Please note we will re-open on Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Prensa Latina, Havana, from the Vatican, Rome, 17 December 2014
Pope Francis welcomed today the first step for the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, after more than half a century of the bilateral riff.
According to a communiqué released by the Holy See, the Pontiff is strongly pleased with the reestablishment of relations, to overcome in the interest of citizens of both nations, the difficulties that mark their history.
This declaration came to light minutes after Cuban president Raul Castro and his peer of the United States, Barack Obama, addressed their respective nations to inform about the new destinies of bilateral links.
In their speeches, both presidents thanked the Pope for his mediation in the dialogue.
Wednesday, 17th December 2014
Today, US president Barrack Obama announced that the USA will be reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, with the opening of an Embassy in Havana and the relaxation of several trade and travel restrictions with immediate effect. Obama also negotiated for the immediate release of the three remaining ‘Cuban Five’ still imprisoned in America, in exchange for the successful release of American Alan Gross and a U.S. spy held in Cuba. These evolvements are the apparent result of a year of secret talks between the USA and Cuba, with the personal involvement of Pope Francis. While Obama has exercised his executive authority in making these calls, Congress alone has the power to officially overturn the economic embargo against Cuba which was adopted by Congress in 1960 and is upheld by 6 separate statutes. This is an historic moment in 21st century politics, after almost 5 decades of Cold War-foreign policy isolation.
(Picture taken from: http://unherald.blogspot.com/2013/05/steps-toward-new-beginning-usa-and-cuba.html )
The process of developing a development framework that will succeed the millennium development goals (MDGs) is entering a critical stage with the UN Secretary-General expected to complete a synthesis report of all the inputs by mid-December 2014 to pave the way for inter-state negotiations. Civil Society has thus far been actively engaged in the process making several inputs both directly and indirectly through the various consultative platforms. One such platform has been through the UNGA Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) whose Outcome Document was adopted by the UNGA as the “main” input document for the SG synthesis report. While it is not yet clear how the inter-state negotiations will proceed, it remains important for CSOs to follow the process closely to ensure that key demands are well reflected in the final framework.
It is worth acknowledging that while the post-2015 process has hitherto allowed for civil society access and influence, the progress towards inter-state dialogue may pose some limitations. It is thus necessary for CSOs to think critically about how they can influence the process going forward. Since states will be the main negotiators, it is important for civil society to share strategies on how to best lobby government to adopt positions that are consistent with the most common concerns among citizen groups.
It is in this spirit that SALO hosted a South African CSOs consultative workshop on post-2015. While a number of South African CSOs have been involved in Post-2015 advocacy at national and international level, dialogue among CSOs themselves has been very minimal. This has been the case even where clear overlaps in thematic focus exist. For example, while SALO’s main interest in post-2015 has been around peace and human security, this cannot be divorced from human rights, development, food security, minority rights, climate change inter alia.
SALO believes that a clear understanding of the different civil society compaigns on post-2015, the overlaps and common concerns can only save to strengthen civil society voices and enhance advocacy. The workshop brought together mainly CSOs working on and interested in post-2015, SA policy makers and members of the diplomatic community. The emphasis was on making sure voices from women’s groups, people with disabilities, LGBTIs and youths were heard.
The objectives of the workshop were to:
1. Increase awareness on the different CSO advocacy campaigns on post-2015, especially around gender, peace and security, climate change and food security,
2. Identify overlaps and how this can be used to strengthen advocacy in areas of mutual concern,
3. Deepen understanding on how peace and security concerns are captured in other post-2015 advocacy campaigns,
4. Share strategies for influencing SA’s position on the post-2015 in line with common CSO priorities.
SALO would like to thank
the Southern Africa Trust and UK aid for their direct support of this event
and the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Pretoria; Irish Aid and the Embassy of Ireland, Pretoria; the Embassy of Denmark, Pretoria and OSISA, among others, for their ongoing support of this Policy Dialogue Series.
On the 10th of December, World Human Rights Day, the National Assembly of Madagascar adopted a bill that abolishes the death penalty for all crimes. Madagascar is now officially the 18th AU member state to have abolished the death penalty. This decision comes two months after a successful October 10th workshop in the capital organised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the support of ACAT Madagascar, FIACAT and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which brought together a wide array of activists, Malagasy government officials and representatives of UN agencies to discuss the death penalty in Madagascar.
Picture taken from: http://www.worldcoalition.org/madagascar-national-assembly-abolish-death-penalty.html, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
From Al Jazeera, 10 December 2014 – http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/12/us-releases-cia-torture-report-2014129122456718264.html
A US Senate report on harsh techniques employed to interrogate “terror” suspects post-9/11 attacks has condemned the CIA for brutality and deception.
The heavily redacted 480-page report – published on Tuesday – covered the treatment of around 100 suspects rounded up by US operatives between 2001 and 2009 on terrorism charges.
The full 6,200-page report remains classified. Ahead of the publication of the report, the US had tightened security at its embassies across the globe.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein said the techniques used by the CIA were “far more brutal than people were led to believe” and that “coercive techniques regularly resulted in fabricated information” from detainees.
“There are those who will seize upon the report and say see what the Americans did? And they will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence,” said Feinstein. “We can’t prevent that, but history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say never again.”
Summary: Key findings in CIA torture probe
The report said harsh CIA interrogations produced much bad information, including a fake story about al-Qaeda recruiting African-Americans. It said the interrogations were ineffective and never produced information that led to foiling of “imminent terror threat”.
The report followed a five-year investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into the programme. The CIA maintained the harsh techniques were effective and foiled terrorist plots.
The report said the CIA misled the public and policymakers about the programme, much of which was developed, operated and assessed by two outside contractors.
Al Jazeera – http://www.aljazeera.com/news/americas/2014/12/us-releases-cia-torture-report-2014129122456718264.html
Back row: Susanna Terstal (NL amb. Angola), Paul Jansen (HIVOS), Peter Knopen (NL embassy), Joan Brickhill (SALO)
2nd row: Angelica Pino (Sonke gender Justice), Mapule Phora (NDA), Joan de Klerk (CGE), Marisa Gerards (NL ambassador), Mfanozelwe Shozi GE Commisioner), Nondumiso Nsibande (Tshwaranang), Thoko Mpumlwana 9CGE), Sakina Mohamed (POWA), Dr. Auxilia Ponga (UN Women)
Front row: Bregje Wijsenbeek (NL embassy), Keketso Maema (CGE)
The African Union-brokered peace talks between the Sudanese government and two rebel groups from the Darfur region are expected resume on Thursday in the Ethiopian capital.
The talks are set for resumption after the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel’s (AUHIP) lead negotiator, Thabo Mbeki, returned to Addis Ababa after a visit to Germany.
Sources close to the mediation team on Wednesday told Sudan Tribune that the former South African president held talks with German officials, including foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, on the ongoing peace process and other concerns in Sudan.
However, chief rebel negotiator Ahmed Tugod told Sudan Tribune that Mbeki’s visit to Germany was unrelated to the Sudanese peace process.
Tugod said Mbeki’s visit was part of his campaign to address some of the other problems facing Sudan, including the country’s financial crisis.
He said Mbeki is working with the Germany government and other international actors to secure debt relief.
Mbeki is expected to restart peace negotiations with a new approach, most likely after receiving recommendations from Germany.
The negotiating parties have so far shown a resistance to making any concessions to their positions and the mediation team has yet to decide on a specific plan on how to move forward.
Opposition, rebel forces sign joint declaration for peace and democracy in Sudan
Announced from the Ethiopian capital where the government and rebel groups discuss ways to end the armed conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the agreement was signed by the head of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) Farouk Abu Issa, deputy chairman of the rebel Sudanese Alliance Forces (SRF) Minni Minnawi, leader of the National Umma Party (NUP), Sadiq al Mahdi and head of the Alliance of the Sudanese Civil Society Organisations Amin Maki Madani.
The deal is the first agreement gathering all the political, rebel and civil society forces in Sudan since the 30 June 1989 coup d’Etat of General al-Bashir. The political and military opposition failed in January 2013 to finalise a similar project called the New Dawn.
According to the Sudan Call, the signatories agreed to join their efforts to “dismantle the one-party state regime and to build a state of equal citizenship rights, through the daily mass struggle and the popular uprising.
The two-page agreement which avoided any reference to the armed struggle further stresses that the parties want to secure the rights of the Sudanese people for freedom from totalitarism, violence, and poverty, and to move towards a well-established democracy, a just peace and balanced development”.
Fighters from a disbanded Muslim rebel group in Central African Republic are attacking government officials trying to re-exert control over the country’s north.
The Seleka rebels toppled Central African Republic’s president last year and installed their own leader. Christian militias rose up to fight the rebels, unleashing sectarian violence. A transitional government, with help from French and U.N. forces, is trying to restore stability.
The Christian militia recently declared it was laying down arms. The Seleka rebels are largely confined to their bases, but some are retrenching in the north.
Government spokesman Modibo Bachir Walidou said Wednesday former rebels have attacked officials this week who were taking up their posts, as part of an effort to extend the government’s control throughout the country. Three officials were seriously wounded by gunshots.
Unifying CAR’s Anti-Balaka Becoming Tough Job
Armed men continue breaking into houses and stealing cars in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, four days after a leader of the armed groups told them to lay down their weapons. Central Africans are asking how much control anyone has over the anti-balaka militias and what role a new political party might play in future peace talks.
The anti-balaka started out as self-defense groups, mainly from Christian ethnic communities, who fought against the largely Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that took over the C.A.R. capital last year.
They are a diverse collection of groups without a strong chain of command, but observers agree that former government minister and chairman of the country’s football federation Patrice Edouard Ngaissona has been a key figure at the center of the network.
Three killed in DRC rebel attack
Goma – Three people were killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in a machete attack blamed on rebels from neighbouring Uganda, local authorities said Tuesday.
The attack, which was repelled by the army, took place in the restive North Kivu province, where rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) have been accused of hacking scores of civilians to death since October.
The rebels launched their attack on the village of Eringeti, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the city of Beni, late Monday, tribal elder Desire Boroso told AFP.
“They killed three people Ä two women and a child – with a machete, and seriously injured three others,” Boroso said by telephone.
A local security source confirmed the death toll.
The mainly Muslim ADF-NALU rebels have been hiding in the mountains that straddle the border between DRC and Uganda since being driven out of their homeland in 1995.
The Congolese army and UN forces launched an offensive in January to try flush them out of the region.
Suspected Ugandan rebels killed as many as 100 people in a spate of attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent days, DRC officials said on Monday, a sign of how armed groups continue to pose a security threat to the country.
From Thursday through Saturday, machete- and gun-wielding attackers—some dressed in DRC army uniforms—targeted several villages near the gold-trading town of Beni, about 150 miles north of the regional capital, Goma, said Feller Lutahichirwa, the North Kivu deputy provincial governor. The attackers slit the throats of most of the victims, including women and children, aid and military officials said.
DRC officials and aid agencies blamed this and other recent attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces, a secretive rebel group founded by a Ugandan radical Islamist sect in the 1990s.
The ADF attacks appeared to target civilians the rebels suspect are providing information about rebel movements to government and United Nations troops.
Wall Street Journal
The Hague – The International Criminal Court on Monday upheld Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga’s conviction for using child soldiers, handing down its first-ever appeals verdict.
“The Appeals Chamber by majority confirms the conviction decision and rejects the appeal,” presiding judge Erkki Kourula said at The Hague-based court.
DRC closes camps for displaced people
Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile North Kivu province on Wednesday moved to close down camps for displaced people for security reasons, arguing that arms were hidden inside.
The sudden move, which will affect about 60 camps in the eastern province according to the UN refugee agency, caught humanitarian officials by surprise.
The provincial governor, Julien Paluku, on Tuesday ordered the closure of the Kiwanja camp – north of the provincial capital Goma and home to about 2 300 displaced people – “and the order was carried out today”, said Edgard Paluku, one of the governor’s spokesmen.
The camps “constituted pockets of insecurity and a hiding place for arms”, he told AFP.
“All the other camps will be closed at the earliest opportunity,” the spokesman added.
The restive east has long been a theatre of violent attacks and killings and a string of rights abuses including rape and kidnapping.
Rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) have been accused of hacking scores of civilians to death in Nord Kivu since October.