Borehole drilling progressing steadily in E Cape

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Pretoria � Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Des van Rooyen has officially handed over boreholes to the community of OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

COGTA has financed the drilling of about 19 boreholes in the province and eight of these are in OR Tambo District Municipality. They have been operational since 2016.

The handover of boreholes takes place in the year of the centenary of the late struggle stalwart, Oliver Reginald Tambo, after whom the municipality was named.

A number of municipalities in the province have the challenge of water shortages, hence the intervention of COGTA through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG).

The boreholes have been providing water to communities in respective areas and ensured that communities do not travel long distances to look for this precious source of life, said the Minister on Monday.

The Minister also visited the Tsolo Waterborne Sanitation project, which is part of the CAPEX (capital expenditure) programme of the OR Tambo district.

This project is helping to reverse the current backlog in sanitation and it will cost about R148 million.

The Minister also inspected two boreholes in Mhlontlo Municipality, which provide water to thousands of people.

As government works to address water and sanitation backlogs, the Minister said it was important to keep communities abreast of developments so they can get their buy-in for plans meant for their development.

Minister Van Rooyen said government funds should be used prudently and efficiently.

In as much as we need to finance our projects, we need to ensure that we don’t build white elephants that do not benefit the intended beneficiaries. Projects must be completed on time within specification so that government does not end up overspending unnecessarily, he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

Premier Willies Mchunu welcomes delegates to United Nations World Water Day Summit and Expo

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KZN welcomes hosting UN World Water Day Summit & Expo

Somebody once said: In the future, the wars won’t be fought on the availability of oil and mineral resources, but it will be fought on the availability of water.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu has welcome experts and international delegates to the United Nations World Water Day Summit and Expo. The Summit is currently underway at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

The President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency J.G Zuma officially opened the Summit and Expo in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Heads of State Committee on the Unites Nations High Level on Water.

Amongst the guests attending include Joakim Harlin, Vice-Chair of UN-Water, Getachew Engida, Dep- DG of UNESCO, Prof Patrick Verkooijen of the World Bank, Gerson Lwenge, Minister for Water and Irrigation, United Republic of Tanzania.

Others include, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, UNESCO Special Envoy to the United Nations on Water, and former State President of the Republic of Kenya

Welcoming guests, Mchunu remarked: I am reminded that somebody once said in the future, the wars won’t be fought on the availability of oil and mineral resources, but it will be fought on the availability of water.

We are looking forward to your deliberations. We acknowledge the presence of experts and other key role-players. We will learn best practices on how to ensure adequate provision of water for both domestic and commercial use.

It is important to point out that as a result of the existing lingering drought a provincial state of disaster was first declared in October 2014 and subsequently again on 11 November 2015. This situation has since deteriorated even further and it is clear that drastic further measures will have to be taken to avert serious damage and even loss of life.

Even though the province has recently received good rainfall, we all understand that we are approaching the end of our rain season and most of our major dam levels still remain low. According to the Department of Water and Sanitation the current average levels of our dams in KZN is still 13% below what it was in the corresponding period last year.

It is for this reason that the Joint Operations Centre for the Umgeni System has remained active and a 15% restriction is retained.

As can be expected, this disaster situation has had a devastating impact, not only on our economy and commercial demand for water, but also on human access to potable drinking water, drinking water for livestock and game farms, crop production and food security, as well as the state of the environment in general.

This has also contributed to a 6.3% reduction in the number of households directly involved in agriculture over the period 2011 to 2016 and has thus further contributed to increased urbanisation in KZN.

We must acknowledge the substantial effort and disaster interventions from the National, Provincial and Local spheres of government to deal with this crisis situation.

This has made it possible to drill more boreholes in critical hotspots, install mobile packaged plants in areas most severely affected, the acquisition of more water tankers to augment distribution, as well as the establishment of off-channel water storage to augment raw water supply.

Over and above the R503 million spent in the 15/16 financial year the Department of Water and Sanitation has reprioritised a further R700 million in the 16/17 financial year for drought interventions.

Although we are proud of what has been done to mitigate our risks related to this drought thus far, we believe that we still have to do much more. It is noted that despite mass mobilisation and awareness campaigns, we are still not achieving our water saving targets.

Too many people in our province still do not appear to understand the severity of the situation and are not responding positively to calls to adhere to water restriction measures.

Source: Government of South Africa

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Racial Discrimination

The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s meeting this morning commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Secretary-General said we are living in an increasingly intolerant and ever-more divided world, with discrimination and violence on the rise. He expressed concern that migrants have become convenient scapegoats and that, far too often, hate speech, stereotyping and stigmatization are becoming normalized.

He urged the international community to work even harder to close divisions, combat intolerance and protect human rights.

**Vitaly Churkin

The Secretary-General paid tribute to Russia’s late Permanent Representative, Vitaly Churkin, during a General Assembly meeting this morning in honour of Ambassador Churkin, who passed away last month on the eve of his sixty-fifth birthday.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that although he had only worked with Ambassador Churkin for a short time, it was clear the Russian diplomat was an unmistakable voice � as witty as he was passionate in defending Russia’s interests, while advocating for a strong United Nations.

He went on to call Ambassador Churkin an outstanding diplomat, a man of many talents and interests, and a human being whose friendship touched many lives.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maman Sidikou, is briefing the Security Council this morning on the Secretary-General’s most recent report.

He said that he had requested that MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] protection of civilians’ strategy be revised to address the threat to the civilian population from armed groups in Eastern DRC, the spreading ethnic and militia violence in new areas of concern, and possible electoral violence in urban areas.

The report of the Secretary-General also sets out a package of measures aimed at enhancing the ability of the MONUSCO Force in the current challenging security context through the adoption of a more mobile, flexible and agile posture.

We expect Mr. Sidikou to speak at the stakeout following consultations.

**Central African Republic

We have an update from the Central African Republic. The UN Mission there, known as MINUSCA, reports that it continues to support the restoration of State authority and security in the town of Bambari in Ouaka prefecture.

Yesterday, UN peacekeepers escorted a convoy of 30 national gendarmes to join another 36 who arrived in the town earlier in the month. The UN Mission also facilitated the deployment of a prison warden to Bambari yesterday as well as corrections and security officers to expedite the resumption of prison services.

Meanwhile, armed groups continued to undertake aggressive actions on some of the road axes around Bambari and there have been reports of clashes in a number of localities over the past week.

The Mission also reports clashes between the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC)/Revolution et Justice (RJ) coalition and local self-defence groups in Elevage, Bavara and Tadamou villages in Ouham-Pende prefecture. The UN Mission, in line with its protection of civilians’ mandate, is dispatching a patrol to the areas to prevent further clashes.

**Cameroon

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is concerned by continuing forced return of hundreds of refugees from Cameroon’s far north region to north-eastern Nigeria despite the recent signing of the tripartite agreement aimed at ensuring the voluntary nature of returns.

So far this year, Cameroon has forcefully returned over 2,600 refugees back to Nigerian border villages against their will.

Inside Nigeria, UNHCR teams have heard and documented accounts about Cameroonian troops returning refugees against their will without allowing them time to collect their belongings.

While acknowledging the generosity of the Government of Cameroon and local communities who host over 85,000 Nigerian refugees, UNHCR calls on the Government to honour its obligations under international and regional refugee protection instruments, as well as Cameroonian law.

**South Sudan

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, has told the President of South Sudan that it is clearer than ever that the problems the country faces must be solved through political rather than military means. Mr. Ladsous met President Salva Kiir on Tuesday, the second day of his two-day trip to the country, and said the President had agreed with his assessment.

Speaking to the media later in the day, Mr Ladsous said the UN was sparing no effort to speed up the deployment of the 4,000 extra troops of the Regional Protection Force mandated by the Security Council.

The first peacekeepers from Rwanda, Nepal and Bangladesh will begin arriving in the next few weeks.

Mr Ladsous, who is stepping down as the head of UN peacekeeping at the end of the month, was joined in South Sudan by the Under-Secretary-General designate, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

And I was asked yesterday about the crash-landing of a commercial plane at Wau airport in the north-west of South Sudan.

According to the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS), the plane, an Antonov 26 belonging to the South Sudan Supreme Company, was flying from Juba to Wau. It crashed at 3:40 p.m. on Monday afternoon and immediately caught fire. Forty-three passengers were said to be on board. UNMISS attended the scene with firefighting equipment and medical staff. Peacekeepers worked alongside local emergency personnel in a combined effort.

The UN Mission stands ready to assist the people of Wau.

**Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis, strongly condemned the terrorist bombing in Baghdad’s southwestern al-Amil district yesterday, in which scores of civilians were reported killed or injured.

He said that this cowardly crime adds to Da’esh’s atrocious record of targeting civilians in a futile campaign intended to inflict as many casualties as possible to cause pain on the people, just as the terrorists are being routed on the battlefront.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO), with logistic support from the World Food Programme (WFP), has airlifted 15 fully equipped ambulances to Iraq in order to strengthen the response to the increasing trauma and medical-related emergencies in west Mosul. These ambulances will enhance trauma care at the frontlines and ensure timely referral to field hospitals.

**Human Development Report

Although there has been impressive progress in human development, millions continue to be left behind and there needs to be a stronger focus on dismantling barriers such as discrimination and unequal political participation.

That’s according to the latest Human Development Report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which was released today in Stockholm, Sweden.

The report finds one in three people around the world continue to live in low levels of human development, as measured by the Human Development Index.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said that the world has come a long way in rolling back extreme poverty, in improving access to education and health, and in expanding possibilities for women and girls.

But she stressed that those gains are a prelude to the next, possibly tougher challenge to ensure that the benefits of global progress reach everyone. You can read the full report online.

**Honour Roll

Today, I have the honour of thanking Bhutan and Mauritius for their full payments to the regular budget. Their contributions take the Honour Roll to 63.

**Questions and Answers

That’s it for me. Are there any questions? Yes, Raed?

Question: Thanks, Farhan. There’s some articles well, there’s an article in AFP quoting you saying that the UN has rejected the Coalition’s request for the UN to supervise the port of Hudaydah in Yemen. Is this accurate? And, if yes, can you tell us a little bit more about the decision and what the constraints are?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, what I said is the following, and I’m just going to repeat to you what I told to AFP, and you can judge for yourself what it stands for. Yemen is almost entirely dependent on the import of food and other commodities. In view of the growing food insecurity and a possible famine, with two thirds of the population already food insecure, it is essential that all parties to the conflict facilitate unhindered access to Yemen’s ports for humanitarian and commercial cargo, including Hudaydah port, which serves 70 per cent of Yemen’s affected population. Parties to the conflict have a clear responsibility to protect civilian infrastructure and fundamentally to protect civilians. These are not obligations they can shift to others. The humanitarian community delivers assistance in Yemen solely based on needs and not on political considerations and will continue to do so through all available means.

Question: Can I follow up?

Deputy Spokesman: Yeah.

Question: Does that have to do with your concerns over the security situation there and how it would impact your own staff?

Deputy Spokesman: Ultimately, like I just said, parties to the conflict themselves have a clear responsibility to protect civilian infrastructure and to protect civilians. Those are obligations we believe cannot be shifted to others. Yes, Abdelhamid?

Question: Thank you. Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov recently issued a statement condemning rocket attack by activists from Gaza into southern Israel. However, Israel recently attacked Syria. And, since his responsibilities include all the Middle East region, because he’s the coordinator for the peace process, why he didn’t issue a statement condemning Israel for attacking Syria?

Deputy Spokesman: We are, of course, examining these matters, including the latest reports. We would be concerned about any fighting in Syria, but as you know, Syria is a separate matter outside of the brief of Mr Mladenov. He does as you know, when he has to brief on the Middle East, many times, he leaves the situation in Syria aside to the work of the Special Envoy for Syria, who’s a different person, Staffan de Mistura.

Question: But that is regarding the internal strife in Syria; de Mistura is responsible for what’s going on inside Syria. Mladenov, among his responsibilities, to report about the peace process � that include Syria and Lebanon. Right?

Deputy Spokesman: His to the extent that he’s talking about the peace process, it is primarily his primary focus is on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and that is where his focus lies. The focus for the war in Syria is in the hands of Mr de Mistura. Yes?

Question: Sure. Sure. I want to ask about Cyprus and then three human rights defenders. Is it is it the case that the Secretary-General will be meeting with the President of Cyprus tomorrow? And, if so, when’s his plan to meet with the head of the Turkish Cypriot community?

Deputy Spokesman: There’s nothing scheduled at this point to announce. If that changes, we’ll let you know.

Question: Upon arriving in the United States, he said he’s meeting with the Secretary-General tomorrow, Mr. [Nicos] Anastasiades.

Deputy Spokesman: I don’t have anything to announce at this stage. If we add that to the schedule, you’ll know about that at that point. [He later said that the meeting with the President of Cyprus would take place on Wednesday morning.]

Question: Okay. And I wanted to ask you, I’ll do I guess, you know, these are three separate countries, but it seems to be a a trend. In Djibouti, the head of the Djiboutian League of Human Rights, Omar Ali Ewado, has been arrested. In the in the in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), the same is true of Ahmed Mansoor. And, in Cameroon, a guy called Akere Muna, who was the at one time the vice-chair of Transparency International, has been summoned by the police since the statement that was read here on Friday about how this dialogue is going. So, given that Mr. Muna, in particular, is is representing those who’ve already been detained by the Government, what is what are what particularly I believe you read something on Cameroon, and, honestly, I missed what you said as I came in. But what given that you’ve made a statement saying that there’s a dialogue that Mr. [Francois] Lonceny Fall was involved, if there have been many arrests since then and, in fact, the main lawyer for that community is now being arrested, what’s your comment?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, we need to look into these various reports, but for both of the cases that you mentioned in Djibouti and in Cameroon, we would be concerned about any efforts to hinder the work of human rights defenders. Human rights defenders, wherever they are, need to be able to go about their work without hindrance and without fear of arrest. Yes, Oleg?

Question: Thank you, Farhan. In the wake of the future discussion starting at the UN on the Convention on the total ban of the nuclear weapons, what does the Secretary-General think of this Convention of the idea of the concept of this? And is he concerned that two major nuclear powers, both Russia and the US, are vocally speaking against such a Convention?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, we certainly hope that the parties themselves, when they show up, will agree on efforts to end the threat posed by nuclear weapons. We welcome the start of any talks, and we hope that all the Member States will deal with each other in good faith. Yes?

Question: Yes, but it seems like both the the the two countries I named before, they will not take part in any negotiations. What’s the point is going to be of the convention when the two major Powers are not part of it?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, there’s always a point to starting a process and seeing whether other parties join along as it goes on. As with other processes, we leave these in the hands of the Member States and hope that they can make the progress that they’re looking to do. Yes?

Question: As a practice, the Secretary-General normally issues a statement thanking any senior official who leaves the United Nations, expressing his appreciations for the services they hin render for the UN. Would he be issuing a statement expressing his appreciation for the services Rima Khalaf had rendered for the United Nations since the year 2000? She has been a senior staff at UNDP and Executive Secretary of ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for West Africa).

Question: Yes, we’re well aware of Ms. Khalaf’s work. At the same time, I don’t have anything further to add to what Stephane [Dujarric] said on this matter on Friday. Yes?

Question: One follow-up. Has the Secretary-General received a communications and separately any request to meet on the on on the matter of both the report and the resignation of Rima Khalaf?

Deputy Spokesman: I believe different Member States may have made some communications on that. Regarding meetings, you’ll see his schedule of meetings as we post them.

Question: Okay. And I wanted to ask you, I’d asked in writing but, having gotten no answer, I want to ask you in person, which is, on the 38th Floor, is it possible to get a list of who is now now that it’s 80-some 80 days, I guess, into this Administration, who’s working up there? And I wanted to know in particular a breakdown of who’s paid by the UN, who’s paid by countries, and if � just a yes-or-no question. If there is a any type of fund � some have called it a Lusophone fund; some have called it said it’s run out of UNOPS [United Nations Office for Project Services] � that, is in fact, paying individuals that work on the 38th Floor. And, if so, are they UN staffers? Is it something else? Can you I mean, I asked you on Friday in like, is there a list, and is it possible to get this breakdown simply to understand how it’s being run up there?

Deputy Spokesman: I don’t believe that there’s a list by payment. Obviously, we don’t go into the contract details of individual staff members. We could try to get you a list of the people who are part of the Executive Office.

Question: But it’s not I guess I want to put it in this context. It’s not a matter of the personal details of the individual. It’s a matter of saying it is it would be important for the public to know if somebody working on the 38th Floor is, in fact, paid by a country as opposed from the regular budget.

Deputy Spokesman: The financial details of how the Executive Office works, all that is shared with the relevant budgetary committees of the General Assembly, and so they have that information.

Question: So has has the has the Executive Office of the Secretary-General shared information about a Lusophone fund or any fund run by UNOPS that pays individuals on the 38th Floor?

Deputy Spokesman: I’m not aware of any such thing as you’re terming it. As you know, at different times, if people are seconded by Governments or otherwise governments defray arrangements, that information, whether for this Secretary-General or for previous Secretaries-General, is shared with the relevant budgetary committees.

Question: Right, but would it be this is my final thing. Would it be paid directly from a country to its own national or through a fund run by some UN system fund? And, if so, I’m asking for details about that because

Deputy Spokesman: Again, that is information that gets shared with the budgetary committees. They will have that. Yes?

Question: Two questions. One, I was sitting upstairs on the 4th Floor of the General Assembly, and this was for the Churkin memorial. And there are very few pho headphones there any longer. There are a few and fort so, if there are not a lot of the people there using them, you can get them, but an earphone, but otherwise, you can’t. And so you won’t be able to hear the the translations unless you bring your own. I thought I raised this once before, and I thought it was going to be looked into, but is it possible that someone can look into that? Because that’s a real problem that the translations are not available. And then there still are the tour groups that come through, and a few of them they were a little quieter this time than last time, but it was a little disturbing to have them walking through in the part during a memorial. So I just wondered about that you know, the process of that happening. There’s other meetings. It would seem no problem of them walking through but perhaps but and also, they should be very quiet, so even the guards the guides shouldn’t be talking while they’re walking through. So those are some things I would appreciate if someone would look into.

Deputy Spokesman: Sure.

Question: Okay. And the second question is, the Women Cross DMZ [demilitarized zone] gave somebody actually gave the Secretary-General a letter about asking for some support for their work trying to calm the tensions in the Korean Peninsula, and I’m wondering if the Secretary-General had some answer to that and so if you could look into it. So it was personally given to the Secretary-General. And the Security Council had raised the issue of having the Secretary-General do something to sort of help the situation, and so I’m wondering if the Secretary-General and the Security Council you know, if there’s some kind of of process going on so there can be negotiations. Essentially, there have been very few real efforts at negotiations, it seems, and yet we hear statements from some of the Member States saying negotiations didn’t work when, in fact, there’s been very few efforts at negotiations so rec in the recent years. So I wondered if that could be looked into and if we could get some response from the Secretary-General about his his using his good offices services towards helping that situation, because it’s very dangerous for the people on the peninsula if there’s no effort at negotiations. Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman: Yes. And as you’re well aware, of course, what we support is any resumption of the six-party talks on that. Yes?

Question: Thanks, Farhan. Have you received any more conclusive information from the issue that I raised yesterday regarding General [Khalifa] Haftar’s forces digging up graves and parading with bodies in Qunfudhah, Benghazi?

Deputy Spokesman: Yes, the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is aware of these reports. Obviously, we condemn any disfigurement and mutilation of the sort that has been reported, and we would like to see that this is investigated. Yes?

Question: Sure. Wanted to ask you, if you can, since the Council’s meeting about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, can you say anything about any either progress or efforts being made by the UN in terms of the two missing panel of expert members? And I can’t tell if it’s three or four. I think Stephane said it was three. And I saw MONUSCO said it was four Congolese

Deputy Spokesman: I believe it’s four. It’s four.

Question: So what can you give some sense I understand but are you searching?

Deputy Spokesman: Yes. We’re searching. There’s nothing to report at this stage.

Question: Has this happened ever before? Have members of panel of experts or sanctions investigators gone been kidnapped or gone missing in this way?

Deputy Spokesman: There have been times when different people have either been kidnapped or gone missing and then we try to find them and get them released. Many times, we’ve been able to in the past, we’ve been able to get the peaceful release of people who have been detained. We don’t know whether that’s what’s happened in this case.

Question: Sure. And I wanted to ask one other thing about DRC. And it there was a meeting yesterday afternoon between the the I guess first Prime Minister of the DRC and the Secretary-General and his team. And I have to say, because there was this event called Gender Champions afterwards, I did notice, not just on the DRC side but on the Secretary-General’s side, it was six men. And I just wanted to know, is there some I heard him say at the Gender Champions that there’s an end to all-male panels and a lot of things about gender parity. Was this some kind of an oversight? Is it something did someone who was supposed to attend not attend or what’s your how would you characterize the makeup of that meeting?

Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Secretary-General has made it very clear he wants to see an end to panels which are just only male. If there are any problems getting the right mix, people are encouraged to do what they can to get the right mix of panellists. Sometimes, inevitably, whether it’s through absences or whatever, it doesn’t work out that way. But we’re trying to make sure that, as a general practice, that all panels will have some gender balance to them. Yes?

Question: Thanks, Farhan. You just mentioned, according to WHO, that 15 ambulances delivered medical aid in Western Mosul in Iraq. And yesterday, at the briefing, you said that the main road, delivery road, is cut starting from mid-November. So what way what road did this convoy use?

Deputy Spokesman: A different one. I believe WHO has more details on their website. Yes?

Question: I mean, isn’t it possible to use the same the same way to deliver humanitarian assistance and food rations for civilians in Western Mosul?

Deputy Spokesman: There are, but we want to make sure that the best access roads for passage of a large convoy of food would be accessible. Yes?

Question: Thank you, Farhan. This morning, I read that they had acquitted the four guards who had boiled to death a schizophrenic patient in a mental well, actually in a prison and

Correspondent: Where?

Deputy Spokesman: Here, in this country. This is not an isolated incident. The New Yorker recently had an article about the horrific conditions. This patient was punished because he had defecated. According to The New Yorker, the conditions are so horrifying that it would lead to, you know, any kind of so does the United Nations have anything to say about this? It’s it’s the rights of the disabled. It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

Deputy Spokesman: Well, we have, as you know, different human rights mechanisms that look into the rights of the disabled, the rights of people in detention. Obviously, we want to make sure that detention conditions everywhere in the world are adequate so that all those who are in detention have their basic rights respected.

Question: But this does seem to be you know, the term is raised often but it’s valid, a tremendous double standard; human rights abuses in certain countries are focused upon and they are sanctioned. Human rights abuses in other countries are are just committed with impunity.

Deputy Spokesman: Well, we try to make sure that there’s one uniform standard for all countries. Have a good afternoon, everyone.

Source: United Nations

First Wave of Regional Protection Force to Deploy to South Sudan Within Weeks

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JUBA � The outgoing United Nations undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations said Tuesday that he expects to see the first wave of a regional protection force to arrive in South Sudan within the next few weeks.

“We are sparing no effort in speeding up, and in the next few weeks you will see the first vanguard of the regional force being deployed here in Juba. And I think that will be a very important signal to know that things are moving ahead,” Herve Ladsous said.

Ladsous, who is in Juba on his final visit to South Sudan as the U.N.’s top peacekeeping boss, said the Kiir administration must first silence the guns if a national dialogue is going to work.

Ladsous visited the South Sudanese capital this week along with his successor, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, to meet with President Salva Kiir and other top officials.

Ladsous described security and humanitarian conditions in South Sudan as dire. He said the situation requires a political solution and that the national dialogue Kiir proposed in December is not a solution to South Sudan’s problems. The dialogue was supposed to begin early this month, according to Kiir, but a start date has yet to be identified by the government.

“A national dialogue, of course, is most useful held in the context where hostilities had ceased, that there is no more fighting first. Second, that the humanitarian context is not as bad as right now. You know, when people are concerned about their basic livelihoods maybe they don’t have so much time to spare for political dialogue,” Ladsous said.

Ladsous said the government must drive the national dialogue toward a “great consensus,” saying it can be a catalyst for peace. At the same time, he warns that open dialogue is not a substitute for a political solution to end the fighting that continues to grip the country.

In his final visit to Juba, Ladsous � who steps down in 10 days � urged all sides to implement the 2015 peace agreement, noting the U.N. is not pleased that it’s been all but ignored.

The U.N. peacekeeping chief said the country’s warring parties continue to block aid workers from accessing people in need of humanitarian assistance.

“We have faced a number of impediments in terms of freedom of movement, in terms of getting clearances. Very importantly, the humanitarian actors have been severely impeded in their action on the ground,” Ladsous said.

Ladsous said South Sudan is one of those countries around the world where there is a high incidence of humanitarian workers being prevented from doing their work, and where workers are killed while trying to help the most needy.

He said the African Union, the United Nations and other stakeholders of the 2015 peace deal continue to try to engage the warring parties to end the fighting and fully implement the agreement.

Ladsous said when he arrives in New York later this week, he will attend another meeting on the status of regional protection force deployments, which he called “very important.”

The forces will consist of several units from Rwanda, Nepal, Bangladesh and Ethiopia, among other countries.

Source: Voice of America

President Zuma salutes heroes who fought for human rights

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King William’s Town � President Jacob Zuma has paid tribute to South Africa’s national heroes who fought for the country’s liberation during the Human Rights Day celebrations, on Tuesday.

Speaking in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape where this year’s Human Rights Day was commemorated, President Zuma heaped praise on anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko and stalwart Oliver Tambo, among others, who he described as selfless leaders who fought for the human rights and dignity of all South Africans.

Other speakers at the event included Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa as well as Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle.

This year marks 40 years since Biko died while in detention in police cells in Pretoria in 1977. Tambo would have been 100 years this year, had he lived. He died in 1993 on the eve of South Africa’s free democratic elections. The theme of Human Rights Day this year is: The year of OR Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights.

The marking of this day was born out of huge sacrifices made by brave men and women who fought for freedom in the face of extreme brutality by the apartheid regime, President Zuma told thousands of people who braved the scorching sun to be part of the day’s event.

Our country now enjoys a stable constitutional democracy where everyone is entitled to equal human rights because of the sacrifices of the people of Sharpeville, Langa, Soweto, KwaMashu, Tzaneen, Zeerust, Giyani and many other parts of our country, said President Zuma.

Laying wreaths at Biko’s grave

Earlier in the day, the President, accompanied by his Deputy Cyril Ramaphosa visited the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance where President Zuma laid wreaths at Biko’s grave.

In an emotional ceremony, President Zuma, joined by Nontsikelelo Biko, the widow of Steve Biko unveiled and handed over the Biko monument to the family. The handover marks the launch of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Black Consciousness Movement leader’s death.

President Zuma also announced that in September, the month of Biko’s tragic death, government will join the family, AZAPO and the Black Consciousness Movement in commemorating his life and contribution to South Africa’s liberation.

We must come together to celebrate our national heroes and ensure that our youth and future generations know and understand their contribution and what they stood for. In the memory of Steve Biko, let us promote the emancipation of the mind.

He wanted black people to understand that they are equals with other racial groups, and that they were equally deserving of dignity, respect, equality and a better life.

Biko believed that only when black people understood that they were not inferior, and the white people understood and accepted that they are not superior, would true liberation be achieved in our country, said President Zuma.

He reminded South Africans that the country comes from a history where there was a scant regard for fundamental human rights. It was therefore most fitting that the nation should pause annually, and remember the past so as to learn from it and never repeat its wrongs.

Progress in the promotion of human rights

We also use this day to take stock of progress in the promotion of human rights. Today we also recommit ourselves to advance fundamental human rights and the restoration of human dignity to the black people in particular, who were brutalised and dehumanised by the twin systems of colonialism and apartheid.

We are pleased with the progress we have made thus far in advancing human rights. Our country’s Constitution enshrines socio-economic rights such as health education, food, water and social security. We have made progress in these areas.

Government had created the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure delivery Initiative to replace mud schools and other inappropriate structures and to provide basic services of sanitation, water and electricity.

The question was no longer why there are mud schools in the country, but how far government has gone in eradicating them.

Through the programme, we have completed one hundred and seventy schools. To restore the dignity of our learners, government has provided water to six hundred and fifteen schools, decent sanitation to four hundred and twenty five schools and electricity to three hundred and seven schools. We also care about the wellbeing of children in our schools.

President Zuma noted that nine million children receive meals through the National School Nutrition Programme and also do not pay school fees. The feeding scheme also provides an income for mothers who cook the meals daily at schools, while government buys vegetables from women-owned cooperatives in most communities. This programme thus fights hunger and contributes to community development.

Another key achievement of government that we are proud of, is the growth of the Early Childhood Development Programme. We are investing in these ECD centres of crAches as they are commonly known, to ensure that even children of the poor and the working class have a good start in education.

More money was being allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme each year to support youth from poor and working class backgrounds. This year the budget is R15.2 billion, which is higher than ever before.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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