Equatorial Guinea: Presidential announcement a welcome step towards abolishing the death penalty

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Amnesty International
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Reacting to the news that Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema will propose a draft law to abolish the death penalty, Marie-Evelyne Petrus Barry, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director said:

“This presidential announcement is a welcome move and, if the death penalty is abolished in Equatorial Guinea, the country will join more than half of the countries in the world that have consigned the cruel punishment to history – where it belongs.

“Now that the announcement is made, we hope that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema will immediately take necessary steps to ensure his announcement is implemented without delay. Abolishing the death penalty will be a positive step in improving Equatorial Guinea’s human rights record, particularly the protection of the right to life.

“We would also like this positive announcement to be followed by others in favour of the protection of freedoms of expression, opinion, association and assembly and for Equatorial Guinea to respect its human rights obligations.

“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature of the crime because the death penalty is a violation of the right to life. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than prison terms.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Amnesty International.
Source: Apo-Opa

Announcement of the new Ministry of Health and Social Services-Centers for Disease Control (MoHSS-CDC) 5 year Cooperative Agreement

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

U.S. Embassy in Namibia

Remarks by the U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Ms. Lisa Johnson and CDC Country Director, Dr. Eric Dziuban at the announcement of the new MoHSS-CDC 5 year cooperative agreement.

By U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Ms. Lisa Johnson

Good morning – I am thrilled to be here with you today. The U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Health and Social Services have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. Today, I am pleased to have the opportunity to announce the launch of our next five-year cooperative agreement.

As a diplomat, I spend a lot of my time discussing deals, grants, agreements, and other forms of mutual understanding. Since I joined the Embassy last year, I have worked on a number of bilateral arrangements including the U.S-Namibia Air Services agreement, opening the U.S. market for exports of Namibian beef, and planning for the new U.S. Embassy compound.

However, “cooperative agreements” are special. They represent more than a transfer of money or goods. Cooperative agreements are also about the transfer of skills and technical assistance. They open a two-way transfer that benefits both sides.

The partnership between the Ministry of Health and CDC brings together an impressive and diverse skill set. The impact of the relationship is very clearly shown in the numbers. The Ministry of Health recently announced that Namibia, in terms of meeting the UNAIDS 95:95:95 targets, is currently at 94:96:95. This is an incredible achievement.

But there is also a qualitative impact that the numbers do not show. I am always pleased to observe how people change for the better when they work together. A U.S. technical advisor who begins work in Namibia is a very different person than the advisor who leaves three or four years later. I thank our Namibian counterparts for helping our advisors grow as much as our advisors have helped you grow. Working together works best when both sides are open to learning from one another. I am pleased to see that happening here.

This new agreement uses the term “substantial involvement.” I like that term because it does justice to what I have observed during the previous cooperative agreement between the Ministry and CDC.

Substantial involvement also means a shared responsibility for the outcomes of a project. We all know that the demands of PEPFAR funding are exacting. It is appropriate that the U.S. Government provides sufficient support to its partners, and takes on a shared responsibility, to ensure the successful implementation of the activities that are funded under these agreements.

When I joined the team in Johannesburg for the Country Operational Plan review in March, the main purpose of the discussion was to show what Namibia is planning to do from October 2019. However, the conversation often included what Namibia is already doing to achieve these future goals. I am proud to lead a team that is forward-looking and forward-planning, never resting, but already reaching for the next challenge, the next goal, the next success that saves more lives of people throughout the country.

While relationships and technical assistance are critical, this cooperative agreement is vital in that it provides the mechanism through which the U.S. Government channels financial support to the Ministry of Health and Social Services. On Thursday, we are scheduled to have a signing ceremony with the U.S. Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, which heads up PEPFAR worldwide, to confirm the funding total for Namibia from October 1, 2019.

Financing is important, and the U.S. Government is pleased to be the largest single government supporter in the world in combatting the HIV epidemic. Ending AIDS costs money. The U.S. Government recognizes this and places funds where they can best be used to end the epidemic in individual countries, which has an impact of increasing the health and global security for the entire world.

I am extremely proud to have the opportunity to work with PEPFAR because it is a program driven by transparent, accountable, and efficient investments. PEPFAR is a smart investment and is widely viewed as one of the most effective and efficient foreign assistance programs in history. PEPFAR uses the latest data and science to direct resources where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the largest, the need is highest, and the dollars are most proficiently used.

The U.S. CDC and the Ministry of Health and Social Services first signed a cooperative agreement in 2004. Over the next 15 years, CDC, alongside other U.S. agencies as such USAID and Peace Corps, as well as multilateral partners and other stakeholders, have helped Namibia come a long way in addressing the HIV epidemic.

Together we have more than halved the incidence of HIV infections and we have more than halved the number of people dying from HIV. These are incredible achievements and they have been reached because of the partnerships we have established. Together, we are more effective than we are alone. Let’s continue to go forward, together.

Thank you.

By CDC Country Director, Dr. Eric Dziuban

Good morning. Last year I attended my first Ministry of Health and Social Services site meeting and it was an event that stuck in my mind. It was the first time I had the opportunity to address the broad MoHSS team working towards epidemic control. It was an opportunity to pause and reflect on where we had been, where we are going, and was invaluable in helping us to chart our course more precisely for the next 12 months. It was also memorable for me because I choked up quite a bit when I spoke about some of the HIV cases I have treated as a clinician during my time working in ART clinics in a nearby country. Namibia has many causes for celebration in how the country is addressing the HIV epidemic. But we never want to forget the pain and suffering that has been caused by this virus, and the lives that have been lost. Different cultures have their own ways and norms for showing emotions during public remarks. And none of us want to be crippled by emotions when we are trying to get our work done. But it is important that you remember the loved ones you lost to HIV while you continue this fight every day. It is important that I remember the people I cared about because of this virus that is treatable and preventable. We must always honor and remember those who have died. And we must work our hardest, every day, to keep any more of the people in our communities … in our lives … from joining them.

Indeed, a lot has happened in the last year. I have been part of just the final year of the concluded five-year cooperative agreement, but it was impressive. Many of you will have seen the whole agreement through – or better yet, seen all three CDC-Ministry agreements through, and I recognize the wealth of experience and knowledge that comes with that. I won’t go into the successes of the most recent agreement, I will leave that to the Executive Director, but I will congratulate you all on the achievements that you have made.

With the Executive Director looking at the highlights and achievements of the previous cooperative agreement, it falls to me to talk about where we are going next and how we are going to get there. Put simply, what does the next cooperative agreement look like, and how will it be different to the one that has just concluded?

First, let me set out our overall vision for the next five years. In three words, our vision is to achieve sustained epidemic control. We will be working closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Services to develop a strategy that is grounded in setting the stage for the long-term transition to full Namibian domestic leadership. In the short term, we will be optimizing locally led program implementation in order to reach the last and most challenging hot spots and unmet needs in the country. The result of this focusing of effort will be a stronger, data-driven response that will allow Namibia to reach epidemic control in a sustainable manner.

But please do not mistake my words to think that we will be pulling away. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed another five-year cooperative agreement because we remain committed to being firm partners with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. We do operate on a yearly funding mechanism that means that we don’t yet know what, if any, funding we will receive after September 2020. That’s how it has always been. But I can tell you this – as an office and as a Mission – we are committed to advocating for a continued relationship.

Because while Namibia is a leader on the continent in terms of showing how epidemic control can be reached, the successes are still fragile, and beneath an incredible national picture of epidemic control there are concerning differences in healthcare outcome by age, sex, and region. It is our vision with the Ministry to continue to work together to eliminate these differences, and to work together to achieve sustained epidemic control.

So what does the next cooperative agreement look like? This will be the fourth cooperative agreement between CDC and the Ministry, and in the next five years we anticipate that Namibia will have fully reached HIV epidemic control in the country and will be shifting focus towards providing stable long-term quality care and treatment of those living with HIV and the strengthening of the primary healthcare system.

It is important to remember that ending the HIV epidemic does not mean that HIV goes away; it means that we will be seeing fewer and fewer new cases, but we will still continue to have the patients who are already diagnosed with HIV, and these patients will still need to have quality services in the form that best meets their needs.

One of the highlights of my first year in Namibia was to see firsthand just how rural and remote some communities are. I knew this before I arrived, but it was not until I experienced it firsthand that I really understood what we mean when we say that people have to travel long distances to access healthcare and just how hard that is, especially in the blazing heat that touches every corner of the country. I visited all 14 Regions last year but I never saw one that I would describe as having a “mild” climate.

In October last year, I joined the U.S. Ambassador to hand over ten CBART sites in Omusati and Oshana to the Ministry. I remember the journey to the first site well – it took over 2 hours by car and was on a road, that as a tourist, I would have missed. I would certainly not have known it led to a vibrant and dynamic community who had worked with the Ministry to identify and allocate land for their own, now fully functioning CBART site.

The Akutsima CBART site is the perfect example of what it will take to continue to provide quality care and treatment services to long-term patients. This community will need to continue to receive quality HIV care and treatment services on a regular basis. We must remember that while U=U (undetectable = untransmissable), the opposite is also true: H=H … a high viral load means a high risk of transferring the virus to other people. While Namibia is already on the cusp of epidemic control, there is no a guarantee that it will remain that way. It will be all too easy to rapidly backslide if the pressure to maintain high quality prevention, care, and treatment efforts is not maintained.

On to my second question – how will the new cooperative agreement be different? One highlight is that we will be expanding our partnership to reach more areas of Namibia. In recent years, PEPFAR funding has focused strongly on the high-burden regions of Namibia. This was the right decision because it ensured the best use of resources to have the greatest impact on the disease, and it has allowed Namibia to sit on the cusp of epidemic control. But the NAMPHIA results have shown us very clearly that the lower burden regions also need more intensive support, because it is in these areas that people living with HIV are more likely not to be virally suppressed. This is something that will be addressed under the new cooperative agreement.

We will also be focusing on the age differences. Children and teenagers also have poor viral load suppression. To put it simply, this means that the next generation of Namibians is at risk. The Ministry recognizes this as a vital area to address, and through the cooperative agreement we will be working fast and effectively to ensure that a child living with HIV has the best possible care, and reaches and maintains viral load suppression as soon as possible. We cannot have children’s lives being cut short because of inadequate treatment, and we do not want to be introducing a new pool of young adults who could rapidly pass and spread the infection to others. If we look back to the very early days of HIV infection, the warning is clear. In 1986 there were four cases of HIV in Namibia. At Independence there were six. Twenty-nine years later we have 200,000 cases of HIV. Let us help the next generation of Namibians avoid the dangers of an uncontrolled epidemic that all of you have experienced.

The new cooperative agreement will also be expanding to new areas – we will be working more deeply along the border of Namibia to ensure that non-Namibians receive healthcare services as per Ministry policy. And we will be working closer with other Ministries, such as the Ministry of Safety and Security, to ensure that persons within Correctional Facilities receive the same care and treatment services as those living in communities throughout Namibia, protecting them and those around them.

Therefore, the new cooperative agreement between CDC and the Ministry of Health and Social Services will be continuing what is working well, upscaling promising programs, and introducing new methods and strategies to help us reach our goal. It is an exciting opportunity to bring the AIDS pandemic definitively from crisis toward control. On behalf of CDC, I thank the Ministry for being such a dynamic and inspirational partner. I stand here and recognize you all for continuing to honor those we lost, and for the hope you provide to the Namibia of today and the future. Let the work commence.

Thank you.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Embassy in Namibia.

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Readout from Advisor to the President’s Meeting with African Union Deputy Chairperson Kwesi Quartey and Signing of Communique

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, USAID Administrator Mark Green and Acting OPIC President and CEO Dave Bohigian met with African Union Deputy Chairperson Kwesi Quartey to discuss ways to catalyze the potential of women in the workforce, and the goal of the W-GDP to prioritize women’s empowerment as a key driver to spur economic growth in Africa. To deepen the United States’- African Union Commission partnership, they renewed a commitment to strengthen women’s economic participation and entrepreneurship across the African continent, and to boost economic prosperity — key enablers of peace and stability in the region. Ms. Trump congratulated the Deputy Chairperson on the AU’s leadership in advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda and encouraged continued efforts to increase women’s participation, voice, and empowerment in decision-making on security issues. Ms. Trump raised the two entities’ mutual interest in working together to combat gender-based violence.

Following the meeting, Ms. Trump and Deputy Chairperson Kwesi Quartey signed a joint communique committing to apartnership to advance women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship across the continent.  The communique signals a key step in W-GDP’s goal of promoting an enabling environment that increases women’s economic empowerment by reducing barriers and enhancing policy, legal, regulatoryprotections and public and private practices to facilitate women’s participation in the economy.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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Bangla New Year celebrated in Nigeria with colour & festivity

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh
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Bangladesh High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria celebrated Bangla New Year-1426 on 14 April 2019 at the Chancery amid melodious music, spectacular dance, recitation and traditional cuisine depicting rich Bengalee culture and heritage.

Mr. Md. Shameem Ahsan,ndc, High Commissioner exchanged New Year’s greetings with the guests. In his welcome remarks, he expressed hope that the New Year would bring in renewed happiness and prosperity in the lives of all Bangalees living in the country and abroad. While touching on the non-communal & secular tradition in the Bangalee culture, he mentioned that recent recognition of MangalShobhajatra by UNESCO as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ has added a new dimension to the celebration of Bangla New Year. Community members also spoke on the occasion. A video documentary on MangalShobhajatrawas screened.The discussion session was followed by a colourful cultural function which impressed the guests. The members of the diaspora, expatriate Bangalees of India and High Commission families took part.

The auditorium was beautifully decorated giving an aura of Bangalee culture with the use of sari, traditional motifs, articles and handicrafts of Bangladesh. A good number of guests including members of civil society and a large number of expatriate Bangalees from West Bengal, community members and Mission officials were present at the event.

The guests were served with traditional Bangalee cuisine which contained flavour of Bangalee food.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
Source: Apo-Opa

World Food Programme reaches 1 million flood-affected people in Mozambique

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

World Food Programme (WFP)
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One month on since Cyclone Idai struck Mozambique on March 14, the United Nations World Food Programme has reached one million people with food assistance and continues to expand its emergency response while launching recovery and reconstruction interventions.

‘’In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, people were so very desperate.’’ said Lola Castro, WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa. ‘’Thanks to the hard work and resourcefulness of the many involved, the speed and scale of the response has transformed that desperation into hope.’’

Working in close coordination with the government and the INGC, the national disaster management agency, WFP intends to assist a total of 1.7 million people requiring urgent food and nutrition support in the four most affected provinces (Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia). 

  • The successful scale-up to date has been made possible by the generosity of donors, including those who provide unearmarked, flexible funding. However, WFP still requires US$130 million to be able to fully implement its response through June.
  • People affected by the flood and cyclone are receiving up to 30-day rations of rice and maize meal, pulses, fortified blended food and vegetable oil. Where local markets are functioning, WFP distributions of food will increasingly give way to cash-based transfers (CBTs). Some 145,000 people are to receive support this way in April.
  • WFP has deployed nutritionists to the four priority provinces, begun moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) treatment at displacement centres and devised a six-month plan to treat at least 100,000 children and women.
  • An ongoing cholera outbreak, that has so far infected more than 5,000 people, threatens to worsen malnutrition. WFP is supporting three cholera treatment centers in Beira with food assistance.
  • As lead of the global logistics cluster, WFP deployed to Mozambique three MI-8 transport helicopters and a C-295 freight aircraft to support the broader humanitarian response. Two WFP amphibious vehicles (SHERPS), able to carry 1,000 kilos of cargo, are in service, carrying food and other essentials to otherwise inaccessible locations.
  • Drone mapping of damage and needs is a key element of WFP’s support to the INGC. WFP drone pilots are assessing damage to critical infrastructure – including hospitals, clinics, schools, roads and bridges. All 44 square kilometres of Beira and several towns and villages outside the city have been mapped so far.
  • Planting for a second 2019 harvest in October-November must be completed in the coming days. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has begun the distribution of maize, bean and vegetable seeds, and of tools, to 14,700 smallholder farming families in Sofala and Manica provinces. WFP is supporting the effort by providing food assistance to the families to ensure seeds are planted rather than consumed.
  • More than 700,000 hectares of crops – primarily maize – were washed away ahead of the main April–May harvest, deepening food insecurity. Other key sources of income, like livestock and fisheries, have also been badly affected.
  • Given the magnitude of the damage caused, Mozambique’s recovery needs too will be significant. WFP is working to ensure that a major government and World Bank-led post-disaster needs assessment that began this week will provide for improved food/nutrition security and social protection programmes.
  • The disaster has underscored how vulnerable southern Africa is to climate shocks, and the imperative of significantly increased investment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, key elements of WFP’s pre-cyclone work with vulnerable communities, including subsistence farmers.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).
Source: Apo-Opa

Assistance to Uganda in Developing a Strategic Anti-Poaching Outpost for Elephants

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
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On Thursday, April 12, Handover Ceremony of a Strategic Anti-Poaching Outpost for Elephants was held in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. This project was funded by the Government of Japan in cooperation with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Japan in Uganda, Mr. Mizumoto Horii commissioned the Lions Bay ranger post.

The new outpost is part of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)’s larger Recovery of Queen Elizabeth National Park programme and provide a base for field rangers conducting operations in important wildlife and tourism sector, and will significantly strengthen UWA’s capacity to address current and emerging threats impacting this important site of the CITES Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme. The project was led on-the-ground on behalf of CITES by the Uganda Conservation Foundation in close collaboration with UWA.

Queen Elizabeth National Park provides protection for 95 species of mammal, including buffaloes, hippopotami, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees, and over 620 species of birds. The park forms part of an extensive transboundary ecosystem that covers forest reserves and the adjacent Virunga National Park World Heritage Site, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The elephant population in the Queen Elizabeth National Park was recently reported by UWA as young and healthy, numbering over 3000 individuals, which is by far the largest elephant population in Uganda, but still below levels the park can sustain. The elephant population has been increasing steadily over the last twenty years, since being reduced by poaching to below 400 elephants in 1988.

“The illegal wildlife trade is an urgent global issue. Japan is deeply committed to the cause of protecting elephants and their natural habitat. Japan places great importance on supporting elephant range states in the fight against elephant poaching,” said Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Japan in Uganda, Mr. Mizumoto Horii, he continued to add that “Japan continues to make great efforts in implementing the trade control of ivory under CITES and working together with our partners to tackle the problem of elephant poaching and the illegal elephant trade.”

The Honourable Minister Godfrey Kiwanda highlighted that “Having a well-built, dry and clean facility, with clean water, solar power lighting and an ablution block, makes rangers feel respected and motivated.”

“The recovery of wildlife and tourism in Queen Elizabeth National Park depends on the motivation of our frontline staff and tangible support such as this. This support also provides a solid foundation for growing tourism in Uganda which is already recognised as the countries strongest contributor to the regional and national regional economy,” said Uganda Wildlife Authority, Executive Director, Sam Mwandha.

“The funding provided by the Government of Japan for the development of essential infrastructure needed to support management operations is invaluable. The investment and attention given to the area has had a significant impact on the overall morale of the staff based in the Lions Bay and Katore Sectors and enhanced their capacity to effectively protect the area,” added Thea Carroll, CITES MIKE Programme Coordinator.

The Government of Japan contributed 55,000 US$ to CITES’s Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Source: Apo-Opa

Greenpeace Activists Ship Plastic Monster Back to Nestlé’s Factory in Kenya

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA


Greenpeace Africa (https://www.Greenpeace.org/africa) activists and volunteers delivered a #PlasticMonster partly covered with Nestlé branded plastic packagingright back to its source: the Nestlé factory servicing Kenya and other East African countries calling on the multinational corporation to end its reliance on single-use plastic. Activists also held protests at Nestlé offices in the Philippines, Germany and other countries across the globe as part of a global day of action led by Greenpeace and allies from the Break Free From Plastic movement. 

In response to the global day of action against Nestlé, Greenpeace Africa’s Plastics Campaigner Amos Wemanya said:

“Plastic waste has polluted the oceans and is affecting human health. In Africa, our drainage systems are clogged, our animals and livelihoods are threatened. Corporations’ indiscriminate and unsustainable plastic production is the cause of these problems. Last year, Nestlé produced a shocking 1.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging – nearly 300 garbage trucks worth a day – a 13% increase from the year before.  It is crucial that corporates such as Nestléstop the production of single-use plastics and re-think their packaging. 

“People around the world are taking action today to demand Nestlé to show true leadership and confront the throwaway culture that underpins its current business model. Leadership does not mean substituting plastic with another single-use material like paper or bioplastic, which will shift the destructive impacts of the throwaway culture to the world’s forests and agricultural lands. For the sake of our planet and human health, we need Nestlé to immediately reduce its production of single-use packaging and invest in delivery systems based on refill and reuse.”

From Manila (http://bit.ly/2UDGtL9) to Rotterdam (http://bit.ly/2DewW2k), and along the Rhine with a “plastic monster” (http://bit.ly/2v4xJOT) to Nestlé’s headquarters in Switzerland (http://bit.ly/2Gnlx0G). Greenpeace has been raising awareness about the plastic production crisis in towns and villages across the globe. 

Last year, Greenpeace Africa’s volunteers championed the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement across Africa, conducting brand audits (http://bit.ly/2V20R7R) which found Nestlé to be one of the top 3 plastic polluters in the world! In Africa, Nestlé produces a host of products, ranging from household products to snack items and bottled water. 

Greenpeace is demandingthat fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) like Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Danone, Johnson & Johnson and Mars be transparent and active in their immediate reduction in the production of plastic packaging while investing in the alternative delivery system of refill and reuse. To date, over 3 million people from around the world have signed a petition calling on brands to take action.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Greenpeace.

Photos from the Global Day of Action against Nestlé are available here (http://bit.ly/2GpCTLO)

[1] Nestlé was one of the top corporate plastic polluters identified in a worldwide cleanup and brand audit effort conducted by the Break Free From Plastic movement last year. Full results here (http://bit.ly/2NPRoZB)

[2] Eleven Fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) were found to be the main corporations behind the plastics pollution pandemic in a report released by Greenpeace International last year. Full results here (http://bit.ly/2UhOUGV).

[3] Link to the letter delivered to Nestlé (http://bit.ly/2Xa4whk)

Hellen Dena
Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer 
+254 717 104 144

Follow @greenpeacepress on twitter for our latest international press releases

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South Africa: Activists in Mining Areas Harassed

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Human Rights Watch (HRW)
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Community activists in mining areas in South Africa face harassment, intimidation, and violence, the Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork, Earthjustice, and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report and video released today. The attacks and harassment have created an atmosphere of fear for community members who mobilize to raise concerns about damage to their livelihoods from the serious environmental and health risks of mining and coal-fired power plants.

The 74-page report “‘We Know Our Lives Are in Danger’: Environment of Fear in South Africa’s Mining-Affected Communities” and video cites activists’ reports of intimidation, violence, damage to property, use of excessive force during peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrest for their activities in highlighting the negative impacts of mining projects on their communities. Municipalities often impose barriers to protest on organizers that have no legal basis. Government officials have failed to adequately investigate allegations of abuse, and some mining companies resort to frivolous lawsuits and social media campaigns to further curb opposition to their projects. The government has a constitutional obligation to protect activists.  

“In communities across South Africa, the rights of activists to peacefully organize to protect their livelihoods and the environment from the harm of mining are under threat,” said Matome Kapa, attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights. “South African authorities should address the environmental and health concerns related to mining, instead of harassing the activists voicing these concerns.”

The Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork, Earthjustice, and Human Rights Watch documented the targeting of community rights defenders in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Northwest, and Eastern Cape provinces between 2013 and 2018. The groups conducted interviews with more than 100 activists, community leaders, environmental groups, lawyers representing activists, police, and municipal officials. Researchers also wrote to the relevant government agencies and to many of the mining companies in the research areas. Four out of eleven companies responded. The Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 77 mining companies, including some in the research areas, has stated that it “is not aware of any threats or attacks against community rights defenders where [its] members operate.”

Community members in mining areas have experienced threats, physical attacks, or damage to their property that they believe is a consequence of their activism. They described being assaulted, intimidated, threatened, and their property damaged.

“We know our lives are in danger,” one activist from KwaZulu Natal said. “This is part of the struggle.” Women often play a leading role in voicing these concerns, making them potential targets for harassment and attacks.

In one high profile case in Xolobeni, Eastern Cape province, Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was killed at his home in March 2016. He and other community members had raised concerns about displacement and destruction of the environment from a titanium mine proposed by the Australian company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources. No suspects have been arrested in connection with the killing.

But many of the attacks go unreported or unnoticed, in part because of fear of retaliation for speaking out, and because police sometimes do not investigate the attacks, the groups found.

“South African authorities and companies should ensure zero tolerance toward threats and abuses against rights defenders in mining-affected communities,” said Katharina Rall, environment researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Government departments and the police have an obligation to investigate incidents and work with mining companies to create an environment conducive to freedom of speech and to reporting threats against defenders.”

Municipalities infringed on citizen’s rights to freedom of assembly, imposing extra-legal requirements for protests, despite constitutional guarantees established in South African law. In other cases, it was companies themselves that requested community activists notify them of their upcoming protests, wrongfully claiming that this was a legal requirement.

Some companies have used the courts to harass activists by asking for financial penalties, seeking court orders to prevent protests, or filing vexatious lawsuits. These meritless lawsuits – known as “Strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs – are a growing trend globally that South Africa could tackle by adopting new legislation. SLAPPs can silence activists by hitting them with the cost and burden of mounting a legal defense. Companies have also used social media campaigns to harass activists and organizations who are challenging them, inflicting an emotional and reputational toll on defenders.

“Municipalities and mining companies want to suppress protests,” said Ramin Pejan, staff attorney at Earthjustice. “But suppressing protest does not solve the underlying concerns of these communities, and upholding the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly is their legal obligation.”

The groups also found a pattern of police misconduct during peaceful protests in mining-affected communities, including violently dispersing demonstrations or arbitrarily arresting and detaining protesters. South African police have also injured peaceful protesters with teargas and rubber bullets.

“These patterns of police violence and company tactics combine to create an environment of fear for community rights defenders and environmental justice groups in South Africa,” said Robby Mokgalaka, Coal Campaign manager at groundWork. “For some, this has meant reducing or stopping their activism. But for many, it means putting their lives at risk while they are continuing the struggle.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Source: Apo-Opa

EU NAVFOR Commander meets Key Leaders in Mogadishu

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) Somalia

EU NAVFOR Force Headquarters Commander, Rear Admiral Hernández arrived in Mogadishu today, where he met with colleagues of some of the international bodies working in Somalia. The meetings took place at the International Campus and at the UN Compound, near the Mogadishu International Airport.

During the Commander’s visit, he met with—amongst others—the representatives of the other two EU missions in the area, Mission Force Commander of EUTM, General Spreafico, and Head of the EU CAP Mission, Mrs. Maria Cristina Stepanescu.

Rear Admiral Hernández also met Mr. Raisedon Zenenga, from the Office in Charge of United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM); the World Food Programme Deputy Country Director, Mr. Emmanuel Bigenimana; and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Head of Office, Mr. Adrien Laurent Parrin.

Enhancing Cooperation and exploring synergies amongst all partners is key for creating a safer environment in Somalia.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of European Union Naval Force ATALANTA (EU NAVFOR) Somalia.

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Source: Apo-Opa

Linda Lions to host Memorial Youth Tournament

16.April.2019 · Posted in APO-OPA

Zambia Rugby Union (ZRU)

Linda Lions Rugby Club of Chilanga, which was established in 2016 in collaboration with the Tag Rugby Trust, will be hosting their first ever invitational youth rugby Tournament on Friday 19th April, 2019.

Tournament Organizer Akim Kabemba, who is also Tag Rugby Trust Country Manager said the Tournament is being held in honor of their fallen team-mate hence it being dubbed KHONDWANI SAKALA MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT. ” Khondwani Sakala was one of us from the start, he was very instrumental in helping the team achieve all that we did and he did his part in ensuring new comers felt welcome. After his sudden demise, his family graciously offered to help organize a tournament in his memory and we are highly appreciative to them, that even though he is no more, his memory still brings people together”.

Get Into Rugby Zambia Project Manager Tom Chaloba expressed delight at the growth of the game. He said “As a Union, we are extremely extatic that the game is making significant inroads in areas which were virtually inaccessible and unexpected to have rugby being played. We are aware that some of the invited teams include

1. Chibolya Youth Rugby

2. Oydc Rugby Academy

3. Lusaka Youth Rugby

4. DieHardRugby Academy

5. Kafue Hawks Rugby Team

6. University of Zambia plus a number of Schools and Communities who are participating in the u12 Tag Rugby games.

Venue: Red Arrows Rugby Club (Showgrounds, Lusaka)

Time: 08hrs to 15hrs

Fees: Free of Charge

Come and witness the future of Zambian Rugby on display.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Zambia Rugby Union (ZRU).

Media Contact:

Tom Chaloba
Communications Manager
Zambia Rugby Union

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Source: Apo-Opa