UN: 2,000 children used by militias in DR Congo

– Conflict in Congo’s Kasai region has affected more than 1.5 million children, says UNICEF

By Felix Nkambeh Tih

ANKARA

At least 2,000 children have been press-ganged into fighting by militias and more than 600,000 people have been displaced in rising violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai region, UNICEF said on Friday.

The UN agency also said the security and humanitarian crisis had affected more than 1.5 million children overall.

“The children of Kasai are being forced to face horrible hardship … hundreds of children have been injured in the violence, with reports of children being detained, raped and even executed,” Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF representative in DRC, said in a statement.

At least 300 children have been seriously injured and more than 4,000 have been separated from their families, according to the UN.

The UN agency also said 350 schools had been destroyed in the same provinces, while one of three health centers in Kasai Central was no longer operating.

Kasai Central is the stronghold of the Kamwina Nsapu militia. Violence between the Kamwina Nsapu and the security forces worsened in August 2016 after government troops killed the group’s leader.

So far more than 400 people have been killed in the fighting between Congolese security forces and militiamen, according to the UN.

On Wednesday the UN said it had discovered an additional 17 mass graves in Central Kasai province, bringing the total number of mass graves documented in DRC to 40.

AU chief urges African leaders to cut ties with France

  • Speaking in Morocco, Alpha Conde blasts West, especially France, for continuing to meddle in Africa’s affairs.

    Reporting by Mohammed Taleb; writing by Felix Nkambeh  Tih

    RABAT, Morocco (AA)- Guinea’s president, who also serves as African Union (AU) chairman, has called on African countries to “cut the umbilical chord with France” so as to initiate the continent’s development.

    Speaking at the 12th International Salon of Agriculture, held in Morocco’s northern city of Meknes late Monday, Alpha Conde harshly criticized western countries — singling out France in particular — for what he described as their policy of interfering in African domestic affairs.

    “Western countries should no longer dictate what we should do,” he said, going on to assert: “Africa must define its own path to development.”

    “No one should decide for Africa,” he said. “It is true that there are universal principles governing democracy, but it is important to allow African countries adapt these principles to their conditions.”

    Referring to the experiences of certain Asian countries, Conde said that Southeast Asia — especially Malaysia — had managed to develop themselves far from any western interference.

    “We no longer want this interference,” which, he declared, “has given rise to the Somalization of Libya and the insecurity in the Sahel [region of north Africa].”

    Since assuming the AU chairmanship in January, the Guinean president has reiterated calls for the emancipation of African countries from perceived foreign influence.

    At a conference held last month in Abidjan devoted to the emergence of Africa, Conde repeated calls to “cut the umbilical chord with France”.

    Like many West African states, Guinea did not achieve independence from France until the second half of the 20th century.

ANALYSIS: Experts weigh in on Burundi crisis

– Anadolu Agency interviewed African experts for an in-depth look into one of Africa’s most volatile crises

By Felix Nkambeh Tih

ANKARA

Despite UN calls for political dialogue, international pressure and an opposition boycott, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for, and won, a third term in office in controversial polls held on July 21.

Since then, Burundi has witnessed a spate of violent attacks, especially in the capital Bujumbura, sparking fears that the country could plunge into fresh conflict.

Even before the latest wave of violence, Burundi had been in crisis since April, when the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy named Nkurunziza its candidate for the presidency.

Along with violent protests against his planned third-term bid, in which scores of people were killed, Nkurunziza also faced a coup attempt in May, when several top generals attempted – but ultimately failed – to overthrow him while he was attending a summit in Tanzania.

The coup leaders have since regrouped in Rwanda, Burundi’s northern neighbor, where they have vowed to continue to fight the Nkurunziza regime.

Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term with 70 percent of the vote. His opponent Agathon Rwasa, leader of the National Liberation Forces, received 18.99 percent of the vote.

Nkurunziza’s party also won 77 out of 100 seats in parliamentary elections that sections of the opposition boycotted.

Attacks in Bujumbura

Some observers suspect the Rwanda-based coup plotters of being behind the recent wave of attacks, especially the assassination of General Nshimirimana, the country’s powerful spy chief and a Nkurunziza ally.

“According to Bujumbura, the leaders of the failed coup are now based in Rwanda and the attacks seen in the past weeks are all driven from a base located in the south of Kagame’s country [Rwanda],” Desire Zongo, an Ivorian political scientist specialized in African affairs, told Anadolu Agency.

Pascal Niyonizigiye, a political science professor at the University of Bujumbura, believes that the Rwanda-based generals have supporters in Burundi.

“It is difficult to know who exactly is behind the killings,” Niyonizigiye told Anadolu Agency. “But they could not have been carried out without the complicity of internal elements.”

“The circumstances of General Nshimirimana’s assassination indicate that the attackers are well organized,” he said. “They must have had considerable influence and resources in order to thwart such an important personality’s security detail.”

Since April, gunshots and grenade attacks have been reported throughout the streets of Burundi’s capital and dead bodies are found in every corner of Bujumbura on a daily basis.

According to Human Rights Watch, Nkurunziza’s security apparatus – including the ruling party’s youth league, known as the “Imbonerakure” – have arbitrarily arrested scores of suspected opponents in recent months.

Action against Nkurunziza

In response to the question as to whether the failed coup plotters have become a de facto rebel group, Zongo said that “the situation in Burundi is unique. The ruling CNDD-FDD, in power since 2005, was itself a rebel movement.”

“Who can be called a rebel there? Let us not forget that Nkurunziza himself was a rebel sentenced to death for killing civilians,” Zongo said.

Nkurunziza came to power following the 2005 Arusha agreement, which – along with ending the Hutu-Tutsi civil war – stipulated that Burundi’s president should not serve more than two terms in office.

“During Nkurunziza’s second term, Agathon Rwasa, leader of the FNL, was considered a rebel and chased out of Bujumbura. He came back some weeks ago to take part in the elections,” Zongo said.

“He has surprisingly been elected vice president of the parliament while General Godefroid Niyombare, the former head of the army under Nkurunziza, is now his main enemy,” he said. “There is nothing set in this country; situations and alliances are really fluid.”

Agathon Rwasa came second in the presidential elections and his party won over 20 seats in the parliamentary elections.

Fears of escalation

On Aug. 16, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, condemned Bikomagu’s assassination, which took place the previous day.

She went on to stress “the need for dialogue and consensus to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the current crisis.”

Zongo told Anadolu Agency that statements condemning the violence were not enough.

He conceded, however, that for the first time in such a crisis the African Union had a clear position against Nkurunziza’s third term.

The African Union could do more than this however, he said.

Zongo believes that the UN-sponsored political dialogue between all stakeholders involved in the Burundian crisis must resume immediately.

On the question of whether the country may plunge into another civil war, Zongo told Anadolu Agency that “Burundi is very weak economically; another war will make the situation worse.”

“There are pressures on both sides, opposition and government, to resume negotiations,” he said. “That is the only way to prevent Burundi from falling back into civil war, which devastated the country two decades ago.”

http://www.aa.com.tr/en

Hungary: 10,000 people protest against gov’t policy

Hungarians demand accountability from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government

By Felix Nkambeh Tih

An estimated 10,000 Hungarians gathered in front of the country’s Parliament Building in Budapest to protest against corruption and government policy.

Demonstrators shouted slogans against Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday evening, accusing his government of graft and also being too close to Russia.

Protesters chanted “Orbán out!”, “Europe”, “democracy” and “regime change”.

Hungarian protesters also gathered in other Hungarian cities and capitals including London and Berlin calling for Orban’s resignation and the dismissal of Ildiko Vida, head of Hungary’s tax authority and other government officials.

The protests came after a tax avoidance scandal erupted last month after the U.S. placed six Hungarian public officials, including the head of tax authority, on U.S. entry ban list because of alleged  links to corruption and the government also sought to impose an internet tax.

– Claims contested

Washington refused to publicly name individuals allegedly involved although Hungary’s tax chief Ildiko Vida accepted that she was on the list, but contested the claims.

Andras Horvath, a former tax authority official at the event, called for immediate action against corruption and the construction of a new political system in which “nobody is left by the road”.

“We have come to bury not a government, but a regime,” another demonstrator said.

Despite his lack of popularity, Orban was re-elected in April with his party Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance) winning two-thirds of the seats in parliament.

http://www.aa.com.tr/en

Work for the poor and peace, Pope Francis urges G20

Pontiff asks world leaders ‘not to forget that many lives are at stake’ behind their political decisions

By Felix Nkambeh Tih

ANKARA 

The Pope has called on world leaders to remember the poor, work for peace and tackle inequality in the world in a letter sent to Australian Prime Minister ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane.

In the letter addressed to Tony Abbott – who will host the summit on Nov. 15 and 16 – he asked the head of the Australian state and government “not to forget that many lives are at stake behind these political and technical discussions”.

Pope Francis wrote: “Throughout the world, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists.”

The Pope said he hoped the decisions made by the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies “will not be restricted to global indices, but will take into account as well real improvements in the living conditions of poorer families and the reduction of all forms of unacceptable inequality”.

“It would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle,” he added.

– ‘Unbearable situations’

Pope Francis also appealed for support for victims of current global crises, especially refugees.

“These conflicts leave deep scars and result in unbearable humanitarian situations around the world. I take this opportunity to ask the G20 Member States to be examples of generosity and solidarity in meeting the many needs of the victims of these conflicts, and especially of refugees,” The Pope continued.

He wrote that “the situation in the Middle East has revived debate about the responsibility of the international community to protect individuals and peoples from extreme attacks on human rights and a total disregard for humanitarian law”.

“I express these hopes in light of the post-2015 Development Agenda to be approved by the current session of the United Nations Assembly, which ought to include the vital issues of decent work for all and climate change,” he added in his letter.

www.aa.com.tr/en 

European Commission: Turkey’s GDP to move higher in 2015

Exports contribute strongly to increased growth, and will improve by 5 percent in 2016.

By Felix Tih

ANKARA  

Turkey’s GDP will move steadily higher from 2015 through 2016, a European Commission forecast said.

Turkey’s GDP grew at a surprisingly fast rate at the beginning of the year, but slowed down in the second quarter, according to the European Economic Forecast published Tuesday in Brussels

The report says growth is expected to increase by 3.3 percent in 2015, up from 2.8 percent growth in 2014, as domestic demand recovers gradually.

Increasing demand will also drive growth higher in 2016 by 3.7 percent, the forecast says.

The projected contribution from exports to GDP growth will remain strong for the current year and will grow by 5 percent in 2016 compared with 4.4 percent in 2015.

Imports are also projected to rise by 5.5 percent in 2016, compared with 3.7 percent in 2015, up from -1.0 per cent in 2014.

The forecast projects that government debt will increase in 2014 due to much slower revenue growth, then drop over the next two years as economic activity and revenue growth pick up again.

The report says that the employment rate will rise by 3.2 percent in 2016 compared with 3 percent in 2015.

Turkey is the largest national economy in Central and Eastern Europe, a complex mix of modern industry and commerce along with a traditional agriculture sector that still accounts for about 30 percent of employment.

Turkey’s economy has slowed in pace with the global economic slowdown in the past year.

www.aa.com.tr/en 

France contradicts reports of Russian warship delivery

– French minister repeats ‘conditions not met’ for delivery of Mistral helicopter carrier in November despite Russian news reports

(AA) – France will not deliver two controversial helicopter carriers to Russia until “conditions have been met”, France’s Finance Minister has said, contradicting earlier Russian reports a vessel would be handed over in November.

The comments by Michel Sapin came on Thursday a day after Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin – quoted by Russian news agency RIA – was reported as saying Moscow would take delivery of the first of the pair of Mistral vessels on November 14.

Sapin told French radio channel RTL, “the conditions today are not met to deliver the Mistrals”, adding a “return to normality in Ukraine” was necessary before the deal could go ahead and that Russia needed to “play a positive role”.

RIA earlier quoted Rogozin as saying that state arms exporter Rosoboronexport had been invited to France to attend the handover ceremony of the first carrier to be delivered under a €1.12 billion ($1.6 billion) contract signed by Paris and Moscow in June 2011, during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.

The controversy comes amid heightened tension between NATO and Russia since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March.

– ‘Press pause button’

The U.S. has pressured France not to halt delivery the warships.

Speaking in Brussels on June 5, Barack Obama said it was “preferable to press the pause button” over the deal.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on Tuesday that a decision to deliver the warship had yet been made.

He said: “If the political conditions do not change, I can’t imagine the delivery being authorized.”

“The French president will make his decision at the moment of delivery,” he said.

Meanwhile, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, told RIA: “If France does not deliver the Mistral helicopter carrier on November 14, Russia should ask for its money back.”

http://www.aa.com.tr/en