Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Death to Homosexuals

 MPs in Uganda have passed a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ bill, which would make homosexual acts punishable by death.

All but two of the 389 legislators voted for the hardline anti-homosexuality bill.

Fox Odoi-Oywelowo and Paul Kwizera Bucyana, opposed the new legislation.

Ugandan MPs pass bill imposing death penalty for homosexuality | LGBTQ+ rights | The Guardian

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Rwanda and UK Complicity

  M23 rebels are perpetrating summary killings and rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and they are doing it with the backing of the regime of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame. That was the conclusion of Amnesty International.

A recent 235-page UN report on the DRC includes aerial footage as well as photographic and video evidence, showing how Rwanda has been aiding and abetting M23 violence with cross-border supplies of artillery, weapons and ammunition. The Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) has been reinforcing and fighting alongside M23.

 Rishi Sunak, spoke to Kagame in what government advisers presented as a friendly call to discuss the UK-Rwanda “migration partnership” and “joint efforts to break the business model of criminal people smugglers and address humanitarian issues”.

Neither Kagame nor any of the M23 henchmen have been held to account for these grave violations – not during phone calls with Sunak, who still wants his migrant deportation pact with Rwanda, and not in the continued arming, funding and training of Kagame’s government and army by Britain and the US.

Sunak stays silent on Rwanda’s role in DRC war crimes to save UK’s migrant deal | Vava Tampa | The Guardian

Uganda's Anti-Gay Campaign


A surge in attacks on LGBTQ+ people in Uganda has been recorded by rights groups this year.

More than 110 people reported incidents including arrests, sexual violence, evictions and public undressing, to advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (Smug) in February alone. Transgender people were disproportionately affected, said the group.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” said Frank Mugisha, director of Smug. “It is part of a deliberate, calculated, very systematic move by groups within government, parliament and the conservative evangelicals trying to erase the LGBTQ+ community.” 

Smug said it had received reports of people having to flee their homes to avoid arrest by police tipped off by the public. Attacks have taken place at private events, parties and football games.  A teacher at a girls’ school in Jinja, east of the capital, was arrested over allegations of “promoting homosexuality” at the school, amid suspicion she was a lesbian. Three trans women were arrested at their homes in the capital, Kampala, last month, and charged with committing “unnatural offences” and subjected to anal examinations.

“It’s a madhouse,” said Mugisha, adding that his organisation is overwhelmed by the numbers who need help. “Things have escalated to the worst. Before, there was fear from law enforcement but not fear from communities, from ordinary Ugandans like we are seeing now.” 

Ugandan MPs reintroduced an anti-homosexuality bill, which would punish gay sex and “recruitment, promotion and funding” of same-sex “activities”. Religious groups in Uganda have been vocal in their persecution of homosexuality.  Activists say that laws which indirectly criminalise trans people, such as impersonation and public indecency, or those that criminalise same-sex relations, add intense scrutiny.

Mukisa, a transgender and a former nurse, says, “People are living in fear and in hiding. “This whole situation is setting us back.”

LGBTQ+ groups face crackdowns in Uganda as environment turns hostile | Global development | The Guardian

Friday, March 10, 2023

More Problems for DRC

 Bad news from the DRC never stops arriving. 

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where fighting between government forces and armed groups has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee.

Escalating violence forced nearly 300,000 people to flee Rutshuru and Masisi territories of North Kivu province last month, UNHCR says.

UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said, “Civilians continue to pay the heavy and bloody price of conflict, including women and children who barely escaped the violence and are now sleeping out in the open air in spontaneous or organised sites, exhausted and traumatised.” 

The UN aid agency OCHA said 12 humanitarian organisations had been forced to limit their operations in parts of Ituri province because of increased attacks.

Scores of armed groups roam the vast mineral-rich eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that flared at the end of the 20th century.

Most of the land routes to Goma have now been cut off, leaving flights the only reliable way to bring in supplies.

Civilians pay heavy price of worsening conflict in east DRC: UN | News | Al Jazeera

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Africa’s “Green Lung”

 The sixth annual One Planet Summit began on Wednesday, with the fate of forests at the top of the agenda. Politicians, scientists and NGOs met in Libreville, Gabon, to discuss the future of rainforests in the Congo basin, Southeast Asia and the Amazon basin. This year’s conference has been named the "One Forest Summit" to reflect this focus. 

“The decision to hold this summit in the Congo basin is significant because Central Africa’s tropical forest is one of the main carbon sinks on the planet,” says Alain Karsenty, forest economist and researcher at the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and a Central Africa specialist. 

The tropical rainforest, which spans Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of the Congo), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon, currently stores stocks of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to 10 years’ worth of global emissions.

“Forests in Southeast Asia now emit more CO2 than they absorb due to deforestation,” Karsenty says. “In the Amazon, studies show that we are reaching a tipping point. The only place where forests are definitely still absorbing more CO2 than they emit is in Central Africa.”  

In the Amazon, thousands of trees have been razed to make space for soy farms and pasture for livestock, and in Indonesia palm oil production has led to millions of hectares of deforestation. 

But Central Africa’s rainforests have been largely – if not entirely – spared.

 “Deforestation began in 2010, spurred by the pressure of a growing population. It was linked to slash-and-burn agriculture, which many farmers depend on, and the use of charcoal,” Karsenty says.  

Levels of such “poverty deforestation” vary from country to country in the Congo basin. DRC was home to 40% of global deforestation in 2021, second only to Brazil. 

But Gabon, which has a significantly smaller population than its neighbour, is a low deforestation country. “And Gabon has gradually emerged as the model student in the region,” Karsenty says.  The country is called “Africa’s Last Eden” due to more than 85% of its territory being covered by rainforest.

For decades the country profited from the underground petrol resources fueling its economy. But in 2010 it began a transition towards diversification through timber production and palm oil plantations. The objective was to balance the country’s economic needs and its response to the climate emergency.  

The initiative was led by the Gabonese-British minister of water, forests, seas and the environment, Lee White, who offered foreign furniture companies and plywood manufacturers financial breaks on the condition that they set up factories in Gabon while simultaneously banning the export of logs and unprocessed wood.   

Strict laws against using the forest for industry were also implemented, meaning manufacturers could only cut down a maximum of two trees per hectare, every 25 years. To deter illegal felling, logs were marked with barcodes so that they could be tracked, “which created jobs, helped the economy to flourish and limited deforestation”, Karsenty says.  

As a final measure, Gabon inaugurated 13 national parks covering 11% of its land mass and installed a satellite-based surveillance system to monitor deforestation.  

these environmental protection measures appear to have worked. Gabon’s forest area is increasing and illegal wood felling has decreased slightly. The number of elephants in Gabon’s forests has gone up from 60,000 in 1990 to 95,000 in 2021.  

There have also been economic gains. Gabon has become one of Africa’s – and the world’s – biggest producers of plywood. In total, the timber industry provides some 30,000 jobs and 7% of the country’s labour force.  

“Thanks to these political decisions, Gabon today is a regional leader on environmental issues,” says Karsenty. ”Several other countries in the Congo basin have said they want to implement measures inspired by Gabon. For example, Republic of the Congo and DRC also want to ban log exports and create free-trade zones to attract investors.”  

“Since 2010, DRC has also introduced several measures aiming to save the forest, notably policies to settle nomadic populations,” Karsenty says. 

The country’s indigenous peoples live in nomadic and semi-nomadic groups, and are reliant on the forest for resources, yet efforts to settle them have had limited success in a country subject to political corruption, instability and armed conflict. 

“There’s a real regional rivalry to appear internationally as a leader in forest protection,” Karsenty says. “And the main reason behind this race for leadership is seeking out financing from countries in the Global North.”  

In 2019, Norway agreed to transfer $150 million to Gabon over a 10-year period to support its environmental policies. Although Norway has acted as a “benefactor” for tropical forests for some years, this marked the first time it had offered financial aid to a country located outside the Amazon basin or Indonesia.   A year and a half later, Gabon received the first payment – $17 million in exchange for tonnes of CO2 stored, thanks to measures to halt deforestation.  

During COP26, DRC was also promised a landmark $500 million from the international community to protect its forests. “Internationally, the DRC has been asking for years that the country be automatically remunerated for resources the forest would have provided based on some sort of ‘annuity’ rationale,” Karsenty says. “The argument is that by preserving their forests, countries are deprived of income, notably from underground [resources], and that should be compensated.”  

However, the funds have yet to materialise and the country seems to be trying a new approach. In July 2022, DRC President Félix Tshisekedi announced his intention to auction off the land for oil drilling, some of which are located in the heart of the rainforest, home to the world’s largest tropical peat bogs. With the capacity to produce up to 1 million barrels of oil per day, the country could generate revenue of $32 million per year, DRC’s minister of hydrocarbons has said.   

Peat bogs are highly effective natural carbon sinks and damaging them would release enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.    

Karsenty says, “We need to go beyond these arguments and beyond rivalries, to put in place a communal agenda from countries in the Congo basin, achieve regional cooperation and preserve this tropical forest.”  

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Africans in Need

  The number of displacements in Somalia reached a new high of 3.8 million people, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Deputy Director General for Operations, Ugochi Daniels.

Climate risks and conflict will amplify current gaps following five consecutive below-average rainy seasons and a projected sixth in early 2023, which could force tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in major cities and towns, particularly in Baidoa and Mogadishu where IOM projects that approximately 300,000 people could be newly displaced by July 2023.

Most of the newly displaced might never go back to their places of origin because the land can no longer provide, and insecurity will only increase as competition for the already scarce resources grows. As a result, entire families will be born and raised in informal settlements amid unsuitable living conditions.

Displacement in Somalia Reaches Record High 3.8 Million: IOM Deputy Director General Calls for Sustainable Solutions - Somalia | ReliefWeb

Ethiopia is highly vulnerable to climatic shocks and is one of the most drought-prone countries in the world1, and the severe drought that began in late 2020 has continued into 2023 with the passing of five poor to failed rainy seasons.

 The 2023 Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requires $3.99 billion to target more than 20 million people across the country. This includes an estimated 4.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs).

13 million people are targeted for humanitarian response in drought-affected areas. The situation is getting more critical with each failed rainy season and has severely impacted pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities, particularly in the eastern and southern parts of the country, aggravating food insecurity, malnutrition, access to water and a worsening health situation with an increase of disease outbreaks. Worth noting is that some parts of Ethiopia are critically affected by both drought and conflict simultaneously, including Oromia and Somali regions.

Ethiopia: Humanitarian Response Plan 2023 (February 2023) - Ethiopia | ReliefWeb

The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the humanitarian community today launched the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan, which aims at raising $2.25 billion to support the critical needs of 10 million vulnerable people in the country.

"Beyond mobilizing funds for vital needs, the Humanitarian Response Plan is a reminder of our common humanity, solidarity and shared responsibility towards populations affected by conflict, epidemics and natural disasters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which remains a major complex crisis and deserves all the attention it can get," said the Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC, Bruno Lemarquis.

Over the past 12 months, the humanitarian situation has been exacerbated by a spike in violence, particularly in North Kivu province where more than 600,000 people have been newly displaced since March 2022. In neighboring Ituri province, localities have been and continue to be the scene of inter-communal massacres, including in IDP sites, while diseases such as measles continue to affect thousands in South Kivu province. 

Across the country, an estimated 26.4 million people are food insecure, making DRC the most food insecure country in the world. 

Also, with 5.7 million people displaced by conflict, DRC has the largest number of internally displaced people on the African continent.

10 million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2023 - Democratic Republic of the Congo | ReliefWeb