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Thursday, November 8th, 2018


NGOs warn that returning refugees to Myanmar now would be dangerous and premature

Humanitarian and civil society agencies working in Rakhine State in Myanmar and in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are deeply concerned that the repatriation of refugees will commence in mid-November, according to an announcement of the Joint Working Group of the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar on 30th October.

The Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh have made assurances to the refugees and the international community that repatriation will only happen when it is safe, voluntary and dignified. We call on both governments to stand by their commitments.

The UN has repeatedly stated that conditions in Myanmar are not conducive to return at this time. Refugees continue to flee Myanmar and facilitating repatriation now would be premature. The involuntary return of refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, where their lives and safety remain at grave risk, is a violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement.

Refugees have consistently told us that they want to return to their own homes and places of origin, or to places of their choice. They want guarantees that they can enjoy equal rights and citizenship. They want assurances that the extreme human rights violations they have suffered will stop, and those responsible for the violence they fled will be brought to justice. They do not want to return to conditions of confinement with no freedom of movement or access to services and livelihoods. They fear that these conditions will become permanent, like the situation in Central Rakhine State where 128,000 Rohingya and other Muslims have been confined to camps with no freedom of movement for over six years.

Most of all, refugees tell us that they are afraid. They fled to Bangladesh to seek safety and they are very grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for giving them a safe haven. However, they are terrified about what will happen to them if they are returned to Myanmar now, and distressed by the lack of information they have received.

“We really want to go back, but not without citizenship… They must give us citizenship and a normal life, like the other people are living in Myanmar…. They need to keep us in peace and not hurt us.”

“I have a brother back in Myanmar. … They are still afraid to sleep at night. They are still afraid to be killed in their beds. After coming here, through the blessings of Allah and the Bangladesh government, we can sleep at night. But my brother, he cannot sleep at night.” [Refugee woman living in camps, mid-thirties].”

As the UN agency mandated with the protection of refugees, UNHCR must play a key role in any organized return process, including providing refugees with objective, up-to-date, and accurate information in relevant languages and formats to allow them to make genuinely free and informed choices about whether and when they would like to exercise their right to return, obtaining their consent and monitoring that conditions are safe for return in Myanmar.

We call on the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to uphold their commitments, and ensure that refugees in Bangladesh are able to make free and informed choices about return, based on access to full and impartial information about conditions in Rakhine State. UN agencies should have unimpeded access to all parts of Rakhine State in order to provide this information and to monitor the situation in areas of potential return.

Note to editors

  1. For further information about conditions necessary for safe and voluntary return please see a joint statement by INGOs in Myanmar issued on 8 December 2017.

  2. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina publicly affirmed Bangladesh’s commitment to not return Rohingya refugees to Myanmar until the conditions are conducive including “guaranteeing protection, rights and pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas” at her UNGA statement on 25th September 2018 in New York. The Government of Myanmar has also made public statements that refugees should return “voluntarily in safety and dignity”.

  3. For further information about human rights conditions inside Myanmar see the full report of the Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar published on 18 September 2018.

  4. The fundamental principle of non-refoulement is the cornerstone of international refugee protection and prevents the return or expulsion of a refugee “in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” [Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention]. Even States that are not signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention are bound by the principle of non-refoulement which is a recognized principle of customary international law. Human rights law (the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) also prohibit the return or expulsion of a person to a country where they would be in danger of torture or persecution. For more information – see UNHCR Note on the Principle of Non-Refoulement.

  5. For more information on international standards relating to Voluntary Repatriation, see UNHCR Handbook on Voluntary Repatriation.

Sudan: Humanitarian Funds help people support themselves

When Khadija Abdulshafi, 55, lost her daughter in 2017, she took charge of raising her five grandchildren in Nertiti IDP camp, Central Darfur State. The youngest was just one month old. Because of the traumatic separation from her mom, the baby girl had trouble feeding, and kept losing weight until she became malnourished.

Read more on OCHA.

Why propagating fear in fight against HIV and Aids is toxic

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Several strides have been realised in containing the HIV and Aids pandemic since 1984 when the first case was reported in Kenya.

Through awareness-creation, the country is no longer ignorant of the disease. Many know about its spread and control mechanisms.

Furthermore, the antiretrovirals now reach millions of people while prevention of mother-to-child transmission has helped in reducing infections in children.

However, gains registered over the years are gradually emptied by stigma associated with the disease. Although a few have overcome the stigma tag, many others are living in denial.

Ignorant to this fact, organisations and volunteers fronting the anti-HIV campaigns are not only ordinary in their approach, but also lack skills to handle such a delicate topic.

I’m not sure whether policies towards HIV prevalence are designed to propagate fear or inform and provide solutions, since the negative perception approach is a toxic pill that only generates punctured efforts.

First, sexual intimacy is a choice. But it is the recklessness by which sexual conduct and choices are made that exposes one to the risks.

Again, presence of friendlier options like condom use excites irresponsible conduct among the sexually-active.

Behaviour change and sound choices are essential in reversing risky engagements.

HIV testing is voluntary according to the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act 2009. The act further guarantees patients privacy and confidentiality besides shielding those infected from discrimination.

While on this, strategy proposals, like partner management systems, lack clarity on their execution under the so-called network without violating constitutional provisions.

Besides, this approach might spark enlargement of the network webs if prematurely unmasked.

Spiralling prevalence across age brackets is a consequence of untested policy approaches. Blind group messaging and targeting only facilitates prevalence shifts to another grouping perceived to be safer.

Public perception is key when it comes to social engagements. If and when originated, assessment on their impact should be done to avert boomerangs.

Incidentally, matters sexuality are complex and hard to mechanise. The only way out of the shifting quagmire is to strategise on less risky choices by formulating policy strategies that offer solutions and not propagating fear. Fear of contracting HIV is unfounded.

Again, the widely held view that infected persons can only be skinny with failing health is unfortunate, hence the need to further dig into related topical subjects with vigour adopted to the sexuality topic.

Let us tackle grey areas that offer refuge to the cynics. Among them is the discordance question, doctor-patient confidentiality, church confessions and miracles, et cetera.


It’s a sober ruling on bars

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A High Court ruling prohibiting the sale of alcohol near schools and within residential neighbourhoods could not have come at a better time.

While passing the verdict in a case in which a group of residents had sued Nairobi City County for allowing a trader to sell alcohol within their estate, the judge said schools are places for learning and nurturing morals, while residential areas are places where families seek deserved peace and rest after a long day out at work.

He also rightly observed that it is difficult to control the behaviour of drunks within a residential estate, a situation that not only breaches other people’s right to privacy, but also exposes them and their children to danger.

What baffles many is that it had to take the court to declare that alcohol business in residential estates or near schools is inappropriate and illegal.

It is no doubt an indictment of City Hall, the very authority that is supposed to enforce by-laws that ensure order and peace prevail and that liquor is sold only in designated places, but which decided to license such a business.

Without doubt, it is this kind of nonchalance and laxity on the part of City Hall that has seen drinking dens mushroom all over the city, with the residential estates bearing the brunt of the error of judgment.

Besides the unpredictable drunks loitering around, the residents and schools have to contend with noise from some of the alcohol dens that play loud music to their patrons.

With the court having laid out the law on the matter, the ball is now in the court of City Hall and its enforcement section to ensure the directive is complied with and city residents whose taxes sustain it, enjoy their peace and tranquillity in a safe environment.

Change badly needed to end exam cheating

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The safeguards put in place to curb cheating have seen the Form Four examinations, which started in earnest this week, run smoothly.

However, several incidents have been reported of attempted cheating. More than 30 suspects have been arrested and a number charged in court over exam cheating, and the crackdown continues.

Whereas in the past, cheating was planned and executed by cartels with tentacles in the Kenya National Examinations Council headquarters, who then shared the scripts digitally across the country, the fraudsters have changed tack.

This time round, they are working in cahoots with some school principals, supervisors and invigilators to get the papers earlier, work out the answers and share them with the candidates.


As we have warned before, those who thrived on exam cheating have not tired. They simply went underground when the government introduced stringent controls two years ago.

But they have been plotting to circumvent the system and get their way. The most unfortunate thing is that the plot involves teachers and even some parents.

Instead of teaching properly and adequately preparing candidates for exams, some teachers only scheme for shortcuts.

Yet, when taught and guided properly, the learners can easily pass the exams. But what obtains is that we have evolved a cheating culture; a predisposition to get things the easy way, which can no longer work.


Education ministry and exam council officials must think of a more sustainable system of examining candidates.

It is not right that the entire government, starting from the President and, Deputy President, Cabinet and principal secretaries, must get involved in exam monitoring.

This is not sustainable. It does not happen anywhere else in the world. Exam administration is a professional assignment best left to experts.

As currently configured, exams are a deceptive parameter for gauging learners’ abilities. It is a misnomer that candidates have to sit exams at the end of the school cycle — primary or secondary — and using that single test, determine a learner’s capability.

It is this contraction of learning into a single and time-bound test that spawns the cheating.

Conversely, it is critical that we revise and totally change the format of testing learners, de-emphasising grades and instead, prioritising competences and demonstration of ability to apply learnt knowledge.

In the interim, all efforts and energies go into preventing exam theft and those caught must be severely punished.

But we need a long-lasting and more sustainable system of testing learners beyond the summative assessments.

KCSE candidate arrested over exam leakage

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A KCSE candidate at Saad Secondary School in Nairobi was caught with a mobile phone containing Chemistry exam leakage.

The student, Abshir Mohammed, will be arraigned tomorrow. The student was caught by centre supervisor Nancy Murithi, who reported the matter to Pangani police station.

“She approached and found he had a smart phone on top of the desk, which she immediately confiscated and handed over to Cpl Booker Ochango,” the police report says.

Also contained in the device were questions and answers to English paper three. They were stored on messaging site WhatsApp that had 70 participants.

“The student who had sneaked the phone into the exam room concealed in his private parts has been arrested, he will appear in court tomorrow.”

New measures and strong partnership having positive impact on DRC Ebola response

New measures to overcome challenges in the response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are having a positive impact, although the outbreak remains dangerous and unpredictable, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping and the World Health Organization (WHO) said after a joint mission to assess the outbreak.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Pierre Lacroix yesterday travelled with the Minister of Health, Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, to the city of Beni in eastern DRC, the epicentre of the outbreak, where they met health workers, civil society representatives, peacekeeping troops and local authorities.

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, has recently taken an active approach to armed groups operating in North Kivu, which has contributed to a period of calm in and around the city of Beni, although some attacks have continued in surrounding villages.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners are also making greater use of community surveillance, in which community members are trained to conduct contact tracing activities in areas that outsiders have difficulty accessing. This has contributed to a decline in new cases over the past two weeks, although the situation remains of grave concern.

Mr Lacroix and Dr Tedros also met DRC Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala to share their observations and recommendations and to discuss how best to support the government’s response to the outbreak.

“We are facing numerous complex challenges, but it’s encouraging and inspiring to see that our efforts to deliver as one UN have been extremely successful in many hotspots and will help to end the outbreak and save lives,” said Mr Lacroix.

Since the outbreak began in August, there have been 308 cases and 191 deaths, about half of which have been in Beni, a city of 800,000 people. The current outbreak is the country’s 10th and is on track to surpass the previous largest outbreak, which was in Yambuku in 1976 when there were 318 cases and 280 people died.

MONUSCO has provided support to the Ebola response since the beginning of the outbreak through the provision of logistical support, office facilities, transportation, communication and security.

Ebola response teams have sometimes faced difficulties on the ground, with misinformation and mistrust due to decades of conflict contributing to a reluctance with some local populations to allow Ebola response teams to vaccinate, conduct contact tracing and perform safe and dignified burials. Community engagement activities have helped address concerns and most local communities have proven supportive and are keenly aware of the dangers of Ebola and the importance of ending the outbreak.

“The fact that we have so far prevented Ebola from spreading into neighbouring countries is a testament to the hard work and determination of staff from all partners,” said Dr Tedros. “As complex and challenging as this outbreak is, I am confident that working together with the Ministry of Health, MONUSCO and all our partners, we can and will end it.”

WHO has almost 280 staff in North Kivu, supporting hundreds more from the Ministry of Health and partners.

Six treatment centres have been built, where 91 patients are currently being treated. The centres are operated by the Ministry of Health and partners including ALIMA, Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Medical Corps. Each treatment centre is supported by a mobile laboratory to rapidly diagnose cases and guide treatment.

To date, 27,000 people have been vaccinated against Ebola, and almost every new patient receives one of 4 investigational treatments, something which was never previously possible during an Ebola outbreak. While mourning those who have died, they noted that 91 people have recovered and returned to their communities thanks to the hard work and joint efforts of national and international responders.

Mr Lacroix and Dr Tedros paid tribute to the dedication of staff from WHO, MONUSCO, the Ministry of Health and all partners who are fighting a dangerous outbreak in extremely difficult conditions.

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ILO gives Uganda, Malawi Shs40b to fight child labour

Uganda Gender minister Janat Mukwaya


Kampala. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has announced a $10.8m (about Shs40.5b) fund for Uganda and Malawi to jointly work to combat child labour on the African continent.

The announcement was made during the ILO governing body’s 334th session that is ends today in Geneva, Switzerland.
Uganda is currently serving as a member of the ILO governing body on a three-year term after being voted to it during the 106th International Conference in June 2017.
“The details about the disbursement, sharing and use of money will come later as the team returns from Geneva. Otherwise, that is an allocation that we as a country need to welcome and put to use,” Mr Frank Mugabi, the ministry’s communications officer, said in a statement issued yesterday by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

The Ugandan delegation in Geneva is led by Gender minister Janat Mukwaya.

The minister is accompanied by the permanent secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana, and the director labour, employment and occupation safety, Mr Martin Wandera.
As part of their inaugural participation in the ILO governing body session, Ms Mukwaya in a statement on behalf of the Africa group, asked the International Office to come up with a clear exit strategy from tobacco funding.

Under the Public Private Partnership, the tobacco industry has been funding ILO’s programmes on elimination of child labour in the tobacco industry. However, ILO is transiting from the tobacco funding so as it concurs with the Model Policy for Agencies of the United Nations Systems on Preventing Tobacco Industry Interference.

Consideration of interests
Ms Mukwaya guided that when resolutions are made, there should be “due consideration of the principle of the best interest of the child articulated in the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child,”

She said the exit from tobacco funding should ensure no disruption of the ongoing efforts by member states to eliminate child labour in the sector.
Uganda is one of the countries where tobacco is grown as a cash crop and there has always been outcry of child labour in the sector which leads to school drop-outs in the tobacco growing areas.

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Witsel ready to lead Dortmund's young charges against Bayern

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With his 30th birthday looming, youthful Borussia Dortmund’s elder statesman Axel Witsel wants to lead the Bundesliga pace-setters to a rare home win over defending champions Bayern Munich in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown.

The midfielder has been a revelation at Dortmund since joining for 20 million euros ($22.8m, Sh22.3 billion) from Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian after his impressive performances at the World Cup helped Belgium finish third.

Witsel is relishing his first appearance in ‘Der Klassiker’, with third-placed Munich trailing Dortmund by four points.

“Yes, I am a leader,” Witsel, who turns 30 in January, told reporters on Thursday.

The Dortmund team is packed with rising stars like 18-year-old England winger Jadon Sancho, full-back Achraf Hakimi and US winger Christian Pulisic, both 20, and Witsel enjoys having to keep up with players a decade his junior.

“We have a group that is really young, with players from 18 to 25 years old, so it’s up to us ‘oldies’ to guide them in the good times and also when things don’t go so well,” added Witsel.

Witsel has not just been Dortmund’s midfield enforcer as he often is for his national team.

He has weighed in with three goals, including the winner in the German Cup first round at Greuther Fuerth and the first in Dortmund’s 4-0 thumping of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League two weeks ago, before they lost the return match 2-0 away on Tuesday.

“(Coach Lucien Favre) deserves a lot of credit for the game we are playing at the moment,” said Witsel.

“I do not have the same role as in the national team, where I have to stay back and control things.

“I like both roles. In the national team I feel great, but here it’s a lot of fun to push forward from time to time.

“But I’m not a 10 (behind the striker), I’m still an ‘eight’, a box-to-box player.”

Dortmund are the only team yet to lose in Germany’s top flight this year and with Bayern third after defeats to Hertha Berlin and Borussia Moenchengladbach, Witsel sees a great chance for the hosts.

“They have not been good for a few weeks, so it’s up to us to take advantage,” said Witsel.

“But it’s not going to be an easy match. Bayern can wake up for games like this, so it will be up to us to pay attention.”

With two thirds of the season still to go, Witsel says no one in the Dortmund squad is yet daring to dream of a first league title since 2012 despite their unbeaten start.

“The goal is to qualify for the Champions League next year, so we are in a favourable position, but no-one in the dressing is talking about winning the championship,” he insisted.

A crowd of over 80,000 is expected and Witsel is looking forward to playing Dortmund’s biggest league home game of the season in front of Signal Iduna Park’s famous ‘Yellow Wall’ — the south stand which holds almost 25,000 baying fans.

“This is my first (home game against Bayern) and I can’t wait to see how it feels in terms of atmosphere,” Witsel said on Thursday.

“Although every time we play at home there is a mad atmosphere, I think against Bayern it will be a little more.”

Kenya begins quest for ICC Division II return

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The national cricket team will Friday play their first game of ICC World Cricket League Division Three against hosts Oman at the Emarat Cricket Stadium in Muscat as from 10:30am Kenyan time.

Leading Kenya’s batting attack will be the opening pair of Irfan Karim, who is also the team’s wicketkeeper and Alex Obanda. Dhiren Gondaria is likely to bat one down followed by Rakep Patel, Shem Ngoche, Nelson Odhiambo, Narendra Patel, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Lucas Oluoch and Elijah Otieno.

On a good day, Obanda will give his team a solid batting foundation as he is a risk taker. A relaxed Patel is a dependable batsman who could get Kenya meaningful runs particularly if he shares wicket with one of his Kanbis’ team mates, Gondaria, Nelson or Narendra.

Oluoch is likely to open bowling with either Elijah Otieno or Nehemiah Odhiambo. The other bowlers in the side are Nelson, Ngoche, Narendra, Rakep and Pushpak Kerai and Sachin Bhudia.

Even though the winner of a 50 overs game will only be known when the last ball has been bowled, Kenya team has all it takes to win the opening game as it is the most experienced side, at least on paper.

Virtually all the Kenyan players in Oman were part of the squad that failed to win a single game at the ICC World Cricket League Division Two held in Namibia in February, thereby getting the team demoted to ICC World Cricket League Division Three.

When Kenya and Oman last met, the Omanis beat the local boys by two wickets through the Duckworth Lewis Method.

Kenya batted first scoring 200 all out in 49.5 overs and Oman were 148 for 8 in 41.1 overs before the match was disrupted by rainfall. Patel top scored for Kenya (59 off 72 balls with four boundaries) while Zeeshan Maqsood was Oman’s highest runs getter with a quick half century (58 off 33 balls with eight boundaries and two sixes).

Kenya must win today’s game to boost their morale and improve their chances of finishing among the top two teams in a competition involving six sides that is played in a round-robin format.

The top finishers in Oman will be promoted to the ICC World Cricket League Division Two. Uganda, Denmark, USA and Singapore are the other teams at the Oman tournament.

Kenya has a heritage of having competed in five successive ICC World Championships from 1996 to 2011.