Colombia recognizes Palestine as sovereign state

Bogota, an ally of the United States, has historically maintained close ties with Israel. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2018
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Colombia recognizes Palestine as sovereign state

  • Israeli PM had been scheduled to arrive in Colombia on Monday but called off the trip at the last minute
  • The US doesn't recognize a Palestinian state, and Colombia long refrained from doing so due its close ties with Washington

BOGOTA: Colombia recognized Palestine as a sovereign state in the days before new President Ivan Duque took office, according to a letter from the foreign ministry made public on Wednesday.
“I would like to inform you that in the name of the government of Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos has decided to recognize Palestine as a free, independent and sovereign state,” said the letter dated August 3.
The letter was signed by Santos’s foreign minister Maria Angela Holguin.
New Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said he would review the “implications” of the previous government’s decision, in accordance with international law and good diplomatic practice.
“It is a priority for this government to maintain cooperative relations with its allies and friends, and to contribute to international peace and security,” Holmes said.
Before the announcement, Colombia had been one of only two countries in the region, along with Panama, not to recognize Palestinian statehood.
Bogota, an ally of the United States, has historically maintained close ties with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been scheduled to arrive in Colombia on Monday but called off the trip at the last minute, saying he needed to focus on developments along his country’s border with the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian mission in Bogota told AFP that they were told of the decision last Friday. It welcomed the move by Bogota as evidence of “profound efforts to reach a rapprochement.”


Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

Updated 21 November 2018
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Child bride auction in South Sudan goes viral, sparks Facebook anger

JUBA: Five hundred cows, two luxury cars, $10,000, two bikes, a boat and a few cell phones made up the final price in a heated bidding war for a child bride in South Sudan that went viral after the auction was pointed out on Facebook. It is the largest dowry ever paid in the civil war-torn country, the government said.
The highest bidder was a man three times the 17-year-old’s age. At least four other men in Eastern Lakes state competed, said Philips Anyang Ngong, a human rights lawyer who tried to stop the bidding last month. Among the bidders was the state’s deputy governor.
“She has been reduced to a mere commodity,” Ngong told The Associated Press, calling it “the biggest test of child abuse, trafficking and auctioning of a human being.” Everyone involved should be held accountable, he said.
Earlier this month, Nyalong became the man’s ninth wife. Photos posted on Facebook show her sitting beside the groom, wearing a lavish dress and staring despondently at the floor. The AP is using only her first name to protect her identity.
South Sudan has a deeply rooted cultural practice of paying dowries for brides, usually in the form of cows. It also has a long history of child marriage. Even though that practice is now illegal, 40 percent of girls still marry before age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The practice “threatens girls’ lives” and limits prospects for their future, said Dr. Mary Otieno, the agency’s country representative.
The bidding war has caused local and international outrage. It took several days for Facebook to remove the post that first pointed out the auction, and after it was taken down other posts “glorifying” the situation remained, George Otim, country director for Plan International South Sudan, told the AP.
“This barbaric use of technology is reminiscent of latter-day slave markets. That a girl could be sold for marriage on the world’s biggest social networking site in this day and age is beyond belief,” he said. The auction was discussed, not carried out, on the site.
Facebook did not reply to a request for comment.
While South Sudan’s government condemns the practice of child marriage it says it can’t regulate communities’ cultural norms, especially in remote areas.
“You can’t call it bidding as if it was an auction. It’s not bidding. If you see it with European eyes you’ll call it an auction,” government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP. “You have to see it with an African eye, as it’s a tradition that goes back thousands of years. There’s no word for it in English.”
Some local lawmakers and activists disagree. In a statement released this week, the National Alliance for Women Lawyers in South Sudan called upon officials to comply with the government’s plan to end child marriage by 2030. Ending the practice includes putting a stop to the auctioning of girls.
South Sudan’s anti-human trafficking chief called the case reminiscent of others he has seen across the country, in which girls are forced or tricked into marriage after being told they are going to live with relatives and go to school instead.
“It is clear that some human trafficking practices are hidden in our culture,” John Mading said.
In other cases, some girls who grow up in the South Sudanese diaspora are brought back to the country and forced to marry. The AP spoke with several people who know girls who arrived for what they thought was a vacation, only to have their passports taken away and forced into marriage by their families.
“Some families want children to marry in their countries and in their ethnic communities, but most do it if the kids are misbehaving,” said Esther Ikere Eluzai, undersecretary for South Sudan’s ministry of gender.