Angry protestors in the Soweto area of Johannesburg killed four people, allegedly for stealing local jobs, according to media reports.
Many others, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have been affected by earlier rounds of violence, while tension has also been observed in KwaZulu Natal and Western Cape provinces.
In a statement, the “UNHCR is calling on the authorities to ensure that those responsible for acts of violence and violations of human rights are brought to account. We urge all possible efforts to avert future attacks, including incitement or attempts to block peaceful solutions. If unchecked, such xenophobic attacks could lead to further damage and destruction,” agency spokesperson Charlie Yaxley told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday.
UNHCR is supporting government efforts to assist people who have been displaced or who were affected by displacement.
Mr. Yaxley reported that staff have visited refugees and asylum-seekers affected by the recent violence in Soweto to assess their situation and needs.
“Many foreign shop owners have been affected by the violence and their small shops – often their only means of livelihoods – have been looted and destroyed,” he added.
Just over 280,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are currently living in South Africa, according to UNHCR data.
The UN agency has welcomed public expressions of support from many citizens there who have been calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals in the country.
The International Justice Group (IJG) war crimes investigators in the United States. South Africa, Europe and Canada say they have discovered about 73 Liberian war and economic criminals residing in the US, Canada and other parts of Europe.
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu
Sen Prince Y. Johnson Photo Courtesy News Dawn Newspaper
Convicted NPFL Spokesman Tom Woewiyu and Former Rebel INPFL Commander Prince Johnson
According to the IJG Investigators, the individuals listed in the West African country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report are living under different disguises and names to avoid detection and apprehension by authorities for the roles in the Liberian civil war.
They are from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), National Patriotic Front of of Liberia (NPFL), Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL) and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC).
Others in hiding are from the Lofa Defense Force (LDF), MODEL, ULIMO-J, ULIMO-K and the LURD rebel factions.
The accused were involved in heinous atrocities committed between April 14, 1979 up to 2003. A team of international investigators was in Liberia in June to conclude the final stages of investigation of these individuals, a source said.
Some of the non combatants and victims of the Liberia civil conflict included the following:
Mr. & Ms. Samuel Greene Archie Greene John Bright Budu Houge Charles Gbenyon Robert Quiah R. Vanjah Richards James Coleman Butler Freeman Mr & Ms. Johnny Nah Johnny Kpor Doris Toweh Gballah Stephen Yekeson Stephen Daniels Tommy Raynes Samuel Tody and Browne Paul Henneh Johnson Phillip Bowen Michael Doe Jackson F. Doe David Q. Livingstone Moses Washington James Turning Chea Kayea Roosevelt Savice Gabriel Kpolleh and Tonia Richardson
Still other victims are: Wuo Garbe Tappia Wewe Debar Exodus Kerdoe and Benedict Garlawolu
Thousands in Liberia and Sierra and nationals of other countries who are not listed were murdered by the rebel factions in violation of the four Geneva Conventions which protect people who were not (or were no longer) taking part in hostilities, including the sick and wounded, prisoners of war, and civilians.
Since submission of the TRC Report and recommendations, in 2009 to the Liberian government, no one has been held to account for their roles in war and economic crimes.
Local and international pressure is building on the Weah government to favorably respond to calls to establish a war crimes tribunal.
The International Justice Group (IJG) earlier this week said, “Under international justice, President Weah’s clear refusal poses serious consequences for Liberia’s prosperity in many ways. From international sanction to other activities such as travel ban of officials and others in government and the country, the pressure will be brought by the International Justice Group as well as the 76 Group and others…”
The Weah Administration has yet to officially commit to the setting up of a war and economic crimes court.
Liberia is facing increased pressure to bring to book individuals who have been accused of committing serious human rights abuses and economic crimes during the country’s civil war between 1989 – 2003 in which an estimated 250,000 people were killed and another 1 million others internally and externally dislocated.
Governing administrations including that of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and incumbent President George M. Weah have literally brought the intense spotlight on themselves and the pressure to implement recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Final Report which was submitted to the Johnson-Sirleaf’s Administration since 2009.
More disappointing is the fact that no one in Liberia has been prosecuted for their alleged criminal actions during the war.
Some supporters of the past President and now President Weah, including some of the accused, are justifying the refusal of government to do the right thing and address the “elephant in the room” – the outstanding issue of the implementation of the TRC recommendations and accountability for violations of the human rights of civilians and non-combatants.
In the eyes of the international community and those who stand on the side of justice, the culture of impunity in Liberia is pervasive and contributes to the cycle of violent depravity and criminal activity which sap the moral standing of Liberia and its people.
Also, the public face of national governance in Liberia is dominated by the same human rights violators and system of impunity. This ridiculous dispensation tells the international community and allied forces of justice, equal rights and morality that Liberia is not yet prepared to be a part of the civilized comity of nations where the country’s past barbarity and bloodletting are considered hindrances to full participation and respect.
The Webster-Merriam dictionary defines human rights as ” rights (such as freedom from unlawful imprisonment, torture, and execution) regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons”.
The UN Human Rights Commission defines human rights as “…rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.”
The undeniable expectation is that we, as human kind, are all equally entitled to our human rights without any discrimination; whether you live in Sweden, Argentina, North Korea or Liberia. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent, indivisible and God-given.
The Liberian civil war was a clear choice by some to exact and justify their brand of political, social or tribal domination on defenseless citizens through the use of arms, psychological and physical terror and violence. Some argue that the war was a justifiable armed response to threats against their survival by opposing warring elements.
But how does one justify the use of heavy combat and munitions in civilian areas or the targeting of innocent civilians who are fleeing conflict?
Why was it acceptable to attack peacekeepers for the sole purpose of driving them away because a military victory was imminent?
How does the intentional recruitment of vulnerable children through terror for combat and disposal stand up to scrutiny? When is it ok to plunder the common national resources of for personal wealth at the expense of devastatingly poor citizens?
The shameful reluctance of the Sirleaf government and delay by the new Weah Administration to stand on the side of addressing war and economic crimes in order to bring closure to the bloody chapter in national life is a reflection of the non-existence of a moral compass that is so critical to national unity and human decency.
Liberia is signatory to a host of international treaties, conventions and statutes which obligates it to comply with international law. In fact, Liberia was a signatory to the founding of the United Nations.
The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), commonly known as the San Francisco Conference, was a convention of delegates from about 50 Allied nation countries which took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California, the United States.
In 1963/1965, Liberia joined the UN Human Rights Council which is the successor to the original UN Commission on Human Rights.
Liberia has obligations under international law as a signatory who has ratified the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) . The Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that officially sits in The Hague in the Netherlands and has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
The basis for the establishment of a war crimes court and the prosecution of accused individuals are firmly rooted in the Final Report of the TRC. All Liberian fighting factions, as part of the Accra Comprehensive Peace agreement, subscribed to the establishment of the TRC mechanism.
Liberia, by becoming a party to international treaties, assumes obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights.
That obligation to respect means that Liberia must refrain from blocking, interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens and others within its borders.
Liberia must be reminded that it is failing miserably in upholding its obligations to comply with international law by its refusal to hold accountable those named in the country’s TRC Report as being responsible for serious human rights violations.
The international community and Liberians at home remain resolute in the march to justice.
The intentional delay by the Liberian government to stand on the side of justice must have consequences including the realization that their unacceptable action is tantamount to obstruction of justice.
The expectation is that moral men and women with clarity of conviction in Liberia will stand for the voiceless, the dead and their families and the physically and psychologically scarred and follow the law and international obligations so that history will be kind to their legacies.
Liberia must act boldly to end impunity and exact justice and accountability now. It can be done!
Monrovia, Liberia: About 166 Liberian migrants who had been stranded in Niger for months arrived home Thursday after their repatriation was facilitated by Niamey and supervised by the UN migration agency, IOM.
ECOWAS radio in the Liberian capital reported that the
Liberians arrived at the Roberts International Airport ((RIA) onboard a flight chartered by the government in Niamey.
They were screened jointly by officials of the Liberia immigration service and the Liberia refugee agency, LRRRC, before being taken to a safe location for re- unification with their families and relatives.
Most of the returnees appeared to be economic migrants in search of “greener pastures” like other African migrants who journeyed via North Africa, but their hopes more often were dashed.
In a separate development, police authorities this week reported hauling some 700 kilos of illicit drugs in a swoop on the Monrovia Central prison and others here.
Inmates claimed the drugs entered; thanks to visitors frequenting the over crowded prison daily.
Our Monrovia correspondent quoting Police said one senior prison warden was arrested in connection with illegal
Infiltration at South beach prison, built in the 60s to accommodate 300 inmates, but now holds more than one thousand pretrial detainees and convicts.
Hard core drugs consumption is pervasive throughout Liberia with communities in Monrovia competing for first place in proliferation of ghettos for substance users.
Smoking in public places is banned in Liberia, but distraught youngsters provokingly roam streets including Broad street puffing fumes of illicit drugs, which police say, embolden them to prey on unsuspecting persons.
The international London based non-governmental organization dedicated to human rights advocacy worldwide has released its 2017-2018 State of the World’s Human Rights Report. Amnesty International (AI), in releasing its report, noted that, ” over the past year, leaders have pushed hate, fought against rights, ignored crimes against humanity, and blithely let inequality and suffering spin out of control. This provoked mass protests, showing that while our challenges may never be greater, the will to fight back is just as strong.”
Globally, AI affirmed that world leaders abandoned human rights but that although their report is shocking, people across the world have come together to stand and make their voices heard. Among the 159 countries covered in the report were countries in West African which include Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire and the Gambia.
According to AI, “Restrictions were imposed on the rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. Hundreds of people died and thousands were left homeless following a mud-slide. Prison conditions fell far below international standards. Pregnant girls were excluded from school.”
A human rights campaigner Abdul Fatoma and several local journalists were either arrested or summoned for criticism of the Ernest Bai Koroma Government. Prison conditions in the West African country are below international standards and over-crowded. Pregnant girls are unable to return to mainstream, education and civil society groups have asked the government to resume access for them.
The death penalty continues to be handed down with the conviction of six police officers who were “…sentenced to death by firing squad for conspiracy and robbery with aggravation..”
A mud-slide disaster in the capital Freetown in August, 2017 killed over 400 people. There has been no formal investigation or report on the cause of the disaster and survivors are struggling to make ends meet.
The Sierra Leone government, during the reporting period, rejected over 100 recommendations of the Constitutional Review Commission which included the abolition of the death penalty. President Koroma is stepping down in March after two terms as President. The opposition led by a former military officer is hoping to succeed him while the President and the ruling party have hand picked a staunch ally of President Koroma to succeed him.
The international community has warned against campaign violence in the country in the lead up the elections in March.
In Guinea, “The security forces continued to use excessive force against demonstrators.Journalists, human rights defenders and others expressing dissent were arbitrarily arrested. Impunity was widespread. The right to adequate housing was not fulfilled,” AI says.
Freedom of Assembly and right to freedom of speech were curtailed by the government. 18 deaths were reported and dozens others injured by crackdown against demonstrations by the Alpha Conde government.Long delayed local elections were recently held and the government won a majority of the seats with the opposition crying foul.The country’s National Assembly adopted legislation which could effectively abolish the death penalty when it becomes law.
Security members accused of rights abuses were not held accountable, according to the report.
In Liberia, AI reports that, “Domestic violence, and sexual violence against women and girls remained widespread. Impunity for human rights violations persisted. Prison conditions did not meet international standards and individuals were frequently held in prolonged pre-trial detention.” The report cited Liberia for failing to implement the recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which was set up as part of the Accra Peace Conference to review human rights abuses and war crimes committed during the country’s civil war. To date, there has been no movement towards the setting up of a war crimes commission to criminally prosecute those identified as bearing the most responsibility for atrocities committed.
On Freedom of Expression, the report mentions the introduction of a bill in the National Legislature to de-criminalize libel offences by journalists. Women and girls continue to be subjected to sexual and domestic violence, genital mutilation practices, rape and childhood marraiges. Gay people in Liberia, the report said, continue to experience discrimination, harassment and threats.
The new Weah Administration which was inaugurated in January is under local and international pressure to address the implementation of the TRC recommendations, a declining economy, provision jobs for young people and basic amenities.
AI says, “Around 200 detainees, loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo, awaited trial in connection with post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011. Killings in the context of mutinies and clashes between demobilized soldiers and security forces were un-investigated. The rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly were restricted; some protests were prohibited. Simone Gbagbo, wife of former President Gbagbo, was acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes.The ICC tried Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé.”
Legislation to clamp down on free and critical expression which offended President Alassane Ouattarra and promoted ” fake news” was introduced and adopted. The government arrested and tried supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. They were accused of human rights violations while supporters of the current President faced no account for rights abuses.
Mutinees by security forces including demobilized soldiers led to the deaths of over 10 persons and scores of others were wounded during AI’S reporting period.
In the Gambia, which saw the democratic removal of long time dictator Yahya Jammeh, AI reports that, ” The new government committed to reforming several repressive laws and reforming the security forces. Steps were taken to begin a transitional justice process.” The Barrow Administration cancelled plans by the Jammeh government to withdrawn from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Prisons in Gambia did not meet international standards, but the new administration has released scores of political prisoners held by the former government. Progress at loosening restrictive freedom of assembly laws lagged. Same sex marraige is still banned in the conservative West African nation and gay people are discriminated against.
Although Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) laws have been passed, the practice remains wide-spread in the Gambia.
Universal Human Rights Declaration
In citing the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AI stated in its latest global report that, “… the year in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70, it is abundantly clear that none of us can take any of our human rights for granted. We certainly cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. Neither can we take for granted that social security will be available when we are old or incapacitated; that our babies can grow up in cities with clean, breathable air; or that as young people we will leave school to find jobs that enable us to buy a home.
The battle for human rights is never decisively won in any place or at any point in time. The frontiers shift continually, so there can never be room for complacency.”
Although democratic changes are happening across Africa, the pace of keeping up with with the protection of the rights of ordinary citizens by government remains slow or declining instead.
The UN office responsible to catering to world refugees says there is a huge funding gap for its West Africa operations.
According to its 2018 Funding update issued on Tuesday, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) disclosed that of its target of $289.1 million dollars, it has received only $19.4 million representing only 7 percent of its overall target.
The funding gap is $269.6 million for its West Africa sub-regional offices:
Burkina Faso – 8% funded. Gap is $22.9 million
Cote d’Ivoire – 7% funded. Gap is $14.8 million
Ghana – No funding. Gap is $8.1 million
Guinea – No funding. Gap is $653,401
Liberia – No funding. Gap is $11.6 million
Mali – 7% funded. Gap is $19.8 million
Niger – 8% funded. Gap is $79.9 million
Nigeria – No funding. Gap is $80.3 million and
Senegal Regional Office – minor funding. Funding gap – $39.1 million
Germany, the European Union, Italy, Sweden, UN Peacebuilding Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNESCO and private donors in Italy made restricted contributions with Germany making the bulk of the contribution – $1.9 million dollars.
Their combined contributions to West Africa refugee assistance totaled $19.4 million.
Other international major donors who made un-restricted and regional funding include:
Sweden – $98 million
Norway – $43 million
Netherlands -$39 million
United Kingdom – $32 million
Denmark – $25 million
Australia – $19 million and
Switzerland – $15 million
Another 26 donors, including the only African country of Algeria, also made un-restricted and regional funding to the mission of the UNHCR in West Africa.
Food insecurity, migration from conflict hot areas including some early instances of climate change are forcing people into long term refugee situations in the African sub-regional which could be further destabilized unless adequate funding is secured. Donor fatigue and internal economic pressures on donor countries are challenging the ability of the UN to easily raise the needed funds to provide assistance for refugees.
One major donor missing from the UNHCR latest update is the United States.
The UNHCR, which was founded in 1950, works to protect and assist refugees around the world.
In a separate development, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released their Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Bulletin for the period between January 29 – February 4, 2018 .
According to the bulletin, a total of 274 suspected cases of immediately reportable diseases was made with 31 deaths.
Of this number, Nimba County in northeastern Liberia is reported to have a measles outbreak with 202 suspected cases with the next highest occurrence of 58 in Montserrado County, the seat of the capital.
Eight maternal deaths were reported from Bong (2), Montserrado (2), Maryland (1), Nimba (1), Margibi (1) and River Gee (1) Counties.
Reported causes of death were: Postpartum hemorrhage (3), Eclampsia (1), Abrutio placenta (1), Sepsis (1), Pulmonary embolism (1) and Cardiac pulmonary arrest (1)
All eight deaths was reported to have occurred in the health facility.
Of the recent meningococcal outbreak in the West African country, all contacts remain in medical surveillance.