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Scary Stat on Violence Against Women in the C.A.R.

We’ve known for a long time how bad the situation in the Central African Republic is for women and girls there. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which has an open investigation into crimes committed during CAR’s 2002-2003 civil war, has even said that the number of suspected rapes far exceeds the number of extra-judicial killings during that war. Still, it is a shock to the conscience to see a statistic like this:

Over 15 per cent of women and girls in the violence-ridden north of the Central African Republic (CAR) are victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Reports coming in on a weekly basis describe such incidents as two 12-year-old girls being raped while searching for firewood in the bush and a 13-year-old girl assaulted on her way to sell palm oil at a market.

“Sexual violence is a disturbingly common feature of the insecurity in the north of the Central African Republic,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes. “We must ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

Read more. And visit Amnesty International to learn more about war against women in the C.A.R.

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Tension Between Peace and Justice

A new development threatens to derail the recent ceasefire between LRA rebels and the Ugandan government. The snag? Indicted war criminal Joseph Kony and two other LRA leaders — perpetrators of gross human rights abuses, including mutilation, sexual abuse, and recruitment of child soldiers — have refused to accept the deal unless ICC arrest warrants are dropped.

This dynamic brings into focus the extremely frustrating tension between securing peace and holding perpetrators of mass violence accountable for their crimes. To draw combatants to the negotiating table, mediators cannot exactly trumpet plans to arrest their leaders. However, whitewashing war crimes out of the urgency to enact a peace accord — particularly one with groups that have a less-than-stellar history of abiding by ceasefires — would severely undermine the legitimacy of the peace process, damage the entire notion of accountability, and jeopardize the prospects for post-conflict reconciliation.In Uganda, the ICC is clearly justified in — and should be commended for — issuing indictments to the ringleaders of one of the world’s most vicious — and ideologically incoherent (Kony’s only stated goal is the implementation of rule of law based on the Ten Commandments) — rebel groups. Similarly, in Darfur — where the ICC is operating for the first time without the consent of the host country — the ICC’s indictments of two senior government officials, Ahmad Haroun and Ali Kushayb, represents a key step in both establishing the staying power of the young international court and achieving a just peace in Sudan.

At the same time, however, the need for peace is paramount. A sustainable end to the long-running conflict in northern Uganda would be a welcome breath of fresh air to a region mired in turmoil. The roadblocks to peace in Darfur are even more substantial than those in Uganda, but there too, Sudanese officials’ fear of being brought to The Hague is the primary impetus behind its rejection of the ICC and its stubborn reluctance to allow non-African peacekeepers on its soil.

In both Uganda and Darfur, justice should not be sacrificed for peace; the one simply cannot operate without the other. The ICC cannot be seen as capitulating to war criminals. That said, it would be tragic, for both the court and the people of northern Uganda, if this latest ceasefire were to unravel before it even had a chance to survive.

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Disturbing News

From the Associated Press:

The United Nations health agency said Wednesday that it was monitoring vaccine supplies for yellow fever as it confirmed the first cases of the disease in a Latin American urban area in six decades. The World Health Organization said that there had been nine confirmed cases in the suburbs of Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, and that three people had died.

Dr. William Perea, the W.H.O.’s yellow fever chief, said the disease, carried by mosquitoes, could spread quickly in built-up areas with poor sanitation.

To the extent that a disease can be completely eradicated from the globe, I was under the impression that yellow fever was basically gone. In fact, according to the World Health Organization not only is it still around, but yellow fever’s mosquito carrier is “once again infesting regions from which it was previously eradicated,” particularly in South America and the Caribbean. Scary.

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UN agencies rally to end to female genital mutilation within a generation

From the UN News Center

Ten United Nations agencies have banded together to help eliminate the harmful practice of female genital mutilation within a generation, stressing the need for strong leadership and greater resources to protect the health and lives of millions of women and girls.

An estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure — which involves the partial or total removal of external female genital organs — that some 140 million women, mostly in Asia, the Middle East and in Africa, have already endured.

Read more. Plus, see the full inter-agency statement (pdf) on eliminating female genital mutilation.

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Thursday Morning Coffee

Conservative lion and founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley, Jr., died yesterday at age 82. If you want to avoid mispronouncing a leader’s name on national TV, you might want to watch this a few times.

Top Stories

>>Northern Iraq – A day after stating there would be no timetables for their withdrawal from northern Iraq, a senior Turkish official said today that Turkey would withdrawl within “three or four days,” just hours after U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates reiterated his desire that Turkey keep it short in a meeting with Turkish Minister of Defense Vecdi Gonul in Ankara.

>>Uganda – The government’s rejection of a key rebel demand, that it work to get ICC war crimes charges against three Lord’s Resistance Army leaders dropped, is threatening once promising peace negotiations. Government officials suggest it is premature to work toward that end until the LRA had demobilised.

>>Thailand – Deposed PM, and owner of the Manchester City Premier League Club, Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand today and immediately surrendered to immigration police to face corruption charges. Thaksin ally, Samak Sundarevej, is the current Prime Minister.

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • UN Works
    in Chad
    by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/quick_plugs_kos.php">Quick
    Plugs: Kosovo Blogging – by Mark Leon Goldberg

The Rest of the Story
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UN Works in Chad

Next time a detractor calls the UN slow and ineffective, he or she should take a good look at how various UN agencies have sprang to action in Chad. From the UN News Center.

More than 5,500 Chadians who fled fighting in their capital, N’Djamena, earlier this month and have been living in temporary sites in north-eastern Cameroon have now been relocated to a newly equipped camp in the village of Maltam, according to United Nations humanitarian officials.

Another 10,000 refugees are expected to be transferred to the camp from the town of Kousseri, which at one point was hosting some 30,000 Chadians — who left their homeland due to fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups — in two temporary sites, as well as in local schools, churches and private homes.

Read the entire article. It is a remarkable display of how a bureaucracy can be marshaled to deliver critical services to a vulnerable population in one of the most remote regions on earth. Not only has UNHCR taken on the burden of relocating many thousands of distressed Chadians, but the World Food program is airlifting food so noone suffers malnutrition and and UNICEF is vaccinating the newly displaced with measles and polio vaccinations. This, I would say, is a good example of UN efficacy.

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