Archive | September 2013

10 years on: forgotten atrocities in Darfur

Susanne Østhus talks to Luse Kinivuwai, director of Darfur Australia Network, about the lacking media coverage of the war in Darfur and its implications.

After ten years the conflict in Darfur is still ongoing and has seen an increase in bombings. However, mainstream media’s coverage has shifted in recent years and is now mainly focusing on the Arab spring uprisings.

“The media coverage of the Darfur conflict has reduced in the last 4 years,” director of Darfur Australia Network (DAN), Luse Kinivuwai says.

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Source: Flickr
Courtesy of: katmeresin

The conflict in Darfur is still violent and in July seven UN peacekeeping soldiers were ambushed and killed, 17 soldiers were wounded in the attack in Sudan’s western region. Later, in September, the Sudanese air forces (SAF) allegedly bombed Sudan’s east Jebel Marra for three days straight.

According to United Nations information service Vienna it is estimated that the genocide has claimed 200,000 lives and caused 2 million to be displaced from their homes (There are only estimates so far, no confirmed accurate numbers).

“There is still a lot of unrest in Darfur, the Sudanese air force continues to bomb parts of Darfur, rebel and government forces continue to clash in the region and tribal conflicts are ongoing making it a very complicated layered conflict,” Kinivuwai says.

What sparked the conflict in 2003 was an uprising launched by non-Arab ethnic groups, Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), against the Sudanese government. To which the government responded in orchestrating the mass murder of civilians by arming the Janjaweed militia.

At the height of the conflict, media worldwide had its eyes on the mass murders in Darfur. Kinivuwai says the active campaigning from celebrities such as George Clooney helped keep media interested in the atrocities happening in Darfur.

George Clooney told the Sun that the case of Darfur has “been the greatest failure of my life”.

Ten years on and little has changed for the better in Darfur, a conflict worryingly similar to the Rwandan genocide.

The International Criminal Court has laid ten charges against President Omar al-Bashir and issued a warrant for his arrest. Bashir has rejected these charges, but more problematic is that he is still president in Sudan, which is a huge hindrance to UN’s peacekeeping mission (UNAMID).

The lack of progress by UN’s peacekeeping mission, unsuccessful arrest of Omar al-Bashir and the emergence of new uprisings in the Middle-East has made Darfur into a forgotten conflict.

“The media has turned its attention to the Arab Spring movements across Arab countries such as Libya, Egypt and now in Syria,” Kinivuwai says.

The mass killings continue in Darfur, but the eyes of the world are elsewhere.

Commentary: Press freedom in Liberia

Sometimes it is not the case that a conflict is forgotten, but rather governments taking measures for the information not to reach the public, writes Susanne Østhus.

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Photo credit of ugaldew

In 2010 the editor of FrontPageAfrica, Rodney Sieh, was sued for accusing former agriculture minister, Chris Toe, of corruption.

After being unable to pay the damages of the lawsuit Rodney Sieh was jailed. The paper’s offices were also shut down a few days after his arrest, but not their online news publication.

I can understand that the accusations can be defamatory for Chris Toe, if they were not backed up with evidence. However, FrontPageAfrica published government findings of Chris Toe being corrupt along with the report.

This conviction of Rodney Sieh is surprising as the Liberian government signed the Freedom of Information Act to become law in 2010. The act was implemented to enable both journalists and members of the public to obtain government documents.

The act was to go into effect two years later, therefore it did not apply in Rodney Sieh’s case.

The Supreme Court ruled that Rodney Sieh is to pay US $1.5 million (approximately AU $1.7 million) in total for damages.

In July 2013 an appeal was attempted, but according to Liberian law the appeal can only be held if the prosecuted has payed two per cent of the damages, which Sieh has been unable to do.

FrontPageAfrica reported that they also would be unable to pay the court ordered damages cost.

However, considering Liberia’s constitution article number 21 it states that “(ii) Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor excessive punishment inflicted”. Considering this law  it is evident that such an excessive fine should not have been issued in the first place.

The paper accused the jurors of being corrupt and the court of being biased. FrontPageAfrica believes that the government is unfairly targeting their publication because of the investigative reports they have published.

According to Press Union of Liberia no news organisation has won a libel since Ellen Sirleaf was elected president in 2005. Human rights watch reported that Sirleaf’s administration had issued several lawsuits against local newspapers in recent years.

In 1989 during the civil war journalists in Liberia were targeted and the government put a ban on media coverage of the war. After the war Liberia has been seen as the ideal state in Africa when it comes to the process of democratisation.

Nevertheless, with the case of Rodney Sieh it is clear that although Liberia is democratised the freedom of press is under attack and reform in the legal system is needed. Several organisations, such as Committee to protect journalists (CPJ), have put pressure on the Liberian government to release Rodney Sieh, but it has been rejected.

Do you think this was a lawful arrest? What is your thoughts on freedom of press in Liberia? Please share your opinion in the comment section it is open for discussion.

Increased Africa aid to enhance financial transparency

Norway’s minister of international development, Heikki Holmås, and president of the African development bank group, Donald Kaberuka, signed the agreement in Oslo last month.

The agreement outlined a 30 million NOK (approximately AU $5 million) increase in Africa support.

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Norway’s parliament building in Oslo during wintertime
Source: The Norwegian perspective

“Norway is seeking to help turn Africa’s ‘resource curse’ into a ‘resource blessing’ by supporting the negotiation of better contract terms,” minister of international development Heikki Holmås said in a government press release.

Many African developing countries are rich on natural resources, but the population still live in poverty.

“Norway will support African countries in the negotiation of fair agreements with international companies that are exploiting their natural resources,” Holmås said.

Africa

Source: zatrokz

To ensure that the aid is spend on addressing legal issues between multinational companies and authorities in African countries the work was delegated to African legal support facility (ALSF).

“This work also enhances financial transparency surrounding contracts which is crucial to be able to uncover and stop illicit financial flows. Every year ten times as much money disappears out of developing countries through illicit financial flows as is received in the form of aid and development support,” Holmås said.

The contribution will be used in the African development bank group’s strategy for 2013-2022. The two main objectives of this strategy is inclusive African growth and transition to sustainable growth. In this strategy there will be particular emphasis on supporting fragile states, agriculture and food security, and gender.

Several countries in Africa are currently requesting the support of the African legal support facility, so far the ALSF is working on projects with 20 African countries.

“The aim is for the countries to strengthen their own revenues and economies, and in the long term for them to be able to manage without aid,” Holmås said.