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.”
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.


UN to release divisive report on Rwanda support for Congo rebels

The U.N. Security Council agreed on Tuesday to publish a controversial document implicating Rwanda’s defense minister and several top military officials in backing an army mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, council diplomats said.

The evidence contained in an addendum to a recent report by U.N. experts is the strongest yet to indicate high-level support within Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government for the so-called M23 rebellion against Congolese forces that has caused thousands to flee their homes in the east of the DRC.

M23 is the name of a group of several hundred soldiers from the Congolese army that have rallied behind Bosco Ntaganda, a mutinous army general with past links to Rwanda who is sought for arrest by the DRC and wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

Rwanda rejects the allegations.

Reuters had previously seen and reported on the minutes of a verbal briefing by the so-called Group of Experts on the allegations for the Security Council’s Congo sanctions committee. .

On Tuesday, Reuters obtained a copy of a more extensive 43-page document, the one the 15-nation council has agreed to release. Diplomats said it might take a few days for it to appear on the council’s Congo sanctions committee website.

“Over the course of its investigation since late 2011, the Group has found substantial evidence attesting to support from Rwandan officials to armed groups operation in the eastern DRC,” the document said.

“The RDF (Rwandan army) has been providing military equipment, weapons, ammunition and general supplies to M23 rebels,” the addendum said, adding that senior Rwandan officials have been “directly involved” in generating political and financial support for M23.


Jonathan says selfish politicians are trying to pull him down

President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday urged Nigerian politicians not to sacrifice the progress and well-being of the nation on the altar of personal political ambitions.

Addressing members of the Nigerian Community in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil soon after his arrival for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, President Jonathan said that Nigeria will definitely make faster progress towards fulfilling its immense potentials if all Nigerians unite in support of the efforts of his administration to positively transform the country.

“One of the problems we have is that some Nigerians play politics with everything, but we cannot destroy our country because of personal political ambitions,” the President said while denouncing the incessant and often unjustifiable criticism of his Administration, much of which, he said, was based on lies.

“We now have a constitutional democracy and no one can stay in office forever. It will therefore be best for our nation if we all support whoever is there for the development of the country instead of trying to pull him down by all means,” he said.

The president assured the gathering that the Federal Government was working very hard to overcome Nigeria’s current security challenges.

“We have challenges, but they are not insurmountable. We remain fully focused and committed to national development in spite of sponsored lies against this administration. We are ready to work together with all of our people to move the country forward. We will work even harder to place concrete realities on the ground that will further prove our sincerity and commitment to all Nigerians”, he pledged.

Thanking members of the Nigerian Community for assembling from all parts of Brazil to receive him in Rio De Janeiro, President Jonathan said that his administration will continue to count on the support of Nigerians in the Diaspora for its efforts to build a better nation.

“It is generally known and acknowledged that Nigeria has a very robust Diaspora and we will continue to explore ways of harnessing your skills and talents for the development of our fatherland,” the President said.

He informed the Nigerian Community that he will meet with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil on the sidelines of the Rio + 20 Summit to discuss the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between Nigeria and Brazil, including the strengthening of trade and economic relations, as well as a prisoner exchange programme that could benefit Nigerians unfortunately imprisoned in the South American country.

World food prices fall in May: UN’s FAO

World food prices dropped in May for a second month in a row, hit by steep falls in dairy products, sugar and other commodities, and are likely to fall further in the coming months, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday.

Food prices grabbed attention of the world leaders after their spike to record highs in February 2011 helped fuel the protests known as the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. Food prices have fallen since.

Improvement in the security of food supplies amid the economic downturn was high on the agenda of a summit of leaders of the G8 industrial powers last month.

The FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 204 points in May, down from 213 points in April, the FAO said in its monthly index update.

“We were expecting a decline in May, the surprise is the extent of it, which showed that markets for oils and fats, dairy products and sugar all had to make sharp downward adjustments,” Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO’s senior economist and grain analyst, told Reuters.

In May, an improved outlook for crops in some major producing countries, a strengthening U.S. dollar, which hits competitiveness of dollar-denominated commodities, and growing concerns about Europe’s debt crisis pushed prices down.

“We’re in a situation where supplies have improved and we’ve had quite a big spillover from other markets which were all down,” Abbassian said.

The steep price drop in May meant that even if further declines were seen in June, they would probably be less marked, he added.

The index was driven down by a 12 percent fall in dairy prices, a 9 percent drop in sugar and a 7 percent decline in oils and fats.


AU to take Mali to UN Security Council

The African Union plans to refer the situation in Mali to the United Nations Security Council so that it can create a framework for tackling the worsening crisis there, a diplomatic source close to the AU president said on Wednesday.

Mali, once regarded as a fine example of African democracy, collapsed into chaos after soldiers toppled the president in March, leaving a power vacuum in the north that enabled rebels to take control of nearly two-thirds of the country.

A regionally backed transitional government has been set up in Bamako to organise new presidential elections within a year, though supporters of the ruling military junta oppose the plan.

“The African Union will go to the Security Council and then it will be up to it to find the right format for a resolution and if it deems military support necessary,” said the source close to Thomas Boni Yayi, the Benin president and head of the African Union.

He said it was not clear when the issue would be taken to the United Nations.

An agreement between northern Mali’s MNLA Tuareg rebels and the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Ansar Dine to create an Islamic state in northern Mali’s Azawad desert has hit trouble over how strictly to impose sharia, Islamic law.

The separatist MNLA wants a moderate form of sharia, while Ansar Dine would like to impose a more hardline version, using punishments such as the amputation of hands and heads for certain crimes.

The West African group ECOWAS said it rejected the idea of a separate Islamic state in northern Mali, and new French President Francois Hollande urged African leaders on Tuesday to ask the U.N. Security Council to help restore stability in the region.


Denmark overtakes Nigeria as world’s happiest people – UN


The United Nation (UN)’s first comprehensive survey on national mood has rated Nigerians as the 100th happiest people in the world, South Africans as the 90th and Namibians as the 97th.

The new report comes two years after Nigeria was rated in a 2010 Gallup global poll as having the “happiest people on earth”. The poll of 64,000 people from 53 countries around the world found Nigerians to be the most optimistic in the world in their outlook for 2011. It also found that the most optimistic people mostly live in low income countries, such as Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Peru and Bangladesh.

However, the Happiness Ranking report rated Denmark at the top of the scale, ahead of Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada, Britain and the United States while Togo, which was rated at the bottom of the scale was declared the nation of the least happy citizens in the world.

The 158-page report, which covered 156 countries, largely found that the world’s wealthiest nations were the happiest, on a sliding scale  but it also found that money does not just buy happiness.

“The world enjoys technologies of unimaginable sophistication; yet has at least one billion people without enough to eat each day…Countries achieve great progress in economic development as conventionally measured; yet along the way succumb to new crises of obesity, smoking, diabetes, depression, and other ills of modern life.” the report said.

“In an impoverished society…The poor suffer from dire deprivations of various kinds: lack of adequate food supplies, remunerative jobs, access to health care, safe homes, safe water and sanitation, and educational opportunities. As incomes rise from very low levels, human well-being improves…For most individuals in the high-income world…There is enough food, shelter, basic amenities (such as clean water and sanitation), and clothing to meet daily needs…however, affluence has created its own set of afflictions and addictions. Obesity, tobacco-related illnesses, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, psychosocial disorders, and addictions to shopping, TV, and gambling, are all examples of disorders of development” the report further said

The report concluded with “It is not just wealth that makes people happy: Political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption all play a part…other factors found to be important to happiness include personal health, job security and stable family life.”

United Nations, AU offer support to Jonathan in the fight against terrorism

The United Nations and the African Union Commission have both pledged their support to President Goodluck Jonathan in the fight against terrorism in nothern Nigeria attributed to members of the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram.

United Nations, AU offer support to Jonathan in the fight against terrorism

UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon and AUC chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, assured Jonathan that both international bodies will provide backing.

They made the assurances during opening remarks at the opening of the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ki-moon said he will be working closely with the AU to address what he called transnational challenges in West Africa including terrorism, illicit drug trafficking and the rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

He said, “With respect to Nigeria, I am deeply troubled by the indiscriminate and unacceptable violent attacks. No cause justifies terror.

“We stand in solidarity with the authorities and the people of Nigeria for democratic and accountable governance.”

He urged African leaders to take the preventive approach, dealing with the increasing tensions in their various countries before it escalates.

“Events have proved that repression is a dead-end. Police power is no match for people power seeking dignity and justice.

“The women and men protesting in streets and public squares across the region are both an inspiration and a reminder.

“A reminder that leaders must listen to their people…that all of us must do more,” he added.

Ki-Moon noted the importance of trade and investment to the growth of Africa, but said the continent’s future also hinged on investments in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

He condemned discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in Africa, often ignored and often times encouraged in the many African nations.

Ping on his part regretted that over the past months, the continent has witnessed a resurgence of terrorism, particularly in Nigeria.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate the strong condemnation by the AU of the criminal attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, and to reiterate our support for the efforts of the government of Nigeria,” he said.

He commended the progress made in parts of the continent and efforts to create calm, but admits there is still a long way to go.