FCO Press Release: Minister for Africa expresses deep concern at violence in Darfur
LONDON, United-Kingdom, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, calls for unhindered access for UN and humanitarian agencies following escalation of violence in Darfur.
Commenting on recent reports of increasing violence in Darfur, the Minster for Africa Mark Simmonds said:
“I am deeply concerned to hear reports of an escalation of violence across Darfur, which has led to the displacement of over 40,000 people from their homes, particularly in South Darfur. I condemn the deplorable tactics used against civilians, including the destruction and burning of villages.
“The Government of Sudan has primary responsibility for protecting civilians. It must hold perpetrators to account and abide by international humanitarian law. I urge the authorities in Darfur to allow the joint African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) immediate access to the affected areas.
“Ten years after the outbreak of violence in Darfur, the people of Darfur continue to bear the brunt of the continuing conflict. During my recent visit to Sudan I called for full access for humanitarian agencies in Sudan's conflict-affected areas. I repeat that call and urge the Government of Sudan and all armed groups to immediately end the violence.”
New initiative enables Somali farmers to produce food assistance / European Union, Austria and United Nations food agencies are backing landmark initiative
MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- For the first time, Somali farmers are turning themselves into suppliers of high-quality food assistance for their fellow Somali people.
A new initiative backed by the European Union (EU), the government of Austria and two United Nations food security agencies has helped Somali farmers achieve this major agricultural breakthrough in a region of the country that was gripped by famine less than three years ago.
With the support of the EU and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), small-scale farmers have boosted the yields and quality of their maize grains, allowing them to sell 200 metric tons of high-quality maize to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), which purchased the grain with funds supplied by Austria.
Agricultural communities – especially in south-central Somalia, the country's grain basket – have, over the last two decades, been severely affected by conflict and recurrent drought, which has resulted in the widespread failure of crops and poor yields. The EU, Austria, FAO and WFP are working with local farmers to change that.
"The EU strongly supports this pilot initiative to empower the Somali farmers and their markets,” said Michele Cervone d'Urso, the EU Ambassador to Somalia. “By enabling them to provide food aid for Somalia, we support the entire Somali economy."
“This initiative shows that Somali farmers are not helpless. With minimal assistance including agricultural inputs, tools, technical skills in storage, grading and marketing, they can make a great difference,” said Luca Alinovi, FAO's outgoing representative for Somalia.
WFP Country Representative Stefano Porretti described the initiative “as a significant achievement for the participating farmers” and a milestone for WFP's operations in Somalia.
“Strengthening livelihoods and increasing resiliency is an integral part of WFP's strategy in Somalia,” Porretti added. “WFP will continue to support small-scale farmers in Somalia by empowering them to produce and sell more food, so as to become competitive players in local markets.”
The Austrian embassy in Nairobi, which also covers Somalia, said that Austria, as one of the partners and sponsors of this project, was delighted that this valuable initiative had been such a success. It further added that it was another example that people in need, given the necessary assistance and possibilities, are able to help themselves and thus make a difference to their lives.
For over 12 months, experts from FAO and WFP supported by the EU have worked with dozens of farmers in several communities to train them in post-harvest handling, storage and warehouse management in order to increase the quality of their production and limit losses by keeping the grain free of contamination and pests. Farmers also learned how to grade their grain. These new skills are aimed at increasing the quality of their produce.
Now they are able to produce maize that meets international quality standards in sufficient quantities to sell it to WFP, which will use the locally grown grain in its food assistance programmes for the most vulnerable and food-insecure Somalis.
According to food production data, Somali farmers only meet 40 percent of the country's domestic cereal demand. FAO and WFP will jointly seek to scale up this initiative to ensure that small scale farmers have better opportunities to access agricultural markets, to become competitive players in domestic and international food trade and thus to improve their lives.
Sustained humanitarian interventions as well as successive seasons of near-average to above-average rainfall in most parts of Somalia have significantly reduced the number of people experiencing severe food shortages in parts of the country from a peak of 4 million during the 2011 drought and famine.
However, the latest assessment findings from FAO's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit indicate 860 000 people are facing acute food security crisis and 203 000 children under the age of five are acutely malnourished.
PRESS BRIEFING of H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, AUC Chairperson
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- INVITATION TO THE MEDIA
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, will, on Friday, 07 March 2014 at 11:30 to 12:00 hold a press briefing for the representatives of international and local media.
The press briefing will be held in Briefing Room1 at the new AU Conference Center, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming Visits Madagascar
BEIJING, China, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- From February 27 to March 2, 2014, Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming paid a visit to Madagascar. He met with President Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar and held talks with Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs Victor Manantsoa.
Zhang Ming congratulated Hery Rajaonarimampianina on his assumption of office as the new President of Madagascar and Madagascar's completion of political transition process. He said that China and Madagascar enjoy a time-honored friendship. Since the establishment of the diplomatic relationship in 1972, the bilateral relations have enjoyed smooth development, with fruitful cooperative results yielding in various fields. The friendly exchanges and cooperation between the two countries have never been suspended despite of the changes of the political situation in Madagascar in recent years. Madagascar is currently standing at a new starting point of national development and China-Madagascar relations will also embrace new opportunities. China is willing to join efforts with Madagascar to comprehensively promote friendly cooperation in all fields, so as to promote a better and faster development of China-Madagascar relations and to bring more benefits to the two peoples.
The Madagascan side extended warm welcome to Zhang Ming for his visit to Madagascar on the occasion of its completion of political transition process, and thanked China for its long-term and sincere help in Madagascan economic and social development and its support to the process of the settlement of Madagascar's political crisis. The Madagascan side attaches great importance to Madagascar-China relations. It also expressed the willingness to strengthen cooperation with China in various fields of agriculture, energy and infrastructure, and welcomes the Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in Madagascar.
NUSOJ Demands Safety Guarantees for Galkayo Journalists after Media Hit List Obtained
MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today called on the authorities in Puntland and Galmudug to guarantee the safety of journalists named on a hit list that was found on an Al-Shabaab fighter.
Galmudug security forces recently arrested an Al-shabaab fighter by the name Abdihakim Hassan Hamud after he killed and wounded civilian people in northern Galkayo and found on him a list of Mudug region officials, journalists and business people he was supposed to assassinate. Galmugud handed Hamud to Puntland.
Hamud, who claimed to be from Eelbuur town in central Somalia, reportedly admitted to be an Al-shabaab member who was deployed to “kill number of people in Galkayo” according to colonel Mohamed Nur Ali, police commander in Galkayo.
Top on the Al-Shabaab's hit list was director of Radio Galkayo, Awil Mohamud Abdi, whom they planned to assassinate him on 3 March, according to the list discovered by the security forces, which was also admitted by the Al-Shabaab assassin. Abdi's picture was also found on Hamud. The apprehended Al-shabaab fighter had six other journalists on the hit list.
“Authorities in both southern and northern Galkayo must beef up the security and the protection of journalists in Galkayo. They can do that by guaranteeing the safety of all the journalists named in the list, protection for media houses in Galkayo and all other journalists in Mudug region,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.
When confronted at police station, Awil Mohamud Abdi was able to recognise Hamud to be following him in restaurants and public places. Abdi and the other six journalists left Galkayo to Garowe and Hargeisa for safety reasons.
On 2 August 2013, at around 23hrs local time, armed men followed Awil Mohamud Abdi from Radio Galkayo. 5 minutes later when Abdi arrived his house and put on the light in his bedroom, seven bullets slammed into the bedroom window near where he had been standing. Awil threw himself to the ground. Holes in his bedroom wall and bullets on the floor were found. Abdi was unharmed.
Belarus Permanent Representative presents letter of Credence to the AUC Chairperson
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- TheAmbassador of the Republic of Belarus to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union, H.E. Dimitry Kuptel, on Thursday, 6 March 2014 presented his letter of credence to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Presenting his letter, the new Permanent Representative expressed his country's readiness to do business with the African Union and its member states. Belarus will shortly put forward business proposals to discuss various ways for African countries and their citizens to benefit from the science and technological expertise and experience of Belarus.
AU Commission Chairperson, Dr. Dlamini Zuma welcomed the Permanent Representative, and expressed the AU's interest in forging collaboration with Belarus in these areas to develop its key priorities notably skills development, science and technology, agriculture and agro-processing.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma accepted an invitation from the government of the Republic of Belarus to visit the country, during which she expects to raise awareness about critical continental issues on the agenda of the African Union.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma had been an Honorary Professor at the State University of Belarus before becoming AUC Chairperson.
IFJ Condemns Censorship and Intimidation of Independent Press in Somaliland
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Authorities in Somaliland must re-open the offices of an independent newspaper in Hargeisa, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said today.
According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), the Hubaal newspaper in Hargeisa, Somaliland, has been closed since 13 December, 2013, following a raid by the police rapid reinforcement unit (RRU). Police continue to occupy the newspaper's headquarters.
“We are deeply disturbed by the actions of Somaliland authorities to shut down Hubaal newspaper and forcefully occupy its offices,” said Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa Director. “Authorities in Hargeisa should halt their on-going crackdown on Hubaal and allow it to operate without fear of reprisal”.
Somaliland police have accused Hubaal newspaper of dividing the police leadership and misleading security officials, while also claiming that they obtained a court order to close the paper down, although the NUSOJ says they failed to produce this order during the raid.
"The continued closure of Hubaal and presence of police in their offices is nothing but censorship and an attempt to intimidate other media from being critical," said NUSOJ Secretary General Omar Faruk Osman. "Somaliland should withdraw all its forces immediately. Hubaal newspaper and its journalists are exercising their journalistic duty and the authorities must not target them because of their media work.”
Harassment of Hubaal newspaper and its journalists has increased since April 2013 as the newspaper has been covering critical issues. On 11 June 2013, a Somaliland regional court in Hargeisa banned the publishing and distribution of the paper.
On 3 July, Hubaal editor Hassan Hussein Keefkeef was sentenced to two years in jail, while the paper's manager Mohamed Ahmed Jama Aloley received a one-year sentence. Both men were also ordered to pay a 2,000,000-shilling ($350) fine each, Marodi Jeh Regional Court Judge Osman Ibrahim Dahir told the media.
The two journalists were found guilty of reporting “false news”, “slandering top Somaliland officials”, and “falsely accusing employees of the Ethiopian consulate of smuggling alcohol into Hargeisa”. The President of Somaliland later pardoned both journalists and the newspaper was allowed to resume its operations.
On 24 April 2013, two gunmen attacked the headquarters of the newspaper, injuring managing director Mohamed Ahmed Jama. The two gunmen are believed to be Somaliland police, and one of the policemen was caught by the Hubaal staffers and was later released by Somaliland authorities.
“Clearly this is systematic campaign to censor and intimidate an independent newspaper in Somaliland. Hubaal is a victim of its reporting about what is really happening in Somaliland,” added Baglo.
The IFJ urges Somaliland to ensure that independent media outlets are not harassed, and to allow Somaliland journalists to practice their profession without fear of retaliation.
FAO and EU help Zimbabwe's farmers expand productivity and commercialization / US$19 million to strengthen crop and livestock production
HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The European Union (EU), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Zimbabwe have launched a major programme to assist poor smallholder farmers to boost production, productivity and engage in commercial agriculture through integrated farming approaches. The 4-year US$19 million (13.78 Million Euro) programme will be managed by FAO and will focus on smallholder irrigation and livestock production support activities.
FAO's Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Country Representative in Zimbabwe, David Phiri, said, "This partnership between the Government of Zimbabwe, the EU and FAO is a reaffirmation of the commitment and dedication of all the three players in ensuring a food-secure Zimbabwe. Globally, the EU is FAO's largest resource partner, and in Zimbabwe we have already partnered on a number of projects. This new programme is testimony to the existing excellent collaboration for the benefit of Zimbabwe's smallholder farmers."
Smallholder irrigation schemes poorly managed
Existing smallholder irrigation schemes have generally performed poorly as a result of technical and financial problems. Blocked canals and erratic power supply are among the factors that have led to underutilization of even the few irrigation infrastructures available. With poor and deteriorating rainfall in catchment areas, the need for rehabilitation and new irrigation units is evident.
Currently only 61 percent (10 000 ha) of total land equipped with irrigation facilities is functional. The project aims to increase this area by an additional 1 000 ha. This will be done through, improving irrigation infrastructure, capacity development of farmers to practice irrigation farming as a business and strengthening of community-level Irrigation Management Committees.
The irrigation support will target 20 irrigation schemes in Manicaland and Matabeleland South provinces reaching a total population of 36,000 in and around the targeted schemes.
Crop production risky, livestock projects few and short term
The livestock programme will place special emphasis on supporting 40 000 poor farmers - in Nkayi and Lupane Districts in Matabeleland North Province - who practise mixed crop-livestock production. Both these regions are characterized by low rainfall, frequent mid-season dry spells and extensive crop failure.
"Crop production in these districts is risky and the province is one of the most food insecure in the country" Said Mr Phiri. "Livestock support programmes in the past have been few and short-term in nature and this 4 year programme will build on those short-term efforts, and accommodate the long livestock production cycle, thereby having greater impact on the livelihoods of these farmers" he added.
Building on lessons learnt from previous livestock projects, the current programme aims to improve livestock policies, animal health systems and strengthen the whole livestock value chain. This will lead to a more predictable and sustained income of smallholder farmers as well as improve general nutrition of farmers by ensuring access to animal products.
Official visit to Switzerland of the foreign minister of Burkina Faso
BERN, Switzerland, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- On Wednesday evening 5 March 2014, the FDFA state secretary, Yves Rossier, received Mr Djibril Bassolé, minister of foreign affairs and regional cooperation of Burkina Faso, who is in Switzerland on an official working visit. Switzerland's long-standing commitment to Burkina Faso, in particular in the field of development and economic cooperation, was one of the topics of the talks. Mali was also an item on the agenda.
Mr Rossier and Mr Bassolé emphasised the quality of relations between Switzerland and Burkina Faso, which have been based on a development cooperation partnership over the last 40 years. Specifically, Switzerland – through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) – supports programmes to reduce poverty, in particular through the modernisation of family farms, access to high-quality education and professional training, as well as decentralisation.
Switzerland is also helping to strengthen the institutional and organisational capacities of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Burkina Faso and to control public finances. In addition, Switzerland promotes the participation of citizens in the country's political life as well as transparency in fiscal matters and the commodities trade.
Mr Bassolé took the opportunity of the meeting to express his appreciation for Switzerland's support for Burkina Faso at the local level via a partnership with population groups, local communities and community organisations. During the period from 2013-2016, Switzerland envisages an annual overall commitment for Burkina Faso of CHF 29 million.
Concerning foreign policy, Switzerland and Burkina Faso are actively promoting peace in West Africa. In this context, Mr Rossier and Mr Bassolé addressed the need for the national political dialogue in Mali to take place in the context of the support provided by the international community. Against the backdrop of Switzerland's overall commitment to Mali in the field of development, humanitarian aid, peace promotion and the fight against the financing of terrorism, Mr Rossier reiterated Switzerland's availability to continue its support within the framework of the current process.
Africa Center Co-Hosts Countering Violent Extremist Messaging Workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 6, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The U.S. government and African partners met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for a dialogue on strategic approaches to countering violent extremist messaging in the greater Horn of Africa region. The Feb. 23–28 workshop was co-hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and attended by approximately 60 professionals.
The communication abilities of extremist groups were on display during the September 2013 terrorist attack on Westgate Mall, in Nairobi, Kenya, by the Somalia-based Al Shabaab group. During the four-day siege, the attackers orchestrated a sequenced social media messaging campaign explaining why they had carried out the attack, providing their version of events inside the mall, taunting the Kenyan government, and sowing panic among Kenyans.
Al-Shabaab and other extremist groups have long understood that communications are domain of modern warfare, said Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie, a senior official in the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking to participants at the opening of the workshop. Ambassador Selassie said extremists groups have invested time and effort into understanding strategic communications and, as a result, are able to coordinate attacks much more easily.
“As technologies become more sophisticated and available, so have the tools of choice for terrorist organizations,” Ambassador Selassie said. “They are not just fighting wars kinetically but also through the war of ideas.” He called on the U.S. and African partners to employ a two-pronged approach centering on countering the terrorist message itself, while at the same time delivering communications to reach out to vulnerable groups that are at risk of being radicalized or recruited.
ACSS Acting Director Mr. Michael Garrison said that growth and sophistication of terrorist organizations requires, rather than a reactive approach, a more proactive and coordinated approach that creates greater synergies throughout inter-agency organizations and with African partners.
Brigadier General Wayne Grisby, Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), a U.S.-led task force based in Djibouti, echoed Mr. Garrison's remarks by calling for the deliberate employment of all available tools of statecraft – diplomacy, strategic communications, military operations, intelligence, development and financial tools – in a comprehensive strategy in close coordination and partnership with African nations. Brig. Gen. Grisby urged interagency and African partners to pay closer attention to strategic communications and messaging as valuable, but still underutilized, instruments of statecraft.
Throughout the workshops, attendees planned to discuss the drivers of extremism, face-to-face messaging, identifying credible voices, and crafting alternative visions to challenge the conceptual bases of terrorist messages.
To reflect the inter agency aspect of the partnership, several U.S. agencies, in addition to ACSS and CJTF-HOA, were participating, to including the U.S. Department of State, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and the Near East and South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA). The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) is the pre-eminent Department of Defense (DOD) institution for strategic security studies, research and outreach in Africa.
The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 15 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in hundreds of ACSS programs.