UN peacekeeper Killed as Congo Army approaches rebel stronghold

A UN peacekeeper has been killed and another injured during a third day of fighting between government forces and rebels in eastern Congo on Sunday, as the army pressed toward the rebel stronghold of Rutshuru.

The UN mission in Congo (MONUSCO) said the Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed during fighting with M23 rebels in the town of Kiwanja, north of the regional capital Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo.

“The soldier died while protecting the people of Kiwanja,” Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, said in a statement. The previous round of clashes between the army and rebels in late August killed at least two Tanzanian peacekeepers.

Following two months of relative calm in the region, fighting flared up on Friday after peace talks in Uganda broke down when M23 pressed for a full amnesty for its leaders. Each side blamed the other for starting the fighting.

President Joseph Kabila, who last week threatened a return to military action, said an unconditional amnesty was not an option.

A Congolese army officer on the front line said the army took Kiwanja and Kalingera from M23 on Sunday, a day after wresting the strategic town of Kibumba near the Rwandan border from the insurgents.

Fighting was continuing at Kiguri, 25 km (15 miles) north of Goma, he said.

The army had also opened a second front to the north of M23 positions and was moving southward to Rutshuru, officers said.

“We are consolidating the zones we have conquered,” army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told reporters near the front line. “Very soon we will take Rutshuru. Those who disarm, we will accept, the others we will pursue.”

M23 said in a statement on Sunday it had withdrawn its troops from Kiwanja, accusing the army of sending in fighters in civilian clothing to try to draw UN troops into the conflict.

M23 threatened to withdraw its delegation from the stalled peace talks in Kampala unless there was an immediate end to hostilities. It said it would then launch a large-scale counter-offensive.

Tough New Mandate

Congo’s army, supported by a new UN intervention brigade, scored its first victories against the rebel movement, which has been fighting for nearly two years, in late August, forcing the rebels away from Goma.

The UN brigade has a tough new mandate to eliminate armed groups in the eastern provinces, though it has not been involved in the past three days of fighting.

The support of the brigade and the weakening of the rebels has fuelled belief that Congo’s army – notoriously disorganized, undisciplined and under-supplied – could defeat M23.

Army sources told reporters in Goma that M23 had been weakened by desertions, with some 40 rebels taking advantage of a corridor created by the government troops to allow then to flee rebel lines.

M23 began in early 2012 as a mutiny by soldiers demanding the government implement the terms of a 2009 peace deal signed with a previous Rwanda-backed rebel group, many of whose members had been integrated into the army.

UN investigators and the Congolese government have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, charges Rwanda has repeatedly denied.

Army spokesman Hamuli said some M23 fighters had fled towards the Rwandan border in the face of the army advance.

“There are small pockets of M23 resistance in the hills near Rwanda,” he said. “We think Rwanda has to prove its good faith and oblige M23 to disarm, or disarm them itself.”

He refused to discuss the possibility of a return to peace talks in Kampala. “We are soldiers,” he said. “We will continue to do our jobs as soldiers.”

UN Partners With Nigeria On Staple Crop Processing

Crop Processing ZoneThe United Nations is collaborating with the Nigerian government to increase the number of Staple Crop Processing Zones across the nation.

The project is expected to generate another 3.5 million indirect jobs and generate $2 billion of private sector investments.

At an event to mark the United Nations Day in Abuja on Thursday, the resident co-ordinator for the UN system in Nigeria, Mr Daouda Toure explained that the UN was assisting the Nigerian government to formulate master plans for the development and implementation of six processing zones.

“The plan is part of the effort to support government’s anti-poverty efforts,” Mr Toure said.

He commended the Nigerian government on the progress made so far in achieving the Millennium Development Goals but asked for increased efforts as the world approached the 2015 target.

UN Day Celebration: FG/UN To Create 1 Million Jobs

The United Nations is collaborating with the Federal Government to create at least a million jobs through Staple Crop Processing Zones in Nigeria.

Speaking at an event to celebrate the United Nations Day in Abuja, the resident co-ordinator for the UN system in Nigeria, Mister Daouda Toure explained that the UN is assisting the Federal Government to formulate master plans for the development and implementation of 6 processing zones in the country.

The project is expected to generate another 3.5 million indirect jobs and generate 2billion dollars of private sector investments.

Mister Toure added that the plan is part of the effort to support government’s anti-poverty efforts.

He commended Nigeria’s progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals but asked for increased effort as the world approaches the 2015 target.

24 October has been celebrated as United Nations Day since 1948. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday.

 

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.

France Says Ready To Punish Syria Despite British No Vote

France said on Friday it still backed action to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for an apparent poison gas attack on civilians, despite a British parliamentary vote against it.

An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close Assad ally, seized on the British no vote as evidence that “people are beginning to understand” the dangers of military action.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his country would keep seeking an international coalition to act together on Syria, where hundreds of people were killed in last week’s reported chemical attacks. Syria denies using chemical weapons.

“It is the goal of President (Barack) Obama and our government … whatever decision is taken, that it be an international collaboration and effort,” he said.

French President Francois Hollande told the daily Le Monde that he still supported taking “firm” punitive action over an attack he said had caused “irreparable” harm to the Syrian people, adding that he would work closely with France’s allies.

Asked if France could take action without Britain, Hollande replied: “Yes. Each country is sovereign to participate or not in an operation. That is valid for Britain as it is for France.”

The British parliamentary defeat on Thursday of a government motion on Syria has set back U.S.-led efforts to take military action against Damascus.

Russia fiercely opposes any such action, backing the assertions of Damascus that Syrian rebels were behind the chemical attacks. Putin’s senior foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said the British vote reflected majority opinion in Europe. “People are beginning to understand how dangerous such scenarios are,” Ushakov told reporters.

Any military strike looks likely to be delayed at least until U.N. investigators report back after leaving Syria on Saturday.

Hollande is not constrained by the need for parliamentary approval of any move to intervene in Syria and could act, if he chose, before lawmakers debate the issue on Wednesday.

“All the options are on the table. France wants action that is in proportion and firm against the Damascus regime,” he said.

“There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them. We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies,” Hollande said.

“CORE INTERESTS”

Britain will not join any armed action in Syria after parliament voted 285-272 against a motion by Prime Minister David Cameron to authorize a military response in principle.

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond acknowledged that the United States would be disappointed that its close ally would not be involved, but said: “I don’t expect that the lack of British participation will stop any action.

U.S. officials suggested Obama would be willing to proceed with limited actions against Syria even without allied support.

“President Obama’s decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement after the British vote. “He believes that there are core interests at stake for the United States and that countries who violate international norms regarding chemical weapons need to be held accountable.”

In a briefing with senior lawmakers on Thursday, Obama administration officials said they had “no doubt” Assad’s government had used chemical weapons, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, who joined the call, told Reuters.

Cameron said he would not override the British parliament. “I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons,” he said after a vote that reflected misgivings stemming from Britain’s role in the 2003 Iraq war.

NO SMOKING GUN

U.S. officials acknowledged on Thursday they lacked proof that Assad personally ordered last week’s poison gas attack, and some allies have warned that military action without U.N. Security Council authorization may make matters worse.

On the call with lawmakers, U.S. officials, including Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry, cited evidence of chemical weapons use including “intercepted communications from high-level Syrian officials”, said Engel, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

After the 90-minute briefing, some lawmakers said the administration still had work to do to convince the public.

“The president is going to have to make his case, I think, to the American people I think before he takes any action,” said Republican Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Expectations of imminent turmoil eased as the diplomatic process was seen playing out into next week, and the White House emphasized that any action would be “very discrete and limited”, and in no way comparable with the Iraq war.

Syrian opposition sources said Assad’s forces had removed several Scud missiles and dozens of launchers from a base north of Damascus, possibly to protect them from a Western attack, and Russia was reported to be moving ships into the region.

Syria says rebels perpetrated the gas attacks, a version dismissed by Washington and its allies.

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors visited a military hospital in a government-held area of Damascus on Friday to see soldiers affected by an apparent chemical attack, a Reuters witness said.

The inspectors have spent the week visiting rebel-controlled areas on the outskirts of Damascus affected by gas attacks.

Witnesses said the investigators were meeting soldiers at the Mezze Military Airport who state media said were exposed to poison gas after finding chemical agents in a tunnel used by rebels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar last Saturday.

CHINA OPPOSES HASTY U.N. ACTION

The United Nations says the team will leave Syria on Saturday and report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

France and Germany urged the world body to pass its report to the Security Council as soon as possible “so that it can fulfill its responsibility with regards to this monstrous crime”.

The United States, Britain and France have said action could be taken with or without a Security Council resolution, which would probably be vetoed by Russia. But some countries are more cautious: Italy said it would not join any military operation without Council authorization.

Western diplomats say they are seeking a vote in the 15-member Council to isolate Moscow and demonstrate that other countries are behind air strikes.

A report from Moscow that Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean underscored the complications around even a limited military strike, although Russia has said it will not be drawn into military conflict.

Ambassadors of the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – have discussed a draft resolution that would authorize “all necessary force” in response to the alleged gas attack, but made no progress on Thursday, a council diplomat said.

China said there should be no rush to force council action against Syria until the U.N. inspectors complete their work.

“Before the investigation finds out what really happened, all parties should avoid prejudging the results, and certainly ought not to forcefully push for the Security Council to take action,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Ban in a phone call, Xinhua reported.

“A political resolution is still the only way out,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross joined a chorus of voices urging caution, saying further escalation would force more Syrians to flee and worsen the plight of civilians.

According to the U.S. national security officials, evidence that forces loyal to Assad were responsible goes beyond the circumstantial to include electronic intercepts and some tentative scientific samples from the site.

“This was not a rogue operation,” one U.S. official said.

In Damascus, residents and opposition forces say Assad’s forces appeared to have evacuated most personnel from army and security command headquarters in the centre as a precaution.

People unable to decide whether to leave for neighboring Lebanon said the border was already jammed.

“We’re hearing people are spending hours – like 12 or 14 hours – waiting in line at the border,” said Nabil, who was considering leaving town for Beirut with his wife and young daughter, “just until the strike is over”.

Syria Crisis: Army Forces Rebels Out Of City

Syrian army soldiers and tanks were a visible presence on the streets of Qusair today having earlier taking control of the city from rebel fighters in a significant advance for President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the country’s civil war.

Hezbollah television station Al-Manar showed large numbers of soldiers on the streets as well as tanks and diggers clearing rubble as tanks moved around the damaged clock-tower in the centre of the city.

There was no sign of civilians with deserted cars and damaged buildings seemingly empty.

Rebels said they had pulled out of Qusair, which lies on a cross-border supply route with neighbouring Lebanon and where they had fought fierce battles with government forces and Hezbollah guerrillas for more than two weeks.

More than 80,000 people have been killed in the fighting and another 1.6 million Syrians refugees have fled a conflict which has fuelled sectarian tensions across the Middle East, spilled over into neighbouring Lebanon and divided world powers.

UN condemns DR Congo attack

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the resumption of rebel attacks in eastern DR Congo.

Meeting in emergency session, the Security Council called for m23 rebels to immediately halt their advance towards the provincial capital, Goma.
It also demanded an end to outside support for the rebels, noting with concern that they were well equipped.

The rebels captured the town of Kibumba yesterday, despite bombardment by UN helicopter gunships.

Julien Paluku the North Kivu governor said the Congolese army retreated because the insurgents were armed with heavy weapons and backed by Rwandan troops.

Kigali denies the allegation but UN experts say they have evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels, and this week asked the Security Council to sanction senior Rwandan officials as a result.

 

Flooding: UN says Nigeria will need $38 million in aid

The United Nations says Nigeria will need $38 million (about N5.7 billion) in emergency aid to help 2.1 million people uprooted from their homes by flooding.

The spokesperson for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke on Friday said the aid plan includes help with food, water, shelter and schools mainly in farming and fishing communities along the Niger River.

Statistics from the National Emergency Agency (NEMA) office indicates that Nigeria’s worst flooding in at least half a century killed over 360 people and affected over 7 million people.

The agency further said that the flood disaster have displaced 2.1 million people and injured about 18,282 people.

Flooding in the oil rich Niger Delta, has disrupted oil production to the tune of around 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) – more than a fifth of nation’s oil output – according to the Department of Petroleum Resources.

A cocoa industry body, last month predicted that cocoa output would fall far short of a 300,000 tonne target because of excessive rain.

UN honours 1500 Nigerian soldiers in Liberia

The acting Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Louis M. Aucoin on Monday honoured more than 1,500 Nigerian peacekeepers, including 92 women, with UN medals for their contribution to UNMIL and peace in Liberia.

Mr. Aucoin hailed Nigeria’s outstanding contribution to international peacekeeping, describing the country as a committed ally of the UN’s efforts to bring peace and security to the world.

The Acting UN envoy further commended Nigerian peacekeepers, deployed in Bomi, Gbopolu and Grand Cape Mount counties, for serving diligently in their area of operations and then peacekeepers in Margibi and Montserrado counties for providing escort duties, conducting joint patrols with the Liberia National Police and UNMIL Formed Police Units, and for guarding government and UNMIL establishments.

He said “As we re-double our efforts in re-enforcing the capacity of Liberian security agencies; I count on your continued professionalism and zeal as UNMIL proceeds with the transition planning. Liberia’s stability will remain UNMIL’s top priority while we work with the Government and partners to map a critical path towards a complete transition.”

Dignitaries present at the ceremony included UNMIL Force Commander Major-Gen. Muhammad Khalid; the Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia, Chigozie Felicia Obi- Nnadozie, the representative of the Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Army, Major General Emmanuel Bassey, UNMIL Deputy Force Commander, Brig. Gen. John Kwasie and UNMIL Force Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen.

The program was also attended by other UNMIL Senior military and civilian staff.

Our spirits are not dampened, official says one year after attack on UN House in Abuja

The United Nations’ Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Daouda Toure on Sunday said that the death of staff and partners of the organisation killed by the bomb blast which brought down the UN House in Abuja on Friday, 26 August 2011 only help to mobilize their surviving colleagues.

Speaking in an occasion to mark the first year anniversary of the attack which killed 23 persons and injured 120 others, Mr Toure said “although the devastating attack took the lives of our colleagues and partners and maimed many people, all of whom were in the building in the pursuit of service to humanity, our spirits have not been dampened.
“Their death mobilizes us more than ever before. Their sacrifice will not be in vain. We will strive to pursue our work for the people of Nigeria for the continuance of peace and stability of this great nation, and the socio-economic development of all. The UN identifies with the people of all its Member States, which justifies the expression ‘we, the people,’ as prescribed in the UN Charter. The families of our fallen colleagues should be proud of the altruism of their loved ones.”

Mr Toure saluted the resilience and courage of UN staff and officials who have continued undaunted with their development and humanitarian work of helping the people of Nigeria regardless of the constraints.
“From our temporary office locations, the UN agencies and organizations are pursuing their mission and mandate for Nigerians. As an illustration, barely 24 hours after the bomb attack, the UN operation was back on stream and helping the flooding victims in some states – a reaffirmation of the UN’s commitment and promise to the great member state, Nigeria,” he said.

He reaffirmed that the United Nations System in Nigeria will continue on its mission to assist in improving the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Agencies and Organizations in Nigeria, in a press statement said it “remember, with fond memories and prayers, all the 23 persons (13 UN staff and 10 non-UN staff) who lost their lives as a result of the bombing of the UN House in Abuja.
“We also reiterate our expression of solidarity and support to all the more than 120 persons who sustained various degrees of injuries from the bomb attack. We convey the continuous support and appreciation of the UN Secretary-General and all the Executive Heads of various Agencies and Organizations.

“On the occasion of this solemn one year anniversary, the United Nations Team in Nigeria (composed of agencies and organizations) once again presents its deepest condolences to the families of victims, reiterated our gratitude to the Government and people of Nigeria from all walks of life, irrespective of their religion, philosophical or political beliefs, for their active support, solidarity and commitment to the mission of the UN throughout this difficult period.”
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The list of the Departed UN staff and Non-UN Staff, who we remember today and always, are:

United Nations Staff
1. Ms. Rahmat Abdullahi (UNDP)
2. Mr. Musa Ali (WHO)
3. Mr. Johnson Awotunde (UNICEF)
4. Dr. Edward Dede (WHO)
5. Mr. Elisha Enaburekhan( UNAIDS)
6. Mr. Ahmed Abiodun Adewale-Kareem (UNICEF)
7. Mr. Iliya David Musa ( UNDP)
8. Ms. Ingrid Midtgaard (UNODC)
9. Mrs. Felicia Nkwuokwu ( UNDP)
10. Mr. Stephen Obamoh (UNDP)
11. Mr. Abraham A. Osunsaya ( WHO)
12. Mr. Fred Willis( UNICEF)
13. Mr. Sunday Nwachukwu( UNDP)

Non United Nations Staff
1. Mr. Sunday James Ebere: Shipping Agent, Balast Agency
2. Mr. Ndubisi Bright: Hospitality Industry Consults
3. Mr. Paul Waziri: Nigeria Cleaning Services
4. Ms. Kate Demehin: Federal Ministry of Health
5. Ms. Caroline Michael: Kings Guard
6. Mr. Sunday Omelenyi: Kings Guard
7. Mr. Yakubu Garuba: Kings Guard
8. Mr. Abiodun Cyril Adeseye: Julius Berger
9. Ms. Patricia Ekweringe: Travel Agent
10. Ms. Joy Audu: Nigeria Cleaning Services

Memories of a Dark Friday (UNV staff gives a personal account of Abuja UN House bomb blast in Nigeria on August 26, 2011)

Ms. Galina Chus with a rescue official at the scene of the blast

7 a.m. – I cannot get up from bed, my legs feel heavy and seem made of lead. My body is out of control. Feminine intuition – a kind of an inner teacher (IN-TUITION) – an incredible resource and gift that we have been given to help us live our best life. All are aware of intuition, but not all use it. This is a good guard, which in case of danger, rings clear as a bell, but I did not listen to it that morning. I am making an effort to actually go to work because I have booked an important appointment and can’t miss it.

8:45 a.m.- Quarters of the United Nations (UN House) is located in the diplomatic zone in Abuja, not far away form the United States embassy. The UN building is a gift from the Nigerian government to the UN mission in Nigeria. The two- winged and four-floored building took form of a huge bird with wings spread in flight; it seems the architects tried to capture the spirit of impartiality and harmony of the inhabitants of the building and their mission to the surroundings and Nigerians.

9 a.m. – I park my car in the parking lot for UN staffers, and go to the checkpoint. The Nigerian and UN flags sway in the blue sky. I now take the stairs – it produces an energizing effect on me – to the second floor, to my office drowning in the sea of smiles from employees, who greet me a good morning. I ask the assistant- a sweet Nigerian young lady- to get a set of files ready for the appointment, and I sit at my computer, without which I cannot imagine a single working day. In our times, the workplace of each office employee is equipped with a computer with access to the internet. In a finger’s snap, we all became dependent on this machine, which can not think for itself, but still is very cute and found its way to enslave us.

10 a.m. – Getting ready for my appointment; fingering the keys, I begin to type. A knock on the door, a colleague from the neigbouring office enters to discuss current issues. She bears a beautiful, and most importantly, a meaningful name, Hassana, which in Arabic means “good luck”.
10:20 a.m. – A quake … reality slips away in a blink of an eye, like water through the fingers. For a split second I dive into another world, one in which there is no clear line between life and death. A complete disorientation in space begins, but fortunately, no agitation, and no temporary stupor arises. I promptly come back to reality. Suspended ceilings, partitions and file cabinets began to fall on us. The smell of burnt insulation: the wiring cracked and sparked, dozens of cables hanging over our heads. We were now in darkness. Somewhere from above fell pieces of plaster and broken partitions. All is in a daze, difficult to breathe: cement dust gets into the eyes and eats into dry lips. We have to flee as soon as possible. I push the door and stop abruptly in the door way. A terrible picture lies in front of me: Hassana’s office vanished. It fell into the shaft created by the massive blast on the first floor. Hassana stands rooted to the spot, trying to understand, what happened was on the verge of death, and she could fall forever along with her office. I grab her hand and rush to the exit. The corridor is very narrow, only half a metre. I hit my shoulders painfully on the corners and edges of partitions. We have to hurry, hurry to the emergency exit, where there were already a few members of our department. No! Anything but this! The door of the emergency exit got locked by the wave of the blast. Someone grabs a fire extinguisher, and breaks the glass; a gap occurs in which we slide along the line. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry up! The building might fall any second like a card house. Running to the stair way, we joined other fleeing colleagues descending from upper floors. A woman suddenly grabs my arm and drags me down the stairs. She is crying and thanking God for saving our lives “We are alive! We are alive!” she cries out loud like a spell gulping back her tears. Yet we do not know that we are so lucky, unlike our colleagues on the ground floor.
Finally, we run outside, in front of us lays a horrible scene- a bloody butchery. No, this can’t be true, this is a mere fiction, nightmare, I want to wake up, but I can’t: the courtyard is filled with broken glass; here and there are blood-soaked, lifeless bodies. Moans and groans from injured victims, heartbreaking cries from victims’ relatives who came to look for their loved ones. A woman is weeping hysterically after a loss. The wide yawning gashes in the building look like jaws, from which bits of framework hang like fangs of wild animals. In there rescue workers are trying to extract lifeless bodies from the rubble…

May the souls of our colleagues rest in peace

(Additional information from UNDP website)

Tribal clashes kill 58 in Sudan’s Darfur region

Clashes between two Arab tribes in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region earlier this week killed 58 people and wounded 24, the state news agency SUNA said on Thursday.

Displaced Sudanese women walk past an armoured personnel carrier (APC) of United Nations-African Union Mission in Nyala, southern Darfur

The fighting involved the Misseriya and Rizeigat tribes and took place in the Jebara area at the border between East Darfur and South Kordofan state, SUNA said after a meeting of tribal leaders and government officials in East Darfur.

It did not say what had started the violence. Tribes in Darfur, a vast arid region in western Sudan, and in the south of the country often clash over land or water rights.

Darfur is the scene of a rebellion by non-Arab tribes against the Arab government in Khartoum, which they accuse of political and economic marginalisation.

The rebels took up arms in 2003, and a year later the government sent troops and allied Arab tribes to quell the insurgency, unleashing a wave of violence which the United Nations estimates has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Khartoum puts the number of dead at 10,000.

The level of violence has subsided, but continuing fighting and widespread banditry have hampered peace efforts.

UN wants Africa’s Kony hunters fully equipped by year-end

The United Nations wants an African Union force hunting fugitive warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to be fully equipped by December, according to a U.N. strategy due to be presented to the world body’s Security Council on Wednesday.

The AU force, which has U.S. backing, aims to have a full strength of 5,000 troops from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda, but lacks equipment, training, food and transportation.

“These troops lack almost everything,” AU special envoy on the LRA Francisco Madeira told a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

“They lack boots, they lack uniforms, they lack food rations and sometimes they lack training. So there is a need for these things to be supplied.”

Abou Moussa, U.N. special envoy and head of the U.N. Regional Office for Central Africa, is slated to brief the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Wednesday on the U.N. regional strategy to address the threat and impact of the LRA.

The strategy, obtained by Reuters, requires U.N. countries and agencies to ensure the AU force is “adequately equipped, including with regard to air capabilities, communications, office and living accommodations, medical support, and fuel and rations, as soon as possible, and no later than December 2012.”

The Security Council is likely to release a statement endorsing the strategy on Wednesday, diplomats say.

Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for 20 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. His LRA is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves, and of hacking off living victims’ limbs as a method of intimidation and revenge.

REUTERS