The PSC of the AU, at its 423rd meeting held on 10 March 2014, adopted a decision on the situation in Sudan
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 423rd meeting held on 10 March 2014, adopted the following decision on the situation in Sudan:
1. Takes note of the briefing made by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) and the statement made by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sudan. Council also takes note of the statements made by Rwanda, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America in their capacity as members of United Nations (UN) Security Council, as well as by the Representatives of the UN and the European Union;
2. Recalls its earlier communiqués and press statements requesting the Sudanese Parties to the conflict in the “Two Areas” of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states in the Republic of Sudan, namely the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLMN) to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict between them, under the facilitation of the AUHIP and the Chairperson of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD);
3. Further recalls the UN Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), which endorsed the Roadmap adopted by Council on 24 April 2012, and commends the UN, in particular its Special Envoy, Haile Menkerios, as well as other bilateral and multilateral partners, for their continued support to the AU-led efforts;
4. Reiterates its continuing concern with the acute humanitarian crisis in the Two Areas, which is causing loss of life among innocent civilians, and renews its call upon the Parties to facilitate immediate provision of unhindered humanitarian assistance to the war-affected civilian population, in accordance with the spirit of the Tripartite Agreement, as proposed by the AUHIP, and in the context of a cessation of hostilities;
5. Reiterates its firm conviction that there can be no military solution to the conflict in the Two Areas, and that there is no alternative to the Parties than engaging in direct negotiations towards a comprehensive political settlement;
6. Re-emphasizes the urgency of stopping the war and giving a chance to dialogue to resolve the deep-rooted problems of Sudan; recognizes that an end to armed conflict is the overwhelming demand of the people of Sudan and to this end, welcomes the Draft Agreement of 18 February 2014, as proposed by the AUHIP, which it considers as an appropriate framework to serve as a basis for negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Two Areas;
7. Notes the Government of Sudan's response to the AUHIP's proposed Draft Framework Agreement of 18 February 2014 and encourages the SPLM-N to respond in accordance with the request made by the AUHIP. Council further encourages the two Parties to continue the bilateral consultations they have initiated to reach a better understanding and solution. In this regard, Council requests the AUHIP to continue to assist the Parties to reach an agreement by 30 April 2014;
8. Further notes the yearning of the people of Sudan to overcome their past predicament and history of conflict, and to move forward to a new and more peaceful and democratic stage of their country's development;
9. Reaffirms the mandate given to the AUHIP by the AU PSC at its 207th meeting on 29 October 2009, inter alia “to assist in the implementation of all aspects of the AUPD [African Union High-Level Panel on Darfur] recommendations, as well as to assist the Sudanese parties in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and other related processes, as part of the democratic transformation of the Sudan”;
10. Welcomes the initiative by the GoS to open a process of holistic national dialogue and constitutional review. Council acknowledges the fact that after the separation of South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan remains with a formidable challenge of achieving unity in diversity, and encourages the political parties, civil society and armed opposition in Sudan to engage in dialogue to address the challenges of peace and security, democratization, the forging a new constitution for Sudan appropriate to the needs of its people, economic reform and the management of identity and diversity. Council emphasizes that bringing to an end all armed conflicts in Sudan is an important component for paving the way towards such a national dialogue to proceed and reach a successful conclusion. In this respect, Council expresses its deep solidarity with the people of Sudan as they approach this historic opportunity to overcome past grievances and move forward to a new era;
11. Commends the efforts of the AUHIP and the IGAD Chairperson and calls upon them to continue to assist the Parties in their efforts to resolve the conflict in the Two Areas in a comprehensive manner. Council further calls upon the AUHIP to play a role in facilitating the Sudanese process of holistic national dialogue, as deemed appropriate by the Sudanese parties.
12. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
Briefing to the Security Council by Ambassador Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Somalia
NEW YORK, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- [AS DELIVERED]
Madam President, Members of the Council
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to brief the Council from Mogadishu today, and for your continued support to Somalia's peace-building and state-building. I am on the ground in Mogadishu and not with you in New York due to the intensity of events at this moment. I hope you understand.
The best hope for peace and stability in Somalia, the Horn of Africa and beyond remains a united, secure and federal Somalia. This is achievable. Somalia can reach its goal of an agreed constitution, a nation-wide electoral process and increased security by 2016. But times are tough, and in the short term may get tougher. Insecurity in Mogadishu poses challenges for Somalis, the UN and the international community. 2014 is a crucial year. It is marked, I would say, by security and political challenges, which will be overcome if the Federal Government of Somalia and international partners remain united and if both accelerate delivery of their mutual commitments.
As I speak, an expanded AMISOM and the Somali National Army (SNA) are prosecuting a renewed offensive against Al Shabaab, made possible by UN Security Council Resolution 2124. It will be the most significant and geographically extensive military advance since AMISOM started, and there have already been notable successes. I pay tribute to the commitment and sacrifices made by AMISOM and its police and troop contributing states. Under Ambassador Annadif's leadership, AMISOM continues to be the single most important contributor to the security of Somalia, and a vital partner for the Federal Government and the United Nations in peace-building, state-building and stabilisation. Ethiopian troops were officially incorporated into AMISOM earlier this year. The UN has played its part in preparing for the new operations. Supplies of food, fuel and water were stockpiled by the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) in all sectors in advance of the operations. UNSOA and UNSOM have been supporting the training of Somali National Army troops. This includes training in human rights and humanitarian law, in accordance with the Secretary-General's Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
As you will be aware, in Mogadishu the security situation has deteriorated since the last time I briefed the Council in December. A suicide attack carried out on a UN convoy, a complex suicide attack against the Presidential compound in Villa Somalia, and another suicide attack near the National Intelligence headquarters, all in the month of February, are sharp reminders. The risk of further attacks against Somali government and international targets remains high.
The Federal Government and AMISOM have increased their security operations in the city and the Government has developed a new Mogadishu security strategy. I look forward to its early implementation and I hope international partners will actively support it and respond rapidly to requests from the Government.
The UN has taken measures to improve its own security. Planning for the UN Guard Unit, endorsed in February by the Council to protect UN personnel and facilities in Mogadishu, is underway, with the first deployments expected in April. I take this opportunity to thank the Council and the Government of Uganda for their support in establishing the Guard Unit. I would also like to thank AMISOM for their cooperation in facilitating its deployment.
Vital though they are, military operations alone will not achieve sustainable peace-building and state-building. The Government has established a framework for the stabilisation of areas that will become accessible as a result of these operations, including the establishment of interim local administrations. UNSOM has been working closely with partners to support this.
As AMISOM and the Somali National Army begin their offensive, we are all conscious of the need to uphold humanitarian principles and respect for international humanitarian law. We also need resources. I urge donors and partners to contribute to the trust fund for the supply of non-lethal support to the Somali National Army in line with resolution 2124. Such UN support for a national army is groundbreaking, and requires our collective effort and determination to succeed.
Developing strong, professional Somali security forces is essential. Progress is being made, but it is made harder by the continuing insecurity and conflict. UNSOM's work on security sector reform continues. We are, for example, taking some practical steps such as supporting biometric registration and the provision of uniforms. We plan to support the Somali Police Force's recruitment of 2,300 additional police officers in 2014. Somalia's security institutions need urgently to be properly funded. I hope that international partners will work with UNSOM, AMISOM and the Federal Government to work out how to do this in a timely and effective manner.
I am pleased also to report that in February the European Union training mission began its training programmes inside Somalia. This is a significant step that deserves our recognition.
Achieving greater security is a vital task for 2014. But the political dimension of state-building and peace-building is equally vital this year. After nearly three months of negotiation, Somalia now has a new Federal Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed. The Cabinet contains experienced and technocratic Ministers whose workplans are built around the priorities identified in the New Deal Compact. On 24 February, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and I co-chaired, in Mogadishu, the first meeting of the High-Level Partnership Forum, the body overseeing the implementation of the Compact. The Forum concluded that now was the time for both the Government and international partners to convert plans into actions, pledges into tangible projects and to make real political progress. I am pleased to report that as we meet, the Federal Government is finalising a detailed plan and timetable for a process leading to the formation of Federal States, a final Constitution and democratisation by 2016. I expect this timetable, called broadly Vision 2016, will have concrete and realistic deliverables, to be published in the coming weeks following further consultation with stakeholders, including Puntland and the Interim Jubba Administration. The UN stands ready to play a central role in supporting its implementation.
Strengthened public financial management is another pillar of state-building. Following the resignation of the former Central Bank Governor in November 2013, the Government has made progress towards rebuilding national and international confidence in its financial institutions. A key step has been the establishment of a Financial Governance Committee, involving experts from the government and international financial institutions to advise on financial management. Alongside other key measures, the Federal Government has agreed to share the existing strategic concession contracts with the Committee for technical review and expert advice. Improved transparency and accountability are critical steps in initiating aid flows. The World Bank, I should note, has been intrepid in supporting on the ground the progress we are beginning to see.
The formation of Federal States needs to be accelerated. I said the same in my briefing to you in December. It is even more true today.
In Baidoa, in south west Somalia, the gulf between two rival camps, advocating a six- and three-region state respectively, remains wide. On the 3rd of March, I called on all parties to respect the Constitution and existing agreements of the Federal Government and to resolve disputes through inclusive dialogue. I continue to offer UNSOM's good offices to support a Federal Government-led process. The Government has clearly stated its commitment to a three region state, a position that should be respected.
In Southern Somalia, the formation of the Interim Jubba Administration continued with the announcement of ministerial positions on the 20th of February. There have been positive steps towards reconciliation and inclusivity. But the full implementation of the 28 August Addis Ababa Agreement requires continued engagement and compromise. I salute the efforts of Ethiopia as Chair of the Council of Ministers of IGAD and guarantor of the Addis Ababa agreement. UNSOM is working with the Federal Government, the Interim Jubba Administration and partners to mobilise resources to manage an increased caseload of disengaged combatants in Kismayo and to take forward reconciliation initiatives.
To the north, in Puntland, on 8th of January I witnessed, along with several members of the international community, the election of President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas and the peaceful handover by former President Abdurahman Mohamed Farole. UNSOM supported critical mediation efforts in the run-up to the elections and advocated, among other things, for greater women's political participation. I am encouraged by the new Government's commitment to resumption of Puntland's suspended democratisation process and the restoration of relations with the Federal Government of Somalia. President Gaas has highlighted the difficult budget situation and the shortage of funds to pay salaries of Puntland government officials, including security forces. I hope that donor efforts to find an interim solution will bear fruit.
I am also inspired by the vigour and enthusiasm of Somali women's political advocacy. Twenty-three women's organisations from South-Central Somalia and Puntland have established the Somali Women Leadership Initiative to campaign for increased political participation of women. UNSOM remains firmly committed to enhancing women's participation in national decision-making. Encouragingly in Puntland, President Abdiweli Gaas appointed five women to cabinet, more than any of his predecessors.
Promotion and respect for human rights is at the core of UNSOM's support to the Federal Government. We have been working with both AMISOM and the Somali National Army to provide training on human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law. A Joint Working Group on human rights due diligence, which includes AMISOM, UNSOA and UNSOM has been established. I hope that in the near future it will also include the Federal Government. The consultative process to create a National Human Rights Commission is still delayed against a background of sustained attacks against human rights defenders and journalists and the continued application of the death penalty. I am also deeply concerned about the ongoing incidence of sexual violence in Somalia. I look forward to the implementation of the recommendations of the Team of Experts on Sexual Violence established under Council Resolution 1888 (2009). The Team of Experts visited Somalia in December 2013.
Despite significant humanitarian crises around the world and within the region, I believe Somalia must remain a priority. The country's humanitarian crisis is among the largest and most complex in the world. An estimated 2.9 million people will need immediate life-saving and livelihood support in the next six months. Recent improvements in the humanitarian situation are fragile and risk reversal if the current trend of low and slow funding for the 2014 humanitarian appeal continues.
There have been reports recently also of displacement as a result of the fighting, especially in Bay and Bakol. As of the 9th of March some 3,700 newly displaced people arrived in Baidoa, mainly due to fear of attacks. As of today they have all started receiving shelter and household items. We also had reports of some 700 previously displaced families that have returned to Hudur after it was recaptured by Somali National Army and AMISOM forces. Humanitarian access due to the volatile security situation remains a major challenge. Humanitarian partners are working to determine urgent needs and how to best respond.
On the 10th of December last year a tripartite agreement was signed between the governments of Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees in Kenya. But conditions in Somalia are not yet conducive for wide-scale refugee return. Without sufficient preparation, mass returns could in fact cause instability and worsen the humanitarian situation in the country.
As a result of changes in its legislation, in December 2013, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia began deporting Somali nationals as well as other migrant workers. It is estimated that more than 22,000 have returned to Somalia so far. The International Organisation for Migration expects as many as an additional 33,000 people could be deported in the next three months. Such an influx to Mogadishu could exacerbate the plight of the internally displaced in the capital.
Progress in Somalia has been mixed so far, but it is progress. We still have a long way to go. The targets which the Federal Government has set itself, in partnership with the international community, remain relevant and feasible. National reconciliation, federalism, the conclusion of the constitutional process and the rebuilding of security institutions are critical. Despite setbacks and delays, none of these tasks remain out of our collective reach. But time is of the essence. The time for action is now.
To conclude, Somalia and Somalis desperately need improved security. I firmly believe this can be achieved, but it requires a collective effort.
Secondly, national reconciliation must be fast-tracked. The establishment of Federal States is critical to the creation of a cohesive and effective federal structure in Somalia. Reconciliation efforts must continue, and will be an additional tool in the fight against the enemies of peace. Legislation to set the constitutional and electoral processes in motion must be must enacted.
Finally, I urge the international community to continue to provide the support necessary to build the Federal Government's capacity to undertake the significant work that remains. Somalis need to see and feel the benefit of increasing peace and security. We need to convert good plans into more concrete assistance, or as a Somali proverb says “A sweet hand is better than a sweet mouth”. The Federal Government is frustrated with the slow delivery of tangible assistance. A country broken from decades of conflict has huge needs. Not all can or will be met quickly, especially while conflict continues. But I wonder if together we could not achieve some faster success in rebuilding Somalia's shattered state.
As friends and partners of Somalia, we need to stay the course. Now is not the time to prevaricate. We have to be prepared for setbacks, but remain resolute. After nearly a quarter of a century of wars, state collapse and immense human suffering, Somalis are determined to build a lasting peace. They need and deserve our continued support.
I thank you very much.
MISCA escorts another convoy of 120 commercial and humanitarian vehicles to Bangui
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic-CAR (MISCA), yesterday, completed the escort of another 120 vehicles into Bangui. Most of the vehicles were heavy-duty trucks transporting shipping containers loaded with commercial goods and humanitarian supplies from the Cameroon seaport of Douala into the CAR. This brings to 1,205 the total number of vehicles MISCA has successfully escorted from the Cameroon border to the CAR capital, since the Mission was launched on 19 December 2013.
MISCA Force Commander, Brigadier General Martin Tumenta, declared that MISCA troops have completely secured the road linking the Cameroon border town of Garoua Boulai to the CAR capital, Bangui. He commended MISCA forces for their discipline and professionalism and urged them to continue implementing the mandate of the Mission with the same dedication. “The overall security situation in the country has considerably improved, despite a few isolated cases of violence. Our forces have been deployed throughout Bangui and are progressively spreading out into other parts of the country. As part of our mandate, we are determined to protect the civilian population and help this beautiful African country to regain peace, security and stability.” The Force Commander stated.
Security for the convoy which arrived in Bangui yesterday was provided by MISCA's Burundi Contingent whose Commander, Lt. Col. Pontien Hakizimana, praised the CAR population for its cooperation with MISCA. “Since our arrival in CAR, the Burundian contingent has been warmly welcomed by the population and I think the Commanders of the other contingents would agree with me that the cooperation of the civilian population has greatly facilitated our job of safely escorting these convoys from the Cameroon border and improving the security situation in the country, particularly here in Bangui. During escort operations of the convoy which arrived today, our forces dismantled four illegal checkpoints and captured several anti-Balaka militiamen who are currently in our custody. They shall be handed over to the CAR authorities, in accordance with international Human Rights and Humanitarian law. Overall, I think the escort operations have been very successful.” Lt. Col. Hakizimana said.
As New Land Law in Liberia Moves towards Finalization, Women from Across Africa Call for Equal Protection to Land Ownership Rights
MONROVIA, Liberia, March 12, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf, along with Liberian Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassel, welcome land reform recommendations from Central and West Africa regional organization REFACOF (African Women's Network for Community Management of Forests) and Liberia's Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI).
Photo 1 (Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf): http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=893
Photo 2 (Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf): http://www.photos.apo-opa.com/index.php?level=picture&id=892
As honored guests at Liberia's International Women's Day Celebrations in Monrovia on Saturday, March 8, REFACOF and FCI presented a statement to President Sirleaf urging the President to include “clear safeguards and specifics on how women's rights to own, access, use and control land would be recognized and protected” in Liberia's New Land Law, currently being vetted by Liberia's internal vetting committee. In an open statement to participants, REFACOF President Cécile Ndjebet stressed the importance of securing women's rights to land and providing equal protection of these rights to enhancing women's status and accelerating prosperity in Liberia and across Africa.
“For real political and social change to take place, there are three issues that need to be addressed, we need legislation that protects equal rights for women, mechanisms that provide for political and social equity, and a change in social and cultural perceptions of women,” said Cécile Ndjebet.
The recommendations presented were the outcomes of the Third Regional Workshop on Gender, Climate Change, Land and Forest Tenures in Africa, co-organized by REFACOF and FCI, with support from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) (http://www.rightsandresources.org). The workshop convened women participants from 16 African countries, and included donors, development partners, and issue experts.
During the workshop, participants discussed the insecurity of women's land protection in Liberia's current land reform policy. Despite the promise made by President Sirleaf in an interview with Reuters (http://reut.rs/1cqvGmb) last year, in which she stated, “women will have the full right to own their land like anyone else,” clear safeguards and specifics on how these rights would be realized in practice have yet to be included.
“We must remember that action is necessary and we need more than just promises,” said Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Africa Program Director for RRI.
In Liberia, land conflicts remain the single most explosive issue, which, if not adequately addressed, could undo years of progress. The requested policy provisions not only stand to prevent rollback, but provide a path forward in empowering women and enhancing their representation and participation in all aspects of life, not just in Liberia, but across Central and West Africa. Should REFACOF and FCI's recommendation come to pass, they could propel land equality, and greater gender equality, across the region, in country such as Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Senegal, where land reform processes are just beginning.
From woman to woman, a call to action
To help demonstrate solidarity and apply pressure on President Sirleaf, REFACOF garnered international support through an online petition (http://bit.ly/NzyAPm) that gathered signatures from across the globe, in six continents.
As Guest of Honor Julia Duncan-Cassel remarked, the Celebration not only marked a day “to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights” but, to further empower Liberian women at home.
Secure rights to land are a necessary step in realizing equality. Not only do they enable women to combat poverty, provide food and income for their households, and protect themselves against domestic violence and the contraction of HIV/AIDs, they provide greater opportunities for women to become active participants in political and social processes.
“Women have to be there to play, and to be in to win. Women need to start with registration for transformation. If women want women's representation, they need to put them there through their vote,” said President Sirleaf.
Julia Weah, Executive Director of FCI, reiterated the importance of the day's events, stating: “These are critical moments in history for women in Liberia, a game-changing moment for women's secure ownership rights to land, and we don't want to miss it.”
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
For more information, please contact:
Monrovia, Liberia: Julie T. B. Weah, +231 886 566856 / +231 77344931
Yaoundé, Cameroon: Chantal Wandja, + 237 96 61 13 30
Washington, D.C., USA: Jenna DiPaolo Colley, +1 202 412 0331
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) (http://www.rightsandresources.org) is a global coalition of 13 Partners and over 140 international, regional and community organizations advancing forest tenure, policy and market reforms. RRI leverages the strategic collaboration and investment of its Partners and Collaborators around the world by working together on research, advocacy, and convening strategic actors to catalyze change on the ground. RRI is coordinated by the Rights and Resources Group, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. For more information, please visit http://www.rightsandresources.org.
Formally established in 2010, the Network of African Women for Community Forest Management (REFACOF) is a network created by 45 women from 8 countries in West and Central Africa. On a regional scale, REFACOF is devoted to collective action by African women to cope with the social, political, legislative and economic issues related to forest management in Africa. In this process, particular attention is given to limitations on the participation of women. For more information, please visit http://refacof.org
Founded in Liberia in 2004, Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) works with women's groups in rural forest communities in three counties to help them gain a voice in how natural resources in their communities are managed. While women are the primary individual users of forest products in Liberia (for example, they collect and sell firewood to earn an income), they are largely absent from discussions and decision-making processes that are taking place in their communities and in the natural resources sector.
Statement on the Occasion of the Republic of Mauritius' National Day
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Press Statement
Secretary of State
March 11, 2014
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I congratulate all citizens of Mauritius as you celebrate the 46th year of your independence on March 12. The American people share your pride in the long-established democratic traditions that form the bedrock of our nations' friendship. Mauritius has embraced the principles of democratic governance, economic reform, and social tolerance that serve as a model to others around the world. The United States appreciates Mauritius' support for efforts to promote regional security and economic development. As you celebrate with family and friends, we wish the people of Mauritius continued peace and prosperity.
Statement by the IMF Mission at the end of a visit to the Union of the Comoros
MORONI, Comoros, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Moroni from February 25 to March 11 to review developments during the last quarter of 2013, assess the current situation, and lay the basis for discussions on a new program. The mission met with His Excellency Dr. Ikililou Dhoinine, President of the Union, and held discussions with Vice-President and Finance Minister Soilihi, Governor of the Central Bank of the Comoros (BCC) Chanfiou, Permanent Secretary of the Committee to Monitor Reforms Oubeidi, and other government and central bank officials, as well as representatives of the private sector, the National Assembly, officials of the islands of Grande Comore and Anjouan, and the donor community.
Mr. Harry Trines, the IMF mission chief, issued the following statement today in Moroni:
“Developments in the fourth quarter of 2013 were broadly as expected. Real GDP growth in 2013 is estimated at 3.5 percent and inflation remained favorable. Fiscal revenues met expectations but capital expenses were somewhat higher than previously envisaged. The current account deficit widened compared to 2012 mainly due to lower transfers related to the Economic Citizenship Program (ECP).
“The mission discussed the outlook for 2014 and the challenges facing the government in implementing reforms that have been approved. The mission welcomes the work on a new national strategy for accelerated growth and durable development (SCA2D) and is looking forward to its completion later this year.
“On the fiscal side, renewed efforts are needed to strengthen public financial management and mobilize domestic budget resources, to create room for the government to increase priority current and capital spending, including infrastructure. The IMF will continue to provide technical assistance to help the government achieve progress in these areas. Efforts will also be needed to continue reforms in the energy and telecommunications sectors to create an environment more conducive to economic growth.
“The mission will return to Comoros in the second half of the year to conduct discussions for the Article IV consultation and continue dialogue on a possible follow up program with the Fund.
“An arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) approved in September 2009 (Press Release No. 09/315) expired at end 2013 following the final review (Press Release No. 13/509).
“The mission wishes to thank the authorities for their excellent cooperation and warm hospitality.”
IFJ Appeals for Release of Somali Journalist Jailed in Ethiopia
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has stated that the guilty verdict and prison sentence given to veteran Somali journalist, Mohamed Aweys Mudey, is unacceptable and appealed to Ethiopian authorities to quash his sentence and release him with immediate effect.
According to IFJ affiliate, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Mudey has been sentenced to 27 years in prison under Ethiopia's Anti-terror law. Ethiopian prosecutors reportedly accused him of having information on Al-Shabaab operations in Ethiopia and charged him for participating in terror activities.
The NUSOJ says he did not have a lawyer or family member with him during his trial, while at least three people detained with him at Ethiopia's Crimes Investigations Sector (CIS), saw him being badly tortured and having difficulties with walking.
"We are dismayed at this unbelievably severe ruling against the respected veteran journalist, Mohamed Aweys Mudey, who is not guilty of any crime," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The charges against him are ludicrous and we urge the relevant authorities in Ethiopia to release him immediately and unconditionally."
"Ethiopia has the second highest number of journalists in jail in Africa after Erytrea and has been using its notorious anti-terror laws to silence journalists and undermine freedom of speech in the country - this disregard for the rights and freedoms of the media must end now. Such blatant disregard for human rights cannot be tolerated."
IMF Mission Reaches Staff Level Agreement with Seychelles on a 3-year Successor Arrangement Under the Extended Fund Facility
VICTORIA, Mahé, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- An IMF staff mission led by Mr. Marshall Mills visited Victoria during February 26-March 11, reaching agreement with the Seychellois authorities on their request for a new 3-year arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility, in support of the economic and financial program of the government and Central Bank of Seychelles. Subject to IMF management approval, the staff-level agreement is expected to be submitted to the IMF Executive Board for its consideration by end-June 2014. Under the arrangement, Seychelles would be able to access up to SDR 11.5 million (about US$17.8 million), subject to semi-annual reviews.
The mission met with His Excellency President James Michel, Vice President Danny Faure, Minister of Finance, Trade, and Investment Pierre Laporte, and Governor of the Central Bank of Seychelles Caroline Abel, as well as members of the National Assembly and representatives of the private sector and civil society.
At the conclusion of the visit, Mr. Mills issued the following statement:
“The objectives of the IMF-supported program that concluded last December were largely achieved. That program aimed to place Seychelles firmly on the path to fiscal and external sustainability, by reducing public debt, rebuilding reserves, and implementing structural reforms to raise growth performance and reduce fiscal risks. Macroeconomic performance last year continued to improve. Growth accelerated to 3.5 percent in 2013, supported by strong policies and robust tourism earnings that enabled the Central Bank of Seychelles to continue to rebuild official external reserves. Inflation fell to 3.4 percent at the end of the year. The authorities also attained their target of a strong fiscal primary balance and remain on track to meet their objective of reducing public debt below 50 percent of GDP by 2018.
“Notwithstanding remarkable progress in recent years, Seychelles still faces vulnerabilities and pressures, as a small island economy in a challenging global economic environment. The authorities have requested a program to support their efforts to consolidate macroeconomic stabilization, enhance resilience, and foster sustained and inclusive growth. A new generation of reforms will aim to combine continued reduction in public debt with efforts to increase investment spending and to enhance the performance of the public sector. Under the IMF-supported program, reserve coverage will continue to strengthen, and the monetary policy framework will become more forward-looking, continuing to target the maintenance of low inflation. Structural reforms will buttress the foundations for growth and address structural risks to stability, including continuing improvements in the oversight of state-owned enterprises.
“With the strong macroeconomic policies under the program, IMF staff expects the economy to continue to strengthen this year, despite an uncertain global economic environment. Growth is projected to reach 3.7 percent.”
Saharan Express Building Collective Skills to Increase Maritime Security in Waters off West Africa
DAKAR, Senegal, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Today, March 10, a team of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Sailors had the great pleasure of joining with personnel from 13 partner nations to kick off the at-sea portion of Exercise Saharan Express 2014.
Over the next three days, during this segment of Saharan Express, we will work side-by-side to improve our collective skills in important mission areas such as interoperability, communications, and coordination. More than that, though, we will strive to come together more closely as a team linked by the common purpose of ensuring regional maritime security. This has always been the focal point of Saharan Express, and continues to be the overarching goal this year as well.
To get ready for the at sea portion, boarding teams from Morocco, Senegal, and Liberia worked with experts from the U.S., U.K., and Dutch naval forces to learn new techniques and hone their skills during pier-side training. We also ran the operations centers through a series of maritime interdiction scenarios in order to build better linkages between the various country representatives.
I am extremely proud of the hard work of everyone who helped with planning and preparation for the exercise. Their dedicated, combined effort ensured a very high level of integration and coordination at the start of the exercise.
Since 2011, the Saharan Express exercise has grown in size and complexity. We have added new concepts to the planning, added new partner nations, and new dimensions to the training scenarios. As a result, we have seen the navies involved in this exercise using these skills in real world situations, both ashore and at sea. There has been a definite increase in collaboration between the Western African Maritime Operations Centers, which indicates that the capabilities learned during the exercise are providing the regional navies with the capacity to better share information and coordinate activities.
This year, we are building on the foundation of experience and knowledge established in previous exercises, in order to develop an even more robust and cohesive team providing enhanced regional maritime security.
All nations share the ocean, and our citizens can benefit greatly from it, but only if it's use is consistent with customary international laws. Security of the seas and the ability to govern the seas impacts us all. For example, it is estimated that illegal fishing alone removes tens of millions of dollars from local economies, impacts food security, compromises global marine resources, and destroys marine habitat.
Providing this security within the region is an enormous job that no nation can accomplish alone. It is only possible through the capabilities and teamwork that we are building here in Saharan Express. We must all continue to improve our ability to communicate and coordinate with each other in order to increase our capacity to counter problems such as trafficking of people and illegal materials, narcotics, and illegal fishing.
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN SIERRA LEONE, INCLUDING STOPOVERS IN LIBERIA, UNITED KINGDOM, 4-6 MARCH
NEW YORK, March 11, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by Madam Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, late in the evening of 4 March, after a stopover in Monrovia. Upon arrival in Freetown, the Secretary-General was greeted by Samura M.W. Kamara, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The next day, Wednesday, 5 March, the Secretary-General had a brief meeting with Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone. He then took part in a working breakfast with the United Nations country team and the senior management of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), followed by a town hall meeting with United Nations staff in the country.
The Secretary-General then held a tête-à-tête with the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, which was followed by an expanded meeting with members of his Cabinet. In the joint press conference afterwards, the Secretary-General said that he had had very constructive discussion with President Koroma on a number of issues, including the continued cooperation between the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone. He said that Sierra Leone represents one of the world's most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, with great strides taken towards peace, stability and long-term development. The Secretary-General then attended a luncheon hosted by the President in his honour.
Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with representatives of the 10 main political parties in Sierra Leone, as well as with representatives of civil society.
He then attended the ceremony marking the closure of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office. In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that Sierra Leone had taught the world many lessons, but none more important than the power of people to shape the future. He added that here we see that a strong investment — in material resources, human energy, international support and national goodwill — can bring lasting peace. (See Press Release SG/SM/15686.) During the ceremony, he presented the President of Sierra Leone with a blue helmet as a symbol of past engagement and future cooperation between the United Nations and the country. Later that evening, the Secretary-General and his wife attended a dinner hosted by the President in his honour.
On Thursday, 6 March, early in the morning, the Secretary-General and his wife left Freetown. In a stopover in London, the Secretary-General met with Fahma Mohamed, a campaigner against female genital mutilation. He arrived in New York late that evening.