BRIEF: Pastoralist Children in Critical Situation

BRIEF: Pastoralist Children in Critical Situation

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Just two months after a United Nation report predicted an acute food shortage, Ethiopia’s Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency reports that over 20 % of children in the Ogaden region are malnourished.   

The Ethiopian government has promised to ensure that humanitarian aid and food reach the people of the region. However, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONFL) has accused the government army of blocking access to the region thereby causing a man-made famine. Although the Ethiopian government has denied allegations of discrimination, neglect, and abuse, in early September the humanitarian group Medecins sans Frontieres complained that the government denied them access to the region. The ONFL has been fighting for the region’s sovereignty since 1984.

The arid region is the center of rebel attacks, and recent climate change has made the region almost uninhabitable. Livestock, water and grain are scarce. The lack of food and medical supplies is quickly turning the critical situation to a humanitarian emergency. 

The Ogaden region, which borders Somalia and Ethiopia, is not the only vulnerable area. According to a report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), all pastoralist children in the Horn of Africa are at risk. The region includes parts of Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

For more information, please see:

BBC- Child hunger ‘crisis’ in Ogaden – 30 October 2007 – East Africa: The Pastoralist Way of Life – A Fragile Future for Millions of Children – 30 October 2007

For more information on the Ogaden region, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Claims of Genocide in Ethiopia ; BRIEF: Blocked Aid for Ogaden Region

Darfur Refugees Forced Out

By Elizabeth Costner
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

OTASH CAMP, Sudan – Recent reports state that Sudanese officials have been pressuring people to leave refugee camps in the Darfur province over the past weeks.  United Nations officials have said that the regime has resorted to forcibly loading some civilians onto trucks to clear them out. 

This week, UN officials announced that they have evidence Sudanese government forces were chasing refugees out of at least one camp, Otash, which houses 60,000 people on the outskirts of Nyala, south Darfur’s capital.  John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief said in a statement: “Given that security forces were threatening the displaced with sticks and rubber hoses at Otash camp, the involuntary nature of this relocation is clear.”  UN officials say this “dangerous precedent” could jeopardize ongoing Darfur peace talks, currently taking place in Libya. 

Observers say Sudan hopes to empty the camps before January when the joint United Nations-African Union force of 26,000 peacekeepers is scheduled to deploy. 

Sudanese officials have admitted they want the camps to close because they have become too big, squalid and dangerous and have made the refugees too dependent on humanitarian aid.  They deny however that any one is being forced to leave, and dismissed such allegations as “more than fabrications” aimed at “distracting attention from the Sudanese government’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire to accompany the peace talks.” 

Most Darfur refugees agree that conditions in the camp are poor but insist they have nowhere else to go, since their home villages are still too dangerous while the war between the rebels and the government continues. 

Since the conflict began in 2003, an estimated 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced.

For more information, please see:

AP – Sudan Tries to Clear Out Darfur Refugees – 31 October 2007

International Herald Tribune – Sudan government strives to force Darfur civilians out of refugee camps – 31 October 2007

BBC News – Darfur camp eviction ‘fabricated’ – 30 October 2007

Guardian Unlimited – Darfur refugees forced out by troops, UN claims – 30 October 2007

For more information on the Darfur conflict, please see the following Impunity Watch reports: Peace Talks in Darfur Begin Without Rebels; Upcoming Peace Talks in Sudan in Jeopardy; New Atrocities in Darfur; Ceasefire Ends in Sudan; Ongoing Conflict in Sudan; Peace Talks on Darfur Scheduled for October 

BRIEF: ICC Report to the UN Released

The International Criminal Court’s third annual report to the United Nations, covering the period of 1 August 2006 to 1 August 2007 is now available.   The Prosecutor continued to investigate and prosecute the situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.   At the end of the reporting period, six warrants of arrest were still outstanding – two regarding the situation in Darfur, and four regarding Uganda.  The warrants for persons related to the conflict in Uganda have been outstanding since July 2005.   

Download icc_20062007_report.pdf

BRIEF: Children Tortured in Iraqi Prisons

BAGHDAD, Iraq-  Local NGOs have raised concerns regarding reports that children have been tortured and abused while being interrogated in Iraqi prisons.

“‘Children are being treated as adults in Iraqi prisons and our investigations have shown that they are being abused and tortured,’ said Khalid Rabia’a, a spokesman for the Prisoners’ Association for Justice (PAJ).”  (IRIN)

Mr. Rabia’a cited an example of five child prisoners who were between 13 and 17.  The children were interrogated because the Iraqi military operators had suspected that the children were supporting insurgents.  “‘The five children showed signs of torture all over their bodies.  Three had marks of cigarettes burns over their legs and one couldn’t speak as the shock sessions affected his conversation,’ Rabia’a said.” (IRIN)

The Iraqi government has denied the allegations and stated that those individuals who have abused adults or children through the prison system have been eliminated and punished.  However according to the IRIN, at least 220 children are being held in the Iraqi prisons.  An Iraqi official, who requesting anonymity, stated to IRIN that under his watch alone there were 20 children held captive and being abused.

The problem has been acknowledged by Iraqi Vice President Tarek al-Hashimy, who is beginning a campaign to end child abuse.

For more information, please see:

IRIN Middle East- IRAQ: Child prisoners abused and tortured, say activists- 25 October 2007

Nigeria’s Parliamentary Speaker Resigns After Scandal

By Meryl A. White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

ABUJA, Nigeria – Patricia Etteh, Nigeria’s House of Representatives Parliamentary Speaker, has resigned after being found guilty of awarding contracts worth five million to refurbish houses and buy vehicles. Records show that Mrs. Etteh bought twelve cars and renovated her and her deputy’s residence.

President Umaru Yar’Adua, who promised zero tolerance on corruption, did not want to intervene in this situation. This affair has gripped the attention of the nation and has become a huge embarrassment for the President. Yesterday, President Umaru Yar’Adua stated that he would not make Speaker Etteh resign from the office.

The scandal surrounding Etteh became so controversial this month that a pro Etteh MP collapsed and died at Parliament.

The Odu’a Youth Leader’s Forum (OYLF) called for Etteh to resign and for the speaker pro tempore to preside over the Idoko panel report. Moreover, members of the House threatened to impeach Etteh if she did not step down from her position.

Just today, the lower house elected Terngu Tsegba, from the opposition party as the acting speaker. Mr. Tsegba will preside over the Iroko debate, which is expected to last for one week. In the near future, the Nigerian Parliament will hold an election to replace Mrs. Etteh.

For more information, please see:

All Africa – Nigeria: I Will Not Ask Etteh to Step Down – Yar’Adua – 30 October 2007

BBC- Nigeria speaker goes in graft row – 30 October 2007

All Africa – Nigeria: They Offered Me Bribe – Etteh – 22 October 2007