Category Archives: Women, Human Rights & Empowerment

Go Fund: Ekxang Community Resource Center

Site A plots and beds a go!!
Site A plots and beds a go!!

Jenkins M Photo Credit: Hansila S.

 

You can fund this project by making your kind donation at:

Ekxang Community Resource Center

Introduction

In 2013, I (Jenkins Macedo) was privileged to have won a research grant from the Center of Global Food Security at Purdue University  to undertake a field research project in Laos in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute  in Vientiane, Laos.

In the photo: Georeferencing one of the sites of the project located 100 meters from the school site. In the photo is the Ekxang village Chief in the army fatigue, Mr. Tom and his daughter, one of our project farming family with the Hawaiian shirt, Ms. Khandala [to my right] Faculty member of the Department of Water Resource Engineering at the National University of Laos, Ms. Chantha [to my left] District Agricultural Extension Officer. Photo Credit: Hansila S. IWMI’s Staff

The awarded grant was used to facilitate the implementation of my field research project in Laos towards the Master of Science degree at Clark University in Environmental Science and Policy . Thus, this fundraiser is intended to contribution back to the community in the form of a development project of some of their most urgent needs.

If you are interested in some of my works and those completed in Laos during my time there, please visit my website at INDESEEM and select “Field Trips” from the Category dropdown menu.

Jenkins conducting visual soil testing with Ms. Khandala and the farmers.Photo Credit: Mixay S. NUOL

During my work in Laos from December 2013 through July 2014, I was fortunate to work with farmers and other local stakeholders in Ekxang Village located 62 kilometers from Vientiane capital. The village has about 2000 people mostly from Hmong ethnic group who were settled there about 100 years ago. Ekxang is situated in the Vientiane Province, which is mostly lowlands where paddy rice farming is the main source of income and livelihoods support system. The village neighbors about six other villages in the Phonhong administrative district.

Welcome to Vientiane Province. Photo Credit: Jenkins M.

Ekxang village as many villages in Laos has few public facilities and infrastructures, such as a government-funded primary school, which is poorly furnish, a community health center with one paid nurse who is rarely accessible by the villagers, no library and educational materials for students and teachers are scarce if even available. Access to educational materials is a major challenge for both teachers and students. Teachers, students and their parents struggle to acquire the necessary local specific educational materials and supplies.

Newly constructed 6 classroom school building. Photo Credit: Bournmee M. IWMI’s staff.

Parents who are mostly farmers have to struggle between providing school fees and educational supplies for their children against the decision to buy farm supplies for the next farming season. With the risk of farming pose by climate change in the forms of severe droughts, flooding and poor yield, parents and farmers at Ekxang and nearby villages are face with the same struggle each day.

A panoramic view of Ekxang village market. Photo Credit: Mixay S. NUOL

It was always great buying and selling locally. Photo Credit: Jenkins M.

The provincial and district extension officers are doing their optimal best to reach out to local farmers with whatever limited resources that are available at their disposal to address some of the technical and non-technical issues farmers at Ekxang and other nearby villages continue to experience. During my work in Laos, I worked closely with the District Agricultural and Forestry Extension Officer (DAFOE).

Their centralized office located in the town KM52, in Phonhong district serves over thousands local farmers in villages and small towns. Their office has nothing, but wooden chairs, tables, empty closets with few stacks of papers, few postal boards of some of the common plants and farm animals diseases prevalent in the province. Anything beyond those has to be accessed from Vientiane, which takes several weeks or months to materialize.

We provided water for our neighbors, but that wasn’t enough.

One interesting experience and challenge working with our farmers at Ekxang village was also trying to gain the trust of their cattle. Most farmers own livestock, but not everyone has cattle. The monetary value of cattle far surpass those of small livestock and crop combine. Unfortunately, both of our project sites ( A and B) were directly on the route the cattle take each evening. As such, we had to be herdsmen ourselves why hoping our green fields in the middle of a totally dried landscape didn’t elevate the appetite of cattle.

Study site A usually surrounded by cattle late evenings.

We tried, but eventually failed  when one afternoon I got a call while in Vientiane from the farmer (Ms. Tamda) that the cattle grazed our field to the point only the shoots of the water spinach were left in the soil. At least with the shoots still in the soil, we trimmed the field and reinforced the fence and the regrowth was amazing.

Lesson? Never underestimate hungry cattle because they will do anything to get over the great wall of China to get fresh and green leaves, if they have to.

The Project Overview

Objective:

The main objective of this fundraiser is to help raise $80,000.00 dollars from now to July 2017, which will be used to build the Ekxang Community Resource Center in Vientiane Province at Ban (village) Ekxang for use by the villagers at Ekxang and their neighbors in the Phonhong administrative district.

It is against this background and from my conversations with all the stakeholders that were involved in the project in Laos. The establishment of the community resource center (first of its kind in the province) will not only contribute to their resilience to climate change, but also contribute towards providing opportunities for their children to be empowered with skills and knowledge essential to preserve their cultures, enhance their knowledge and to engage with others from other communities. The community resource center will be a shared facility, which provides multiple services to the people.

The Ekxang Community Resources Center would be equipped with a computer lab with access to the internet, a library which contains textbooks in Lao language and other local languages as necessary and a section  with English and French textbooks. A section of the facility would be the Farmers’ Seeds Bank, which will be managed by the local farmers’ group at Ekxang, which actively works with the agricultural extension officers. Initial plans is on the way to create a business model for the seeds bank. The seeds bank is very important because farmers at Ekxang and other villages always purchase seeds from agricultural stores in the cities. Most of the seeds purchased from these stores are imported from abroad and are very expensive, not tolerant to environmental stressors, such as high temperature and are mostly linked to low yield varieties.

If the farmers are provided with the needed training, skills and materials, they can produce their own seeds year round without spending a dime saving a significant amount of money that can be used for other household needs or as savings.

An office for the district agricultural extension services would be made available and equipped with a computer, a printer, and basic field tools to conduct on-site soil tests, temperature measurements, soil sampling and processing tools, georeferencing equipment and training, etc. for farmers in Ekxang and nearby villages. The office will be equipped with two microscopes and associated materials to enhance their work in the field while at the center.

The Ekxang Community Resource Center will also have at least two conference or meeting rooms each equipped with a media control system, which will include a projector, a computer, speakers, microphone and flat screen television sets for presentations and videoconferencing.

The facility will also have two office spaces for the local Lao Women’s Union and both offices will be fitted with office furnitures, computers, and a printer.

Lastly, the facility will include a playground for children. The primary school at Ekxang doesn’t have a playground. We are hoping to use part of the funds to develop the open field at the school with a football pitch, a basketball court and a playground fitted with fun games for children between the ages of 1-15 years old.

Two generators will be purchased as a stand energy source.

The facility will also have a local staff office, kitchen, separate toilets for both gender, a community access room fitted with educational games and other resources. An office space will be provided for the local Chief at Ekxang to be used for his administrative work in the village, which will provide a form of security for the center.

Note. A complete breakdown for the budget will be provided shortly. 

I strongly believe that the Ekxang Community Resource Center, if funded and developed will bring more light to the farmers and their children and those of the neighboring communities. This will create an active environment, which foster engagement, learning and sharing.

Laotians are sharing, loving and hardworking people who believe in their national identity and diverse cultural heritage. The resource center, if funded and developed, will continue to add to these essential values.

The farmers at Ekxang village are amazing! I believe and trust that with your generous donations or contributions, and the eventual establishment of the resource center, that the people of Ekxang and the surrounding villages will be happy.

The full contributed amount would be used to acquire the needed construction materials and the equipment to furnish the building.

Land Acquisition Contribution

The local government would be able to provide land for the project.

Facility Leadership & Governance 

Ekxang Community Resource Center will be under the direct supervisory leadership of the local farmer’s group at Ekxang village, which will include team members from neighboring villages to form part of the supervisory team. The head supervisory role will be rotated annually by general consensus of team members.

Sustainability 

Sustainability is at the heart of this project A “Commons Access” fee will be designed base on consensus and with both the short and long term goals in mind.

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012
Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012

You are reading this brief disclosure because of your interests in refugees and displaced persons. No one wants to be a refugee! It is a very painful life mostly fill with lots of sufferings. So, we should continue to embrace those who are refugees and other displaced population not because we feel sorry for them, but because they are humans like ourselves with emotions, hearts, souls and spirits, desires of belonging and to call a place “home.”  Thus, we should continue to give our best to those in need, because the moment we stop doing that we miss the meaning  of humanity. It is our responsibility (believe it or not) to take care of each other in times of needs, wars and conflicts.

It is my desire and goal to keep creating awareness and education of refugees’ issues globally, but local first. In this process, it takes me great pleasure to announce today that I am almost done with the manuscript of a book based on my experiences as a refugee and those of my siblings as I reflect and recapture the many episodes of escapes from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and eventually settling in the United States.

I have tried on several occasions to avoid reflecting on my experiences and those of my siblings as we escaped together, but the desire to narrate this story with the goal of helping others learn from what we went through to help with their own stories of whatever they are going through in their own lives continue to upset me why I have delay this for so long. I started writing few months ago, sometimes staying up too late to make sure that this book is ready to come out in later part of 2017.

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announced that the table of contents, which I think best described every segment of the text is now out published here. I hope in the next few months that the remaining chapters can be completed and release to potential individuals who have contacted me with interest to help proof read the initial manuscript.

If you are interested to be one of the reviewers (which is voluntary by the way), please feel free to contact me and I will include you on my send list when the final manuscript is ready for reviewers to read and make their comments. All reviewers’ contribution to the final text will be duly acknowledged.

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Book Chapters

Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgement

Dedication

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Prior to the War: The Days Before Christmas

Chapter 3. 1st Escape: The Beginning of Life on the Run

Chapter 4. The Flight from Cape Palmas, Maryland

Chapter 5. Life at 5th Street Sinkor, Monrovia

Chapter 6. 2nd Escape: Monrovia – The Ball of Fire

Chapter 7. 3rd Escape: Providence & the Ghost of Bodies

Chapter 8. 4th Escape: The Thousands Unforgotten Steps

Chapter 9. Bomi Hills: Life in a Rebel-held Zone

Chapter 10. 5th Escape: Almost Dead at Midnight

Chapter 11. 6th Escape: The Bravery of a Sister

Chapter 12. 7th Escape: Exit from Bo to Kenema, Sierra Leone

Chapter 13. 8th Escape: The Frozen Exit from Sierra Leone

Chapter 14. The Tai Massacre: Neighbor Became Executional

Chapter 15. 9th Escape: The Light of Ghana

Chapter 16. Life at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana

Chapter 17. Resettlement to the United States of America

W O M E N ARE THE REASONS!

W O M E N ARE THE REASONS!
There is a reason nature was made!
There is a reason women bear the symbolic representation of nature!
There is a reason that nature is most appropriately personalized as she/her.
There is a reason ships are called after women!
There is a reason everything becomes whole due to women!
There is a reason everything tears apart if not included women!
There is a reason woman makes fractionable part whole!
There is a reason that women should not just be celebrated today,
but tomorrow and for future generations to come!
Nothing without woman is whole and nothing is whole without women!
The fruits of women are mankind and mankind will cease to exist without her fruits!
Women are the beautiful manifestation of nature and nature bears the evidence of her labors and tears!
Women are the true reason life keeps existing and the true reason life will cease if they are broken!
Women are awesome and awesomeness are the fruits of their beauty!
Women are the beauty of the earth and the universe!
Today we celebrate their strengthen, power, motivation,  encouragement, progress, and love!
Today the children of the Earth – Women say:
“Happy International Women’s Day.”

Reasonable concern about domestic security? Islamophobia?


By Dr. Richard Schmitt, Author of Out of the Woods


The comment by a presidential candidate that he would not allow a Muslim to run for president, has raised an interesting controversy. Shall we say that this candidate has reasonable concerns about our domestic security and the maintenance of our Constitution and political system? Or shall we say that his statement was a clear example of  Islamophobia? Or, to speak plainly, a clear example of racism?

Those who agree with the presidential candidate point to what they see as the unwillingness of Muslims in the US to assimilate. Many Muslims maintain their native language, many Muslim women cover their heads, among Muslims gender roles are different from what they are in other parts of America.

But none of those differentiates Muslims in America from other groups. Most immigrants hold on to their native languages, sometimes because their English is not so good and sometimes because their language of origin is dear and beloved. Religious Jews will cover their heads but are not, for that reason, accused of unwillingness to assimilate. Women hailing from India often wear saris but no one thinks that politicians, whose families immigrated from India, are therefore not qualified for holding public office. Bobby Jindal, governor of Lousiana, is actually at the moment running for president.

Distrust of Muslims is also often justified by saying that they want to impose sharia law on everyone in the United States. But again, think of all the others groups, that we regard as good Americans, whose religion imposes on them specific rules that are quite different from those of mainstream America. Think, for instance, of the dietary laws followed by orthodox Jews. Think about the rules promulgated by the Catholic Church about families, divorce, reproduction, the role of women in the family.

Here we have two examples of reasons given to justify special treatment of Muslims. But these reasons would also demand that other religious groups such as Jews and Catholics should be excluded from being candidates for political office. But the same reasons are not used to exclude Jews and Catholics.

It is currently customary to call these prejudiced attitudes “Islamophobia.” That has a clean, clinical sound to it like “acrophobia” (fear of heights) or “agoraphobia” (fear of open spaces). Such fears may be irrational but should be treated more like a disease than a moral failure.

But it is clear that excluding Muslims from our democracy is not merely irrational, but is utterly reprehensible like any other example of racism.


This opinion piece was published at Out of the Woods and was retrieved on 10/09/2015 and republished here for educational and information purposes only.


 

 

Opinion: Women in the Face of Climate Change

By Renee Juliene Karunungan

Renee Juliene Karunungan, 25, is the advocacy director of Dakila, a group of artists, students, and individuals in the Philippines committed to working towards social change, which has been campaigning for climate justice since 2009. Karunungan, who is also a climate tracker for the Adopt a Negotiator project, is in Bonn for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings currently taking place there.

BONN, Sep 2 2015 (IPS) – After surviving the storm surge wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013, women in evacuation centres found themselves again fighting for survival … at times from rape. Many became victims of human trafficking while many more did anything they could to feed their families before themselves.

Climate change has become one of the biggest threats of this century for women. But these ‘secondary impacts’ of disaster events are rarely considered, nor are the amplifying impacts of economic dependence, and lack of everyday freedoms at home.

At the Road to Sendai conference held in Manila in March, women’s leaders shared their traumatic experience. For many affected by Typhoon Haiyan, simple decisions such as the freedom to decide when to evacuate could not be made without their husbands’ permission.

Renee Juliene Karunungan

When typhoons come, women’s concerns rest with their children, but they remain uncertain of what to do and where to go. These are some of the crushing realities poor women live with in the face of climate change.

“We must recognise that women are differentially impacted by climate change,” according to Verona Collantes, Intergovernmental Specialist for UN Women. “For example, women have physical limitations because of the clothes they wear or because in some cultures, girls are not taught how to swim.”

“We take these things for granted but it limits women and girls and affects their vulnerability in the face of climate change,” she noted, adding that these day-to-day threats of climate change are only set to increase “if we don’t recognise that there are these limits, our response becomes the same for everyone and we disadvantage a part of the population, which, in this case, is women.”

Women’s groups have been active in pushing for gender to be included in the negotiating text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and according to Kate Cahoon of Gender CC, “we’ve seen a lot of progress in negotiations in the past decade when it comes to gender.”

“Climate change has become one of the biggest threats of this century for women. But these ‘secondary impacts’ of disaster events are rarely considered, nor are the amplifying impacts of economic dependence, and lack of everyday freedoms at home”

However, this week in Bonn, where the UNFCCC is holding a series of meetings, there has also been growing concern that issues central to supporting vulnerable women have been side-tracked, and may be left out or weakened by the time the U.N. climate change conference takes place in Paris in December.

“We want to make sure that gender is not only included in the preamble,” said Cahoon, explaining that this would amount to a somewhat superficial treatment of gender sensitivity. “We want to ensure that countries will commit to having gender in Section C [general objectives].”

Ensuring that gender is included throughout the Paris agreement is essential to ensure that there will be a mandate for action on the ground, especially in the Philippines. This is the only way to ensure that Paris will make a change in women’s lives at the grassroots level.

“We want a strong agreement and it can only be strong if we account for half of the world’s population,” stressed Cahoon.

Meanwhile, Collantes noted that UN Women is working to ensure that women will not be seen as vulnerable but rather as leaders. She believes that we now need to highlight the skills and capabilities that women can use to support their communities in moments of disaster.

“Women are always portrayed as victims but women are not vulnerable,” said Collates. “If they are given resources or decision-making powers, women can show their skills and strengths.”

In fact, according to an assessment by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “women play a key role in adaptation efforts, environmental sustainability and food security as the climate changes.”

The women most affected by Typhoon Haiyan could not agree more.

“We are always seen as a group of people to give charity to. But we are not only receivers of charity. We can be an active agent of making our communities more resilient to climate change impacts,” a woman leader from the Philippine women’s organisation KAKASA said during the Road to Sendai forum.

What does a good climate agreement for women look like?

According to Collantes, it must correct the lack of mention of women in the previous conventions, and it must also be coherent with the goal of gender equality, the Post-2015 Agenda, Rio+20, and the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework.

“Without gender equality, the Paris agreement would be behind its time and will not validate realities women are facing today,” says Collantes.

For the three billion women impacted by climate change, we can only hope negotiators here in Bonn won’t leave them behind.

Edited by Phil Harris   

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 


 

This article was published by the Inter Press Service New Agency and retrieved on 09/06/2015 for information and educational purposes.


 

Joint NGO Letter: Human Rights Situation in Sudan

Human Rights Watch


Permanent Representatives of Members and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council


 

Excellency,

We write to share our serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Sudan, marked by harsh political repression and continued impunity. There is increasing evidence that Sudanese security forces are committing war crimes in the conflict areas of Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. We call on your delegation to support the development and adoption of a strong and responsive resolution on Sudan under agenda Item 4 at the 30th session of the Human Rights Council in September.

Over the past four years in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the Sudanese government has engaged in indiscriminate and targeted aerial bombardment of civilian areas, killing and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. Government forces have destroyed civilian property including villages, health facilities, schools, mosques and churches, and the authorities continue to obstruct humanitarian assistance. Government forces and allied militia have also been implicated in alarming levels of sexual violence. Ongoing attacks and fighting have caused massive displacement over the past year.[1]

Over the past eighteen months in Darfur, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a new Sudanese special force under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), have committed war crimes and other abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity in the context of two counterinsurgency campaigns. The levels of violence in Darfur in recent months is comparable to 2004: Government forces including the RSF have systematically burned and looted villages, raped untold numbers of women, and killed those who have resisted their attacks.

Impunity has become structural and generalized in the conflict areas, and this has only encouraged the continuation of the commission of serious crimes. Sudanese authorities have demonstrated a complete lack of will and capacity to genuinely investigate and prosecute international crimes by failing to establish effective, impartial, and independent accountability mechanisms. Instead of enabling victims of atrocities to obtain justice and reparation, the justice system has been continuously used as a mean to target and neutralize dissenting voices.

Elsewhere in Sudan, the security forces have arrested and arbitrarily detained dozens of opposition party members, human rights defenders, students, and political activists in particular in the lead up to, during, and after the national elections held in April 2015. The arrests were accompanied by mass media censorship, including the confiscation of entire print runs of up to 14 newspapers on a single day and threatening calls to editors.

In May 2015, Sudan permitted visits by two UN human rights experts, namely the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences. However these visits were undermined by access restrictions and an environment of intimidation.  For example, on 16 May, two members of the Darfur Students’ Association in Khartoum were arrested by seven plain-clothed security officers immediately after they left a meeting with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. They were released on bail later that evening and charged with the publication of false news and disturbance of the public peace under the 1991 Criminal Act.

Moreover, Sudan has taken other steps to restrict human rights monitoring. Just a few months ago, it shut down the African Union/United Nations Mission in Darfur Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) human rights office in Khartoum after reports of mass rape in Tabit emerged, expelled key UN staff, and continues to block UNAMID peacekeepers from moving freely and fulfilling their mandate to protect civilians in Darfur, despite the intensification of violence and abuses.

It is time for the UN Human Rights Council to take stronger action in response to widespread and grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Sudan. We urge your delegation to ensure that the UN Human Rights Council adopts at its 30th session a resolution under agenda item 4 to:

–          Strengthen the special procedure mandate on Sudan by extending it as a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan under item 4, with a mandate to monitor and publicly and periodically report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in all parts of Sudan.

–          Request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urgently dispatch investigation teams, with expertise in sexual and gender-based violence, to investigate crimes under international law and other widespread and serious violations and abuses of human rights in Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, identify those responsible, and provide recommendations for accountability.

–          Condemn in the strongest terms the grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile since June 2011, including the continued indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian populated areas, the use of cluster bombs, and other indiscriminate attacks on civilians by Government forces and allied militia, as well as the continued blockade of humanitarian aid.

–          Similarly condemn attacks targeting the civilian population and civilian objects in Darfur, in particular looting, destruction of civilian facilities, killings and sexual violence committed by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and other Sudanese Government forces, which has led to forced displacement of civilian populations; and express its deep concern over the allegations of mass rape in the north Darfur town of Tabit in October 2014.

–          Urge the government of Sudan to allow unfettered access by UNAMID and humanitarian agencies and NGOs to all parts of Darfur and by humanitarian agencies, human rights monitors, and NGOs to all parts of Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

–          Address the continued impunity of security forces for the killing of scores of protesters in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan in September 2013 and urge the Government of Sudan to institute an independent public inquiry into the killings as requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolution on the human rights situation in Sudan at its 27th session.

–          Condemn the continued restrictions on the media, on human rights defenders and political opponents, freedoms of association and of peaceful assembly, the use of arbitrary detention and torture, call for the release of individuals arbitrarily detained by the National Intelligence and Security Services, and urge the Government of Sudan to repeal the repressive National Security Act of 2010.

We annex to this letter a detailed briefing note on the situation of human rights since the adoption of the UN Human Rights Council’s previous resolution on Sudan in September 2014.

We thank you for your attention to these pressing issues.

Sincerely,

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)

African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS)

Amnesty International

CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

 Conectas Human Rights

Darfur Bar Association

Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre

East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP)

Human Rights Watch

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI)

International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

Journalists for Human Rights – Sudan

National Human Rights Monitors Organization

Sudan Consortium

Sudanese Human Rights Initiative (SHRI)

 West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN / ROADDH)

Annex: Situation of human rights in Sudan since September 2014

Since the UN Human Rights Council passed its latest resolution on the situation in Sudan, new episodes of violence in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile states have resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths and mass forced displacement. In addition, security forces have arrested dozens of opposition party members, students, and political activists, in the lead up to, during, and after the national elections that took place in April 2015.

Darfur

In Darfur, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a government force, under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), and consisting largely of former militias created in mid-2013, led two brutal counterinsurgency campaigns during the past eighteen months. The RSF attacked civilians, burned and looted homes, raped and beat villagers and unlawfully killed an unknown number of civilians. During both campaigns the RSF has received aerial support and fought alongside Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) ground troops and other paramilitary and militia groups.

Human Rights Watch documented the mass rape of more than 200 women and girls by Sudanese armed forces in an organized attack on the north Darfur town of Tabit in October 2014.[2] Sudan denied the allegations and refused peacekeepers access to the town. On 9 November, it allowed the peacekeepers brief access, but security forces prevented them from carrying out a credible investigation and reportedly intimidated residents.[3]

At the end of her visit to Sudan in May 2015, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women urged the Government of Sudan to “set up a Commission of Inquiry, consisting of both national and international persons, to look into the reports of allegations of mass rapes in different regions, including recent allegations regarding the village of Thabit [sic].”[4] Shortly after, the print runs of ten newspapers were confiscated by the NISS on 25 May. Though no reasons were given, the independent daily Al Jareeda newspaper was running with the headline “Independent Expert calls for Investigation Committee in Mass Rape Allegations”.

In December 2014, the Sudanese government re-launched Operation Decisive Summer, attacking villages in Jebel Marra and East Jebel Marra by air and land. In their 19 January 2015 report the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan characterised the Government strategy in Darfur as one of “collective punishment of villages and communities from which the armed opposition groups are believed to come or operate” and “induced or forced displacement of those communities”, with “direct engagement, including aerial bombardment, of the [armed rebel] groups when their location can be identified.”[5]  Their report described a pattern of air attacks followed by RSF ground attacks on civilian areas, including the destruction and looting of villages, accompanied by an “especially high” number of killings. The UN Panel of Experts reported the use of airstrikes on civilian targets in violation of Security Council resolution 1591 (2005). One incident reported by the ICC Prosecutor included the burning of ten villages in East Jebel Marra on 26 January by the RSF after a campaign of aerial bombardment by the SAF.[6] The UN Secretary General’s latest report on UNAMID on 26 May noted that UNAMID found evidence of two cluster bombs in North Darfur.[7]

The human rights violations associated with the attacks included the forced displacement of entire communities; the destruction of the physical infrastructure necessary for sustaining life in a harsh desert environment (i.e. wells, food stores, shelter, farming implements); the plunder of the collective wealth of families, such as livestock; and widespread, severe physical and sexual abuse, including mass rape, torture and killings.

Many survivors of RSF attacks fled to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in government-controlled territory or the hills and mountains outside of government-controlled areas.

On 21 August 2015, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a new report on Impunity and Accountability in Darfur for 2014.[8]

Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile

Sudanese government forces have continued to engage in a four-year campaign of ground and indiscriminate aerial attacks in rebel-held areas of the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, since fighting between Sudanese Government forces and the armed opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N), began in June and September 2011.

Human Rights Watch alone documented more than 100 civilian casualties in 2014 and 2015 from aerial bombardment or after the initial attack by unexploded ordnance and other explosive remnants of war in Southern Kordofan.[9] This included the death of 26 children. Sudanese human rights monitors documented numerous additional instances of bombing, shelling, and civilian casualties during this period.[10] There is also evidence suggesting that government aircraft deliberately bombed hospitals and other humanitarian facilities, and that Sudan dropped cluster bombs on civilian areas of Southern Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains in February, March and June 2015.[11] Amnesty International also documented that between January and April 2015, the Sudanese air force dropped 374 bombs in 60 locations across South Kordofan.[12] Since 2011, the SAF has bombed 26 health facilities (hospitals, clinics and health units). There are only two hospitals operating to serve a population of 1.2 million people. In one case, Médecins Sans Frontières documented how a Sudan Air Force fighter jet dropped 13 bombs, of which two landed inside a hospital compound and the others just outside the hospital fence.[13]

The impact of aerial bombardments has also violated the right to education in South Kordofan. There were six secondary schools in SPLA-N controlled areas when the conflict began but now only three secondary schools remain operational. The enrolment of children to schools in SPLA-N controlled areas has further declined from 3000 to about 300-500 secondary school pupils. Further 30 primary schools have been closed and enrolment numbers have dropped by 23,000 since 2011.

The use of aerial bombardment and flights over civilian villages and communities has been a consistent practice of the Sudan Air Force since the beginning of conflict in 2011. Aerial bombardment in May and June 2015 disrupted cultivation activities before the rainy season, as well as having had a profound psychological impact over the course of the conflict.[14]

In Blue Nile, Government forces, again including the RSF, arbitrarily detained residents, raped women and girls, and restricted residents’ movements, farming, and access to food.[15] Entire communities have been displaced by Government forces in what appears to be collective punishment for their perceived support to the rebel movements based on ethnic identity. The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) documented that between April and May 2015 the SAF burned three villages, comprised mainly of people from the Ingessana ethnic group, to the ground and ordered the residents of at least four others to evacuate their homes. Residents told ACJPS they were threatened with arrest for presumed membership in the opposition party if they stayed behind. A campaign of incommunicado and arbitrary detentions followed the displacements.[16] The Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) documented the burning by SAF of two additional Blue Nile villages in May.[17]

The SPLA-N has also launched retaliation attacks on civilian communities presumed to support Government forces. Seven civilians were killed on 12 April when the SPLA-N shelled Almadina 10, just south of El Damazein, presumed to be occupied by pro-government civilians, three days after the SAF burned and forcibly displaced the residents of Mediam al Jabal village.[18]

Further, the long-standing denial of access to SPLA-N controlled areas by the government of Sudan has contributed to a protracted and deepening humanitarian crisis.  For instance, in the face of a measles outbreak in May 2014 to January 2015, children in SPLA-N controlled areas did not have access to a nationwide vaccination campaign spearheaded by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO). Although 1400 children were vaccinated in a local hospital, 30 children died from what is generally a preventable disease.[19]

Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture

In the lead up to, during, and after the national elections, that took place from 13 to 16 April 2015, Security forces in Sudan arrested dozens of opposition party members, students, and political activists.[20] Many reported they were detained for several days and subjected to harsh beatings before being released without charge. Government security forces continued to arrest and detain political activists, particularly members of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP), in the following months.[21]

Other high-profile human rights and opposition figures were also detained. For example, prominent human rights defender Amin Mekki Medani, political opposition leader Farouq Abu Eissa, and political activist Farah Ibrahim Alagar, were detained for over four months for attending negotiations between political and armed opposition groups.[22] They were arrested on 6 and 7 December 2014 after returning from negotiations in Addis Ababa, which led to the adoption of the “Sudan Call”, an opposition declaration calling for democracy and an end to conflicts. The men were held incommunicado for 15 days before being transferred to Kober prison and charged with crimes against the state that carry the death penalty. They were released on 9 April 2015 after the Minister of Justice exercised discretionary powers to drop the case.[23]

The NISS has broad powers of arrest and detention for up to four and a half months without judicial review, well beyond the international standard. Amendments to the constitution in January 2015 further empowered the NISS by designating it as a regular force with a broader mandate of combatting a range of political and social threats and taking precautionary measures against them. The service is known for its abusive tactics, including torture, against real or perceived political opponents.

Restrictions to freedom of expression, freedoms of association and peaceful assembly

As in past years, the NISS has continued to censor the media by confiscating print runs of newspapers often without giving reasons and instructing editors not to publish on “red-line” topics. On 16 February the print runs of 14 newspapers were confiscated by the NISS without reasons being given.[24] Media sources speculated that the confiscations could have been linked to reports of military gains made by the SPLA-N or reports of containers with radioactive materials found at Port Sudan. On 25 May, authorities confiscated 10 newspapers. At least one paper confiscated had featured, on its front page, details of a press conference held the previous day by the UN Expert on Violence against Women who was concluding a visit to the country.[25]

Security officials also continue to arrest journalists and obstruct their work. In July, three journalists were arrested while covering a doctors’ strike in Gedarif. In January, the editor of the independent Al Maidan newspaper, Madiha Abdaulla, was charged with crimes against the state in connection with articles published in the paper including comments made by an SPLA-N leader.[26] The case is ongoing. Four other journalists are on trial facing similar charges.

Authorities have also continued to restrict the activities of civil society organizations. For instance, civil society organizations are not able to hold public events in their own premises unless they have permission from NISS, and on many occasions permission is denied.[27]In the lead up to the elections, on 26 March, armed NISS officers raided the Khartoum-based TRACKS for Training and Human Development whilst it was hosting a training session on social responsibility. Participants were accused of discussing the boycott of the upcoming General Elections. Property, including four laptop computers and the central computer server, was seized. Three weeks later, human rights defender Adil Bakheit, whose laptop had been confiscated, was arrested. He was held in police custody for 17 days before his release on bail. He continues to face the risk of an unfair trial on baseless criminal charges, including offences that carry the death penalty, in connection with his peaceful work in defence of human rights.[28]

In February, officials closed the Sudanese Writer’s Union, and on 18 January, they raided the Mahmoud Mohammed Taha Cultural Center during an event marking the thirtieth anniversary of the execution of Taha, a renowned secular Islamic scholar, and ordered the center closed down. [29] Earlier, on 21 December 2014, the NISS raided the offices of the Sudanese Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) in Khartoum whilst a workshop on the Universal Periodic Review of Sudan taking place. Workshop participants were required to leave and a number of laptops and documents were confiscated.[30] No formal notice was served. [31]

 

Freedom of religion

In December 2014 and January 2015, authorities arrested two South Sudanese pastors and detained them for more than seven months, charging them with various serious crimes that carry the death penalty and flogging including undermining the constitution, espionage, and waging war against the state.  They were arrested after making public remarks criticizing a corruption scandal at a Khartoum Church and the treatment of Christians in Sudan. They were detained incommunicado by the NISS until 1 March when they were charged by the Prosecutor with crimes against the state and transferred to Kober Prison.[32] They received their first family visit on 2 March and were released on 5 August.[33]

In addition to these cases, Amnesty International documented the arrest and detention of twelve Christian female students by the Public Order Police (POP) on 25 June. While two of the students were released, the other 10 were charged with “indecent dress” under Article 152 of Sudan’s 1991 Criminal Act. This charge carries the punishment of flogging. Eight girls have now been freed, two  girls have appealed their sentences, including Fardous Al toum who has been sentenced to 20 lashes.[34]

The government of Sudan amended the Criminal Code provision to widen the definition of apostasy to target other school of Islam as well as anyone who questions the ‘credibility of the Quran, the Sahaba (the four Caliphs), or the wives of the Prophet’ and provide penalties up to five years of imprisonment.”

 

*  *  *

 

 

[1]               Between 1 January-31 July 2015 up to 211,000 people were newly displaced by conflict in Darfur, 36,000 were displaced in Government controlled areas of Southern Kordofan, and 56,000 in Government controlled areas of Blue Nile state. See, OCHA, Sudan: Humanitarian snapshot as of 31 July 2015,http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Sudan_Humanitarian_Snapshot_31_Jul_2015_A4.pdf.

[2]               Human Rights Watch, “Mass Rape in Darfur,” February 11, 2015,https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/02/11/mass-rape-north-darfur/sudanese-army-attacks-against-civilians-tabit.

[3] UNAMID press release,

[4]               Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women finalizes country mission to Sudan and calls for more open and constructive dialogues on violence against women, its causes and consequences, 24 May 2015,
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16009&LangID=E.

[5]               UN Security Council. Letter dated 16 January 2015 from the Vice-Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan addressed to the President of the Security Council, 19 January 2015,http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/31.

[6]               International Criminal Court, Officer of the Prosecutor, Twenty-first report pursuant to paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1593, 29 June 2015, para 18, http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/otp/21st-report-of-the-Prosecutor-to-the-UNSC-on-Dafur_%20Sudan.pdf .

[7]               UN Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, 26 May 2015, para 50,http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2015/378.

[8]               Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Impunity and Accountability in Darfur for 2014, 21 August 2015,http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SD/ImpunityAccountabilityInDarfur2014.pdf

[9]               Human Rights Watch news release, “Bombing Campaign’s Heavy Toll on Children,” May 6, 2015, http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/05/06/sudan-bombing-campaigns-heavy-toll-children.

[10]             Available at http://www.sudanconsortium.org/darfur_crisis/SKBNUpdates.html

[11]             The Sudan Consortium “Eight cluster bombs fall on Umdorein County”  June 2015http://www.sudanconsortium.org/darfur_consortium_actions/reports/2015/SKBNJune2015FINAL.pdf

[12]             Amnesty International: Don’t’ We  Matter?: Four Years of Unrelenting Attacks against Civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan State, 4 August 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2162/2015/en/

[13]             Médecins Sans Frontières, ”MSF hospital bombed in South Kordofan,” 22 January 2015, http://www.msf.org/article/sudan-msf-hospital-bombed-south-kordofan.

[14]             Sudan Consortium report, athttp://www.sudanconsortium.org/darfur_crisis/SKBNUpdates.html

[15]             Human Rights Watch news release, “Soldiers, Militias, Killing, Raping Civilians,” December 14, 2014, http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/12/14/sudan-soldiers-militias-killing-raping-civilians.

[16]             ACJPS, “Sudan forcibly displaces and sets villages on fire in Blue Nile; civilians presumed to be affiliated with rebels detained incommunicado”http://www.acjps.org/sudan-forcibly-displaces-and-sets-villages-on-fire-in-blue-nile-civilians-presumed-to-be-affiliated-with-rebels-detained-incommunicado/.

[17]             Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), “Blue Nile State Under Fire”, 28 May 2015, http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=7acabab6ae470b89628f88514&id=6625daa914.

[18]             ACJPS, “Attacks on Civilians by Sudanese Armed Forces and Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement – North in Blue Nile”, 1 May 2015, http://www.acjps.org/attacks-on-civilians-by-sudanese-armed-forces-and-sudanese-peoples-liberation-movement-north-in-blue-nile/

[19]             Amnesty International: Don’t’ We  Matter?: Four Years of Unrelenting Attacks against Civilians in Sudan’s South Kordofan State, 4 August 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2162/2015/en/

[20]             Human Rights Watch, “Sudan: Surge in Detention, Beatings, Around Elections”, April 28, 2015, http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/28/sudan-surge-detention-beatings-around-elections.

[21]             Amnesty International “URGENT ACTION, Three Opposition Members Harassed by NISS”, 17 August 2015,https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2271/2015/en/.

[22]             FIDH, “African Commission should call on Sudan to release prominent activists facing stiff penalties in national security trial”, 20 February 2015,https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/Africa/sudan/17034-african-commission-should-call-on-sudan-to-release-prominent-activists.

[23]             FIDH, “Release of human rights activist” 13 April 2015,”https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/impacts/sudan-release-of-human-rights-defender-dr-amin-mekki-medani

[24]             ACJPS, “Sharp increase in media restrictions 5 weeks before Sudanese General Elections”, 26 February 2015, http://www.acjps.org/sharp-increase-in-media-restrictions-5-weeks-before-sudanese-general-elections/; FIDH, “Detentions, civil society closures, media restrictions on eve of Sudan elections”, 12 April 2015, https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/Africa/sudan/detentions-civil-society-closures-media-restrictions-on-eve-of-sudan.

[25]             ACJPS, “Mass censorship of Khartoum newspapers during official visit of human rights experts”, 26 May 2015, http://www.acjps.org/mass-censorship-of-khartoum-newspapers-during-official-visit-of-human-rights-experts/.

[26]             See footnote 18

[27]             Amnesty International, Sudan: Entrenched Repression, Freedom of Expression and Association under Unprecedented attack,  1 April 2015,https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/1364/2015/en/

[28]             ACJPS, “Sudanese human rights defender detained on baseless charges and others at risk after armed raid on Khartoum training centre”, 18 April 2015,http://www.acjps.org/sudanese-human-rights-defender-detained-on-baseless-charges-and-others-at-risk-after-armed-raid-on-khartoum-based-training-centre/; FIDH, “Sudan: release on bail of Mr. Adil Bakheit”, 18 May 2015, https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/Africa/sudan/sudan-release-on-bail-of-mr-adil-bakheit.

[29]             ACJPS, “Sudan’s Ministry of Culture orders the closure of the Sudanese Writer’s Union”, 3 February 2015, http://www.acjps.org/sudans-ministry-of-culture-orders-the-closure-of-the-sudanese-writers-union/.

[30]             FIDH, “Sudan: continued detentions without charges against Dr Amin Mekki Medani, Mr Farouq Abu Eissa, and Dr Farah Ibrahim Mohamed Alagar [Update]”, 12 January 2015, https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/Africa/sudan/16767-sudan-continued-detentions-and-capital-charges-against-dr-amin-mekki.

[31]             Human Rights Watch news release, “Surge in Detentions, Beatings, Around Elections,” April 28, 2015, http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/04/28/sudan-surge-detention-beatings-around-elections.

[32]             ACJPS, “Two South Sudanese Pastors face death penalty for voicing opposition to corruption scandal at Khartoum Bahri Church”, 2 June 2015, http://www.acjps.org/two-south-sudanese-pastors-face-death-penalty-for-voicing-opposition-to-corruption-scandal-at-khartoum-bahri-church/.

[33]              Amnesty International, Sudan: Further information: Two pastors sentenced to time served, released: Reverend Yat Michael and Reverend Peter Yen, 6 August 2015,https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2237/2015/en/.

[34]             Amnesty International, Sudan: URGENT  ACTION, Eight Girls Free, One other risks flogging, 21 August, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr54/2302/2015/en/  Amnesty International, Sudan: 10 Christian Women at risk of flogging for indecent dress,  12 July, 2015 https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/07/sudan-10-christian-women-at-risk-of-flogging-for-indecent-dress/


This Joint NGO Letter was initially published at Human Rights Watch for information and educational purposes only.


 

 

 

AFRICAN WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT FUND CALL FOR PROPOSALS