Friday, 30 November 2012


Militant Islamists in the north of Mali gave three unmarried couples 100 lashes of the whip each on Thursday in the town of Timbuktu, witnesses told AFP.
"Last week, the Islamist police in Timbuktu arrested three unmarried couples," one resident said.
"And today, each of the six received 100 lashes of the whip in a public square in Timbuktu," he added.
"The three unmarried couples were whipped in the small market in Timbuktu, in the town centre," said a former civil servant who witnessed the punishment.
He said around a hundred people had turned out to watch the punishment, which was carried out under the Islamists' interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
The armed Islamists now in control of the town, which lies in the northwest of the country, have in the last two days also started raiding homes to seize satellite dishes, which allow people to watch foreign television channels.
One local journalist said there were at least 11 dishes at the Islamists' offices, with six alone seized on Thursday.
"The Islamists say that foreign television 'is Satan'," he added.
Timbuktu is controlled by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar Dine. They are among a number of groups who took advantage of the confusion following a military in Bamako earlier this year to seize Mali's entire north.
Their interpretation of sharia law has already involved arresting unveiled women, stoning an unmarried couple to death, publicly flogging smokers and amputating the limbs of suspected thieves, according to residents and rights groups.
Last month, the Islamists took a bulldozer to a monument to Mali's independence in Timbuktu.
And they have already destroyed the tombs of ancient Muslim saints and the "sacred door" to a 15th-century mosque, which they denounced as idolatrous.

Thursday, 29 November 2012


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the Millennium
Challenge Corp. headquarters in Washington about the U.S.
agency’s model of delivering international assistance and her
thoughts on the future of foreign aid. Photo by: U.S. State Department

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “obsessed” with foreign aid procurement — but she isn’t saying yet when she might leave the very post that gives her huge influence over its reform.
Clinton spoke Nov. 27 at the Millennium Challenge Corp. headquarters in Washington, D.C., about the U.S. agency’s model of delivering international assistance and her thoughts on the future of foreign aid.
The secretary of state has said she will be stepping down from her post in coming months, and is in fact rumored to make an announcement in the next few days. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, remains the front-runner to replace Clinton. This comes even as Rice’s meeting Tuesday with Senate critics has reportedly been contentious.
In her meeting with MCC staff, Clinton highlighted the agency’s successes in helping “those who are willing to help themselves,” and praised the agency for “helping to bring about that strategic shift that we’re making in our development work from aid to investment.” MCC works with countries that are willing to fight corruption, improve taxation and transparency, and foster democracy, she said.
Clinton cited projects in Tanzania, El Salvador, Jordan and Indonesia as examples of how MCC is improving the use of data to maximize the impact of every dollar spent. MCC’s continued focus on value-for-money, the secretary said, will help the agency in upcoming budget talks.
Clinton also spoke about climate change, the most memorable dignitary she’s met on her global travels (Nelson Mandela) and the future of foreign aid as she sees it. Upcoming priorities, according to the secretary, should include the continuation and further acceleration of reforms, and the enhancement of data and other tools to help drive change. She also called for better integration of development activities across the government.
Being “obsessed” with procurement reforms, Clinton said she’d like to gain more insight into potential cost savings. The Obama administration had a “good start” on making U.S. aid more accountable, but has a long way to go still, Clinton argued, adding that the United States should also push its partners to do the same. Without revealing her own plans for the future, Clinton said she’s looking forward to seeing institutionalized what the administration has been advancing under her watch.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Congolese families on the road from Goma to Bukavu in North Kivu,
the centre of the recent upsurge of fighting in eastern Democratic
Republic of Congo. (Copyright: AFP/Tony Karumba)

An upsurge of fighting in Eastern Congo has forced thousands of families to flee their homes, leaving them with little access to food. WFP, which was already feeding nearly half a million displaced people in the North Kivu province, has begun responding to the new needs with food distributions in the city of Goma.
ROME –  WFP distributed emergency food rations over the weekend to roughly 81,000 displaced people who have taken refuge in and around Goma, the capital of the conflict-affected North Kivu province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Most of the families assisted fled in recent days to the provincial capital from camps for the displaced, including Kanyaruchinya, 10 kilometers north of Goma, and Sake, west of the city. They received emergency food rations consisting of maize meal, pulses, salt and cooking oil, contributed by Canada, Japan and the United States of America.
WFP is concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of people in Eastern Congo who have fled a new wave of fighting and who have little access to food and other basic necessities. It estimates that some 140,000 civilians in Goma alone may require WFP food assistance.
“The spiral of violence in North Kivu has cut many people off from their regular food supplies and they need emergency assistance to survive,” said Martin Ohlsen WFP Country Director in DRC.
Until last week, WFP was distributing food to around 470,000 displaced people in North Kivu. But when unrest spread to Goma last week, it was forced to suspend operations temporarily.
The agency expects to resume the planned food distributions in accessible areas of North Kivu as soon as possible,  although the precarious security situation may make it difficult for WFP to reach those needing assistance beyond the provincial capital.   
 “We urgently call on those involved in the ongoing conflict to respect the neutrality of aid workers and ensure that humanitarian agencies have access to those in need,” Ohlsen said.
WFP urgently needs more funding to respond to this latest crisis, and is calling on the international community to further support its work in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Even before the developments of this week, WFP faced a funding shortfall of $23 million for the next six months of its emergency operations in eastern DRC, where more than one million people have been receiving WFP food assistance in five eastern provinces.  The new unrest will increase humanitarian needs.
Altogether, some 2.4 million people are displaced in eastern DRC, according to the October reports of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).