ICRC Set To Make Emergency Aid Flights To Yemen

yemenThe International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is set to make emergency aid flights into Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.

The ICRC has been given permission to land planes carrying staff and medical supplies in Yemen, which it said was facing a humanitarian emergency.

Fighting had intensified in the southern port of Aden, as government troops battle the Houthis.

About 500 people had been killed over the past two weeks in Yemen.

However, the ICRC is sending a cargo plane carrying vital medical supplies, and a small passenger plane of aid workers.

Eight Houthi fighters were killed in an air strike before dawn in the suburbs of the northern city of Saadah, home of the Shi’ite Muslim movement which spread from its mountain stronghold to take over the capital Sanaa six months ago.

Local officials said strikes also hit air defense and coastal military units near the Red Sea port of Hodaida, and targets on the outskirts of Aden. They also hit a bridge on the road south to Aden, apparently trying to block the Houthis from sending reinforcements to their fighters in the city.

Meanwhile, the cargo plane is still awaiting approval to send a surgical team by boat to Aden.

The ICRC has, however, called for a 24-hour ceasefire in Aden, while Russia has also urged the UN Security Council to support a “humanitarian pause” in the air strikes.

Pakistan’s parliament is debating whether to join the Saudi-led coalition after a Pakistani aircraft rescued 170 people from Sanaa on Sunday.

Tunisia’s President Vows To Fight Terrorism ‘Without Mercy’

tunisia-1Tunisia’s President, Beji Caid Essebsi, has vowed to fight terrorism “without mercy”, following a gun attack on the Bardo Museum in the capital Tunis that killed 19 people.

Seventeen tourists were killed in the attack, including visitors from Japan, Italy, Colombia, Australia, France, Poland and Spain, officials said.

Two Tunisians, one a police officer, were also killed in Wednesday’s attack.

President Essebsi said the country was “in a war with terror”.

 Critical Moment In Our History

“These monstrous minorities do not frighten us,” he said “We will resist them until the deepest end without mercy.

“Democracy will win and it will survive.”

Prime Minister Habib Essid said: “It is a critical moment in our history, and a defining moment for our future.”

At the time of the attack, deputies in the neighbouring parliamentary building were discussing anti-terrorism legislation.

Parliament was evacuated, but later reconvened for an extraordinary session in the evening.

Many Tunisians took to the streets of central Tunis to protest against the attack, waving flags and lighting candles outside the museum.

World leaders condemned the attack and expressed their support for Tunisia’s counter-terrorism efforts.

The UN Security Council issued a statement saying no terrorist action could reverse Tunisia’s path towards democracy.

The statement offered condolences to those affected by the attack, and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the US would “continue to stand with our Tunisian partners against terrorist violence”.

Tunisia has struggled with Islamist extremism since its authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in January 2011.

Dozens of police officers and military personnel had been killed or wounded in violence blamed on militants including Islamic State.

The latest attack came a day after security officials confirmed the death in neighbouring Libya of a leading suspect in Tunisian terror attacks and the killings of two opposition figures.

Libya Urges UN To Lift Arms Embargo To Combat ISIL

Dairi told the UN Security Council that the UN “shouldered a legal responsibility” to help in the rebuilding of Libya’s army

Libya has asked the United Nations to lift an arms embargo on weapon sales to the country’s internationally recognised government so that it can deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Libya’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed al-Dairi, said this would help the government build its army and deal with “rampant terrorism”.

Dairi told the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday, that the UN “shouldered a legal responsibility” to help in the rebuilding of Libya’s army.

He stressed that Libya needed a “decisive stance” from the international community to help build the country’s national army’s capacity, adding that it could only come through a lifting of the embargo on weapon sales to the country.

“If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists,” he said.

Libya has been under an arms embargo since the 2011 uprising that drove out the former long-time leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi and his armed forces.

The Libyan government is already allowed to import weapons and related materiel with the approval of a Security Council committee overseeing the embargo.

Dairi’s appeal came after fighters pledging allegiance to ISIL released a video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.

Egypt launched air strikes in Libya on Monday the following day.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, said he supported the lifting of the embargo as events in Libya posed an “enormous danger”.

Dairi said Libya was seeking “support to combat terrorism” and “not calling for international intervention”.

He also called for a naval blockade on arms heading to areas of Libya that were not in the control of the internationally recognised Tobruk government.

UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, said that ISIL can only be defeated with a united Libyan government in place that has strong international support.

The UN is mediating between the rival factions to get them to forge a unity government and end hostilities.

Boko Haram: Lake Chad Basin Ministers Meet In Abuja

BokoHaram-WIT-GUNS 1A meeting of ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defence of Cameroun, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin Republic is underway in Abuja.

The ministerial security meeting is aimed at reviewing and defining the current threats arsing from the activities of the Boko Haram sect across the borders of the Lake Chad Basin member countries and Benin to draw up a collective plan of action to curb the cross border insurgency and extremism.

Major highlights of the meeting are discussions towards the possible dismantling of the terrorist network to make it impossible for new groups to gain footholds.

Top among expected outcomes of the meeting is a common draft resolution that would enable the UN Security Council and the African Union put up appropriate legal framework and defense strategy for efficient cross border military operations against Boko Haram.

Abducted Schoolgirls: SERAP Seeks UN Intervention

SERAPSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the United Nations to urgently intervene to secure the safe release of 230 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who were abducted by members of the Boko Haram sect.

The organization wants the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) of the UN Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide “international assistance and support to the Nigerian authorities to secure the release of the children and to ensure that they are back to school.”

In a statement on Thursday, signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said that, “continuing abduction of these innocent children is having negative impact on their well-being and long-term education. We are urging these bodies to move swiftly to support efforts to protect schools, teachers, and students from deliberate attack in the North-East of the country.”

“In particular we urge the UN Security Council’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on Children and Armed Conflict to take strong action including by referring members of the Boko Haram and their backers to the International Criminal Court. Accountability for attacks on school children and education-including prosecuting perpetrators-is critical to deterring perpetration of crimes under international law,” the group also said.

The group said that, “The International Criminal Court has explicit jurisdiction over intentional attacks against school children and buildings dedicated to education in both international and internal armed conflicts.”

“The attack against children is leading to dramatic decreases in school attendance rates. When attendance remains low over the long term, there are negative knock-on effects on the economy and on key development indices such as measures of maternal and child health,” the organization said.

Nigeria Assumes Rotating Presidency Of UN Security Council

un_security_council Nigeria on Tuesday assumed the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council for April.

Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Professor Joy Ogwu, took over from Luxembourg’s representative, Mr Sylvie Lucas.

Professor Ogwu listed her priority for April to include three open debates to address the Middle East, which encompasses Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, women, peace and security and on the initiative of Nigeria, maintenance of international peace and security.

She also said other issues that could be taken up included the Central African Republic and Ukraine.

The Nigerian representative said that she had commenced consultations with other members of the Security Council and would present her programmes to the member states for approval.

“Considering the turmoil in the world, it is going to be a tough agenda but we will approach it with the deepest sense of duty and I am sure we will have the support of our colleagues,” Professor Ogwu said

Under the UN Charter, the 15-member Security Council is responsibility of maintaining international peace and security.

The council is composed of five permanent members – China, United States, Britain, France, and Russia and 10 non-permanent members.

The presidency of the Council rotates among the members on a monthly basis according to the English-language alphabetical order of the countries’ names.

Nigeria was elected on October 17, 2013 by the UN General Assembly as a non-permanent member to the UN Security Council for 2014-2015.

Ben Affleck Casts Spotlight On The Situation In The Congo

Academy Award winner, Ben Affleck brought his star power to Washington D.C. on Wednesday (February 26) where he met with U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and testified on Capitol Hill over the volatile situation in Congo.

Affleck is the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative organization, a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to peace and prosperity in the region that he launched four years ago.

The star and director of 2013 best picture “Argo,” and star in the upcoming “Gone Girl” said he was taking the celebrity attention and using it to focus on an issue he cares deeply about – the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Affleck, who has made nine trips to Congo, expressed cautious optimism about the outlook for the African nation while imploring lawmakers to remain diligent.

“Without overstating what’s taken place since December 2012, I can say unequivocally, that the situation in Eastern Congo has improved,” he told lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“In July, Secretary Kerry (U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) presided over high level UN Security Council meeting focused on security challenges in the Great Lakes region and on November 7th, M23 was forced to surrender. I am also here today with an urgent message: our work in DRC is not done. We cannot risk diminished U.S. leadership at a time when lasting stability and peace are within reach.”

Congo, the former Belgian colony of about 68 million people, is one of the most volatile in Africa. Violence has claimed the lives of 5 million people since a regional war broke out in 1997 and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Affleck’s Eastern Congo Initiative, with two employees in the U.S. and 12 in the Congo, has had success through its community-based partnerships.

He noted that Theo, a chocolate company based in Seattle, was getting tons of its cocoa beans from eastern Congo and making profits and added that coffee was next.

Affleck urged Congress to provide the funds for personnel and resources for the special envoy’s office and to pressure U.S. President, Barack Obama to engage directly with President Joseph Kabila, among other steps.

Senate Hails Federal Government On UN Seat

The Senate has applauded Nigeria’s election into the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council saying it will further encourage the country’s active participation in promoting global peace.

Moving a motion on the floor of the Senate, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma- Egba congratulated the government and people of Nigeria over what he described as a landmark achievement.

Senate President David Mark said the overwhelming endorsement of Nigeria for the UN Security Council seat is a display of the world recognition of the nation’s activities in supporting and promoting peace, security and political stability in Africa and largely across the world.

Nigeria was elected unopposed into a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council on October 17, 2013 along with Saudi Arabia, Chad, Chile, and Lithuania, with The Gambia pulling out of the race.

This is the fourth time since it became independent in 1960 that Nigeria is being elected to the UN Security Council.

UN To Increase Troops In Central African Republic

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary GeneralThe UN is to send 310 troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) bringing the number of UN troops in CAR to a total  of 560.

The military personnel will protect United Nations political mission in the country.

About 250 military personnel were deployed to Bangui in the first phase of the programme.

In a letter to the 15-member Security Council, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the guard unit would, in a second phase, increase its strength to a battalion size unit of 560 military personnel, with its own enablers, in order to progressively deploy to locations outside Bangui where the United Nations has a presence.

The mineral-rich country slipped into chaos since northern Seleka rebels seized the capital, Bangui, and ousted President Francois Bozize in March.

UN officials and rights groups say both sides may have committed war crimes.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution this month urging the United Nations to consider establishing a full-fledged peacekeeping force and asking Ban for interim plans for a guard force to protect the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office, known as BINUCA.

“Given the urgency of the situation, as an interim measure the 250 troops could be temporarily redeployed from another UN peacekeeping operation.”

The guards would provide perimeter security and access control.

The UN Security Council is expected to approve the UN guard force on Friday, diplomats said.

France, which intervened this year to oust Islamist rebels from another of its former colonies, Mali, has been reluctant to get directly involved. It has urged African nations and the African Union to do their utmost to resolve the crisis among themselves.

But while the African Union plans to deploy a 3,600-member peacekeeping mission in the country – known as MISCA – incorporating a regional force of 1,100 soldiers already on the ground, it is unlikely to be operational before 2014.

Some Western diplomats say the situation in Central African Republic is too fragile to permit the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force in the foreseeable future.

France has a small force in Bangui securing the airport and its local interests. French diplomatic sources have said Paris would be ready to provide logistical support and increase its troop numbers to between 700 and 750 if needed.

Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium.

Germany Demands More Permanent Members For UN Security Council

The German Foreign Affairs Minister, Guido Westerwelle has made a strong case for the inclusion of African nations and Latin American countries with more Asian countries in the United Nations Security Council.

According to the Minister, the inclusion of more member nations in the Security Council will enhance the capacity and authority of the international organization in addressing and avoiding conflicts of today’s world.

Westerwelle made this known during his remarks to questions from journalists after his keynote address at the 2013 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in the United Nations city of Bonn, Germany.

Mr Westerwelle noted that all the United Nations institutions as they are, still reflect how the world was after the Second World War and these institutions need urgent reforms to reflect the dimension of today’s globalized world with emerging nations.

“The United Nations reflect in their structures, the world, how it was after World War Two but it is not the current reflection and the fact that all Latin America is not represented permanently in the Security Council of the United Nations with one voice, doesn’t have anything to do with the world of today.”

“These are old structures” he stated to a rousing applause from the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the fact that the whole of the African continent not doesn’t have a single voice, doesn’t have a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations is the world of the past and not of today and not even anything of the future” he told over 2,000 journalists at the World Conference centre in Bonn.

He further decried that “the whole of Asian continent has only one voice, the voice of China in the UN Security Council.

This, he noted “doesn’t reflect the power of relation in the world we are living in and it reflects the situation when the United Nations were established and not really future development.”

The Minister called for the reform of all international organisations to be more representative, warning that not doing so will only ‘weaken’ the institutions.

“The international institutions of the world have to be more representative. If they are not representative, we will weaken them.”

“So all the continents, all success stories has to reflect in all international organization, only then will this international organization have sufficient authority in the world to avoid and overcome conflict.”

The United Nations Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action.

There are 15 members of the Security Council. This includes five veto-wielding permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—based on the great powers that were the victors of World War II.

There are also 10 non-permanent members, with five elected each year to serve two-year terms. This basic structure is set out in Chapter V of the UN Charter.

Nigeria is currently in the forefront of demanding reforms of the UN Security Council as it seeks to take the African slot for a permanent seat with contemporaries such as South Africa and Egypt.

Classical Relationship

Mr Westerwelle also revealed that the German government under Angela Merkel has agreed to further intensify its relationship with African nations, describing the partnership as a ‘classical relationship’ which must “be intensified.”

He described as it as “linking up with the new powers of the world in a strategic way.”

By Ayo Okulaja

Jonathan warns of military intervention in Mali if talks with rebels fail

President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that military intervention in northern Mali will be inevitable if talks with Islamist group controlling the region, fails.

President Jonathan made this known during his visit to Senegal. He however stated that a West African force would only be deployed, with the approval of the United Nations.

ECOWAS would send a force to the area if a peace deal is not reached with the Islamist fighters, stated the president, adding that “diplomacy and negotiation is first.”

“ECOWAS will definitely intervene militarily, but … first and foremost we are negotiating,” he said after talks with Senegalese President Mr Macky Sall.

“We must stabilise the government … I believe through negotiation we will be able to resolve the crisis, we don’t necessarily need military intervention … but if that fails we will have no option.”

“Military intervention is extreme and when negotiations fail, at that time you can talk about military intervention” he said.

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibrille Bas held talks with the militants last month as part of bloc’s diplomatic effort to end the conflict.

ECOWAS, as also asked the UN Security Council to endorse its plan to send 3,000 troops to Mali.

However, it refused, saying it needed more clarity on the West African body’s military objectives and how it intended to achieve them.

Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels took control of large swathes of northern Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in a coup in March.

But the rebel alliance has since ruptured, with Islamist fighters chasing Tuareg rebels out of several northern towns and imposing Sharia law.

The Islamists have destroyed ancient shrines in the historical city of Timbuktu, claiming they violated Sharia law and promoted idolatry among Muslims.

The UN warned that the destruction of the shrines could amount to war crimes and the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged atrocities.

The Islamists have also stoned to death an unwed couple and amputated the hand of an alleged thief.

Alleged atrocities committed in the rebel-held north are being investigated by international prosecutors.

A new unity government was formed in Mali’s capital, Bamako, at the weekend, promising to spearhead initiatives to end the instability in the north.

Mali has so far rejected a full-scale foreign intervention but said its army, once re-equipped, would need the support of two or three battalions.