Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/26/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:51 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I appreciate you accommodating the change in the time to the briefing today.  We wanted to make sure that all of you had the opportunity to see the President welcome the WNBA champions, Phoenix Mercury, to the White House.  

But now that we are all assembled, let’s get started.  Nancy, do you want to start us off?

Q    Yeah, thanks.  What was the President’s reaction to the Roanoke shooting?

MR. EARNEST:  I did not have the opportunity to speak to the President about the tragic shooting that occurred earlier today in Virginia.  Obviously the thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident.  The precise details of that incident continue to be under investigation.  

But as you’ve heard me say in the past, this is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small, all across the United States.  And while there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence in this country, there are some common-sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have a tangible impact in reducing gun violence in this country.  And Congress could take those steps in a way that would not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.  And the President has long advocated Congress taking those steps, and the President continues to believe that they should do so.

Q    Can you say what role federal officials will have in the investigation?

MR. EARNEST:  I do know that officials from the FBI and the ATF were involved in responding and tracking down the individual who is believed to have been responsible for this violence.  And I would anticipate that federal officials will be working to support state officials who will conduct the investigation.

Q    Also, do you have any comment on the signing of the peace agreement in South Sudan, and what the prospects are for lasting peace there?

MR. EARNEST:  This is something that was just reported within the last few hours.  What I would say is that the administration believes that President Kiir made the right decision to sign the peace agreement today.  But we should be just as clear that the United States and the international community does not recognize any reservations or addendums to that document.  And President Kiir and the government of South Sudan should abide by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development agreement that was signed today, and they should work toward ending the conflict and rebuilding the country.

Nancy, you’ll recall that the President had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other countries in the region in discussing trying to broker some peace in South Sudan.  So this is an issue that the President has not just been following but been actively engaged in.  And you heard him note that South Sudan is a country that has been wracked by terrible violence in recent years, and the United States and other countries in the region have been trying to act in coordinated fashion to broker some peace there.  So this is something that we’re going to continue to monitor as the situation moves forward.

Roberta.

Q    Has the White House raised its sights on the Iran vote?  And is the White House now trying to get enough votes to — actively trying to get enough votes to block a motion of disapproval?

MR. EARNEST:  Roberta, what our strategy is focused on right now is building as much support as possible in both the House and the Senate for the agreement.  As I’ve noted before, the appropriate congressional role here, as described and codified by Congress, is not to sign off on the agreement, but Congress does have a role in evaluating the agreement.  And essentially, the role that Congress would play at this point is spoiler.  Congress does have the capacity to kill this agreement.  

This is an international agreement between the United States and several other countries and Iran.  And our legislative efforts are focused on building enough support for the agreement to prevent Congress from spoiling, and that’s what we will continue to do.  That effort has included a variety of lobbying efforts.  This has included presidential phone calls.  Other senior members of the President’s national security team have reached out to members of Congress and their staff members to advocate for the agreement.  And you’ll note that later this afternoon the President will conduct a handful of interviews with television anchors from across the country, and this will be among the issues that will be up for discussion.  And it’s the President’s view and it’s the view of his team that the more that we elevate this discussion and the more that the American people have the opportunity to hear the arguments in favor of this agreement, the more likely they are to support it.  And that’s the reason that the President will do those interviews today.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to build as much support for the agreement in Congress as possible.

Q    So does the White House feel that it’s possible — feasible at all to get 41 votes of support in the Senate?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the last I saw, I think that there are 26 or 27 senators who support the agreement.  There are only two Democrats that have come out in opposition to it.  That’s an indication that we’ve got a lot of momentum built up in terms of building support for this agreement.  But what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get as many members of the Senate as possible — and as many members of the House as possible — to back the agreement.

I would note that there was a letter that was signed by about 150 House members prior to the completion of the comprehensive agreement back in July indicating their support for an agreement that was consistent with the aims that the President had identified for a final agreement.  And the essence of the final comprehensive agreement does fulfill that criteria, and so we are optimistic that we will be able to earn the support of those who sign that letter — we’re still hard at work in that effort.  But what’s notable is that there are several Democrats in the House of Representatives who declined to sign that letter, but yet have announced their support for the final agreement.

So there are several indications that we are succeeding in our efforts to build sufficient support for the agreement in the Congress, but we certainly want to collect as many votes as possible.  

Q &

Read More

Salva Kiir Comes to His Sense (Sorta)

Kiir has come under enormous pressure, including the threat of international sanctions. And now, it looks like he’ll sign a peace deal. But will he actually abide by it? “South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has finally agreed to sign a peace deal and power-sharing accord to end a 20-month civil war, his spokesman said Tuesday…Sources in IGAD also confirmed plans for the deal to be signed in Juba on Wednesday, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and chief mediator Seyoum Mesfin due to attend. An IGAD official said rebel leader Machar would not be there because security provisions were not yet in place.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1JjKIMQ)

Whither Accountability? A UN report details horrific abuses committed by South Sudanese government soldiers. “The U.N. experts found that a government offensive in oil-producing Unity State between April and July this year had been “intent on rendering communal life unviable and prohibiting any return to normalcy following the violence.” “The intensity and brutality of violence aimed at civilians is hitherto unseen, in what has been so far — without a doubt — an incredibly violent conflict, where civilians have been targeted by all parties to the conflict,” the experts wrote in the interim reported submitted to U.N. Security Council members. Under a so-called “scorched earth policy” government-allied forces razed entire villages, sometimes with people inside their homes, raped women and abducted children, the experts said.

Water Used As Weapon in Syrian War…Disturbing new report from UNICEF. “In recent months, up to five million people living in cities and communities across the country have suffered the consequences of long and sometimes deliberate interruptions to their water supplies.In the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting has crippled the main pumping station for months at a time, UNICEF has recorded 18 deliberate water cuts this year alone. Taps in some communities were left dry for up to 17 days in a row – and for over a month in some areas of the city.” (UNICEF http://uni.cf/1NSPoKC)

Quote of the day: “Let’s not pretend that what the EU and its member states are doing is working. Migration is here to stay,” Francois Crepeau, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. (AP http://yhoo.it/1hZdBF3)

Africa

A teenage suicide bomber detonated an explosive device strapped to her body in the northeastern Nigerian city of Damaturu early on Tuesday, killing six people and wounding about 30, police said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LuZr8l)

Around 1.5 million Zimbabweans are predicted to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1LuZmSc)

Cameroon says it is banning and destroying cheap vegetable oil imported from Indonesia and Malaysia to protect its home industries. The central African nation says thousands of workers may lose their jobs if the country continues to import cheaper vegetable oil. (VOA http://bit.ly/1EhFzGp)

The chairman of Nigeria’s corruption-fighting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is appearing before the Senate to answer accusations that he diverted billions of dollars. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NRUerq)

Pest experts from across Africa have recommended vast vaccination and pest eradication programs to stop trans-border animal diseases that claim between 10 percent and 20 percent of the continent’s animals yearly. The experts are gathered in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde, under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s program. (VOA http://bit.ly/1LuZ91l)

Gangs of children are roaming the streets of Ivory Coast’s biggest city. Known as “les microbes” (French for “the germs”), they are accused of violent robberies — and have become the scourge of Abidjan, where they are spreading terror among residents. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1V7lMNX)

Hundreds of movie lovers gathered in front of a giant outdoor screen in Nairobi’s Mathare slum on Monday at the start of the Slum Film Festival, which aims to challenge perceptions of shanty towns as dens of crime and squalor. (TRF http://bit.ly/1LuZrW9)

MENA

Unidentified gunmen raided the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Yemeni port city of Aden on Monday, holding staff at gunpoint and stealing cars, cash and equipment, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NRUd71)

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 175 people over the past 12 months, on average one person every two days, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NRU6Z2)

Around 5,300 migrants, mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast last week, EU border agency Frontex said Tuesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Nzhiyb)

Asia

Nepal police shot dead a protester as fresh clashes erupted in the country’s southern plains Tuesday, a day after an 18-month-old boy and seven officers died during demonstrations against a new constitution. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NRUaYX)

The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday it received substantive amounts of information from Iran aimed at quelling concerns its nuclear past had military elements, although it was too early to say whether any of it is new. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NRUcjl)

India and the United Nations appealed for all parties to seek peace in Nepal, where hundreds of security forces on Tuesday were patrolling a western town after ethnic protesters demanding statehood attacked police a day earlier, leaving 11 people dead and many injured. (AP http://yhoo.it/1NzhhdJ)

An intensifying El Nino may bring the worst drought in 20 years to Papua New Guinea, the country’s prime minister said, raising fears that production of the country’s critical agricultural commodities may drop. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1NzhfTd)

The “waterman of India” will walk across five continents to raise awareness for his campaign to have the human rights to river water and access to nature recognised by the UN. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EghjnC)

The Americas

U.S. stocks jumped at the open after China’s central bank cut interest rates to support its economy. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ETvtGf)

Gay rights activists in Panama presented a bill to lawmakers that would make hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transsexuals illegal — and punishable by up to a year in jail. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1NRU9UW)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed to extend a crackdown on illegal migrants from neighboring Colombia he blames for rampant crime and widespread shortages, while authorities across the border struggled to attend to droves of returning. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Eghorr)

Colombia has condemned deportations of its citizens after Venezuela closed its border with its western neighbour last week. The crossings were shut after an attack by smugglers left three soldiers and a civilian injured. (BBC http://bbc.in/1EhFdQ6)

…and the rest

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says nearly 300,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea this year. Most went to Italy and Greece. The UNHCR warns the situation is not sustainable and is calling for a comprehensive solution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1LuZ9yv)

As demand for water grows, the world must focus on how the precious resource will be shared among farmers, the energy sector and cities if it is to achieve the United Nations’ new development agenda, a World Bank expert said. (TRF http://bit.ly/1V7qaws)

Photo essay: The race to beat Hungary’s border fence (IRIN http://bit.ly/1JwKgMH)

Opinion/Blogs

Do we still care about the F word? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1LuY21C)

Confessions of a humanitarian: ‘The life of a veggie aid worker is no bed of kale’ (Guardian http://bit.ly/1EhFhiN)

Thailand, One Week After the Bombings. Is Another Free Speech Crackdown Coming? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1JtIGXu)

Development under conflict: How to react to a crisis (Devex http://bit.ly/1MRrpyv)

Buying condoms won’t make you Africa’s “HERO” (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1ETD0VD)

China bashing: American campaign ritual or harbinger of tougher policy? (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1ETD0oK)

5 trends that explain why civil society space is under assault around the world (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1Ub771W)

A U.S. Court Jeopardizes Corporate Transparency Rules, in the Name of Free Speech (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1JtILun)

Rwanda’s gender gap: banks must stop failing female entrepreneurs (Guardian http://bit.ly/1V7mfQd)

Why the New Sustainable Development Goals Won’t Make the World a Fairer Place (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Lv0LIz)

Discussion

comments…

Read More

New Global Population Estimates from the UN

The report from the number crunchers at the UN also show that life expectancy in the least developed countries has increased sharply over the last 6 years. “The world’s population is projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion in 2100, with India expected to surpass China as the most populous around seven years from now and Nigeria overtaking the United States to become the world’s third largest country around 35 years from now, according to a new United Nations report released today. Moreover, the report reveals that during the 2015-2050 period, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Indonesia and Uganda.” (UN http://bit.ly/1KApafa)

The Largest Refugee Camp in the Middle East Turns 3 Years Old…The Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which opened July 29 2012, has some 81,000 Syrian residents and can’t take any more. “With Za’atari at capacity, the number of urban refugees seeking shelter in Jordan’s second camp, Azraq, increased fourfold in the first six months of this year,” UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery told a press briefing in Geneva. In the first half of 2015, 3,658 people returned to Azraq from urban areas, compared to just 738 in the second half of 2014. This trend is driven by increasing vulnerability of urban refugees in Jordan whose savings are depleted after years in exile, and who are unable to find secure legal livelihoods. Those living in Amman, in particular, are trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the Middle East.” (UNHCR http://bit.ly/1KAj4LX)

Where’s the money? Only one percent of Kenyan government spending can be properly accounted for, according to a report by the country’s auditor-general released just days after US President Barack Obama warned corruption was holding the country back. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvuvpB)

Deadly Flooding in India…Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rain have killed at least 26 people in a west Indian state in the past 48 hours, authorities said Wednesday. (AFP http://bit.ly/1D97jMX)

Africa

The president of Nigeria made his first official state visit to neighboring Cameroon on Wednesday, as the two former enemies struggle to contain the mutual threat posed by Islamic militants carrying out suicide bombings across the region. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OANP)

Nairobi announced it was going to relocate street children to rehabilitation centers in the country. The move coincided with a project to clean up the streets before the president’s arrival. Many say there must be a better way to address the plight of the Kenyan city’s street families. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVoes)

Fears are growing that endemic graft in Tanzania will deny the majority of its people a fair share of the wealth generated by the country’s natural gas riches. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1JRP4Z6)

Sudan’s foreign ministry summoned the European Union’s representative in Khartoum to complain about “false information” it said the EU had disseminated about the number of refugees and displaced people in the country. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqB)

Threatened by the advance of a desert that already covers two-thirds of Niger, the poor Sahel nation hopes to halt rapid deforestation by promoting natural gas. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Jvu9PM)

Nigeria has appointed a new boss for the amnesty scheme for ex-Niger Delta oil rebels, in a move seen by observers as an attempt to put back on track the programme which doused militancy in the oil-rich region. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1JvupOH)

More than 5 million text messages have been sent to subscribers, who get health information and reminders for doctor’s appointments direct to their mobile phones – many of them in distant parts of Tanzania. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbeqnG)

US President Barack Obama’s visit to Ethiopia, which saw him speak out against democratic restrictions, was positive but Washington must maintain pressure on the government, an Ethiopian opposition figure said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1I1XFKv)

MENA

A car bomb exploded outside an Ismaili mosque in Yemen’s war-damaged capital Sanaa on Wednesday, killing four people and wounding six, health authorities and a security source said. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1KAklm0)

Saudi-led warplanes bombed targets in Yemen’s northerly Saada province, a stronghold of Iranian-allied Houthi forces, local officials said Wednesday, and a U.N. official accused both sides in the conflict of failing to respect international law. (VOA http://bit.ly/1KAktlu)

Turkey’s renewed conflict with Kurdish militants intensified on Wednesday as the government launched a new wave of airstrikes in northern Iraq and a blast temporarily crippled a key oil pipeline in southeastern Turkey. (WSJ http://on.wsj.com/1KAkzd0)

Asia

China’s widespread crackdown on rights lawyers and activists over the past three weeks has fueled growing concerns that President Xi Jinping is using the law as a tool to mute dissidents and those who defend them in court. (VOA http://bit.ly/1MtVpiz)

Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the death sentence for an influential opposition leader and an aide to a former prime minister for his role in mass killings during the country’s independence war against Pakistan in 1971. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OOL2Fb)

Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday registered for November elections to keep her seat in parliament and challenge the ruling military-backed party. (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OR3g)

The Americas

The jaguar is being defeated by a ruthless, modern-day warrior: Powerful drug cartels are carving up its Central American natural habitat. In some areas, particularly in Honduras and Guatemala, the big cats are at risk of disappearing entirely. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Db5EGe)

Organisers of the 2016 Rio Olympics are facing a serious challenge to clean polluted waters for sailing and windsurfing events. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Db5ONZ)

Concerns of a humanitarian emergency in Haiti are mounting as a growing number of Haitians returning to their country from neighboring Dominican Republic are living in rapidly growing tent cities with little resources. (CNN http://cnn.it/1D96S58)

The Brazilian government plans to use drones to strengthen its fight against slave labor in rural areas, the Labour Ministry has said. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1MtVrqE)

Opponents of President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be-implemented policy to cut carbon emissions from power plants are planning to use an unlikely and potentially potent weapon against him: the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that saved Obamacare. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1gmGfzq)

…and the rest

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says the world economy is recovering but fragile and “faces some downside risks.” (AP http://yhoo.it/1H2OF46)

Aid agencies have no problem agreeing that gender-sensitive programming is a good idea, but few have come up with concrete methods for evaluating the impact it has on those it is supposed to be helping. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Dbeyn6)

Western Union Co plans to invest more in its compliance and monitoring systems in a renewed effort to combat fraud and money laundering, a senior executive said on Tuesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1DbePXf)

Opinion/Blogs

Unpacking Obama’s Message to the African Union (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1OOQTKK)

Why Local Content in Extractive Sector Won’t Work Without Home Grown Human Capital (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1Db4E4N)

Obama probably won’t be invited to speak at the African Union again any time soon (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1OOGEWD)

Did Malaysia merit its human trafficking upgrade? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1Db5mzh)

Secret aid worker: sexual harassment and discrimination in the industry (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Db5L4J)

Analysts: Obama’s Africa Trip Underscores Drive for Foreign Policy Legacy (VOA http://bit.ly/1DP50Jo)

Will Kenya’s Heightened Security Leave With Obama? (RFI http://bit.ly/1DP6inK)

Africa Will Grow Faster When Private Sector Finally Steps Up (East African http://bit.ly/1DP6rHX)

South Africa: Rebranding Condom Campaign – Will It Work This Time? (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1DP6HH1)

5 things needed to turn the SDGs into reality (Devex http://bit.ly/1h5mIDO)

The Politics Behind Mobile Money in Ethiopia (CFI Blog http://bit.ly/1h5mInb)

Humans of Lagos offers a glimpse at daily life in the West African mega city (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1h5mHzz)

Zimbabwe’s Opportunity to Join the African Economic Success Story (CSIS Prosper http://bit.ly/1OOQTu0

Discussion

comments…

Read More

Boko Haram Strikes Deep Inside Chad

An attack in N’djamena is probably the farthest Boko Haram has ever struck outside of Nigeria. “Twenty-three people were killed and over 100 injured in twin suicide bombings targeting police in the Chadian capital Monday, with the government blaming Boko Haram militants for the bloodshed. They were the first such attacks in the capital of the central African nation, which has been on the frontline of the regional fight against the Nigerian Islamist group…The former French colony is part of a four-nation coalition also including Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger that was created to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency after the group stepped up cross-border attacks.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1cXs69d)

Where’s the vaccine? Three years after the mysterious MERS virus first emerged in humans, scientists and drugmakers say there is no excuse for not having a vaccine that could have protected those now falling sick and dying in South Korea. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eirUTy)

Bashir Escapes…In a rather shameful move, the South African government ignored a South African court order (and its own obligations to the ICC) and let Omar al Bashir leave by plane to Sudan. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1cXs7u0)

Yemen Peace Talks Begin…There’s been no let up in the fighting, but UN sponsored peace talks have begun in Geneva. “UN-sponsored negotiations on the Yemen crisis have started in Geneva, with the aim of ending the bloody conflict in the country.” (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1cXswMR )

Africa

More than 200 domestic and international NGOs called on Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to release two young activists arrested in March during a raid on a pro-democracy meeting in the capital Kinshasa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GId0AL)

Two years after Ugandan legislators proposed a law that would condemn active homosexuals to death, a precedent is spreading throughout the region. Kenya is considering a similar law. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1eipPqX)

Kenyan security forces were slow to respond to attacks on villages along the country’s coast last year and afterwards arbitrarily detained and beat Muslims and ethnic Somalis as well as stealing personal property, claims a report by rights groups. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1eiq1GG)

East African bloc IGAD has released a new proposal for how it thinks power should be shared in South Sudan once peace is restored. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GIdM0t)

Senior members of Rwanda’s ruling party have endorsed a change in constitution so President Paul Kagame can seek a third term in office, the Rwanda Patriotic Front said on Monday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1SiNBkP)

Chronic kidney disease is a growing health burden in Uganda that is affecting the economic, social and physical livelihoods of patients and their family members. (IPS http://bit.ly/1GoAEka)

It is a cruel irony that many of the top doctors and nurses in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will not be around to help rebuild their health systems in the wake of Ebola, having succumbed themselves to the virus. For those that are, the biggest challenges are likely to be electricity, sanitation, and, most of all, water. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1GIdFSL)

African leaders meeting at a summit in Johannesburg on Monday agreed to send military experts to Burundi, which has been rocked by weeks of violence over the president’s controversial bid for a third term. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Lczl9g)

A new research project focuses on Africa’s capacity to prevent, contain and resolve conflicts. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GoAQzT)

MENA

Egypt announced an ambitious plan to reduce female genital mutilation by 10-15% over the next five years by mobilizing doctors and judges against a practice that still affects more than 90% of women in the country. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1LcxJwj)

Amnesty International called on Bahrain on Monday to free its most prominent opposition figure, a day before an expected verdict on charges that he incited violence against the Gulf Arab state’s monarchy. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1eirXPf)

Foreign investment in Africa surged in 2014, fueled in part by higher spending in North Africa as worries about the Arab Spring recede, according to a study by Ernst & Young. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1eis0dW)

A top official says the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees faces the worst financial crisis in its 65-year history, coming up short hundreds of millions of dollars in 2015, including for emergency operations in war-ravaged Gaza and Syria. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LczkSF)

Asia

South Korea has reported its 16th death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome disease, known as MERS. South Korean health officials said on Monday that the number of MERS cases has risen to 150. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GIe87i)

Amid criticism from its detractors that it is communalizing yoga, the Modi government on Monday selected an NGO run by a Muslim couple for holding a month-long yoga camp to mark the International Yoga Day on June 21.  (Times of India http://bit.ly/1cXszbD)

The Americas

With less than six months to go before the next full United Nations Conference of the Parties also known as COP 21 – widely regarded as a make-or-break moment for an agreement on global action on climate change – Caribbean nations are still hammering out the best approach to the talks. (IPS http://bit.ly/1MG97wd)

How slow can you go? The effort to get U.S. trade legislation through Congress, clearing the way for progress on an Asia-Pacific trade accord, is in limbo once again. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LczhX6)

…and the rest

The International Energy Agency on Monday warned temperatures could jump by as much as 4.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and urged countries to improve their pledges on reducing emissions. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1eirUmO)

The European Commission is urging EU governments to send back migrants who cannot claim asylum, taking a tougher line to convince reluctant countries to receive new refugees fleeing Syria and Eritrea. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1eipggT)

Amnesty International urged world leaders Monday to radically overhaul refugee policies and create a comprehensive global strategy to deal with the crisis, describing it as the worst emergency of its kind since World War II. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LcziKA)

Opinion/Blogs

The amazing story of Kakenya Ntaiya who made a deal with her father she she was a child: she would submit to FGM if he let her stay in school. 25 years later she has advanced degrees from universities in the USA and is a pioneering educator in her home village in Kenya. (Global Dispatches Podcast http://bit.ly/1ShGARv)

US House Passes Budget that Would Gut UN Peacekeeping and OCHA. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1cXrVuG)

GM Cotton a False Promise for Africa (IPS http://bit.ly/1einPPv)

What does Tesla mean for energy in Africa? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GIctPh)

Refugee versus migrant: time for a new label? (IRIN http://bit.l/1SiN6az)

In Bashir fiasco, Pretoria makes clear Africa comes first (Reuters http://bit.ly/1GId03F)

Discussion

comments…

Read More

EUR 50 million Lilongwe water investment programme gets European backing

European financial and technical support for investment to alleviate critical water shortages in Malawi’s largest city was confirmed today by the signature of finance agreements confirming a new EUR 24 million loan from the European Investment Bank to support the new EUR 49.2 million investment programme to be implemented by Lilongwe Water Board. The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest lender for the water sector and owned directly by the 28 European Union member states.

New water investment is essential as the population of Lilongwe is expected to double in the next 20 years. Crucial upgrading and improvements to the city’s water infrastructure will be managed by the Lilongwe Water Board over the next four years and increase water supply in low-income areas where services are currently limited as well as reducing water leakage. In this way the new investment will ensure efficient use of the existing water network and scarce water sources, as the city is dependent on water from the Lilongwe River. The project will both improve reliable water supply for customers and share water management best practice staff of the Lilongwe Water Board under a dedicated technical assistance programme.

The new support by European Investment Bank for crucial investment in the capital city was formally agreed in Lilongwe today by Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for lending in Africa and Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development for the Republic of Malawi.

“On behalf of the people and Government of Malawi, I am very happy to have signed this project which will help the Government address some of the bottlenecks facing the Lilongwe Water Board.” said Goodall Gondwe, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.

“The European Investment Bank has a successful track record of supporting water investment that has helped to secure the supply of clean water to millions of people across Malawi. Our new engagement in the country demonstrates the EIB’s continued commitment to supporting water investment that improves lives across Africa and around the world. Being able to see at first hand the impact of previous water investment supported by the EIB in Malawi shows the crucial need to continue to upgrade existing water infrastructure and expand the supply of drinking water to more communities. I am confident that the new project confirmed today will improve the quality of water supply and waste water treatment in Lilongwe for many years to come.” said Pim van Ballekom, European Investment Bank Vice President.

“With this new investment project Lilongwe Water Board is closing the gap between supply and demand. By increasing the supply of quality water we will secure the supply clean drinking water for 250,000 people by 2021. This will involve addressing critical issues concerning water quantity and quality, quality of service, efficiency, and continued capacity building of the local water practitioners. We are proud of the strong history of partnership between the EIB and LWB, and we are very honoured for this cooperation to be strengthened today.” said Eng. Alfonso Chikuni, Chief Executive Office of the Lilongwe Water Board.

“Access to water remains a challenge for many Malawians but with EU and EIB support 372 public water kiosks have now been constructed in Lilongwe, providing safe drinking water for many thousands of Malawians. The EU has also contributed EUR 5.5M towards addressing water and sanitation issues in 7 Malawian cities and towns. I welcome the news that the Lilongwe water board and the EIB will continue working together towards reducing leaks and improving services for the city.” says EU Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann.

Mr. Alfonso Chikuni, Chief Executive Officer and other senior representatives of the Lilongwe Water Board, and Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann, Head of the European Union to Malawi, were also present.

The new investment programme managed by Lilongwe Water Board and backed by the European Investment Bank support will help to cater for expected increased demand for water in the city where water has been rationed for the last 3 years and the population is growing by 4% each year. This scheme includes increasing water storage capacity and supply by an additional 30,000 cubic metres of water a day to the city, construction of 100 water kiosks in low-income areas and replacing pipes and pumps that currently act as bottlenecks in the city water system. The water supply networks will also be expanded to areas of Lilongwe not currently connected.

Vice President van Ballekom is in Malawi for a three day official visit to the country, the first visit by high-level representatives of the largest lender for water investment worldwide. During the visit the EIB delegation will also visit successfully completed water investment projects previously financed by the bank. The new initiative represents one of the first public sector projects to be supported by the EIB since 2008.

Over the last five years the European Investment Bank has provided more than EUR 500 million to support water investment including in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in the Sahel, Cameroon in central Africa as well as Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho and Zambia.

In 2014 the European Investment Bank provided more than EUR 2.5 billion to support infrastructure and private sector investment across Africa.

Read More

Press release – Nigeria: MEPs call for international cooperation to stop Boko Haram

The massacres perpetrated by the terrorist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria were vehemently condemned by the European Parliament in a vote on Thursday. MEPs urge the Nigerian authorities to do their utmost to end the violence and tackle the root causes of the terrorism, including corruption. Parliament also urges Nigeria’s neighbours and the international community to cooperate with efforts to starve Boko Haram of income and prevent it spreading terror abroad.

MEPs strongly condemn the wave of gun and bomb attacks, suicide bombings, sexual slavery and other sexual violence, kidnappings and other violent acts committed by Boko Haram against civilian, government and military targets in Nigeria.

They note that these acts could constitute crimes against humanity, and praise journalists and human rights defenders for drawing the world’s attention to Boko Haram’s extremism and the innocent victims of its violence.

Everything possible must be done to find and free the 276 girls Boko Haram abducted from the school in Chibok more than a year ago, and the estimated 2,000 more girls and women it has abducted since then, MEPs stress.

 

Tackle root causes of violence

MEPs congratulate Nigeria’s newly-elected President Muhammad Buhari, and call on him to deliver on his campaign promises to devote all his resources into ending Boko Haram’s violence, re-establishing stability and security across the country and tackling the root causes of this terrorism.

Firmer action is needed against internal corruption, mismanagement and inefficiencies within the public institutions and the army, MEPs point out. They also insist that the fight against terrorism must respect human rights and the rule of law.

 

Step up regional and international response

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other regional players should step up their response to Boko Haram’s terrorism and contain cross-border illicit flows of arms and fighters, in line with international law, MEPs say.

They warn that without such cooperation, the violence is likely to continue and undermine peace and stability across the region, and call on the African Union (AU) to coordinate, with all countries involved, the fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel region.

MEPs also urge the international community to help Nigerian refugees in neighbouring countries, and call on EU member states to fulfil their commitment to providing a comprehensive range of political, development and humanitarian support for the efforts of Nigeria and its people to tackle the Boko Haram threat.

 

Cut off resources

The Nigerian authorities must cooperate with neighbouring countries in taking measures to starve Boko Haram of its illegal income, especially from smuggling and trafficking, MEPs say. They also urge the EU to strive to enhance the transparency of trade in all natural resources, including oil, so as to prevent any company from fuelling conflicts.

The non-legislative resolution was passed by 516 votes to 11, with 36 abstentions.

Background

 

Boko Haram’s violence has led to more than 22,000 deaths since 2009, says the text. The UN estimates that the violence in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states has displaced 1.5 million people, including 800,000 children, and that more than 3 million people have been affected by the insurgency. More than 300,000 Nigerians have fled to north-western Cameroon and south western Niger to escape the violence, notes the text.

Read More

Nigerians Vote Out Sitting President

We’d normally go with an April Fools headline. But Goodluck Jonathan’s concession to Muhammadu Buhari is a critically important moment in African history. Our poor attempts at humor just wouldn’t seem justified. This is the first time in Nigeria –Africa’s largest democracy– that an incumbent peacefully ceded an election to his opposition. Predictions of election related violence were overblown. Nigeria passed a huge milestone today. “Today’s concession puts Jonathan, whose administration had been synonymous with corruption and whose handling of Boko Haram had been called inept by many, in the history books for something irrevocable and positive. ‘He is the first leader in our country to have done this,’ said Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, chair of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission. ‘It’s not just a moment for Nigeria. It’s big for Africa, and it’s big for the black race. If Nigeria can do it, you can. This is an awesome moment for me as a Nigerian, for me as an African, for me as a black person. I feel close to tears.’” (Buzzfeed http://bzfd.it/1BN1kXk )

Here’s How Much The International Community Cares About Suffering Syrians…The international community has pledged $3.8bn to tackle the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Syria – less than half the amount the UN says is needed this year to help the millions of people affected by the ongoing conflict. At the start of the Third International Pledging Conference for Syria – which was held in Kuwait on Tuesday – the UN asked for $8.4bn: $2.9bn for people inside Syria and $5.5bn to help those who have fled to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The largest sums came from the EU, which pledged $1.2bn, the US ($507m) and Kuwait ($500m). Ahead of this year’s gathering, the German government said it would pledge $277m in new aid. Kuwaiti state media said local charities and aid organisations pledged another $506m just before the conference started. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1HhUOvo)

Iran Nuke Talks Extended…”Enough progress had been made to warrant the extension past Tuesday midnight, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, although there still were “several difficult issues” to bridge. Secretary of State John Kerry, who had planned to leave the talks on Tuesday, was remaining. And an Iranian negotiator said his team could stay “as long as necessary” to clear the remaining hurdles.” (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BN2j9U)

A Key Climate Inflection Point…March 31 was a key deadline in the lead up to the Paris Climate talks in November. Each country was expected to formally submit their own national action plans. The American approach was revealed by the White House today in a conference call with reporters. “Mr. Obama’s new blueprint brings together several domestic initiatives that were already in the works, including freezing construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing the fuel economy of vehicles and plugging methane leaks from oil and gas production. It is meant to describe how the United States will lead by example and meet its pledge for cutting emissions.But the plan’s reliance on executive authority is an acknowledgment that any proposal to pass climate change legislation would be blocked by the Republican-controlled Congress.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1C4uVKI)

Africa

Guinea has detected at least three new cases of Ebola in the alumina hub of Fria, according to the national coordination of the fight against the disease, as authorities blamed popular resistance for hampering the battle against the virus. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1F0b9lV)

Gunmen killed a driver with the International Committee of the Red Cross in an attack on his aid truck as it headed across northern Mali towards Niger, the ICRC and Red Cross officials said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1bOmZsa)

Human rights groups have welcomed moves to change a Kenyan law passed to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, which criminalises pregnant women who pass HIV/AIDS to their babies, saying it discouraged people from finding out their status. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1F0b8OP)

Researchers recently completed a study of a new method of giving healthcare to women in Northern Nigeria. They found women and children would use health services more often when they could see a female health worker. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HhV1ig)

Kenya’s anti-graft watchdog published a report detailing corruption allegations against 175 government officials on Tuesday, with some cases involving multi-billion-dollar Chinese-backed infrastructure projects. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1F0bapM)

A rise in illegal fishing off Somalia could spark a resurgence in piracy, United Nations and Somali fishing officials have warned, nearly three years after the pirates’ last successful hijacking in the Indian Ocean. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1bOn0fu)

Cameroon said it has attained the status of a “non-polio exporting country” – hitting the 6-month mark without a new case – but the country is still considered a high-risk nation with pockets of resistance to polio vaccination programs for children – especially in refugee camps. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GJzhOd)

A rapid Ebola diagnostic kit similar to a pregnancy kit has been developed by British military scientists and NHS medics in Sierra Leone. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bOpKtB)

The next president of the African Development Bank must improve the livelihoods of the continent’s poorest people, address huge energy shortages and fill infrastructure funding gaps, according to the bank’s outgoing president, Donald Kaberuka. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1bOpOt4)

MENA

The USA announced it will resume transfers of military assistance to Egypt, suspended in the wake of al Sisi’s coup. (NYT http://nyti.ms/1BN0wSi)

Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday they could not safely get aid into conflict-hit Yemen and that a local Red Crescent worker had been shot dead while evacuating the wounded. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1C424pQ)

In an unusual move, an Egyptian court acquitted on Tuesday 68 people, including members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, who were charged with gathering illegally and attacking security forces, judicial sources said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1bOmWwq)

The UN Refugee agency has called for an investigation into the mistreatment of asylum seekers at Bulgaria’s border with Turkey following the deaths of two Iraqis. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1GJz5P4)

For months, members of the Arab League have been calling for a joint military force to quell the violence engulfing the region. Now that member states have largely agreed, analysts say having the force materialize and preparing it to fight complex modern conflicts may be an insurmountable challenge. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HhV0L5)

Asia

The stabbing death of an atheist Bangladeshi blogger in Dhaka a month after the killing of a prominent Bangladeshi-American author highlights the growing threat facing critics of religious fundamentalism in the South Asian nation. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HhUYD4)

A Thai military court sentenced a businessman to 25 years in prison on Tuesday on charges of defaming the country’s monarchy in what appears to be the longest sentence handed down in recent years for the crime of lese majeste, a civil liberties lawyer said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1C42axG)

The government of Myanmar and representatives from 16 major ethnic rebel groups have signed a draft cease-fire accord that aims to end decades of armed conflict. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HhUXPu)

China announced plans on Tuesday to roll out its first deposit insurance in May as part of steps to make the state-owned banking industry more flexible and competitive. (AP http://yhoo.it/1GdZqE5)

The Americas

The United States and Cuba met on Tuesday to discuss how they intend to treat future dialog on the thorny issue of human rights as the countries move toward restoring diplomatic ties. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GJzi4M)

Argentina’s public transport networks ground to a halt Tuesday, while port workers at the grains export hub of Rosario refused to work and banks shut their doors as a one-day strike to back demands for changes to income tax rates gripped the country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1GJzjWg)

Peru’s Congress has sacked the prime minister, Ana Jara, over alleged spying against lawmakers, reporters, business leaders and other citizens. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1GdZsMc)

…and the rest

The lead author of a United Nations water report has spoken out about media depictions of his findings, denying the report lays out a “doom and gloom” scenario. (IPS http://bit.ly/1C42v3H)

Research on climate-resilient agriculture must be turned urgently into initiatives to help farmers adapt to deteriorating land conditions, a conference has heard. (SciDevNet http://bit.ly/1C42Kf4)

Opinion/Blogs

Kidnap, rape and ‘honour’ killings: on the road with a female reporter in rural India (Guardian http://bit.ly/1GJyZ9S)

Map: Which countries are doing their fair share for Syria? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1HhUQ6o)

Trevor Noah: the South African comic who sails close to the wind (Guardian http://bit.ly/1C3X0BX

African Comic Has Chance to Change US Perspectives (VOA http://bit.ly/1GJzhOg)

Cuba and the European Union – The Thaw Begins (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1GdZsvN)

Why You Should Still Care About Syria (USAID Impact http://1.usa.gov/1HhXfht)

Book review: Indonesia Etc. by Elizabeth Pisani (Devpolicy http://bit.ly/1HhXgSC)

A Novel Idea: Would Fiction be a better induction to a new job than boring briefings? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1HhXgCj)

On Palestine, International Law and the International Criminal Court (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/1DoXLuZ)

The Other White Saviors: The Media’s Faith in the South African Mercenaries Fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1DoYpc7)

Discussion

comments…

Read More