0.5 C
Trondheim
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

From Libya To Rwanda, Refugees Shuttled To New Outpost In Plan Called ‘Flawed’

0

Libyan refugee camp

European nations are building a wall – a sea wall – to keep African migrants from reaching their shores.

With funds paid by the European Union and cooperating African governments, refugees are being sent to distant centers where they are expected to make their asylum appeals. Rwanda has just signed on to hold some 500 migrants fleeing a deadly civil war in Libya.

But Rwandan President Paul Kagame is not welcoming refugees simply out of generosity: he will likely ask for a diplomatic reward from Europe – one that boosts Rwanda’s international leadership on migration and refugee affairs, while remaining silent about recent human rights abuses.

It may come with a price for the migrants and refugees, too. The small East African country already hosts more than 148,000 refugees. Though they have social and economic rights, including the right to work, rights on paper do not always equate to rights in practice. Refugees in Rwanda often struggle to access public services and employment opportunities. The government has also violently repressed refugee protests against discrimination and food shortages in camps.

Rwanda also has some serious human rights baggage. Last year, police fired on refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were protesting outside the U.N. Office on Refugees after their food allowance was cut from $8.90 to $6.70 per person, per month. Nine died. A year after the shootings, authorities have failed to release their investigations of the fatal shooting nor have they identified those responsible for using excessive force and held them to account.

“There can be no justification for shooting at unarmed protesters,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The Rwandan government is trampling on the graves of the victims by refusing to acknowledge how many people were actually killed or holding those responsible to account.”

Rwanda’s new role, holding desperate migrants, is expected to relieve pressure at a similar facility in Niger which reportedly holds close to 3,000 migrants from Libya.

Those evacuated to Niger were supposed to be making a temporary stop before returning home with the assistance of the UN’s migration agency, or being resettled in Europe. But the operation faced repeated problems, largely because EU countries were too slow at actually resettling the evacuated refugees. This highlights the plans fundamental flaws: The offshore centers are too small and the pledges of refugee resettlement too few.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers remain trapped in Libya, where a patchwork of militias control detention centers and migrants are sold as slaves or into prostitution, and kept in places so packed that there is not even enough floor space to sleep on.

Source: https://www.charlestonchronicle.net/2019/09/12/from-libya-to-rwanda-refugees-shuttled-to-new-outpost-in-plan-called-flawed/

International Humanitarian Law, Constant Challenges, NGO Responses by Rene Wadlow

0
humanitarian
12 August is the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.  The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional are central instruments of International Humanitarian Law.  The Geneva Conventions, are also often called the Red Cross Conventions as the International Committee of the Red Cross is the institution which is to promote and protect the articles of the Conventions, although the Convention opens the door to other organizations “which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy.”

clip_image002[4]

The 1949 Geneva Conventions were drawn up in light of the violations of earlier international humanitarian law during the Second World War.  The first Geneva Convention was drawn up in 1864, the time of the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aims of the ICRC were set out at the time: the development and universalization of humanitarian law and as a neutral go-between in armed conflicts, enabling contact to be maintained between combatants.  There could also be a role to serve as an intermediary between victims and States, reminding States of their obligations towards those victims.

The Geneva Conventions have evolved as the nature of armed conflicts has evolved.  The 1977 Protocols Additional were drawn up by a diplomatic conference held in Geneva in light of the experiences of the war in Vietnam, the greater number of conflicts that could be called “civil wars” and the greater use of armed militias which were not regular military forces. In the 1977 discussions, there was greater awareness of the conditions of refugees, already protected by the international refugee agreements but also a growing awareness of persons displaced within the country, a pattern which has grown.

Closely related to the Geneva Conventions is a second tradition of international humanitarian law, what may be called “the Hague Tradition” growing out of the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907.  This tradition places its emphasis on banning the use of certain types of weapons.  The 1925 Geneva Convention prohibiting the use of poison gas was a direct result of poison gas use in World War I.  Since then, there has been a treaty banning the use of land mines, of cluster munitions, and a wider ban on chemical weapons.

There are two other sources or traditions in the development of international humanitarian law. One is respect for human rights provisions as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions which followed focused on different aspects of the Universal Declaration. While the provisions of the Universal Declaration are to be upheld at all times, there are highly visible and wide-spread violations during armed conflicts.  Thus the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (become the Human Rights Council) became concerned with situations of armed conflicts.

The fourth tradition is the development of the 1936 Roerich Peace Pact to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts.  The 1936 Pact, signed at the White House in Washington, D.C. was a Pan-American Union Treaty.  Its provisions served as the basis of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Goods with UNESCO as the official body for its safeguard.  The 1954 Treaty has been progressively enriched by the development of UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage sites.  The International Criminal Court has recently condemned a person for his role in the destruction of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites in northern Mali, West Africa.

These traditions of international humanitarian law have been highlighted in a number of U.N. General Assembly resolutions such as that on “Basic Principles of Protection for Civilian Populations in Time of Armed Conflict, Resolution 2625 (1971).

Thus, the provisions of international humanitarian law are well developed and cover many issues that are likely to arise in armed conflicts. There are two major challenges for their respect. One is that the provisions of international humanitarian law are not well known, neither by the military nor by possible victims.  Thus education concerning international humanitarian law is necessary. During the 1969-1971 Nigeria -Biafra War, I had been a member of an ICRC working group as the Nigeria – Biafra war was the first war among Africans without a colonial power being involved.  There were many violations during the war, including the use of starvation as a military policy.  After the end of the war, the need for teaching international humanitarian law was obvious.  I helped in the preparation of a text book using African examples that the Red Cross used fairly widely in Africa.  The teaching of international humanitarian law in the context of local cultures and values is still a vital challenge.

clip_image004[4]The second and more important challenge is that international humanitarian law is not respected even when its provisions are known. The current conscious violation of international humanitarian law including some of the oldest provisions – not attacking medical facilities or not shooting prisoners – has been wide spread in armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere.  More than preparing hand books for the military and the militias is needed.

The Association of World Citizens has been stressing the need for a U.N.-led world conference on the reaffirmation of international humanitarian law in which governments, NGOs and armed factions could participate. The degree of respect for humanitarian standards is far from satisfactory, as has been repeatedly pointed out.  However, for the moment, there has not been the needed momentum. Such a momentum is likely to arise only from NGOs. The 12 August anniversary is a reminder that we need to work creatively before major wars not afterwards.

*********************************

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Libya: The blitzkreig breaks down: Negotiations Needed By Rene Wadlow

0
Dozens of people were killed in an air raid on 3 July 2019 on a detention center holding migrants in a camp at Tajoura, a suburb of Tripoli according to the U.N. Support Mission in Libya.  Most of those killed and wounded were Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia who had hoped to reach Europe but were blocked in Libya.  Others held in the detention center had been returned to Libya, arrested trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. 

In 2018, some 15,000 persons were intercepted on boats at sea and returned to Libya, placed in detention centers without charge and with no date set for release. The detention centers are officially under the control of the Government of National Accord’s Department for Combating Illegal Migration.  In practice, most of the detention centers are controlled by militias.  The former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the conditions in these detention centers as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”

Since the outbreak of armed conflict on the outskirts of Tripoli on 3 April 2019, many persons have been killed or wounded in what General Khalifa Hifter hoped would be a blitzkreig advance. He badly underestimated the degree of military response that he would meet from the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.  Since the blitzkreig bogged down, in the absence of a ceasefire, the humanitarian situation is dramatically degenerating.

The dramatic conditions in Libya have a double aspect. One is the need to create a stable administrative structure of government taking into consideration the geographic and ethnic diversity of the country.  The second aspect is the humane treatment of refugees and migrants from other countries who have tried to cross Libya or have been returned from failed crossings of the Mediterranean.

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens, as an immediate step, calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and the resumption of U.N. -led negotiations in good faith among a broad spectrum of Libyan political parties and tribal representatives.

Secondly, the Association of World Citizens calls for an end of returning refugees and migrants to Libya.  Other countries must welcome migrants while longer-range cooperative structures are put into place.  Migration issues will continue to challenge the world society.

 ***********************************

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

 

Once A Symbol Of Freedom, Sudan’s Pop Radio Station Has Fallen Almost Silent

0

Now, as Hikmat walks through the empty station, the walls are bare. The sound panels have been taken down. You can still see the dabs of glue that held up vinyl records of Keith Sweat, Kenny Burke, Ray Charles and The Roots that decorated the studio.

Pushing the envelop in a Islamist country, Capital FM had become a symbol for a modern Sudan. It started as a house music station and then became a cultural hub. They had even begun hosting parties with DJs and bands where young Sudanese could quite literally let their hair down. But since the militarization of Khartoum, government censors have been taking the station off the air for hours at a time. To Hikmat, this is a clear warning sign that soon, security forces will break down Capital FM’s doors and confiscate everything — so he has started taking the place apart.

“It’s a bit dark now at the moment, because we painted the walls black because of everything that is happening,” Hikmat says.

Pushing the envelop in a Islamist country, Capital FM had become a symbol for a modern Sudan. Now, the station’s airwaves have gone almost silent.

YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Hikmat says that one of his main jobs at Capital is to keep what it represents — a utopia of progressiveness — intact. Recently, that has been a particularly difficult task. One Capital FM staffer was killed at the protest camp, and many others question whether an enterprise like Capital is even possible in Sudan at this point. “I’m trying to keep hope because everyone is leaving,” he says. “I am losing my team one by one.”

To express what he feels in respect to the situation at Capital FM and in Khartoum, Hikmat says Marvin Gaye‘s “Make Me Wanna Holler” never leaves his mind.

“For me, this is the song that plays in my mind when I am driving in the streets, just looking at the leftovers,” Hikmat says. “I see those guys, you know, sitting there, chilling with their big-a** guns, and this song just plays in my head.”

«Le peuple d’abord» RDC : l’entrepreneur Jean Michel Wembi décidé à matérialiser cette vision du Président Tshisekedi

0

wembi.jpg«Un voyage de mille kilomètres commence toujours par le premier pas», dit un adage chinois. Depuis l’investiture du Président de la République, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, le fils du Sphinx de Limete d’heureuse mémoire, s’observe un flux important des membres de la diaspora congolaise en direction de leur mère patrie. Parmi ces dignes filles et fils de la RD Congo de retour au pays en vue d’apporter leur pierre à l’édifice de reconstruction, figure aussi le jeune entrepreneur Jean Michel Wembi Lota qui a presté, pendant une décennie, comme fonctionnaire international dans la mission de maintien de la paix des Nations-Unies au Darfour au Soudan. «Personnellement, j’ai été frappé par l’appel de l’actuel Chef de l’Etat, Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, qui a dit vouloir faire des Congolais des millionnaires et des milliardaires. Je me suis dit pourquoi ne pas mettre ma main dans la pâte afin que je puisse contribuer, tant soit peu, au développement de mon pays», a indiqué sieur Wembi. Pour un début, trois entreprises avec une trentaine d’emplois à la clé : une ferme, une agence de voyage et une chambre froide déjà opérationnelles à Kinshasa. A moyen terme, près de mille emplois seront créés par ce compatriote.   

Trajectoire de Jean Michel Wembi

Natif de Kinshasa, quinquagénaire, Jean Michel Wembi Lota a fait ses études primaires et secondaires et a décroché son diplôme d’Etat dans la capitale congolaise avant d’aller poursuivre sa formation universitaire à Bukavu dans la province du Sud-Kivu.

Après ce cursus académique dans la filière médicale, ce jeune congolais s’est lancé dans les ONGs internationales vers les années 1994, période trouble dans la partie Est de la RD Congo consécutivement à un flux migratoire sans précédent des populations burundaises après le coup d’Etat contre l’ex-Président Melchior Ndadaye. A cette époque, Jean Michel Wembi avait travaillé pour Care International, Médecins Sans Frontière, suite à cet afflux des réfugiés.  Quelque temps après, sous l’impulsion et avec la bénédiction de son oncle, Athanase Okitalunyi Okundji (décédé), ce jeune entrepreneur s’était lancé dans l’achat des produits pharmaceutiques de la Pharmakina Bukavu en vue de les fournir à l’hôpital général de la Minière de Bakwanga (MIBA) à Mbuji-Mayi de même qu’à l’Archidiocèse de Kananga (Bureau des œuvres médicales – BDOM).

Vers les années 1995-1996, Jean Michel Wembi décida de regagner la ville de Kinshasa. Fort de sa riche expérience dans les ONGs internationales, il a pu intégrer la Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Croix-Rouge et Croissant-Rouge. Par la suite, il a presté, pendant un court laps de temps, au sein de CRS, une organisation internationale des prêtres américains catholiques. En 2000, Jean Michel Wembi est recruté dans la Mission de l’Organisation des Nations-Unies au Congo (MONUC). Après y avoir bien travaillé pendant neuf ans, ce digne fils de la RDC va décrocher un emploi au niveau international. Pendant une décennie (2009-2019), il évolua dans le domaine de la logistique médicale au sein de la mission onusienne au Darfour au Soudan, pays africain en proie à des violents conflits armés. En attendant une nouvelle affectation, il revient dans son pays d’origine pour investir dans différents secteurs d’activités.

Au plan familial, Jean Michel Wembi est marié à Mme Bibiche Mburanumwe Wembi et père de trois enfants. Lui-même est issu d’une grande famille.

Investir dans plusieurs secteurs d’activités

«La diversification de l’économie congolaise», prônent les gouvernants et les scientifiques. La ferme HBW, la chambre froide Nirvana et l’agence de voyage Dove Travel sont les trois entreprises du boss Jean Michel Wembi, Administrateur Directeur Général, qui ont donné, au départ, de l’emploi à près de trente Congolais et, à travers eux, font vivre plus d’une centaine des membres de famille. Solidarité africaine oblige. L’objectif est d’atteindre, à moyen terme, environ mille postes de travail.

Dove Travel, située à proximité de l’hôtel Memling, est une agence spécialisée dans la vente des billets d’avion, dans l’assistance en vue de l’obtention des visas, dans les réservations des chambres d’hôtels, dans les moyens de déplacement des clients de même que dans le tourisme. Une agence correspondante se trouve en Afrique du Sud pour faciliter certaines démarches.

Nirvana, située en plein marché Gambela, commercialise des vivres frais de consommation courante à Kinshasa tels que les poulets, la viande, les poissons salés. La liste n’est pas exhaustive.

HBW est une ferme de 5 hectares + 1 hectare qui se trouve dans la commune de N’Sele. En partenariat avec le Professeur Manitou, y sera cultivé près de 100.000 ananas afin de produire des jus naturels. Dans la ferme d’un hectare, il y a quinze étangs piscicoles, une porcherie, un poulailler, l’élevage des cailles, etc.

Soutenir la vision du Chef de l’Etat

«Le peuple d’abord» c’est la vision héritée de l’opposant historique, le lider maximo, Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba. Lui, le père biologique et politique de l’actuel Président de la République.

L’entrepreneur Jean Michel Wembi dit être revenu au pays pour chasser le chômage, véritable fléau en RDC. Quand ses trois entreprises auront atteint leur vitesse de croisière, plus d’un millier de Congolais y trouveront de l’emploi. Surtout qu’il envisage aussi créer une compagnie d’aviation cargo en vue d’évacuer, vers les grands centres urbains, les nombreuses denrées alimentaires et produits agricoles qui pourrissent dans le Congo profond faute de moyens de locomotion. Histoire de combattre à la fois le chômage et la famine.

«Nous devons tous travailler pour que le Congo produise et consommer ce qu’il produit afin de créer une valeur ajoutée qui va impacter très positivement sur l’économie congolaise», a martelé Jean Michel Wembi. Autrement dit, les importations à outrance et illicites font reculer l’économie congolaise, accélèrent la descente aux enfers de ce scandale géologique, de ce don béni de Dieu.

A titre d’illustration, une production industrielle de jus d’ananas dans la ferme HBW, deux millions de bouteilles pour une population kinoise estimée à près de douze millions d’habitants, va certainement impacter sur l’économie du pays. Et ces produits bios ne seront pas nuisibles à la santé des Congolais comme ceux qui sont importés de l’étranger. Enfin, ce nouveau chef d’entreprises lance un appel aux nombreux autres Congolais de la diaspora en vue de revenir épauler le Président Félix Tshisekedi et s’attend à un meilleur climat des affaires qui freinent les tracasseries sous toutes leurs formes. «Le peuple d’abord» ne sera donc pas qu’un simple slogan mais plutôt une vision claire pour l’émergence du grand Congo.

James Mpunga Yende

Aime Cesaire: (1913 – 2008) A Black Orpheus by Rene Wadlow

0

My negritude is not a stone,

nor deafness flung out against the clamour

of the day

my negritude is not a white speck of dead water

on the dead eye of the earth

my negritude is neither tower nor cathedral.

Return to My Native Land 

Aimé Césaire, whose birth anniversary we note on 26 June, was a Matinique poet and political figure, a cultural bridge builder between the West Indies, Europe and Africa. A poet, teacher, and political figure, he had been mayor of the capital city, Fort-de-France for 56 years from 1945 to 2001, and a member of the French Parliament without a break from 1945 to 1993 — the French political system allowing a person to be a member of the national parliament and an elected local official at the same time. First elected to Parliament as a member of the Communist Party, he had left the Party in 1956 when he felt that the Communist Party did not put anti-colonialism at the center of its efforts.

The Communist Party’s position was that colonialism would end by itself once the workers had come to power. Césaire went on to form a local political party which existed only in Martinique and was largely his political machine for creating municipal jobs. Césaire faced a massive rural to urban migration on the 400,000 person West Indian department of France. One answer to unemployment was to create municipal posts largely paid for from the central government budget — a ready pool of steady political supporters. Césaire also did much to develop cultural activities from his mayor’s office— encouraging theatre, music and handicrafts.

Aimé Césaire’s wider fame was due to his poetry and his plays, — all with political implications, but heavily influenced by images from the subconscious. Thus it was that André Breton (1896-1966) writer and ideologue of the Surrealists saw in Césaire a kindred soul and became a champion of Césaire’s writing. Breton had been interested in African art and culture, by its sense of motion, color and myth. Breton often projected his own ideas onto African culture seeing it as spontaneous and mystical when much African art is, in fact, conventional and material. Nevertheless, Breton, who spent some of the Second World War years in Martinique, was able to interest many French writers and painters in African culture. It was Breton who encouraged Jean Paul Sartre to do an early anthology of African and West Indian poetry –Black Orpheus- and to write an important introduction stressing the revolutionary character of the poems.

Aimé Césaire’s parents placed high value on education — his father was a civil servant who encouraged his children to read and to take school seriously. Thus Césaire ranked first in his secondary school class and received a scholarship in 1931 to go to France to study at l’Ecole Normale Supériéure — a university-level institution which trains university professors and elite secondary school teachers. He was in the same class with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Leon Damas from Senegal. They, along with Birago Diop also from Senegal, started a publication in Paris L’étudiant noir (The Black Student) as an expression of African culture. One of Césaire’s style in poetry was to string together every cliché that the French used when speaking about Africa and turning these largely negative views into complements. Thus he and Senghor took the most commonly used term for Blacks ,Nègre, which was not an insult but which incorporated all the clichés about Africans and West Indians and put a positive light upon the term. Thus negritude became the term for a large group of French-speaking Africans and French-speaking West Indians – including Haiti – writers. They stressed the positive aspects of African society but also the pain and agony in the experience of Black people, especially slavery and colonialism.

In 1938, just as he finished his university studies, Césaire took a few weeks vacation on the coast of Yugoslavia. There he wrote in a burst of energy his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of the Return to My Native Land), his best known series of poems. In 1939, he returned to Martinique having married another teacher from Martinique who was also trained in Paris. Both started teaching at the major secondary school of Martinique and started being politically active. However, by 1940, Martinique was under the control of the Vichy government of France and political activity was firmly discouraged. Thus Césaire concentrated on his writing. He met André Breton who spent the war years in the USA. Breton encouraged an interest in the history and culture of Haiti. While Haiti is physically close to Martinique, Haitian history and culture is often overlooked — if not looked down upon — in Martinique. Césaire wrote on the Haitian independence leader Toussaint L’Ouverture as a hero, and later a play in 1963 La Tragédie du roi Christophe largely influenced by the early years of the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier.

With the end of the Second World War, the French Communist Party had one third of the seats in the Parliament of the newly created Fourth Republic. The French Communists were looking for potential candidates from Martinique where the Party was not particularly well structured. They turned to young, educated persons who had a local base. Césaire, with his Paris education and as a popular teacher at the major secondary school fitted that bill. He was elected the same year both to Parliament and to the town hall. When in Paris, he took an active part in cultural life, especially with African students and young intellectuals. In 1947, along with the Senegalese Alioune Diop and Senghor, he founded the journal Présence africaine which later became also a publisher of books and the leading voice of the negritude movement.

As the French Communist Party had a rule of tight party discipline, Césaire played no independent role in the French Parliament until he left the Party in 1956. However, his 1950 Discours sur le Colonialism, at the same time violent and satiric became the most widely read anti-colonial tract of the times, calling attention to the deep cultural roots of colonial attitudes. After 1956, most of his efforts in Parliament were devoted to socio-economic development for Martinique. His strong anti-colonial efforts were made outside Parliament, especially in the cultural sphere. Nevertheless, as a member of Parliament he could open doors that poets do not usually enter.

Césaire, who read English well, was interested in the writings of Langston Hughes whose poems were close in spirit and style. He translated into French some of the poems of the Negro poet Sterling A. Brown.

In the 1960s, Césaire turned increasingly to writing plays, especially on the history of Haiti, as the earliest independent State of the West Indies. These were verse plays as the actors’ dialogue were nearly poems. As the French African colonies became independent in the 1960s, he stressed that the end of colonialism was not enough but that colonial culture had to be replaced by a new culture, a culture of the universal, a culture of renewal. “It is a universal, rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars that are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.”

**********************************

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Us: We have met the enemies and they are us

0

In this review of the American film Us, the author highlights the movie’s core message that most of the times, we, human beings, are our own enemies. 

The film, Us, written, directed and co-produced by Jordan Peele, is a clever metaphor for the United States of America. The statement that “we have met the enemy and he is us” is attributed to popular United States characters from Abraham Lincoln, to Roosevelt and to the cartoon character, Pogo. This was repeated by the mirror image of Lupita Nyongo’s characters (Adelaide Wilson and the double, Red) who said in a strange foreign accent, “we are American”.

The film is a horror story with the moral that the greatest threat to the United States is literally, us. It is a fact that domestic terrorism kills more people in the US than foreign terrorists every year. For African Americans, the greatest threat is fellow African Americans and for white Americans, the greatest threat is fellow white Americans.  Women killed women and children killed children in “Us”’. There is evidence that people kill more of the people that they know or people who look like them than they kill total strangers or enemies. 

Exceptions to this criminological law of domestic terrorism as mass “homicide” is when white people travel thousands of miles to invade and conquer indigenous people and commit genocide against them to steal their land, labour and resources. But even then, they kill lots of fellow white people to decide which group would be the ones to claim ownership over new colonies and the wealth therein. The scramble for Africa was what led to both the first and the second imperialist world wars in which an estimated 80 million, mostly white people, were killed by people who looked like them, according to W.E.B. Du Bois.

The germinal idea of the movie is that everyone has a shadow that we tend to ignore while we have fun without realising that the shadow people are jealous of us and would like to come out of the shadows to enjoy the good things in life. The quotation of Jeremiah 11:11 may mislead many into thinking that the epidemic of violence in the world was brought by God who refuses to listen to cries for help because the people are wicked sinners. But as Ola Rotimi stated in his reinterpretation of Oedipus Rex during the genocidal war against Biafra in Nigeria, The Gods Are Not To Blame.

A father (Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson and the double Abraham) obsessed with winning fair-ground games, neglected to watch over his daughter who wandered off and found herself in an attraction spot that invited the visitor to “find yourself”. The distraction that digital games cause in families is imagined here. The young girl entered the house of mirrors and found her own double image who yearned to come out of the mirror and join her in the real world but she screamed and ran out of the place (or she was kidnapped by the mirror image and chained to a bed to enable her to steal the identity of the girl, a twist in the tale suggested towards the end, spoiler alert). 

The trauma made the girl unable to speak until a psychiatrist advised her parents to try arts therapy and ballet classes that she ended up enjoying with the invisible shadow. Now grown up with a middle-class family of her own, the woman (Lupita Nyongo) is persuaded by her rich husband to go back to the fair-ground beach for a family holiday and she reluctantly agrees.

Then she realises that she was not the only one with a living shadow, everyone is followed by a shadow that wishes to kill the original and replace them in the world with the simulacra shadow images.

The family is attacked in their holiday home by a family that looks exactly like them. “They are us”, they realised. In shock, they tried to run away but the shadow remained with them. They fled in their new boat to their white family friends for help when the police failed to answer their 911 calls. But they only found that the shadows of the white family had already murdered them while Alexa played “F*** the Police” by N.W.A. instead of calling the police as the frightened white woman had requested. The African American family that fled from their own house now fought back and killed the mass murderer white shadow clones that killed their white family friends. This is probably an allusion to the fact that people of African descent fought in the wars between European nations to save one group from being murdered by another group of white people. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Contributing to the discourse of gun control, the movie created a world without guns but the crude weapons of scissors and baseball bats, arson and spear wielded by the heroic family and the triumphant shadows dressed in red show that guns are not the only deadly weapons of mass destruction. 

The root cause of the violence, the movie suggested, is that while parents scream at their son for saying to his sister, “Kiss my a**”, the same parents were happy to invite the children to sing along to a song that glorified drugs addiction. The white family drank hard liquor as medicine but neither family ever sat down to nourish the body with food or sleep nor was there any schooling for the children. A teenage girl was congratulated by her parents for using a car as a weapon with which to kill another teenage girl that looked like her and her mother went to make sure that she was dead. Her brother set his own clone on fire by mere will power after watching his mother stab another woman to death. The father even boasted of killing himself. Something is terribly wrong with a society in which parents bragged with their children about who killed more people that looked like them.

The shadow attackers were forming a human chain by holding hands across the map of the United States, but holding hands represented division between humans and shadows instead of global unity. By dressing them in red, the film director may be suggesting that they represented a communist threat from a different world out there. In reality, the threat of the revenge of the mirror people is a home-grown threat, the film emphasises, though the guttural foreign accent of the mirror people feeds into xenophobia.

The film echoes the postmodern theory of Jean Baudrillard who imagined what it would feel like for the mirror images to take a revenge against the real world or what he called the revenge of the crystal. What if virtual reality murders reality and replaces everything with the simulacrum to such an extent that what matters is the difference between good and evil and not the distinction between real and fake? He concluded that the result would be a fatal strategy according to which:

… the human being can find a greater boredom in vacations than in everyday life—a boredom intensified because comprised of all the elements of happiness and distraction. The main point is the predestination of vacations to boredom, the bitter and triumphal presentiment of its inescapability. Do people really disavow their everyday life when they seek an alternative to it? 

On the contrary, they embrace it as their fate: they intensify it in appearances of the contrary, they immerse themselves in it to the point of ecstasy, and they confirm the monotony of it by an even greater monotony. If one doesn’t understand that, one understands nothing of this collective stupefaction, since it is a magnificent act of excess. I am not joking; people don’t want to be amused, they seek a fatal distraction.  – Jean Baudrillard, Fatal Strategies.

The hidden message of the film is that if we are our own worst enemies, then we could actually secure more peace by loving ourselves more. Instead of saying that sometimes you want to kill your husband just for fixing you a drink, how about saying thanks? Instead of grabbing a baseball bat to confront the mirror image at the driveway who are probably neighbours, why not try inviting them in for a drink? Peacemaking Criminology by Pepinsky and others suggests that we can choose to go down the path of peace and reject the path of war because war leads to more violence.

Once you know that the people attacking you are your mirror images, why not smile and say that the only way they could hurt you is if you hurt yourself because they are just mimic people. Unfortunately, the real world glamorises suicide and warfare more than loving acts of kindness and so there are no Love Institutes around the world where Military Schools are preferred. Love the enemy as yourself because sometimes you are your own worst enemy, implied Martin Luther King Jr., following the gospel of Jesus Christ.

*Doctor Biko Agozino teaches Sociology and African Studies at Virginia Technology University, United States of America. 

Cameroon: Moving Fast When There Are Short Windows of Opportunity

1

On 8 May 2019, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, after a 3-day mission to the Cameroon, welcomed the Cameroon government’s willingness to cooperate over finding workable solutions to what she called “major human rights and humanitarian crises” caused by months of serious unrest and violence across the southwest and north of the country.  She said “I believe that there is a clear – if possibly short – window of opportunity to arrest the crises that have led to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people as well as the killings and brutal human rights violations and abuses… It will take significant actions on the part of the Government and substantial and sustained support from the international community.”

 

There are two separate and not directly related crisis areas in Cameroon. One is a spillover of instability and conflict in Nigeria and the Central African Republic. Solutions will depend largely on what can be done in Nigeria concerning the Boko Haram issue and in the Central African Republic in creating a stable and inclusive government.  The second crisis area concerns the Anglophone area of Cameroon to the south and west on the frontier with Nigeria. This armed conflict depends on the ability of Cameroonese to find compromise forms of government, perhaps in a con-federal structure.

 

The Anglophone crisis has its making in the 1919 League of Nations Mandate period.  The German colony of Cameroon was divided under a League of Nations Mandate.  The largest and most populated part of the country was under a French mandate – France having the neighboring  colonies of Gabon, Congo and Oubangui-Chari, today the Central African Republic.   England ruled Nigeria and added a part of Cameroon as a mandate area until 1960 when the Cameroon became independent.  The British mandated area voted in a referendum to join with the rest of Cameroon but with a promise of administrative and cultural autonomy.  For roughly the first 20 years this administrative structure worked more or less well.  Overall development of the country was slow and often stagnant, but the Anglophone area did not feel more marginalized than any other part of the country.

In 1982, the current President Paul Biya was elected for the first time and has been constantly re-elected since, the last time in October 2018.  Biya, an ethnic Fang from the area on the frontier with Gabon has carried out a centralizing administrative policy under the slogan of “national unity”.  Taking over a key element of the French constitution, he has stressed that Cameroon is “one and indivisible”.  In practice, this has meant the increased power of the French-speakers within the administration and a growing sense of marginalization among the English-speaking.  Views in the Anglophone area were divided among those who promoted union with Nigeria, those who promoted the creation of a separate, independent State, and those who wanted to stay within the Cameroon but with greater autonomy, respect for cultural differences under some form of federal or con-federal structure.

 

The conflict came to a head in October 2016 when the Anglophone community felt that they were being flooded in their schools and law court jobs by French-speaking professionals.  Led by  the teachers and lawyers unions, there were strikes, boycotts of schools and courts, “dead village days” when all activity stopped.  As of October 2016, there started to be organized local armed militias and smaller armed groups.  There started to be attacks on persons holding opposed views as to the future of the area.

 

One year later n October 2017, wide-spread violence broke out and has continued to grow.  Military and police have been attacked who in return burned villages and killed people.  Many people left their homes for safer areas, some to Nigeria, others to elsewhere in Cameroon.

 

Those wishing the creation of a separate States have declared “independence” with the State taking the name of Ambazonia whose President is Julius Ayak Tabe.  The number of militias has grown.  There are at least 10 separatist groups.  It is impossible from outside to evaluate their membership, relative strength and policy demands.

 

There have been calls for moderation and offers of mediation by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Cameroon and by the African Union as well as by the United Kingdom and the USA.  President Biya has stated since 2016 that he is willing to engage in “constructive dialogue” but that he  was unwilling to talk to anyone who questions the “one and indivisible” nature of the State.  Thus there is no dialogue, constructive or otherwise, at the moment.

 

The “clear – if possibly short – window of opportunity ” seen by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights rests with those called “federalists” who propose a federal structure for the country somewhat along the Nigerian model.  The “federalists” are not armed, and it is impossible to know their strength.  Many people are afraid to speak out for fear of bing attacked.  As it is, there are many attacks to hold people for ransom.  Young women are taken as “sex slaves”.  Arms and money are coming in from Cameroonese living in Nigeria, although the Nigerian Government is not encouraging the separatist movement, at least not publicly. It seems that drugs are widely used among those fighting.

 

All this makes discussion on the administrative structure of the State difficult.  In practice, there is the long-lasting issue of how to move fast when there is a window of opportunity.  The Foreign Ministries of Governments are equipped to move fast and usually have lines of communication to the intelligence services and the military.  The Foreign Ministry usually also has contacts to “think tanks” and university research departments in its country. The problem is that for an issue such as the internal administrative structure of the Cameroon, most Foreign Ministries will turn a blind eye, having other problems on their mind.

 

The United Nations system has the intellectual resources for such an issue but dispersed.  There are people at UNESCO who follow educational policy and who may have followed the teachers’ strikes in 2016 which were an early sign of trouble.  The same holds true  for the ILO who may have been informed of the teachers’ trade union strike. There are people at FAO who follow agricultural development and who may have studied the relative agricultural development among French and English-speaking zones of the country.  There is, however, a difficulty for the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to draw on this knowledge in the U.N. system dispersed among Geneva, Paris, and Rome.

 

The Vatican may be kept well informed as the Roman Catholic Bishops have called for mediation.  However a good deal of the leadership in the Cameroon are Protestants and may not look kindly on Catholic leadership on the issue.

 

Thus, we need to look at non-governmental organization leadership for action on constitutional change in the country. There are a number of problems however.  One is a question of “legitimacy” – an international NGO with expertise may have no local member, and local NGOs may have external links, but these are not specialists on constitutional questions. Thus, while the Protestant churches in the Cameroon are members of the World Council of Churches, the World Council is not focused on governmental constitutional issues.

 

Expertise on the Cameroon is usually found in university departments but which have no direct links to NGOs.  Moreover, the university-based expertise on the Cameroon is mostly found in France but that is largely focused on the French-speaking part of the country.  The specialized knowledge on the English-speaking part of the Cameroon is mostly in the Nigerian universities and is relatively rare. How to pull together non-governmental capacity is even more difficult than from within the U.N. system.

 

However, as the High Commissioner stated, the time that the window is open may be short and needs to be acted upon quickly. The same issue holds true for other areas as well.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens

Africa’s Great Lakes Region and Nyiragongo’s curse

0

Dear Tingasiga;

How-to-get-to-Mount-Nyiragongo-750x450I am a child of the mountains, at once hopelessly enamoured by their beauty and intimidated by their silent, motionless and brooding majesty. It is a love affair that was ignited long before I knew what those big forested mounds that surrounded my childhood homes were called. I saw some great mountains before the umbilical cord fell off my belly button.

What I saw in those early days of my life is hidden in that misty period we call infancy. However, the memories from my early to late childhood overflow with beautiful images of journeys and other adventures up and down the mountains in various parts of Kigezi.

I have seen many beautiful mountains in different parts of the world. I have been awed by the grandeur and confidence of many mountain ranges. Some, like the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho, the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland and the Rocky Mountians of Western Canada are part of my identity as a sojourner in these foreign lands.However, Ibirunga (or Birunga), the Kinyarwanda word for the eight volcanic mountains of the Western Rift Valley, enjoy a special place of honour in my heart. (The Europeans, unable to distinguish the soft “b” from “v”, corrupted the word to “Virunga” and many Africans parroted the error.)

Numerous encounters with some of the Birunga have not dimmed my joy of beholding them, and of imagining the secrets they have kept for millennia, and the contempt in which they hold humanity.

Stand high up in the hills above Kisoro, and you will behold Muhabura (not Muhavura), the guide, scantily dressed, rather modern in her ways, staring down at a schizophrenic people, remembering the futile endeavours of those who have come before our more recent self-absorbed generations. Muhabura, perhaps the most majestic of the eight, knows who has killed who, who has stolen what and who is deceiving whom. But like all great monarchs, she lets things pass, maintaining a silence of experience, confident that this too shall pass, a small footnote in the long story of humanity.

Next is Gahinga – short, forested, almost missable in her location between the giant Muhabura and the menacing Sabyinyo, yet better know than most Ibirunga because of her famous national park that bears her name. Years ago, Gahinga’s forests were home to elephants and buffaloes. Then there is Sabyinyo, the meeting point of the frontiers of the European invaders who haphazardly fashioned countries out of nearly incompatible communities. It is easily my favourite mountain in the range. She appears shy, covered by dense forest, permanently baring her five teeth, threatening and ready to bite the fool who dares her.

Sabyinyo, along with Muhabura and Gahinga, form the traditional Group One of Ibirunga.
Group Two consists of Bisoke (Bishokye), Karisimbi and Mikeno (Mikyeno). Bisoke, with its truncated cone that houses the largest crater lake in the range, is one we treat with great care. She is an active volcano, though on sabbatical, lulling our short-sighted species into mistaking her silence since her last eruption in 1957 to be a sign of retirement. Karisimbi, the tallest of the eight is nearly always “snow-covered.” This elegant “place of amasimbi” (white shell) is unique for not having a crater. Its “snow” is said to be an accumulation of hailstones that the mountain frequently captures from the heavens.

Mikeno (Mikyeno), whose name has a rather unflattering reference to poverty or curses in Rukiga (and perhaps the other languages in the area), is distinguished by its denuded top that resembles a sharp indented tooth. She and Sabyinyo are reported to be the oldest Birunga, perhaps two million years old.

Group Three consists of the youth league in the group – Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira – which came into being only 20,000 years ago. These two are young and fearsome, highly active in their Volvanic Power Movement, and capable of putting on spectacular displays of devastating eruptions that leave death and destruction in their wake.

Nyamuragira, reputed to be Africa’s most active volcano, has belched its tongues of fire more than forty times in the last 130 years. Her most recent display of fiery power in November 2011 was said to have been its largest eruption in more than 100 years.

Nyiragongo, with her triple cone and thick forests, is perhaps the most dangerous in the range. She is literally located on the outskirts of Goma in the Congo Free State. Her recent eruptions have been spectacularly deadly, with more expected in the years ahead.

Her anger is explained by a story that invites us to rethink our foolish ways. Legend has it that Gongo, a demon that once inhabited Ibirunga, decapitated his mother and threw her head into Lake Kivu. Nyiragongo, the headless mother of Gongo, has since periodically belched fire to demonstrate her rage and will not stop until she is reunited with her head.

People who know these things tell us that Nyiragongo’s Curse is not limited to periodic volcanic eruptions of the two youthful mountains. They say that the consequences of her Curse include the political lava beds upon which the celebrated economic achievements of some of the countries in her neighbourhood are built.

Nyiragongo is a headless woman mourning the loss of hope for her children – hundreds of millions of them – who are held hostage by rulers that continue to decapitate their people’s rights and freedoms and the robberies by self-styled pastors who are sucking the last bit of marrow from their hapless worshippers.

The volcanic eruptions of Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo may well go into retirement like their six older sisters. However, as long some of the rulers and their courtiers in the Great Lakes Region continue in the tradition of Gongo – changing constitutions for personal gain; igniting wars and chaos because of private arguments; robbing their impoverished people and sharing the loot with men and women from other continents; and turning their lands into armed camps of intolerant militias – the political and social eruptions will keep sweeping all in their wake.

Meanwhile, the eight volcanoes with keep their eyes focused on a region they inhabited many centuries before we were born. Our foolish pride in our mortal skins will continue to be a source of amusement for these beautiful mountains.

muniini@mulerasfireplace.com

 

Our challenge is poor leadership not finance! Sudan protesters ask Saudi Arabia, UAE to keep their money

1

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Sudanese protesters have called on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to keep their money a day after Riyadh and Abu Dhabi offered to send Khartoum $3bn aid.

Aljazeera reports that Hours after the oil-rich Gulf states made the announcement on Sunday, April 21, demonstrators at the sit-in outside Sudan’s military headquarters in the capital started chanting: “We don’t want Saudi support.”

“They are lobbying and using money to try and control Sudan. We have enough resources to look after ourselves and our interests,” Adil Gasem Alseed, a trader said on Monday.

“We can rebuild our country without their help. We say thank you, please keep your money,” the 52-year-old said.

Other protesters said Sudan needed good leadership and not foreign aid.

“We have the resources. With good leadership, we can look after our country,” Hanan Alsadiq, a university student, told Al Jazeera.

“The timing of their aid says a lot about their intentions. Why did they wait until now? Why did they not call on Omar al-Bashir to stop when he was killing our people. Their money will only create problems for us,” said Alsadiq, who was born in Saudi Arabia.

The military removed al-Bashir earlier this month after months of anti-government protests during which dozens of people were killed.

The two Gulf countries, in a joint statement, said $500m would be deposited in Sudan’s central bank to “ease the pressure on the Sudanese pound and achieve more stability in the exchange rate”.

The rest of the aid money will be sent in the form of food, medicines and fuel derivatives, the statement added.

 

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE president together with Saudi Arabia had offered $3b assistance to Sudan. (PHOTO/FILE)

 

Many demonstrators at the sit-in said they suspected the two countries of trying to influence the ruling military transitional council with the aid.

Sudan’s head of the transitional military council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, was the head of the country’s ground troops when Khartoum sent its soldiers to Yemen as part of a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels.

Economists say Sudan needs all the financial aid it can get to improve its economic situation.

“Sudan is in need of such assistance and loans to fill the gap in trade imbalance. It needs financial support to fill the areas of insufficiency in its annual budget,” Muhammad Aljak, an economics professor at Khartoum University, told Al Jazeera.

“It is too early to judge whether this assistance is being given with some political conditions or big concessions from the military council. Sudan needs this money and it needs to use it properly,” Aljak added.

A country of more than 40 million people, Sudan has been suffering from a deepening economic crisis that has caused cash shortages and long queues at bakeries and petrol stations.

Demonstrators first took to the streets in December last year following a hike in the price of bread, a staple food in the northeast African country.

The unpopular economic move caused widespread anger.

The country was until recently under crippling US sanctions which lasted two decades and were lifted in October 2017.

Asylum for sale: Male refugees victimized by sexual violence say officials wanted bribes to help

0

Male refugees said sexual assault forced them to flee their homes in hopes they could find peace, but they became victims of corruption instead.

Image: A refugee cycles past a sign pointing to the office of one of UNHCR's implementing partners in Nakivale refugee settlement.

A sign points to the office of one of the UNHCR’s implementing partners in the Nakivale refugee settlement.Sally Hayden

appeared on the net on April 8, 2019, 10:01

By Sally Hayden


This is the third story in a three-part series about alleged corruption in refugee resettlement. Click here to read the first story and here to read the second story.

NAKIVALE, Uganda — Mamadou remembers the harsh lights. He had been captured by the security forces in his home country and taken to a room in a police station he described as a “container,” then moved to a prison.

Once there, men in uniforms beat him, before tying and squeezing his genitals and raping him, he said. He believes some were police, and some military intelligence.

“I have been tortured physically, psychologically, and gang-raped.”

Years later, Mamadou has found uncertain refuge in the Nakivale refugee settlement, a sprawling green expanse in southwest Uganda.

His experiences left him emotionally fragile, and he suffers from high blood pressure. “I am not really strong,” he said.

Though he has begun to move from “victim to survivor of sexual violence,” Mamadou also said he quickly realized the refugee settlement he moved to was far from the safe haven he had imagined.

Instead, he says he soon became the victim of another type of abuse rampant in refugee camps: corruption.

Mamadou, whose name has been changed and country of origin left out because of security fears, was among almost 20 people in the Nakivale refugee settlement interviewed for this investigation who said refugees are exploited by officials demanding bribes for everything from collecting food rations (5,000 Ugandan shillings, or $1.30), to medical referrals ($5-$13), to police referrals ($5-$80, depending on the incident).

Asylum for sale- Male refugees victimized by sexual violence say officials wanted bribes to help 22-4-2019 18-45-54

Most expensive, they said, is resettlement to another country, usually in the West, through the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. It can cost 1 million to 3.5 million Ugandan shillings ($268-$938) for a person, $5,000 for a family — money that refugees believe is shared among certain UNHCR staff and brokers, who may be aid workers for other organizations or members of the refugee community.

What happened to Mamadou and other sexual assault survivors in the Nakivale campshows how the most vulnerable migrants can be exploited and preyed upon again in refugee camps, afraid to speak out for fear of losing access to services, with nowhere left to turn.

Through drawings and coded phrases, other men who had survived sexual violence also started sharing their stories of brutality, torture and humiliation that forced them to flee their homes and come to this sprawling, but isolated, Ugandan refugee camp of more than 100,000 people.

A widely used tactic

It is not clear how many male refugees worldwide have been victims of sexual violence, though experts say the numbers are certainly high. Stigma and a lack of support often stop men from reporting what they have been through. A recent report by the Women’s Refugee Commission listed sexual violence as a reason males leave their home countries to try and reach Europe, and found it was also “commonplace” against boys and men along smuggling routes in North Africa.

“For those men who are fleeing conflicts and who have also been detained in connection with those conflicts, we see a high prevalence,” said Karen Naimer, the director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones for the U.S.-based non-profit Physicians for Human Rights, which documents rights abuses around the world.

Sexual violence is a form of torture meant to humiliate, as well as to destroy individuals and communities, she said. “In the context of detention, it’s certainly a tactic that’s used widely with respect to men… This is a tool that’s used really widely around the world.”

Naimer said if a victim doesn’t get proper support the trauma can last a lifetime, causing depression and affecting sexual health. “There are enormous impacts that men experience after having endured sexual violence. It can impact their ability to sleep,” she said, “their ability to have meaningful relationships.”

In Nakivale, Mamadou did find a kind of healing. It took him a long time to begin to speak about the sexual violence he had been through, but when he did, he found he was not alone.

In 2013, Mamadou banded together with other survivors of sexual violence to form Men of Peace. The organization’s name symbolized the future they were hoping for. It brought together more than five dozen refugees who had escaped war, brutal abuse and torture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and other countries in the region.

Though most of the group’s members did not identify as gay, the organization also formed against the backdrop of Uganda’s infamous anti-homosexuality bill, then being debated in Parliament. Police and government officials did not understand the difference between gay people and male sexual violence survivors, several Men of Peace members said, and they were badly stigmatized because of it.

“Still now, there is a confusion between you and the gay community,” said Mamadou, adding people don’t realize that men can be rape victims, too. “What happened to females is already known everywhere, but we are trying to break the silence.”

The men gathered to support one another in dealing with recurring trauma and discrimination in their communities, which was exacerbated by the debate inside the country. Some were taunted and called girls’ names; others said neighbors ostracized them completely.

Together, they planned to campaign for counseling, legal protection and medical care. First, members say they asked government employees in the Office of the Prime Minister, which works with refugees, for help in finding an office. Several said they were asked to pay a bribe of 1 million Ugandan shillings ($268) in exchange, which they couldn’t afford. When asked about corruption in the camp during an interview in October, the office’s assistant commander, Bruno Asiim, denied it is a problem. Asiim didn’t respond to further requests for comment.

Men of Peace members then say they approached the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) for support. They say the agency’s protection officer, Henry Bataringaya, was assigned to help them.

According to seven people aware of events at the time, Bataringaya quickly began demanding money, which he claimed would help the group’s members to win resettlement. The men were clearly vulnerable and had a good chance of being accepted — with his support, they quoted Bataringaya as saying.

Bataringaya denies these claims.

All the members of Men of Peace interviewed for this investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said they have experienced corruption repeatedly in Nakivale. One said he had to pay 100,000 Ugandan shillings ($27) to the hospital for a document acknowledging he had been tortured, and $81 for a police report after he was attacked in the settlement. Another said he had to pay government employees $81 to begin receiving food rations.

Image: Men drink beer and spirits in a bar in Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda.

— Men drink beer and spirits in a bar in the Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda. More than 100,000 refugees live in Nakivale, according to the Ugandan government.Sally Hayden

For poor refugees desperate to escape a life of subsistence and exploitation, resettlement is seen as a holy grail, though some say it’s an expensive one. Described as a “life-changing experience” by the UNHCR, resettlement is an opportunity to start a new life in another country, usually in the West, that only around 1 percent of the world’s refugees ever benefit from.

Those chosen should be those most in need, said Kay Bellor, the vice president for programs at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, one of nine organizations that helps refugees coming to the U.S. She said there’s not one specific characteristic or experience that makes people vulnerable: those who qualify could be single mothers or sexual violence survivors, or from a range of other backgrounds. Before the Trump administration began drastically reducing the country’s intake, Bellor said the U.S. had a long history of taking in vulnerable refugees.

Refugees who resettle, Bellor said, “enjoy permanent protection from forced return to the country where they were persecuted.”

“Their children are safe and they are able to go to school,” she said. “They are able to rebuild shattered lives.”

Most cases are referred to U.S. authorities by the UNHCR before they go through a separate screening process.

“If UNHCR determines that they’re a refugee and determines that they need resettlement, then we might get that case,” Bellor said.

For refugees in the five countries examined in this investigation, though — Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Libya and Yemen — resettlement can be tainted by corruption. Interviewees described certain local UNHCR staff as eager to exploit people desperate for a new start, away from countries where they still fear danger, instability and a crushing lack of opportunity. This follows similar claims by refugees in Sudan last year.

In on-the ground interviews in Nakivale, 13 refugees said they had been asked for money or paid money to UNHCR staff, brokers, government officials or staff from UNHCR-associated aid agencies.

One survivor described bribes demanded during resettlement as an integral part of the economy for local aid workers. “That’s the market for corruption,” a member of Men of Peace said. “That’s the food here.”

And other needs suffer, they say. While pressuring the group to hand over bribes, Bataringaya failed to assist them with separate, more modest, aims, according to multiple Men of Peace members who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. Initially, they said, he asked for 2 million Ugandan shillings ($536) from each member for resettlement, eventually lowering the figure to 1 million ($268). As sexual violence survivors, he said, they had a good chance of being accepted by another country because their situation was so precarious in Uganda.

“We are very poor and couldn’t get that money,” one Congolese victim remembered.

Image: A woman sits outside UNHCR's office in Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda.

— The UNHCR’s office in the Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda.Sally Hayden

Reached through his UNHCR email, and then on the phone, Bataringaya says he was questioned about these allegations before, but his name was cleared last year by the UNHCR’s internal investigative body, the Inspector General’s Office (IGO). He wouldn’t give more information, directing me to speak to the IGO directly for more information. “The IGO knows my situation,” he said.

The IGO declined to comment.

Like other refugees interviewed for this series, the sexual violence survivors in Nakivale reported the corruption they came up against to the UNHCR, but said they only suffered more afterward. The UNHCR’s Inspector General’s Office lacks the independence, local knowledge and desire to properly investigate, according to former and current UNHCR staff and two former U.N. investigators. Dozens of refugees across five countries, interviewed as part of this investigation, say the IGO has tended to clear allegedly corrupt officials rather than supporting refugees who are victims of them.

UNHCR spokesperson Cecile Pouilly denied this, saying, “Every report or allegation of fraud, corruption or retaliation against refugees by UNHCR personnel or those working for our partners is thoroughly assessed and, if substantiated, results in disciplinary sanctions, including summary dismissal from the organization.”

“In 2018 the IGO concluded 144 investigations,” Pouilly said. “Some 49 percent of these were substantiated, compared to 35 percent in 2015. We believe this increased substantiation rate reflects UNHCR’s efforts to professionalize and strengthen its investigative function.”

Asylum for sale- Male refugees victimized by sexual violence say officials wanted bribes to help 22-4-2019 18-38-38

Pouilly also said that sexual violence “is an issue of major concern to UNHCR and unfortunately a terrible reality for many refugees, both male and female survivors.”

“UNHCR regularly refers survivors of sexual violence to resettlement, and this is one of the elements that are taken into account when assessing the vulnerability of individual refugees,” she said. “However we also work hard, and in close cooperation with partners, to ensure that a range of services are made available, including medical and psychological support, and other appropriate responses, to survivors wherever they are.”

In 2015, members of Men of Peace say they took a chance, trekking to the UNHCR office in the town of Mbarara, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, to report the shakedowns, so Bataringaya wouldn’t spot them. They said that rather than acting on their complaints, UNHCR officials referred them back to Nakivale. Next, the men say they complained to Pietro Fossati, UNHCR’s head of resettlement in Nakivale at the time. All that happened, according to seven testimonies, is that Bataringaya was pulled from working with Men of Peace, though he remains a UNHCR staff member. Afterward, they say his colleague Peter Ssenteza made a telephone call to a member of the group, demanding, “Why do you want to get resettlement for free?”

When asked about claims against Bataringaya, UNHCR spokesperson Cecile Pouilly said the agency can’t comment on individual staff members.

Ssenteza denies making any such call, and said any refugee can complain at any time to the IGO if they have a problem. “Fraud couldn’t go undetected for even one day,” he said, adding that refugees try to break down staff who are strict about rules by making allegations against them. Ssenteza said staff should have a right to take legal action against any refugee who defames him. He wouldn’t confirm whether the IGO has ever investigated him.

In 2016, an investigation was carried out in Nakivale, following complaints from other refugees. A team of IGO investigators from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva visited in November that year. They were headed by Coralie Colson, whose LinkedIn profile says she’s been employed as a senior investigations specialist by UNHCR since 2013.

Shortly before the scheduled interview, Men of Peace members said one of them received a call from a local UNHCR staff member, who knew about the upcoming IGO interviews, even though the investigation was supposed to be confidential. This made them apprehensive.

Image: A refugee walks under a UNHCR awning in Dadaab.

–A refugee in Kenya’s Dadaab camp.Sally Hayden

The group sent a representative to speak to Colson on behalf of them all, disclosing what they had been through fully for the first time. Colson promised she would help, but nothing happened, they say. One year later, witnesses were told by email that the investigation was being closed with no further action.

“Now if we write to the Geneva office they don’t reply,” one man said.

When contacted for comment, Colson forwarded my email to Henrik Malmquist, the head of the IGO’s investigation service.

Malmquist said the description of how complaints by the Men of Peace had been handled “makes me very concerned,” and asked that information be shared with him confidentially “without compromising your sources.”

Said Malmquist, “We are all professional investigators with solid backgrounds from law enforcement, military, or other international organizations and are well placed to handle the most sensitive information.”

Despite Malmquist’s saying the IGO was completely independent, he also referred the query to Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR global spokesperson, who responded, saying the IGO team who visited Nakivale had found “suspected interference with witnesses, including possible coaching of them,” which “meant the allegations could not be substantiated and the case had to be closed.”

Meanwhile, the Men of Peace say they feel more at risk than ever, afraid to speak out and equally afraid of staying quiet and suffering.

“Since then, there are problems — I don’t sleep at home, I change places all the time,” a Congolese refugee said, as another explained he never takes the same route home for fear of being attacked by other refugees who resent them for speaking out. He believes the UNHCR would not step in to help the men if something did happen.

“Maybe UNHCR just wants us to die so the problem is over,” he said. “Only God is protecting us.”

This report was produced in collaboration with 100Reporters, a nonprofit investigative news organization, and Journalists for Transparency, an initiative hosted by the International Anti-Corruption Conference Series and Transparency International.



———————————————-


Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden is a freelance journalist focused on migration, conflict and humanitarian crises.

WORLD Asylum for sale: Whistleblowers say U.N. refugee agency does not always address corruption

0

seven-month investigation found reports of U.N. staff members exploiting refugees desperate for a safe home in a new country.

Image: Gratien Zimy Ntezimisi, a refugee whistleblower, standing outside UNHCR's headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, in January 2019.

Gratien Zimy Ntezimisi, a refugee whistleblower, outside UNHCR’s headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, in January.Sally Hayden

April 7, 2019, 1:00 PM GMT+2

By Sally Hayden

This is the second story in a three-part series about alleged corruption in refugee resettlement. Click here to read the first story.

NAKIVALE, Uganda — Gratien Zimy Ntezimisi lives in a shelter as sturdy as a small castle. He says there’s a good reason he lives behind cement walls and an iron door with a heavy lock.

On some nights, he says, unseen figures attack his home. They throw stones that clatter on his metal roof and push and ram his door.

“They try and force the door to see is there a way for them to enter, fight and maybe kill me,” he said. “When they fail, they vandalize the compound, my trees, my vegetables.”

Even in daylight, the 41-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo feels like a pariah. He says his neighbors in this 71-square-mile refugee camp near the Tanzanian border are reluctant to help him report problems to the police, or even to greet him.

“I am surrounded by neighbors, but when such things happen to my home, not one of my neighbors have come to me to say they saw something.”

Ntezimisi says the trouble started three years ago when he reported corruption involving police and staff members of the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, to the agency directly.

He had been working as an interpreter with an organization contracted by the U.S. government, sitting in on interviews with refugees who were about to be resettled in the States — a job that made him well-known in the settlement. Refugees began to approach him, confiding similar stories, about UNHCR staff members and suspected brokers asking them to pay to start a new life in the West.

“You keep on hearing the same story from different people on a regular basis,” he said in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, in July 2018 in the first of many interviews. Ntezimisi had traveled nearly 190 miles overnight to meet this reporter because he said he was desperate to publicize what was happening.

As part of his interpreting job, Ntezimisi had been trained in tackling fraud and corruption. All over Nakivale, as in many other refugee camps around the world, anti-corruption posters are ubiquitous, informing refugees that services are free and wrongdoing should be reported to the UNHCR. So Ntezimisi decided to do just that.

On May 31, 2016, Ntezimisi traveled to the UNHCR’s headquarters in Kampala with a report he had taken two months to compile, full of specific information about instances in which refugees were asked for money. It named the offenders, the victims and the amounts, all carefully typed. The report implicated UNHCR staff, the police, other aid organizations and government employees.

“It should be noticed that the people mentioned in this current fraud report is just the tip of the iceberg,” he wrote in the document. “The problem is so massive that a poor refugee without any resources could hardly pretend to be able to uncover the whole scam network in its entirety.”

Posters and promises aside, Ntezimisi was unprepared for what happened next. While the UNHCR instituted a formal investigation, the interpreter says he saw nothing change, and instead became the target of ongoing retaliation for speaking up.

His experience was hardly unusual. In a seven-month investigation across five countries with significant refugee populations, more than 50 refugees, current and former UNHCR staff members and former U.N. investigators accused the UNHCR of failing to adequately address corruption allegations, failing to protect refugee whistleblowers, and “whitewashing” investigations so as not to lose support from donors. This follows similar claims by refugees in Sudan last year.

Refugee whistleblowers in Kenya, Uganda and Yemen accuse the UNHCR of encouraging them to report allegations, but then failing to properly protect them when they do. (Only refugees who explicitly agreed to be named are identified; all others are kept anonymous because of the risk to their safety.)

Retaliation allegedly suffered by refugees who speak out has included physical violence, withholding of food rations, changes in their refugee status, being blocked from receiving UNHCR assistance, death threats and arrest.

Refugees interviewed in Kenya, Yemen and Uganda accuse UNHCR staff of calling the police on them after they protested against corruption, resulting at times in arrest or assault. Refugees in Uganda reported spending days in a police cell, while Sudanese refugees in Libya accused UNHCR staff of assaulting them after they tried to protest corruption in Tripoli late last year.

Though the UNHCR can and does launch fraud investigations through its internal Inspector General’s Office (IGO), victims, staff, former U.N. investigators and lawyers say that the IGO lacks the mandate to protect refugee witnesses.

Image: A sign and comment box tells refugees to report sexual exploitation and abuse in the Kakuma refugee camp.

A sign and comment box tells refugees to report sexual exploitation and abuse in the Kakuma refugee camp.Sally Hayden

Former UNHCR and U.N. investigators, as well as others with experience of U.N. processes, also argue that diplomatic immunity allows U.N. staff to exploit refugees without fear of punishment. “There has been a bit of movement but it’s moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. You’ll never get accountability with them policing themselves,” said Edward Flaherty, a Geneva-based lawyer who’s worked on U.N.-related cases for two decades.

“The U.N. fiddles around the edges, they issue new policies, [but] the immunity and impunity remains. The lack of accountability remains. … It’s amazing that [corruption] is still being revealed, because the U.N. crushes whistleblowers.”

In an emailed response to written questions, the UNHCR said immunity is given “in the interest of the organization, not for the personal benefit of staff.”

“UNHCR cooperates in the administration of justice. Where a matter has been referred to national authorities for criminal accountability, waivers of immunity are facilitated through United Nations Headquarters in New York,” UNHCR spokesperson Cecile Pouilly said.

In the past, the UNHCR has pointed at its lack of witness protection. “Lessons learned from key investigations,” as listed in a March 2018 overview of the IGO’s work, included that “the support that UNHCR can provide to witnesses who face security risks when they are involved in investigations is limited” and “the primary responsibility for witness protection lies with the host state.”

Speaking in an interview at the United Nations General Assembly last September, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements said, “We’re a humanitarian agency. We’re not a law enforcement agency. … So there are limits to what we can do. … We often will rely on national authorities or local law enforcement authorities to help us.”

Pouilly said the agency recognizes it has a responsibility to protect those who come forward and cooperate with investigations. “While bearing in mind the primary responsibility of the host state in ensuring the physical security of refugees within its territory,” she said, “UNHCR has devoted significant attention to strengthening measures to protect witnesses and persons of concern who cooperate with an IGO investigation, and these efforts are continuing.”

“Taking into account good practice in international and national investigations,” she said, “the IGO takes steps to mitigate risks to witnesses during the investigation phase, including in the conduct of interviews, the anonymization of testimony and redaction of investigation findings and reports.” She added that the IGO can request additional help for witnesses on a case-by-case basis, including organizing a security assessment, providing counseling, financial and legal support, and relocating refugees either within the country they’re in, or resettling them to another country.”

‘MAINTAIN A LOW PROFILE’

In two and a half years of communication between Ntezimisi and the UNHCR reviewed by this reporter, his pleas grew more and more desperate, as he transformed from moral whistleblower to hunted victim: refused food rations, intimidated by police and locked for days in a cell after he says the UNHCR called security on him.

“Every time I’m in Nakivale I get threats, so I go to Kampala or Mbarara and report to UNHCR,” he said, referring to a local town. “They always take me back with the police.”

He added, “Reporting is basically a way for me to say I’m suffering. If I keep quiet, no one will know that I’m undergoing such mistreatment.”

In one November 2017 incident documented through emails, the UNHCR asked Ntezimisi to visit Ugandan police for what they called a “discussion” about his safety. Instead, he says, he was met by nine police officers, who first told him to finger the police involved in corruption and then threatened him, accusing him of damaging the name of the police force and the government.

On Nov. 24, 2017, Ntezimisi wrote to a UNHCR field officer, Henok Ochalla, telling him what happened and asking, “Is it logic[al] for me to rely on the Office of the Prime Minister and police for my physical protection?”

“Worse than all these,” he added, “is the UNHCR position, which is thinking that I am forging all these complaints of insecurity [to get] resettlement.”

Responding, Ochalla said he was “totally convinced” the meeting should have been about how to protect Ntezimisi, and said he would seek clarification, while advising Ntezimisi to “maintain [a] low profile.” However, Ntezimisi says he still never received any direct protection.

Earlier in 2017, Ntezimisi says, his name disappeared from the list of refugees allowed to receive food rations in his area. Ugandan officials then reissued Ntezimisi’s food ration card, he says, but it was a card he could only use in a remote village, meaning he could not collect his monthly allocation of food.

Image: Women gather to sit and chat in Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda. More than 100,000 refugees live there, according to the Ugandan government.

Women gather in the Nakivale refugee settlement in southwest Uganda. More than 100,000 refugees live there, according to the Ugandan government.Sally Hayden

He wrote again to the UNHCR’s Nakivale office in August 2018, saying he had gone 16 months without food aid “as punishment for reporting the fraud.” In response, UNHCR staff member Ghulam Nabi Seddiqi wrote, “I am sorry that the challenge could not be addressed. I will once again talk to concerned actors for advocacy purposes.”

“I have become a beggar to find a meal,” Ntezimisi messaged this reporter, sick with typhoid and going days without food. “That’s how I live, asking friends [for charity] for two years now.”

Asked about Ntezimisi’s case, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said help was offered and refused. However, Ntezimisi says the only offer was to move him to another Ugandan refugee settlement, where he would still be at risk, because accused UNHCR employees move between settlements regularly.

The Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister did not respond to requests for comment.

Last June, Ntezimisi traveled back to the UNHCR Kampala office with five other witnesses of corruption to request protection again, but says the agency offered none. The refugees ended up sitting in front of a UNHCR vehicle in protest, refusing to move until someone helped them. In response, Ntezimisi and other participants say the UNHCR called the police, who hauled them away.

“We spent three days, three nights in the police station here in Kampala,” Ntezimisi said. His account was confirmed by another refugee who was with him.

“We requested them to temporarily find a solution,” Ntezimisi said. “Either rent a house here, identify who within our group [is] at the most high-risk level, put [us] in the house while [we] are waiting for a durable solution, either resettlement or other means.”

“They said no,” Ntezimisi said. Instead, “They started to intimidate us.”

Back when he first reported corruption, Ntezimisi says he had faith that something might come of his complaints. In November 2016, he testified to representatives from the UNHCR Inspector General’s Office, who came from Geneva to look into the allegations, telling them of both the exploitation he had heard about and of the pressure he had been put under since disclosing it.

Image: A wholesaler in the Kakuma refugee camp.

A wholesaler in the Kakuma refugee camp. More than 185,000 refugees from countries including Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and South Sudan live in the camp.Sally Hayden

On Dec. 12, 2017, Ntezimisi received an email from Coralie Colson of the IGO, who had also interviewed other refugees in Nakivale.

“As promised, I am getting back to you with respect to the allegations you have made against UNHCR staff,” she wrote. “The Inspector General’s Office has now concluded its investigation and has decided to close the case. This email hereby informs you of the IGO’s decision.”

He was given no explanation. “I think the reason Geneva concluded that nothing wrong was found is that the more the UNHCR name is clean, the more they will get funding and the benefit they get from that,” Ntezimisi said. He was upset, he said, but not surprised.

Questions emailed to Colson were responded to by Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR global spokesperson. Edwards said the probe was dropped because of “suspected interference with witnesses including possible coaching of them.” He did not confirm who may have interfered with the investigation, though he said Ntezimisi was the “main complainant.”

When asked about this, other refugees who gave evidence during the investigation said they didn’t even know Ntezimisi, but interference did happen after a local UNHCR staff member was given details of Colson’s interviews and called refugees to intimidate them in advance.

THE SUCCESS STORY THAT WASN’T

At the same time Ntezimisi made his initial report about corruption, the UNHCR was enthusiastically promoting Uganda as one of the best places in the world to be a refugee. Spokespeople praised the country as a “model example,” citing Kampala’s policy of giving refugees a plot of land and rights that included freedom of movement. Media coverage in major outlets such as the Guardian, BBC, The New York Times and Der Spiegel from 2014 to 2018 lauded Uganda as a rare positive refugee story.

Alongside the publicity came pushes for more funding from donor countries. In 2017, Uganda and the UNHCR jointly announced they were looking for $8 billion to provide for South Sudanese refugees who were fleeing the civil war at home.

Image: A poster on the wall of UNHCR's headquarters in the Kakuma refugee camp warns refugees not to bribe and to report fraud instead.

A poster in UNHCR’s headquarters in the Kakuma refugee camp warns refugees not to bribe and to report fraud instead.Sally Hayden

 

Ntezimisi and a dozen other refugees in Nakivale said they felt vindicated in February 2018 when corruption in Ugandan refugee camps at long last made headlines. In October 2018, the Ugandan government admitted refugee figures had been exaggerated by at least 300,000 in order to attract more international funding, while the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) ruled in a damning audit in November that the UNHCR in Uganda critically mismanaged donor funds in multiple cases. The Ugandan government suspended officials for inflating figures and mismanaging funds.

Over the past year, Ntezimisi says, UNHCR staff members in Nakivale have stopped denying corruption exists. Instead, they have begun to accuse him of “taking advantage” of the fraud to get resettlement.

NO PROTECTION

Like most refugee camps, Nakivale is extremely remote. To reach it from Kampala takes six hours on a cramped bus, followed by nearly an hour in a taxi over bumpy, muddy roads. Many refugees never leave this isolated expanse of countryside. They live on the bare minimum. Some have waited 10 or 20 years to see if peace might come to their homelands, and they are desperate to escape.

Ntezimisi’s plight has served as a warning to others tempted to complain openly of corruption.

“It’s not the first time we spoke about this. We get repressed. Our files get blocked,” another Congolese refugee there warned. “The U.N. does not have any protection mechanism for whistleblowers. We’ll tell you things, but we have no guarantee.”

Among UNHCR staff, dissatisfaction about the lack of progress in tackling corruption is not uncommon. Staff say the IGO is both too far removed from the reality on the ground and not adequately independent to carry out its function.

A current UNHCR resettlement staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described instead subtly trying to investigate other colleagues’ work, despite a lack of authority to do so. The staff member said suspicions surround certain employees, but only the Geneva-based IGO has the authority to investigate them. Local management, with better knowledge of the specific circumstances, tends to brush aside allegations, the staffer said.

Much of the problem, the staffer said, stems from a disconnect between international employees and the refugees they are ostensibly there to serve. Complaints may not be believed or even heard. “There’s definitely a culture of not wanting to be seen talking to a refugee, and in a way not treating a refugee as a person. You don’t want to be seen to be overly friendly to a refugee.”

Keeping one’s distance could be judged as fair, an effort to avoid favoritism, “but there’s a negative,” the staffer said.”You’re not seeing them as humans or taking them at face value.”

Still, the staff member wanted to remain anonymous. “I have a grand plan of fixing the problem from the inside out, however idealistic and unrealistic that is. Resettlement is a lifesaver for very few, so it really upsets me when the process is corrupted.”

According to U.N. figures, the Inspector General’s Office concluded 144 investigations in 2018, of which 49 percent were substantiated. In a year from 2017 to 2018, an IGO report said 897 complaints were received relating to misconduct, of which nearly half involved some kind of fraud.

“In 2018, additional investigators were recruited and some stationed in Nairobi, Pretoria and Bangkok enabling them to be deployed rapidly and to have a better understanding of local contexts and issues,” the U.N.’s Pouilly said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In total, 10 staff members were dismissed on grounds of corruption from 2017 to 2018, she added. However, critics say, without systemic overhaul, a few dismissals do little to change a culture of exploitation.

“It fits a pattern and is what I’d describe as commensurate with the culture of the U.N. in general,” Peter Gallo, another former U.N. investigator, said referring to drawn-out investigations with limited conclusions.

“The U.N. will always be happy with a result that has a lot of activity and ends with no result,” Gallo said.

A former UNHCR staff member, who quit after participating in an IGO investigation that came to nothing said that was the U.N.’s “typical strategy of covering up, containing damage.”

“It is really a headache for me when people pay less attention to human lives and care more about polished reports for donors and PR propaganda,” the ex-staff member said. “Bunch of liars.”

UNHCR guidance for employees emphasizes the importance of maintaining the image of an honorable organization. In a “brand book” released in April 2016, the UNHCR said all staff communications with the media, partner organizations, governments and refugees should convey “the attributes that audiences universally say are most likely to make them want to support a humanitarian organization,” including “can be trusted.”

When asked whether the UNHCR is whitewashing wrongdoing by staff to protect its public image, UNHCR spokesperson Pouilly responded: “We wish to stress that eradicating any misconduct from our organization is a key priority for UNHCR and we have extensively communicated on these issues, both internally and externally.

“As you know, our programs are only partially funded, which has a real impact on the lives of millions of refugees around the globe. Without additional financial support, we will not be in a position to offer to refugees the protection and assistance they desperately need.”

DEATH THREATS

In 2016, an IGO investigation was launched in Kakuma refugee camp, northwest Kenya, as a result of what refugees described as a rare anti-corruption campaign by a senior international UNHCR staff member, Inge De Langhe. More than 20 refugees interviewed there last October for this report said corruption had been a problem as long as they could remember.

Within months, though, De Langhe was forced to leave the camp as a result of death threats, according to seven refugees who knew her, as well as former UNHCR contractors and staff members. “She was chased like a wild animal,” one Congolese refugee with knowledge of events said. UNHCR Kakuma camp head, Tayyar Sukru Cansizoglu, told this reporter he hadn’t heard of this, and believed De Langhe left when she reached the end of her contract.

Four UNHCR staff members in Kakuma were eventually referred to theKenyan police, with at least one being arrested and two resigning. Refugees and former staff said the referral and resignations wouldn’t have happened without De Langhe’s persistence.

However, after De Langhe returned to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, five refugees told this reporter the incident had proved how alone they are: They felt both abandoned and retaliated against, while two reported being contacted by other UNHCR protection staff and warned not to communicate with any foreigners again.

“You used to communicate with the white people. You used to communicate with Inge, now your case has gone to Geneva with her,” one refugee said he was told by UNHCR staff member George Micheni, who was also accused by another refugee of asking for a $1,000 bribe and has since moved to work for the UNHCR in Egypt.

When contacted on their UNHCR email addresses, both De Langhe and Micheni said they couldn’t comment, instead referring questions to UNHCR media spokespeople, who said they can’t disclose details about specific staff members.

Another refugee alleged Kenyan UNHCR staff began paying refugees to give false information to visiting investigators, claiming he was offered money, too, but turned it down.

Two refugee witnesses were eventually moved to Nairobi for protection reasons, and disappeared from communication, but the fallout was much greater than that.

“Geneva [has] no power here,” a UNHCR contractor and refugee in his 20s said. “Things are worse now.”

Image: The street in the Kakuma camp in which Salahuddin Waqo Halaki, a 33-year-old Ethiopian refugee, was reportedly shot multiple times by police in April 2017.

The street in the Kakuma camp in which Salahuddin Waqo Halaki, a 33-year-old Ethiopian refugee, was reportedly shot multiple times by police in April 2017.Sally Hayden

 

For those left in the camp, the feeling of danger is very real. In several cases, witnesses said refugees were killed by police or members of the local community, seemingly with no repercussions. The wife of one of those killed asked this reporter to make the UNHCR aware that she needed protection. Despite UNHCR staff saying they would contact her, at the time of publication, four months later, the woman says she’s still heard nothing.

‘THERE IS A CANCER’

Nearly 500 miles away, in Nakivale, Ntezimisi is full of advice on how corruption could be curtailed, but becoming more despondent by the day. He suggests limiting the power of local employees, who may be under pressure from their families to find extra income. Increased transparency as to how the resettlement process works would also help, he said.

“Many people are kept in darkness. They don’t know what to expect, who expects what,” he said, adding that the UNHCR “keeps it a secret, and people exploit that secrecy.”

Ntezimisi says donors should conduct their own investigations and speak to refugees directly to monitor what’s going on. “They keep pumping in money to the system which is corrupt, and the people are suffering without their knowledge. It doesn’t make sense.”

Ntezimisi also wants to reach out to other refugees in similar situations, maybe through a YouTube channel. He says he would like to offer help to anyone trying to change the UNHCR’s systems, but thinks reform is unlikely in the short term, particularly if the messenger is the one who is punished.

“Unfortunately, I discovered that there is a cancer,” Ntezimisi said. “You’re not going to blame the doctor because he told you you have a cancer.

“That cancer needs to be treated.”

This report was produced in collaboration with 100Reporters, a nonprofit investigative news organization, and Journalists for Transparency, an initiative hosted by the International Anti-Corruption Conference Series and Transparency International.

 

Sally Hayden is a freelance journalist focused on migration, conflict and humanitarian crises.

LATEST NEWS

Greta Thunberg speaks out after Ugandan climate activist cropped from photo

0
The Associated Press said that they cut Vanessa Nakate from the image ‘purely on composition grounds’ Appeared on the net 27.01.2020 TextLia Mappoura   Nakate has also spoken out...
Locals in Cite Soleil in Haiti. CREDIT: LEVI JACKMAN FOSTER

Haiti Ten Years After the Earthquake

Let’s Talk about Sex

TRENDING NOW

14 African Countries Forced by France to Pay Colonial Tax For...

0
Did you know many African countries continue to pay colonial tax to France since their independence till today! When Sékou Touré of Guinea decided in...
Locals in Cite Soleil in Haiti. CREDIT: LEVI JACKMAN FOSTER

Haiti Ten Years After the Earthquake