‘Fielding Pragya Thakur BJP’s way of consolidating Hindutva votebank’

first_imgNew Delhi: Fielding “undertrial terror accused” Pragya Thakur as a candidate for the Lok Sabha polls is BJP’s way of consolidating the Hindutva votebank, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has charged.He claimed the BJP’s fear of being unable to retain 50 per cent of its seats has led it to rouse communal passions to get votes. In an article in the forthcoming issue of party mouthpiece People’s Democracy, Yechury charged that the BJP and Narendra Modi were preoccupied with disrupting the unity of the country and its solidarity through their venomous campaign of communal polarization. Also Read – 2019 most peaceful festive season for J&K: Jitendra SinghHe said the first three phases of the 17th general elections saw the electorate voting in 302 seats out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. The ruling BJP has 113 sitting MPs from these constituencies. “In the next four phases ending on May 19, the electorate will vote for the remaining 241 seats. Of these the BJP currently holds 161 sitting MPs. That is two-thirds of these seats. It is clear that if the BJP is unable to retain these seats, its desire to form the next government simply falls through. This is because in the first three phases, it is universally admitted that the BJP will not be able to retain at least 50 per cent of its sitting seats. Also Read – Personal life needs to be respected: Cong on reports of Rahul’s visit abroad”It is precisely this realisation that has prompted the BJP leadership to consciously adopt an aggressive campaign led by Narendra Modi to rouse unscrupulous communal passions as the only means left to garner votes,” he said. Taking a dig at the Election Commission, Yechury said while the ruling party was resorting to the “worst form of vote bank politics consolidating the Hindu communal vote bank” the poll body was yet to take any action against Modi for the “unbridled” communal passions that he is rousing. “This is ominous for the health of Indian democracy…” he said.last_img read more

Books to read this weekend

first_imgThis weekend, go through the fictional story of a woman with unexpected inheritances and the transformation that ensued; travel with a Buddhist monk who decided to venture out of his comfortable monkhood; and finally in the 100th year of Kaifi Azmis birth, read some of his greatest poems and ‘nazms’. Small Days and Nights by Tishani Dosh Written by Forward Prize-winning author Tishani Doshi, ‘Small Days and Nights’ is the story of a woman caught in a moment of transformation, and the sacrifices we make to forge lives that have meaning. Also Read – The Puja carnivalEscaping her failing marriage, Grace has returned to Puducherry for her mother’s funeral. Once there, she finds herself heir to an unexpected inheritance. First, there is the strange pink house, and then there is the sister she never knew she had – Lucia, who has spent her life in a residential facility. Soon Grace sets up a new and precarious life in this lush, melancholy wilderness, with Lucia, village housekeeper Mallika, dryly witty auntie Kavitha and an ever-multiplying litter of puppies. Also Read – Wave City brings special offers this NavratraIn Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche At 36, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche was a rising star within his generation of Tibetan masters and a respected abbot of three monasteries. Then one night, telling no one, he slipped out of his monastery in India with the intention of spending the next four years on a wandering retreat, following the ancient practice of holy mendicants. His goal was to throw off his titles and roles in order to explore the deepest aspects of his being. He immediately discovered that a lifetime of Buddhist education and practice had not prepared him to deal with dirty fellow travellers or the screeching of a railway car. But when he ran out of money, he began his life as an itinerant beggar in earnest. Soon he became deathly ill from food poisoning and his journey took a startling turn. Kaifi Azmi: Poems, Nazms by Kaifi Azmi Coming on the great poet’s 100th birth centenary celebrations, ‘Kaifi Azmi: Poems, Nazms’ contains 50 carefully chosen poems from his lifetime’s immense oeuvre. The English-Hindi collection is produced by a group of fine translators, poets, scholars, and filmmakers.last_img read more

Raise your voice

first_imgMy ex is threatening to expose our intimate mails and digital pictures. I never knew this side of his character and I’m feeling horribly scared. My family will throw me out. What can I do?T.D, New Delhi Oh dear, that’s terrible! Don’t you have anyone in your family or circle of friends who can help you fight this out? You perhaps would need some strong support of your family to sort this mess. Don’t be scared. Blackmailing is a punishable offence and he should realise his stupidity soon. Don’t delay any further. Involve the ones you can trust and sort it. Your family might be angry but they will always support you and will take care of you at all times. Be confident and fight this out. Also Read – Feel what you fear I’m 33, the only son of my parents. I got married last year. My wife and my parents fight everyday. I don’t earn well enough to live separately and my wife is also a housewife. What should I do? Name withheld This situation is always tough and very sensitive. Handle it with utmost care so that you don’t hurt or break anyone’s heart. The best way to mend this is to relocate to a place very close to your original home. The financial constraint might be solved if your better-half gets involved in some job, tuitions or small time business. Also Read – HomecomingThree adults cannot be tutored to live peacefully and if you don’t check the situation now, it might linger and take a bitter turn in the near future. Try talking to your parents and wife separately or may be a group chat over a small family vacation might give some positive results too. In the meantime, prepare to start your family outside your parent’s shelter. Do face and solve the problems rather than neglecting it. This can’t be avoided for your own mental peace and the benefit of your relationships. Good luck! I’m too shy to propose! What can I do? Anirban Samanta, Kolkata Write a letter – be honest. Don’t try to be too poetic. Be yourself. Maybe you can even express your nervousness. Don’t forget to embrace your shyness. Girls sometimes find it cute. Or, make a video. Use a simple video editor. Make it interesting, funny and add surprises. Describe how you feel about her – the joy, the thrill, the excitement. Point down every little detail you like about her. Describe how you feel, whenever you think about her. Be romantic and honest. Make it into a blog. After you’ve written for enough days, just give her the link, I’m sure she’ll be surprised. More power to you, dear. Do whatever it takes, just express. I have studied in a Hindi medium school. Now, I face major issues with spoken English. How can I improve? Dharmendra, Noida You can always join a spoken English class. Alongside, watch English channels, read the English newspapers and read it aloud. Record yourself and self evaluate. Whenever possible, talk to your friends and family in English. It’s your confidence that will yield the maximum result. So even if you make mistakes initially, Don’t stop! Focus on your goal to learn it and I’m sure you will achieve it soon. (Send your questions to roopshashotm@gmail.com)last_img read more

Google restricts Huawei’s use of Android

first_imgWashington: Google has cut phone maker Huawei off from some updates to the Android operating system, dealing a blow to the Chinese firm. New Huawei smartphones will also lose access to popular Google apps. The move comes after the Trump administration added Huawei to a list of companies that American firms cannot trade with unless they have a licence. In a statement, Google said it was “complying with the order and reviewing the implications”. Also Read – Swiggy now in 500 Indian cities, targets 100 more this year Huawei has declined to comment. Only about two months ago Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer products division had told a German newspaper that the beleaguered Chinese smartphone brand had been prepping a mobile OS as a kind of Plan B if the company ever got cut off by Google from relying on Android, bgr.com reported. The move by Google, means the company has just lost its Android license, and its devices will no longer receive Android updates — nor will its future handsets be able to access Google apps as well as the Google Play Store. Any new Huawei devices would no longer have apps such as YouTube and Maps. Huawei can still use the version of the Android operating system available through an open source licence, though. Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy, said the move by Google would have “big implications for Huawei’s consumer business”.last_img read more

Failed coup attempt in S. Sudan left at least 400 dead:…

first_imgJUBA – According to the United Nations, over 10,000 civilians have sought refuge at two of its compounds in Juba.At least 400 people were killed and 800 injured in clashes that accompanied South Sudan’s failed coup attempt, medical sources said Wednesday.An earlier death toll announced by the Health Ministry had put the number at 66, while South Sudanese security sources said that at least 120 people had been killed in the violence. According to the United Nations, over 10,000 civilians have sought refuge at two of its compounds in Juba.“The mission is taking every possible step to ensure their safety while they are staying on UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] premises,” Hilde Johnson, special representative of the UN secretary-general, said in a statement.On Monday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced that the army had successfully quashed a coup attempt by troops loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar.A government spokesman said Tuesday that ten people had been arrested for suspected involvement in the coup.In July, Kiir abruptly sacked Machar – along with the entire government – and drew up a special committee to investigate allegations of government corruption.Last year, Kiir had sent a letter to 75 current and former government officials suspected of embezzling some $4 billion over a six-year period starting from 2005.Kiir has recently come under fire from senior members of the ruling SPLM who accuse him of failing to adequately run both the party and the nascent country.US orders departure of non-essential embassy staff from S. Sudan’s JubaThe US embassy in South Sudan said Wednesday that all non-essential embassy personnel had been ordered to depart the country amid ongoing clashes in capital Juba, despite government claims that a coup attempt had been quashed.The embassy said it would assist all US citizens wishing to leave Juba.“Citizens who wish to take advantage of flights arranged by the [US] Department of State should arrive at the Juba Airport no later than 10:30 this morning,” read an embassy press statement.On Monday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced that the army had successfully suppressed an attempted coup by troops loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar.On Tuesday, a government spokesman said that ten people had been arrested for suspected involvement in the putsch.According to medical sources, at least 400 people were killed and 800 injured in clashes in Juba that accompanied the failed coup attempt.Early this month, SPLM leaders gave vent to unprecedented criticism of Kiir, claiming that he favored a small clique within the party at the expense of other party members, which, they asserted, had led to the polarization of the movement.last_img read more

Morocco to Become Africa’s Gateway: OBG Report

New York – Morocco is on its way to becoming a main gateway to Africa due to its strong economic ties with the African continent, according to the Oxford Business Group’s 2015 report.The British company’s current report noted that Morocco’s overall trade with Africa is in its developmental phase and rapidly expanding, while Europe remains Morocco’s main trading partner.Moroccan economy showed a steady growth, primarily due to the launch of new markets in sub-Saharan Africa explored by the country’s private sector. According to OBG, Morocco has greatly benefitted from foreign investments, which have doubled since 2011.Another benefit to the country’s economic growth has been the increase of value in Moroccan exports and the decline in oil prices, which allowed the government to reduce the trade deficit by 6.2 percent in 2014, the OBG reported.The transport sector in Morocco has undergone a vast development with the construction of new highways across major cities, the installment of railways and the increase in commercial air transport.The plans for structural expansion of the Tanger-Med port will allegedly facilitate the handling of cargo and new logistic and management areas, the OBG said.Morocco’s plans to attract more tourists and the increase of air traffic coupled with the surge of airline schedules connecting the nation’s major cities to other parts of the world, including the African continent, confirms Morocco as a continental gateway.The global leader in business intelligence group shed light on Morocco’s manufacturing sector, which has shown a massive growth in recent years, namely in the automotive and business aviation industries.The establishment of more than 100 global companies in Moroccan territory thanks to its convenient geographical location plays an important role in the continental trade among growing African markets.The OBG’s 2015 report noted that manufacturing production in the North African nation rose in an average of 8 percent annually since 2012, aided in part by the Moroccan government. read more

Moroccan Ambassador to UK Honors Paralympic Team for Major Victories

Rabat – Abdesselam Aboudrar, Moroccan ambassador to the United Kingdom, welcomed the Moroccan Paralympic team to his residence in London on Sunday, following their success at Para Athletics 2017.Aboudrar held a reception to honor the 14 Moroccan athletes, who obtained five gold medals, one silver medal, one bronze medal, and two world records at the international championship held July 14 to 23.Reception by the Ambassador Mr Aboudrar, at the Residence, honouring the Moroccan National Paralympic Team @ParaAthletics pic.twitter.com/bX4VArsaS6— Morocco in UK (@MOROCCOinUK) July 23, 2017The ambassador praised the athletes for “their performance and honorable results,” and the embassy’s Twitter page shared several photos of their meeting at the residence. Mahdi Afri won gold in both 200m (T12) and 400m (T12), while Mohamed Amguoun won gold in 400m (T13) where he broke the world record, and achieved bronze in 800m (T13). Youssef Beni brahim broke the world record and won gold in 5000m (T13), and Sanaa Benhama won gold in 1500m (T13) and bronze in 400m (T13)Morocco ranked 11th out of the estimated 100 countries that took part. read more

The Latest: US judge scolds PG&E in hearing over wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO — The Latest on a court hearing on a U.S. judge’s proposals to try to prevent Pacific Gas & Electric Co. equipment from causing more wildfires (all times local):10:55 a.m.A U.S. judge is berating Pacific Gas & Electric Co. at a hearing to determine whether he should order the company to take major steps to try to prevent more wildfires.Judge William Alsup in San Francisco told attorneys for the company Wednesday that safety was not PG&E’s No. 1 priority and the company could have spent more money to trim trees to prevent wildfires.Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a deadly gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010.He previously proposed as part of PG&E’s probation that it remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power at times when fire is a risk.An attorney for PG&E, Reid Shar, said the company was not offering platitudes when it said safety was its No. 1 goal.Wildfire damage has become a multibillion-dollar liability for the utility. The company filed for bankruptcy Tuesday in the face of hundreds of lawsuits from victims of wildfires.___8:30 p.m.Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will be back in a U.S. courtroom a day after filing for bankruptcy.The nation’s largest utility will try to convince a judge at a hearing Wednesday not to order dramatic steps aimed at preventing its equipment from causing more wildfires.U.S. Judge William Alsup is overseeing a criminal conviction against PG&E on pipeline safety charges stemming from a deadly gas line explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010.He proposed earlier this month as part of its probation that PG&E remove or trim all trees that could fall onto its power lines in high-wind conditions and shut off power at certain times. PG&E shot back in a court filing that the judge’s proposals would endanger lives and could cost as much as $150 billion.The Associated Press read more

Sanchez Reiterates Spain’s Goal to Strengthen Border with Morocco

Rabat – Following meetings held with presidents of Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s Pedro Sanchez announced his country’s intention to strengthen and modernize the border with Morocco to combat irregular migration, reported Spanish news agency EFE.The Spanish news outlet reported that Sanchez announced his country’s intention to implement “complementary security measures,” including increasing human resources.Quoting a statement from the government office, EFE added that a specific plan will be also implemented to the strengthen controls preventing money laundering. Read Also: Sanchez: Spain-Morocco-Portugal World Cup Bid, a Bid Between 2 ContinentsThe news outlet reported that the Spanish government has approved a €40 million budget for the communities and the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta. Part of the budget will be allocated to care for unaccompanied foreign minors received in 2018.On November 19, Sanchez visited Morocco, where he met with King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani and other Moroccan officials.The visit was his first official trip since he became prime minister in June.Sanchez told the press that he visited Morocco because of the “historical ties” and the “strategic bilateral relations” that both countries enjoy.Sanchez has also been the voice of Morocco at the European Union, where he shared the Spanish and Moroccan concerns over the flow of undocumented migration.In October, Sanchez spoke about Morocco’s role in controlling migration on the Moroccan-Spanish border. He called Morocco a “strategic actor” for Spain in migration policy during the Summit of the European Heads of State and Government, which took place on October 17-18 in Brussels. read more

German government advisers cut growth forecast for 2019

BERLIN — The German government’s panel of independent economic advisers has nearly halved its growth forecast for this year and is now predicting that the German economy will grow by only 0.8 per cent.In a regular update, the panel cut its 2019 forecast from the previous 1.5 per cent and said growth should accelerate next year to 1.7 per cent.The experts said in a statement that the lower forecast was strongly influenced by the effects of the economy’s weak performance at the end of last year, when it was dragged down largely by one-time factors related to new car emissions standards.They also pointed to high risks for the future from factors such as Brexit uncertainty and global trade disputes.The Associated Press

Morocco to Issue 2 International Bonds of MAD 11 Billion Each

Rabat – The governor of Bank Al Maghrib (BAM), Abdellatif Jouahri, announced Morocco’s plan to issue two international bonds, each worth MAD 11 billion, on Tuesday, March 19. BAM plans to issue one bond this year and the second in 2020.The government bonds are loans made by investors to the government, which will pay interest at a set rate.The overall treasury debt is set to increase from 65.0 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2018 to 65.8 percent in 2019 before going back to 65.0 percent in 2020 as a result of a decline in domestic debt, according to Jouahri. Jouahri made his remarks during BAM’s first quarterly meeting of the year on Tuesday, when he analyzed recent economic developments and BAM’s macroeconomic forecasts for the next eight quarters.Prior to the official announcement, Jouahri had been promising international bonds since September 2018.Other than Islamic bonds Morocco issued in September 2017, the bonds will be Morocco’s first since 2014, when the country sold €1 billion of “10-year Eurobond with a yield of 3.7 percent,” according to Reuters. Morocco’s senior officials, including Jouahri, have been heavily warning against taking on too much external debt as the country continues to borrow to carry out socio-economic projects.Read Also: Morocco’s Public External Debt Reached More than MAD 332 Billion in 2017One of the latest loans was from the European Investment Bank, which granted Morocco’s roads authority €80 million to complete highway infrastructure projects in Casablanca.Last year, Jouahri said he expected external debt to rise to 16.6 percent of GDP in 2019, up from 13.8 percent of GDP in 2018.The latest Fitch report also criticized Morocco’s credit rating based on statistics from the first half of 2018.The report found that Morocco’s debt policy has not changed much since 2007, noting high credit risk due to low reserves in Moroccan banks.On Tuesday, Jouahri announced that he responded to Fitch London, saying, “We remain at delinquency rates that are stabilizing.”Jouahri added that his letter to Fitch answered “argument by argument.”“We maintain our positions, even with an international benchmark. We are not a banana central bank. They know that. The Moroccan central bank is not to be taken like this.”Jouahri’s forecast also estimated an easing of the external deficit and strong foreign exchange reserves.The governor, however, expects the budget deficit to increase. read more

Business Highlights

___Trump says he plans to keep criticizing Fed over ratesWASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he has no intention of ending his public attacks on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies even though he knows he has made Chairman Jerome Powell’s job more difficult. Trump tells ABC News that he thinks economic growth and stock market indexes would be substantially higher if the chairman “wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much.”___Grounding of Boeing plane hovers over big air show in ParisAt the Paris Air Show, there’s likely to be much new talk, but no big orders, for Boeing’s grounded 737 Max airliner. Uncertainty over when the plane will fly again, and apprehension over signs such as declining air cargo shipments, will dominate the show. Boeing’s rival, Airbus, is expected to announce a new plane slightly bigger than the Max.___Ivanka Trump took in nearly $4M from DC hotel last yearNEW YORK (AP) — Ivanka Trump took in nearly $4 million in revenue last year from her part ownership of President Donald Trump’s Washington hotel, up slightly from a year earlier. A financial disclosure released by the White House on Friday also shows her fashion business took in at least $1 million, down from at least $5 million the previous year. The disclosure for her husband, Jared Kushner, shows he took in hundreds of thousands from his holdings of New York City apartments. Both are White House advisers.___Good hemp seed or ‘garbage’? Growers say standards neededAURORA, Ore. (AP) — A new global hemp research lab in Oregon joins a national review board and a handful of seed certification programs as the first attempts at standardizing the growing U.S. hemp industry. Oregon State University unveiled the Global Hemp Innovation Center this week. It will offer a certification program to tell farmers which seeds are legitimate and legal. The U.S. hemp industry has been expanding since the federal government removed the crop from the controlled substances list late last year.___Major oil companies commit to carbon pricing at VaticanVATICAN CITY (AP) — Some of the world’s major oil producers have committed to supporting “economically meaningful” carbon pricing regimes after Vatican summit on climate change and a personal appeal from Pope Francis to avoid “perpetrating a brutal act of injustice” against the poor and future generations. The companies said governments should set such pricing regimes at a level that encourages business and investment, while “minimizing the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth.”___Top dog: Shares of online pet store Chewy soar in debutNEW YORK (AP) — Chewy, the online seller of pet food and squeaky toys, went public Friday and had a strong debut as investors bank on the growing pet industry. Its shares soared 59% Friday, putting the company’s market value at about $14 billion. Demand for the initial public offering was high. Chewy raised just over $1 billion, with 46.5 million shares sold at $22 each. That’s above what the company had expected.___Chipmakers, trade fears drag down stocks; Facebook gainsNEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fell in afternoon trading as chipmakers slumped because of fears that the U.S.-China trade dispute is stunting demand. Broadcom warned that sales restrictions to technology companies, including phone maker Huawei, will slow growth. It trimmed its forecast and peers including Nvidia and Qualcomm fell. Banks and industrial stocks also fell. Facebook helped lift media and internet stocks. Utilities were among the biggest gainers as investors shifted money into safe-play holdings.___Chicago investment firm takes majority stake in WhataburgerSAN ANTONIO (AP) — An investment firm has purchased a majority stake in Whataburger as the Texas-based fast-food company seeks to expand in an increasingly competitive market. Whataburger announced Friday that the purchase by Chicago-based BDT Capital Partners should be finalized by the end of the summer and will be subject to regulatory overview. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.___Quicken Loans to pay $32.5M to settle lawsuit over bad loansDETROIT (AP) — Quicken Loans has agreed to pay $32.5 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of fraudulently sticking the government with bad mortgages. Crain’s Detroit Business says the agreement, with no admission of wrongdoing, was disclosed Friday by a mediator. The government had accused Quicken of cutting corners when verifying the income of certain borrowers. The Detroit-based company denied the allegations and had described the lawsuit as “abusive.”___Stocks post small losses; investors look ahead to FedNEW YORK (AP) — Stocks ended a choppy week of trading with modest losses Friday as investors look forward to getting more clues about the direction of interest rates from the Fed. Technology shares drove the declines, and energy stocks also fell a day after leading the market. Some late gains in banks and insurers helped temper the market’s losses. Investors dealt with fresh concerns about the impact on businesses of the U.S. trade dispute with China after the chipmaker Broadcom said demand has slowed.___The S&P 500 index fell 4.66 points, or 0.2%, to 2,886.98. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 17.16 points, or 0.1%, to 26,089.61. The Nasdaq composite slid 40.47 points, or 0.5%, to 7,796.66. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks dropped 13.31 points, or 0.9%, to 1,522.50.The Associated Press read more

Ban Kimoon applauds UN Peacebuilding Commission on early successes

“The Peacebuilding Commission embodies all aspects of the UN’s work: peace, development and human rights,” Mr. Ban said at a PBC retreat he is attending this weekend.Backed by the multi-year standing Peacebuilding Fund, the Commission focuses on reconstruction, institution-building and the promotion of sustainable development in post-conflict countries.The Secretary-General congratulated the Commission for providing assistance to Sierra Leone through an at-times tense election process, as well as for bringing key groups in Burundi to the table to break a deadlock in Parliament.“Peacebuilding is not just about ‘bricks and mortar’ – it is a transformative process involving changing attitudes about how to manage conflict,” he told the retreat’s participants. “While we haven’t yet determined how to measure the Commission’s accomplishments, I am confident that the people of Burundi and Sierra Leone will soon affirm its positive impact on their lives.”He added that the PBC must now use the momentum generated by its success in those two nations to assist Guinea-Bissau, which last December became the third country on the Commission’s agenda. 18 January 2008Lauding the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) on its successes in Sierra Leone and Burundi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today underscored the advisory body’s key role in helping countries emerging from conflict avert a slide back to war. read more

Mozambique UN food agency begins relief flights in wake of floods

22 January 2008The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun relief flights to central Mozambique, where some 76,000 people have been affected by widespread flooding this month along the Zambezi River valley. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has begun relief flights to central Mozambique, where some 76,000 people have been affected by widespread flooding this month along the Zambezi River valley. A helicopter chartered by the agency flew its first mission yesterday morning, delivering 2.2 tons of mosquito nets, tents and plastic sheeting to the town of Mutarara for use and distribution by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).The helicopter will transport its first consignment of WFP food assistance today, when it is scheduled to carry 2.5 tons of cereals and pulses to the town of Goligoli, where more than 13,000 people have been displaced from their homes because of floodwaters.In total WFP expects to deliver 74 tons of food to the Goligoli area over the next four to five days, while a second helicopter is on standby to deliver food and non-food supplies.The agency has also started delivering food assistance by road, working with the help of local officials and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to send supplies to camps and resettlement centres in the centre of the country.WFP has provided Mozambican authorities with three boats to assist in rescue and evacuation operations and some people are stranded in areas that cannot be reached by road. Some parts of three provinces – Tete, Sofala and Manica – are now inaccessible by land.This is the second time in a year that central Mozambique has been hit hard by floods. Since January last year, when the Zambezi valley was inundated, WFP has provided relief assistance to about 190,000 people. read more

DR Congo UN submits report on February violence in far west to

The report deals with human rights abuses committed by Government forces and by members of the Bunda Dia Kongo (BDK) armed movement during the February stand-off between the two sides in the far west of the country.MONUC expects the report to be released to the public after the Congolese Government has confirmed they have received it.The Congolese national police have been involved in violent and sometimes deadly clashes with the BDK politico-religious movement since the beginning of the year.Meanwhile, the UN mission notes an overall decrease in the number of violations of recent agreements between the Government and various armed groups in North and South Kivu provinces in the east of the country. Over the weekend, the UN’s Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator Ross Mountain visited Goma, the main town in North Kivu Province, to assess the security and humanitarian situation in the area. MONUC noted “with satisfaction” a decrease in the number of ceasefire violations by different military factions in the Kivus. The UN mission also called on all armed groups in the provinces and in other parts of the country to release child combatants in their ranks.After discussing the impact of the global food crisis on already extremely vulnerable populations in the Kivus, Mr. Mountain said that the UN, in close consultation with the Congolese authorities, was looking for rapid solutions to improve the situation. 21 May 2008The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) said today that it has sent a report on the February 2008 violence in the Bas-Congo province to the Congolese authorities. read more

Over 200000 vulnerable Afghans to receive winter aid from UN agency

29 December 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners have started to deliver supplies to help an estimated 200,000 Afghan returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) get through the country’s harsh winter. Over 147,000 blankets, more than 80,000 plastic sheets, 32,000 jerry cans, 46,000 items of warm clothing including 18,000 pairs of shoes and 30,000 pairs of socks have been purchased and sent to UNHCR’s regional offices for country-wide distribution.Some 276,700 Afghans returned to their homeland this year through UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme, 99 per cent of them coming from neighbouring Pakistan and the remaining 1 per cent from Iran and other countries.So far UNHCR has distributed aid to more than 5,000 families in the eastern region, where most of this year’s returnees, some 61 per cent, are living. The agency hopes to reach a total of 11,000 families there in the coming weeks.Overall, UNHCR plans to assist a total of 31,897 Afghan families – some 200,000 individuals – across the country. It hopes to complete all of the distributions by the end of January.The agency noted that many more families are receiving winter aid this year as a result of its awareness-raising and advocacy efforts. Over 5 million people have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, representing a 20 per cent increase in the country’s overall population. Some 4.3 million of them were assisted through UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation programme for Afghan refugees, the world’s largest for the past six years.The programme is currently suspended for the winter and will resume next March. The agency estimates there are still 2.8 million registered Afghans living in Pakistan and Iran.Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has noted important elements of progress in the country, which it says give rise to a sense of “cautious optimism” for the future. These include the “marked” improvement in the relations with Pakistan, according to a report released today on the Council’s 21 to 28 November mission to Afghanistan.The 15-member body also cited recent Cabinet appointments, which are expected to bring about increased energy and efficiency on the part of the Government, for example, in the fight against corruption. Progress also included the “significant” reduction in opium cultivation – some 19 per cent – as well as the commitment to improve governance, and the registration of nearly 2 million Afghans in the first two phases of the voter registration project ahead of presidential and provincial council elections slated for 2009. “Those gains must be built upon, especially in the coming year,” the Council stated. read more

FEATURE Giving a voice to the victims of sexual and physical violence

19 August 2009For nearly two and a half years, Roselidah Ondeko has been at work in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), helping local women find their voices to speak out about the epidemic of gender-based sexual and physical violence in the region. Roselidah is employed by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and coordinates the programme on sexual violence in the provinces of North and South Kivu, which is financially supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). She is based in Goma, North Kivu’s provincial capital. The eastern DRC, which faces ongoing conflict between rebels and the Congolese army, is notorious for the high rates of sexual and physical violence against civilians, especially women. “At the beginning it was very difficult to listen to all these stories and to see what these women had been subjected to. I had to confront it with colleagues practising the same profession,” Roselidah explains in an interview with the UN News Centre on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, which is marked today. But Roselidah recalls that these female victims of sexual violence who have come to seek medical and psychological support have decided not to succumb. “When you look at what they endured, you see that they have not given in. They have hope,” she says. Moreover, rather than speaking of victims, she prefers to use the word ‘survivors.’ Roselidah cites the example of a woman who had been raped, then abandoned by her husband. Under the programme she was given a goat as a source of revenue. That was in 2007. “In 2008, when I met her, she already had six more goats,” Roselidah says. “She said she felt she had to continue, because if she let things go she didn’t know who would take care of her children.” According to data collected by UNFPA the number of reported cases of sexual violence has grown between January and June in South Kivu compared to the same period of last year. That could be explained, according to the Roselidah, by the relative calm in certain areas of the province. “The survivors can now have access to medical care and psychological services and health workers can reach areas that were previously inaccessible because of insecurity,” she explains. The perpetrators of sexual violence are in the majority men in uniform, whether soldiers of the Congolese army or fighters from the rebel groups. “We see more and more children affected” by this sexual violence, Roselidah adds. Before she arrived in the DRC, Roselidah was posted in the Darfur region of western Sudan and Uganda. When she compares the current situation with that in Darfur for example, the UNFPA staffer notes that the people in the DRC speak more openly of the sexual violence that has been perpetrated. “In Darfur, women are very frightened to speak of sexual violence, and the health workers who care for them do it in the greatest secrecy,” for fear of reprisals, she notes. read more

UN panel monitoring Sudan referenda arrives on eve of voter registration

14 November 2010The United Nations panel tasked with monitoring the upcoming referenda on self-determination in Sudan has arrived in the country ahead of the start of voter registration for the vote on the status of Southern Sudan. “Voter registration represents a critical phase in the referenda process, and we will be watching very closely while we are here in Sudan to see how it is carried out,” said Benjamin Mkapa, the chair of the three-member panel and a former president of Tanzania. “We hope that all Southern Sudanese, wherever they live, will be able to turn out in peace and register for the referendum. We know that organizing voter registration has not been easy, given the country’s size and the scale of the process, but we remain confident that it can be completed successfully.”Voter registration is scheduled to run from 15 November to 1 December, and will take place at nearly 3,000 sites across the north and south of Sudan, as well as in eight other countries – Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.On 9 January the inhabitants of Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country, as part of the final phase in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which ended two decades of war between the northern-based Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in the south.A separate referendum is scheduled to take place on the same day in which the residents of the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or the south. The panel was set up by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in response to a request by the Sudanese Government for a body to help enhance the credibility of the referenda and ensure the acceptance of their results by their constituencies and the international community. This is the second visit to Sudan by the panel, which also includes António Monteiro, a former foreign minister of Portugal, and Bhojraj Pokharel, a former chairman of Nepal’s election commission. UN peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy, last week assured the CPA partners of the world body’s full cooperation as they pursue peace and stability in the vast African nation. Wrapping up his 7-11 November visit, Mr. Le Roy also highlighted the significance of the upcoming vote and called on everyone involved to ensure a positive outcome to the ongoing high-level political discussions on referenda and post-referenda issues. Meanwhile, the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the African Union in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region said today that the process towards achieving a comprehensive and inclusive peace, security and development there is now at a delicate stage.“As events unfold on the future direction and status of Southern Sudan, significant efforts and attention would also be required from all parties engaged in assisting the people of Sudan to tackle the challenges in Darfur,” Ibrahim Gambari told a news conference in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “However, this assistance would only be meaningful and sustainable where the Sudanese stakeholders show leadership and take bold and swift decisions to improve the chances for lasting peace with justice in Darfur,” added Mr. Gambari, who heads the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID). He reported that the Joint Chief Mediator for the Darfur peace process, Djibril Bassole, and the Government of Qatar have achieved considerable progress in the negotiations between the Sudanese Government and the rebel Liberation and Justice Movement. As part of the process, the mediation team invited representatives of Darfur’s civil society, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to the Qatari capital, Doha, to provide their direct input into the peace process. Mr. Gambari said that, to deepen consultations with the people of Darfur, another round of consultations are being planned inside Darfur, with the support and participation of UNAMID, before the next set of talks between the parties. He also voiced deep concern at renewed violence between the Sudanese Government and the armed movements, most notably the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW). “I call upon all parties to refrain from further offensive military action and respect international humanitarian law,” said Mr. Gambari. “This includes the need for UNAMID and the humanitarian community to gain unimpeded access to all areas of recent fighting in order to assess the needs of the displaced and war affected population and provide assistance where required.” read more

Security Council renews DR Congo sanctions

The Security Council today extended for another year the arms embargo and other sanctions it imposed on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to renew the mandate of the group of experts tasked with monitoring the measures.Council members voted unanimously to renew the measures, which also include a travel ban and an assets freeze on those who violate the embargo, until 30 November 2011. They requested the Secretary-General to extend the Group of Experts tasked with monitoring the embargo for the same period, and asked the Group to concentrate its activities in areas affected by illegal armed groups, including North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale Provinces.The 15-member body also requested the experts to focus on regional and international networks providing support for such groups, criminal networks and perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, including those within the national armed forces, in the eastern part of the country.In its latest report, the Group of Experts highlights the involvement of certain criminal networks with the Congolese armed forces, known as FARDC, in the illegal exploitation of natural resources, through illegal taxation, protection rackets, and various forms of commercial and coercive control. “This involvement, which President Kabila has publicly condemned, has led to pervasive insubordination, competing chains of demand and failure to actively pursue armed groups and protect civilians,” states a press summary of the report, which was made public today.The report also observes that, though forced to concede most of the main mining sites in the Kivus to the FARDC, Congolese and foreign armed groups continue to control natural resources in more remote areas and have increasingly relied on intermediaries and predatory attacks to profit from the mineral trade.Despite their varying strategic agendas, these armed groups have expanded coalitions among themselves with a view to maintaining their capacity to attack the FARDC and pillage local populations. 29 November 2010The Security Council today extended for another year the arms embargo and other sanctions it imposed on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to renew the mandate of the group of experts tasked with monitoring the measures. read more

UNbacked small loans help refugees in Ecuador break out of poverty

11 April 2011A United Nations-supported microcredit project is helping vulnerable refugees in Ecuador, especially women who have turned to sex work to support themselves and their families, break out of poverty. Ecuador is home to the largest number of refugees in Latin America, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of the more than 53,000 recognized refugees, 73 per cent are women and children. Over the past year, UNHCR has been working with partner organizations to set up programmes and provide financial services to help needy Colombian refugees and their hosts in Ecuador, including supporting income-generating projects. Such projects “benefit Colombian and Ecuadorean women, especially those who are often subject to discrimination, in order to give them a different alternative,” said Luis Varese, the UNHCR deputy representative in Ecuador.Among the most vulnerable are refugee women who turn to sex work, either because they have limited job opportunities or need a second income to support their families. Studies done by UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Ecuadorean health ministry have found that nearly half of the Colombian refugee women who are sex workers in Ecuador’s northern border area were not in the trade back in their homeland.UNHCR supported organizations such as 21 de Septiembre, a group that promotes the human rights of sex workers, to provide financial services to sex workers and their families in Esmeraldas, a border town on the Pacific coast.Last year 19 women each received an average credit of $300, and so far there has been no delinquency in the loans. read more