UNHCR Calls For Action Against Xenophobic Attacks In South Africa

Angry protestors in the Soweto area of Johannesburg killed four people, allegedly for stealing local jobs, according to media reports.

map_south-africa
Map of South Africa

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.

Migrants Photo Courtesy of Guy Oliver
Migrants Photo Courtesy of Guy Oliver of IRIN

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.

UN News Service

African Countries Unload on U.S. President Trump After His Disparaging Remarks

Several African nations have denounced the characterization of their nations as “shit-hole countries” by U.S. President Donald Trump.

US President Mr. Donald Trump
US President Mr. Donald Trump

The vulgar reference was reportedly made by the American President at a meeting with Congressional members last week at the White House.

In an official response, the continental group known as the African Union (AU), in a statement issued last week from his headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia said, “The African Union Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the president of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms. Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the U.S. during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.”, the statement released by its spokesperson said.

The southern African powerhouse South Africa summoned made a formal protest on Monday over the U.S. President’s remarks and at a meeting with the top U.S.    representative in Johannesburg, South Africa said that it was concerned about the “statements that were allegedly made by President Donald Trump.”

U.S. diplomats in Ghana, Botswana, and Senegal were also summoned by those countries in order to register their protest at the statement allegedly made by the U.S. President.

African Union ambassadors at the U.N. on last Friday issued a strongly worded statement in which they said, ” “The African Union Mission wishes to express its infuriation, disappointment and outrage over the unfortunate comment made by Mr. Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, which remarks dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity.”

The Gambian Foreign Ministry denounced the U.S. President’s remarks saying, “The Government of the Republic of The Gambia is appalled by the remarks and finds it inconceivable that a President of a country regarded by many as one of the most tolerant and democratic countries in the world would utter such racial remarks.”

“The Government of the Republic of The Gambia is appalled by the remarks and finds it inconceivable that a President of a country regarded by many as one of the most tolerant and democratic countries in the world would utter such racial remarks,” the statement noted, and concluded by saying “The Government of The Gambia, therefore, calls on President Trump to withdraw his remarks and give a fitting apology to the African continent and Haiti.”

President Trump and some of his allies have denied making the disparaging comments.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

 

 

Charles Taylor Former Arms Supplier Van Kouwenhoven Arrested in South Africa

A former business associate of convicted Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor, the Dutch businessman, Guus van Kouwenhoven has been arrested in South Africa.

Taylor and Kouwenhoven
Charles Taylor and Guus Van Kouwenhoven

According to Reuters,  van Kouwenhoven was picked up by security in Cape Town based on an arrest warrant issued by the Dutch authorities.

A Dutch Appeals Court convicted the 74 year old Mr. Van Kouwenhoven in absentia and sentenced him to 19 years in prison in April of this year.

He lived in Liberia in Liberia during the Taylor Presidency and was convicted as an accessory to the commission of war crimes and , arms trafficking and selling weapons to Taylor’s rebel faction, the National Patriotic Front (NPFL) in contravention of UN sanctions.

Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor
Former Liberian Warlord Charles Taylor

Major atrocities were committed by forces loyal to Taylor for which he, Taylor, was arrested, tried and convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone which held proceedings in the Hague, the Netherlands. Over 250,000 people died in Liberia and neighboring countries and thousands others were maimed.

Van Kouwnhoven who has denied any involvement in the charges against him had been living in South Africa and avoiding return to the Netherlands, claiming that he is ill.

The timber trader and arms dealer is appearing before a South African judge on Friday for a hearing into the extradition request from the government of the Netherlands.

Timber TradeGlobal Witness investigated the business dealings of Van Kouwenhoven’s Oriental Timber Trading Company in Liberia. Information gathered from that investigation was used by Dutch prosecutors over a decade ago to convict Kouwenhoven. But the country’s High Court returned the case to the lower courts for a retrial.

It is widely known that Van Kouwenhoven used his lucrative timber company as a front to smuggle arms and ammunition to Taylor forces during the Liberian brutal civil war between 2000 – 2003.

Van Kouwenhoven was deported from the U.S. in the 1970s for this involvement in the fraudulent sale of stolen paintings.

Reporting by Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine