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March, 2017

 

UN chief confirms the remains found in DRC those of the two missing experts

NEW YORK – PRN Africa — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has confirmed the deaths of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, two members of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had been missing since 12 March, and vowed that the Organization would do “everything possible” to ensure that justice is done.
In a statement late yesterday, the UN chief expressed his deepest condolences to the families, loved ones and colleagues of Mr. Sharp (United States) and Ms. Catalan (Sweden) and said that the Organization will honour their memory by continuing to support the work of the Group of Experts and the whole UN family in the DRC.

“Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people,” said Mr. Guterres.
He also called on the national authorities to continue to search for the four Congolese nationals who were accompanying the experts and said that the UN would cooperate with them in the continuing search.

Also in the statement, the Secretary-General underscored that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the deaths. “In case of criminal acts, the UN will do everything possible to ensure that justice is done,” he stressed. Mr. Guterres also expressed hope that the cause of their deaths will be determined following a thorough examination and that the Congolese authorities will conduct a full investigation into the incident.

On Monday, peacekeepers from the UN Mission in the country (MONUSCO) discovered the two experts’ remains outside the city of Kananga in the DRC’s Kasaï-Central province. The Group of Experts on the DRC has been supporting the work of a Committee established by the Security Council to oversee sanctions measures, including arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze imposed upon armed groups in the country.

SOURCE UN News Centre

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Children in countries facing famine threatened by lack of water, sanitation – UN agency

NEW YORK – PRN Africa — In African and Middle Eastern countries facing famine, unsafe water is as dangerous for severely malnourished children as lack of food, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today warned, noting that nearly 27 million people are at risk in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. “Unsafe water can cause malnutrition or make it worse, no matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes.

The UN agency is warning that a combination of malnutrition, dirty water, and poor sanitation sets off a vicious cycle from which many children never recover.
In northeast Nigeria, where the fight on Boko Haram damaged or destroyed 75 percent of water and sanitation infrastructure, some 3.8 million people have no access to safe water, according to UNICEF.

In Somalia, about one-third of the population is expected to need access to water and sanitation in the coming weeks, according to the UN agency, pushing the current needs from 3.3 million to 4.5 million of people. Some 5.1 million people lack safe water, sanitation, and hygiene in South Sudan, where half of the water points in the country have been damaged or destroyed.
RELATED: UN aid chief calls for access, funds to prevent spread of South Sudan’s famine

The fighting in Yemen has displaced at least 14.5 million people, leaving them without basic sanitation and adequate drinking water, UNICEF cautioned. According to the latest figures, almost 2 million children are at risk of diarrheal diseases which, even before the conflict, were the second leading cause of death among children under the age of five.
UNICEF is working with other UN agencies, national authorities and local partners to provide safe water and sanitation to children. “But without an end to the conflicts plaguing these countries, without sustainable and unimpeded access to the children in need of support and without more resources, even our best efforts will not be enough,” Mr. Fontaine said.

SOURCE UN News Centre

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EXCLUSIVE-Taiwan wins over $200 mln in legal claims against African states

* Legal cases may be warning to Taiwan’s allies

* Total claims amount to at least $261.4 mln

* Taiwan and China have used “dollar diplomacy”

* Claim nearly one-fifth of Guinea Bissau’s budget

By Emma Farge and J.R. Wu

DAKAR/TAIPEI, March 30 (Reuters) – A state-run Taiwanese bank has successfully sued two African countries for $212 million in unpaid loans and brought a claim against a third, court documents showed, in a possible warning to allies who switched sides in Taiwan’s spat with China.

The three claims brought by the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China before a U.S. district court against Guinea Bissau, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo amount to a total of at least $261.4 million including loans and interest.

The first case is pending and the other two Eximbank won.

“We see this as a commercial loan case,” Johnson C.T. Liao, vice president and spokesman for Eximbank, told Reuters. He said most of Eximbank’s loans are international and are repaid.

“Usually there is a long period of negotiation. Then when we can’t find a way, we have to go through the legal process to protect the debt claims,” Liao said.

But analysts say the legal action by Eximbank, which falls under Taiwan’s finance ministry, is likely to be a warning about the costs of forging diplomatic ties with China.

Guinea Bissau and Central African Republic have withdrawn support for Taiwan since the loans were disbursed and Congo did not ditch China even after receiving the money.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it could not comment on the matter because the case involves commercial loans. A Guinea Bissau official said the government was committed to responding to this claim under the rule of law but that its first priority is the welfare of its people and stability of the country.

Officials in Congo and Central African Republic did not respond to requests for comment.

“It is not surprising that Taiwan would seek repayment from nations that switched allegiance,” said The Atlantic Council’s Robert Manning, noting new tensions in China-Taiwan relations since the election of Tsai Ing-wen as president last year.

Tsai is also the leader of a ruling party that traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan, a red line for Beijing.

“It is in part about getting their money back, but in no small part, a bit of retribution,” Manning said.

DEBT RELIEF CONTROVERSY

All the claims filed at a district court New York State and seen by Reuters are for loans dating back to the early 1990s — a period when Taiwan and China used “dollar diplomacy” to attract allies in Africa after the end of the Cold War.

The borrowers each failed to repay any principal and most of the interest on the loans, the filings showed.

Taiwan has competed with China for recognition since defeated Nationalists fled there in 1949 at the end of China’s civil war, but the tables turned in Beijing’s favour in the 1970s when the United Nations and United States switched sides.

Only 21 mostly small and poor countries recognise Taiwan, and a person familiar with government thinking says maintaining allies is difficult since they can always ask for a better deal or go to China instead.

In the last two decades Taiwan, whose economy is 20 times smaller than China, has struggled to compete with Beijing’s billions of dollars in aid and debt annulments. In Africa, only Burkina Faso and Swaziland still recognise Taiwan.

As recently as December, Sao Tome and Principe broke ties with Taiwan in favour of China, a decision the west African nation’s prime minister, Patrice Trovoada, explicitly linked to development aid expected from Beijing.

All of the Taiwanese bank’s cases have been brought since December 2015, according to the filings which are lodged in a public database whose existence few are aware of.

Judges found in favour of the bank in the cases of Congo and Central African Republic for $57.3 million and $154.9 million respectively in two separate rulings in January 2017.

It is unclear how the countries will settle the claims. The case brought in June last year against Guinea Bissau adds up to at least $49.2 million, or nearly a fifth of its last budget.

Bissau is arguing that the time frame for proceedings has expired, according to a memo submitted this month. The official said he hoped a resolution could be reached by year-end.

Claims against some of the poorest, most unstable countries in Africa are controversial as many states have been granted debt relief under an International Monetary Fund and World Bank initiative after extensive campaigns to relieve Third World debt.

However, Taiwan has not been admitted as a full member of either body.

“The coffers are virtually empty and paying the attorneys in New York is a lot for them,” said a Western diplomat, referring to the case against Guinea Bissau, which has experienced coups, and a civil war since taking the money and is now in the middle of a political crisis.

No defence lawyer details are listed for Central African Republic, where more than three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, or for Democratic Republic of Congo, in a possible sign of a lack of money or expertise.

Former Taiwan ally Niger managed to cut a claim by Eximbank to $20 million from $183 million in a 2015 deal. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Liang-sa Loh in Taipei, Alberto Dabo in Bissau, Crispin Dembassa-Kette in Bangui and Aaron Ross in Kinshasa; Editing by Tim Cocks and Giles Elgood)


EXCLUSIVE-Taiwan wins over $200 mln in legal claims against African states

* Legal cases may be warning to Taiwan’s allies

* Total claims amount to at least $261.4 mln

* Taiwan and China have used “dollar diplomacy”

* Claim nearly one-fifth of Guinea Bissau’s budget

By Emma Farge and J.R. Wu

DAKAR/TAIPEI, March 30 (Reuters) – A state-run Taiwanese bank has successfully sued two African countries for $212 million in unpaid loans and brought a claim against a third, court documents showed, in a possible warning to allies who switched sides in Taiwan’s spat with China.

The three claims brought by the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China before a U.S. district court against Guinea Bissau, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo amount to a total of at least $261.4 million including loans and interest.

The first case is pending and the other two Eximbank won.

“We see this as a commercial loan case,” Johnson C.T. Liao, vice president and spokesman for Eximbank, told Reuters. He said most of Eximbank’s loans are international and are repaid.

“Usually there is a long period of negotiation. Then when we can’t find a way, we have to go through the legal process to protect the debt claims,” Liao said.

But analysts say the legal action by Eximbank, which falls under Taiwan’s finance ministry, is likely to be a warning about the costs of forging diplomatic ties with China.

Guinea Bissau and Central African Republic have withdrawn support for Taiwan since the loans were disbursed and Congo did not ditch China even after receiving the money.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it could not comment on the matter because the case involves commercial loans. A Guinea Bissau official said the government was committed to responding to this claim under the rule of law but that its first priority is the welfare of its people and stability of the country.

Officials in Congo and Central African Republic did not respond to requests for comment.

“It is not surprising that Taiwan would seek repayment from nations that switched allegiance,” said The Atlantic Council’s Robert Manning, noting new tensions in China-Taiwan relations since the election of Tsai Ing-wen as president last year.

Tsai is also the leader of a ruling party that traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan, a red line for Beijing.

“It is in part about getting their money back, but in no small part, a bit of retribution,” Manning said.

DEBT RELIEF CONTROVERSY

All the claims filed at a district court New York State and seen by Reuters are for loans dating back to the early 1990s — a period when Taiwan and China used “dollar diplomacy” to attract allies in Africa after the end of the Cold War.

The borrowers each failed to repay any principal and most of the interest on the loans, the filings showed.

Taiwan has competed with China for recognition since defeated Nationalists fled there in 1949 at the end of China’s civil war, but the tables turned in Beijing’s favour in the 1970s when the United Nations and United States switched sides.

Only 21 mostly small and poor countries recognise Taiwan, and a person familiar with government thinking says maintaining allies is difficult since they can always ask for a better deal or go to China instead.

In the last two decades Taiwan, whose economy is 20 times smaller than China, has struggled to compete with Beijing’s billions of dollars in aid and debt annulments. In Africa, only Burkina Faso and Swaziland still recognise Taiwan.

As recently as December, Sao Tome and Principe broke ties with Taiwan in favour of China, a decision the west African nation’s prime minister, Patrice Trovoada, explicitly linked to development aid expected from Beijing.

All of the Taiwanese bank’s cases have been brought since December 2015, according to the filings which are lodged in a public database whose existence few are aware of.

Judges found in favour of the bank in the cases of Congo and Central African Republic for $57.3 million and $154.9 million respectively in two separate rulings in January 2017.

It is unclear how the countries will settle the claims. The case brought in June last year against Guinea Bissau adds up to at least $49.2 million, or nearly a fifth of its last budget.

Bissau is arguing that the time frame for proceedings has expired, according to a memo submitted this month. The official said he hoped a resolution could be reached by year-end.

Claims against some of the poorest, most unstable countries in Africa are controversial as many states have been granted debt relief under an International Monetary Fund and World Bank initiative after extensive campaigns to relieve Third World debt.

However, Taiwan has not been admitted as a full member of either body.

“The coffers are virtually empty and paying the attorneys in New York is a lot for them,” said a Western diplomat, referring to the case against Guinea Bissau, which has experienced coups, and a civil war since taking the money and is now in the middle of a political crisis.

No defence lawyer details are listed for Central African Republic, where more than three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, or for Democratic Republic of Congo, in a possible sign of a lack of money or expertise.

Former Taiwan ally Niger managed to cut a claim by Eximbank to $20 million from $183 million in a 2015 deal. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York, Liang-sa Loh in Taipei, Alberto Dabo in Bissau, Crispin Dembassa-Kette in Bangui and Aaron Ross in Kinshasa; Editing by Tim Cocks and Giles Elgood)


FIFA grants 2018 World Cup broadcasting rights in Sub-Saharan Africa

ZURICH, March 30 (Reuters) – Soccer governing body FIFA on Thursday said it had awarded media right to five broadcasting groups in Sub-Saharan Africa for the 2018 World Cup and other soccer events taking place in 2017 and 2018.

Zurich-based FIFA said it had granted World Cup rights to the following groups:

* Econet Media, by way of free-to-air and pay-TV transmission for all of sub-Saharan Africa except South Africa

* Supersport, by way of pay-TV transmission throughout the region

* SABC, by way of free-to-air transmission in South Africa

* StarTimes, by way of pay-TV transmission throughout the region, except in South Africa

* CANAL+, by way of pay-TV transmission throughout the region, except in South Africa and Nigeria

Econet Media, Supersport, SABC and StarTimes were granted further media rights for other 2017-2018 events. (Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by John Revill)


UPDATE 2-Somali pirates take over Somali vessel to use as floating base – police

(Updates with quotes, context)

By Abdiqani Hassan

BOSASSO, Somalia, March 24 (Reuters) – Pirates have seized control of a Somali fishing boat to use as a base from which to attack larger ships, police said on Friday, a week after Somali pirates hijacked their first commercial vessel since 2012.

Ten Yemeni crew aboard the boat were dumped on shore, officials told Reuters.

“We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean,” said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

“They dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain and engineer,” he told Reuters.

Residents of Marrayo, a northern village near the pirate lair of Eyl, confirmed that pirates from their village had gone to hunt potential targets.

It is the second attack by pirates this month. On March 13, pirates seized a small oil tanker in the same region.

The pirates involved in Friday’s attack are not seeking to hold the ship and its crew for ransom, but rather use the vessel as a “mothership”, or launch pad for attacks on bigger ships.

“We’re starting to see copycat attacks and there is a growing realisation that the shipping industry is taking huge risks,” said John Steed, a former British defense attache who has worked on piracy for around a decade.

Those risks included sailing too close to the Somali coast becoming more relaxed about security needs.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

But attacks fell as shipping firms tightened security measures, such as posting lookouts, blocking easy entry points to the ship with barbed wire and installing secure panic rooms with communication equipment, known as “citadels”.

Many ships hired private security and international warships also intensified patrols in the region. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi; Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Larry King and Richard Lough)


Somali pirates take over Somali vessel to use as mothership – police

BOSASSO, Somalia, March 24 (Reuters) – Somali pirates have taken over a small Somali boat to use as a base to attack larger ships, Somali police said on Friday.

Ten Yemeni crew aboard the boat were dumped on shore, officials told Reuters.

Residents of the northern Somali city of Eyl confirmed to Reuters that pirates from their village had gone to seek potential targets.

“We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean. They dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain and engineer,” said Abdirahman Mohamud, head of maritime police forces in the semi-autonomous Puntland region.

Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Aaron Maasho


Sex drugs worth $1.6 million seized in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, March 20 (Reuters) – South African airport customs officials have confiscated male sexual enhancement tablets worth 20.6 million rand ($1.63 million) en route to Swaziland from India, the revenue service said on Monday.

Customs officers found 80,000 tablets and 126,000 oral jellies in transit sheds at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport on Sunday. The pills were wrapped in brown sacks sent from Mumbai.

“These tablets are restricted and controlled substances and must have permits when being imported,” the South African Revenue Service (SARS) said in a statement.

“The shipment has been handed over to the Medical Council of South Africa for further investigation.”

SARS spokesman Sandile Memela said the police would investigate who had sent the pills and the intended recipient.

$1 = 12.6579 rand Reporting by Joe Brock, editing by Pritha Sarkar


Somali security forces that freed pirated ship say NATO must do more

BOSASSO, March 19 (Reuters) – Somali officials whose forces freed a hijacked oil tanker and its eight Sri Lankan crew said on Sunday that NATO ships must do more to prevent the illegal fishing that locals say sparked the latest attack.

Monday’s hijacking was the first time that Somali pirates had successfully hijacked a commercial ship since 2012. Unlike previous hijackings, the ship was freed swiftly and with no ransom paid after the Puntland Maritime Police Force intervened. The intervention reassured shipping companies concerned that resurgent pirates could once again threaten one of the world’s most important shipping lanes.

Officials from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland blamed local anger over illegal fishing by foreign vessels for the attack. They warned that more hijackings might happen unless the problem was tackled.

“We requested NATO warships to tackle the illegal fishing, but they replied it was not their mandate,” Abdihakim Abdullahi Omar, the vice president of Puntland, told reporters at Bosasso port.

“We told them that if they cannot take measures against the illegal fishing vessels who come under their cover and those who pour wastes into our waters, then their presence is a burden rather than a benefit.”

The Somali pirates often claim they attacked ships in revenge for illegal fishing by foreigners, then broadened that out to include any foreign-owned vessel.

NATO officials were not immediately available for comment. They have previously said illegal fishing along Somalia’s coast is not in their mission.

Pirate attacks peaked in 2011 but fell sharply after shipping companies upgraded security aboard vessels and regional naval forces stepped up patrols.

The emergence of the marine force in Puntland also helped, said John Steed, a former British defence attache who has worked on Somali piracy for nearly a decade.

The force of around 1,000 men is paid by the United Arab Emirates and has dual roles: fighting piracy and fighting Islamic militants.

“Our role is to capture smugglers, pirates and terrorists ,” said Abdirahman Mohamud, the head of the marine force. “When illegal fishing vessels are captured, we hand them over to the Puntland government, which fines them a high amount of money so that they do not fish illegally again.”

In 2012, the force stormed the MV Iceberg 1, freeing its crew of 23, who had been abandoned by the ship’s owner and subjected to increasingly brutal torture over nearly three years of captivity.

In 2015, the force rescued the crew of the MV Al Amal, whose 34 crew were washed ashore just south of the pirate haven of Eyl when their ship broke up on rocks, Steed said.

In December, the force helped drive militants affiliated with Islamic State from the northern port town of Qandala . (Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld,; writing by Katharine Houreld,; editing by Larry King)


UPDATE 3-Somali pirates release hijacked ship, crew without ransom

(Updates with ship released)

By Abdiqani Hassan

BOSASSO, March 16 (Reuters) – Somali pirates released a hijacked oil tanker and its eight Sri Lankan crew on Thursday, a Somali security official and the pirates said, bringing the first hijacking since 2012 to an unusually swift conclusion without the payment of a ransom.

The release followed a gunfight earlier in the day between the pirates and the marine force, and then intensive negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and the pirates.

“There has been discussion going on after the gunfight of this afternoon … We pulled our forces back and so the pirates went away,” said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime police force for Somalia’s semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.

A pirate confirmed the release was made without a ransom payment. In previous hijackings, many crews remained in captivity for years before a ransom was paid. Eight Iranians are still being held.

But the pirates said they agreed to forego a ransom after learning that Somali businessmen had hired the ship, which was taking oil from Djibouti to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Pirates have traditionally been wary of tangling with Somalia’s powerful businessmen.

“After we came to know that the Somali traders hired the oil tanker, we released it without a ransom,” pirate Abdullahi told Reuters.

The release will be seen as a success for the regional Puntland government and its counter-piracy force, which is funded by the United Arab Emirates.

The hijacking was the first time Somali pirates have taken over a commercial ship since 2012 and followed an outpouring of anger by locals over foreign fishermen flooding into their waters. The Somalis are also angry with their government for licensing some of the ships.

The vessel was hijacked on Monday. Residents living near where it was being held said four civilians were injured by stray bullets during Thursday’s gunbattle.

In their heyday in 2011, Somali pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia, data from the International Maritime Bureau showed, and held hundreds of hostages.

But attacks fell sharply after crews put safety measures into place and regional naval forces stepped up patrols. Some pirates returned to fishing, and others became involved in smuggling people and weapons across the Red Sea to Yemen. (Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Richard Lough)