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UN anti-corruption body will continue working, as Constitutional Court blocks Government expulsion
by United Nations News
Following the Guatemalan Government’s unilateral decision to shut down a long-running UN anti-corruption commission, its spokesperson told UN News this week that the team is looking at ways to continue to carry out its mandate, after the country''s highest court ruled against the Government expulsion order.
The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) was set up by the UN in conjunction with the Guatemalan Government, 11 years ago, and has sucessfully highlighted corruption cases involving hundreds of politicians, bureaucrats and business people. Its mandate is due to run through to 3 September this year.
“As Secretary-General António Guterres has pointed out, the CICIG must complete its mandate with respect to the international agreement reached between the State of Guatemala and the United Nations,” in line with “the decision made by the Constitutional Court,” to promote the “respect for the rule of law in Guatemala,” stated Commission spokesperson, Matias Ponce.
On Monday, Guatemalan Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel met UN chief Guterres at UN Headquarters in New York and presented him with a letter notifying him of the Government’s decision to terminate the agreement that established the CICIG, within 24 hours. Under the agreement, the mandate of the Commission was scheduled to end on 3 September 2019.
The UN chief "strongly rejected" the move, led by President Jimmy Morales, who foreshadowed this week''s announcement last September, by banning CICIG Commissioner, Ivan Velasquez, from re-entering the country. The Commission has launched probes into the President''s financial affairs as well as other family members.
In a statement the Secretary-General, recalling the “important contribution of the Commission to the fight against impunity in Guatemala”, strongly rejected the contents of the letter and stated that the Government is expected to “entirely fulfil its legal obligations” under the agreement.
Mr. Ponce explained that Commissioner Valasquez - who has been continuing his job from outside Guatemala - and his team “are evaluating the different actions that will be taken to continue with the Commission''s tasks”.
"At the same time", he added, "we are grateful for the support that the citizens and various movements of civil society in Guatemala, the international community, the national and international press, international aid workers, national justice authorities and the United Nations have given to the work of CICIG in Guatemala."
According to news reports, Guatemala''s Constitutional Court backed the continuation of the Commission''s work through this year, during all-night deliberations, after considering appeals against the Government''s cancellation of its agreement with the UN.
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13 million people in Democratic Republic of Congo are living on one meal or less a day
by OHCHR, OCHA, NRC, agencies
Jan. 2019 (UN News)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appealed for all parties to “refrain from violence” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following the announcement of the provisional results of the long-delayed presidential election.
The vote – initially scheduled to take place two years ago, marks the vast central African nation’s first democratic transfer of power since independence nearly 60 years ago.
According to news reports, the preliminary results announced by the independent electoral commission, known by its French acronym, CENI, declared opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi the winner of the 30 December election.
(Some media outlets claim the result does not tally with the unofficial figures gathered by independent poll observers).
According to CENI, Mr. Tshisekedi took more than 38 per cent of the votes cast, ahead of rival presidential hopefuls Martin Fayalu and ruling party candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. Mr. Fayalu has rejected the result, claiming widespread irregularities.
“The Secretary-General calls on all stakeholders to refrain from violence and to channel any eventual electoral disputes through the established institutional mechanisms in line with the DRC’s Constitution and relevant electoral laws,” said Mr. Guterres in a statement released by his Spokesperson.
In a direct call to CENI, the Constitutional Court, the Government, political parties and civil society, Mr Guterres urged them to “each live up to their responsibility in preserving stability and upholding democratic practices” in the DRC.
And as the country prepares to enter a new era without President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, the Secretary-General reiterated “the continued support and commitment” of the United Nations. Together with regional actors and international partners, the UN will work “for the consolidation of peace, stability and development” in the DRC, said Mr Guterres.
His comments come amid an acute humanitarian crisis made worse by sporadic conflict involving dozens of armed groups in parts of the huge country.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 12.8 million people are now food insecure in DRC, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom 1.3 million face severe malnutrition this year.
A number of armed groups continue to hamper access for aid teams, which are also tackling endemic cholera – which threatens two million people - combined with a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease in North Kivu and Ituri. http://bit.ly/2swJIDH
Felix Tshisekedi named winner in DR Congo poll. (BBC News)
Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi has won the Democratic Republic of Congo''s tightly contested presidential vote, the electoral commission says.
Provisional results put him ahead of another opposition candidate Martin Fayulu, and the ruling coalition''s Emmanuel Shadary.
If confirmed, Mr Tshisekedi will be the first opposition challenger to win since the DR Congo gained independence.
President Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 18 years in office. He had promised DR Congo''s first orderly transfer of power since the country''s independence from Belgium in 1960.
In the early hours of Thursday the head of DR Congo''s National Electoral Commission (Ceni), Corneille Nangaa, said Mr Tshisekedi had received "38.57% of the vote" and had been "provisionally declared the elected president".
20 Dec. 2018 (Reuters)
Democratic Republic of Congo''s election board has postponed a long-anticipated presidential vote scheduled for Sunday by one week until Dec. 30 after a fire destroyed voting materials.
Already delayed repeatedly since 2016, the poll is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, stepping down after 18 years in what would be Congo''s first democratic transition.
Following a meeting with candidates in the capital, the electoral commission (CENI) said it was unable to provide sufficient ballot papers for Kinshasa after a warehouse blaze last week destroyed much of the capital''s election material.
"We cannot organise general elections without the province of Kinshasa, and without the Kinois voters - who represent 10 percent of the electoral body," CENI president Corneille Nangaa told journalists. "The presidential, legislative and provincial ballots will take place on Dec. 30 2018."
Many Congolese hope the election can help draw a line under decades of conflict. Millions died in two wars around the turn of the century and dozens of militia remain active near the eastern borders, where they fight over ethnic rivalries and natural resources.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned in a statement on Thursday that her office would not hesitate to take action if large-scale crimes were committed around the elections.
Campaigning had been due to end at midnight on Friday in what has boiled down to a race between Kabila''s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and two main challengers, Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.
Shadary has a big advantage due to sizeable campaign funds and ruling party control of many media outlets. However, a rare national opinion poll in October had Tshisekedi leading the race with 36 percent, well ahead of Shadary''s 16 percent. Fayulu had 8 percent.
14 Dec. 2018
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has expressed deep concern at violence against opposition rallies this week in at least three provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of the presidential elections to be held on 23 December. Bachelet called on the authorities to ensure that these incidents are promptly investigated, and that “the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – essential conditions for credible elections – are fully protected.”
On 11 December, at least three men were killed and several injured after police reportedly fired live ammunition and used teargas and water cannons against an opposition rally in Lubumbashi in the Haut-Katanga province. The convoy of presidential candidate Martin Fayulu also reportedly came under attack by police. In the ensuing clashes between supporters of various parties, seven vehicles, including one belonging to the Police Nationale Congolaise were destroyed and the prosecutor’s office burned down. On 12 December, Fayulu’s campaign was again disrupted, this time in Kalemie, Tanganyika province. A young woman was killed and at least nine others injured, including two by live ammunition.
And yesterday, in Mbuji Mayi in Kasai Orientale province, the provincial governor deployed soldiers and police officers on several roads to prevent people from greeting another presidential candidate, Felix Tshisekedi. A 16-year-old boy was reportedly killed by a soldier of the Forces Armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC).
“I am deeply worried about the reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by security forces against opposition rallies,” High Commissioner Bachelet said. “I am also concerned at reports of the use of inflammatory speech by political leaders.”
“Just days ahead of crucial elections in the DRC, it is essential that the authorities ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully protected and that they take all possible measure to prevent violence. This includes ensuring that all the candidates are able to hold meetings and rallies to campaign for their election.”
Bachelet also expressed alarm at reports of armed groups’ interference with election campaigning. There have been threats against supporters of political parties.
“In an already tense electoral environment, I urge the Government to send a clear signal that threats and violence against political opponents will not be tolerated,” she said. “I call on the Government of the DRC to ensure that all such incidents are promptly, effectively investigated and the perpetrators are held accountable.” Bachelet called on all parties to refrain from violence and urged security forces to remain impartial.
Millions of Congolese languish without aid - as the country heads towards elections. (Norwegian Refugee Council)
As the world turns its attention to the upcoming elections in Democratic Republic of the Congo this Sunday, the Norwegian Refugee Council cautions not to lose sight of the millions of Congolese men, women and children whose humanitarian needs have yet to be met. "Regardless of the outcome of the election Sunday, the country and its leaders will have a challenging job ahead to be able to tackle the daunting humanitarian needs, and will depend on substantial support from the international community to avoid unnecessary loss of lives," said Pauline Ballaman, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This year alone, 1.4 million people have been forced to flee violence in DR Congo. At the end of 2017, there were already a total of 4.5 million people displaced in several parts of the country. The waves of displacement are mainly due to the re-emergence and escalation of violence around Congo''s eastern frontier, in Ituri and the Kivus. More than 13 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.
"We must be careful that we don''t paint a rosy picture here in Congo," explained Ballaman. "Our teams on the ground see horrific violence daily and we are often struggling to keep up with the humanitarian needs. The scale of the crisis and the lack of sufficient support leave many people in need without necessary assistance."
Compounding the complex crescendo of conflict and humanitarian needs is the second largest Ebola outbreak in world history, which threatens to spread further into eastern Congo if not contained. The outbreak has already cost the lives of hundreds of men, women and children.
Although there has been a security improvement for some pockets of the country such as the Greater Kasai Region and Tanganyika province where at least 1.5 million people have returned to their places of origin, security incidents have increased by 33 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to the International NGO Security Organization (INSO). Additionally, there have been over 530 security incidents targeting NGOs since the beginning of the year, translating into two incidents against humanitarian organizations per day.
The needs in DR Congo are daunting. Over 13 million people across the country are living on one meal or less a day. A fertile country, of which 70 per cent of the population live on agriculture, is struggling to produce food because farmers are constantly on the run and cannot access their fields for fear of being attacked, kidnapped or killed by armed groups. As a result, local markets have suffered from food shortages while prices are skyrocketing, and 4.3 million children are malnourished. To cope women and girls are turning to sex work, while men and boys are joining armed groups for a steady meal. http://bit.ly/2SbfJfv
OCHA: Global Humanitarian Overview 2019.
The humanitarian crisis in DRC is projected to remain acute, due to socioeconomic challenges and persistent conflict in parts of the country. Major humanitarian challenges remain. Due to declining agricultural activity, some 12.8 million people will face food insecurity, including 4.3 million malnourished children, of whom at least 1.3 million will be suffering from severe malnutrition.
The risk of epidemics will remain significant as well in the first quarter of 2019, with the persistence of cholera and the Ebola outbreak that was declared in August 2018 in North Kivu and Ituri. At least 8.5 million people are at risk of epidemics, including 2 million from cholera.
As a result of security improvement in parts of the country, some 2.9 million people should return to their areas of origin, exceeding the new displacements which are expected to be about 1.3 million. This massive return will create significant needs, especially in protection, health, agricultural production and livelihoods. However, insecurity will remain high in several parts of the country, and some 5.7 million people will also need protection, while 9.8 million vulnerable people will need multisectoral assistance related to the loss of access to essential services and goods.
This year’s humanitarian response plan will aim to assist 9 million of the most vulnerable people in DRC, significantly fewer than the total people in need. This gap is the result of factors such as access, funding constraints and operational capacities.
http://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2018/12/20/four-humanitarian-challenges-congo-s-next-leader http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/north-kivu-drc-msf-scales-patient-care-activities-amid-growing http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/un-human-rights-office-says-credible-reports-suggest-least-890 http://reliefweb.int/country/cod http://www.unocha.org/drc http://bit.ly/2MdfCkC
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