Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sudan Softens on UN Peacekeeping Force

On Monday, 16. March. 2007, the Khartoum government finally accepted the intervention of the United Nations peacekeeping force to bolster efforts of the beleaguered African Union peacekeeping team, that has struggled to keep calm in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

The deployment includes U.N. attack helicopters and 3,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, the first time the Khartoum government has allowed a significant injection of U.N. forces to help African troops after long running months of pushing for the international peacekeepers to be allowed in the region. Click here

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thumbs Up for Paralegals

George Tumuramye
Assistant Settlement Commandant
Imvepi Refugee Settlement - Yumbe District

"These paralegals are doing a big job and this has resulted into reduction of the crime rate - we used to have uncountable defilement and domestic violence cases. Their sensitization has done a lot. Except that there are some cases that are beyond their control like people’s erratic behaviour, especially drunkards. For example, between October and November 2006 in point J, we had a total of eight defilement cases. We took a team of paralegals to sensitise the community against this evil and this did help curb down the crime in this area. This was in coordination with the Community Facilitators, Office of the Prime Minister and UNHCR officials. Since Sudan Human Rights Association taught us about human rights, people are now much aware of their rights. Paralegals have done a lot, the settlement is now calm and we would like them to continue doing such a great job. We would like them to have more skills in handling minor cases and not always involve police in every case. They should practice a lot, because we will not be with them in Sudan. As an officer, I advocate for more trainings and have the paralegals identified to the community."

South Sudan: Rebels Threaten Food Security

A recently published report by both the USAID and Famine Early Warning System Network indicates that the sporadic LRA rebel attacks on civilian populations in South Sudan pose a threat to food production in the region, writes Irin News.

The attacks, which intensified after talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA stalled in January, have left 3,500 people displaced in Torit County since February, said the report published by USAID and the Famine Early Warning System Network. "Civil insecurity has grown in Central and Eastern Equatoria states," the report states. "The LRA abandoned the talks and retreated to the Central African Republic (CAR), attacking and looting communities, including parts of Magwi, Kajokeji, Yambio, Tambura and Torit counties, as they fled."

The food security report also noted that while the situation had improved in northern parts of southern Sudan, it was likely to deteriorate as the April/May to August hunger season progresses. This would particularly affect poor and recently resettled households in areas affected by civil insecurity, cattle raiding and where population resettlement is significant. For full article, click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Leader's views on paralegal work

Jena Tuma Assistant Settlement Commandant
Madi-Okollo Refugee Settlement - Arua District

"Since the Sudan Human Rights Association started trainings in 2005, the paralegals have been doing their job. This is experienced in the sense that we now receive few cases in our office. People are even aware of their rights. The selection of paralegals from leadership structures like the Refugee Welfare Councils, Opinion leaders, Women and Youth leaders has helped much since these use their capacity to carry out sensitization human rights related issues - every time they meet, they do sensitisations. For instance before the trainings, people did not know that getting a travel permit was their right but now people are flocking our office seeking for travel permits.
As a recommendation to SHRA, the paralegals should be introduced to the community and also given identification kits like T-shirts. Also, if the organization would consider doing additional training on conflict transformation and psychosocial issues, these two are very important topics in our community. The major problem we are facing is that with the realization of peace in South Sudan, many have gradually repatriated, and it is no surprise that at the moment we are only left with not more than 10 paralegals."

Friday, April 6, 2007

Cash-strapped WFP: Crisis Around the Corner?

World Food Program (WFP) Uganda is in dire need of additional funding. In order to maintain the food pipeline in Uganda for refugees, IDPs, schools and hospitals, the agency needs $131 millions for 2007. As of today, it has only received around $44 millions. This means that effectively the programme will seize to distribute food by the end of June.

The lack of funding seems to follow a general pattern in which donors prefer to allocate resources to IDPs rather than to refugees - and to focus on other areas than Uganda.

The shortage is bound to hit all groups of beneficiaries - including Ugandan schools linked to the "Food for Education" program. Evidently, this will be difficult to explain to the refugee community; SHRA monitors have already recorded voices in the Sudanese dominated settlements in Northern Uganda claiming that it is in fact a deliberate policy by the Government, UNHCR and WFP aimed at speeding up the voluntary repatriation process by removing the food support. SHRA follows the situation closely.
Photo: Soon a thing of the past? WFP food piles up in Nakivale Settlement, Western Uganda.

Enough: The Way Forward in Darfur

Enough! is a joint initiative of the Center for American Progress and the International Crisis Group to abolish genocide and mass atrocities. It employs a "3P" strategy aimed at promoting durable Peace efforts; providing Protection for innocent victims of mass atrocities; and ensuring Punishment of the perpetrators to break the circle of impunity. The project focuses on Eastern Congo, Northern Uganda and Darfur. Read more about Enough! here.

For an interesting approach to the Darfur-crisis, see John Prendergast, The Answer to Darfur - How to Resolve the World's Hottest War (International Crisis Group: Strategy Paper 1, March 2007). The paper is available at the Enough Project's website.

SHRA President visits Uganda

The President of SHRA, Mr. Hammad, is visiting Uganda over Easter. During his stay he will meet representatives from funding agencies, co-operating partners and staff at SHRA. The stop-over in Kampala is the last in a tour which has also included Sudan. Mr. Hammad returns to Canada Sunday.

The pic shows Mr. Hammad (L) during an informal meeting with SHRA Human Rights Advisor, Mr. Thorning (C) and Secretary General, Mr. El-Gahdi (R).

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Returnees testify about life in Yei after exile

Grace Senya, 24 years:
Spontaneous returnee from Rhino Camp in Northern Uganda

Grace revealed to SHRA monitors that she is married with three children; her first born is six years old. Unfortunate circumstances forced her to repatriate back to Sudan last year; she had come to attend her brother’s burial but after failing to raise transport back to her settlement camp, she decided to stay. Her family fled the country in 1990 and she has been in Uganda since then. Since she was not entitled to a repatriation package as a spontaneous returnee, she had to eke out a living for herself. She now does odd jobs like carrying water for brick layers - each jerry fetches her 200 Uganda shillings (0.2$). The husband equally does manual work to support the family. He builds for people and burns firewood for charcoal.

Grace’s small family is currently occupying clan land. She says this has been hard for her since her father-in-law has a natural dislike for her. While she is entitled to a small portion of the clan land, where she cultivates, she lacks farming implements. However, by the time SHRA staff were leaving, the Mugwo Payam Administrator, Joseph Sebit Kojiba, had asked her to pass by his office and pick up two hoes.

Peter Bidale:
Returnee from Camp II in Congo under organised repatriation (November 2006)

Peter revealed to SHRA monitors that ever since he returned home, he has been depending on his grandfather for survival. At the time of his arrival, he had three children but one died early this year. He said his repatriation package from the UNHCR included food rations that were anticipated to take him for three months including sorghum, sugar and non-food items like cups, plates, bucket and jerry can. After three months, he ran out of the food rations with barely anything to feed on but was later supplemented with provision for one month as an emergency from the UNHCR.

At the moment, his two surviving children have not started school yet due to lack of school fees. He is now settling on the grandfather’s land in Yei, which is the place he registered with UNHCR, but he is actually from Abukaya village. He confessed that he does not have intentions of going to his original village. Peter cited reasons of not going back as having no idea of his people given the fact that he grew up in exile and that he has heard rumours of people in his village practicing witchcraft. He added that while in his country of asylum, he faced a lot of problems especially at the hands of the Congolese army who used to terrorise the refugees.