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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-11-04
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
U.N. MISSION CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE AS FIGHTING RESUMES IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO
Fighting has resumed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and continues intermittently between PARECO, an ethnic militia, and rebels led by Laurent Nkunda, according to the UN Mission there (MONUC). The violence appears to be limited to the village of Kiwanja, some two kilometers outside Rutshuru, in rebel-held territory.
The Mission said that UN peacekeepers at a nearby base appear to be trapped in the crossfire. The peacekeepers have yet to report any casualties among their ranks, but there is mounting concern that the intensity of the gunfire may have caused some damage. The Mission says it has temporarily suspended a humanitarian assessment mission in the area and gathered aid workers in a safe house to wait out the gun battle.
The ceasefire, however, appears to be holding in the provincial capital of Goma. UN peacekeepers are beefing up their numbers there, with two additional companies arriving today and a formed police unit expected on Wednesday. There are currently 5,000 UN peacekeepers in North Kivu, 1,700 of them in Goma alone.
Meanwhile, the head of UN Peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, and the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the DRC, Alan Doss, are continuing their visit to North Kivu. Earlier today they visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and UN military bases in the region, before meeting with humanitarian workers. They also met with the Congolese prime minister and the international facilitation, including European Union and United States representatives.
In response to questions about todays exchange of fire, the Spokeswoman later added that, despite being under heavy fire, MONUC peacekeepers from the Uruguayan and Indian contingents successfully managed to extract the 12 members of a humanitarian team from Rutshuru to one of the Blue Helmets bases outside the fighting zone.
Those humanitarian actors left Goma on Monday, escorted by the peacekeepers, in order to bring medical and sanitation aid to Rutshuru, and conduct a three-day humanitarian assessment mission in the zone occupied by Nkundas CNDP (National Committee for the Defense of the People) since last Wednesday.
Asked about complaints that the mission had not delivered food, Montas clarified that it was a humanitarian assessment mission and had not been intended to deliver food. WFP will start food distribution in Goma on Wednesday and food aid will be delivered later to Rutshuru.
Asked whether the Secretary-General was disappointed by statements from the DRC Government that President Joseph Kabila would not meet with Laurent Nkunda, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General, in remarks made on Monday, had referred to the intention expressed earlier by Kabila to engage in talks with Nkunda. The Secretary-General, she said, is still hopeful that talks can take place between the parties.
Asked whether the Secretary-General believes that Rwanda controls Nkundas forces, Montas said that the essential objective now is to stop the fighting, make sure that the cease-fire holds and protect the population, and whoever can help that effort should be contacted. To that extent, she noted, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is an important player in the region.
AGENCIES SAY UP TO 100,000 DISPLACED BY D.R. CONGO VIOLENCE
100,000 people -- around 60 percent of whom are children have fled their homes due to heavy fighting between armed groups in North Kivu last week.
Around 250,000 people are believed to have been displaced in the last two months, bringing the total number of internally displaced people to around one million, or 20 percent of the entire North Kivu population.
UNICEF says the condition of newly displaced children and women is desperate. Thousands of them have had very little to eat since fleeing. Their access to clean water and health care has been minimal. Hundreds of children are presumed to have been separated from their families, forced to fend for their survival on their own.
The World Health Organization
says increasing quantities of medical supplies are being provided by foreign governments to save lives in the eastern DRC, but WHO is calling for more support to meet urgent health needs.
The World Food Programme reports that it would start distributing a 10-day ration to more than
135,000 people in six camps around Goma. The distributions would all happen on the same day to prevent unrest.
WFP says it was moving more food from Uganda and Zambia into the DRC, and there were some contingency stocks available in Bukavu. Security and access remained the main concern for WFP and all humanitarian agencies in the area. They needed better guarantees from all sides for safe passage of humanitarian staff and goods.
The UN Refugee Agency, meanwhile,
says as it had feared, three internal displacement sites run by UNHCR near the town of Rutshuru have been destroyed and emptied. UNHCR and its partners are now trying to determine the whereabouts of tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) from the camps in the Rutshuru area.
Since the fighting died down last week, this is the first time UNHCR and other agencies have been given access into the territory north of Goma now controlled by the forces of General Laurent Nkunda.
HUMAN RIGHTS TEAM ALLOWED BEHIND D.R. CONGO REBEL LINES
The Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights said a mobile UN human rights team was allowed into the area controlled by the CNDP forces of Laurent Nkunda on Monday.
The Office says this was the first time that they had access to rebel-held areas since the crisis had started. This was a welcome development, it says. However, the team was accompanied by an armed member of the CNDP, which compromised severely their ability to conduct interviews with people and to find out what was going on. The team would try again today.
One of the issues that the team was trying to look into was the report of targeted killings coming out of the rebel-held areas. They had so far not heard any allegations about large-scale atrocities. The focus had been more on the kind of precise, targeted killings and the general creation of panic, fear and confusion which had driven people from their homes and camps.
Meanwhile, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo today
expressed concern about the situation in the Kivus and recalled that his office is closely monitoring information about attacks against civilian populations, forced displacement of populations, murders, rapes, pillaging and looting, which are reported to be taking place in the recent armed confrontations in the province of North Kivu. He calls on all parties to the conflict and regional actors to put an end to the crimes.
UNAMID DELIVERS MORE EQUIPMENT TO DARFUR
The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that UNAMID police
undertook yesterday their ninth convoy from the UN Logistics Base in El Obeid to Darfur to bring much needed equipment and vehicles to the mission area.
The convoy comprised 39 vehicles, including seven trucks of contingent-owned equipment and three trucks of humanitarian relief.
The 900-kilometer journey took place over some of the worst terrain in the region, particularly during the rainy season.
The mission says these convoys are also an opportunity for UNAMID police to make contact with the local population along the route, as well as develop better working relations with the local police.
U.N. MISSION RESPECTS IRAQI COUNCILS DECISION ON MINORITY SEATS
UN Mission in Iraq issued a statement on the important decision by the Iraqi Council of Representatives to allocate specific seats for representatives of Iraq's minorities on the Provincial Councils.
Although the amendment does not reflect a larger number of seats for Iraqi minorities, consistent with UNAMIs original proposal, the UN Mission respects the Council of Representatives decision, which was adopted by a majority of 106 votes and is binding for the current elections.
The adoption of the amendment to the electoral law should be seen, the Mission says, as a contribution towards furthering the respect for human rights and democracy in Iraq, through the commitment of the Iraqi institutions to recognize and guarantee minority representation in their elected governing bodies.
MORE REFUGEES TAKE PERILOUS TRIP ACROSS GULF OF ADEN
The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
estimates that more refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden by sea in the first ten months of 2008 than in all of 2007. These estimates are based on both official and unofficial sources.
UNHCR is working to improve reception conditions in Yemen. At the same time, it is trying to improve the living conditions of people with protection needs in the Horn of Africa so they dont need to risk their lives by making the crossing from Somalia to Yemen.
Meanwhile, UNHCR is reporting another case of smugglers throwing some of their passengers overboard in the Gulf of Aden. Survivors tell UNHCR that their boat left northern Somalia on Friday. On Sunday, when they were in sight of the coast of Yemen, smugglers demanded more money. Passengers who did not, or could not, pay were severely beaten. Up to 40 people mostly Ethiopians were thrown overboard despite their pleas for mercy.
Twelve bodies have so far washed up on the beach; 28 people remain missing. The other 75 people who were on the boat made it to shore and are receiving help at a UNHCR reception centre in Yemen.
UNICEF CONDEMNS STONING DEATH OF SOMALI GIRL
UNICEF has condemned the stoning death last week in Kismayo of a 13-year old Somali girl convicted of adultery by an Islamist court. The agency says that information available to it suggests instead that Aisha Duhulow was harassed and then raped by three men while she was traveling on foot between her hometown of Kismayo and Mogadishu, where she intended to visit relatives.
UNICEF said the incident highlights the vulnerability of girls and women in Somalia, for whom violence and discrimination are intensified by the effects of chronic conflict and displacement.
VOLUME OF SEABORNE TRADE AMONG NATIONS AT ALL-TIME HIGH
According to a new
report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), international seaborne trade in 2007, driven by emerging and transitional economies, surpassed a record eight billion tons.
But the report also notes that shipping prices have recently been dropping. That significant decline shows that the unfolding financial crisis has spread to international trade.
According to UNCTAD, the shift in prices might have negative implications for developing countries, especially those dependent on commodities.
ASIA/PACIFIC COMMISSION LAUNCHES FORUM ON GENDER AND POVERTY
The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has helped launch a new forum to develop gender and poverty-sensitive energy policies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The forum brings together experts and policymakers. It addresses concerns that progress in achieving the
Millennium Development Goals may be hampered by a lack of energy supply in many rural areas in the region, as well as by the food, fuel and financial crises.
LIST OF INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE IS NOW COMPLETE
reports that the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was established today in Istanbul. The list is designed to give more visibility to the worlds living heritage.
The list consists of the 90 cultural elements that have been proclaimed Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Examples include kabuki theatre in Japan, a type of samba from Brazil, barkcloth-making in Uganda, and Vanuatu sand drawings.
SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS PROGRAMME OF WORK: The
Security Council this morning held its first consultations during the month of November and adopted its programme of work for the month. Ambassador Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica, the new Security Council President, briefed correspondents about the Councils work during the coming month.
FIRST MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ELECTED: States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
elected the first twelve members to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the end of the first meeting of States Parties, held in New York on 31 October and 3 November 2008. Members of the Committee, who are independent experts on disability, are expected to take up their duties starting 1 January 2009.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
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