan, stay for a bit and then move to Ethiopia. Gebre had friends who knew the trails across the mountainous border and they guided them through, avoiding the Eritrean patrols. By dawn, the family was walking to Shagarab refugee camp in eastern Sudan, where they would regroup for the next leg of their trip.
Gebre asked for directions from local residents. After their conversation another group of men pulled up in a pick-up truck. These men, called raishida, were light-skinned and carried AK-47s. Gebre and his wife were ordered into the back of the vehicle, which was then covered with canvas. The men told the couple that they would be taken to Shagarab camp.
Each year thousands of Eritrean refugees attempt to make the crossing into Sudan and Ethiopia. Many are bound for Egypt, Israel, Morocco and Europe, but for some the journey ends in misery. At the Mai-Aini and Adi-Hirush camps in Ethiopia, there are more than 400 people who have been returned by Egyptian authorities, including Gebre and Teka.
UNHCR believes that many others have either starved to death in the desert, died crossing rivers or been killed by smuggling gangs. "The deportees are the lucky ones," says Michael Owor, head of UNHCR's sub-office in northern Ethiopia. "I am very sure that many refugees just perish."
Officials at UNHCR have expressed alarm at the number of refugees that are attempting to make the perilous journey from Ethiopia to third countries. A recent report indicated that as many as 80 per cent of new arrivals at Shagarab had come from camps in Ethiopia.
"Those who fail the first time come back to Ethiopia only to try again," says UNHCR Field Protection Officer Benoit Hamanyimana. "They feel like they have lost everything and therefore have nothing left to lose. We need to offer them psychological support, but also livelihood programmes so that they can discover their potential and stabilize their situation."
Smugglers even attempt to penetrate the refugee camps, offering transport to third countries in exchange for payment, which is often provided by relatives of new arrivals. In one case Ethiopian authorities arrested a group of aid workers who were suspected of providing assistance to smugglers.
In many respects Gebre and Teka's journey is typical. An hour-and-a-half after they were forced into the pick-up truck, the pair found themselves in the compound of the smugglers, who demanded 45,000 Eritrean nakfa (US$3,000) to secure their release. "They told us that if we did not find the money they would wrap us in plastic then burn us," Gebre said. "They beat me, but not badly. They beat my wife hard enough to leave a scar on her back."
For 10 days the threats continued. Gebre told his captors the truth, that he didn't have the money to pay their ransom. "We didn't think about anything except just to escape or to wait and see what happened," says Gebre.
He and his wife didn't escape and they weren't killed. Instead they were sold and taken in another pick-up to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where they were sold again this time to Bedouin.
They were taken to an enclosed compound where they were fed a small amount of rice and porridge. There were about 35 other captives. Sudanese, Somalis and Ethiopians sat quietly. Every attempt was made to isolate them. Everyone was told that if they spoke they would be killed.
The Bedouin allegedly told Gebre and Teka that they must come up with US$6,000 ransom or be killed. The couple believed them. They gave Gebre a telephone and told him to call his family in Eritrea.
He got through, but it was more than his kin could afford and they had to beg for help from others. The negotiations for payment lasted more than five weeks. Having paid the ransom, the Bedouin now left the couple in the desert.
"I had never wanted to go Egypt and I never wanted to go to Israel," Gebre says. "But we knew what we would face if we stayed in Egypt so I asked the Bedouin which way to the Israel border." The captors pointed their fingers and Gebre and his wife began to walk.
It was only a few minutes before they heard the shots ringing through the air. The tribesmen had pointed Gebre and Teka towards an Egyptian patrol. Gebre was shot in the lower back, the bullet exiting near his stomach. Teka had a part of her arm ripped off by another shot.
They were taken to a hospital in Sinai, where a female doctor treated their wounds. Gebre described her as the first person during their journey to treat them with kindness. After a month, they were taken to an Egyptian prison. "It was underground and you couldn't see anything," Gebre recalls. "We were separated males and females. I couldn't talk to my wife."
Describing the experience, Gebre says, "You feel as if you are losing your mind." In fact, many thoughts passed through his mind. "I thought about my parents and how they transferred their lives to the Bedouin for me," he says. "I thought about how I was disabled because of the bullet wound. My wife had been wounded. How would she take care of herself?"
Gebre thoughts also turned to his daughter, Arsama. "I thought about how she passed away at such a young age," he says. "What would she have said to me? She probably still would have been too young to understand what we have lost."
Finally, the kindly doctor came to the prison to treat the couple's wounds. She told them she would return. Several months later she arrived, this time with a representative from the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo. The man took the couple's photo and their address. The doctor told Gebre that she would pay their airfare to Ethiopia.
A year after their ordeal, Gebre and Teka are living in Mai-Aini Refugee Camp and have a child named Samuel. "I think of my son and I have at least some hope in my life," says the proud father, smiling. "I hope that he will go to school and become responsible. I hope that one day when I grow old that he will take care of me."
Publisher: BBC News
Story date: 04/05/2012
Islamist fighters said to be linked to al-Qaeda have destroyed the tomb of a local Muslim saint in the Malian town of Timbuktu, officials and locals say.
The gunmen attacked the shrine and set it on fire, saying it was contrary to Islam, according to the official.
Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters took control of Timbuktu, a UN heritage site, after a military coup in March.
Unesco said the town's capture could endanger its "outstanding architectural wonders" .
Residents said armed men from the Islamist group Ansar Dine threatened locals going to worship at the grave of Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar.
"What you are doing is haram! (forbidden). Seek help from God directly rather than the dead," one of the gunmen said, according to a resident quoted by the Reuters news agency.
A local politician, El Hadj Baba Haidara, told Reuters about the atttack:
"They attacked the grave, broke doors, windows and wooden gates that protect it. They brought it outside and burn it," he said. "This tomb is sacred, it is too difficult to bear."
A local official said the fighters had threatened to destroy other saints' tombs, according to the AFP news agency.
Strict Islamists regard shines as idolatrous, while some Muslims, especially Sufis, regard them as an accepted part of Muslim worship.
On its website, Unesco, the UN's cultural agency, says Timbuktu is the location of three great mosques dating back to the 14th century, as well 16 cemeteries and mausoleums.
Founded in the 12th Century, Timbuktu became wealthy at the nexus of important trading routes for salt and gold, reaching its apogee in the 15th and 16th centuries.
It became a major intellectual and religious centre, and still houses tens of thousands of manuscripts, some dating back centuries.
Rebels demanding independence for a Tuareg homeland and fighters of Ansar Dine, which is said to be linked to al-Qaeda, took advantage of the chaos that followed the March coup to overrun the northern half of Mali.
The coup leaders in Bamako said they had toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure because he failed to give sufficient support to troops battling Tuareg rebels in the north.
Under international pressure, they later handed back power to a civilian government, but remain influential.
Story date: 04/05/2012
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, are scheduled to arrive today in the drought-hit country of Niger, West Africa.
The two senior UN officials are to fly to the capital, Niamey and will spend two days visiting projects in Ouallam and Maradi where hunger and malnutrition have reached emergency levels. They will meet some of the tens of thousands of refugees in Mangaize, northern Niger, who have fled from fighting in neighbouring Mali, putting further strain on communities in Niger that are already facing a food crisis.
WFP has launched an emergency operation to provide food assistance to nearly 4 million people in Niger, and is working in partnership with UNHCR to support some 160,000 Malian refugees throughout the Sahel region. The High Commissioner and Executive Director aim to sensitize the international community and to mobilize its support for emergency assistance to the people affected by drought and as well as by instability in Mali.
Publisher: UN News Centre
Story date: 04/05/2012
Speaking from Niger, a top United Nations official on Sunday appealed to the international community to provide the resources needed to help millions in crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa, warning that the situation is critical and there is no time to lose.
"This is one that the international community cannot and must not ignore," said the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, in a telephone interview from Niger's capital, Niamey.
Accompanied by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Ms. Cousin is currently in Niger to raise awareness of the crisis and mobilize support for emergency assistance to the people affected in the country and in neighbouring Mali.
There are currently 15 million people facing food insecurity in the Sahel, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes countries such as Niger and Mali. The trip is Ms. Cousin's first field visit since assuming the leadership of WFP one month ago.
She stressed that the situation is critical following the recent drought which has brought hunger for the third time in recent years.
"Niger is again facing a crisis of a failed harvest because last season the rains did not come. A failed harvest is always a food security crisis," Ms. Cousin said. "Because the rains failed last season, what you're seeing is that the hungry poor, the most vulnerable populations, are now at the point where they have depleted their assets. And as a result, they have no food."
In Niger, WFP has launched an emergency operation to support 3.3 million people, with a special focus on children under two. Some 35 per cent of people being assisted will receive cash. Over 423,000 thousand people have already received support through food-for-assets and cash-for-work programmes.
As part of their three-day visist, the two UN senior officials are meeting with some of the thousands who have fled fighting in neighbouring Mali. The refugees have put a further strain on communities in Niger that are already facing a food crisis.
"In this case, the crisis is different than it's ever been in the past," said Ms. Cousin. "It's even more complicated because of the evolving conflict situation in Mali as well as the high food prices."
WFP estimates it needs some $450 million to help people across the region. "We have about three to four weeks for the international community to invest in WFP and other UN partner organizations working in the Sahel," the food agency chief said.
Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the global community to act quickly to address what he described as a "cascading crisis" sweeping the Sahel.
"The statistics are sobering: 15 million people are directly affected. More than 200,000 children died of malnutrition last year and another one million are threatened right now," he had said in an address to the Luxembourg Parliament.
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution