Darfur teetering on the brink of genocide?

Darfur teetering on the brink of genocide?
According to recent reports, Arab militias, supported by paramilitary forces, have allegedly attacked civilians fleeing El-Geneina. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 03 July 2023
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Darfur teetering on the brink of genocide?

Darfur teetering on the brink of genocide?
  • UN urges action to halt ‘wanton killings’ as conflict escalates
  • Donor fatigue, other crises diverting attention from Africa’

JUBA: As the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region escalates, the UN has urged immediate action to prevent a potential genocide, but experts say that intervention has been hampered by the ongoing fighting, donor fatigue and attention on other humanitarian crises around the world.

According to recent reports, Arab militias, supported by paramilitary forces, have allegedly attacked civilians fleeing El-Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, near the border with Chad.

The situation has reached a critical point, with the UN’s human rights office declaring El-Geneina “uninhabitable” and infrastructure severely damaged. Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called on the leadership of the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, to end the killings and stop vilifying people on the basis of ethnicity.

Bakheet Suliman Adam Abdallah, a human rights advocate hailing from Al-Fashir in Darfur and a member of the Tame tribe, which is predominantly Muslim, has disclosed distressing details about the ongoing conflict in the region.

In a telephone interview with Arab News recently, he said he witnessed widespread acts of murder and targeted violence executed by various militias. “Being black-skinned automatically designates you as one of the primary targets,” he stated.

Furthermore, Abdallah revealed that following the outbreak of war, community leaders in Al-Fashir endeavored to quell the internal clashes between the RSF and Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, resulting in the division of the city into two zones.

Finding himself in the eastern part under RSF control, he said he was harassed and falsely accused of espionage on two separate occasions solely based on his skin color. “They held a gun to my head, detained me at the gate for two hours, looted all my money, and confiscated my phone.”

Abdallah said that as the violence escalated, and with RSF soldiers forcefully entering people’s homes, he felt he could not continue his human rights work. Consequently, he decided to flee through South Sudan and seek refuge in Uganda.

With citizens having no weapons to defend themselves, a growing number of desperate Sudanese youths have approached SAF bases in recent days to volunteer for combat.

William Carter, who is Sudan country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Arab News recently that “the situation is very challenging.” His organization has been unable to deliver aid due to the ongoing fighting in the region. “Our organization had to suspend its work in Darfur, and some staff members have even become refugees in Chad,” he added.

While people like Abdallah have called for the UN to launch a peacekeeping mission, there is little chance of any external intervention.

“That’s not only because of the lack of political support but also among the parties involved,” Dr. Jair van der Lijn, a senior researcher and director of the Peace Operations and Conflict Management Programme at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, told Arab News recently.

“Right now, the appetite for large-scale peace operations among Security Council members is low, and finding troop-contributing countries would be challenging,” Van der Lijn added.

Previously, the world body’s peacekeeping force, UNAMID, or UN – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, was deployed in 2007 to protect civilians and address the conflict, in which between 80,000 and 400,000 casualties were reported. The mission concluded on Dec. 31, 2020, after making progress in stabilizing the region.

However, there remains an urgent need for aid. “There is not enough humanitarian assistance at this point, also to the refugee camps,” Van der Lijn added. “Donor fatigue and competing humanitarian crises divert attention and resources away from Africa.”


What We Are Reading Today: LatinoLand

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Updated 22 min 4 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: LatinoLand

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Author: Marie Arana

“LatinoLand,” by Marie Arana, explores the diverse politics and historical roots of Hispanic Americans.
It is a compelling and insightful exploration into the diverse tapestry of Latino culture in the US.
Arana, with her profound understanding and personal connection to the Latino experience, crafts a narrative that is both illuminative and deeply resonant.
The book is not just a mere compilation of statistics and historical facts; it’s a vibrant journey through the lives, struggles, and triumphs of the Latino community.
Arana draws on her own experience as the daughter of an American mother and Peruvian father who came to the US at age nine, straddling two worlds, as many Latinos do.
She delves into the socio-political challenges facing Latino Americans, from immigration policies to economic disparities, without losing sight of the individual stories that illuminate these issues.
Arana’s work shines in its celebration of the cultural contributions of Latino Americans to the fabric of American society.
The book “unabashedly celebrates Latino resilience and character and shows us why we must understand the fastest-growing minority in America,” said a review on Goodreads.com.

 


Grieving families await bodies after restaurant blaze

Grieving families await bodies after restaurant blaze
Updated 25 min 51 sec ago
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Grieving families await bodies after restaurant blaze

Grieving families await bodies after restaurant blaze
  • Among the dead was young university student MinHajj Khan, whose failure to escape the fire was witnessed by a friend with him at the restaurant and confirmed to AFP by his older cousin at the hospital

DHAKA: Anguished families kept vigil outside the morgue of Bangladesh’s largest hospital on Friday, waiting for the bodies of loved ones to be identified after a fire they say should never have happened.
At least 46 people were killed in Thursday night’s blaze in an upscale neighborhood of Dhaka, which broke out in a popular biryani restaurant and quickly engulfed a seven-floor commercial building.
Most of those who perished suffocated in the smoke, while the bodies of others were burned beyond recognition in the resulting inferno.
Among the dead was young university student MinHajj Khan, whose failure to escape the fire was witnessed by a friend with him at the restaurant and confirmed to AFP by his older cousin at the hospital.

BACKGROUND

Firefighters said the blaze was accidentally sparked from an improperly stored cooking gas cylinder and made much worse by the quick chain-reaction explosions of other canisters stored haphazardly around the building.

Khan’s mother had traveled to the hospital insisting his companion was mistaken, angrily sending away doctors requesting a DNA swab to check against bodies brought to the morgue.
“I won’t listen to anyone. I don’t believe any of you. I only want my son. Nothing else,” she said, declining to give her name.
“He promised to take me to Makkah for the pilgrimage. How can I go to Mak without him?“
It took fire crews two hours to control the blaze, with members of the public stepping in to carry hoses and help guide those escaping from the building to safety.
Before they arrived, many inside had rushed upstairs to the rooftop to escape the quickly spreading inferno.
Kazi Taslim Uddin said his 20-year-old son was among the dozens being treated in hospital for injuries after being forced to clamber down the side of the building.
“He tried to go to the ground floor but failed as people were rushing up the opposite way,” he told AFP.
“He grabbed some cables and tried to climb down, but they weren’t long enough,” he added.
“He jumped and got injured. The smoke also scorched his lungs.”
Firefighters said the blaze was accidentally sparked from an improperly stored cooking gas cylinder and made much worse by the quick chain-reaction explosions of other canisters stored haphazardly around the building.
Bereaved family members at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital were furious that nothing had been done to alert the public to the fire risk at the restaurant beforehand.
“It could have saved many lives,” said one man waiting to retrieve the body of a cousin who perished in the blaze who declined to identify himself.
“All these buildings are ticking time bombs. The regulators wake up only after the disaster occurs.”

 


Bayern held in Freiburg to give Leverkusen advantage in title race

Bayern held in Freiburg to give Leverkusen advantage in title race
Updated 26 min 23 sec ago
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Bayern held in Freiburg to give Leverkusen advantage in title race

Bayern held in Freiburg to give Leverkusen advantage in title race
  • Mathys Tel’s 35th-minute stunner had canceled out an impressive opener from Freiburg captain Christian Guenter
  • Bayern have now failed to win away from home in four matches dating back to January in both the league and Champions League

FREIBURG, Germany: Bayern Munich were held to a 2-2 draw at Freiburg on Friday, an 87th-minute equalizer from Lucas Hoeler giving leaders Bayer Leverkusen a chance to go 10 points clear.
Mathys Tel’s 35th-minute stunner had canceled out an impressive opener from Freiburg captain Christian Guenter, before Jamal Musiala’s spectacular solo effort looked to have snared the three points for Bayern.
Hoeler however had other ideas, chipping a volley through a crowded Bayern penalty area and past a helpless Manuel Neuer.
Bayern have now failed to win away from home in four matches dating back to January in both the league and Champions League.
Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen can go 10 points clear of the Bavarians with a win against lowly Cologne on Sunday.
Guenter blasted the hosts into the lead after 12 minutes, unleashing a spinning rocket from outside the box and into the bottom right of the goal.
The goal was the Freiburg captain’s first of the season and the club’s only strike from outside the box this campaign.
Not content to allow Guenter to dominate the highlights reel, Tel hit back with a dream goal of his own, curling in a long-range effort on his second league start this season.
With 15 minutes remaining and Bayern dominating possession but failing to carve out clear chances, Musiala dribbled past at least three Freiburg defenders and blasted a low shot into the right corner.
Despite holding the lead Bayern grew passive, dropping deep to defend their goal and hold onto their slender lead.
With just three minutes of regular time remaining, Hoeler held off several Bayern defenders and chipped a volley over Neuer and into the goal, sending the home side into raptures.
The draw spoilt the first day at work for Bayern sporting director Max Eberl, who said during his unveiling this week the side would still push Leverkusen for the title.
The point sees Freiburg finish the night in ninth place in a crowded Bundesliga table, with only five points separating seventh and 15th places.


Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention
Updated 48 min 49 sec ago
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Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention

Tunisian judge releases union leader after one-day detention
  • The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament

TUNIS: A judge has released a top official in Tunisia’s biggest labor union, one day after he was detained, the union said.
The Tunisian General Labor Union denounced the detention of Tahar Mezzi, saying it was a politically motivated attempt to undermine union rights.
Mezzi is the deputy secretary-general and the union’s head of the private sector.
He was detained two days before a huge protest called by the UGTT against what it said was a “violation of union rights and the disruption of social dialogue.”
A judicial official said the judge also ordered a travel ban on Mezzi.
The UGTT did not say on what grounds Mezzi was detained.
Tunisian authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Since last year, police have arrested at least four senior union officials.
The UGTT, which has about 1 million members, has been a critical voice after the arrest of activists, businessmen, and journalists since President  Kais Saied took charge of most powers in 2021 when he closed parliament.
But the voice of the union, which was widely seen as the biggest force in the country, has been significantly diminished since last year after the arrest of some officials.
Some political parties and activists have accused UGTT of inaction, retreating from its role, and choosing silence instead of confronting Saied’s authoritarian approach.
Saturday’s protest will be the first in months.

 


How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge
Updated 56 min 56 sec ago
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How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge

How Middle East and North African countries can rise to the climate challenge
  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE leveraging renewables and environmental policies to protect future growth and prosperity
  • Without action now, parts of the MENA region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity

RIYADH/DUBAI: The Middle East and North Africa region is at a crossroads. As temperatures rise, water scarcity intensifies and desertification spreads, the region’s immense economic potential is at risk unless bold action is taken.

Fortunately, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have been taking steps to adopt sources of renewable energy, not only to meet their own commitments to slashing carbon emissions, but to take a lead in the global energy transition.

This adoption of renewables has come hand in hand with a broader regional push to diversify economies away from oil, invest in carbon capture, storage and utilization, and roll out policies designed to protect natural habitats and expand green spaces.

There is a lot at stake for the MENA region, which is viewed as being uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Indeed, several studies suggest parts of the region could be uninhabitable by 2050 owing to extreme temperatures and water scarcity.

In November and December last year, Dubai hosted the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at which states agreed to a historic set of measures to stop average global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The agreement called for a “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner ... so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science.”

It also called for the creation of a fund to help vulnerable countries pay for climate-related damage, and the publication of landmark assessments on the world’s progress in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, it called for a tripling of renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030, the speeding up of efforts to reduce coal use, and the adoption of technologies for carbon capture, storage and utilization.

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Although not all nations were satisfied with the text of the deal, it did mark an important step forward, building on the ambitions laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Speaking at the Paris headquarters of the International Energy Agency on Feb. 20, COP28 President Sultan Al-Jaber said that meeting the goals agreed under the “UAE Consensus” would require “unprecedented action” by global stakeholders.

“Solidarity overcame polarization, inclusivity prevailed over finger-pointing and the spirit of partnership brought the best of humanity together,” he said of the COP28 summit.

“To keep this spirit alive and build on the momentum achieved at COP28, the UAE Consensus set a new direction and a clear course correction. We must now turn an unprecedented agreement into unprecedented action. Now is the time for all stakeholders to step up.”

While many Western nations appear to be rolling back their climate commitments, the Middle East and North Africa region has risen to the challenge.

One bold example of this is the Saudi Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021 to protect the Kingdom’s environment, conserve wildlife, and plant billions of trees, while enabling sustainable economic growth.

“Since its inception, SGI has implemented a range of initiatives to protect and conserve the Kingdom’s vital ecosystems,” Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha, deputy minister of environment, water and agriculture, told Arab News.

“For example, the National Greening Program, which is driving nationwide tree-planting efforts across Saudi Arabia and is underpinned by two key guiding principles: firstly, maintaining ecosystem balance, and secondly, utilizing renewable water resources.

“The program follows a nature-based regeneration approach to allow its ecosystems to flourish over time.”

Faqeeha said several dedicated initiatives under the SGI are being actioned to protect biodiversity hotspots through the designation of protected areas.

“SGI also aims to promote sustainability by raising awareness and reducing the adverse impact of economic sectors on the ecosystems, driving all these efforts by engaging all relevant stakeholders from the public, private, and third sectors,” he said.

Other significant steps the Kingdom has taken to safeguard biodiversity include the establishment of a dedicated national environmental framework, underpinned by the National Environment Law.

Several agencies have been established to carry out this work, including the National Center for Wildlife, National Center for Vegetation Cover, National Center for Environmental Compliance, and the National Center for Waste Management.

Under his ministry’s oversight, Faqeeha said these agencies “regulate and monitor critical environmental domains linked to biodiversity conservation, such as terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems, land and vegetation cover, environmental media, waste management, (and) underscore the commitment to biodiversity conservation in the Kingdom.”

The picture is similar in the UAE. Under the General Environment Policy of 2021, authorities are working to preserve ecosystems, promote diversification and economic prosperity, integrate climate change and biodiversity considerations into various sectors, and support the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

All these plans are crucial if countries in the Middle East and North Africa region hope to address the effects of climate change, which are already impacting precipitation patterns, causing water scarcity and harming agriculture, thereby threatening livelihoods and food security.

In the Gulf states, in particular, climate change is already contributing to an increase in the salinity of groundwater. According to a report by the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Gulf water supplies will come under additional strain over the next 20 years due to the region’s booming population and the scarcity of rainfall.

Officials in these countries believe it is therefore critical to plan now in order to mitigate and adapt to these challenges if they are to protect future growth and prosperity.